Excaliber - jumping

List of Historic Female Warriors

Since ladies got the right to fight on the frontlines last week in the U.S., there were a couple stories about female warriors in the news. Specifically in this story from NPR, I learned about some ladies I'd never heard of (we've all heard of Joan of Arc):
  • Boudica, "… confronted and defeated the Roman army in the 1st century."
  • A Chinese woman, Fu Hao, "led 13,000 troops into battle and was the military might of the Shang Dynasty."
  • Tamar of Georgia "...ruled her country, and defeated Turkey in battle and every other empire on her borders."
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine was "one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages". She participated in Second Crusade by recruiting and assembling:  "...ladies-in-waiting as well as 300 non-noble vassals. She insisted on taking part in the Crusades as the feudal leader of the soldiers from her duchy. The story that she and her ladies dressed as Amazons is disputed by serious historians... [Eleanor's] testimonial launch of the Second Crusade from Vézelay, the rumored location of Mary Magdalene´s burial, dramatically emphasized the role of women in the campaign."
  • Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nh, th Trung sisters of Vietnam, successfully repelled a small Chinese unit from their village, assembled a large army consisting mostly of women. Within months, they had taken back many (about 65) citadels from the Chinese (who "had occupied Vietnam for 1,000 years"), and had liberated Nam Việt. They became queens of the country, and managed to resist subsequent Chinese attacks on Nam Việt for over two years.
  • In the Trung sisters' army wa Phung Thi Chinh, "...a pregnant noble lady, who gave birth on the front line, and with her baby in one arm, and a sword in the other continued to fight the battle."
I didn't know about any of these ladies! You can read about more ladies in 20th century battles here.
Excaliber - jumping

A review of Gallow Green, Sleep No More's Rooftop Bar

Had a splendid evening on Sunday at Gallow Green, the new rooftop bar above Sleep No More.

There's a kind of complicated ticketing reservation system, and perhaps not all of the kinks are worked out yet. As we arrived at the garden entrance, the doorman asked if we had a reservation (we did), scanned our IDs into an elaborate device, and checked us off on an ipad. We took a very dark elevator with one of Sleep No More's signature creepy (yet friendly) bellhops up to the almost-roof. The elevator was so dark and the bellhop so mysterious I wondered if something (SNM-ish) might happen, but nothing did. The elevator stops on 6, and you take stairs up the rest of the way. (I've a rumor heard people sometimes make it up to a usually-locked 6th floor during the show, so I was eager to see more up there, but it was well-guarded.)

 A waiter calling us "love" led us to some seats and asked if we had a reservation (we did), and checked it off on an ipad, and then another waiter brought us the menu and asked if we had a reservation (we did!).

So far the menu has 4 or 5 cocktails and 4 kinds of punch. I tried a cocktail that I was very pleased with (pictured) but my husband was a bit let down by the Pimm's cup. Pimm's is a very British thing, and Pimm's Cup cocktails vary a lot by restaurant. The Gallow Green variation has white rum in it and a very ginger-y taste.

A thunderstorm rolled in, so we stuck around to wait out the rain. This meant we tried three out of the four punches, and they were all quite good. The "Sleep Bowmore" was certainly the booziest. I think I liked the second one best and can no longer remember what it was called - it had more of a Scotch-like flavor to it than the first punch. The Claret was also good, and more lightweight and refreshing if you don't like strong tasting drinks. There's red wine involved. I've made Claret cocktail variations at home in the past, but they were not as good as the Gallow Green punch.

A friend was going to join us but reported that tickets were sold out, but maybe they weren't sold out so much as not available the same day. There were plenty of seats left. I began to wonder if you actually needed a reservation or not.

The storm hit hard at one point, and half of the roof enclosure started leaking. A lot of patrons moved to the other half of the bar to avoid the rain, and a nice couple sat with us at our (relatively) dry table. My husband and I wound up opening up our umbrellas as we  chatted with the other couple. They were interior designers by trade who had seen Sleep No More in part for the interior design and loved the show.

By coincidence, the lady was Russian, and had seen the Russian sci-fi film my husband wrote his thesis paper on, Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (based on the story "Roadside Picnic"). They asked how we met, and we explained it was through NYU and Columbia's respective science fiction clubs. They were fans of science fiction, but hadn't talked with anyone about sci-fi in ages. So we wound up having a conversation about Stalker, the X-Files, and Gattaca. I kind of wanted to talk more about Sleep No More, but whatever, they were super nice.

It was a kind of magic evening, the kind of New York magic described in one of Woody Allen's films (I can't remember which one), where it suddenly starts raining and you have to duck into a Manhattan doorway with strangers.

