One of the great things about the internet is one’s ability to discover and explore nooks and crannies, stumbling upon amazing things. Amazing in every sense of the word.

The other day on my way to look up something else, I wandered into a far-off corner of the Web, a place where reenactors gather. Reenactors as in (mostly) guys who dress up in costumes from a bygone era and build camps and fight mock battles. It all looks pretty healthy but it’s, you know, weird. But weird in a “Wo! I knew this stuff existed, but not  on this SCALE!” kind of way. Interesting way. But NOT in a way that would  tempt me to participate in any way. I just wanted to make that clear.

To me, reenactment is sort of like NASCAR; I don’t know anything about it except what has osmosed into my brain. Because NASCAR has so successfully infiltrated our popular culture, we know stuff about NASCAR even if we have no interest in it whatsoever. Reenactors don’t create that kind of buzz, which is probably a good thing.

In contrast to NASCAR’s TV contracts and product-promotion tie ins; reenactors have the occasional billboard reading: Civil War Reenactment Labor Day Weekend!

So reenactment and reenactors populate the hinterlands of the internet. Once I got into the interlinked websites, I was fascinated. I learned that the Civil War is only a part of the Reenactor Universe, a universe that spans continents. In the UK, they play out the wars of the Empire such as the conquest of India and the wars between the Saxons and the Britons in the 6th century. There are even pirate reenactors!

Once a body has found a good reenactment era “fit” and gotten in touch with some fellow travelers, it’s time to get geared up. Because of the Internet, this is vastly easier than it once was. There are plenty of websites out there willing to help you out.   Some sell historical clothing. Then there is Smoke-Fire.com, the Wal-Mart of reenactor paraphernalia!

OMG they sell stuff for KIDS! Can you imagine being the child of an avid reenactor?

“But Daddy, I don’t WANNA go to the Battle of Shiloh this weekend! They say I can’t text or talk on my phone.”

“You can go two days without that phone!”

“But Daddy…….”

“Don’t make me flog you!”

One thing to be aware of: there are a group of reenactors called “Farbs” that are looked down upon by the more hard core participants. Farbs are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, or even period behavior. A ‘Good Enough’ attitude is pervasive among farbs, although even casual observers may be able to point out flaws. Anachronistic clothing, fabrics, fasteners (such as velcro), snoods, footwear, vehicles, and modern cigarettes are common issues.

If you’re interested in starting a group, I’ve taken the trouble of tracking down an article on how to get started.

More “must-have” links:

Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman and British Living History

Ancient warfare (Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, etc)

Skirmish Magazine (multiple eras)

 

 

 

01.16.2012

I have been lax in my postings. I’ve been working on a new website, MountVernonCreates.com, to feature the many ways people here express their creativity. I hope it goes well beyond the visual and performing arts (although those alone could fill a website). Their are some very cool people around this area doing some creative things in food (Lincoln Cafe…ahem, which made the finals of last year’s national Cochon 555 competition), growing (the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups) gardening (of course, Mt. Vernon has a club!), and so on.

It’s got a calendar, events listing, pretty spiffy! If you have any interest at all, please take a look. The response from the MV creative community has been incredible!

PS: In progress is a piece on enactors…you know, the guys who dress up in Civil War uniforms and play war on the weekends. It started out laden with my typical snark but as I learned more about the hobby, I discovered it is a world-wide phenomenon.  I was amazed. There are enactors who do ancient Greece, the Arthurian era, the British Empire in India, Napoleonic Wars, you name it. Suffice to say it goes well beyond the American Civil War. Soon. I promise!

01.16.2012

I have been lax in my postings. I’ve been working on a new website, MountVernonCreates.com, to feature the many ways express their creativity. I hope it goes well beyond the visual and performing arts. There are some very cool people around this area doing some creative things in food (Lincoln Cafe…ahem, which made the finals of last year’s national Cochon 555 competition), growing (the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups) gardening (of course, Mt. Vernon has a club!), and so on.

If you have any interest at all, please take a look. The response from the MV creative community has been incredible!

PS: In progress is piece on enactors…like the guys who dress up in Civil War uniforms and play war on the weekends. It started out laden with my typical snark but as I learned more about the hobby, I discovered it is a world-wide phenomenon the more I became amazed. There are enactors who do ancient Greece, the Arthurian era, the British Empire in India, Napoleonic Wars, you name it. Suffice to say it goes well beyond the American Civil War. Soon. I promise!

