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Re: SCA is different things to different people

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

Elen Prydydd wrote much that I agree with (and therefore did not comment
on), and only one thing that I believe is mis-stated (and therefore I am
commenting on it, below).  Even though Elen spake the words that triggered
this treatise, my response isn't really to her, but an attempt to reach
some people who may read something into Elen's words that she probably
didn't mean.  In other words, Elen hit one of my buttons, and out came a
pre-loaded speech.  Run now, if you wish :^) 

> As Johann wrote, isn't it possible that we as SCA members may take the
> authenticity part a bit too far?  I think we do, when we expect
> period-to-the-last-detail from our artisans.
[comments on the difficulty of finding extant artifacts deleted]

"period-to-the-last-detail"?  Warning!! Straw-man argument alert!

Which "we" does the section above refer to?  The SCA in general? The
Laurels? The dread Authenticity Mavens?!?!? (Horrors!!! :^) 

The SCA itself doesn't expect any such thing.

The Laurels, in my experience (and I are one) never "expect" 
period-to-the-last-detail work. Frankly, most Laurels would die of shock
and go directly to heaven (if that's where Laurels go) if they were
exposed to any such work.  Laurels are heartily pleased at any well-meant
and enthusiastic effort which involves a sincere attempt to find out what
the real middle ages was like, regardless of how successful the effort

As for the Authenticity Mavens, they are a convenient enemy and straw-man
for arguments. I've met some bitchy laurels in my time, (and bitchy other
people too,) but the Authenticity Mavens do not exist as a class in the
SCA.  There are only people.  And some few of these people, when in bad
moods, try to magnify their own importance by denigrating the efforts of
others. That has nothing to do with Authenticity -- the same people are
involved in personality assassination if they can't find something bad to
say about other people's artistic efforts.  People who are cruel and snide
are being bad people; it doesn't matter whether they are focussing upon
artistic work, personalities, sexual habits, or anything else.

Back to whether or not we "expect" highly period stuff -- there is a very
big difference between saying we "expect" highly period work, and saying
we "encourage"  the same.  I would heartily agree that many facets of the
SCA (the Laurels, Pearls, and much of the populace)  value (and therefore
encourage) Real Medieval Stuff.  It isn't surprising, since we are inside
a pseudo-medieval game.

[discussion of "utility" items, functional rather than accurate]

> In the case of those items, authenticity be damned, if it works, who
> cares?  Peeking into our tent to see if the bed is period is like
> lifting a lady's houppelande to make sure her underwear is period (that
> is, nonexistent)

Functional items are great.  I helped make a bed for one of my squires for
this Pennsic, and it is purely functional (cheap lumber, lag bolts, glue).
Another bed (based upon a surviving medieval example> that I was working
on for this Pennsic didn't get finished because it's owner ran out of time
to work on it with me.  It will be much better, when it is finished.  But
a finished bed is better than a more-period unfinished bed for sleeping. 

However, there's another straw-man argument imbedded here.  The point is
not that someone peeking into your tent without permission is rude --
everyone agrees with that, and such a person does not exist. 

Nobody goes around saying that functional equipment is bad, at least not
about functional equipment that isn't on display.  But the more medieval
your functional equipment is, the better it is.  Is it better to have a
medieval oak bed than a lag-bolted pine one?  Of course.  And as for
lifting a lady's houpellande to inspect her underwear, it will never
happen (without permission).  But I HAVE seen royal peers lifting their
own houpellandes to show others their real medieval underwear! 

My point is this: nobody can be entirely authentic.  Yet on the other
hand, major parts of the SCA value medieval stuff more than modern stuff. 
This creates a tension -- authentic stuff is valued, but truly authentic
is impossible.  One (natural) reaction is to say "We can't be perfect, so
cutting corners is OK". 

That's not what I say.  Nobody should justify cutting corners.  Cutting
corners is an inevitable result of the fact we can't be totally medieval.
But I think we should be going around saying "cutting corners happens, but
look at the new thing I made that is much more medieval than what I used
to have!"

In other words, don't justify the corner you had to cut because of
expense, or time limitations, or lack of skill, or lack of knowledge.

Instead, glory in the corner you _didn't_ cut.  The place where you went a
little farther, and made something neat.  The item you made that was more
medieval than the stuff around it, even if it wasn't perfect. Show off
your period underwear, even if it means mooning a friend :^)

Dafydd ap Gwystl,
who has cut a lot of corners in his time,
and also shown off his underwear.

And who sure wishes he was at Pennsic.

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