Reprinted and edited from a comment I left at The Belle Jar.

Every December, G. plays a part in the Mummers' Play, at the Flying Cloud Yuletide Celebration. So far, he's been the Doctor's Horse, the Fiery Dragon* (there never is a fiery dragon in the play, but the fiery dragon who isn't in the play is always the youngest child), Charles Darwin (in cotton-ball beard with a sea-turtle backpack on his back), and, this year, John Barleycorn, who brought in the evil triumvirate of Stephen Harpercorn, Dalton McGuintish, and Rob Barleyford. Every year, after the candle-light chorus sings, and the first story is read, we hear a jingling, and John the Master of Ceremonies announces the arrival of those practitioners of what he calls "socially sanctioned extortion," the Mummers.

The mummers come once a year, in the dark of winter. They don’t exist any other time. The rest of the year, they’re children and teens. They go to school. They do homework. They practice the piano or guitar. They play soccer and Minecraft. They don’t see each other, much, because their parents all live in different places.

Once a year, in the dark of winter, they tell a story. Adorned with the same costumes they wore last winter, they each act a part, familiar to us all from years of watching these same costumes, these same characters, this same story told with different words by children who know the story because they told it last year. Everyone quiets down when the mummers come into the room. We have a role to play, too. We have lines.

Here’s Old Bette. Her chin has sprouted whispers since last year; the actor who plays her no longer quite fits into the ancient bridesmaid’s dress. Old Bette threatens to kiss the men, and tells us all the story has begun. A gangly teenaged boy in an old bridesmaid’s dress, she lets us know that this is an upside down time, a time of misrule, a liminal time.

And now the story begins. Here’s St. George, brave and bold, her sword held high, bringing light to the darkness and hope to despair. We cheer for her bravery, and for her youth.

But you can’t have a hero without a challenge. In comes the fiery dragon!

There ain’t no fiery dragon in this play! choruses the audience, and the very young fiery dragon subsides, making room for a more serious threat.

In the muddled mythology of our play (which is like, yet unlike, any Mummers’ Play anywhere else in the world), St. George must face the threats of darkness, cynicism, and despair in the guise of a current known evildoer. One year it was Stephen Harpercorn. Another it was Rob Barleyford. The name doesn’t matter, so much. What matters is that this force of cold, darkness, meanness, and death will fight our brave Saint George and will not rest until St. George is vanquished. Also, he cheats.

And by treachery, St. George is slain.

Terrible horrible, see what you’ve done? You’ve killed our own beloved one!

All is not lost. A series of characters are summoned to try to revive St. George: Charles Darwin, an old man who wears the bottom of his trousers rolled cannot revive him. A wizard who pulls a rabbit from a hat cannot raise him. A series of singers fail to breath the breath of life into him. Pickled Herring (I don’t know, it’s *Tradition*) cannot entice him back to life. Finally, the Doctor comes, on his horse (the second smallest child plays the Doctor’s Horse.) The Doctor gives St. George some of his magic elixir, and St. George springs back to life, six times as strong as before. He kills the evil knight, and informs the ever-hopeful fiery dragon that there really is no fiery dragon in this play.

It’s the same story, every year. It has to be the same story every year: St. George must be brought down, be mourned, and be revived: Youth, warmth, life, and hope must fall before darkness, cold, cruelty, and cynicism, and be revived by the concerted efforts of, well, everyone. It’s John Barleycorn, Jesus of Nazareth, Orpheus, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, and it’s a story that we need to tell and to remember in the darkest days.

The mummers have gone to their pot-luck feast now, well compensated both with praise and with treats for their annual effort. The fiery dragon, who is three and a half this year, is asleep under the desserts table. St. George has put down her sword and is enjoying a half-pint of beer under her mom’s supervision. The Doctor and his Horse have gone home, bundled onto the subway by their tired parents. And we know that just as St. George rose again, so to will the sun, and that we need to wait, and hope, and hold and share the memory of warmth against the cold, light against the darkness, hope against fear, and community against the loneliness they can bring.