Free at last!

The Iowa Caucuses (Cauci?) are over and everyone in our Hawkeye State is sleeping it off. Every four years, we are subjected to criticism that Iowa is too old, too white, too Christian, too homogenous, too Clem-Kaddidlehopperish to deserve the honor of being first in the nation in selecting presidential candidates.

Typical Iowan at caucus

You want to be first ? You got it. About this time, the only people who would fight you for it are the Iowa television stations that have been minting money for several months now. The rest of us have been on the receiving end of the attack ads. They were everywhere: local news, Wheel of Fortune, the Khardashians, Iron Chef, Sports Center, even the test pattern. Once you’ve had the opportunity to sit through a 30-minute Newt Gingrich infomercial, the Seventh Level of Hell doesn’t look all that bad.

The media makes a big deal out of the fact that Iowans go out on a frigid January night to caucus. Trust me, it ain’t all that altruistic; it’s the only way we’ve found to get away from the political ads.

The kingmaker who couldn’t pull the trigger

Representative Steve King (R-Far Right Fringe) has missed the bus. He coulda been a contender instead of a bum, which is what he is. Yep, the Man Who Would Be a Kingmaker snoozed through his opportunity to have an impact on the Iowa caucuses. He dithered. He fiddled while Rome burned. He pulled the old Rip Van Winkle.

Rep. Steve King: Fast asleep when his ship came in.

His refusal to endorse a candidate means if he tries to take credit for the most excellent showing of Big Rick Santorum (not to be confused with Little Rick Perry), he must also take blame for the total campaign collapse of his friend and fellow-wingnut, Michele Bachmann. In other word, he didn’t move the needle even a little bit. We can only hope he follows Bachmann into well-deserved oblivion. Iowa will be a focal point during the general election but King will be a non-player as the GOP tacks toward the center. His role leading up to the presidential election will be to dutifully round up and deliver the evangelical votes for the Romney campaign.

Our Lord and Savior one of few endorsements not on Santorum’s list

According to a Wikipedia entry no doubt maintained by the Rick Santorum campaign (with a little assistance from the Holy Ghost), Santorum received endorsements from several major Iowa conservative leaders in the fall of 2011. Prominent social conservatives Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, both leaders of the Family Leader social conservative advocacy organization, praised Santorum’s conservative record on social issues. Sioux City conservative talk radio host Sam Clovis cited Santorum’s beliefs in “a constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage.”[22]

Other endorsements include Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Cornerstone Church pastor and evangelical leader Cary Gordon, and bestselling thriller novelist Brad Thor.

Just sayin’.

Toasted!

Michele Bachmann

Within hours of finishing last among a weak field, Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from neighboring Minnesota, announced she was “suspending” her campaign. In today’s political lexicon, “suspending” means “running away with your tail between your legs like a whipped dog.” But hey, it’s not like we didn’t get a chance to get to know Michele. Remember when she was the “frontrunner” because she “won” the Straw Poll? This tells us two things: 1) the Straw Poll is not a serious thing; 2) the national media are desperate.

I will miss her. She filled a lunacy gap in the Clown Car and did her best to make even Donald Trump look presidential. Her candidacy offered a glimpse into the Pit of Doom where the 1630s Puritans meet 21st century Revolutionary War re-enactors. In Bachmann’s world, the line between reality and delusion is never clear and is often crossed. God bless us all.

We won't have the governor of Texas to kick around anymore

It was a long slog, America, but we Iowans did what we’ve been called to do: we winnowed. We did the dirty work so you don’t have to. We’re down to one. The media, hungry for anything to expand beyond and dilute their preternatural fixation with kidnapped blondes and psychotic mothers who kill their kids, will figure out some way to gum the results of the Iowa caucus like a toothless hag working on a slice of white bread. It’s all a sham. Ladies and gentlemen of the universe, Iowa presents your GOP nominee, Mitt Romney!

We’ve learned a lot about the candidates in the past 18 months (like dentist-chair time, the time leading up to the caucuses drags out so that minutes seem like…well, hours). We learned that Texans have elected the closest approximation to Bozo the Clown that doesn’t come with orange hair and gigantic shoes. We learned that Michele Bachmann’s husband’s name is Marcus and that he casts out demons. We learned that Ron Paul is even crankier than he was in 2008. We learned Herman Cain is ALL man and that 9-9-9 upside down in 666.

