Sunday, November 13, 2005

Progress of a Student of Arms I

I first donned armor, which I made myself, in 1984. My authorization bout was fought with Sir Andrew Greencloak at the Squire's Revolt, in front of a huge crowd and under the eyes of King Eliahu. I was too green to be nervous, and took Sir Andrew's legs twice, and then won my first tournament combat.

Somehow I never became a squire. Too many lapses while attending law school, or doing heraldry, or after injuries, probably. I got a couple of nibbles from knights, and plenty of advice and kind words from them.

I had a real problem back in the 1980s getting people to take blows. Many times, I was complimented but informed that I was hitting too lightly. The solution was direct: I adopted swords of unusual length and weight, sacrificing a little speed for power. The first time I tried them is on videotape, and there are gratifying exclamations audible in the background. After that I was in the first rank of Stormvale fighters - not the best, but one of the three who delighted in fighting our best, Wilhelm von Buch, later knighted in Ansteorra, rather than dreading it as most did. I could hold my own with anyone locally, and didn't do badly outside.

Our local measurement of excellence is the Stormvale Champion tournament at Founder's Day each fall. I will not conceal that it frustrated me deeply that I could not manage to win this distinction back when we had a dozen entrants in this tournament in the late 80s and early 90s. On one occasion I won it in the lists, but lost it in the other portions of the contest, which included poetry, not my metier. In 1995, after the sudden shrinking of the fighter pool in Stormvale, Erevon FitzGerald and I simply agreed to be co-champions, because we were the only participants, and then we kept it for two years when there was no tourney in 1996. Finally, I won it uncontestably in the lists in 2000, to my very great satisfaction, defeating Lord Torashi, who was easily as worthy of the honor as I.

Which is all a long way of getting around to mentioning that I won it again on November 6 at Founders Day 17. There were plenty of fencers and archers, but again only Erevon and I to fight - we think the weather held down attendance. This time, however, we fought it out. We just fought until the light quit, keeping track of individual wins. I took an early lead of 8-4 and then tired, and we were tied at 9-9. We were both tired and the light was failing rapidly, so I suggested that we simply fight one more and the winner would be the champion.

Afterwards, I realized that it might have been fairer to Erevon to make it best 2 of 3. One of my meager talents as a fighter is that when very tired, I can dig deep for energy and put forth a maximum effort for one more bout. Erevon's great strength is his steadiness and persistence. For that last fight, I came out bouncy and aggressive, head clear, blows hard and crisp. Erevon stopped a flat snap to the left side of his head so close to the helm that his own sword banged it so hard he thought about taking the blow. He didn't, rightly, and I wouldn't have let him. No one should win the Stormvale Championship cheaply. A moment later, that same flat snap got him while he was hitting my right side with his own blow... but about one second after mine.

There were only two of us, admittedly, but I think we did honor to our shire. Like characters in the Morte d'Arthur, we fought to exhaustion, then went and had a drink (coffee, in our case) and told everyone else stories about how the other fought the rest of the evening.

Well, that's what I joined the SCA for.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Award Nomination Tactics

We got some belated good news in Stormvale today, but it was also a little perplexing.

At the Havoc in Hastings event on September 3 in Andelcrag, three of our members received awards: an Award of Arms for Stormvale Web Minister Mariska of Stormvale; an Award of the Purple Fret for co-host of the populace meetings Giovanna Costanza; and an Order of the Silver Oak to period fishing scholar Breac MacFinnein.

At the Squires Revolt event on October 8 in Northwoods, two members received awards: a second Award of the Purple Fret for co-host of the populace meetings Skalla Geirmundr Ulfsson; and a re-award of the Silver Oak to Breac.

One thing in common for these two Pentamere events? Apparently, not only were none of the awardees present, no one from Stormvale was present to report back or accept for them. We only found out about them, and now we're not sure we know about all such occasions, when I happened to glance at a Court Report in the November Pale today.

This leads to some thoughts about award nominations. Most of us are aware that there have been a number of very hard working members locally who we ought to promote to the Crown as deserving of awards, mostly service or arts and sciences awards. Obviously, some of us are making those nominations and some of them are getting made. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it looks odd to those in court and around the region when there is never anyone in court to accept these awards from our group. This sort of thing tends to annoy the Crown, too. First we ask them for an award for someone from our group, then no one from our group bothers to attend their court to either receive or note their largesse.

We need to promote our deserving members in hopes of their recognition. But we also need to make sure our members attend local courts at which they may receive awards. This is a delicate business, because the prospective recipient cannot be told they may receive an award. So how to get them there?

One tactic is to tell such persons that they may want to attend a particular court to observe a friend getting an award. Since nominations tend to come in clumps and several members often know about the nominations, this is plausible a argument and tactic. After all, we should be there to cheer on our colleagues anyway.

A better tactic is to simply plan as individuals and groups of friends to attend more local events, and to stay for court. Often, nothing will happen of personal interest to us, but courts are interesting in and of themselves. One meets people and finds out what is going on in the kingdom and in our region. One sees how to behave when called for an award, so one knows how to behave oneself.

A final word: this a two-part thing. Nominating people is good. Getting them there to accept is also necessary whenever possible.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Founders Day 17

In October 1982, several of us founded the Shire of Stormvale. From 1988 on, we held an annual local event, Founders Day, to celebrate the anniversary of the group.

The first one had a specific element of congratulation for Lord Garth Brandon and myself. We were given special favors in recognition of our having initiated the branch. In subsequent years, the mini-event became more of a shire birthday party.

The traditional activities grew and changed over the years. The principal features:

* An armored combat tournament to select the Stormvale Champion.
* Later, more tournaments for all the martial arts and for arts and sciences.
* A more elaborate than usual potluck feast, with most attendees wearing some of their finest garb.
* The remaining founders are seated at the head table, if any, with winners of the tournament or other persons the founders wish to honor. (Sometimes if there is no head table arrangement, we don't bother about this, but we do honor the winners of the tournaments and contests during the feast.)
* The definition of founders has expanded a bit over the years, with me, Skalla-Geirmundr and Breac MacFinnein being the principal earliest members of the shire still active.
* There are pomegranates, Stormvale's special symbol of renewal and rebirth, at the feast.

At Stormvale's 20th Year Anniversary, Founder's Day was subsumed into the larger event. We have usually held it at a member's home, but sometimes at larger venues like churches or apartment clubhouses. Last year's was rather large, and if this year is similar, we may want to consider moving to a larger type of site again.

Thanks to Lord Gerard von Lowenstein for hosting Founder's Day two years in a row!

There will probably be two "founders" there tomorrow - Breac and I. Geirmundr is out of town this weekend and wasn't sure he would be back in time. Hopefully, most of the Champions will be there to defend their titles:

Armored Combat: Lord Tsunami Zentaro Tadahiro
Rapier Combat and Archery: Lord Joseff of Loc Sproule
Arts and Sciences: Connor McGrath

The fun starts at 1 pm. See the Stormvale website or the recent This Week in Stormvale post on the announcements list for more details.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More Book Talk

For readers in the Flint area, check out the Flint Public Library Book Sale this week, which has three more days to run, Thursday 6-8:30 pm, Friday 11 am-3 pm and Saturday 10 am-5 pm. Prices go down on Friday and Saturday. A huge sale with lots of good stuff, both library discards and donations.

