Monthly Archives: January 2010

It’s not just in my head

birching It’s not just in my head (or those of my pervy friends) that calligraphy and spanking meet. This evening as I was reading through Marc Drogin’s Calligraphy of the Middle Ages, one paragraph on page 20 rather leapt out.

The Teaching of Writing

The Teacher was absolute ruler in his domain, and students who misbehaved or fell below expectations were often punished swiftly, harshly and in full view of the class as a warning to others. Some teachers wielded “palmers,” sticks with round, flattened heads with which to slap students palms. More common, as seen in Plate 3* within the capital letter C, was the whipping of a student with birch branches. This birching scene is from an English manuscript of the mid-fourteenth century, at which time monasteries had long ceased to be the major source of elementary education.

As I sat next to Paul reading this, I felt my face flush a bit as I read the passage, especially the line “students who misbehaved or fell below expectations were often punished swiftly, harshly and in full view of the class as a warning to others.”  Surely Mr. Drogin couldn’t have written that with the expectation of it having such an effect on me.

It’s almost enough to make me ask for a smacking.  Except I’m still sore from a severe caning last Sunday and expect another tomorrow so have a bit of trepidation about the state of my bottom.  (These are Regulars — I’m not being punished for anything.)


I’ve started a new blog, caligráfica, specifically about studying calligraphy.  While I like the idea of posting everything in one place (here), I’d like my teacher to be able to read what I write about practicing but suspect giving her this URL would inhibit me in writing about kink.  That’s not something I want to happen.  That said, I’m not keeping the connection to this blog too secret — I’ve linked back and forth from here to there. Please feel free to comment on caligráfica posts with your usual identities.

I am still going to write about calligraphy here too.  Your comments and thoughts have been embarrassingly kind and mean a great deal.


Paul and I went and saw Terry Gilliam’s film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which I absolutely loved.  It may be my favorite movie of his ever, certainly since Time Bandits.  It’s lush, fantasy filled and truly a visual feast. Highly recommended.

*Sadly the reproduction is too muddy to make out even in the book so there was no point in scanning it.  

A cozy little space

The Christmas holidays ended with much merriness, fun and mess.  Specifically, our apartment was a mess and I had to head back to school and work.  My plan to clean and put everything Christmas away the weekend before was foiled when the cold (the one everyone else had already caught) laid me low.

I panicked a bit. Not about the mess (though that does make me anxious) but because my first calligraphy course was meeting Monday and on Saturday I was too sick to do much more than move between the bed and sofa.

cozy-spaceWith much urging from Paul, I stayed in bed, slept and created piles of tissue trash. On Sunday, before going to bed at 8PM, I put together a little box of calligraphy supplies.  By Monday, after taking a good dose of drugs and I felt well enough to head out to class.  As I wrote last week, the class was wonderful and I came back filled with energy for my new work.

But where to work?

I did my first practice at the kitchen table, but it was clear even then that this was not a good space.  The light is great in the daytime, but the windows are cold and drafty and the light at night is terrible.  The fact was I’d made a little calligraphy space in the corner of our bedroom two years ago . Unfortunately it had become a messy stack of discarded clothing, books and papers.  I cleared it up the best I could, only to realize that my small desk (a repurposed $20 dressing table from Out of the Closet) couldn’t contain all my supplies and there was no space for any calligraphy books.

Inspired by the having purchased numerous online Christmas presents, I ordered a bookcase from ($1 delivery charge!) and waited impatiently –Overstock is not as fast as Amazon) for it to arrive.  It did and I assembled it (with some help from Paul) this past weekend and filled it with my calligraphy books and supplies (and an American Girl doll named Mariana). The bookcase definitely made the space. Paul declared it “a cozy corner” while a friend (after seeing the picture on Twitter) referred to it as my “studio.” (A calligraphy studio of my own — I love it!)

Having all my materials in one space has made it much easier to settle down and practice in the evenings. I’m not sure there’s much improvement yet.  You can judge for yourself by following pictures of practice sheets.  They’re here and in the album over in the right sidebar. They’re not the only work I’m doing, just the best sheet each day. My plan is to work through all of the lines of the Gashlycrumb Tinies as the poem seems appropriately gothic, though of course what I’ve done and am doing isn’t a patch on Edward Gorey’s gorgeous and distinctive lettering style.

There was no class this week due to the MLK holiday, but I’m looking forward to Monday.  How often do you hear that?

How many days ’til Gallifrey?

 A Man in a Blue Box

Getting together with Paul brought a lot of great things into my life (or, as in the case of gaming, back into my life).  One of those things was Doctor Who.

I did watch re-runs of Doctor Who on KCET when I was growing up.  Not consistently or in any order (though my memory is that most were Tom Baker episodes) but enough so that 6 years ago or so when Paul told me the series was being restarted I at least knew what show he meant and remembered that there was a space ship that looked like a blue box. I confess I was slightly less excited than he was, but remember being pleased he’d be able to download the show and watch episodes the same day (or nearly) the day they were broadcast in Britain.  For a number of reasons he could speak to better than me, TV, specifically British TV, is very important to Paul and one of the things he misses most living here in the US.

Suffice to say I loved the new series from the moment it aired. It captured me completely and I watched and re-watched each episode from “Rose” forward with great enthusiasm. I can’t ever remember feeling that way about anything on television.

O Doctor, My Doctor

ecclestonThis was, of course, 2005 —  Christopher Eccleston’s first and only series. I fell in love with his tall, dark, awkward northern-ness. For the first time after years of watching random episodes of Doctor Who, rather than thinking about “a” doctor or even “The” Doctor, I began to think of “My Doctor.” There are those who fault his performances as dark or his comedy as clumsy but though I hear them, I see none of it.  For him I was, for the first time probably in my life, a true fangirl.

