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Yes, I stole it from the basement of Social Sciences.

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A  month or two ago I joined IAMPETH, which is a calligraphy association that is awesome. They have a yearly conference (for various reasons I can't go this year, but I'm already planning to go to such a thing next summer) and publish a newsletter with lessons on letterforms and decoration and so on. They also run an envelope exchange, in which you are assigned five buddies, to whom you address an envelope beautifully and send it off. Apparently, envelope-addressing is an art. One of the best calligraphy suppliers I've ever seen, John Neal Bookseller, has a whole gallery dedicated  to displaying the beautiful envelopes that its customers have sent it. I have completed two of mine so far and sent them off. I won't post them here unaltered, because they do contain private name and address information. Fortunately, the address is not actually the point, because I was focusing more on my celtic-style decoration. So, here they are, with addresses blurred out! (I left the New York in one, because that doesn't seem like much of a privacy issue. Also, so you could see the script.) *







*Unlike Jean Wilson, who customizes each envelope she sends to John Neal Books according to the design of the stamp, I simply used what I had. It clashes a bit; I don't think that the 9th-century Celts and Northumbrians had much use for Hannukah.

Next up I will be showing off a new script I've been learning: English roundhand, also called copperplate. Sometime in the next week or two; stay tuned!

This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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My grandparents sent me a graduation check. I decided to employ my newly acquired skills to create a thank-you card. As with the previous creation I've posted here, the lettering is not particularly good, but as I think you'll agree, the lettering is not really the point here. (All the same, I need to remind myself to practice the ostensible point of these documents more than I have been.)

As before . . .Collapse )


This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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One script that I have always loved is called Insular Majuscule. It's the main script used in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, as well as a large variety of manuscripts written in England and Ireland in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries I haven't ever really mastered it, but I think in part that is due in (very small) part to my tools. See, the pen angle for Insular Majuscule is extremely shallow. This means that the thin lines are at the top and bottom of a curve, as in the O on the left in the picture below, rather than occurring at the top left and bottom right portions, as in the O on the right.




Now, a broad-edged pen, as used to create the letters above, can have its nib cut in two ways. One of them is so that it is perpendicular to the line of the pen, as in the nib on the left below. Imagine holding such a pen and writing naturally. If you're right-handed, your arm will be positioned in such a way that the nib will naturally have a steeper angle, creating curves like the O on the right above.



For a long time, I've been using only nibs like the one on the left, and as a result it's been very difficult to keep my pen angle constantly shallow for scripts such as Insular Majuscule, which leads to unsatisfactory lettering. By contrast, the nib on the right is cut obliquely, rather than perpendicularly, so that it counteracts this angle of the arm. This makes it much easier to write letters with a shallow pen angle.

The point of this little preamble is that I have now received from an excellent, excellent calligraphy supplier a large number of oblique-cut nibs, which means I've been diving into Insular Majuscule, and, by extension, other varieties of Insular manuscript decoration. To start with, I've been learning Celtic knotwork. The remainder of this entry will illustrate my adventures in this area.

Knots!Collapse )



This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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 This guy. I'm struck by how many people (like me) seem to enjoy both medieval stuff and sci-fi and fantasy. The combination could be a result of a desire for escapism (to a Type C world), which can be satisfied both by inventing a universe with magic and dragons, or by returning to a period of time so remote that it might just as well be such a universe (helped, no doubt, by the fact that the people in that era believed in magic and dragons). The fact that fantasy stories often take place in pseudo-medieval settings is another, more mundane, link between the two interests. In any event, whatever the reason for this cooccurrence, I've discovered someone amazing, who is both a fantasy/sci-fi illustrator, and also an amazing book artist. I've spent years playing around with lettering, but only now have I started branching out into decoration and pseudo-illumination. I justify the specialization to myself (as if a hobby needed this sort of justification) to saying that the scribes in the olden days specialized. The same grunt who did the lettering was not necessarily the expert who did the illumination or the binding. Randy Asplund, however, has scorned such thinking. He does it all himself: He prepares the vellum, mixes the ink from authentic ingredients*, makes his own authentic-style tools, and, of course, does all the lettering, illustration, and illumination himself. I need hardly say that his lettering --- perhaps the simplest part of the endeavor --- is exquisite.

Please, take a look through his step-by-step account of making two books. One of them is a fifteenth century French-style manuscript, and the other is a 9th-century Northumbrian style manuscript. They are astonishing.

I should also mention that I very much want this book that he is writing, Secrets of Forgotten Masters: A 21st Century Artist's Exploration of how books were made in the Middle Ages. It doesn't look like it's out yet, but if someone is looking for a birthday present for me when it is released, now you know what I want!

