Monthly Archives: May 2016

Theft Isn’t Schtick

Let me just state up front for the record that I have zero problems with schtick for SCA events, provided that said schtick is agreed upon by all parties involved. Schtick is a great way to set up rivalries or the usual round of amusing bits leading to a “war”. (Okay, I’ll add the caveat that schtick actually needs to be funny. Far to often it’s boring and uninspired, but I digress.)

But note that I am saying that the schtick has to be agreed upon by ALL parties involved.

Here’s why I say that – a few years back when Rose and I were Baron and Baroness of Darkwood an individual who was returning something precious to Darkwood asked if he could play some schtick in one of our courts as part of the process. I asked what he had in mind and all he said was “trust me”. I took the chance.

It was a seriously big mistake.

His schtick was rude, insulting, humiliating, and made a mockery of things that the entire populace of Darkwood hold very dear to their hearts. Both Rose and I were furious. To this day I will have nothing to do with the jackass who perpetrated the insult. I actually ran in to him the other day and even though this incident was several years ago the moment I saw him my blood started to boil.

So, when it was discovered that the Darkwood Banner (painted by my lady so I have a certain amount of investment in it beyond it being Darkwood) had been stolen out of the Darkwood Castle, a giant wooden structure which boasts among other things a nice lock on the door in order to keep people out of it when no one is around to monitor for safety, and further discovered that not even our current Baron and Baroness had any notion about it, I became extremely angry.

We had already had enough problems with kids climbing up the tower despite the number of times we said “not without an adult”. We found teenagers hiding inside trying to be, well, teenagers. And we discovered that during the week some kids had torn up a part of the castle garden so they would have sticks to play with.

In general there was a certain amount of “taken for granted” attitude towards the work of a great many people.  (To be fair there was also a lot of awe and wonder at how awesome the Castle is and it was deeply appreciated by a lot of people as well.)

Now, it’s not my Barony anymore. Except in a way it is. In exactly the same way as it is for previous Barons, exactly the same way it is for a populace that is fiercely proud of it’s home and it’s people.

One of the people in my household is the primary architect of the castle, a person who is often so relaxed and easy going that one wonders what it takes to get his ire up at all, and he was pretty unamused by this mistreatment as well. He found it in himself to smile and laugh and shrug a lot of it off, but the theft of the banner, the violation of the castle it took to do that was enough to annoy him as well.

We already have enough issues with people stealing at events. Another person in Darkwood had two helms stolen as well. Taken all together these three thefts are three to many. Especially for an organization that places a premium on ideals like Chivalry and Honor.

We in Darkwood spent a solid day guessing and generally feeling a bit violated and insulted. Sure, we pretty much assumed that it was someone thinking they were “funny” and probably trying to find a way to start schtick for a war or something like that, but remember what I said about schtick being agreed upon?

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

We had no real idea until someone, the culprit I assume, dropped the banner off under a Darkwood sunshade on breakdown day, stuffed in to a plastic bag. And then, a pretty pathetic attempt at turning the situation around via an anonymous letter was the only clue left. The banner pole still has not been returned. Sure a pole is a minor detail in the whole scheme of things, but it’s still a theft.

Our current Baron and Baroness, despite their obvious frustrations, have opted to take the high road because they want to believe in the essential good will of others. The simple reality here is that a banner has no real resale value (unlike the stolen helms), and such things have taken place before in other groups for exactly the express purpose of inciting schtick. So for them to be willing to let go of the whole thing and let the game unfold without their express permission/knowledge is probably a safe bet.

Exactly like I thought it was a safe bet.

Though I do feel like they will have an overall better outcome than I did.

Am I over reacting? Entirely possible.

I still think it’s a crappy thing to do, involving someone in something without giving them a chance to, at the very least, participate in the schtick.

There were other banners up there as well, including my own. There was expensive equipment up there being used to light up the top of the castle. Other things could have been stolen. And what I mean by that is not “there were other choices”, but rather what if someone slightly less scrupulous had decided to come back and help themselves to the nice equipment? Someone would have been out some serious money.

And let me reiterate – the Castle was locked. As in a door with a latch and a keyed metal lock. As in a commonly recognized sign for “do not enter.” In the mundane world circumventing a locked door with the intent to steal is “breaking and entering to commit burglary.” If there is no intent to steal it is still illegal trespass. Just because we are all camping together doesn’t mean it’s one big home for everyone. Our individual camps are our homes and those boundaries need to be respected. (See my article “Why Are You In My Camp?”)

This might be the biggest deal to me. I wasn’t comfortable about leaving so much of my camp up and in place because I have been aware of far to many thefts over the past few years. But I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Yes I took the really vital stuff home and yes there was someone who was in our camp all week long.

But this still disturbed me. Obviously. Still I took a chance and while I didn’t personally lose anything, clearly others did. Truly unfortunate.

One Week Later

Well, here we are a week later and the Mists/Cynagua War has taken place. Only problem is we still have no idea who the culprit was who stole the banner. The content of their note stated that they would reveal themselves at the war but this did not happen.

