Tag Archives: living history

Military Through the Ages, recap

22 Mar

So I’m finally home where I was able to soak in the shower and wash off all the dirt, sweat, and wood smoke smell that accumulated from this past weekend at MTA.

I had an ok time. The best part was getting to hang out with some readers and watch WW2 Germans charge a British Zulu encampment.

As for the rest of the weekend, I had some issues. They are not very coherent, so I will try and put them in bullet points.

  • Egos are really making living history in my group not fun:

I’m not sure how this is in other groups, but it seems that in my group and the other late medieval groups near us that everything is just a giant dick waving contest. The hierarchy in the group seems to be determined by “stuff”. Who has bought the most stuff? Who’s stuff is the best and most expensive? I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy despite being in the group for several years because I don’t have very much “stuff”.

  • My gear is never good enough:

If I make something, it’s rarely ok to use in camp, and everyone else wants to display their things over mine. I often run into the problem of making something under the direction of one of the other members in the group, or buying something, and then soon after I get the item, they decide that it’s not right for the period. This is so frustrating! The only things I can use in the camp tend to be things that other people make for me.

  • I am never physically comfortable:

This has been true of just about every event I’ve gone to, but it was really bad this event. My clothes are horrible. The shirt I have is too big and the pants are too small. It all just ends up being this hot sweaty mess. My feet also end up extremely sore at the end of every event.

  • I never have a space of my own:

In my old group I had my own tent. It was a nice little area where I could set my stuff down and hang out. In the group I’m currently in I have no space of my own. I always have to put my stuff in other people’s tents, and I hate that. (I don’t think they like it either)

  • I always have to borrow:

This ties into space, and my gear never being good enough. I always end up having to borrow items from one person or another. I hate having to borrow from them. I feel it puts me in a position of inferiority, which then ties into the whole “this is all about egos” thing.

  • I am not your servant!:

This is perhaps the biggest bone I have to pick. I might just be paranoid, and this could all just be in my head, but I feel like other people in camp think I’m their to serve them. Yes, I know it’s important to help out in camp, and I do, but I feel people expect me to constantly be doing all the chores while they stand around and talk. For example, I was asked a couple of times to run and fill up the water pitchers. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was the way I was asked. “Hey, could you run and fill these up?” would be fine, but instead I got the “Since you’re just sitting around, could you go fill the water pitchers?” The tone doesn’t come over in text, but what I’m trying to get across is that in the second way the request was phrased was the hidden assertion that I need to be always doing work. Since I was not doing work at that time, they found some work for me to do in the form of filling the pitchers.

  • No one ever offers to help me setup/take down

For the longest time I’ve always put other people first. I show up as soon as I possibly can, and spend the rest of the daylight helping to put up other people’s tents, and then fill those tents with other people’s stuff. Does anyone offer to help me carry all my stuff in from the car? No. I end up making multiple trips, sometimes in the dark, to get my gear. The same thing happens when the event is over! I try to be one of the last to leave, helping everyone else take down their tents and pack their stuff. Does anyone offer to help carry my stuff back to the car? No. I end up having to do that by myself after I’m already exhausted from helping others. It’s all about them! (The ego and servant stuff ties back in)

  • Paying for food:

I got away with not paying for food this weekend, but in the past I have shelled out $20-30 to help pay for food stuffs. When the meals are cooked the food is just put out on tables for people to pick at. A little here, a little there. I end up feeling guilty about eating and so I buy extra food for myself on top of paying $20-30. If the cost of food was split evenly and everyone got an even split things would be fine, but it ends up that some pay a lot and others pay nothing. Some get a lot to eat, and others eat very little. I often end up in the “paying a lot, eating a little” category. Sure it helps cover the costs for the people who buy the food, but then I feel mooched off of.

  • I don’t feel like I belong

I grew up with my old group. I just joined this group a few years back. All the people in this group have been together for a while. They’re their own little click. They’re nice to me an all, but I just don’t get the feeling that I’m one of them. Most of them are friends outside of the group as well. (Or at least were, there is a lot of political infighting and passive aggressive bullshit going on between all of them now that luckily I’m not a part of) When I sit around the fire with them I’m usually very quiet, I don’t know what to say and I feel a bit like a stranger.