We tell this story every year because it’s a story that must be told, to remind us that spring comes from winter, that life comes from death, and, above all that life isn’t a tidy narrative. Most stories we encounter are: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and by the end the lesson is learned, the problem resolved, the loose ends woven in or cut off. The Mummer’s play is not that kind of story. It’s the story of the year: summer and harvest cut off by winter, then born again, and we wind up back where we started, except a year older. The year itself isn’t a unit, separated from previous years by a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, it is, but that’s just convention: the earth, the weather, and we ourselves don’t observe these arbitrary demarcations. So open the door for the Mummers:

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer,
A penny in our palms won’t do us any harm,
May your days be merry and your homes be warm
ALL THROUGH THE YEAR.”

Our Mummers' Play is written anew every year, always using the same cast of characters and structure, but with political content relevant to the past year. Here's a database of historical mummers' play scripts, for your interest

* This was the year I learned that we'd lost the Fiery Dragon costume at 9:00 p.m. the night before the play. I won some sort of good parental-adjunct prize, coming up with a tail and a toothy hood out of red scraps. I was not gratified to hear a voice from the audience complain "But the fiery dragon is supposed to be green!" If I'd known before the fabric stores closed, we might have had a green dragon. Folkies can be such traditionalists.
Wow, you guys. Beethoven kicked my butt tonight. Then Bruckner stomped on my groaning nearly dead form, and now I have no voice. Whose brilliant idea was it to program Beethoven's 9th and Bruckner's Te Deum in one concert? Someone who hated sopranos, that's who!

Seriously, Beethoven, who could not hear the tortured noises the real-live sopranos were making, thought it'd be lovely to have a page of high A. And then to throw in some B-flats for good measure. It sounded so great in his head, you see.

Bruckner looked at what Beethoven did, and thought "Hey neat! I should do that too! Only I'll have them go up to a C! It'll be great. I don't know how he recruited the angel choirs from Beethoven's brain to actually sing the thing, but he must have. A corporeal choir would have mutinied. (Actually, probably not. Choral singers as a species tend to be pretty meek.)

Yesterday, I thought I had a pretty good singing day. Vocally, I mean. Music-wise, yesterday was Purcell's turn to kick my butt, with his wacky quasi-recit. [livejournal.com profile] sarcasma  is a good and patient teacher, though, so I feel like I maybe aquitted myself okay.

Speaking of Purcell, you can watch an entire English National Opera production of The Fairy Queen on YouTube (embedding has been disabled, so you'll just have to click the link). The singing is quite excellent. The dancing is also excellent, but weirdly Po-Mo, as is the staging. The cast is pretty, and it's a pretty queer production, all in all: One pair of the lovers is M/M; Titania has drag-handmaidens, as does Oberon; and of course Oberon has a thing for Titania's Indian Boy. You might want to skip the Chinese Wedding Masque—it made me kind of squidgy in my "I think they mean this ironically, but wow does it feel racially problematic" place. That said, I loved the Maoist codpieces. Still and all, if you're feeling a lack of English Baroque Pseudo-Opera in your life (and who does not, from time to time*), this may be the antidote.

*excluding [personal profile] loolica , who has told me that she just plain doesn't like classical music, and therefore probably never feels a lack of English Baroque, which is cool because she's an awesome person, and it would be a boring world if we were all the same.

[personal profile] sabotabby posted some of the spoils of our not-very-suitable-decoration phototreck. I was confident that we hadn't captured the extent of weird seasonal decorations even in our kind of boring neighbourhood, but took a break to get ready for the various festivities.

Turns out that there's more in our very neighbourhood:

Exhibit 1: The Underinflated Penguin

A 6-foot-tall inflatable Christmas penguin, standing and waving outside a little urban house. The penguin wears a Santa hat decorated with holly, and is waving cheerfully. Because it is a bit under-inflated, its head is tilted at an angle reminiscent of a spinal injury. The penguin is illuminated by Christmas lights and the glow cast by a wicker-and-Christmas-light deer in the garden beside it.

