Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When its not a game.

As some of you might have heard, there has been some rumbling lately (not wide spread, but definitely more than one person) about some members of the SCA leadership (peers, officers, "elders") who have generally been accused of "bullying", for lack of a better term.

As to the "if"s and "what"s of the accusatios, I frankly leave that to cooler heads then myself. I too have fallen under the wrath of a few "others"  in the SCA who made no bones about how much they disliked me, and how much better the society would be without me in it. I am not impartial on that part of the subject, so I'll keep a respectful distance for the time being.

But there is another point.

One of the more often said replies to these situations is "its only a game." Alright, that's fair, the SCA is only a game, and doesn't pay the bills for most of us. But there is an implication to that that I think some of us are missing.

When we say "it's only a game", that really implies that while it's not worth it to bully someone here... but it might be acceptable somewhere else.

When is it okay to bully someone? Under what circumstances are we supposed to say "this is okay" when talking about whisper-campaigns, intimidation, slander, or just general mean-spiritedness?

When is it okay to be ugly towards someone just for the sake getting your way?

When is it okay to drive someone off because you don't like them or disagree with them?

You see, its not.

Its not okay at home.
Its not okay at work.
Its not okay in church, or on sporting teams, or clubs...
Is sure as hell is not okay at school.

Bullying, and it's associated behaviors, is just flat NOT okay. We (are at least supposed to) stand up to it in all of these other places...

and yet when we hear about it in the SCA, low and behold, someone says "its just a game", and then we start with the "ignore them and they will go away" train of thought. Then comes the "just don't play with them", or "don't let them bother you".

Funny how that never worked in school, or the office or anywhere else. Even places where I wasn't compelled to be, the damage was done.

Bad conduct, however you want to call it, is never something to be ignored, or passed on. its not a problem that with or about a group, its a problem with a person. Its a problem because someone has individually chosen to put energy into making someone else's life unpleasant.

If this were a argument on a playground, we'd probably tell the aggressor to go home.

If this were a coworker, the options to address the issue cold go all the way to legal action with money involved.

If this were a sports team, or a charitable organisation, the mundane society we live in would strongly encourage us to call out the antagonist, and not let the antics persist.

The SCA is a society composed of people. And sadly, some of those people choose to be mean.

They probably are mean elsewhere too, we just don't see them in their day-to-day jobs to know.

Its not just a game. Just because we put on funny clothes and take on different names does not change the effort, or the energy or the passion that we invest in it. The SCA is no less important to us than vintage car is to a collector, a rank is to a marshal artists, or a "thank you" is to the guy who randomly helps a stranger carry his groceries. We would be appalled if any of those people watched their efforts or collects torn down or demeaned. We would call their attackers bad people, and we would call for action.

But somehow, we've been taught that the SCA is "just a game", that the words and actions we feel here shouldn't be as hurtful as others, even though our triumphs can be a hundred times more uplifting.

We've been told, or heard, that we can work around or ignore people who Bully in the SCA.

I submit that we have been told wrong, and many of us repeat the same in good faith, but from a mistaken perspective.

Meanness does not wear a costume, or take on a fake name. It is a stark reality, an ugly truth, and a fact that some of us have to deal with more than others.

We either begin talking about it right now, and talking about how to engage others on this issue, or we're sewing the potential seads of our own destruction with our inaction.

I'm not saying Fight. I'm just saying that we need to start talking, to each other, and to those who have wronged us.

The first step is yours....

When are you going to take it?

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, May 19, 2014

Castellan XX

Well, I have to say Castellan was a wonderful event, and a great "decompression" for me and my family. In terms of heraldry, it was wonderfully lightweight, with me only being loud once or twice at the request of a few people.

