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1  noun  ˈbläg, -ȧg   plural -s
2  intransitive verb   -ed/-ing/-s
: to talk pretentiously and usually inaccurately : lie boastfully

Less Grind, More Mind

Over five yards of patchwored wool in red, green, blue and yellow, cut into diamond shapes and stitched togehter to make the skirt portion of a 16th-century jester's motley gown. The seams are pressed, and the fabric is laid on a lawn so that it can be photographed in sunlight.

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Angelo the Cat receives scritches from Phoole while Phoole tries to write this blog post.
Angelo the Cat receives scritches from Phoole while Phoole tries to write this blog post.


I'm "on vacation" this week! This means that I am only working at the dayjob just a very small little bit each day.

Of course, it should mean that I'm not working at dayjob-work at all for a week, but "should" equals "hope," and "hope" is faith's richer, bitchier sister...

But I have spent a lot of each of my vacation days this week doing Less Than Usual, and I have spent some of my vacation time this week doing Nothing At All, which is a Major Accomplishment for me, since I am very much a textbook example of a CPTSD survivor whose "flight" response manifests perpetually as a relentless drive to be continually busy doing things.

I want to tell you more about the specific textbook later.

But one of the things I have been doing, gently and slowly and carefully, is finishing piecing together over a hundred diamond-shaped pieces of diamond-weave wool twill into the skirt of what I'm calling my Rugby Motley.

Patchworked wool fabric in red, green, blue and yellow, in a piece that is over five yards wide and fifty inches tall, lying on the lawn in our backyard.

I climbed up on a ladder to try to get an overhead photo of the whole thing before I sew the last seam that makes the whole skirt part into a giant tube, but the ladder wasn't tall enough, and I could only fit the whole thing in a picture by taking the picture at an angle, like in the picture above.

This may look like a lot of fabric to you, but my skirts on my other motleys have all been at least six yards wide, and this one will only be a little over five yards wide in fullness when it is all done, because that's all the fabric that exists in three of those four colo(u)rs! The mill in Sweden stopped making that weave. If there is suddenly a magical amount of demand for many more yards of each color, they might make more of it - but at present I seem to be the one jester in the whole wide world who wants it, despite its recursive diamond-weave glory and its 16th-century-perfect hues.

A view from the edge of the giant piece of jester's motley skirt fabric pieced together from over a hundred diamond shapes cut from four colors of diamond-weave wool twill.
The gown is called the 'Rugby Motley' because of the color pattern, Red-Green-Blue-Yellow, used to make the strips that, when sewn together, make the diamonds display in the correct sequence.

This used to feel like a kind of victory to me, to buy out all of the last of a fabric run, to know that I'd be the last person who could get it.

Twenty years ago, the maniacal gang of historically-approximate clothiers I ran around with had a code. If one of us found a fabric we wanted for something we or one of our clients wanted to wear, we would buy all of that fabric - the whole bolt, or multiple bolts if necessary, just to keep other clothiers in our geographical area from being able to use that same fabric.

It was a bitch move. It was a jock move, a demonstration of dominance.

If we bought massive surplus, we would wait a few seasons, until our own garments in that fabric had worn down a little, and then sell or trade off the extra yards, so that it was clear that WE were the FIRST to have gowns in that fabric.

That kind of thing used to matter so much.

Can you imagine?

Because of the accidental scarcity of this fabric, my motley will be a little less-wrong than my past motleys. I was trained to make skirts with tons of extra volume, historically-inappropriately, because, theatrically, when they twirl, they flare out very attractively. Makes dancing very fun visually. But in the era, skirts really were only slightly larger at the bottom than the circumference of the bulk of the petticoats and/or farthingale (hooped petticoat or "hoopskirt") supporting them. I will adapt to being a little bit less-twirly; I love this wool too much. Besides, less fullness in the skirt will mean less pleating at the waist, and while it is always very ego-gratifying to have people flip out at the meticulousness of my tiny, tiny, super-jammed-in-there cartridge pleats, with this many colors, it will be difficult to see what exactly is going on there anyway.

To make this, I used the June Tailor Diamond Cut - "A Girl's Best Friend," it says, because of a song.