It's not that I'm opposed to decorations. But I do like some sort of consistency. And I really generally don't like inflated things that are not balloons. Underinflating your penguin causes it to look like it needs the services of a chiropractor, or maybe an EMT unit with a spinal board.

Exhibit 2: On Second Thought, Inflated May Be Preferable

Hanging limply  the porch of a little urban house, an empty, too-small-looking Santa suit, complete with beard, but NO FACE.

Okay, hanging empty stockings I understand, though you're supposed to do that indoors, on the mantle of your fireplace, or, if you don't have a fireplace, wherever you can hang a stocking. I'm not sure what an empty Santa suit conveys. Are they waiting for St. Nick to fill his own suit with his jolly self? (Hint to the denizens of this house: that suit is TOO SMALL.) It looks more to me as if they killed Santa and are hanging his pelt outside their home as a trophy, or perhaps as a warning. Eep.

On Christmas day, captainmushroom and I went for a walk and hit Unsuitable Decoration Mecca.

Exhibit 3: The Upholstery Shop

A storefront window. Above the window, the sign for the shop says UPHOLSTERY. On display are an upholstered couch surrounded by an assortment of tchotchkes: a cadaverous dummy wearing a tinsel Christmas-tree headdress, several superhero dolls and action figures, a framed portrait of Henry VIII, a church. On the couch are a Ken doll, a gargoyle with reindeer antlers, a nutcracker, and another framed Renaissance portrait (I'm not sure of whom.)

Oh man, I don't even know where to begin with this place. It's just AWESOME. Here are some details:

A detail of the left-hand side of the Upholstery Shop window. In the window are a cadaverous dummy wearing a suit and checkered tie, topped with a headdress made from a conical tinsel Christmas tree. Seated on the dummy's extended left arm is a Robin superhero doll; on its right arm is Lisa Simpson. In the foreground is a small model of a church, completed with steeple. Straddling atop the church is a female superhero. Beside the church, and much taller (about 2 feet tall) is a toy soldier figure.

The cadaverous zombie guy is a permanent fixture of the window, as are, I think Lisa Simpson and Robin. The tinsel headdress is seasonal.

A close up of some items arranged on the couch: a model of an overstuffed armchair. Seated in the armchair is a Ken doll in a white suit. Seated on the couch in front of that Ken doll is another Ken doll in its underwear. Behind the chair is a model of Chuck Norris in a Santa hat. Norris's face is plastic, but his body is quilted. Flanking the armchair are a blonde Ken doll in a sparkly top and a Barbie doll in what appears to be a Space Adventurer's suit. In the forground the head and shoulders of a rather phallic toy soldier are visible.

Quilted-body Chuck Norris doesn't wait for Santa. Quilted-body Chuck Norris is Santa. You better watch out!

The bottom left corner of the Upholstery Shop window, containing a small red sign saying XXXmas, and a photo of a very buff shirtless dude in a Santa hat. More permanent fixtures in the window include a tribal-style mask, some geraniums and fake flowers, and Canadian flag.


More decorations in the window: a Norman-Rockwell style picture showing two small children, one dressed inexplicably as a cowboy, peering through the banister of the stairs as a pyjama-clad fellow kisses a fellow dressed as Santa, under the mistletoe. Beside this is a small painting of very buff, shirtless guy reclining and wearing red trousers and a Santa hat. On the other side of the Rockwell-style picture is a portrait of Henry VIII. In the foreground is a small model of an upholstered chesterfield.

There's really nothing unsuitable about the Daddy Kissing Santa-Claus picture, except for the Rockwell-esque style, but somehow I think my mom would find it objectionable. No, I have no idea what Henry VIII is doing there.

A close up of the Daddy Kissing Santa Claus faux Rockwell picture.

You need to see the Daddy Kissing Santa picture up close to fully appreciate its delicate, nuanced portrayal of the holiday spirit.

