Collection of Cunning Curiosities – July 11, 2015

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A weekly compendium of things that delight my fancy.

Dear Internet, You can follow this collection on Pinterest. x0x0, lisa

Fanciful Delights

I stalk Benedict Cumberbatch, not because he’s good looking (he is) or tall (also true), as his range as an actor is as wide as his name. I recently found that he did a short back in 2010, Vincent Van Gogh: Painted With Words, where he plays the titular character in this docu-drama. As Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters, crazies do have to stick together, along with Cumberbatch, this film is brilliant juxtaposition of several of my favorite things. (P.S. During undergrad my French class did a sojourn to Spain/France for a few weeks and we stopped in Arles. I’ve hung out in the courtyard shown in the beginning of the film.)
Michael Fassbender as Macbeth? SOLD.

I love the social history of medieval period, especially when things pop up that seem to be counterintuitive to what we think that period was like. Example? Drinking songs.

In the boozer
you’re a loser
if the dice you’re shaking.
You’ll get hurt
and lose your shirt,
sit there cold and quaking.
Lady Luck, your gifts are bad,
you trick us, then you make us mad,
make us gamble, make us fight,
and sit out in the cold all night.


This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2014, 2011, 2003


þam þe hi ær ahte

Oseberg viking ship, taken by mararie in 2010. Courtesy of The Commons, Flickr.
Dear Internet,
For the more astute among you, you may recognize two things. The first being the title of this entry is in Old English (and roughly translates to “the one who owned it before”) and the second is the image for today is the Oseberg Viking longship, which dates back to 800 CE and is considered to be one of the most complete, if not best preserved, Viking longships ever discovered. The dragon’s head of the Oseberg longship is also one of the inspirations for my latest tattoo.
This longship has become so synonymous with Viking and Viking maritime way of life, any documentary or history show on Vikings will 99% of the time have some cut in shot of the ship or the presenter will be at the Viking Ship Museum, using the ship to illustrate their point of the moment no matter how tenuous because — Vikings!
Now, the Vikings didn’t speak Old English and the Anglo-Saxons weren’t Vikings and I am currently not learning Old Norse, but go with me here because there is a method to my madness.
(However, I am dipping my toes into learning Old English. And researching the hell out of Vikings, or anything beginning with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476CE and ending at the beginning of the Renaissance, though I’ll squirm my way into that area on occasion. Once the world starts moving into the age of the Industrial Revolution and forward, my interest starts to wane and I get bored. What is this steam power nonsense?!)

The iconic helmet of Sutton Hoo at the British Museum.
The iconic helmet of Sutton Hoo at the British Museum.
Photo taken by me, May 2012.