The first time I made a motley that was 100% patchwork, I tried to use a diamond template that I made myself; I had not yet learned the Mystery of Quilting Notions, which is basically, "Quilters Have the Best Damn Stuff and you should always just shop in the quilting-template section of every fabric store for everything." When I discovered the Diamond Cut, and subsequently a slew of other quilters' templates for diamonds that are a very pleasing 60 degrees in the top and bottom angles and 120 degrees in the side angles, my motley game improved powerfully.

If, for some insane reason, you decide to patchwork an entire garment, do not fall for the malarkey which these templates' manuals inadvertently peddle of "just cut a whole strip, sew the strips together, then cut the other way and shift everything." No. NO. BAD. It will never, ever work the way you want it to. Your strips will deviate from the correct angle against the grain of the fabric, and you will cry and cry, and you will throw the garment out of a window into a dumpster and then want to light it on fire.

Just go slow. Trace each individual diamond shape separately. Sure, abut them in strips! But watch the grain. Watch it. The geometry will get shaky and start to stray from the grain. Correct it. Yes, you will "waste" a little fabric restoring the grain to the correct angle. It will be worth it to keep the overall garment on the correct grain.

It will take you a very, very long time. It will be worth it.

I'm very pleased with how close most of the diamonds in the finished product came to having their corners line up perfectly. Vicious freaks are destined to inspect the final garment and see that some of the diamonds' corners don't line up perfectly, and they will hurt my feelings a little bit by pointing it out. It's fine. It will all be fine.

My next step is to sew THE FINAL SEAM, making the whole thing into a big-ass tube, and press that seam.

Then I will finish the bottom edge by interlining it with a little more wool (just some plain stuff I've been hoarding for the occasion, cabbages left over from previous wool motleys), then rolling it up and attaching the red linen lining. Once the bottom edge is finished, the next steps will be these:

  • Baste the top of the lining and outer layers together.

  • Order boning and hoop wire. I already have the busk - it is the last one Rick Cleveringa made for me, out of invincible osage wood, before he moved away to the Lone Star State.

  • Assemble the bodice (it will be my first use of paste buckram - I am excited but also terrified).

  • Build a new farthingale, using the Tudor Tailor pattern for the first time. I've always, always had to draft my own farthingale patterns. I am so relieved and happy to use someone else's pattern for once. Like, I'm genuinely emotional over it.

  • If necessary, due to the decreased bottom circumference of the new farthingale, build...a smaller Bumrollio. Dreading this step, due to attaching so much emotional significance to my glorious success with the existing Bumrollio. Perhaps a fourth of my live-in-person audience is Bumrollio-appeal-derived - when you have a gigantic bumroll, you have special adventures. That's how it is. I don't make the rules. I just make big fake butts.

  • While wearing everything, hem the skirt at the waist. This will be the first gown I'm making for myself for which I'm using this method. I have made gowns for others, with great success, using this method, but I've never done this for myself. Excited and scared.

Then, once that is all managed, I'll finish the sleeves, make all the dagges (the pointy flappy bits with the jingle bells on the ends), sew 'em to the bodice and sleeves, make some hats, make some more shifts, and then: PHOTO SHOOTS GALORE, and perhaps even a TikTok or two, if that still exists then.

Official City Jester Activity Unlocked

It is Pride Month! The Mayor invited The Hive, the City of Milwaukee's LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, to march with him and Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa in Milwaukee's Pride Parade last Sunday.

Quite by accident, I ended up being one of the people who carried the banner at the front of our parade unit.

That's Mayor Cavalier Johnson, in the middle, wearing the black t-shirt with the State of Wisconsin in Pride rainbow colors on it. To the left of him in the picture above is Alderwoman Zamarripa.

Carrying the banner with me is DeShawn, whom I LIKE VERY MUCH. I met him that day, and he is Very Good at Parades!

While most of my heart was engaged with marching in Milwaukee's Pride Parade during a critical time for LGBTQIA+ people in this country, overwhelmed seeing so much support and positivity...

...A little part of my heart really misses directing live interactive immersive improvised entertainment, and I think it probably will forever. And that little part of my heart was screaming RECRUIT THIS GUY FOR SOMETHING! RECRUIT HIM FOR ANYTHINGGGGGG. CAST HIM IMMEDIATELY IN SOME SPECTACLE, FOR HE IS ON FIIIIIIIIIIIIRE. He was absolutely magnetic and had the crowd roaring along the entire parade route. Loud, positive, cheerful, energetic, genuine, fascinating, solid, powerful, great.

