Joshua Kronengold (mneme) wrote,
Joshua Kronengold

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Me, Mneme memes merilly and moves it pnumatically

The only kind of meme that I find interesting is the "write something you don't ordinarilly write about meme. So, it's the only type I'll occasionally do, too. In this case: "Comment to this post and I will list seven things I want you to talk about. They might make sense or they might be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself."

I haven't done one of these for a good long while, so I asked the always entertaining [personal profile] redfishie to give me a list. She gave me:

  • The harp
  • Filking 101
  • Larping archetypes that I love
  • NYC versus the rest of the world (ok, she blurfed and gave me Boston, but we worked that out in post)
  • Things that inspired me as a kid
  • What everyone should know about historical dance
  • My favorite Prachett

Some people seem to space these out into separate posts and all that. I, however, am systemically incapable of this -- my motto for the 21st century is "do it now, and if you can't, break it down into things you -can- do now, or it Won't Get Done." So instead you get short. Ish.

The Harp

When I first got into filking (and wanting to do music in the SCA), I had a silly-but-useful idea that I didn't want to play the insturments everyone else was playing. So, no guitar (I should really learn to play guitar, just because it's -practical-, but hey). This meant that when, at, oh, my second Pennsic or so, the then Queen of Atlantia volunteered to run a week-long harp class, I jumped at the chance -- and ended up going home with my own, new-bought folk harp.

A moment about the folk harp -- there are really two kinds of commonly used harps, although there's certainly crossover between them. There's the lever harp -- which is a folk insturment (and of course, there are folk harps without levers) and which is set up such that every string can at most play two different tones; one sharped, one natural. And there's the pedal harp -- a classical insturment, where each pedal can set each set of strings (all the a's, all the b's, etc) to one of three positions (technically, this is really "sharped twice", natural, and "sharped once" -- but in the interest of sanity one usually avoids the unecessarily physical and calls them "sharp, natural, and flat"). I play lever harp; I don't play classical harp.

I then, of course, spend the next ten years or so practicing rather spottily (when at all), alternating not-practicing-the-harp and not-practicing-the-fiddle. (and, you know, both). At some point, though, a few years ago, I thought I should probably try to get better.

My first attempt -- which did get me up around "comfortably bad" was to practice by stealing routines from the_gwenzilliad's CDs and messing around with them. Which actually did help a lot. More recently, I've been doing the previously unthinkable step (plus not a lot of people give folk harp lessons) of taking classes, so I think I've gotten a lot better. Still have a lot further to get, though.

Filking 101

Filking is a thing I do -- and something I talk about a fair bit. It's also one of the more misunderstood hobbies/practices, partially because the same people use the word to refer to not-that-similar behaviors, and partially because it's actually used in different communities to mean different things.


What I do: Filk in the Filk community and in fandom.

This is really the first definition/meaning, as filk originated as a descriptive word for the musical folk tradition of science fiction fans. People write songs and call them filk (many of them, understandably, refer to SF, fantasy, or SF fandom topics, or about folk or filk music itself -- but there is also an overall lyrical feel that designates the filksong -- see songs like My Jalepeno Man (Urban Tapestry) or Talis Kimberley's Thin Blue Mean Streak), and get together in the evenings at SF cons and dedicated filk cons to hang out in a room and take turns singing/playing at and with one another. It's a lot of fun, at least as long as you like singing and/or like singing to people who aren't professional singers (and some people who are). Functionally, you're a filk if you're at a filk event, you write filk if you write stuff to perform/share at a filk event or with other filkers, and it's a filksing if you call it that and it's not obviously -not- a filksing to the community. Filk can be rock, insturmental, poetry, folk, jazz, rap, or any other musical style -- it's defined by community (and the tastes of said community), not by insturmental style or form.

What I also do: Filk has a lot of parodies and tune reuse. This is partially because we're very open to parodies (and people will sometimes engage in epic parody chains) and because, lets face it, when you're in a community with a heavy songwriting ethos, not everyone wants to make up a new tune for ever song [also, tune reuse and parody is a big part of the folk tradition]. Because of this, we often refer to parodying somethng (or just reusing something about it) and turning the result into a filksong as "filking" it. On the other hand, writing a song about a book is also "filking" the book, and sitting for a few hours at a filksing is also "filking" whether you perform or not (oddly, listening to a filk album is -not- filking; it has to be participatory, even if the participation is being in the right place at the right time -- but that's just how I'm seeing the word in this place and time).