(Yes, I already got the best stuff. But I might have missed something. It's conceivable - I 'm feeling under the weather, so my infamous book-finding sense may have flickered once or twice.)

As Melisande was discussing on her blog, Citadel of Stars (listed in the links to the left), we spent the weekend in Traverse City. She described all the wonderful food, so I'll mention the books. I bought a nice history - Richard II and the Revolution of 1399 by Michael Bennett on sale - the sort of thing one couldn't quite afford if not on sale. (Horizon Books on Front Street has a huge and very sophisticated sale section in the basement.)

But my real find was a huge oversized volume from Taschen, the bargain art book people, Masterpieces of Illumination by Ingo F. Walther and Norbert Wolf. The volume surveys, describes and selects beautifully reproduced miniatures or full-page photos from major illuminated manuscripts from 400 to 1600.

I saw it when I was rather tired the night we got there and it didn't really register at first, then I said to myself "Hey, dummy! You collect books on illumination, right? Check that puppy out!" Yeah, I talk to myself like that, baby. Not out loud. Might scare people.

The volume was shrink-wrapped, immaculate, and on sale for $25, allegedly down from $200. I don't know whether it was the last copy or whether $200 was perhaps a reference to the brand-new price in 2001. Probably the latter - this volume was reprinted in 2005. But it was of a size to suggest that it probably was that sort of genuine bargain, and I trust Taschen - I was certain the book was filled with high-quality reproductions on glossy paper.

When I got it back to the hotel room, I was not disappointed. It was a 25 year anniversary production for Taschen and it is gorgeous. Even the binding was of high quality, something that should worry someone buying a modern book at either $200 or $25. For an illumination nut, it would certainly be worth $200. Not to me, perhaps, but only because I can't afford to go around paying $200 for individual books. I'm presently balking at $150 for a volume on medieval bookbinding that I actually need. I'll do it sooner or later, but the illumination book is just a luxury, since I don't illuminate scrolls anymore. Bookbinding is something I want to get into, however.

Well, enough book rambling. Back to grading papers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Crispin's Day

October 25 is St. Crispin's Day, the anniversary of the great victory of Agincourt, at which an outnumbered English army led in person by King Henry V defeated a much larger French army.

What better time for a comparative movie review?!

My friends are groaning as they read this, because I'm getting on a hobby horse of mine, but here goes.

Kenneth Branagh's 1990s version of Henry V is very popular in SCA circles. Branagh has made a number of Shakespeare plays, and some are very good. His Hamlet is generally excellent, for example. I also find Branagh to be a good actor in general. I like him in Dead Again and as the superlatively evil Nazi convening the discussion of the Final Solution at the Wannsee Conference in the recent HBO production.

However, I do not like this version of Henry V. The film has some virtues - the costumes are pretty good, and the youth of Henry's court is interesting - probably very like the reality. But Branagh's acting is wooden, which is unlike him. He shouts a lot - that's all he can do with the great Crispin's Day speech, for example. Also, the armor is poorly done and looks like there was a limited budget. Essex walks around in the kind of plate all the leaders and knights were likely wearing, but Henry himself and everyone else wears what appears to be a coat of plates. I don't think so. The battle scene at Agincourt is awful, the worst sort of Hollywood dreck. Everyone takes their helmets off, and then they wrestle around in the mud. Some sort of anti-war statement, no doubt.

But, gentle reader, you're in luck, because there is a much better option if you want a filmed version of Henry V!

In 1944, Laurence Olivier made a film version of Henry V, largely as a patriotic effort during World War II. This version, which is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection in a beautiful edition, is justly famed as one of the most innovative and remarkable films of all time.

The film starts out as a stage play in the Globe Theatre in London in Elizabethan times, with wonderful little bits of business in every scene. Olivier is shockingly good in this, playing an actor playing the role he's playing once the movie really gets going. The scene with the tennis balls is incredible. Olivier smiles and everyone laughs. He keeps the smile and suddenly the laughter dies away uneasily. I'd like to see Branagh pull that scene off.

Later, as the fleet is about to sail, Chorus introduces the wildest gimmick I've ever seen in a film: as he tells the audience to imagine the vasty fields of France, he also supplies a suitable backdrop for the imagination. The film goes to period costumes for the early 15th century for the rest of the story, but it doesn't become an ordinary period piece. Oh, no. The backdrops are still beautifully stagy, all taken from miniatures in period manuscripts.

The battle scenes are splendid - superb armor all around, everyone keeps their helmets on like sensible people and are instead identified by heraldry (what a concept!) Admittedly, the Frenchmen are winched into their saddles before the battle, but the producers are just making a point - the English leap into the saddle for contrast. (For the uninitiated, nobody was ever winched into the saddle of a horse before a battle - armor wasn't that heavy.) When the English archers let fly, the effect is incredible - a cloud of death blackens the sky.

But best of all is Olivier. When he gives the Crispin's Day speech that Branagh merely shouts, he expresses the full range that made him the greatest actor of his generation. He talks to the soldiers around him, argues with them, flatters them, encourages them. He's not just declaiming the legendary speech, he's making it his own. When he gives it, you want to get up and go with him to fight the French.

The costumes, both the stage 16th century stuff and the medieval outfits, are stunning and inspiring. There really isn't anything to complain about in this movie. Even the bit players have magnificent scenes. The elderly Charles VI is delightfully mad, which heightens the effect when he achieves lucidity for just a moment during the chilling "Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales" scene, where his dread for his kin and country stand in sharp contrast to the gleaming confidence of the mighty Henry. The actors playing his son and brothers are deliciously dismissive of the old man.

There is nothing like this in the Branagh version. It is just a modern movie, with all the faults of Hollywood and none of the virtues. I recommend the Olivier version emphatically.

(And lest I be thought biased about the actors or the times, I would entirely reverse my recommendation about Hamlet. Olivier's version I find tedious, Branagh's quite good, except for the soliloquys, which Branagh just seems to have trouble with.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Remote Blogging

Ha! I am blogging from the Shire of Donnershafen (Traverse City)! Isn't technology wonderful?

We dropped in on Crown earlier today. Count Felix the Just won.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Shrinking Scope for Nomenclature

A curious phenomenon over the years has changed to some degree the freedom with which participants in the Middle Kingdom can identify their self-chosen roles without reference to a kingdom award of some kind or a relationship with senior armored combatants. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, exactly, just an interesting thing.

The terms I have in mind are sergeant, captain, company and man-at-arms.

When I joined the SCA in 1982, none of these were official designators. That is, they didn't describe roles that the kingdom as an official body took an interest in, nor was there any custom associated with them.

Sergeant was understood at the time to designate any sort of sub-commander in the melee field. The leader of a group of fighters might choose to call himself a captain, or be referred to as such. A company was little-used at the time, but over the years came to refer to a group of any kind, but usually an armored combat unit that modelled itself on late medieval lines. Man-at-arms was used in the period sense: any armored combatant who wore full harness of the sort that knights of his period wore was by definition a man-at-arms, even if he was in fact a knight or a squire.

