I didn't set out to take time off during the Olympics, that's just a surprise bonus, or something.
( non-expert rambling about hockey )
Watching the skating makes me feel nostalgic for home - watching skating on TV feels like a part of a Canadian winter (as does turning on the TV, finding it's curling, and trying to find something else to watch).
It's charming to see that Canadians are still contenders on ice, and and that Brian Orser is coaching two of the top men. I always thought he was robbed of gold, and I'm not certain that their new scoring system is any better than the old score out of 6.0. Any 'sport' that needs a judge to tell you how you did, to me, isn't sport - it's athletic art.
It doesn't take away from the athleticism or the accomplishment, and I still like watching it - it just doesn't fit the 'higher, faster, stronger' qualification.
I tried to look up the names of the coaches for Canadian athletes, but it's as if they don't exist - they're not listed on the official Sochi 2014 site (which has all the athletes for all countries), and they're not on Skate Canada site and the Canadian Olympic site is a joke of a blog site. Hope they didn't pay a lot of money for the design, because it's appalling.
The British seem a bit embarrassed by the winter Olympics - as if it's not very British to be good at throwing yourself down a snowy hill at top speed, though it's ok to be expert at horse dancing in the summer events. Many people refer to the 'tea tray' event (skeleton and luge); I don't know who coined this term, but it's widespread in England, where I'd never heard it in Canada.
Blessedly, the BBC are doing an awesome job of coverage - they now have the capacity to cover all the events at once online, so if you don't want to watch the stick-fighting on ice, you can watch the flinging-down-the-hill events instead.
The BBC's crew is using a shopping trolley to carry their kit on the main campus, carrying light stands and other bits and pieces...and the trolley now has a following on twitter. It's extremely silly.
Stop calling Sherlock a sociopath
I wanted to write it because two detective series I'm enjoying enormously right now are Sherlock (a la Cumberpatch and Freeman) and The Bridge, the latter being a Swedish/Danish detective procedural on BBC4.
(I don't think the current incarnation of Holmes is particularly faithful to the stories, but I'm enjoying the wit, the interactions, and the interpretations of the stories in a modern setting. Jeremy Brett will forever be my 19th c Sherlock - accept no substitutes.)
In both shows, one of the leads is brilliant but socially impaired. According to the article examining Sherlock's character, he's not psychopathic in that he does feel emotion, but has chosen to be ruthlessly logical - more like Spock, who in theory has emotions but doesn't let them rule.
Saga Noren, though, clearly has trouble even parsing emotions, never mind grasping that they might influence people and their choices. She's nearly pathologically honest: where others make comforting noises to a distressed teen, she is bluntly honest, and is taken aback when he hugs her to say thank you.
She does read a lot, learning from psychology books some patterns of behaviour, but she does make the most peculiar choices when interacting with others, and doesn't 'get' sarcasm at all. It's the play between her and her foil partner, Martin, who seems overwhelmed with emotion, that makes the whodunnit so watchable for me.
So my clever title doesn't work. But I'm finding them both delightful
He's recently received two huge chunks of very finely grained mudstone from a jeweller he met at a rock and gem show, for carving into pewter moulds.
He's really pleased with it, but it's really, really hard stone, harder than anything he's worked before. It's good in that you're unlikely to make a 'whoops-scrape-gash' cut across your work, cutting great swathes across the face, because the stone is just too hard to show unplanned scratches. OTOH, it's very slow to carve.
This evening I go for my next drawing class. I tried to practice a bit this week, sketching the pusscat, but she's harder to draw than I realised, because she moves regularly. That, and much of her is coloured black; it's hard to distinguish the dark shadows from the dark fur. I managed one life-like outline, and one rather un-life-like sketch, that is mostly black.
In other artistic news: I'm once more tackling real quill pens, somewhat inspired by the drawing class - the instructor had mentioned he'd been working with quill pen and washes, a la Canaletto, for fun recently.
I spent much of Sunday afternoon cursing at my existing pens, checking the intawebs for further instructions, and cutting, paring and whittling some more. In the end, I came away with four functional pens, 3 about the same diameter and one skinny one.
