Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Emma Kirkby!

On this day, Emma Kirkby, one of my favorite Renaissance and baroque sopranos, was born.

Also, it's a good day for Pergolesi, and every day is a good day for Monteverdi. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Pie for Ragnarok

Ragnarok was supposed to happen yesterday.  It didn't, which was sort of disappointing, because Ragnarok, and sort of a relief, since I really wasn't prepared for it.  I have no mead in the house, and going out to do battle would require going outside, and there was snow, and wind, and general unpleasantness.

So instead, we made pie.  Chocolate chip pie, which is essentially just a pie shell in which is baked chocolate chips held together by a little flour and a lot of butter (this is a feature, not a bug.).  Just to be festive, I poured in food coloring in an attempt to make it purple, which mostly worked.

Until the next time the world ends!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Caturday Post: Nom teh Bloom

My bloody little conqueror Tamlerlane likes flowers.  He finds them tasty.

Recently, we acquired a little cactus.  This was very interesting.  It was hard for the kitty to decide if it was nommable.

The bloody little conqueror actually tried nomming it.  This did not turn out as well as he could have hoped.  I am now keeping an eye on him to make sure he is still eating and drinking normally and does not seem to be experiencing too much mouth pain.  I love my little orange kitty, but he is a cute little moron.

Future Hypothetical Children as Currency: The Nonsensical Economics of Faery Tales

Recently, I was wondering why the stranger people of faerie tale will demand future children as currency in exchange for performing non-trivial tasks for people. Take Rumpelstiltskin as a case study.  A girl's father tells a king his daughter can turn straw into gold.  The king, a skeptic with a mean homicidal streak, decides to test the claim by locking the girl up in a room full of straw, and if she can succeed in turning it into gold, he gets to marry her, if not, she dies.  Presumably, option A is a reward for her as well, at least, I hope it is.  But I doubt it.  Anyway, a strange person, or possibly imp (I'm not really clear on whether Rumpelstiltskin is human or not) shows up and offers to turn all the straw into gold in exchange for her firstborn child. This seems a nonsensical bargain.  Seriously, even if the existence of a future firstborn was assured (which even ignoring fun medieval facts about maternal and infant death rates is not) what exactly does an imp or wizard type need with a newborn human?  If he just wants a child, there are in any age plenty of abandoned children he could just go get from an orphanage, there's no need to do unnecessary work and wait on an uncertain event.  If he wants to eat a child (there's faery tale precedent for eating children, e.g. Hansel and Gretel), again it would be much easier to just go get an existing child rather than waiting on a meal that may never be produced, and when it is, has to be waited on for at least a few years.  Think about cannibalism for a minute; even if Rumps is into veal, one doesn't eat newborns.  No muscle, really.  So he'd have to wait a while and feed the child until probably somewhere in the 10-12 year range* when he could perfectly well just get a 10 year old from an orphanage.  Though possibly he wanted to strictly control the child's diet (which would affect the resultant meat) but even for a gourmand, this seems like a lot of work to go to for a meal when there are easier alternatives.

It is possible Rumpelstiltskin is just trying to cause pain and suffering to everyone concerned.  I'm not clear on why he would want to do this, but maybe the girl wronged him at some point in the past, who knows.  This whole magic-for-future-child deal just seems like not the most efficient way to go about causing the maximum amount of harm.  If he does nothing while the girl is failing to spin straw into gold, she gets executed with no effort on his part.  Then, if Rumps just wants some extra harm and chaos, he can start fomenting rebellion by telling people (truthfully) that their king is a vicious tyrant who murders pretty girls for failing to spin straw into gold, and really, who wouldn't fail at that?  He could presumably get lots of help with an insurrection from the girl's grieving father, who is probably feeling immense guilt and probably angsty flashbacks that his boast caused the death of his daughter, and if I have learned nothing else from anime, it is that angsty flashbacks lead to superpowers.  This being a peasant rebellion against a feudal king, it is unlikely to succeed, but highly likely to result in more death and starvation than usual, so chaos and harm accomplished.

This is all fun, but doesn't explain Rumpelstiltskin's actions. So I did what any thinking American with an internet would do, that is, I asked the question of my Facebook friends.  After about 30 comments, an old friend of mine proposed that really, the point of this is to get some child to use in a weird rite.  Faery tale characters are often sent on bizarre scavenger hunts anyway, sometimes for things to use as ingredients, as in "The Wild Swans" when Elsa has to sew shirts out of nettles from a graveyard, or sometimes just because, as when Psyche has to get some of Persephone's beauty in a box.

So there we have it.

*I asked an animal science professor about the ideal age for human consumption, and that was his expert opinion.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In Wyoming. With Dance Classes.

I seem to be a good dance teacher!  I am very surprised.  It's one thing to just be better than the dance teachers I have observed heretofore in this town, one of whom just sat on the floor doing her makeup and yelling at her students when they did something wrong, and at least one of whom apparently has no problems with students who do not wear underwear on stage, but it's another thing to be actually good.  I've certainly been enjoying teaching my belly dance class, but when the students come in and tell me they look forward to my class all day, or that they've noticed they've become more limber since starting, or that they have taken to thinking "how would Elisheba stand" during the day because they want to be more graceful, I get seriously warm fuzzies.

