Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Internet is a Wonderful Place

[click the link –> –>] History According to Tumblr

My friend sent this too me and it was too good to pass up.  It’s reassuring to know there are others out there who think the same way I do.

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v
ia http://we-have-history.tumblr.com/page/16

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For Something Completely Different …

A couple of weekends ago, some friends and I went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival for a day of vicarious wenching, weaponry, and what-have-you.  It took FOREVER to get there because the last 2 miles of road are 2 lanes, which aren’t enough to accommodate the traffic.  The last 2 miles probably took about 45 minutes.  The volunteer who pointed us to our parking spot looked EXACTLY like my little brother circa 2008, from hair in eyes to prominent nose.  Kind of freaky.

Anyway.  We missed the opening ceremonies, where the King and Queen ride up with their entourage and proclaim that Revel Grove is now open.  But as we were buying our tickets, a couple of elephants and camels rode by.  Real elephants.  Real camels.  Real cool.

Most of the activities cost money and we were all channeling our inner Ferengi.  But it was nice to wander around and pretend to be vaguely medieval.  We did get to see a human chess match, where red and black fought for primacy, much like Wizard’s Chess.  The difference was that there were designated teams for fighting while the actual pieces observed.  I suppose this was a good thing because many of the pawns were children and it wouldn’t be good for the RennFest’s liability if they had a grown man with a sword beating a 6-year old.

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Ye olde referee.

This particular weekend was Celtic weekend, so there was this drum and bagpipe group called Cu Dubh.  Their music was pretty powerful.  The tall guy reminded me of Thor from the recent movies.  They were also very serious, although I suppose if one is busy blowing one’s brains out via bagpipe, one doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to crack a smile.

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This event also attracts many vendors with various talents who can only sell their wares at events like this.  The authentic bowmaker?  The ironsmith?  The woman’s accessorizer selling wimples and hair sticks?  The tanner’s bodices of authentic, cured leather?  One of the best ones was the tapestry maker, who had a number of embroidered pillows, wall hangings, and carpets.  Their quality was exquisite.  If I had an extra $200 to spare, I would have gotten a replica of a piece of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I remember learning about the Tapestry and the tale of William the Conqueror in 8th grade (see, dad, not renting my education) and for some reason it has always stuck with me.

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Just to have it?

In the afternoon, we got to see a local comedy troupe, Shakespeare’s Skum, perform a tag-team version of Romeo and Juliet, where it was the guys versus the girls and they traded off, relay style.  At the end, it was up to the audience to vote on which team won.  These guys are great.  I highly recommend them. And I have discovered that they have other shows NOT at the RennFest, which I will be sure to investigate.  Seriously, click the link above and peruse the pictures.

The last show of the day was another Celtic band, but while Cu Dubh played very angry, we-are-going-to-war music, this band played dances and reels.  They were called Wolgemut, which is either German or old/middle English for “good time.”  According to their website, they’re a minstrel troupe, which explains why their music was lighter.  Anyway, they were a lot of fun and really got the audience into their music, clapping on rhythm (more or less) and cheering for more.

Then we decided it was time to go home.  The temperature was freakishly hot for October and we were covered in dust so it was time to go cheer the Irish to victory over Arizona State.

One thing that could bother me, if I let it, is that the Renaissance Festival has become another excuse for, basically, a fantasy con.  People dressed up like aliens, there was on very well steampunk’d gentleman, about five Assassin Creed-ers, a half dozen Princess Meridas, this guy.  The vendors accommodated, one metalsmith going so far as to make personally fitted Wonder Woman bras and WW waistband things.  A lot of people had furry tails.  I never understood the Furry movement.  But I suppose if I let that bother me, I would have to nitpick at the other vague historical contexts.  That is, the whole event spanned more-or-less, ALL THE MEDIEVAL TIMES.  Although, because the Renaissance lasted roughly three centuries, I suppose the RennFest has a lot of material with which to work.  But to get back to my point – fantasy con.  *sigh* Why?

Last week was the Day of Wrong, so everyone dressed up Wrong.  That is, Boba Fett in a Kilt, innumerable Doctors Eleven doing things, etc. (All this is hearsay from a coworker who thinks me getting my knickers in a twist over the whole fantasy con thing is absurd.)  I could rant about how weak history leads to weak knowledge and how everything MEDIEVAL is generally painted with the same YAY CASTLES brush.  (I actually looked up swordfighting classes.  Outside of fencing, the best school is located in Houston.  Poo.)  But I won’t.  Because Renaissance Festivals aren’t the place for seriousness (see: Shakespeare’s Skum).