Of course, no one went around calling themself Sergeant Blank, but it was useful to be able to say "that's Lord Blank. He makes a good sergeant." It was easy to designate the leader of your unit (perhaps a company) as a captain, and sometimes even call them Captain Blank. And if one wasn't a knight or squire, man-at-arms was a good, dignified description that was more satisfying than "fighter."

This began to change in the early 1990s when the kingdom introduced the Order of the Red Company and chose to designate the members as Sergeants. Naturally, the very people one thought of as sergeants in melee combat were the first to be put in this order, but it removed the descriptor as a general term. If one wasn't a member of the Red Company, it was no longer convenient to say "I'm usually a sergeant." This was probably the easiest of these changes to swallow, because in the Middle Ages, there really were Sergeants-at-Arms who were officials of the crown.

Later, the kingdom added the Order of the Gold Mace (ironically, sergeants traditionally bore maces), and these were sergeants who were promoted out of the Red Company Order to be Captains. This effectively made these two orders, together with the chivalry, the official officer structure of the Middle Kingdom's army. It was clever, but it took away another private means of describing roles. You can't readily call yourself "Captain Blank", without having people perhaps assume that you are claiming to be a member of a kingdom order.

Obviously, both these orders and the not-yet-mentioned Order of the Greenwood Company have made calling one's melee unit a company a slightly more sensitive matter. It's still ok to do this, and less problematic than using the terms sergeant or captain, but one may occasionally have to explain to some people that no, you're not calling your group an order, you're just using a period descriptor.

Finally, a recent innovation, and this is more custom than an official change, is to use the term man-at-arms not generally to designate all those not a knight, squire, sergeant or captain, but instead more specifically to describe only those in that category who are students of a senior fighter, not necessarily a knight. So a man-at-arms is not a person of substance who wears expensive harness and is experienced and competent, but instead another kind of dependant. One can no longer say to a question regarding fighting rank "I am a man-at-arms" if one lacked a specific role or title and yet was a person of some consequence. The rejoinder would now be "Oh? Whose?" And then one would have to explain no, you mean it as a general term, which might puzzle the questioner, who isn't likely to understand anymore without further explanation.

I'm not complaining, exactly. I just find it a trifle inconvenient. Stormvale, without any resident knights or captains or active squires or sergeants, nevertheless has at least half-a-dozen experienced combatants who don't have an easy period designator, because we are half a step outside the regular kingdom structure. Nor can we call our leader of the moment a captain without potentially ruffling feathers. The real answer is to get more integrated into the kingdom and regional fighting community and grow our own conventional relationships, of course.

What does it all mean? Well, the SCA has always been a rather hierarchical community, and the Middle Kingdom is not behindhand in that phenomenon. As the years go by, perhaps it is inevitable that more structure should be imposed or agreed upon. There was very little structure in the fighting community when I joined. Knights were rare, god-like creatures, and there weren't enough of them to go around as teachers, leaders and examples. That made being a squire practically a junior knight, as squires were also necessarily rather rare. The changes since then are clearly a species of improvement, and are also closely tied to the kingdom's desire to foster a more competitive army at Pennsic, since we've been having trouble competing with an East Kingdom that had become more militarily adept for quite a while there.

And that's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Feast at Harvest of Souls V

Three days later, and my calves still ache.

But I had a very good time cooking, and I was gratified that it went so well. Hey, I know, maybe I should blog about it!

After I agreed to cook, I got promoted at work, and the week of the event then turned out to be the week of the Flint Area Public Affairs Debate kickoff (I'm Baker's rep on the committee); the week of the first session of the Baker Colloquium (a reading group on philosophy); and some daylong meetings at work I was supposed to attend and managed to slip out of at the last minute. So my usual time for preparation was not all it could be.

There are some flaws in my methodology. There were some little things that we ought to have done that usually aren't necessary for the 40 seat feasts I've done so many times, but would have been nice for 60. I've written a lot of it down over the years, but I get casual because I've done it so often and it always works out. I should produce a short document and a checklist.

So, instead of setting up completely Friday night, and giving the serving trays a quick wash, I was still buying food and doing some planning that ought to have been done earlier in the week.

On Saturday, I always think things are going to be more leisurely than they are. I always bring little treats for the kitchen staff, and then inevitably, as the day wears on and I watch the clock, there's never time for that sort of thing, and they sit forgotten in the cooler or boxes. I barely eat at these things - no time. There are dishes I've cooked more than once over the years that I've actually never tasted. Last year, I think the only thing I had all day was half a can of Slim Fast. This year, I actually tasted most things - had to, really, as I'd never cooked some of the dishes before - and I had to have a lamb pie after it was all over.

Late in the morning, my partner arrived after a difficult experience on US 23. Lady A'isha al Zarqa has for the last two years journeyed all the way up from the Barony of the Flame to cook for Harvest of Souls. We had regretted that while she was in Stormvale, we never actually cooked together, and it has turned out to be a highly successful partnership. We planned this feast together - Middle Eastern food is her thing, of course - and while I always feel a little bad that she comes all this way and spends most of the day in the kitchen, at least I get to monopolize her!

We work together well. Very little planning or coordination seems necessary. She finishes my dishes, I finish hers, her decisions are always things I agree with, and vice versa (unless she's too polite to tell me otherwise.) She is a terrific cook - her lamb pies were the first thing mentioned by everyone the moment we announced the menu would be Middle Eastern. A'isha also had cordials with her - a fruit, an apricot and a cherry. Difficult to say which was best, but the mixed fruit had a subtle taste.

A'isha, of course, is why we did Middle Eastern this year. If she's coming all the way from Kentucky to work, I figured, we were doing her cuisine. Besides, I'd never done it and wanted to give it a try. As expected, her pies, the chicken and lemon dishes and the buttered dates were hits. The Melokhia soup, the cinnamon fish and the lentil/wheat dish were all well received. We didn't have time for hand-made vegetarian grape leaves, but the canned ones were a revelation - really quite good.

We had a lot of efficient help in the kitchen. John (of the green hair) was in and out all day and evening, doing whatever was asked of him. Margaid and Lily came in late afternoon and made the whole effort of salad and relish prep and then tray dressing and serving very smooth and easy. Melisande had to leave early in the day but made a key shopping run for us. A young lady named Elizabetta helped serve and kept John busy. Terryl was helpful as always and then washed tremendous numbers of dishes after the feast. Dante, Desi (in character as Death the whole darn time) and Gerard also served, and Gerard imposed order on a serving effort that started out a little chaotic. Skalla-Geirmundr was available all day for errands and various difficult jobs, especially keeping the slightly cranky gas stove range and ovens working and processing the onions.

Most of all, Sarah was in the kitchen all day (when she wasn't arranging classes and doing other work), washing dishes, helping arrange dishes, serving, making all the hummus, helping supervise, anything and everything. As usual, we would have had a difficult time without her.

