Thursday, March 15, 2012

Upcoming conferences

The next three months are going to be busy for me as I will be at three different conferences.

The first chronologically is the Women's Power and Strategy Conference organized by my friend Patricia V. Davis and being held on Saturday, March 24 from 9-5 pm at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo, California. I will be a vendor at this conference that is billed as "a gathering of leaders from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise who are joining forces to educate and inspire women of all ages to believe and invest in their own talent, skills, and potential.

Speakers include keynote Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, California Arts Council Chair, Founder - Feruzzi Fine Art, Evan Bailyn, Erika Bjune, Christine Bronstein, Nancy Calef, Zoe Fitzgerald Carter, Marisa Churchill, Kaye Cloutman, Deborah Cooper, Verna Dreisbach, Deborah Grabien, Dr. Tamarah McClintock Greenberg, Jeb Harrison, Laura McHale-Holland, Joe Klocek, Dena Kouremetis, Vicki Larson, Linda Lee, Frances Lefkowitz, Monique Lessan, Ivory Madison, Gil Mansergh, Amanda McTigue, Hyla Molander, Kimberly Moore, Justin Oliver, Kim Pipkin, Laurie Berry, Rebecca Rosenberg, Jeannette Sears, Ransom Stephens, Alex Vargas, Niko Volonakis, Jody Weiner, Susanna Solomon, and Mimi Towle.

All registrations of adults at the regular rate of $100 will include a gift registration for a girl. More information and to register for the conference can be found here.

I will be a presenter at my writers club upcoming conference on Saturday, April 28th at the Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, California. It is Redwood Writers Next Step Conference where writers are encouraged to take their "next step."

I will be moderating the luncheon panel of four industry experts: Mark Coker founder of Smashwords, Charlotte Cook principal of Adapting Sideways, Joel Friedlander proprietor of Marin Bookworks, and Laurie McLean literary agent with Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents. We will be discussing the rapid changes in the publishing industry in the 21st century and how writers can use those changes to their advantage.

The morning keynote address will be done by the marvelously talented David Corbett.

A description of the talks given by the following presenters can be found here.

Abby Lynn Bogomolny
Catherine Brady
Frances Caballo
Robert Digitale
Verna Dreisbach
Kate Farrell
Jody Gehrman
C.W. Gortner
Deborah Grabien
Suzanne Lang
Rob Loughran
Pete Masterson
Arlene Miller
Kemble Scott
Jeane Slone
Geri Spieler
Lee Stein

A special newsletter created for the conference can be found here.

There is also a banquet the night before the conference with the focus on poetry including the keynote speaker Al Young, California Poet Laureate Emeritus.

And lastly, I will be presenting a paper "Deconstructing Carolingian legends to discover feminine archetypes and symbolism" at the biennial national conference of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology being held in San Francisco from May 11-12. For more information about that conference, please see their website here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Full Metal Jousting: A Review

I have been meaning to review The History Channel's series Full Metal Jousting. It is another 'reality' television series that features the sport of jousting.

This series stands in stark contrast to what the National Geographic Channel presented with their Knights of Mayhem series. Last November, I posted one blog post about that troupe. I considered writing follow up posts, but suffice it to say - things didn't get any better.

The Knights of Mayhem are led by a foul mouthed egotistical man without honor.

The Full Metal Jousting series is led by Shane Adams who is the leader of a professional jousting troupe known as the Knights of Valour. What's in a name? Apparently a lot.

Because Mayhem vs. Valour explains the difference between the two approaches.

They both use solid lances in competitions, but that's about where the similarities end.

Full Metal Jousting shows sixteen different men chosen to enter a competition where the champion will be awarded $100,000. The applicants were screened beforehand to only allow those who had adequate equestrian experience to take part.

That's key.

Making sure that someone knows how to handle themselves on horseback is fundamental before you ask them to don heavy armor then hold and aim a lance.

I have watched five episodes so far and have been impressed with the training they make these athletes undergo to learn the sport of jousting. Some were theatrical jousters with years of experience in choreographed dinner shows, but that didn't mean they would win when they were engaged in an actual competition.

They split the sixteen men into two teams: the Red Team and the Black Team. Each team has their own coach. The participants have their food and lodging provided in two separate dormitories.

A coin toss determined which team had control in the first round. The controlling team's coach not only chooses which of his jousters will compete, but who the competitor will be. They also have first pick of the horses.

Each week shows another preliminary round, but afterward the losing jousters have been asked to remain there and continue training. There will be an additional $25,000 prize to another jouster who had been eliminated in an early round.

I enjoy watching the training and the jousting. The tone of this series is professional and they have physicians on hand during the competitions to assess whether or not jousters can continue if they have been unhorsed.

There appears to be real concern about injury and concussions. That's good. Glorifying injury is something that turned me off about the Knights of Mayhem attitude. I don't want to see blood and gore, I want to see good jousting.

The competitions are comprised of eight passes. The first four passes use an inch and a quarter diameter, eleven foot long solid pine lances. The second four passes the diameter increases to an inch and a half.

The armor was custom made for this show and were designed specifically to fit the jousters. The design is modern and reminds me more of Lego's Knights' Kingdom design than it does of historical armor. Here is a video from The History Channel's website describing the armor.

To compare this with the Lego Knights Kingdom action figures here is Jayko.

(Personal note: My son used to have a complete set of the Lego Knights Kingdom figures and I was always partial to Jayko because he had a golden hawk on a field of blue. It was the closest to my hero Ruggiero's silver eagle on a field of blue than the other knights with their heraldic standards.)