At least two waiters asked if we'd seen the show downstairs (we had). The fellow who waited on us the most said he usually worked at the bar downstairs, and sometimes played parts in the show, although when I asked which ones he gave a mysterious sidelong glance and didn't answer. I started to wonder about the other waiters, many of whom (as Thrillist put it) were "impossibly good looking". How many of them had been in the show...? How many of the bar patrons were involved in the show somehow...?

At least one other patron at the bar looked like one of the understudies I saw in the April Fools Day SNM show. (Although that could've been my imagination.) The waiter had also attended the April Fools Day show, as an audience member.

I found the bar's atmosphere tremendously relaxing, in part because the decor reminded me of my parents' old farm. A lot of the wood used in the decor has the color of our old barn, a color it took on after the paint had long ago washed off (like this color, that's our old chicken coup). Old gardening tools decorate the bathroom, which look uncannily like the old tools in the buildings around the farm (50 to 100 year old tools...).

The bill was not relaxing, however. There were no prices on the menu, so I suffered from some sticker shock. Also, the way the ticketing works is that you pay $20 per person to get in, and then the $20 is subtracted off your bill at the end. I thought the card I'd used for reservations would be swiped, but it wasn't, it turned out we got to pick. (Which required another "Do you have a reservation?")

Also it seemed as if not everything on tap was on the menu just yet. That is to say there were clearly beer taps, and a nearby table ordered beer, but no beer was listed on the menu. I heard a woman behind me order coffee, although that wasn't listed either. It didn't look as if they had wine just yet, but I didn't ask either.

I would totally go there again. The waitress said that eventually they plan to have food, even brunch. I can't emphasize enough how nice of a space it is. It looks perfect for corporate parties, or regular parties, or even a small wedding.

Sauron has tea

The Wines of Graham Beck

I went to one of Astor Wine's tastings today, and I bought two things, but I wanted to share my notes on the other things I tasted:

Brut Rosé, Graham Beck - 2008, Rosé, South Africa, Western Cape
- This isn't a very pink rosé and it's super dry. It has that weird champagne taste that I don't know how to describe just yet. It's great middle ground between rosé and and champagne. I totally got a bottle.

Chenin Blanc, Graham Beck - 2010, White, South Africa, Western Cape
- Normally I'm not a big fan of white wines. This was sweet without being overly cloying or fruity, which I hate. This white was super-easy drinking, yet it also had a distinct flavor, so it's not like those super-mild Italian whites that take a backseat to the food.

Pinotage, Graham Beck - 2010, Red, South Africa, Western Cape
- I don't think I've ever had a 100% pinotage before. It was interesting, but not enough of a tastebud adventure for my weird palette. Nevertheless, I'd drink it again.

The William, Graham Beck - 2007, Red, South Africa, Western Cape
- This is named after Mr. Beck's grandson or something. It's a blend of a lot of different grapes and it tastes freakishly like black pepper. Like WTF how can wine taste like black pepper?! It was great, and I think I may have had it before. I should've totally bought a bottle.

Industry City Distillery # 2 Vodka
- Made by these guys out in Sunset Park, where some of my friends totally live. The offer tours of their distillery. They have a cool website. The vodka was no Jack from Brooklyn product, but it wasn't bad. They seemed like nice guys. I'd like to tour the distillery.
Excaliber - jumping

Image from my graphic design class

I've been take a class in 2D design at NYU's SCPS. We were given an assignment to represent a nursery rhyme using three elements in silhouette and arranging them on a page. I made this, and no one could freaking guess the nursery rhyme. I should've picked an easier one:

You guys are welcome to guess.
Excaliber - jumping

Life Update

For various reasons, I was scrolling back through journal entries to find a very old blog post... my first ever blog post from blogspot.  I never found it (although I could swear I found it a few months ago) but I had forgotten about this list, which I've pasted in the list below.  I was surprised to read it and find that I have made progress in a lot of areas.
  • Watch Shelf Life titles - I have a better handle on Shelf Life now than I used to
    • Work on column in advance, a little every day, so I can get ahead (this has never happened) sometimes happens)
    • Keep on top of invoicing for those other places I write for I have been sending invoices in a timely way
    • Study kanji I have a kanji app on my phone, "JapaneseFlip" and I've learned at least the meanings of about 350 kanji from JLPT level 3 (new 4)
    • Read small things in Japanese and figure them out I bought a book of short stories "Read Real Japanese" and read two and a half of them before giving up. I also picked up Miracle Girls and Yakitate Japan in both English and Japanese, and have read a few chapters by flipping back and forth from the English version to the Japanese version.
    • Write a diary/blog in Japanese

  • Get some kind of exercise every day Well, almost every day. I go to the gym so often the front desk girl recognized when I got a haircut.
      • Consequently my ankle has been bothering me again It is off and on better and worse. I have the numbers for some more orthopedic doctors from my primary care doctor.
      • So maybe I need more physical therapy I did go back to PT, for like two more rounds
      • but I have new insurance so I have to find new doctors, probably Done.
    • Count PointsTM or calories every day This is still far too intimidating 
    • Keep on top of grocery shopping I am much better about this, but not perfect
    • Make/bring my own meals to work when possible I am pretty good about this.