I started the day off at the archery field, another round of shooting, and some more time getting to know my longbow. I'm quickly coming to realize that archery is probably the most low impact of the martial arts practiced in the SCA, thought he sores on my index and middle finger tips definitely remind me that it's not completely without ware and tare. I shot for close to two hours, perhaps five or six rounds with 9 arrows each. All of it was totally for fun, no competition there at all. I got to see old friends, meet a few new ones, and even put a few crossbow quarrels down-range. I don't see myself as a potential crossbowman, but it was nice to try my hand at it, and my thanks for the gentle who loaned me the weapon for a few shots. I dare say my shooting is improving, and I think a few more practices will help me tighten my grouping up considerably.

But the true magic of this event was not on the archery range, or heralding on any field. That day was a day for friends of times past to rejoin the present.

In one event, I spoke with Mistress Rhiannon Redwulf, Master Oxlade Lachlann MacKinnon and his daughter, and, Centurions Talen von Marienburg, and Treschen von Asselen, as well as their two daughters.

When I first joined, Rhiannon was the "big sister" figure to newcomers in the group, while Oxlade was something of a mad scientists in his own right, Talen and Treschen were two of the three highest ranking members of Mooneschadowe, as well as the first and second captains, respectively, of the Liondragon Guard.

Oxlade, whom I spoke with at some length at the archery field had not seen seen in some time. Life, and love as it happened and compelled him out of the SCA in order to solidify new life for himself. But now, your stepdaughter had voiced interest in archery, and likewise in the SCA. Returning as a father as well as an old friend, I watched as he walked his child through the steps of beginner archery. She took to the SCA like a duck to water, thrilled with the people, the environment and the fun that it brought. I do look forward to seeing more of my old friend, and I think my son, as well as most of the northern children will look forward to the newest friend in their circle.

Moving on, Alarich, and his wife Aline, had been friends of mine and my wife's for almost as long as we known known each of them. Their marriage was no surprise to anyone in retrospect, each person needed someone with the type of intellectual and emotional strength that the other embodied.

Alarich has not lost any of the determination, wit, or cunning that framed him when I was his man-at-arms a decade and a half ago. Age, if anything, has made his sword sharper, and brought his intellect to that much finer of a point. I've stayed in contact with him, but still, there is something to be said for presence of a man composed such as Alarich is.

As it happened, circumstances favored a remarkable event that afternoon at feast. My wife, my son and I all found ourselves sharing a feast table with Alarich, Aline, Talk, and Talen's older child. Treschen and their younger were serving the table, affording them both opportunity to join us between removes.

When I first joined the society, Talen and Treschen were both people who commanded respect by their very bearing. When they walked into a room, their posture, their stance, their very essence spoke of dignity, respect, honor. Fifteen years has made them... less... intimidating to me, but that is likely as much about my growth as anything else.

Also, I can say from experience that its hard to look completely dignified when your child is using you as a stand-in for a jungle gym. The think the image from Beltane the week before, of Taken's younger child unceremoniously scaling her way up his left arm like a tree branch was perhaps the most memorable for me. Try as he may, its just hard to look serious when you're pulling double duty like that.

Talen and Alarich spent a good part of the feast swapping stories about their time together as students, mutually tormenting a German instructor, with Treschen verifying the better elements.

At one point, I looked at Treschen and spoke. "You know, I just remembered something. When I first joined (1998), you were teaching a costuming class for the Medieval Studies Group, and when you and Talen were talking about horses and combat riding, Talen said 'and stirrups were critical to the development of mounted combat.' I raised my hand, and said 'Okay, what are stirrups, and what do they have to do with combat?'. You," I pointed right at Treschen, "Looked at me like I had just walked off of a flying saucer or something."

To my shock, Treschen sat up, and a light came to her eyes. "I do remember that!" she exclaimed excitedly. And the three of us all laughed at the shared memory.

As an aside, I *did* know what stirrups were, but only passingly. At the time, the connection between them and mounted combat was well beyond any of my reading or historical exposure. Treschen, who grew up on a ranch, evidently, was, and still is to some extent, absolutely thunderstruck that anyone would not know what stirrups are.

But it felt great to talk with people from my past, and even better the conversation was as much about tomorrow as it was yesterday. it wasn't the conversation of friends meeting for a moment, but of people with a past, looking forward to a future. These were people with whom I would spend more time, and hopefully learn much from.