I really do have wonderful students.  They actually practice at home in between classes!  They remember my instructions (mostly, I think, because they find the way I give instructions to be hilarious.  They love the term "dinosaur hands.") and they want to do more things in the dance I choreographed for them.  I adore them.

So far, teaching this class is the only good thing about Wyoming.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ballet West's Sleeping Beauty: Clockwork Toy Jewel Box Edition

We went to Salt Lake City this past weekend, because there is civilization there.  Also, Ballet West was presenting Sleeping Beauty in a recently renovated and incredibly gaudy little theatre that made up for its small size with as much gold and sparkles as could be crammed into the space.   It was a little like looking at a toy jewel box theatre, an illusion reinforced by the perfect shininess of very classically costumed dancers, a choreography which features slow ensemble work, and an orchestra with a very mellow tone (they do not tune sharp at all).  Sure the prologue had some very wobbly wobbles, but I am going to chalk that up to beginning of performance tightness and jitters, since all anteceding acts were technically solid.

Calling the production akin to watching a clockwork toy jewel box is in no way a criticism.  I very much enjoyed the sparkling relaxed feel, and while I've seen better faerie solos, the loveliness of the ensemble and commitment to hitting the phrases and highlights of the music made the prologue completely a joy and a delight.  Carabosse contributed with her own sparkles, minions with grand jetés to envy, (I love a ballerina with a good grand jeté, and an unexpected benefit of a theatre this tiny is that even in the balcony I could hear the clunks of the toe shoes and get a sense of exactly how much force the dancers are traveling with) and exits to flash bombs.

The prologue was followed by an equally delightful Act 1, in which villagers danced with garlands, and the children's corps danced with little garlands.  I cannot stress enough how good the ensemble work is here.  I was disappointed with the princes.  While the Prima is very traditionally in her gold and white sparkling gown all her princes were in shades of brown rather than being colorfully color-coded. Also, they didn't have a dance off, and only supported the princess and offered her three rounds of roses (which I think is a little excessive, but whatever.)  I realize this is a reasonable artistic choice; this ballet, like all of Tchaikovsky's ballets, is about the women, and if the princess decides to mostly ignore her princes and dancer herself, I deeply respect this choice. But I wanted to see color-coded princes in pastel-colored tights tour jeté their way across the stage in order to demonstrate their passion and worthiness. Is that so much to ask?

Oh well.  Act 2 was incredibly confusing.  I liked the introduction of the prince and his party, since they were costumed in a style I mentally tag as 1700's but I am not knowledgeable enough about fashion to say for sure.  At any rate, it was noticeably different from the more Renaissance look of the villagers in the preceding act so that we know time has passed.  All is well until the prince enters the magical enchanted forest.  There were beautiful enchanting wood faeries forming enchanting patterns as the prince wandered about in a confused fashion, but then he ran into a vision of Aurora and made a huge flaming deal out of dancing with her.  Umm, weird.  Especially since this happened at the expense of making a flaming deal out of awakening her and dancing with her then.  The final battle with Carabosse was similarly disappointing.  Quick, simple, and then he has vanquished evil without more than a lift or two of her evil minions.  Excuse me, but I expect to see evil defeated with grandiose balletics here, followed by a grandiose pas de deux with the princess, the actual one, not the forest hallucination.

The final act was a little unbalanced. While it was still pretty, and the faery tale characters took turns dancing, as they should, the amount of time they got was unbalanced.  Bluebird and companion got too much dance time, as did Gold, Silver, and their escort.  (Though I believe it was Gold who performed insanely impressive leaps taking of and landing en pointe.  I hope her feet don't suffer too much for it, because that was grand.) Puss in Boots and companion got just enough time, as did Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, while no other faery tale companions got individual dance time at all.  It was still pretty, and the glitter being dumped on the stage just reinforced the illusion of a toy theatre, but I'd like to see more than just a handful of the distinguished guests get party dance time.

Still, I was able to feel fabulous, in a glittering theatre watching shiny dancers present Sleeping Beauty, with wonderfully excessive care given to costuming and ensemble work.  Well done, Ballet West.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Caturday Post: Such Talented Kitties!

Astral Projection kitty is really outside killing a bird.

Gnostic kitty already knows it all. 

On a weekend trip to Salt Lake City, taken because there is civilization there, I encountered a flier at a restaurant, advertising classes that would allow me to experience astral projection and understand gnosis (is that something one can come to understand rather than just, you know, knowing it?).  I think my cats already have these skills covered, however, so I felt no need to inquire into the classes.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Zounds! Opera now has Robots!

This news excites me extremely.  We have taken a step closer to the robot apocalypse and now we can be sure that our arts will be safe under our new robot overlords.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Darwin Day! Have a Cheesecake!

It's Darwin Day!  Celebrate science!  Because I am an American, the only way I know to celebrate anything is with excessive amounts of food, so I have cheesecake.  White chocolate and cranberry, with a little orange instead of vanilla.