  • Is it worth it?

Well I was sitting there this weekend in the middle of the event and decided to analyze my situation and how I was feeling:

  1. I’m hot, sweaty, and very uncomfortable in shitty clothes that do not fit
  2. I feel like they want me to constantly be serving them while others sit around and do nothing
  3. I have no space of my own and I have to borrow almost everything because my stuff is never good enough
  4. I often end up paying for stuff for others

Basically it’s become a job that I go pay to spend my time at. While I’m there I feel alone, unappreciated, and uncomfortable. Because of this I’ve decided that I’m going to take a break from doing living history.

I think a lot of the problems I have stems from not having enough “stuff”. It’s not that I want to compete in their dick waving contests (I couldn’t care less about that) but it’s that I just do not have the time or money at this point in my life to keep up with the hobby. If I had more of both I could afford clothes that actually fit me and felt great. I could buy my own tent where I could put things. I could get really nice and expensive gear that they couldn’t bitch about. All this would elevate my status in the group and I don’t think they’d be asking me to run around doing bitch work for them while they sit on their beds in their big fancy tents. I don’t want to quit because there are aspects that can still be fun, but I need to step back until I’m on sounder economic footing.

Modern politics ruins living history

26 Feb

So lately I feel my hobby, the hobby I’ve had for 10 years, is being ruined for me. Every living history person I’ve come across, with the exception of like 3 or 4 are the complete political opposites of me. Now normally this wouldn’t even come up, and I would prefer for it to stay that way. Unfortunately, through facebook they’ve found out that I completely disagree with them. I post something up for all my like minded friends to see, and then they see this and start giving me shit.

I thought I had the settings right where they wouldn’t see such posts, but I guess not. And now they argue with me over facebook and sometimes make snide comments in camp. It’s ruining LH for me! I’m not friends with them because of politics, I’m friends with them because of a common interest in history, but now that’s being eroded. I’m starting to feel like I don’t belong in LH any more, which depresses me because it’s something I’ve done since I was 12!

It just seems like every re-enactor I come across is a conservative of some flavor. Not sure why exactly. I wish they could keep the modern politics to themselves. I know they feel the same way about my and my facebook posts, and I’ve apologized to them and fixed the settings, but it still makes it feel awkward when I go out for events. It’s even worse when one of them makes a quip in camp. I’m on the verge of quitting….

Too many chiefs, not enough indians

30 Jan

Today I’m running around preparing to leave in the afternoon for a medieval immersion event. Myself, along with a couple of other buddies, will be camping out in the woods for 2 days in full 15th century kit. No public, just us.

One of the things that I love about these types of events is that the “hierarchy” is really reduced. Sure there are the event coordinators in charge, but everyone there is from mix-match groups.

One of the problems my current group has, and that I think a LOT of medieval living history groups have is “Too many chiefs, not enough indians”. Lets face it. Life back then sucked. The social hierarchy sucked. There was a reason for the French revolution, and the execution of all the nobles. It was just really awful to be lower class.

Well the problem for the later period groups is the social pyramid. Unlike more modern groups where only the military hierarchy is really rigid and the social is more loose, the medieval hierarchy is extremely stiff. “You are a peasant! And you will serve my table, polish my armor, and generally kiss my ass! This is your place in life determined by GOD!” Yeah, not much wiggle room there. Nobody likes being stuck with the crappy impressions. Everyone loves putting on the expensive armor, picking up polearms, and looking badass.

Ideally, the system should work a bit like a Ponzi scheme. As long as the base keeps getting bigger things are fine.

If the group kept adding new members, at the same rate that current members move up from one kit level to another, the pyramid stays stable and just grows. Entry level people move up to level 2, level 2 people to level 3, etc. This would make it so people who were in entry kit level, who had to play the shitty parts of being a peasant, could at least look forward to building their kit up and getting to play something cooler.

Unfortunately, this is never how it really works in reality. The above method requires everyone to be working on their kits equally, and assumes a steady supply of new members. In reality people have lots of other things that need their attention. They can’t spend all the time working on their kit, and as everybody knows, it’s hard to get new people that stick. So what ends up happening is this:

Without a steady flow of new members, the pyramid stagnates. People who have put in the time and effort to move up to the next level are forced to stay in their current level for the sake of preserving the historically correct pyramid. This in turn breads resentment and increases the chance someone will stop coming out to events, which only further exacerbates the problem.

