Monthly Archives: May 2014

Link roundup: Towns and trousers

I am really all about the experimental archaeology aspect of the SCA, so it’s occurred to me that I need to follow happenings in the world of scholarly archaeology in a more organized way than “whatever interesting thing someone posted on Facebook this week, and also occasionally flipping through Smithsonian Magazine on my lunch break.”

So I spent some time this morning finding and adding some news services and journals to my RSS feed, and I’m going to start a little ephemera regular feature. I’m not sure yet what the posting frequency will be – maybe every other week or monthly to start. Partly this is for my benefit, to keep track of articles I want to look more deeply into or refer back to, but I also hope it will become a useful resource for others over time. Mostly news, mostly Baltic and Spanish, with a smattering of newly released research, other people’s blog posts, and more general-interest stuff.

First pants worn by horse riders 3,000 years ago – neat article with one (one! *weeps*) really lovely photograph. And the source research is behind a paywall, of course. Early for our purposes but useful for garment evolution theory.

Nieszawa – a medieval town reconstructed by non-invasive survey – I got a little weepy. Just a beautiful article and a beautiful video (captions in Polish). Watch it, watch it. This technology will change everything.

The routes of slave trade in Eastern Europe in the medieval and pre-modern period – I know very little about the slave trade in period, but it’s something I’d like to look further into.

 E-Journal of Portuguese Studies – Ten years of back issues, at least one or two good SCA-period-relevant articles in each issue, all free and .pdf. I found it doing research for a class, printed out a mass of articles for future reading, and have gone back several times.

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Brotherhood

Memorial Day Weekend. When SCA members everywhere that the Knowne World intersects with the United States drag their camping gear out from under stairs, in garages, and out of closets and gear up for the first big camping event of the summer season. The birthday of one of our good friends fell on Saturday of the holiday weekend. Was there ever any possibility that there WOULDN’T be a great camp party? There was not.

The core group was full of some of my favorite people. Birthday Guy, his knight, both of their wives. One of the Grand Old Men Dukes, who played an important role in the early days of the SCA before the Outlands was even a kingdom principality; two of his many squires, one of whom is now a knight as well. Other people drifted in and out over the course of the evening. I spent most of it on one side of the circle, in a cluster of four or five women, conversing off-and-on amongst ourselves but mostly listening to the stories told by this group of fascinating, hilarious, and very smart guys.

I also got to spend a good chunk of the weekend with one of my best friends; his wife, who I don’t know quite as well but also consider a dear friend; and her boyfriend, who I had only met a couple of times before and only briefly, and was delighted to spend some time getting to know. These people are among the best-functioning examples of out poly in the kingdom, and I’m admiring, observing, and learning from them as I work on my own ideas of how sexual orientation and relationship structure intersect with the game.

I talk a lot about the SCA and feminism – how much of women’s history is embodied history, about experimental archaeology as a practice of telling women’s stories, how women’s culture in the kitchen, in the sewing circle, in the encampment, in the hafla is as literal and pure a re-enactment as anything the SCA does, enacting again, both an echo of something historical and a thing that is new and real in its own right. But, although I’d known it, more or less, that weekend snapped into focus something that I’d never thought much about or articulated before: how extremely well the SCA does at offering models for healthy, emotionally honest, deeply loyal and loving male friendship.

The first thing that hit me when I rejoined the world was the news of the UCSB shootings. I’ve been turning over in my head for days, how badly our society equips men for fear and vulnerability, especially interpersonal, emotional vulnerability. How to relate to women. How to relate to other men. How to relate to change, to uncertainty, to success, to failure. Many men figure it out on their own, but too many never do. These guys, so isolated, so full of rage and confusion and so burdened with a frustrated sense of entitlement, so lost; only a few of them will ever pull a trigger, but for every one that does, there are a hundred that are walking around in their own seething internal hell. I know them, we all do, but they are so unlike the men in my circle of friends. Men who have love, respect, and admiration for both men and women in their lives, and who know how to express it. Men who, in their oaths of fealty and their brotherhoods and their orders, have articulated contexts of expression for those feelings that are not only socially acceptable, but expected. Men who learn skills for navigating those feelings in a community where those skills are taught, modeled, and rewarded.