Late in the afternoon, from about 4 on, it was panic time in the kitchen. These things are relative - I have done this too often to actually panic, or even get very uneasy. But there was a faint sense of unease - did I plan badly? Did I forget anything? Will the dishes come together and get to the table hot? Is that damn water for the rice ever going to boil?

No, not much, yes and yes.

That last half hour before a feast is always the tight moment. Everyone has questions, I'm tired and I probably look like an idiot while trying to switch tracks between a dozen dishes, the feast hall layout and the schedule. For that last half hour, every question gets an uncomprehending look while I find the right file folder in my head and then give an answer as definitive as possible. While I'm trying to come up with the answer, I'm also wondering whether the rice is burning or whether people have spread over more tables than we have planned for - you have to watch the diners, or they will do that. The food is all there for them, but trays that should therefore be split between half-full tables are instead whole and going to one table, and then someone tells us in the kitchen that there's a problem, and I have to go out in the hall and count heads and tables and correct. Yeesh.

Normally, we have someone who stage-manages the feast hall layout and ramrods the serving. I like for this to be Melisande, but she was sick, and Gerard stepped in, as I mentioned above, and got it squared away.

Of course, with A'isha doing half the work of head cook, and the very effective staff, it all went fine.

By 6, it was effectively all over. We missed the 6 pm deadline by a few minutes, but I doubt anyone noticed much. It was clear that we would get everything done and out of the kitchen in an orderly fashion. After that, it was all fun. I was trying to cook something when they wanted us for a toast and tried to send A'isha out to take her well-deserved plaudits, but she's too modest, so we both went out and took a bow.

There were requests for the recipes to be posted on the website. That seems like a good idea, so we'll do that this week sometime, if Mariska has time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More on Kingdom of Heaven

My Stormvale colleague Mike makes some thoughtful comments on my previous post:

I will have to differ slightly here. If this was just a fictional story it would be ok. The history they play with and screw up are what I think hurts the film. That and Orlando Bloom can be annoying. Needless to say Balian, do not slam Orlando too much when in company of some ladies. That is the main reason he was cast. I think.
He was actually a better Paris in "Troy".

The extras to this film which include some history lessons are very good.

Keep in mind that I had not ever heard of the historical person till I came to Stormvale.

Its ok but you can save your money and buy Batman this week or better yet Age Of Empires 3 comes out thursday.

Actually, I think even as a fictional story about the Crusades it suffers from depicting period personalities in a manner I find unbelievable. The speech Bloom gives to rally the troops is something no sane person of the period, and especially a warrior in charge of the holy city of Jerusalem, would give. Pure modern nonsense. A more skilful script could have modernized the story and characters more subtly, like "Lawrence of Arabia", but that kind of subtlety is lost on Hollywood these days.

I don't really mind Orlando Bloom in and of himself, although the casting is annoying. The real Balian d'Ibelin was a formidable figure respected by both sides - Bloom should stick to playing Paris. And yes, his Paris was just fine in "Troy", which I thought was a surprisingly good film.

My real annoyance is that to any degree this film achieves popularity with SCA members, people might assume I had chosen my name to emulate the Bloom character. I haven't been very active outside Stormvale for years. Petty of me, I'm sure, but one has one's vanity.

And I know that most SCA members, recent or older, had never heard of the historical character, but that just adds to my frustration. I wish they'd left him alone, quite aside from embarrassing me.

And to Melisande: no, I don't know how serious I'm going to be about changing my name unless I do have to hear about Orlando Bloom for months or years to come. After all these years, it's difficult to imagine being anyone but Balian.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven on DVD?

Not sure what annoys me more about this movie:

1. Orlando Bloom.
2. Balian of Ibelin as a blacksmith.
3. Balian of Ibelin as a politically correct bonehead who wouldn't have been trusted with a blacksmith's hammer, let alone a sword, if he had talked the ludicrous piffle he does in this movie.
4. Ridley Scott's gorgeous cinematography, which I'd like to see if not for points 1-3.

This wretched movie is what is causing me to consider changing my SCA name. I thought I was completely safe choosing to admire such an obscure but interesting and admirable medieval figure by using his name, but no, 25 years later Hollywood has rubbished him like they do everything.

Popular culture is a vile thing. Don't buy this crummy film.

Friday, October 07, 2005

MiddleWiki, etc.

Haven't been blogging much lately, partly because the fall term at Baker started a couple of weeks ago, and together with pre-term work, I've been furiously busy. Also, because in the last few days, I've been enjoying putting lots and lots of stuff from my aforementioned Middle Kingdom Dictionary into the MiddleWiki. What a delightful project! Skalla-Geirmundr has been doing tremendous amounts of work, too. In just a week and a half, we (mostly he - I only weighed in this week) and a few other people, populated the wiki sufficiently that Master Daffyd, who originated and organized the idea of a wiki for the Middle Kingdom, took it live and advertised it on the Middlebridge.

I'll try to post here more frequently. Thanks, by the way, Geirmundr, for cleaning up after me on the armor term project.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Early Pomegranates

There was a delightful surprise at the Davison VG's supermarket tonight. I was surprised to see pomegranates in late September. I can't remember ever seeing them sooner than mid-October. Of course, that's usually when I start looking, so maybe I've just been missing them.

Pomegranates play an important symbolic role in Stormvale, which is why they always (assuming availability) appear at our fall events and especially at Founder's Day. Pomegranates are symbols of renewal and rebirth, and this has a lot of resonance in Stormvale, where we've been the local SCA group for 23 years now, and we have reinvented ourselves or recovered from losses more than once. Indeed, Stormvale itself has been successful where two previous SCA groups failed.

So eat a pomegranate (or have a pomegranate drink, now that you can buy them!), and plan your next project! (But don't drink a pomegranate cocktail. I've bravely done that so you won't have to. Not a good idea.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Old Hands

On a recent unhappy occasion, Melisande and I had the opportunity to get together with old friends, which was pleasant, although one could wish for a better occasion.

The SCA connection (because this is a SCA blog, after all)? Well, the three friends pictured here are old Stormvale hands, although two of the three haven't been active in the SCA for a long time. Malkyn of Healftreow, in the reddish shirt, is still active. That's her brother, once Lucien de Nimes, on the loveseat next to her. Lucien was at the very first Stormvale meeting. He works at NASA now.

In the armchair is the former Arianwen y Glas. She ran our first full-scale event.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lost and Found at September Revel

Recognize anything that belongs to you? The tankard on the left has a glass bottom. The plate has a thin gold ring.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Trials and Tribulations of an SCA Clothes Horse

Not long ago, I was reviewing my 20+ years of garb with a dissatisfied eye. Cotehardies, bliauts, houppelandes, shirts, hose. Yuck. None of it quite as period as I’d like, much that doesn’t quite fit anymore. I tried to assemble an outfit using the splendid new 14th century separate hosen I’d ordered some time ago from Revival Clothing. Fit was great, but they sent me two left legs. Sigh.

Not knocking Revival, a supplier of which I have a high opinion – their shoes are great. I’m sure they’ll replace one of the legs with a right after Pennsic.