The point of these things is having a Wolgemut, right?  And that was certainly achieved.

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A Wolgemut if I ever saw one.

 

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Reflections?

As mentioned in the previous post, Abner Rainbow, the fighter pilot who flew an astounding 105 missions over Europe, made it clear that he was just doing his job and looking out for the guy next to him, that no one was looking for Purple Hearts or special recognition, and that if we were in his position, we would do the same thing.

I sincerely hope that is the case.

One of my dance partners, who had breakfasted with Wild Bill and was thoroughly blown away by the older man’s stories, said that it was a different culture nowadays.  One of us observed that now, the servicemen/women seem more concerned with how they can change the military to fit them than they used to be.  It was probably me making the observation because the partner, an active duty serviceman, generally agreed although everyone he knows/works with are all good people.

Maybe this change happened because WW2 was much more urgent, that the fate of the whole of Western Civilization hung on the outcome, and that the current wars of recent memory have been much more abstract in nature?  Maybe it’s because we, as a nation, are wealthier and have more material expectations from life, almost like a sense of entitlement?  Maybe it’s just something that happened with no explanation?

Other observations:

  • A majority of the people we interacted with were retired or active duty military.
  • These events are militaristic.  The people are really good at drills and precision.  Like so.  But they’re less serious than a real military thing.  Which is fine with me.   There is still plenty of “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” and they speak in current and past acronyms that start sounding like alphabet soup after too long.
  • The community, although not without its politics, is fun – a very respectful group of nerds who get together and talk about the nuances of everything, from thread count in British canvas to why the assassination attempt on Hitler was really a good/bad idea in the long run.
  • There’s also the cultural immersion aspect – the sliding scale of authenticity from women’s hairstyles to cutlery to music.  And then there’s the sliding scale of authenticity adherence – are his knickers authentic or are they from a 6-pack of Fruit of the Loom from Wal-Mart? (Answer: depends on who you ask.)
  • These people do it, more or less, to honor the guys who actually did it, and the most rewarding thing that could happen is for one of them to meet a veteran from a unit they’re portraying and to be told, “Good job.”  Naturally, this means the focus tends to be on militaristic things – weapons, tanks/vehicles, strategy, the War Effort, Buy War Bonds, Save Scrap Metal, Uncle Sam Wants YOU.  There is less emphasis on the really unpleasant bits.  That is, there aren’t a lot of people dressing up like Holocaust victims/survivors.   That’s just – no.
  • This event was different than Civil War events.  Although the CW happened so long ago that we’re now on Robert E Lee VI, the themes of government authority and race are still alive today.  But WW2 – the technology and artifacts are much more current, but the themes of stopping a super-race and world domination, are largely irrelevant.  (Genocide, on the other hand, is for another post.)  It’s an interesting juxtaposition.
  • ‘MURRICA.
  • And because I needed to share this: The British guys do a pretty convincing accent.  When someone asked where they had learned to speak like that, they answered, “Rosetta Stone.”  The little old British lady said, “Oh, I didn’t know they could teach you to have an accent.” (They explained themselves to her, don’t worry.)

Here, have a picture of a big metal tank-y thing.

And an old British car.

 

 

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Now with Moving Pictures!

… not THIS type of Moving Pictures

Instead of updating last post and ruining that thing of beauty, I’m putting all the videos from WW2 weekend here.

First ride in Jeepie! Approaching the Polish camp before making a right and driving from the camp.


 

From the dance.  This couple is fun to watch and apparently make the circuit of World War 2 themed dances.  Their son was there and looked like he was equally phenomenal at dancing.

 
Second ride in Jeepie! Yelling insults at the American GIs as we pass down the main drive.

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World War 2 Weekend 2013

Over the weekend of September 21-22, there was a Living History event at the Eisenhower farm, which happens to be at Gettysburg.  During WW2, the battlefield was owned by the Department of Something, so Eisenhower and Patton and those guys brought tanks up to practice shooting them.

A brief history of the farm, according to the NPS pamphlet:

The Eisenhowers bought the house and farmland in 1950 from a fellow named Allen Redding, planning to retire.  They had to structurally restore the building, and the finished product had eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and an extensive kitchen, among other rooms.  The land itself is at least 189 acres.  However, two years later he was elected President and served two terms in office before they finally retired to the farm.  According to the literature, their favorite spot was the glassed in porch, where they could watch the sunrise over the rolling Pennsylvania mountains.  I bet it was glorious.  The front drive to the main property is lined with trees, one from every state.  Mamie would ask him how far he’d walked, and he would reply with, “Minnesota” or “Oregon” and she would know how far he had gone.

Ok, now to the weekend.

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