The journey how this became my topic du jour is a zig zag walk. The facts are these: I always found history through primary school and my undergrad years to be dreadfully boring. It was stuffy, staid, and tired with old repetition of facts and figures, battles, dates, and names. There was no context and no story. I thought anyone studying history was insane because it seemed like a punishment, not something you would actually enjoy.
On the flip side, what appealed to me so much about English Literature was not just the stories themselves, but we were not just introduced to the writes, but also their lives, their cultures, their ways, and thus the story’s story. You got a feel for why someone wrote a certain thing, or the influence of another, or why this particularly symbolism was used. And of course the instructors have a hand in it too. My prof for Shakespeare had built a 1/16th (or was it 1/32?) replica of The Globe Theater. Reading about the groundlings, the actors, the playwrights, and the period itself was fine and dandy, but getting a glimpse to the world they lived in and seeing how it all came together in 3D and not some one dimensional picture that would not do it justice? You could almost smell the peanuts and the feel the sawdust beneath your feet.
Five or six years ago, during the beginning of my second masters degree, I was reading a book for one of my archival classes when topic of social history came up in the text. Realizing, for it never occurred to me the story’s story was actually social history, what that bit was changed everything. The bits and bobs that fill in the corners when facts and figures, battles, dates, and names are just not enough. The exciting tidbits and details that makes up our world. It had a name – social history.
Somewhere in this murky mess, I became intrigued with medieval life because it represented to me not only a 180 degree departure from my modern life but it was the dawn of when some really fucking cool things were beginning to happen. Socially, politically, economically, agriculturally — we start to see a big shift in how people work, live, fuck, and exist. And that’s exciting stuff! The more I read or watched on the topic, the more I became keen on honoring them in some fashion and by that it seemed to learn more about their world.
From reading about the medieval world, this lead me to the Anglo-Saxons, who historically always seem to cozied up with the Vikings. More digging into the Vikings came up with how amazing their world and empire was though it lasted such a short period of time. In less than 300 years, they established trade routes all over the fucking place that no one had even thought was possible at the time, they founded Russia, established Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and gods knows where else. And then on to NORTH AMERICA multiple times. Yo Vinland, we’re coming for you. Holla!
It also seems wholly appropriate for my Viking dragon ouroboros tattoo — the Normans were several generations later Vikings who had integrated with native Merovingian society. The invasion of 1066 – they in fact had invaded themselves.
The Roman empire? Latin could take its lack of prepositions and eat it for they have nothing on the Vikings.
My current chief interest is perception and role of women during the Viking Age which runs roughly from 793 CE to 1066 CE. Though I will read anything and everything on the Viking Age that I can get my hands on, related to women or not.
There is also another tie in to all of this — my last name. Rabey is Old Norse and means “boundary settlement.” The first recorded use of it as a name dates back to 544CE. Now this is a bit hazy because the researcher who gave me this information made it pretty clear this use is in early medieval England, though it predates the Viking invasion by several hundred years. It IS, however, recorded in the Domesday Book from 1086CE. And interestingly this tiny bit of history, of me, connects me to a much larger world I never even knew existed until now.
So what am I going to do with all of this information? Reading (and watching) about Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and the medieval world in general, whether non-fiction or fictional, has become my passion. I’m dipping into primary and secondary texts, loading up on sagas and chronicles until my eyes bleed. I’m also dancing around other periods, and inhaling knowledge everywhere I go. History! Is! Finally! Exciting!
I have been toying with using this material professionally, such as get a third (!) masters  but as my education has been so varied and non-linear, I would have to almost get a third bachelors to qualify for the masters program. Plus pick up a few languages, at least Latin, modern Swedish, and Old Norse with some French thrown in for good measure. There would be structure to the program, and I would not be all over the place as I am now, which for me is something I definitely need. But there is the time and the money  plus the cost of the program, plus living expenses, while not generating an income..I have the passion, but after being in academia for nearly a decade, and finally getting free, I am not sure I could do it all over again.
The other option is to write about it, something I have had on the back burner for a few years now. The seed of the idea is there, but I have not done anything with it.
P.S. Work has been a bit insane so I have not started the making happy project yet, so I’m opting to clean out my drafts in the interim until the timing is a bit better, which should be in the next few days.
P.P.S. I’m thinking of putting together a large resource guide on materials on what I’m reading relating to Vikings/Anglo-Saxons/medieval history. Once a librarian, ALWAYS a librarian.