In the fifth episode of Full Metal Jousting my respect for Shane Adams increased when he dismissed a jouster for abusing a horse. During practice a jouster punched his horse in the head when the horse stepped on his foot. I do not know the proper technique to get a horse to move its foot quickly, but imitating Mongo from Blazing Saddles is not it.

His coach witnessed this act and immediately dressed the man down because of it. The next thing shown is the coaches from both the red and black team and Shane Adams taking that jouster aside into a private room. Shane said he had a zero tolerance for abuse of the horses. He then told the jouster to pack his things and go home.

I liked that a lot.

An old Arabic proverb holds that a horse is attached to its master's honor.

This man did not demonstrate respect for his horse and therefore he has no honor.

Abusing a horse is intolerable and I am glad Shane did not give him a second chance.

To sum up:

Full Metal Jousting shows respect for the athletes by giving them proper training in the sport of jousting. It ensured there was adequate equestrian experience beforehand in order for the athletes to enter the process. Proper armor for each contestant was provided and safety measures are put in place to avoid/minimize injury.

Shane Adams as the leader appears that his goals are to increase public attention to the sport of jousting as well as train more jousters to expand the sport.

The Knights of Mayhem on the other hand did not have any such proper precautions for their new recruits. It seemed as if they just looked for individuals who were tough dudes who were looking for a new thrill, and gave them promises of riches and glory.

Then the new recruits were given inadequate training as to how to handle their lances as well as inadequate attention to equestrian handling. The armor the new jousters used was borrowed hand-me-down armor that others had cobbled together. That is pathetic, because if armor doesn't properly fit it is dangerous to use.

Charlie Andrews was the leader of the Knights of Mayhem and he appeared to be a bully in a sandbox. He invited others to play in his sandbox, but then beat them up when they dared touch his toys.

I will continue to watch Full Metal Jousting as I find it entertaining as well as informative.

Should there be a second season of the Knights of Mayhem, I shall not invite that foul mouthed miscreant back into my living room.

For those interested in a summary of the episodes, I found the website Medieval Archives has posts describing what transpired as well as a breakdown of each pass in the competitions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The History Channel Special Becoming Medieval: A Review

The History Channel has changed over the years. I enjoyed watching the channel when it was focused on people and historical events, but now its schedule seems to be filled with all kinds of shows that stretch the meaning of history.

"Engineering an Empire" and "Cities of the Underworld," have been replaced with "Pawn Stars," "Swamp People" and "Ax Men." I scratch my head and wonder about who are the target demographic audience for those shows.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine told me about a show called "Going Medieval."

I had to keep asking him to repeat the title, because I was confusing it with the names of the excellent medievalist blogs Getting Medieval and Got Medieval.

My friend had watched the special on the H2 channel (formerly known as the History International Channel, and should not be confused with the chemical formula for hydrogen gas.)

A few months ago we downgraded our selection of channels on our satellite television, so we do not get H2 anymore. However, my friend told me that it was available for online download from and iTunes. He thought that the Amazon version might restrict portable downloads to their proprietary table Amazon Fire, so rather than risk being disappointed I went directly to iTunes so I could get it on my iPad. It was only $3.99. I thought that downloading it directly to my iPad was far more convenient than trying to watch the website to see if it might be rebroadcast on the regular History Channel and futz with programming my fickle DVR.

I wanted to share with my blog readers that I thought the show was wonderful.

Here is the product description:

"In this two-hour H2 special, historian and weapons expert Mike Loades goes medieval diving deep into the world of the Middle Ages. From the 5th to the 15th centuries, Mike battles the realities vs. the myths of this extraordinary time crusading for the core of real life while delivering fun-filled facts. From living, working and fighting to how to keep a knight's armor shiny using a vigorous rub of sand, vinegar and urine, Going Medieval is an expert account of life during medieval times."

Yes, stale male urine was mentioned several times in the show. It was used in making soap and dying wool.

Mike Loades demonstrates those domestic chores as well as plowing fields with oxen, hunting with hounds and falcons, and cooking a medieval feast.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is that a large portion of the show was filmed at the Guédelon castle project in France.

For those unaware, this marvelous project began in 1998 and they are building a castle with only the tools and techniques used in the thirteenth century. In fact, the masthead of my blog shows a picture taken during my first trip to Guédelon back in 2007. My first blog post about Guédelon can be found here.

This past summer we visited the project again and here is a picture for you to see the progress made over four years time.

Here is the other side of the same structure and you can see the tile work as well as two "human hamster wheels" used as cranes to lift heavy stones to the top of the building site.

The host of the show was Mike Loades. He and Gordon Summers demonstrated using Guédelon's archers' slits. I did not realize until this show that one had to stand several feet away from the slit in order for the arrow to go through a sinuous phase before it can fly outside. The two men took turns releasing their arrows and it was instructive as well as entertaining.

There is a picture posted on Mike Loades' official Facebook page showing him and Gordon Summers shooting from within a tower at Guédelon. (Go check it out before it gets moved too far down the front page. There are other photos of Guédelon on his page as well.)

For those who prefer the DVD format, the show will also be available in that manner at a much higher price.

I recommend this show for my medievalist friends and believe you will not be disappointed. I believe it would be good for classrooms as well.

One thing to note, since the DVD or downloads are commercial free, the running time is 1 hour and 23 minutes.

Has anyone else watched this special? If so what are some of your thoughts?

Or let me know if there are other specials you would like to recommend for people to watch or Avoid Like The Plague.