In short, I need to retool. I’ve fallen well behind the curve. Aileran O Faelain is substantially better dressed than I am, I noticed at the last event I attended. I have a reputation to uphold, after all.

My first garb was an electric blue polyester t-tunic, which, with black hose, drew “Hey, why are you dressed like Dr. Strange?” comments 23 years ago at UM-Flint. Well, that wasn’t intentional. I upgraded to Norman 12th century bliauts shortly thereafter, and moved to houppelandes and cotehardies when I became more interested in the 14th and 15th centuries. I wore a blue velvet cotehardie at Stormvale’s elevation ceremony that made heads turn everywhere I went at the event in 1988. (That was a bit revelatory – I had never parted a crowd like the Red Sea before. Nice feeling. Good for the ego, which possibly I don’t need.)

In civilian life, I don’t stand out, although I prefer not to look like a 16 year old circa 1978 as so many of my old friends do. (You know who you are.) Lately, I’ve worn sports jackets whenever I could get away with it, and have been known to wear hats. Not baseball caps. Real hats. But curiously, I always had the notion that a medieval gentleman (a “man of substance,” as Geirmundr and I both like to say) ought to look the part.

Not really a conventional idea in Stormvale, I have to say. I’ve worn rather ordinary cotehardies in Stormvale camp at Pennsic and drawn curious questions as to why I was dressed up. (I’ve usually managed to avoid saying “Well, because I’m not doing my peasant impression today, why do you think?” and instead said something modest, like “What, this old thing?”)

I had a vague notion of this for many years, but a couple of amusing incidents brought it home in the 1990s. My sister attended a Stormvale revel once and afterwards asked me why I was dressed differently from all the other men attending. I said I wasn’t sure what she meant, and it transpired that she had noticed that every other man at the revel was wearing a kilt. I suppose I must have been wearing the usual 14th century cote of some sort, not necessarily too dressy. That was Stormvale in those days. But it wasn’t just because most of the guys who were there were Scots. There was no hiding the fact that kilts are garb for “real men”. Apparently it takes nerve to wear what might otherwise be regarded as a dress in the present time. Nerve I had in sufficient quantity.

In the late 1990s, I was at a big event, probably a Coronation, in the Flame. I fought during the day (got a funny story or two there for another time), and at some point in late afternoon was on the way back from the car in a nearby parking ramp, wearing fairly spiffy garb for the evening, perhaps the third outfit of the day, counting armor. Countess Ariake walked by, made a sort of tut-tut noise and said “Balian, you’re such a clothes horse.” Not unkindly, you understand, but just an observation.

Now, Ariake might have blinded someone not accustomed to the splendor of her garb at just that moment, so this was perhaps a case of the pot calling the kettle black. On the whole, I decided it was a compliment. I embraced my role as Stormvale’s male clothes horse.

I’m not the only one, quite. Gareth Lynn Crestwick dressed quite well in the early 90s, and the aforementioned Aileran is often quite spiff. Breac Mac Finnein has been known to do the Tudor thing quite well. Skalla Geirmundr Ulfsson has on occasion dressed in a manner suitable to his status.

But I seem to be the only local lord who has a reputation in this regard. I was wearing an Order of the Willow medallion at an event a number of years ago and heard the comment that I must have gotten it for garb. “Oh, no, cooking,” I said, cheerfully, to a somewhat nonplussed look. (This is quite funny. I actually have made a little garb, but I’m no good at it. Unlike Geirmundr, who is quite skilled in this regard, I can’t even operate a sewing machine without someone standing over me supervising. My wife Melisande has made most of my garb, although Eschiva of Jebala made a couple of very nifty outfits for me, along with helping me make a velvet coat of plates that sometimes caused jaws to drop when I entered the lists. That armor got me my very favorite compliment, the remark that I looked like I had just stepped out of a museum exhibit. I know for a fact that armor won me some bouts from sheer panache.)

So, why do this? Well, some years ago, Stormvale’s Pennsic camp had a party during which men were expected to wear “danglies”, or loincloths. (Long story, and a somewhat funny one, although I was exasperated at the time.) An attempt was made to persuade me to comply with the dress code at a future party of this kind, to the degree of a promise of a velvet loincloth embroidered with my arms and a matching “squid hat”, Stormvale’s fond term for my early 15th century chaperon. I was flattered, but this made me seriously consider what I was up to in the SCA. After some reflection, I thought that the whole point of why I was in the organization was to emulate a late medieval man of good birth. A gentleman. In the Middle Ages, a gentleman might perhaps appear in public in nothing more than a shirt or in the all-together – when suitable. But generally speaking, he would naturally dress in fine clothing that was suitable to his station. He would never appear in a curious loincloth, unless perhaps for a theatrical effort, and I’m not sure that isn’t more of a 17th century thing.

In short, if I’m going to do this, why not do it right?

So now I am feeling somewhat out of the loop on garb. Melisande has heard my plea for new shirts and cotehardies with an agreeable air, and Eron Crowfford and Terryl MacAodhagain made vague noises about a willingness to supply me with some sort of garb if I took on the seneschal’s office again (a passing comment, but I don’t propose to forget it!), so hopefully I will feel suitably appareled again soon.

Vanity, of course, but there you are. I have a notion that something in blue or green, possibly velvet, embroidered all over with golden bees might do the trick. I’ll need a hat, of course, and what will I do for a belt…?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Court Pics from Pennsic

For photos of Lord Erevon receiving a Dragon's Barb, go here and here!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Harvest of Souls Site

This is the view from what will be the list field (upper left). Smallish site, but very nice, should be quite adequate for our purposes. The ceiling is too low for combat, as you can see in the middle photo, but in mid October, we should be fine outdoors.

We were able to see the site on Saturday afternoon. The kitchen was nice, with more floorspace than I've seen in a good many kitchens, and even better, more counter space. Note the window in the last photo. We should try to screen it off during the feast if possible.

What I'm Reading II

The Friar and the Cipher. Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone.

Actually, this should be entitled What I Just Finished Reading. Melisande bought this for me for my birthday in May, so it took a while to get through.

My friends will be familiar (perhaps tiresomely so) with my fascination with illuminated manuscripts, the rare book trade and codes. This book covers all three. It concerns the famous Voynich Manuscript and whether or not it was written by or associated with Roger Bacon, the 13th century scholar known as Dr. Mirabilis. In the early part of the 20th century, Wilfrid Voynich, a colorful rare book dealer, obtained a mysterious handwritten volume with many illustrations of plants, flowers and human figures, together with a text that was in completely impenetrable code.

Amazingly, no one in the past century has managed to figure out any of the code. The illustrations of plants turn out to be fanciful, and the human figures seem vaguely erotic, vaguely gynecological or medical. There may be two hands and two codes involved, and some scholars believe that it isn’t a code at all, but instead an artificial language. Some of the most talented code-breakers of the last century, including the legendary William Friedman, were unable to make any progress at all. The possibility that the whole thing is a hoax or completely fanciful has been considered, but most cryptographers believe that the mysterious figures represent coherent writing of some kind. They just don’t have the key to decipher it. (Some still think it is nonsense, but it looks like a hell of a lot of trouble to go to for nonsense to me.)

