Blog: April 2005

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

SCA: oaths

Coronation is coming up soon. In this kingdom, it's customary for the peerage orders to be called into court (each order separately), and for a spokesman of the order to acknowledge the new king and queen and promise to uphold the laws of the kingdom and keep doing the things that peers do. Sometimes this goes well and sometimes the spokesman says things on behalf of the order that not all order members agreed to. I've begun agitating for a fixed text from within the order.

So anyway, today the incoming king and queen sent email to the peers about ceremonial stuff, including an innocent mention of the orders swearing their oaths of service. This has caused some... discussion... on the pelican list. (The pelican is the peerage for service; among things, we have a high concentration of rules wonks.) The laurel list (arts), so far, has been silent. I cannot speak to the chivalry, as I'm not a member.

After some of us said "um, not quite", one of our newer members asked "why such animosity that you don't want to swear an oath of service?". Well, there are a couple issues, but at least for me, they have nothing to do with animosity. I have nothing against the incoming royalty. These are purely matters of principle -- but important, strongly-held principle.

First and foremost: the word "oath" (or "swear", which to me implies "oath"). I do not swear oaths to people. An oath is a grave matter involving God; this is not a matter for participation in a hobby, no matter how much I enjoy that hobby. I don't even "swear" when being seated on a jury; I'm sure not going to do it in the SCA. I don't care whether my persona would have (though I think she wouldn't); my persona must always be limited by what I, real-world me, am permitted. The SCA is not play-acting in the way that a theatre production is; while we take on personae, we are also still us. We are not merely portraying characters.

So I won't "swear", but I will "promise" or "affirm". If my word is not good enough unless accompanied by the word "oath", then there is a deeper problem. But I don't think that's the case -- within the SCA, I think my word as a peer and as an honorable person is good enough, so why require extra stringency?

(There is a secondary matter of just what we are promising to do. Some people make vague oaths "to serve the kingdom", without defining the parameters. That's bad, and a lie -- we all have concerns that would trump the SCA. I will not say that lie, and I don't like being asked to ascent when someone else says that lie. Yes, we all know what is really meant, but words are important. As peers and presumably role models, we should strive to say what we mean and mean what we say.)

It's gotten to the point where I hesitate to go up when the order is called, because I'm not sure what the spokesman is going to say and I might not want to be seen to be bound by it. And sometimes the spokesman has the clue but the king and queen don't, so they'll say something like "we'll hear your oath now" and the spokesman doesn't correct them becuase that's seen as rude. Oh well; more often than not I don't even make it to Coronation anyway. (This time, for example, it is being held on Erev Pesach.) If I were going, I would just try to get that spokesman role for myself. But maybe, by having this discussion, we've raised just a little bit of awareness, and maybe it will still be there the next time this comes up.

Cirque du Soleil: Varakei

Dani and I went to see Cirque du Soleil tonight. I wasn't sure what to expect; I enjoyed the show quite a bit. I'm not sure I would go to another performance, but I'm glad to have gone to this one.

The acrobatics in the show were stunning, and the dancing was very good. The price for all that is sitting through some lame attempts at humor so the acrobats and dancers can catch their breaths between acts. (Ok, the price of the acrobatics and dancing is the cost of the ticket, but you know what I meant.)

Visually the show was very well-done -- lights, costumes, choreography, and background action all contributed. While, in the second half, there were some bits where there was one solo act on stage alone, during most of the show there were people doing stuff in the background while the "main" act was happening. It contributed without distracting -- a hard balance to achieve, I suspect.

The dancing reminded me a little of Bhangra, an athletic Indian dance that I learned a bit of about 20 years ago. (I was in a couple performances in the SCA, back when squat-kicks and hoisting people on my shoulders seemed like perfectly reasonable things to do.)

The music worked well, and the synchronization between music and choreography was very good. It sounded like the music was pre-recorded, but we saw some individual musicians (a violinist and a bagpiper). So I may be wrong there. If the music was live I would expect there to have been a click track or the like; some of those stunts would probably fail if the musicians were 5% slow or fast.

Oh, the show has a nominal plot. It's quite nominal, and you may as well just ignore it. It's not that kind of show. :-) They had one actor on stage who seemed to be a plot device (the light-bulb guy), and I didn't get what he was supposed to be or why he was there. I wouldn't have minded them just leaving that out.

The show is in Pittsburgh for a couple more weeks. The best seats are sold out for all remaining performances; we had the second tier and those seats were good enough. We were three rows in from the back wall, center section, and had no trouble seeing. I would recommend against the third-tier seats; they're way out on the wings. You can probably still see everything, but you get a side view and some of the choreography will just be lost to those seats.