*I'm charmed by his slightly apologetic comment that one of his inks was made with Mexican cochineal (a type of insect), which is not authentic, but it's similar to the European cochineal that would have been used to make the ink. This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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Since I have last posted, I've bought about ahem $150 of calligraphy supplies. This includes a large number of nibs, some fairly pricey paper, and some gouache (pronounced "gwash"; I asked), which is apparently the authentic material to use for coloring and so on. I also worked through the demo on acanthus leaves that I linked to yesterday, and I have now put everything together into a little manuscript, which I present below.  Rather than the first 30 lines of the Canterbury Tales, I copied out instead a portion of the prologue in which the sailor is introduced. I chose it for three reasons:
  1. It was exactly the right length to fit on the paper I wanted to use.
  2. It did not begin with any text indicating that something came before it (e.g., "There was also . . . " or "With him was . . ." In other words, it is a stand-alone characterization.)
  3. A piece about a sailor is fun to decorate, as you shall see.
Because I felt like it, I also took step by step pictures of the illustration process.

The ShipmanCollapse )
This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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We take a break from your irregularly scheduled series of calligraphy updates, to notify you of a job posting that has appeared on linguist list, which is a public forum where almost all linguistics jobs are advertised. Apparently, the CIA is looking for translators and languagy operatives, and so, appropriately enough, they advertised the job. This is itself slightly unexpected. Most of the postings there are from universities with professorships, postdocs, and PhD funding, with a second layer of postings from companies like Google and translation agencies. One doesn't expect spy agencies to advertise so banally.

Nevertheless, the CIA does its part to make its advertisement special. I am extremely entertained by the final paragraph of the posting:

Important Notice: Knowledge by non-Agency personnel of your association with the Central Intelligence Agency or the Intelligence Community may limit your ability to perform or preclude you from certain assignments. NCS applicants should therefore endeavor to protect the fact that they have applied and/or are thinking of applying to the NCS. We urge your discretion throughout the entire hiring process to ensure maximum flexibility for your potential NCS career. Further guidance will be provided as competitive applicants move through the hiring steps.

There it is, then. If I apply for this job, I will not tell anyone about it. This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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 Greetings, world of LJ and DW! Since my last entry over a year ago, I have been doing things like finishing my PhD and graduating! You may now call me Dr. Philena, and please remember: No balloons!



Since that happened, I've been a little at loose ends. I belly-flopped on the job market, so I'll be hanging around here for another year, publishing various chapters of my dissertation (er, submitting for publication, that is), continuing my research, and applying for jobs once more. But the advantage of no longer having a dissertation to write means that I have tons of un-guilty free time.* I've been using it to return to a pastime I first discovered in middle school, and which has languished untouched for the past six years: Calligraphy! I'm hoping to post fairly regularly over the summer, to track my progress as I recapture the skills I once had. I also want to acquire some illumination and illustration skills, so that eventually I'll be able to write out medieval-style manuscripts. At the moment, I've only got the skills of some poor initiate in a scriptorium, who letters out the gospels and then hands the pages over to the high-ups who do all the fancy decorations.


*In the wise words of Megha Sundara, graduate school is mainly a lot of guilty free time.

My current skill levelCollapse )




This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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A long time ago, my mother told me a story about my grandmother. My memory of it is very incomplete, containing only the following three fragments:

1. The story begins When I was fourteen and in love with Ronald Colman . . .
2. The story involves the movie The Prisoner of Zenda (released in September of 1937--when my grandmother was indeed 14)
3. The story ends with enormous admiration for a character (played, I always assumed, by Ronald Colman) whose final appearance involves a pithy farewell right before jumping out a window.

A few nights ago, Mr. Philena and I finally watched this movie, which is really quite good.* It did star Ronald Colman** but the fellow who jumped out the window was not our Colmanic hero, but rather the villain, who jumps out the window to make a swashbuckling exit, escaping retribution for his evil plans. And, with that, I believe I can fill in the blanks of this half-remembered story. It was not a tale of teenage idol-worship. Rather, it describes the moment when my grandmother discovered the Magnificent Bastard, and as I've grown older, I've come to admire magnificent bastardy much more than I did as a child. As a seven-year-old, I could not understand why my mother liked Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Didn't she realize that Ursula was the bad guy? As a ten-year-old, I was much more attracted to the clean red-and-white colors of the Starfleet uniforms than to the barbaric rags worn by Khan's crew in The Wrath of Khan, which were of course preferred by my mother. As a thirteen-year-old, I considered Darth Vader simply the bad guy, and sat through his scenes patiently, waiting for the narrative to switch back to the heroes. I was much, much older than fourteen before I realized that villains can be awesome, and as a result of this ignorance, an enormously formative part of my childhood, I now realize, was incomplete. I refer, of course, to Star Trek.
 

