Monday, June 30, 2014

Frank M. Robinson, 1926-2014

The most versatile thing Frank M. Robinson ever did for me was to recite a litany of all the complaints that editors have about writers. I must have looked skeptical, because then he turned around and gave an equally lengthy and convincing litany of all the complaints that writers have about editors. Honestly, he could have been a lawyer.

Instead, he was both a writer and an editor, and good at both, as well as being one of the most colorful and senior and wise old heads around the Bay Area SF fannish community in the 1970s.

All that time, he was something else as well, and I may best convey that by repeating what I wrote when reviewing the film of Harvey Milk:

In just about every scene of Milk and his supporters sitting around having a political confab, there's an old man with a hat like mine. He was there at the time in real life (rather younger, of course). I know that man; I first met him just about the time these events took place. His name is Frank M. Robinson, and he helped write that great speech of Harvey's, the one where he reminds the bigots that America stands for freedom, and cleverly, wickedly concludes: "Love it or leave it." Here is what Frank has to say about himself and Harvey Milk. And here he tells about his part in making the film. Good going, Frank.

concert review: Silicon Valley Music Festival

Wednesday: To Le Petit Trianon to review some other concert. Find the place locked and deserted. Puzzling. Am I at the wrong place, or time? Phone B., ask her to check the websites of the venue and ensemble. Find that the concert was cancelled due to illness. Well, they could have put up a sign. Go home, find an e-mail to that effect, except that it wasn't forwarded to me until 90 minutes before showtime, which is too late.

Friday: Back to Le Petit Trianon for a concert from the Silicon Valley Music Festival. It's there; the only problem is that hardly anybody else is: this is not an event that's yet learned to publicize itself much. Greeted warmly by festival executive director and artistic director. They and the artists pretend not to notice that the fine show they're putting on is being heard by a lot of empty seats.

Saturday: Although I'd only been set to review Friday's, I decide to return for the next concert. Cripes, the Trianon is locked again. Check SVMF program book: oh, this one's at another venue; my bad. I have 15 minutes to drive across downtown, find a parking space, and get there. Succeed. Executive director looks astonished that I've returned as I'd said I would. Tiny ex-warehouse space, about the size that would fill up with the audience from Friday's concert. About filled up. Much more appropriate acoustics for a postmodern vocal concert. Socks fairly knocked off by the music.

Sunday: Finish up review of the lot.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

resumption announcement

Due to a combination of technical issues and personal crises, post mirroring on this blog was suspended since March. I'm re-starting it now, selectively, but I'm not going to catch up. If you want to see what you've missed and why you were missing it, consult my LJ blog. We begin immediately below with my first Tolkien post of significance since then.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hwæt! am I going to talk about today?

My interactions with the Society for Creative Anachronism have been sporadic at most.  What I enjoy of what they do is not enough of what they do to have ever enticed me to join.  But I do have fond memories of taking a series of classes in medieval court dancing - the bransle and pavane and their like - from them back around 1978, for which experience I've remained eternally grateful, for the basic concepts I learned there were the key that enabled me to grasp Regency and English country dancing later on, without having to overcome a hump of incomprehension of what we were doing.

Since then, though, I've rarely heard from them until a month ago, when I got an e-mail from an official of a local SCA shire.  This was someone I'd met at Tolkien events, including running into her and a friend on Merton Street in Oxford after the 2005 Birmingham Tolkien conference; I gave them an impromptu tour of Tolkien sites in central Oxford, an experience which apparently deeply impressed her.  For an upcoming edition of their regular arts & sciences meeting - held in the back room of a Round Table Pizza, a perfectly pseudo-medieval setting - they wanted a talk on Tolkien's new Beowulf translation, and wondered if I could suggest someone.  I could.  I'd do it myself in a pinch, as the background of both Tolkien and Beowulf and what they have to do with each other is well within my ken, but what you really need is an expert on Anglo-Saxon who could explain Tolkien's scholarship on the poem.  So I put them in touch with Dr. Arden R. Smith (Ph.D. in German linguistics, editor of most of the posthumous material on Tolkien's tengwar), who conveniently is even more local to them than I.  But I came along anyway to the event yesterday to cheer on and, as it turned out, to help answer questions afterwards.

Arden gave a great talk, beginning with the pun preserved in this post's topic line, explaining all the background, especially of what Beowulf actually is, and what Tolkien intended his translation to be good for, with great skill, reading a sample of the original with fluency and correct pronunciation (which is something I certainly couldn't do), and then delving into the editorial uncertainties of the text - poetic vocabulary used nowhere else in the surviving Anglo-Saxon corpus, so we don't know what it means; errors and possible errors by the scribes, which are many; text lost around the margins when the sole manuscript barely survived a fire in the 18th century - giving specific examples of how Tolkien's choices in translation reflected his editorial judgment of the text, and how his conceptions changed over the years.  It was as illuminating as I'd hoped, and we were all enlightened.  And full of pizza.