Roger Bacon may or may not be involved, and that’s where I found this book to be a bit of a let down. The authors wander from Voynich, a very interesting character I’ve read about before, to Bacon and a very long exposition on scholarly inquiry and Aristotle in the 13th century, then on to Dr. John Dee and the Elizabethan period, Francis Bacon and the 17th century, and finally to the code-breaking efforts of the last century.

They can’t be blamed for the fact that no one has figured out the contents and purpose of the book, of course, but one could wish for a slightly more coherent text strategy (plot’s the wrong word, I think). Bacon may or may not have an association with the book, it appears, but the long stretch on Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and inter-church politics in the Middle Ages felt like either a digression or padding to bring the book up to a desired length. More stress on the early 17th century, when the book really seems to have originated, might have been a better choice, I think.

I enjoyed it, however, and would recommend it mildly.

On related topics, I recommend Rare People and Rare Books by E. Millicent Sowerby, with a good account of Voynich, the book dealer. And I'm going to go try out other books on the Voynich Manuscript.

Monday, August 29, 2005

More on Info Policy

I was just looking over my post on the topic of information policy for Stormvale (below), and a thought occurred. Maybe what we need is a Storm Warning blog at the site.

The blog would include news items and article and comments. is going to be the place to go for information, the hub, so why not? Just a thought.

The Return of the Stormvale Belt

Many years ago, Stormvale events began to feature "Barbarian Brawls" as part of the armored combat of at least one of our events, usually the old Vikings Go Home! tournament in the spring.

We would line everyone up outside the lists, then permit two combatants in. Another would be fed in at a set interval (in reality, we marshals almost invariably fed in more people at whatever rate seemed to cause the most havoc). It was a free-for-all, and the winner would be the last person standing.

Sometimes the combats were intense, swirling melees, more often it was like a regular hold-the-field tournament, vastly speeded up and with combats overlapping. Usually there were ad hoc alliances as participants tried to prolong their lives with allies or to cope with formidable opponents. A particularly delightful Brawl featured Sir Osric Eisenwulf entering the lists and then suddenly gliding across the floor to tear up an entire line of opponents who'd formed a momentary alliance. His motion was so smooth and sudden they never even reacted before the first man fell - it appeared to an observer as though his first blow had been struck from 20 feet away.

The winner of the Barbarian Brawl was awarded a leather belt, in obvious suggestion of boxing or wrestling prizes. There was a big S for Stormvale on the front, and the names of the winners were put inside the belt. I think the belt was made by Lord Duncan Glaustaugh, although it's been so long I'm not certain. The stylized letters DG are inside the belt, so I think Duncan is a good bet.

The belt was rather popular, despite its origins in modern entertainment. One combatant remarked that he wanted to win anything one got one's name put on.

The Stormvale fighters who thought up the Barbarian Brawl are long gone, and without attention, prizes that get awarded and are supposed to be brought back the next year tend to wander off. We haven't seen the belt in years. But Lord Erevon was surprised at Pennsic this year to find the belt in Andelcrag camp. Someone had brought it in an attempt to find the owner (again, it has multiple names inside) and Erevon explained what it was and reclaimed it. He handed it to me last night.

The names inside are not quite up to date, I suspect. I seem to recall one or two victors who may not have had their names included. But it's nice to see this relic of Stormvale's history returned to our hands, and we will no doubt be awarding it anew at future events.

Friday, August 26, 2005

An Ealdormerean Account

I just finished reading an Ealdormerean account of Pennsic 34 at SCA Today. Strongly recommended. I do wonder what a "Jack and Jill" is, and whether "gack" is gear in Canadian slang, Ealdormerean slang or even SCA slang that I haven't heard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cosman Fan

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of Madeleine Pelner Cosman.

Cosman is a writer on medieval subjects, and she is regarded with snooty disapproval by most SCA cooks and scholars. I will admit, her recipes, especially in the very popular and perennially in print Fabulous Feasts, are not perhaps the height of scholarly rigor. The recipes in Fabulous Feasts are, well... let's just say I don't think they had ready access to pineapple or carob in Medieval Europe. But these recipes are fun, and all the ones I've cooked are tasty. No, she doesn't cite her sources for the recipes, but what reasonably experienced medievalist cook couldn't walk one of her recipes back if they had a mind to?

Ok, so don't use one of her recipes as the sole source in a competition at an Arts and Sciences Fair. You'll get that snooty thing. But don't put down Cosman herself or her writing. The rest of her text in Fabulous Feasts is scholarly and well-sourced. The illustrations are wonderful. Her Medieval Holidays and Festivals; A Calendar of Celebrations has delightful ideas for seasonal celebrations for SCA. Her Medieval Wordbook is a treat.

Furthermore, Cosman was Director of the Insititute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City College of City University of New York. The recipes in Fab Feasts and the celebratory ideas in Medieval Holidays are popularizing, not dry scholarly essays. She herself is a lawyer, a Ph.D, a highly respected medical teacher and lawyer and a serious medievalist.

What gets me about the disapproval about Cosman in the SCA is the irony. Read the back cover blurb to Medieval Holidays. Cosman had a weekly class on public television called Medieval Daily Life. She and colleagues staged demonstrations of medieval celebrations for public.

Cosman is one of us. I love her books, and I noticed while Googling her that I missed a few of them. I'll have to correct that.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Newsletter or Not; Philosophical Musings on Information Policy

The question came up over the weekend. Does Stormvale need a newsletter? After all, we have the Stormvale discussion mailing list, the Stormvale-Bulletin announcements list, This Week in Stormvale,, and now a blog devoted mostly to Stormvale and the SCA. So has a paper copy of the Storm Warning become superfluous?

Well, in part, I'm just not sure. My comment when I was asked this question was to admit that I haven't actually looked at a paper copy of the newsletter in years. But I may be different. I check my email frequently, and tend to be up on what's going on. I socialize with most of the officers on a regular basis. Others may still use and value the paper copy of the newsletter.

Also, I'm not sure how many paper copies even go out at all. I've wanted a copy to archive, but I think most people are getting it by email anyway. Aileran began the very helpful process of making it available in Word and Acrobat versions a couple of years ago.

My initial take on it is that we are duplicating our efforts. Not that the newsletter is not a good idea to continue, but we should reflect on how it fits into a changed world of information delivery. I notice that there are things in the kingdom newsletter, the Pale, that never appear at This must be deliberate, an attempt to ensure that there is a reason to read the Pale.

At the September 4 Shire Council, we'll talk it over and consider how to work it so we're not wasting the Chronicler's time with a lot of work that isn't necessary. I am by no means sure that a Storm Warning in some form is not a good idea. Paper copies that can be handed to people are a good idea. But we may want to adjust content or frequency. A thought that occurs to me is to make it quarterly, make it a big deal with a lot of interesting content that doesn't appear elsewhere, and have it come out at the beginning of each season, with a clear emphasis on announcing the local schedule for the following quarter. That maximizes the utility for making the thing available in local businesses or libraries, too.

Pennsic Awards for Stormvale

As far as I'm aware right now, two awards of particular interest to Stormvale were made at the Pennsic War just past.