We’re by no means perfect, and we have a lot of problems. (The particular flavor of hookup culture that the SCA practices – “if you can’t get laid at Pennsic…” – and the rate of sexual harassment associated with it is A REALLY BIG PROBLEM.) But we’re doing something RIGHT, too. Is there a way that we can raise this up, bring it out into the world and to the other communities we move within?

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Corazon III: Post-assessment

I started drafting this post a week after the event, but then Kingdom A&S loomed large, and then, and then – suddenly it’s been two months and I still haven’t sat down to finish it.

I took part of a slow boring afternoon to rectify that. I’ve got the menu, a couple of recipes, and some other information up in their own section; this post is reflective.

This is the most ambitious feast I’ve done, by far. Over lunch on Sunday after closing out the site cleanup, my Laurel asked me, “Was it too ambitious?” I had to think about that for a minute, and then replied, “It was right on the edge.”

Right on the edge. It’s where I live. I feel odd – guilty, almost – if I’m not pushing myself to the limits of my capacity, growing my capacity, and pushing some more. There’s no question, I could not have pulled off this feast, this time last year. I’m proud of that, and yet it makes me anxious too. The reward for success is an ever-shifting goalpost.

What worked:

  • Kitchen crew! I had a solid crew, recruited in advance, and created a private Facebook group to share information and coordinate with them in advance. Kitchen ran incredibly smoothly all day and things that had to be started in advance finished at the correct times to come together for feast. And having several of the kitchen crew staying AT MY HOUSE could have been a wreck but actually worked out extremely well – we got good work done on Thursday and Friday, and had a lovely little after-revel (of the “fall about the living room and drink till our feet quit hurting” variety) on Saturday.
  • Pre-cooking/freezing EVERYTHING lunch-related. Lunch was “heat this, mix these three bags, set it out.” The only bobble was that the vent fans drew heat away from the ovens and caused their effective temperature to drop by over 50 degrees, which slowed down the rate of rotating stuff through. Once we turned off the fans, everything was fine. VERY GLAD we found that out at lunchtime and not in the leadup toward feast.
  • Hall Steward: Having someone who’s entire job is announcing dishes as they come out, rather than trying to brief servers and have them remember.
  • Pre-cooking!
  • It was awesome to have our own servingware and not have to worry about borrowing Dragonsspine’s. We need more. Working on an inventory, a “fill in the gaps wishlist”, and will be requesting funding for totes.

What didn’t work:

  • Prior to this year, we’ve always sold out and had people who still wanted feast and so were willing to serve. Since we didn’t sell out, we didn’t have that ready pool of serving volunteers. Next time: smaller reservation limit, to be raised closer to the event if we want to or kept sold out. Also, more advertising of need for servers in advance.
  • Also, because I cooked for 96 and we didn’t serve 96, lots of leftovers. I save a lot of money by shopping sales far in advance, but I could have saved MORE money by buying 2/3 to 3/4 of the food in advance and making a late decision about whether or not to buy the rest at full price just in advance. (For example, buying only 8 turkeys at .89/lb in November and making a late decision about whether I really needed the other 4 at $1.49/lb. I actually needed one or two, MAYBE.)
  • Cleanup crew: We were lucky on volunteers, especially after Garick started organizing people, but that was luck, not planning. Madhavi made an interesting suggestion of something they do in Trimaris: Hire a group (household, guild, or shire) to come in and JUST do cleanup. I will definitely be pitching this in the future.
  • I was pretty comfortable delegating longer cooking and prep tasks to kitchen crew (both pre-arranged and on-the-spot volunteers), but closer to the end, I ended up at the stove, doing the things that needed done quickly, instead of supervising the whole operation. Recruit a saucier – someone who comes in half an hour before feast is served and just runs the stove during service.
  • Could have done even more pre-cooking! I ran out of room in my own freezer (and fridge, and coolers…) but could certainly have been more organized about transferring finished pre-cooking to other people’sfreezers. And there were certain dishes that I wanted to cook fresh but would have been fine frozen in advance. FOUR DOZEN CREPES.

It’s strange to realize – after three consecutive years of “leveling up” in the complexity and scale of feasts, the next couple of cooking gigs I have lined up are far less ambitious – things I feel very confident about pulling off almost effortlessly. Maybe that’s a better approach – alternating challenging projects with ones that give me a little room to get comfortable in my own skillset and focus on details and precision rather than careening along the edge of the possible.

Some great pictures that my Laurel took and gave me permission to share:

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