Eventually people will get tired of having to spend money to go kiss someone else’s ass for a weekend. It becomes a job that you put everything into, and don’t get what you want out of. These people will inevitably either quit the hobby altogether, or break off into splinter groups with them at the top. (In the 10 years I’ve done living history, I’ve seen this happen a LOT)

In living history individuality can be a great thing and a horrible thing. On one had, it is awesome to have unique items in camp; anything that makes you stand out from the rest of the people out there who might be doing similar but different stuff. On the other hand, the individuality has a tendency to make everyone a one man/woman show. Yes they all have to work as a unit, but people love you show off their stuff. While some groups might not be overly affected by this, it can turn into dick waving contests in other groups. (Which in turn also fuels splintering of a group into smaller groups where other people want to take their cool “stuff” and be the center of their own group.
I really don’t see any other option than the continuous cycle of group forms, group eventually breaks, splinters of old group form new group, only for that one to splinter and break. That is unless the group is pulling in enough new members regularly. Thoughts?

Nerds are the only ones alive

25 Jan

The oh so reputable wikipedia defines nerd as: “Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities.”

That usually conjures up the image of something like this:

I would disagree with wikipedia on the issue of age-inappropriate, since this assumes that all nerds are into video games, or trading cards.

I would define nerd as anyone who had a passion or interest for any specific thing. One can easily be a video game nerd just as easily as a car nerd, or a basketball nerd. As long as you love something and research it.

I would argue that these “nerds” are the only people who are actually alive, the only ones who actually matter. The exact opposite of the nerd is the conformist. I don’t mean to sound highschoolish about this. The conformist to me is the person who is jack of all trades, master of none when it comes to hobbies. These people can easily be identified on myspace of facebook. They usually list a lot of generic interests, without overly emphasizing any of them.

These people like a couple of mainstream bands, but aren’t overly into any of them, they don’t analyze the music, or anything. They usually list some generic mainstream sports, like basketball or football, might like a particular team, but don’t really care much beyond that.

Now I don’t overly like sports, but I can respect a sports nerd. Someone who is very passionate about a game, someone who analyzes teams, plays, and players. They have a passion. Those conformists, they’re just mindless sheep that float through life, going with the flow, blending in with whatever is popular. They’re a dime a dozen. Not saying they’re worthless people, they’re still human beings, but they’re not interesting. There is nothing unique or special about them.

I really miss living history

8 Jan

I first started doing living history when I was 12 years old. I always had the next even marked on my calendar, and was constantly thinking of new things to build for the events. I loved going to our weekly meetings, getting together at friend’s houses and doing crafts nights, and sword practice on Sundays. I had somewhere I felt I belonged.

Well the group I was so fond of growing up fell apart, and some of my treasured bridges burned. I joined a new group that I was ok, but I hadn’t grown up with them. Plus they were mainly based 4 hours away, so I couldn’t go see them regularly. What really put a kink in my hobby was college. I suddenly had almost no time to work on medieval things, let alone the space and money to do so. My re-enacting fell to one event a year, and I lost myself.

I didn’t have sword practice regularly, and so I started to forget. I had my suit of armor, but it stood solemnly collecting dust in my bedroom. I no longer spent evenings in the living room, with a mug of hot chocolate, a fire roaring in the hearth, and my favorite medieval movies on while I sat there and sewed together whatever item I was working on for the upcoming event. That was my childhood, and now it’s really depressing.

I feel like over the years of not really doing anything, I lost a burning passion, a passion that set me apart from other people. I had something I loved and could talk for hours about, but now that’s gone. My girlfriend has a passion like that for gaming, and while I listen intently to her lectures on the subject, and even participate in games with her, that is and always will be her passion, not mine.

I want my passion back. This all peaked my senior year in college. Right before I am to graduate I come to startling realization that I no longer have a passion for anything. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist working in castles. I wanted to find things that re-enactors would then research when trying to create things for their camp. I spent years preparing to pursue that career, worked in internships, field schools, weekends, even traveled to England for a month, only to decide that I had lost my love for it.