A close up of the church montage. A small model of a quaint country church, completed with steeple. A snowman is placed beside the church. An action figure of a superhero is on the other side. Straddling the church is a female superhero. A Santa Pez dispenser stands outside the door of the church.

I don't even. All I can think is that no Christmas idyll is really complete without random superheroes.

And finally, the saddest Christmas gargoyle I have ever seen:

Obscured by reflections in the windows, a stone (or faux stone) gargoyle crouches on the upholstered couch, its hands wrapped around its knees. On its face is an expression of deep sadness. It has been adorned with red felt reindeer antlers.

This gargoyle is SO SAD FOR BEING A REINDEER.

I was travelling around on work, meeting with clients. I was in Newfoundland, and then I went to Iceland, and thence to Sweden. My hotel in Sweden was adorable—genuinely boho, a kind of Art Nouveau apartment building, with hanging silks and a proprietress who had a crystal ball. 

It was there that I became uncomfortably aware that I was being followed. Strange men appeared in the lobby. My clothes had been rifled in my room. The proprietress of my hotel was upset and gracious about it. She seemed to know who the culprits were, and apologised and changed my room to one for which there was no way to duplicate the key and promised me security. But as I was waiting in a hired car for my mom at the airport, they appeared again. I had no choice but to drive away, leaving the driver (who may have been one of Them) waiting at the airport. There ensued a high-speed car-chase, through the highways, overpasses, and back roads of Sweden. This was inconvenient, because I can't actually drive, so in addition to being terrified and annoyed by the people chasing me, moderately lost because I was in Sweden, and confused by how to operate a car, I was worried that the police would notice my erratic driving and pull me over, and then discover that I don't have a license, don't speak Swedish, and don't know how to drive.

Eventually I ditched the car, and took a bus back to my cute hotel, where the proprietress informed me that she'd put my mother in the room adjoining mine, and the rest of the guests on the third floor.

Further adventures inspired by Pushing Daisies, Steig Larsson, Naomi Klein, Cory Doctorow, Die Hard and others )
I haven't posted about the wedding in Ottawa, mostly because other people have, and I've been swallowed by my life.

I received the beautiful invitation from [personal profile] commodorified , [personal profile] fairestcat , [personal profile] random , and [personal profile] rayne in the mail, after [personal profile] mycrazyhair  warned me it would be coming, and I arranged to take two whole days off work to travel to Ottawa with her, despite my trepidation about travelling the week before the Dance Flurry, meeting new people in general, and weddings in general.

We had an awesome trip. I am really glad I got to see the MacFlails get married, to dance with them (and with [personal profile] dagibbs—finally!); and to visit [livejournal.com profile] audrawilliams and see [livejournal.com profile] human_loser once more before he vanished back to the west; to experience the most breathtakingly epicurean vegetarian cuisine I have ever eaten, to hang out and breakfast with [personal profile] toft , [personal profile] curgoth , and [personal profile] neeuqdrazil ; to meet whole bunches of very interesting, kind, funny people; and to dress up pretty and dance with my girl.

To the MacFlails: It was lovely to meet those I met, to spend some time with you, to witness your marriage, and to laugh and danc

Thanks to the MacFlails for inviting me, for having an awesome wedding, and for providing me with an opportunity for such a very enjoyable weekend. [personal profile] commodorified , you sure know how to make a girl feel welcomed and appreciated (or at least ogled). You are a lovely, lovely family, and I'm so glad to have witnessed your beautiful wedding.

[personal profile] dagibbs , after all that geeking out at various parties, it was lovely to finally dance with you—thanks for taking me out on Saturday night. Thanks to [personal profile] neeuqdrazil  for driving us all home.

And [personal profile] mycrazyhair  wins an AWESOME SWEETIE award for organizing everything, and being generally awesome.

My life, it does not suck.