It's an itty bit overcooked at the edges, but I maintain this is a result of the
variation that exists within cheesecakes.  

I clearly did not put in enough cranberry sauce, but again, this is natural variation
existing within cheesecakes, definitely not my own incompetence.

I'm proud of us, as humanity.  We turned cows from gigantic things that could kill cavemen into little docile things that we've genetically engineered over the centuries to produce huge amounts of milk with high fat content.    Also, even though the majority of my own species can't digest milk past childhood, I am one of the minority that retains that enzyme into adulthood, which is why I can eat cheese products now.   Variation within a species!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Caturday Post: Thermodynamic Kitteh Demonstrates Entropy

My kitties have a box.  Well, they have many boxes, but they like flatish boxes.  Like any good physics kitties, they understand entropy and apply it in their daily lives.

Tamerlane applies entropy to a box.

Moar entropy!

The box, after entropy has been applied.  

Could have more entropy.  

My daily thermodynamics is done.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

This is Hell. By all Means, Let us Settle Things with Violence: Bureaucratic Problem Solving in Hozuki no Reitetsu

It has recently come to my attention that Hozuki no Reitetsu exists, and it is amazing, ongoing, and
addresses the very important issues of bureaucratic administration in Hell.


The bureaucracy in Hell is complicated.  There are 272 divisions of Hell (8 cold regions, 8 hot regions, and each of those 8 is split into 17 sections), all of which have to be staffed and supervised (in case demons need to be yelled at for tormenting the damned in an entirely too lackadaisical fashion).   The great spirit of the Styx needs medical attention for eating a giant crab, and various minions need to have settled the important issue of whether or not most demons still wear the traditional tiger skin underwear.   What's Hozuki, personal secretary/second in command to Enma sama to do to relax in between beating people with a giant club (because it's Hell.  How else does a demon settle things than with violence?), organizing torture seminars for newcomers and sightseeing tours for the visiting Satan of European Hell?  Mostly watch Australian nature shows on satellite, which is somehow available in Hell (cable, I would believe, but satellite?  Reception has to be terrible, and if that's how they get internet, eesh the latency.) and grow giant creepy goldfish plants.  It's a living.

Only four episodes of this have aired so far and I'm completely in love with this show.  It's even educational!  We get to meet famous people from history and folklore, like Momotaro, who has a job harvesting peaches in Shangri-La (Heaven's biggest tourist trap and into some questionable dealing of Chinese wonder drugs.), and Yoshitsune Minamoto, who is a pretty boy with the Hell police.  Yoshitsune Minamoto is a pretty boy in Hell.  I cannot stress enough how much I adore Yoshitsune Minamoto as a pretty boy in Hell.

The opening theme is as amazingly ridiculous as all the rest of it:

New episode out as of yesterday.  Sports day for the minions of Hell!  I am incredibly excited.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Roll Cake Round 3! Fight!

My rolling is getting better.  With some consultation from my mama, I controlled the explosiveness of the powdered sugar by putting another larger baking sheet over the sugared towel I flipped the cake onto.  

I did a much better job with the custard as well.  I dislike making custard.  It is boring.  But I like custard.  It's a dilemma.  However, with more patience, especially in waiting for everything to cool, I got the custard to stay in the cake.  Also, I added only yellow food coloring, because Chihaya complains if colors do not match her taste expectations.

Holy feta cheese, I think I just won versus a roll cake!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In Wyoming. With a Complete Lack of Humility.

Today in examples of how I should not talk to anyone at the gym because it's frustrating, a gentleman wanted to know how much we might charge for silks lessons.  On hearing exactly the going rate for a group lesson in Atlanta, he informed us that we should have humility and offer a very low rate as a service to the community.  Since this gentleman is a lawyer, I wonder how humble his going rates are, outside his bar mandated pro bono hours of course.

Even if we were willing to undercut ourselves, ignore the expenses of our equipment and training, and decide our time and skills are not valuable (which, really, why would we?) we are not going to undercut the rest of the artistic community.  There are already problems with people who think artists are not worth their hire.  At least, I have run into people who think dancers should perform at their parties for approximately $50, or even free.  Because exposure, or something.

I'm not saying I would never cut rates.  I've been known to perform at fundraising events for free (well, and a reimbursement for travel, but I only ask for the latter if it's a sufficiently costly trip that I simply can't afford to take the loss.) But if I'm volunteering my time and skills, it will be either for a friends and family deal or a cause I believe in.  Cheap aerial acrobatic lessons for a community that does not value art do not qualify.

At least the wonderful ladies of my belly dance class have confirmed to me that it is very difficult here to get anything done when not a member of the good old boy network, and as a young educated woman it's just that much worse.  So the frustrations of here aren't strictly a result of me not understanding how to work with this community.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Caturday Post: Termites. Giant Termites.

We have no dryer, so we have to hang clothes on drying racks.  Oh the hardship and wretchedness!  Recently, I have noticed that all the wooden drying racks are developing large tooth marks.  The kitties claim to know nothing about it.