  • Plan that New York Wedding Reception Done
    • This has it's own to do list, which I feel I must work towards a little every day. We really are planning it for this June. I have contacted some venues and everything.

  • List sell-able things on ebay I have sold some stuff on ebay!
    • Use my Amazon seller account to sell stuff I have totally been doing this, even since they got rid of EasySell, which was like my best friend.
    • Donate un-sell-able things to different places OK, I have not done this yet.
  • Podcast (once a month) Fuck once a month, I'll podcast whenever I feel like it
  • Re-read my old screenplay I did this! It sucked!  I apologize to everyone who's advice I ignored, you were all right. (The characters all talk in the same voice, for example.) I'm surprised that one producer talked to me about it, it sucked so much. How much must other screenplays suck that my crappy work got me a single meeting?
  • Work on animating a certain friend's film  I think everyone has forgotten about this project. I should hang out with this friend instead.
  • I've been thinking of starting a web comic Still thinking about this and not doing it.
  • Update the panels I give at cons based on giving them at previous cons I did a lot of this in the last calendar year, but usually right before the con.
  • Apply to do those panels at cons I plan to go to this year Done
    • Figure out how this tuition re-reimbursement thing works Done
    • Take an After Effects course or something at NYU SCPS Done. I took After Effects I and II last summer. This summer I'm taking Flash I and II as well as a 2D design course.
    • Re-learn how to draw by going to a figure drawing class (maybe this one) I have been going more regularly to Drink and Draw once a month.
    • Maybe apply for ITP? Decide if I actually want to do the ITP program or not. I applied. I'm still wait listed.

Excalibur pointing forward

She Kills Monsters

Last night we saw She Kills Monsters, a play involving Dungeons and Dragons, at the Flea. I thought it was just fine, and very cute. If you're looking for entertainment with loads of non-white non-straight people who also happen to be playing D&D, and it's 2nd edition, in the mid-1990's, clearly you need to see it. It closes on the 23rd?! OMG.

Noah might write a longer piece about his criticism of the work, and half of it will be, if he writes a review at all, game mechanics criticism. He was certain, for example, that they were playing 3rd edition. I pointed out after, and verified on my smart phone, that 3rd edition didn't come out until 2000,after the play was set.

Noah was saddened the Beholder didn't get a larger role. He was hesitant to see the production at all until he saw some photos of the Beholder. It is a good Beholder, but it's part is sadly far less stage time than the Gelatinous Cube.
Monarch Blogging

Observations in Tisch, December

I have not kept up with livejournal lately, in part because many of the friends that caused me to join in the first place have jumped ship to dreamwith.org or simply stopped posting. Indeed, I am unhappy with the waves of spam, and thinking of jumping ship myself. I do enjoy the friends list control, however, for super-secret posts, but then I feel as if I am using livejournal primarily as some kind of pity-journal.

I am thinking about moving back to having a simple Wordpress blog... but then a coworker was complaining that Wordpress sucks, there are better blogging applications. Are there? Like what? At least I know how to use Wordpress. I have a Tumblr account, but I don't really believe in using Tumblr for text.

Moving on, some blog-worthy moments have happened in the last couple of days:

  • My elevator stopped on a darkened 5th floor, where a girl in a mask was playing a cello. A tall man dressed in crazy tribal-influenced drag complete with a face-covering veil got on playing the song "Empire State of Mind" on his iphone and kept it playing the entire ride.

  • I came back from my break yesterday to see someone carrying a brass sousaphone in the lobby of the building. I always preferred those to the fiberglass variety.

  • I stopped by L.A. Burdick, the chocolatier, for an overpriced yet extremely powerful cup of $6 hot chocolate, which I then took to work on the subway. Some busking break dancers decided to perform directly in front of me, potentially threatening my beverage in a very Lebowski moment.

  • Speaking of Lebowski, I walked down Thompson Street for the first time in potentially four years and happened upon The Little Lebowski Shop.

  • As per the above drag queen, when I returned from my break later the same day, he was out on the curb with three girls in animal-print bikinis and kaiju leg warmers, pretending to hail a cab while another man photographed them.