666: Number of the Beast and 9-9-9 upside down

We also learned that green trumps white. White, as in 91% white (and vastly whiter for self-identified Republicans). Green as in the color of money. Rick Santorum, who right now is thinking he is coming out of the Iowa caucuses riding on the shoulders of Uncle Moe Mentum, has in reality just become the next target of Restore Our Future, Romney’s Super PAC. Restore Our Future, carved up Newt Gingrich like roast beef on a Sunday brunch sideboard. And it only cost a few million dollars.

Santorum, who as one wag said, ran a fantastic gubernatorial campaign in Iowa, ain’t got game. If you’ve been paying attention over the past, oh, forever, money = game. Santorum has no money and no organization. What he does have is the evangelical, anti-gay, anti-21st century base who could have coalesced around Rick Perry or Bachmann. When Santorum (who brings new meaning to the word “froth”) takes away your votes you have some serious wound licking to do.

We can now call him “Big Rick” as opposed to Perry’s “Little Rick.” But Big Rick has problems beyond money and organization. For one thing, he’s a single-issue candidate. Oh sure, he’s cobbled together some economic talking points and he’s cut and pasted something that looks like a foreign policy, but Santorum’s only issue is his stance against gay people. And folks, he’s on the wrong side of public opinion on the gay thing. It’s been obvious for a long time that the American public is vastly more tolerant of gays than the GOP will admit. Bashing gays seems more and more akin to dog fighting all the time: it’s patently offensive. But it’s a hot-button issue with the evangelicals who took over the Iowa Republican Party back in the days of Ronald Reagan.

Besides, it’s the economy stupid and Santorum, who was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania back when earmarks were the unapologetic oil in the legislative machine, can’t really run on an economic reform platform beyond making sure there aren’t any illegal immigrants to compete with Americans for those $5 an hour hotel maid and fruit-picker jobs.

So it’s Mitt. In retrospect, the whole thing seems like a bad Clive Cussler novel. There’s a beginning, a lot of incoherent plot twists and then a predictable ending. As I’ve said all along, Romney is the only near-sane person in the crowd. Sane, perhaps, but ruthless. By using his PAC to do his dirty work, the Mitten has done his best to keep his cardigan clean. It will only get worse as we enter the general election cycle. These days, politicians don’t seem to give a rat’s ass what the landscape looks like after they’ve achieved their near-term goals. Win now and worry about the mess later.

Newt Gingrich's inner troll is about to be unleashed

This is not to say there won’t be some entertainment ahead. Newt Gingrich, who seemingly tried to keep his inner troll under wraps here in Iowa, has signaled that he’s pulling out the long knives to seek vengeance on Mitt for all the attack ads funded by Restore Our Future that sank his campaign. Newt Gingrich crying foul is like Genghis Khan complaining someone broke a gentleman’s agreement.

Let’s hope Newt’s anger burns hot enough to keep things interesting at least through Memorial Day. I am not getting my hopes up. Newt’s money is going to dry up and I don’t think he’s the type to self fund a campaign of retribution.

The other interesting plot line will be how the Tea Party, which was so full of itself just one year ago, reconciles itself to Romney. He is as old-school as they come, essentially a centrist Democrat pandering to the wingnuts. If the Tea Partiers don’t rise up to fight him, they’ll be consigned to the vacuum cleaner bag of history. If nothing else, that will make the right wing of America a lot less interesting. It will also be the death knell of the subculture of retailers selling tric0rn hats and colonial waistcoats.

We just got back from Colorado where we celebrated a late Christmas with our daughter, her boyfriend (I dunno what else to call him…I bet the French have a couple of words), and the grandsons who are six and nine. While I could bore you for a good while by telling you stuff, it’s best if you go do your own stuff. OK, just one story: The boys and I were on our way to a movie (The Chipmunks. I’ve never seen so many no-star reviews.)  I was telling them I’m looking forward to seeing them more when I retire. “When is that, Bepa?” asked the older one. I rough-counted and said, “You’ll be 15 and your brother will be 13.” To which the younger shouted, “Yay! We’ll have phone!”