Our Lord Erevon FitzGerald received the Award of the Dragon's Barb for his work and prowess in archery.

Former Stormvaler Alan Fairfax was made a member of the Order of the Laurel for his skill and accomplishments in research on Medieval topics.

More details as I get them, and Hoo-bah to both gentlemen!

More Pennsic and Books

Speaking of books and Pennsic, which I have been in recent posts, here are three privately published books of potential interest to those interested in the Pennsic Wars:

From 2003, A Battlefield Guide to the Pennsic Wars; Recognizing Unit Colors and Devices, by Malcolm Mac Angus of Kinross, and its companion volume, Armies of the Pennsic Wars, by Robert Averill. The first was a pamphlet in stiff covers that has color drawings of the heraldry and appearance of the major units. The second is a more substantial book designed to look somewhat like an Osprey military book, with a lot more detail. Total cost for both, if I recall correctly, was about $35. Email for more details. I hope he still has them in stock.

And this year, Herstadr-Saga, a history of the Pennsic War, is a $10 comb-bound item from Folump Enterprises. Folump charges a dollar per item for shipping, and having bought many of their histories, I am certain this one will be interesting. Parts were excerpted in the Pennsic Independent newsletter this year.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Mysteries of Precedence

Now that we've tackled the underlying structure of the awards system in the Middle Kingdom, let's look at the concept of precedence. Precedence has two essential components: rank and order in time.

Here's what I mean: in mid 1988, for example, my friend Geirmundr and I had the same rank: we were armigers. We had "bare" awards of arms. But what if we wanted to differentiate which of us was first in precedence? Simple - the first to get his AoA was higher in precedence. The G-Man got his AoA August 16, 1987 (at Pennsic, obviously). I was awarded arms on November 7 of the same year. Thus, Geirmundr stood higher in precedence.

Now, when would it make any difference? Practically speaking, only on two types of occasion. First, when we compile an Order of Precedence for any particular group (like Stormvale members, or for the whole kingdom). Second, when forming an Order of March, when a group of people are going to form a formal procession. Usually this is done only for the contestants and their consorts as they are presented to the Crown before a Crown Tournament, but perhaps for a very formal local feast, you might care to know these things. (We only did it once, that I can recall, but my point is that you could look it up and figure it out easily enough.)

So, if we participated in such a procession in 1988, Geirmundr and I, with our identical rank, would have been placed a number of people apart - however many people were present who had AoAs between our dates of award; or if you were figuring the order of precedence for the whole kingdom, everyone who had gotten an AoA during that period.

Ok so far? Good. Let's add a complication. On October 8, 1988, I received the Award of the Purple Fret. Also an armigerous award, and therefore I remained an armiger, just like Geirmundr, but now I leapfrogged him in precedence, because the Fret has slightly higher precedence than a plain AoA. I was the 16th person to get that award that day, by the way (it was an unusually big day for Frets in particular and awards in general, because it was a Coronation with two courts. The first court was Comar and Lisa's last, and they liked giving Frets. The second court was Reynard and Brynhildr's first, and that's when I got the award), so if we formed a procession with everyone in the kingdom, all 15 previous recipients that day would stand just ahead of me. Geirmundr would be way, way back now, with the entire group of people who had only AoAs.

It should be clear enough now. All the awards and orders are ranked, as we saw yesterday. Peerages first, grants second, armigers third. Within each group, there is another ranking, as where Frets rank higher than AoAs. So everyone with a Fret as their highest award stands in order of when they received it, oldest first, and then the next award down, again in order of receiving it.

Let's move up a bit, because over time these things change. On December 6, 1997, I was made a member of the Order of the Dragon's Heart, the (then) highest type of armigerous award. Geirmundr got one right after me. We were both still armigers, but we now took a big jump up the order of precedence, to the top of the third category, that of all armigers, and we were right next to each other. Curiously, we took a gigantic leap in the OP in 2000 without getting any other awards, because our order was moved up to the top of the grant-level orders instead (the ODH is always the highest native kingdom level award, below the SCA-wide ones.)

Now, let's add another complication to make sure the system is clear. Our friend Alan Fairfax, who was just 16 when he joined Stormvale many years ago, was until a few days ago well behind us in the OP, but he just took a big jump up to the bottom of the peerage rank when he was made a member of the Order of the Laurel. Fairfax will always be behind all other peers who were made peers before him, and will always be ahead of all those who get peerages after him. That's as high as he can go, unless he wins a Crown or Coronet tourney!

What does the whole order of march look like? Well, you can go look it up at, in the heraldry section under Order of Precedence. Geirmundr and I are 967 and 966 at the moment, although that will now be a little out of date. We will be displaced down the list only by peers and barons; no one with any other award will ever leapfrog us as it stands.

Now, what does it all matter? Well, not a lot on a given day. When I see Fairfax, I'll give him a big hug and call him "Master Alan", and then go back to calling the youngster Fairfax for the rest of our lives except when I mention his name in a formal context. Precedence isn't really a big deal, just part of the rules of the game we play. And I should mention that hardly anyone (except heralds, of course!) notices many of the issues I just discussed. But that's how it works.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Arms, Grants, Patents

The award system of the SCA can be confusing to new members, or even people who've been around for a while. Here's a quick primer of some of the broad aspects.

Everyone who participates in the society is assumed to be a gentleman or lady. Even the newest member should be treated courteously, and addressed as milord or milady. More formally, they are not styled with a title of any kind until they receive formal recognition from the kingdom in the form of arms (arms also refers to the heraldic design chosen by the participant).

The right to bear arms and be addressed with a title of one's own is given by the king and queen in a court. (Or by someone acting on their behalf and at their direction, usually a prince and/or princess or a landed baron/baroness, but very occasionally by someone else in a "regency court" - this would almost certainly be a royal peer specifically delegated to give the award on their majesties' behalf.)

Arms are given in three ways, each conveying a different type of rank.

1. Arms are first given by award. An award of arms, given throughout the SCA, conveys this basic status. One is an armiger after being awarded arms. In addition to an award of arms, each kingdom has a set of other awards which convey armigerous status. In the Middle Kingdom, for example, one may receive the Award of the Purple Fret or the Award of the Dragon's Tooth. This is both an independent distinction and also conveys armigerous status if it was not given before in a "bare" award of arms. Anyone with any such award is addressed as Lord John Doe or Lady Jane Roe (first names only - one is Lord John Doe, not Lord Doe.)

2. Arms are next given by grant. A grant of arms is given in different ways in the different kingdoms. In the MidRealm, it is given as a "bare" award, a GoA, only to kingdom officers (except for a brief period in the 1990s). In the Middle, one is granted arms together with membership in an order, such the Order of the Greenwood Company or the Order of the Dragon's Heart. This is a relatively new concept in the Middle - this arrangement dates only from a 2000 reorganization of the awards system here. It is a fairly big deal to be made a "companion" of one of these orders, and a very exclusive type of honor to have a "bare" GoA. Anyone with granted arms is addressed as The Honorable Lord John Doe or The Honorable Lady Jane Roe (again, not Lord Doe). For this level of rank, it is also appropriate for others to refer to such a person as His Lordship John Doe or Her Ladyship Jane Roe (one would not commonly refer to oneself this way). With granted arms, one still answers to Lord or Lady, too, and it is common to use THL Jane Roe for short, too.