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2009

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes: January 5, 2013

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
Dear Internet,
This week is the last week of my staycation (go team academia!), and in addition to working on my plans for kicking ass in 2013, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the web, by cleaning out my Pocket and Evernote stashes along with attempting at some organization of my gReader account.  I ditched Delicious and signed up with Licorize to start a workflow for all of my projects, which also includes cleaning out old saved articles and sites.
When I posted the first CCC, the idea in my head was to have one post for links and another post for my reviews of the week (what I’m reading/listening/watching). Then I realized that was a stupid idea and I should just consolidate everything in one entry instead of two.
The_Far_Traveler_Voyages_of_a_Viking_Woman-119187787969511The Far Traveler (Amazon|Local Library|Goodreads)
By Nancy Marie Brown
Sometime in 2010, I started getting interested in medieval history in a very big way, which lead to my interest of Norse mythology (and other origin stories as well as fairytales), and of course, Vikings. There were two things that I loved the most about my recent trip to England: My Cambridge University library reader’s card and seeing the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet in person.  (This also explains why I want to learn Anglo-Saxon.) I stumbled upon The Far Traveler when I read  Brown’s Seven myths we wouldn’t have without Snorri Sturluson on Tor,   Google stalked her, and had this immediately sent via interlibrary loan before the holidays.
This isn’t a straight biography, but a delicate weave of history, stories, ideas, and possibilities that surround Gudrid and her time, based on the various Norse sagas and archaeological fact. Finding bits of cloth at a Viking longhouse sends Brown into how the cloth is made, its purpose, and why it was made. The boats that have been found in digs gives way to how those boats were constructed, what they were used for, and how modern boat makers have constructed similar vessels to understand how the Vikings pillaged the seas as they did. You find yourself not only learning about the period, but also about current archaeological / historical tools and advancements, customs, society, explorations, food, religion  and everything in between. Everything is connected in Brown’s world, which is glorious as it allows Brown’s peeling back of layers to make for a very entertaining as well as educational read.
Rise_of_the_Guardians_posterRise of the Guardians
One thing I’ve noticed about my taste as of late in movies is I’m more apt to watch if it is animated over if it is not. There are some exceptions (period pieces anyone?), but almost always I put seeing the cartoons over anything else. Pro tip: Don’t walk into a matinee showing with your 6’6 husband and no child in tow. We got murderous looks from parents and one snobby bitch who kept trying to shuffle seats about in our row. Overall? I loved it, and in many ways it reminded me of Up with its overly hokey positive message, but who cares! It’s hard to not like a movie where Sanata is a Russian iconoclast tattooed within an inch of his life.
This is NOT the Showtime series, which I rather like, but a French-German concoction staring the American actor John Doman, Rawls on The Wire, as Rodrigo Borgia. As I said on Twitter the other night, it’s all over the place. But strangely, despite the fact no one has an Roman or Italian accent, and there may be some fudging with the historical details, it’s strangely compelling. It was produced for Italian TV
Not much this week, sad to report. I’ve been working on the metadata on my mp3s for my AudioMusicBiographically podcast, which looks like will be up by the end of January. In the mornings, when we’re working out, I’ve been making sure to listen to Girl Talk station on Pandora. But a lot of the time, I’ve been working in silence.

What have you read/watched/listened to this week?

Bumps in the midnight

Dear Interent,
Recently one night while it was incredibly late (and almost shockingly so), I found myself in my office writing for the first time in so many months. Earlier in evening, TheHusband had dropped off to sleep earlier then his usual times and I found myself anxious to move out of bed and into my office, so in attempted silence, I walked-thumped to my office to work. What struck with me in particular about that night was the intensity of the desire, which has been burning for weeks, more brightly then it has for years. It was becoming physically painful to ignore the urge. I felt like I was in high school all over again, except without the forbidden pack of cigarettes hidden in my desk and the 2 liter of Diet Coke on the floor by my side.
Lately, I’ve found myself sketching out story ideas, notes, and other ephemera on anything I can get my hands on. That night, I decompressed a Moleskin notebook I’ve been carrying around for a few years and found that it contained travel logs, journal entries, and notes for knitting and gardening amongst a few of the types; kind of a catchall, if you will. A page of WOULDN’T THIS BE AWESOME flipped with “CO 68 ST st” and a drawn out pattern of the design I am remarking on.
In addition to decompressing the Moleskin, I’ve been picking apart some editing and doing some note taking on existing story lines. The vast amount of notes on story sketches is startling to me whenever I chance upon them. I keep finding fairly decent first chapters written, note, and outlines for the projects. I see potential here for amazing creating to occur and that gets me excited. I’ve started to collate everything into either Evernote or Scrivener, depending on the status, and will begin the world building and story plotting.
I’ve got three distinct worlds that are fighting in my head at the moment: Pre-history, medieval, and Edwardian. Sometimes it gets a bit messy. I have A Teach Yourself Guide: Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon) rubbing shoulders with Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End. I have Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 snuggling against The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. I’ve almost finished The Prose Edda and I’ve got The Dark Mirror: Book One of the Bridei Chronicles waiting in the wings.
This is just the tip of my (almost too long) reading list.
Right now I’m falling, almost rather neatly, under the weight of the research. The next month I’m working on shorter hours so I’ll have time to get organized before I go full-blown day job mode. My first priority is to organize writing schedule with the research schedule into something that can be scaled back to a doable mode once work goes in full swing.
I’ve got a couple of completed short stories I need to start workshopping and a few more to finish in the next few weeks. I’m going to be looking for alpha readers, so keep your eyes peeled for that announcement.