My struggle now is to get an even ink flow. I've inserted reservoirs in most of them, but they seem to let far too much ink out at once. To get them to work, I had to write out almost a half a line of text on scrap, before setting my pen to the scroll I wanted to write.
This compares poorly to the up-to-three little strokes I usually do on scrap to start the pen and clear any excess ink, before starting to write. Seems unlikely that this was a real working practice, so I'm going wrong somewhere, either in the cutting, or in the reservoir. I've seen pogbody and armillary use commercial reservoirs in quill pens, which is very cunning, but none of my pens have quite the right cut and diameter for them.
However: I have done my first scrolls this week with a real quill, something I'd not done before. And while they don't look as crisp and controlled as my metal-nib scrolls, they're not utter disasters, and are still fit for distribution.
This week I attended the first of my short run of drawing classes at Sir John Soane's museum. Soane was a contemporary of Pugin's (who designed Westminster Parliament building), and was the architect of choice at the end of 18th/start of 19th c.
From the website:
On his appointment as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806 Soane began to arrange the Books, casts and models in order that the students might have the benefit of easy access to them and proposed opening his house for the use of the Royal Academy students the day before and the day after each of his lectures. By 1827, when John Britton published the first description of the Museum, Soane’s collection was being referred to as an ‘Academy of Architecture’.
In 1833 Soane negotiated an Act of Parliament to settle and preserve the house and collection for the benefit of ‘amateurs and students’ in architecture, painting and sculpture. On his death in 1837 the Act came into force, vesting the Museum in a board of Trustees who were to continue to uphold Soane’s own aims and objectives.
Part of the mandate of the museum is continuing education, and when we visited last week, I spotted an evening class for grownups, and on impulse signed up the next day. It's a class of 8 people, with one instructor, and a chance to spend a couple of hours a week for 5 weeks refining drawing skills and practicing on the thousands of artifacts in the museum. Soane wanted it used to inspire students, and it's certainly an inspiring collection.
I haven't done drawing in a class since junior high, and I've never been very confident of my skills. Learning calligraphy was a revelation, because I always thought I 'wasn't artistic'; so I'm really quite excited to be doing this.
About half of the class are Soane Museum regulars, who knew the instructor well enough to chat about his newest commission (a show in London for the Indian high commission); the rest were wide-eyed newbies like me. One was a staff member and the ed coordinator dropped in towards the end.
Part of the fun was adventuring into the museum after closing time; all the staff seemed very excited at having permission to explore the house in the quiet and the dark. It gave the rooms a completely different feel, they said.
Another fun bit was trekking through all the back corridors from one part of the three joined buildings to the middle unit, to reach the museum, without tripping the door alarms - weaving through the old boot room, pantry, and kitchen (with newfangled top-of-the-line 19th c iron range in the fireplace) and up the stairs to the drawing room, painted a bright 'Turner yellow' (a lead oxychloride), which was apparently cutting edge when the house was furnished.
This week's lesson was in using pencils to develop an eye for shading and tones - when you look at an object, what is the darkest tone? the lightest? the inbetween ones? what can you draw in small units of shading to create a whole? It was about 'learning to look', a catchphrase that I've heard before, but that is hard to teach if you don't 'have' it. I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of 'it' over this course.
So Saturday morning, I was off away to my first Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society class with Hazel Dennison. I'd spotted this class in a leaflet flogged at the Big Dance event from the summer, and it was within walking distance of my home.
The topic was 'early Italian Renaissance' and the authors in question were dancing masters Domenico and Ebreo c.1450. We covered a dance I didn't know at all, called Lioncello, named for one of the Medici patrons; Rosti Bolli (nicknamed Roasted and Boiled, which is more polite than the Rusty Bollocks I know it as); and we filled a bit of time with Petit Riens, which many folks seemed to alread know.
The attendees were a bit like the MEDATS crowd; mostly ladies, with some gents, of a certain age, who are interested in all aspects of historic dance, and are not limited to any particular period (except that they divide up periods to concentrate on one at a time). There seemed several regulars who knew each other, and a couple of newcomers like me, and a couple of jobbing reenactors. I was amused to find that having doine practices with another group (the one that Master Paul and milady Anne practice and perform with) gave me some street cred.