Darker and edgier done rightCollapse )








*I mention in passing that it contains a very young David Niven, who has come to my adult notice by being pretty much the only good thing about the old film adaptation of Around the World in Eighty Days. In Prisoner of Zenda he was only 27, according to Wikipedia, and already he had those dramatic forehead creases.

**Who looks remarkably like Robert Downey Jr. I am not so great with faces so the resemblance might be carried entirely by the mustache. At any rate, I leave it to you to judge:

Ronald Colman (image from Wikipedia):            Robert Downey Jr (image from IMDB):
               
***The episode Waltz is one of the finest things ever produced in the Star Trek franchise, but it doesn't really work unless you've watched everything else leading up to it. Its success depends on the shared frame of reference that has been built up throughout the previous episodes and seasons.

****They do clever things with clones

 

This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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The most recent Star Trek movie was, I confess, a disappointment. It was extremely entertaining, but as [personal profile] summercomfort 's husband said, it was sort of a fanfiction of classic Trek. One reason fanfiction works so well is that everyone writing and reading it all share a common background. You don't need to waste time describing Kirk's previous romances, for example, when an expression like "The woman in the soup kitchen" would evoke all the tragedy that more traditional fiction would need to have set up with pages and pages of possibly superfluous backstory. When this shared frame of reference is used well, it can make even very short stories much more powerful than stand-alone fiction, because very small references are pre-loaded with emotional punch. The problem arises when writers depend on the shared background to carry the emotional weight of the story, rather than writing it in themselves, and that's what JJ Abrams has done.
Here be spoilers!Collapse ) This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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  1. On Monday morning, I get a call from the landlady (not about the rent, yet), saying that there's an alarm going off which she can hear in our bedroom. (She lives in the other half of the house, so it's not creepy or anything that she could hear what was going on in our bedroom, since it's right next to her kids' nursery*). I respond that it's probably the alarm clock, and she can feel free to go in and turn it off if it's bothering her (they have a spare key). She says that's okay, it's not a problem, and I think no more of it till Mr. Philena gets home and calls me to say I left the stove on that morning, and the alarm was the carbon monoxide detector, and he has to call the gas company to come do an inspection of the house. Argh.
  2. Tuesday I get a call from the landlords. They very politely mention that we haven't paid the rent, and we should let them know whether we plan to do that. Argh.
  3. Wednesday and Thursday go smoothly, but Friday night I forget my wallet when I leave for campus, and so I have to call Mr. Philena to come pick me up at 7:45 because I don't fancy walking home in the dark. Argh
  4. Today I realize that I never responded to the conference organizers who accepted my submission and wanted to know whether I'm coming by Monday. Since this submission has been rejected twice already and my CV is pretty skimpy, I'm naturally anxious not to lose other items that I can put on it, such as conference presentations, and I missed the deadline for this one. Argh.

As it turned out, everything worked out this week. Mr. Philena took care of the gas company, I dropped off a rent check with no problems, Mr. Philena picked me up from campus, and the conference organizers just wrote back to my contrite email saying that they're happy to have me there. But I feel as if I'm constantly just one step behind the world, and it's getting really annoying, and I'm ready to start being successful at something.

Of course, I have been successful at other things this semester. For example, after almost a year of talking about it, I and my three office-mates finally made it happen that we cleared out all the junk left by a professor emeritus, re-arranged the furniture, and re-painted the walls. The office is actually to offices linked by an adjoining door, and years ago someone had painted a pipe in the ceiling a really nice color of green. So we built the entire color scheme of the office around that scheme. The room with the duct now has blue walls with green trim, and the other room (where my desk is) has green walls with blue trim. People in my department have been wandering by for the last two weeks to check it out, and the general reaction has been that the grad students say, "That is SO AWESOME", while the professors look doubtful and ask, "who chose the colors?" The fellow who originally donated the green paint for the duct has commented with some relish that the paint was left over from when his 7-year old son painted his room, and that this particular shade of green was therefore chosen by a 7-year old. I, however, think that this particular 7-year old has excellent taste.





*And, of course, since it's right next to the nursery, Mr. Philena and I get first hand knowledge of how well the kids are sleeping through the night. The answer is not very well. I'd say easily every other night one or the other starts screaming, and since the parents have just started the "cry-it-out" method of sleep training, we get awfully annoyed. It's been this way since last September.




This entry was originally posted at my dreamwidth site, which I will be using as my primary journal rather than livejournal. Crossposting will continue until morale improves.
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