What I don't do: There are places where filk means other stuff, or a subset of this stuff. For instance, in the SCA it means taking a popular song and putting SCA-relevant lyrics (meta or not) to it. I don't actually do this, and it's not really the same thing as what filk means in the community (fun as it is).

Filk is serious and funny and heartbreaking and angry; it contains both tuneless wonders and some of the best musicians I have been priveleged to listen to/work with. Do I contradict myself? I must, then.

Larping archetypes that I love

I don't think about this much, but thinking of this from a game perspective, I really like games where the characters have to make an important choice at some point during the game. Ideally, this should -not- be the sort of choice you get at the end of the Sea of Stars/Tales of Pendragon games (although that'll do) where the choice is somewhere near the end (or at the end) of the game -- instead, it should be a choice that occurs at the midpoint of the game and flavors the rest of your play.

I really like the "cast/horde" concept, and think that even now it's an underused tech (partially because it can sometimes be hard to recruit cast, although oddly at the first run of Vu to a Kill, we had more staff than we'd expected and had to scramble to find stuff for them to do -- if we'd had another week we'd have written a pile of cast roles!) Cast isn't just a way for a player to have fun playing a sequence of differently special characters -- it's also a great way to make a world feel more real.

I love games where I really get into character and feel strong emotions. (or alternatively, where my players do). After all, I play rpgs to not be me -- so playing out strong emotions (love, or despair, or hatred, or...) gives me the most not-me experience I can get.

NYC versus the rest of the world (ok, she blurfed and gave me Boston, but we worked that out in post)


Seriously, I love NYC. I love having many people I love and many people I like within a very close distance; I love not having to drive (also, I can't drive, but that's as much a result as a cause); I love being able to take public transit to pretty much anywhere, any time. And I love the food; resturants, often very good and even very affordable ones, with every cuisine you can imagine.

What I don't love is how balkanized we are. I mean, until a few years ago, there wasn't really any unified board gaming club in NYC at all (there was CUGC, but that's a school club, and there were various other tiny little clubs/groups that never talked to one another, but well.) Similarly, while we have plenty of dancers and recreationists and larpers and so on, there's not really much dialogue between them and there's so -much- to do in the city that it can be hard to get critical mass for any one activity.

The Internet has somewhat changed this -- with sizable public board gaming meetups from multiple groups (with some cross-over between them), and so on, but we're still the city with the most people who don't mostly know or hang out with one another, even when we have common interests.

Boston, by contrast, seems to have it's stuff together a lot better (particularly Boston SCA, which I'm jealous of). Tiny city, and their mass transit system is only adequate (by NYC standards), but probably partially because it's a college town it seems like the dance and sca communities (and larp community, don't forget that one) are much more cohesive and focused.

Things that inspired me as a kid

Who knows? Really, I didn't think about inspiration.


I learned origami from the nice voluteers at the American Museum of Natural History at a very young age.

My parents read and collected books and played insturments, so it never occured to me that I -wouldn't- want to do that. Plus my dad would beat (and not much later, regularly lose to) me at a chess, which was the beginning of my life long gaming habit.

I discovered SF and fantasy in my one and only incident of "being sent to the principle's office," where one of my close friends was reading Lord of the Rings. Never looked back. (OTOH, I was watching SF themed cartoons and reading William Sleator and Doctor Doolittle books well before that, so it was pretty much just going to happen; I knew what I liked).

What everyone should know about historical dance

It's fun!

And if you do the harder (but not necessarily -that- hard unless you seek it out), more accurate stuff? It's even more fun!

It turns out that people who spent a lot more time than we do dancing and studying dance still did it to have fun! Who knew, right?

Also, and this is true about both historical dance and any other kind of social dance, the most important thing in a dance isn't the footwork. It isn't even being in the right place at the right time, though that's a really good idea in dances where that makes sense. It's communicating with your fellow dancers! Look at them -- smile at them, if you're in close contact, listen to what they're telling you with the contact -- the fun of dancing isn't to be "perfect" or even try to be (though it never hurts) -- but to move -with- other people -- and to do that, you actually have to -be- with them rather than in your own little world.

My favorite Prachett

I really can't say. I mean, I love me some discworld, and I can happily say that I like the Standalones, Witches, and Guards books the best. But I don't typically reread the books (should get around to that) so typically, my favorite book is the most recent one in that series.

That said, if I'm going to choose not on that basis, I'll have to go with "A Hat Full of Sky". The Tiffany Achings books in general are amazing, and the second book in that series (there are four) has a really personal feel to it that really gives it gravity to balance its comedy.

Naturally, comment here to ask and you, too, can have your own unique seven word list of things to write about -- which may, or may not make sense!

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