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jan. 2nd, 2010 10:44 am)
I think anyone who works with kids, has kids, deals with neuroatypical kids or grownups, likes Mythbusters, or likes robots (or children who like robots) needs to read [personal profile] toft 's fic Robots Need Love Too.

Adam likes robots and math, and has a cape. He and his mom have just moved to a space station, where he meets Jamie. Jamie likes quiet, and math and doesn't like being hugged. He thinks robots are pretty neat too.

A snippet:

"Well, I guess we can be friends as long as you don't mind my behaviour abnormalities," Adam says.

Jamie wonders what they are. He rolls the dark blue cylinder in his hand, then opens his pen and slots it in. He draws a little cube on the top corner of his datapad, then another.

"Those are really neat and tidy," Adam says, leaning over to look at his work and almost touching him, but not, so Jamie isn't annoyed and doesn't have to push him. "I can't get them that neat and tidy. I always smudge them."

"Quiet now, boys," Educator Kari says. "It's time for first period." Jamie thinks that's hardly fair, as he wasn't the one talking, but he concentrates on booting up the math programs and inserting his earbuds. He leans over to check that Adam has the right programs up, and he does, so Jamie ignores him for the rest of the period. Adam falls of his chair a couple of times, and once tries to talk to Jamie, but Jamie ignores him. Jamie likes math.
Toft has created an entirely believable space station, and two entirely believable small boys. She tells the story from Jamie's POV, and this is the best fictional representation of the way a child with Autism-spectrum traits might see the world that I've ever read. Adam's behaviour is entirely reminiscent of some small boys I've met—I love the exchange with his mother over Jamie's mother's hydraulic chair, where Adam doesn't understand why his curiosity makes his mom uncomfortable. The story is, as other commenters have said, sweet and adorable, without being cloying or sentimental.

Even if you don't follow Mythbusters (I don't), you should still consider reading this story. It's quite excellent.

Now I'm off to clean out the fridge.


zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Dec. 15th, 2009 04:25 pm)
If I were superstitious, I'd be feeling very nervous about tomorrow's concert, right now.

Last night's dress rehearsal went really well. I'm kind of excited about tomorrow's performance. The soloists are excellent, the ensemble sounds good (even if we don't have any tympani), and the choir is pretty darned good, if I do say so myself.

The superstition goes that a good dress means a bad opening night. I don't buy it one little bit. It's such a relief when a good performance follows an awful dress that I think people remember those instances, and have, by process of inversion, created a superstition around the q. In consequence, I'm just plain happy to be singing this great music and sharing it with people.

(If you're in Toronto, you really should consider coming. Really. There are trumpets!)
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Dec. 2nd, 2009 06:11 pm)
Do I have to read Twilight in order to have an informed opinion of Monica Hesse's theory concerning why smart, literate, feminist women find themselves being bitten by Meyer's execrable prose and frightening worldview [warning, link contains some abelist slurs]?

In "Twilight," Edward Cullen waffled between wooing and eating new girl Bella Swan. He chose love. In "New Moon," the darkest installment of the series, Edward becomes convinced that his girlfriend would be safer without him, so he dumps her in order to protect her and then vanishes. Bella, catatonic from the pain, finds solace in Jacob Black, the devoted friend who has just learned he is a werewolf, and their relationship grows deeper, and this description is utterly, utterly useless because none of it gets at what the "Twilight" series is actually about, which is being 17.

It's a time capsule to the breathless period when the world could literally end depending on whether your lab partner touched your hand, when every conversation was so agonizing and so thrilling (and the border between the two emotions was so thin), and your heart was bigger and more delicate than it is now, and everything was just so much more.

I'm not sure I want to be reminded about being 17. I was really dumb then. Yes, things mattered more, but they hurt a lot more too, almost all the time, and I'm pretty sure I was insufferable.

So I'm pretty sure I shouldn't read Twilight, which is good, because I've no desire to. But I don't fault those who do. After all, I like Die Hard movies.