3. Finally, arms may be given by patent. This is the highest form of honor conveyed in SCA courts. It is given only in association with the SCA-wide peerage orders - the Order of the Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, the Order of the Pelican and the Order of the Rose, and with the titles of Count/ess and Duke/Duchess. One is said to be a peer at this level of recognition. A member of the Chivalry is either Sir John Doe or Dame Jane Roe (actually, almost all lady knights prefer Sir, as well); other peers are Master John Doe or Mistress Jane Roe (again, not Master Doe). (A wrinkle here - some members of the Chivalry prefer to style themselves Masters or Mistresses - this is prearranged for those whose religion or personal philosophy prevent their swearing an oath of fealty, as knights are required to do.) Royal peers, by the way, are those who have served once as king or queen and are made a count or countess; or twice or more and are made a duke or duchess.

So, same arms, and the arms given is the design that the recipient has chosen for him- or herself and registered with the College of Arms. But a different rank for each level.

More about awards and heraldry tomorrow. For more detail, by the way, see Master Thorvald's Middle Kingdom Awards page.

Correction: When I say above that the Order of the Rose is a peerage order, that isn't quite right. At present in the Middle Kingdom, it is an order which conveys no precedence. It is SCA-wide, it does convey a peerage in some kingdoms, and it used to here.

Pennsic XXXIV Update for Saturday

The Pennsic Independent says the final score after Friday's battles was 26-1 Middle over East. Big number.

Terryl MacAodhagain reports being home this evening, and driving through wet weather. She says Stormvale's trailer is also expected back tonight. She deserves congratulations for being made a youth combat marshal, and says that Erevon FitzGerald got an award of some kind, which she believes was a Dragon's Barb. That certainly sounds right. Erevon has been busting his butt on archery for quite a while. Busting his butt... very faint unintentional pun there. Oh well.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pennsic XXXIV Update as of Thursday

It's now 19-1 Middle and allies over East and allies, according to the Pennsic Independent. There were supposed to be another three war points today. Obviously, the Middle won a couple of days ago, in effect, but this is delightful news after all the years of being repeatedly defeated and sometimes swamped by the other side. I wish I was there.

What I'm Reading

Recently, no doubt as a result of teaching economics, I've become interested in medieval economics. Actually, it's always interested me - particularly coinage and bills of sale, because it ties into modern negotiable instruments when I teach it, but I hadn't attempted any systematic study.

Currently I'm reading Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe by Peter Spufford. This is a big gorgeous book published in 2003 in the US. Spufford is the author of the seminal work on medieval currency, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe.

Power and Profit is more readable than its predecessor. It is lavishly illustrated and written with a little more attention, perhaps, for the satisfaction of the reader. There are stunning photographs of medieval artifacts I have never seen in other sources.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pennsic XXXIV Update

According to the latest edition of the Pennsic Independent, the Middle Kingdom and its allies (Aethelmearc, Atlantia, Calontir, Ealdormere, Meridies, Northshield, Outlands, Trimaris, Great Dark Horde) led the East Kingdom and its allies (Ansteorra, An Tir, Artemesia, Atenveldt, Caid, Drachenwald, Lochac, Trimaris, West, Acre) 17-1 in war points by Wednesday. SCA Today also has occasional news and links to PI.

I'll post a fuller report on the war once our own warriors get back.


This post was edited for accuracy.

Upcoming Projects

Back in the mid 1990s, I had the notion that there ought to be a dictionary of SCA slang and jargon for the Middle Kingdom, so I wrote one. I even had it checked out by the kingdom seneschal of the day, who pronounced it good and made several suggestions for additions or changes. It's quite a long document, and I have to say that I had a very good time compiling it.

Well, it's never seen publication. First I was going to self-publish, then I thought about interesting Folump Enterprises or some such publisher, then by 2000 or so I was thinking of just putting it on the web, perhaps at Master Daffyd, the web minister, thought it was a good idea. But between one thing and another, the project has languished, about 98% complete. I've seen similar projects, but I think mine is better and more complete.

Now, I think I'd like to host the thing at or on a web page that can be linked to from here (actually, both). The project requires some work to get into html format, and should be up during the fall. I'll try to work on it after classes at Baker are done and before the fall term starts in late September.

The only place the definitions have ever seen print is in the Storm Warning, where I and then Bronwyn of Brightoaks published various definitions over the years.

Otherwise, I'm hoping to have my various other articles and future projects linked here for general perusal. There is also a new members guide, an organizational history for Stormvale, an unfinished operational handbook for the branch, an article on armorial law, and an article on flags and banners, for starters.

Various Comments

Well, still working on the details. I've begun to retrofit with links, but nothing appears as quickly as I would suppose, so I'm not always sure I've posted properly until later. I'd appreciated comments or observations. Hopefully I'll soon begin to include pictures. I'd also like to include links and some other art on the page. So please be patient with the rather bare appearance so far.

Harvest of Souls V Feast

The feast, which A'isha al Zarqa and I will be cooking, will be Middle Eastern in theme. A'isha and I will be getting together later this month when she's in town to plan the menu, so no details yet. Also, Brianne MacAuley, who has often baked bread for our feast before, has generously volunteered to do so for this feast. That will be a treat.

As usual, we'll be going for genuine period dishes, and I'm anxious to try some of Cariadoc's Islamic dishes I've never had occasion to cook before.

Middle Kingdom Ahead on Points at Pennsic XXXIV

Way ahead, actually. As of Wednesday, we were ahead 9-0. I gather from various reports that we heavily outnumber the East and their allies this year, which Pennsic veterans will recall is quite unusual. One report I saw indicated that two usual Eastern allies, their former principalities Aethelmark and Atlantia, are both fighting with the Middle this year. I have not heard why they have chosen to do so, but this is certainly welcome and exciting news.

Alan Fairfax on Vigil

According to Breac MacFinnein (who I assume got it from the Apprentices mailing list), Alan Fairfax has been placed on vigil for the Order of the Laurel at Pennsic.

Fairfax (he was Fairfax Aluricson for a long time, so we all call him that rather than Alan) began his SCA career in Stormvale at the age of 16. He was interested in heraldry early on, and was later a senior kingdom herald. More recently, he has been attending theological school in Chicago, and has been active in the SCA outside Stormvale for many years. His wife, Constance Fairfax, also from the Davison area, was laurelled a couple of years ago.

This is wonderful news, and I hope we get lots more detail when our folks get back from Pennsic.

First Post

Welcome to Clarion Hall! I'll be discussing SCA topics and mentioning SCA news here. Most of what I post is likely to be of interest to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Stormvale in the Middle Kingdom. (Flint, Michigan, for those not familiar.)

Clarion Hall is a reference to a not-much used alternate name for my old household, which hasn't been active since the mid-90s but still has a theoretical existence.

I will also be posting links to articles I've written and various other items of interest.