Only in New York.
Excaliber - jumping

Basically in love with Punchdrunk

Two weeks ago Noah and I saw "Sleep No More," the amazing interactive Macbeth performance by British theater troupe Punchdrunk. Normally I am not that into theater, or videogames, but the "play" presented a wonderful amalgamation of both that thankfully fell somewhere short of a LARP.

Noah and I were alerted to the performance by friends who had friends who worked on Bioshock who traveled to NYC just to see the play. It did have a very Bioshock feel.

There is no stage, rather, the set is a big four story building in Chelsea. The audience is sent in wearing masks, forbidden from speaking, and encouraged to split up. You then wander through the set until you find some actors to watch. Or not. You're allowed to touch anything you want on set, and rifle through drawers and such, and inside the drawers are hand-written notes.

It all takes place in a 1930's setting with a lot of occult stuff and great vintage furniture. There's a graveyard area, a mini-forest-maze, a street with little shops, a taxidermy room, apparently a hotel lobby that I never saw (more on this later).

The play is performed almost wordlessly in three 45-minute iterations with a lot of simultaneous action. The first time through I was lucky enough to find Macbeth and Lady Macbeth right away. I followed Macbeth as he went off and killed a couple people, participated in some kind of blood orgy, and then I watched Lady Macbeth go crazy and wind up in a mental institution before a final-looking dinner scene.

Then the action began again and I figured I'd follow some minor characters. I decided to chase one of the witches, but he was too fast for me. I can't emphasize enough that you need to wear running shoes for this production. The actors run up and down the stairs going from one scene to the next. I was intent on following them, but not everyone in the audience was. New York City-style I tried to dodge slower people on the narrow stairs like I was late for a train. The actors were much better at this than I was.

I say it was like a videogame because as I ran around the set I felt like I was revealing areas on a map, which is the kind of thing that I hate about games. The actors ran in dizzying paths and I couldn't get much of a feel on what was on each floor, except during frustrating moments when I couldn't find any actors.

Wearing masks and acting like silent observers made me feel like a ghost. But sometimes, the actors do interact with the audience, and it's creepy each time. The tell you "Fortune favors the bold" going in, and if you stick too closely to the actors, things happen to you. I followed a cute-looking detective (squeeeeeeeee did I mention the homo-erotic shaving scene yet?) for a long time. I stuck to the detective like a ghost Watson. At one point, he holds an umbrella in the graveyard. He looked directly at me and had me hold the umbrella for a while. I felt important.

But Noah, Noah got bit by a witch. He followed her into a small room and she shut the door behind him. Then she pulled out three of his hairs and braided them, casting a spell, I suppose. Then she bit him on the neck.

There are so many sharp objects and fight scenes where you nearly get kicked in the head that it's the sort of thing you ought to have to sign a waiver to see. And as we know from Dos Equis, if you have to sign a release form, it's probably worth doing.

There are scenes that only one to three people can watch at a time. In fact, it's impossible to see the entire play. I saw one scene that could only be witnessed by three people, and I felt like I'd unlocked a secret level. I hate that kind of thing in videogames, but I loved it in real life.

I like this Vice review of the play, THIS SLEEP NO MORE THING IS FUCKED with hilarious quotes:
“You wear masks, there is an orgy, and some dude kills himself.” Another friend said, “You see a murder, some people get naked, and a chick shits a baby out of her ass.”

I guarantee it’s something you need to see if you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to live inside a David Lynch film.

The show keeps getting renewed. It's playing through November. It's pricey, but worth it. Get an early ticket if you go, they just keep letting people in the later it gets. In fact, the addition audience was totally annoying. I'd pay extra to have half the audience number.

Of the articles I've read about Punchdrunk in my feverish research, this is the best one. I want to read more about their previous production, Moonslavebut I haven't found much about it. Here's what went down:
One early show, The Moonslave, played over four nights to only four people. 'Ah, that was my favourite show ever. You arrived expecting to see a show in a village hall. But you found only two hundred empty seats with programmes laid out on them. A phone rings on stage. It's inside a parcel addressed to you. You answer the phone, and a voice says "Your car is outside". A masked chauffeur opens the door, and suddenly you are wrenched away from conventional theatre, driving at 60 miles an hour through the darkened countryside while lush symphonic Shostakovich plays over the speakers. You arrive at a huge house, dark except for one light at an upstairs window…' Soon you are following an invisible princess along a torchlit trail in the garden, passing installations of abandoned steaming coffee cups and still-smoking cigarettes until, as you reach the edge of the forest, the music builds to a loud Danny Elfman-style crescendo and suddenly a red marine flare illuminates 200 grinning scarecrows.