If these things get any bigger, I'm going to have to rent a church kitchen. Since I love having everyone over to cook, I think this might actually be worth it. When we rented this place, we thought the lovely kitchen would be big enough, but, well, not for 12 people, 7 of whom are actually cooking, and the rest of whom need burners to warm their offerings, oven space, and a place to sit. We used every plate Sabot and I own, as well as most of the bowls, pots, and pans. Clearly, I need more dishes.

Sabotabby has posted pics and her recipe.

Dramatis Personae:

Yours truly: Quinoa stew and gluten-free vanilla cupcakes with raspberry glaze.
[personal profile] sabotabby : Chipotle lasagne
[personal profile] mycrazyhair : Mushrooms with rice noodles
[personal profile] curgoth : Moroccan lentil stew
[personal profile] neeuqdrazil : dumplings!!!!!!
[personal profile] toft: ... something else with lentils (???)
captainmushroom: baked garden veggies
picturegal (non-lj work friend): something with carrots, something with beets
thegiantkiller ... I'm sorry! I don't remember!
craftygal (other non-lj work friend): portobello burgers with onion jam and some sort of yummy yoghurt dressing
[personal profile] graydon : chocolate nemesis, with raspberry sauce; also maple-garlic-orange sauce (not part of the nemesis dessert!) (he has made Nemesis before, but hey, someone wants to make a decadent chocolate dessert and feed it to me and my friends and I am going to complain whyfor?)

If I've missed anyone, please comment and I'll correct!

My recipes:
Recipes hereunder! )
* Karina's blog, Karina's Kitchen, is my new favourite food blog. Gluten-free, soy free, often vegan recipes by someone who loves food and loves cooking. Baked goods that are not about penetance! I feel like sending her (gluten-, soy-, dairy-free) cookies!

Or "What I Did on My Summer Vacation, by Zingerella"

Flew Porter Airlines to Ottawa. Here are some things you should know about flying Porter with a bike:
  • You don't need to dismantle the bike before you get to the ferry terminal to go across to the airport. So don't. It's much easier to take the bike across, intact, then ask the agents how they want to stow it in the luggage hold.
  • In general, according to the agents there, you don't need to take the front wheel off, or unscrew the pedals. You may have to unscrew the handlebars in order to turn them sideways.
  • You definitely need to pack your tools and some tape in the pannier you intend to check.
  • Of course, if your flying into and out of the same place, it's still best to pack your bike in a hard case, but I was not doing this.
So, while I could have cycled to the ferry and taken my bike to the Island, I did not.

Instead, I did things the hard way. )

Flying Porter is a most civilized way to get to Ottawa.

In Ottawa, I reassembled my bike and cycled from the airport to Audra's house, committing the first of many wrong turns while cycling. Lost my cellphone at Audra's house, pretty much the moment after I arrived.* Had a lovely visit with Audra: pancakes! kittens! movies! chatting!

Monday, after a prolonged, and not very interesting wrangle at the Bell Mobility franchise, I bought a new cellphone, and set out.

Day 1: Ottawa to Kemptville

I followed this route out of Ottawa, with a few cursings and wrong turns, where the directions and the roads didn't seem to match. My ability to follow directions was not helped by the fact that there's a lot of road removal going on in and around Ottawa right now. Some photos and commentary from Day 1 )More photos later, or you can check them out on Flickr.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Aug. 14th, 2009 11:34 pm)
Hi!

I'm home!

Not squashed!

Ontario is very big! It is full of water, and rocks, and trees, and swamps, and farms.

Trucks are very scary.

The Waterfront Trail is a lie: It isn't really a trail and it doesn't go along the waterfront very often.

Rural people have a bizarre penchant for novelty mailboxes.

More later! I have to let my mom, grandmom, and great aunt know that I am home, alive, and in one piece. And sleeeeep.

Thanks to [personal profile] neeuqdrazil 
This one's especially for [personal profile] mycrazyhair and [personal profile] neeuqdrazil :

Sound of Music guerilla dancing in Antwerp's central station.




.

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