Sunday, May 19, 2013

What I Did On A Saturday

Tai Chi: Fighting Slow Invisible Ninjas
So I had a full Saturday, this Saturday last. Tai Chi demonstrations, glasswork of the elder gods, Seattle traffic raised to its ultimate level, drinking at a gamer's bar, and a children's Cthulhu book.

First things first. I practice Tai Chi under Master Yijiao Hong at the Chinese Wushu And Tai Chi Accademy. About once a year or so, we're asked to make a public demonstration, usually at the Armory of the Seattle Center, and usually for a cultural festival (The one was "A Glimpse of China: Chinese Culture and Arts Festival"). This year, we performed four demonstrations - two Tai Chi forms, and two Tai Chi Sword forms (I performed in the two Tai Chi forms, while the Lovely Bride did those and one of the sword forms as well). It was enjoyable, and the other presentations over the afternoon included other martial artists, dance troupes, musicians and about thirty small children dressed up as ducklings (who were very, very cute).

This, year, in addition, we were asked to perform at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum next to the armory. The garden/museum is a new thing, and just celebrating its first anniversary. The entire complex is built on the site of the former Fun Forest, a small, weathered amusement complex that needed renovation, but not elimination. The museum turned this Fun Forest into an enclosed glass garden with a price tag enough to keep one at bay, unless one was a Chihuly fan, which I was not.

Yes, I know. I look like a snowball.
Dale Chihuly is a Seattle Artist made legendary by his colorful and flowing glasswork. Most of his work I have seen has been in terms of single pieces, which are often colorful, half-melted bowls. I wondered what the big deal was, and how this would rate removing a tilt-a-whirl. However, the museum itself is a marvel of installation and presentation. Large darkened rooms with focused lighting turn the colors of the glasswork magic, their rich colors glowing under the illumination. The adjacent garden is a combination of plants with the layered spheres and organic glass seedpods and glowing spikes of the artist's works. A single Chihuly is a interesting item - a forest of his glass forms is overwhelming.

The garden is built around a glass structure used for private functions (every museum needs at least one of these in these multi-tasked, fundraising days), and it was within this oversized greenhouse, dominated by crystaline flowers overhead, that we did the second performance of the day. And we actually did pretty well at that (my personal fear is always that I will stand on one leg and, topheavy, go sprawling over backwards - much of my style can be described as "staying upright"). It was well-received (we drew a crowd) and it was in one of the places where you could swing a sword without worrying about taking out any valuable, valuable, artwork.

Who ordered the Flying Polyp?
In doing the second demo, we were given the chance to walk the grounds and check out the art. As I said, a small piece of Chihuly is an interesting bit, but combined into large, flowing forms twenty feet high, the end result looks like something that has escaped from an elemental dimension into ours. His works among the garden are like the flesh organic plants described by Clark Aston Smith in his short stories, and his fiery oranges and reds seem to contain eldritch radiation leaking into our world. Chihuly, in this moment for me, becomes C'thulhi, glassblower of ancient, now-sunken lands, his work a testament to forgotten gods.

Two performances in one day were a bit much for me, particularly since I overdid myself and tried to get lower for moves like "Snake Creeps Down". It left me limping back to the car, and I began a long sojourn north to celebrate another version of Cthulhu - this time in a children's book.

But let me whine a bit about traffic. To native Seattlites, the "Mercer Mess", which stretches from the I-5 to the Seattle Center, is a legendary chunk of road, famous for its congestion, renowned for its utter badness. And any attempt to fix the damned thing is going to involve some additional heartache. But to close it where Mercer meets the north-south I-99 is the equivalent of delivering a Vulcan Nerve Pitch to the city. In my case, rather than face the traffic, I tried secondary routes up Queen Anne, found the secondary routes equally clotted, and spent about 45 minutes limping back to the highway, as if my vehicle had down two sets of demos and crouched too much for "Snake Creeps Down".

North was my goal, for the AFK Tavern. The AFK is a gamer bar, board games at the ready, food items names after pop cult fantasy and science fiction, video screens showing Starcraft games in process. It is up in Everett, because apparently King County adds Bar+Games and gets Casino, and after getting lost around the Alderwood Mall, got there.

Sort of like La Belle Epoque, but with more d20s.
The reason for celebration as "The Littlest Shoggoth", the creation of Stan! Brown. Stan! is a nifty cartoonist and a societal hub of many universes, and ran a kickstarter to get his book in colored, hard-covered form. The result is one of those perfect Christmas gifts for the cultist that has everything. Stan! took a break from continually mailing out the tome to his Kickstarter supporters to come celebrate, and it was a gathering of nerdom. Touched base with a lot of the people that I haven't seen in a while. discovered new jobs, engagements, secret projects, and the general chatter that keeps nerds in communication. I also met someone I had been playing games with online for near on a year, but had never met In Real Life.

We feasted on Shoggoth's Eyes (scotch eggs) and drank local beers (a very pale beer called White 'N Nerdy"). It was a long, long drive back, and today I am paying for my city-trotting socializing with aching knees. But still, one of those Saturdays that makes me appreciate living out here in the Pacific NW, even if it means I have to deal with the Mercer Mess.

More later,

(Tai Chi pictures by Yijiao Hong, AFK picture by Rodney Thompson, Flying polyp picture by Unamit Ahazredit. Remember to make you SAN checks).