But the whole experience was just wonderful. It was so good to do a parade again. First parade in ten years for me - for Tiffany too.

Tiffany has lived with type-1 diabetes for 39 years and rheumatoid arthritis for several years now, so her blood sugar and fatigue are always concerns when we're doing anything at all. Engaging in a hyper-social event and walking a total of four miles on concrete in warm-ish sun with poor air quality, even on a cool breezy day like we had that day, wore her down almost immediately. But she toughed it out and marched to the finish line. She's in the picture below, on the left, with the trans-pride-flag-hued KF94 respirator on.

Turnout was immense - over 10,000 people celebrated with us along the route, and the parade itself was huge, lasting over 2 hours!

There were so many families there. It made my heart so glad to see so many parents teaching their kids universal love and support. And there were so many in the crowd who were elders of the LGBTQ+ community too - it was so encouraging to see that we survive. We make it. Some of us make it.

After the parade, I realized I had finally gotten to do a Milwaukee's Official Jester thing. At last! I've held the position since 2004, but our last mayor and his administration were terrified of the thought of Milwaukee being perceived as having a sense of humor. But here I am, finally, accidentally getting to do the thing. It will be neat to perform my office intentionally some day, maybe, if administrations ever get less afraid.

After we took apart the banner and guzzled water, Tiffany and I slipped away and went home to recover. Part of me yearned to go back to the block party on National Avenue and dance the night away. But that part of me was 23 years old and had fully-functioning ankles and knees. The rest of 51-year-old me needed to go home, eat something, take a shower, and take care of my wife, who slept the rest of the afternoon and evening.

The Textbook

The first section of this post said I'm a textbook example of a phenomenon (doot dooooo, dah doo doo), and that textbook is Pete Walker's Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. I am finally reading this excellent book, and crying a lot, and it is a good thing, all of it. You may find great value in it. It is by far the best book I have found on the subject of CPTSD, full of practical steps for stopping flashbacks and silencing the inner critic. Just great. It hurts. It's worth it. Can't love it enough.


All of that text up there, between the two divider lines, and even more, was enjoyed early by the Phoole Patreon Platoon! But I have a few little things to add.

What I Mean by "Less Grind, More Mind"

As part of the work I'm doing with Pete Walker's excellent book, in an effort to slow down and release my well-worn trauma-response habits of relentless perfectionism and constant busy-ness, I am continuing to streamline my use of "social" media, focusing more and more things here at and at the Patreon page, and using non-federated "socials" less and less.

So if you have already registered to get notified whenever I update the Blague, thank you! And thank you if you have joined The List at The Phooliverse will be more and more here and less and less other non-federated places.

I am squinting at Pixelfed as a possible alternative to Instagram, and at other federated, non-corporate, non-algorithmically-sinister alternatives to FierceBark, but in terms of my mission to Do Less, I may simply go all-in here and at for conversations, as this platform doesn't seem to have an appealing forum option built-in.

Thanks, Past Me!

A tall, tan, young and lovely girl from Ipanema carries a poster of Astrud Gilberto while she goes walking on a beach.

Astrud Gilberto lived a great and long life and made beautiful music with a lot of wonderful people and a few really terrible ones (I'm looking at you, Stan Getz). She died this week, which means my live interactive music-and-friendship webshow, Phoole & the Gang must become a LoungeCore Special this week, dedicated to Astrud's main music genres, bossa nova and samba, which happen to be two of my most favorite kinds of music.

Wonderfully, Past Me already made a standard LoungeCore Special graphics package that was already loaded up and ready to go in the software applications I use for displaying video clips in my broadcast and for streaming the show, so all I had to do was dive into my music library and find two hours of bossa nova, samba, and shibuya-kei favorites to play. My VidVox VDMX visuals media bin for LoungeCore is already stocked with Mid-20th-Century-Modern animations; all I had to add was a clip of a frighteningly-great Fosse dance scene I stumbled on from the film Sweet Charity that appears to be the choreographic inspiration for every dance scene in every Austin Powers movie. Thanks, Past Me!

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