Now I’m afraid of becoming just another cog. Another bland slice of bread. Nothing special about me when I put on my dress shirt and tie to go into work.  I really feel I’ve lost something unique and defining about myself. I want it back.

I hope that now I’m going to graduate and get a job, I’ll have some more time, and money for that matter, to pursue my hobby. I want to become more involved in my living history group, perhaps join others as well. I want to go to events more, get more connected. I want to find another western martial arts group to train with, get back in shape. I want the excitement from my childhood back.

The people you meet at reenactments

24 Mar

There are a lot of interesting people you meet at living history events. Here are some archetypes:

The armchair general: Usually a slightly overweight white guy in his 20’s to early 40’s. He’s a big military history buff despite never actually having served. Often these guys are old wargamers and model enthusiasts.

The spoiled fat kid with delusions of grandeur: This kid usually is out of sight of his irresponsible parents and loves to run around at high speeds through the camp. Your camp is his playground. “Don’t touch without asking” is a phrase this kid has never heard, nor understands. Watch your food table because he’ll help himself if he thinks he can get away with it. Often he asks to join your group believe himself to be very important and a great fighter.

The veteran: One of the more enjoyable visitors. This guy actually served in the military and as a result is much more subdued about your weapons and armor. He usually asks educated questions about your equipment’s weight, trying to make comparisons to his experiences.

The teenage girl: She’s usually with all her girlfriends and loves to put on the helmets and take group photos with their cellphones. A pleasant enough visitor, but usually doesn’t ask too many questions.

The young family: Usually only married a few years with one or two young kids. The kids are often scared of you especially if you’re in armor with a helmet on. Usually to get the kids to warm up to you you have to take off the helmet, bed down and let them touch the armor. The parents are moderately interested and ask good questions.

The boyfriend: He usually is a fit, hip guy who has to wear the armor and hold the weapons while flexing his muscles to show off to his girlfriend. Usually he doesn’t ask very many questions because he’s too busy trying to show off.

The fantasy nerd: Usually a scrawny white kid who plays World of Warcraft while watching Lord of the Rings extended edition. He loves the armor and weapons but is not to interested in the actual history. He believes he knows all there is to know about fighting based off of fantasy moves in the Final Fantasy cut scenes.

I’ll add to this if I can think of anything else. Feel free to suggest archetypes.

Reenactment Politics

22 Mar

So I just got home from Military Through the Ages (MTA) which is a timeline event (multiple groups from different periods set up in a chronological order) hosted in Jamestown VA, and I am exhausted. I didn’t have sun block (mistake) and so I covered my self by just standing around in armor most of the day trying to lure people into our camp. Wearing turnshoes that were a size too small and standing on wooden pastons (attachable wooden soles) which were also too short on me heels left my entire body aching.

Besides all that the event went REALLY well. The weather was perfect, clear skies and a bit on the cool side. Usually every year it rains horribly, giving MTA the other meaning, Mud up To your Ass.

The only thing that sucked during the event was the politics. Normally I love politics, but when it comes to friends and living history groups, I HATE it. I’m a realitivley new member in my group, and so sometimes I still feel like I have to prove myself; usually by doing as many chores as possible, but then it’s no longer any fun for me, it’s like work that I pay to go be a part of. (I’ve only been in the group for 2-3 years but I’ve been doing living history for almost a decade)

Yet the biggest stressor has to be group to group politics. A few years ago I left a group I spent 6 years with because I felt I’d taken enough bullshit from the head lady of the group. (She ran several people out of the group over the 6 years, just being a total bitch) The sad thing is I really like the other head of the group, a guy she shares a house with. It was great growing up in living history with him around.

I haven’t talked to him since I left the group in protest of her. Unfortunately for me, they’ve started coming to MTA the past couple of years with another group. Our time periods are far enough apart that we’re not camped next to each other, but we’re still close enough to see one another.

It’s been forever, but I still avoid her like the plauge. I’m not scared of her, I just hate confrontation. I’d always be purposely looking in the other direction if she walked by, if not just go inside a tent all together. I just wish I could see the old guy again and ask how he was doing, but the politics of it kinda prevent me from stopping by.