In the end our Baron and Baroness have elected to let the matter slide but should the culprit reveal themselves they will be told exactly how utterly unfunny this whole situation was. In particular I am disappointed to discover that His Excellency, in a panicked scramble, tried to arrange with the event staff an opportunity for this schtick to be played out so that something could still be recovered from the whole thing.

That didn’t happen.

Schtick isn’t schtick if it leaves one side out of it. In an organization where we generally try to value each other and value honor, this whole thing has left a terrible taste in my mouth. I know that our Baron and Baroness are disappointed, as well they should be.

We’re supposed to be better than this.

At this point all that we can hope is that whoever is responsible will take to heart what they have done and come forward with an apology at least.

I guess we’ll find out.

Those Guys…

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Bjorn and I at the top of The Darkwood Castle.  Waldorf and Statler finally got an SCA Balcony.

I am often struck by how frequently my life in the SCA intersects with my life in Performance Magic. Not just because I perform magic at SCA events, which is obvious, but because of how many of the sort of philosophical considerations that I bring with me from each world to the other end up resonating with others in both of those worlds.

The past 10 days have been the celebration of Golden Beltane, the 50th anniversary of the SCA itself. For me personally I have been playing in the SCA for 29 years…. Hold on a moment, I have to sit here and be shocked because I only just now did the math to write that sentence and I’m a little overwhelmed…..

Okay, enough of that.

So, there is a story I heard from a couple of magicians talking about “those guys.” They were referring to magicians that they looked up to, people who inspired them and made them want to get better as performers and artists. While having that discussion between themselves, a young performer walked up to them and asked for autographs and commented about how much they had influenced his magic and desires to be a better performer. Once this young magician walked away the two looked at each other and realized that they had become “those guys” to the next generation.

And it scared them just a little.

The responsibility of being a sort of custodian of inspiration for someone else, anyone else, was rather daunting.

I have long ago embraced the idea that for someone out there I will be the first Peer that they meet. And lately, several times over the past year actually, I have had some people tell me that I have long been an ideal that they would like to live up to, or that I have inspired them in some fashion. Words which came at me from out of the blue and made me feel pretty good about myself.

But, in a rather appropriate kind of way, I had my “those guys” moment on this 50th anniversary of the SCA.

My encampment was host to a good portion of the members of the College of St. Davids. We took care of them by making sure they got fed and had a place to be. They worked for us by doing chores around the camp. A perfectly equitable exchange and one that we have been more than happy to handle in the past.

But there were two moments in particular that made me realize that I really have become one of “those guys.”

On the first weekend one of the college students who had been doing chores for us tried to hand me a few dollars to help defray the cost of the food. I thanked him for it but insisted that he keep his money. For one thing I know that the college kids need to keep as much of their resources as they can. College isn’t cheap! For another, I am in a very nice job these days and between Rose and I, we can afford some generosity. Especially for something like this.

But it also dawned on me a while later that this gesture was one that was inspired by all the generosity and kindness that this young man was seeing around him. He wanted to be a part of that on some level and so he was ready to make the sacrifice he could make.

I’d like to think that we had some small part in inspiring that gesture. Knowing that he made it reassures me that he is well on the road to understanding the deeper lessons the SCA really has to offer.

The second thing that happened that made me realize I was becoming one of “those guys” was thanks in part to my one of my best friends in the SCA, and truthfully just in life, Bjorn. First you need to understand that Bjorn and I have known each other nearly all of that 29 years I’ve been playing this game. When we miss each other at events it is a serious disappointment. If he and I are both at the same event and I don’t get to spend time hanging out with him I don’t feel like I’ve had a good event. Our humor with each other is fast and furious, and many others pretty much need to be around when we’re going at it just because we become the show. We bond over a lot of things, including The Muppets, which has kind of become the best way to understand us in that we have become the Waldorf and Statler of The West Kingdom.

But with all of that in mind, we also have a significantly serious philosophical side. We care deeply about issues of the SCA, of Chivalry, Fealty, Art, and Education. We are endlessly fascinated by questions with no answers because it means we get to explore them, and when the setting is right, as it often is sitting around a camp fire, this is precisely what we do.

We found ourselves in just exactly that setting, surrounded by many of the college kids who were camping with us and we got on to the topic of Fealty. I’m not going to recount that discussion here, mainly because it would be far to difficult to do so. But I will say this much; it was a wonderful discussion and I think that everyone there got something out of it.

But there we were, and during that conversation I realized that I had become one of “those guys”. I had become someone others were listening to for their first real introduction to some of the deeper ideals of the SCA and what they might mean. And I think that Bjorn and I gave everyone there some things to think about and consider. Most importantly I think we gave everyone there an opportunity to realize that there are some questions in the SCA that will never be resolved entirely and that is, in fact, a good thing because then you will always have something to challenge yourself and others with.

You’ll certainly have something to think about and discuss around those late night camp fires. And someday all of those people we had sitting around listening to us explore these ideas will get to have their own opportunity to become “those guys” for another generation.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

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