I enjoyed the class; it was a chance to spend some time on getting the steps right, rather than rushing ahead to keep everyone moving. My one wish was that we could have spent more time moving; the instructor is clearly so knowledgeable, and so steeped in the the period from her research, that she wanted to cram all this information into her instruction, rather than getting us to go through it a few more times. Fortunately, some handouts outline a few of the dance terms she used about 'shading' your performance - using the upper body to express yourself more.
Hazel endeavoured, in this shading, to get the dancers to 'unlock their inner Italian noble', to stand tall and proud, confident of your role in court, and carrying yourself with dignity, and to express that nobility in your movements. But while I was willing to give this a go, almost everyone else could only do this tongue-in-cheek; middle-aged middleclass English people don't do nobility very well. It just embarrasses them to no end.
I was pleased to find that the best SCA dance research and performance is at least comperable to other high-end amateur (passionate, enthusiastic and largely unpaid) research and practice. DHDS prides itself on its research, and it certainly has a sizeable back catalogue of self-publications.
My favourite phrase from the day: 'use your dancing common sense'. This generally means: if you're about to crash into a corner, work your way out of it while continuing with the dance.
The lunchtime conversation sounded suspiciously familiar: the group is trying to resurrect regular classes, so that if new potential attendees express interest at an event, there's actually something to direct said newcomers to within a few weeks... that, and the rather frustrated speculating over who will take over when they themselves retired. Unlike SCA, though, these volunteers are often in their roles for decades, rather than 2 years at a time.
Also eerily familiar: being thrilled at finding a sympathetic and suitable site with the facilities they needed!
The class was certainly worth the money and time invested, and I will be keeping an eye open for future dates.
One downside of this day: very achy hips, knees, shinsplints, and feet all evening! This ageing thing bites, bigtime.
Started with a visit from camele0pard , who was in town on a short visit to catch up with London based friends, which was most welcome. She brought the requested Swedish treats (reindeer-flavoured squeeze-cheese, and Lakrits) plus a jar of whortleberry jam, which is used like cranberry sauce on savoury dishes. The 'too-hot-for-you!' Lakrits proved that Swedes must have very mild tastes for chilies. :-)
After dinner, we spent some time paging through the Luttrell Psalter - an act of culture by definition, really.
(Trying to remember how we spent the weekend, and failing - a bit alarming. We did not do any reenactor shopping though.)
Nov 3rd was the Official Bend Gules Holiday, and as such, was celebrated by Robert and me with a day in the museums (with happy notes from jpgsawyer and nickajordan - thank you!) .
We visited the Sir John Soane Museum - a house full of architecture and design souvenirs, casts and artifacts, very much in the vein of late 18thc- early 19th c neo-classical revival (he has some medieval bits too, but isn't as keen on them). He established his house as a museum to inspire future students of architecture and design, and even had it protected by an act of Parliament.
While there, I picked up a flyer about continuing ed, and as a result, have signed up for a short course in drawing skills for grownups. It runs on weekly for the next 5 weeks after work. I'm really looking forward to it; I've always wanted to take a course about improving my drawing and this one will hopefully be a good fit.
This museum borders Lincoln Inn Fields, in the heart of the Inns at Court, so we lunched in the fields (actually a very tame park surrounded by 18th/19thc buildings, just S. of Holborn). From there, we walked to SOAS at UCL to view their treasures, and then on to our real goal in Bloomsbury, the Petrie Museum, which is dedicated to Egyptian archeology. There we found a couple of items worth the whole day - some cross-shaped pendant moulds cut into stone, possibly early Byzantine. Right next to this mould was a second one that reminded me of 'spangle moulds' from the MoL book, but much earlier. Splendid!
After a fortifying half-pint, we wrapped up the day with a short browse in the British Library, and no visit is complete without a dip into the bookshop. My newest treasure...
The only downside was getting home on a Tube strike day, which, on the bus at rush hour, was tedious.