I didn’t follow the news however and, though Paul tried to warn me, couldn’t really believe the lead actor in a show was going to leave after only 13 episodes (I say again, my experience was largely with US tv and not much of that).  How could such a thing be allowed to happen? When he regenerated in “Parting of the Ways,” my heart broke and I wept with disbelief.  So much so that I’ve only recently re-watched that final episode.

I watched the second series like a pouting child. This new Doctor was a usurper, could never be anything to me other than a new body into which my Doctor had somehow been forced. Paul tried to explain (and more than once) that part of what the show is about is the notion that everything changes.  He also said (more than once) that your first Doctor is always special.  But even so, even through Rose’s final heart-rending episode, I still didn’t fully take David Tennant on board. I would spend part of each viewing imagining how that episode could have, would have, been better with Eccleston in the role.

It was only in series three, “Family of Blood,” that I took to the 10th Doctor.  Some might say it was the Edwardian school setting (complete with school cane prop)  that won me over.  That’s probably partly true — it was made for me in that sense. But I think it also showed up Tennant’s acting.  More importantly, it was a version of the Doctor that I couldn’t imagine Eccleston (or anyone else for that matter) doing better. I enjoyed the rest of Tennant’s episodes and was sorry to see him go.

I’d become a Doctor Who fangirl.

Gallifrey 2009

In recognition of my new found fangirl status, last year Paul suggested we spend Valentine’s weekend at Gallifrey One (the Los Angeles Doctor Who convention, the oldest and largest in the United States).  I was nervous, but agreed with great excitement.  It was amazing good fun with amazing good people.  The high point for me was getting to see the first US performance of Toby Hadoke’s amazing “Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf” which we’d been unable to see the previous summer when at the Edinburgh Festival.  We really only attended Gallifrey one day — Saturday — but it was enough to convince me that this wasn’t an event I wanted to miss the following year.

The following year is almost here. GallifreyOne, number 21, starts February 26th.  Not very many days from now.


New Year. New Hobby?

Welcome to 2010. It was a great Christmas and thus far a great new year.

Despite the fact I should really be working on my dissertation all day, every day in every bit of available free time for the next six months, I’ve decided to celebrate this year by taking a calligraphy class, something I’ve been wanting to do for at least the last twelve year.. Yesterday was the first of a series of seven calligraphy classes (three hours each).

gothic-texturaThe class isn’t ideal starting point as it’s on the Gothic Textura (14th-15th century) hand. Gothic Textura is a very angular, formal hand that’s difficult to read and slow to write. It’s lovely when done properly, but pretty unforgiving of errors in style or spacing. Had I been choosing, I would probably have opted for a pointed pen (copperplate) class. But this class is on the right day, at the right time and in a location I can easily reach by bus.

While any Gothic hand isn’t an ideal starting point, I do have some background in chisel nib, specifically Italic, lettering. After buying a cartridge-style lettering kit when I was 13, I practiced for hours and hours, took at least one course and got pretty good. My interested in lettering complemented an undergraduate focus on medieval history and literature and I spent days and hours quietly writing and copying in at the old Getty and Huntington. Unfortunately, I made a totally amateur mistake and decided to letter all the envelopes (inner and outer) for my first wedding. They looked lovely and people were impressed. However, there were more than two-hundred envelopes to letter. I wasn’t really fast enough to take on that sort of project and in order to finish them in time, I had to work six hours a night, every night for a month. What had been a fun and rewarding hobby became the worst grind of my life. For about five years after, I wanted nothing to do with lettering, even giving my pens and books away.

This changed in 1999, the first summer I spent with Paul in Edinburgh. There were a number of reasons for it, but the short version is Paul was working all day, I was spending a lot of time at the (alas now closed) James Thins, the Museum of Scotland and keeping a daily, sketch-filled journal. On a whim I bought a new calligraphy pen, a lovely Rotring ArtPen I still sometimes use, and started practicing Italic lettering again. At the same time, Paul and I visited the Museum of Scottish Education in Glasgow and I bought a basic dip pen.

copperplate1What I learned was that as much as I had learned to use a chiseled cartridge pen, I had no idea how to use a dip pen effectively, certainly not to do anything like 19th or early 20th century Copperplate script. In 2008, with the help of some library books, I taught myself how to use a dip pen for some basic Italic and Copperplate hands. Again, nothing very impressive but it was enough to realize that if I was ever going to get any better I needed some formal classes. (I’ve got samples of all of these, but the idea of posting it doesn’t really appeal much — maybe another time).

Enter yesterday and the Gothic Textura class. We spent the first half hour or so going over materials (dip pens only, C-0 nibs, inkwells, paper, drawing boards, rulers and the like). We’re all supposed to use identical materials, at least to start, including making a little paper sleeve to use to keep our rulers on our drawing board.

copperplate2Yesterday the instructor had us use walnut ink (lovely color — too bad I’d need to order it in crystal form in order to make more) because it’s transparent enough to show every stroke. For the next two hours I filled a giant sheet of paper with lines made at 0, 90, 45 and finally 30 degrees. It was amazingly engrossing.

Finally, in the last half hour of class I was allowed to move onto the basic strokes and letters. Normally we wouldn’t have done the alphabet so soon, but as next Monday is the MLK holiday, we’ll be practicing on our own for two weeks.

Did I mention I’m loving this? I suspect that’s coming through, at least a bit.