One of the most magical moments of the day came from an unexpected visit. Her Grace, Duchess Willow walked over to the table and summarily asked to join us. Talen and Alarich both welcomed her. Willow sat down, offered a very formal thank you for the welcome, and pulled out a small glass box.

"Now, you see," she started," My latest shipments have returned to port, and I have some goods to offer about for those who would endeavor in trade." She told a calculatingly simple narrative of a trade fleet, ships and men under contract to her, sailing the ports of the Mediterranean, north Africa and even towards the Middle East. She passed around coins of foreign make, a sample of fresh cinnamon, jewelry and etched glass beads. The whole time, she not only played the part of a merchant, but exuded it, the world as we all know it melted away, and for all purposes, we were talking to a 10th century trader dealing in various goods.

As one necklace was passed around the table Alarich took an instant liking to it. not for its immediate value, though. "I can make this," he said eagerly, studying the links that made up the chain. I could see the craftsman's look in his eyes, metalwork had always been a study of his.

Setting upon the opportunity, I reach into my own pouch and extracted a cast coin that had been minted for a cite token some time back for Mooneschaodwe.

"You're grace." I spoke up. Willow's eyes lit up at the salutation, she met my gaze. "I have in my hand here a coin, minted in pewter, and a few years in age. Aside from its material worth, it was part of a set only minted once, as a receipt of purchase, as it were, for admission to a an event hosted by the Province. It is of historical significance as an artifact of the event, and as one vested in our kingdom's histroy, I would suppose that it would also be of interest to you. Would you consider such an item of fair value to consider for trade?"

"Oh, most certainly!" the agreed eagerly, playing the role of merchant to the hilt.

"This necklace," I pointed to the item in Alarich's hand. "Would you consider it's value fair for tage of this one coin."

"I would, most assuredly."

"Then consider this payment in full," I said, handing the coin down the table. "and the necklace as gift to my former leige lord."

Alarich laughed welcomingly at the unexpected gift, and Willow looked overjoyed at the interplay of the game. The whole scene was facilitating, entertaining and wonderful at the same time. it set much of the tone for the rest of the meal.

the day rounded out whit court, and welcome awards for many who were there. Incluidng the Baron and Baroness finally managing to present Ranger Roger (the camp ranger who maintains Will Rodgers Boy Scout camp) with a local award that had been signed into law in 2012.

Castellan is always a welcome event for me, and always brings different things when I attend. This year, it brought old friends, new adventures, and a promise that the best is yet to come.

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, May 5, 2014

Beltane, and one more item.

Beltane Games was a good day on a  number of levels. Beltane games is always a chance for me to just kick back and relax. Most of my household ventured there today, and we arrived in time for morning court where we watched the stepped down of Their excellencies Orlando and Kat, and the investiture of Andrew and Kyna.

Myself, I had come with a very focused goal. I had brought my new archery gear, and intended to part on the range and practice as much as I could. As it happened, I was (politely) elbowed into the royal huntsman's competition, where I proceeded to both have an amazing time, and roundly get my head handed to me. [I wan't quite dead last, but there weren't many below me when it was over].

Afterwords I spoke with HL Vincinte and ultimately helped with the range during the kids archery shoot. About ten minutes into the process I realized that we had a problem, the first was that we had two effective ranges, and the second was that we weren't coordinating on them. Almost had people walking out with arrows still flying. I spoke with Margerita, and asked about standing on the firing line and calling both ranges while she and her helpers managed the kids. I wouldn't say things were "great" after that, but a single voice making the final call about when to loose and not to was piece of mind for everyone, and a load off of the minds of the marshals.

When the archery wrapped up, I figured my day was done, and had only feast to look forward to. As the afternoon rolled into later afternoon, we started to set up for feast. About half an hour before, Lady Zaahira, the feat steward, walked up to me and in an almost apologetic voice said "Ivo... could I beg a favor of you?"

As it happened, they needed a herald to cry the removes, and from the look on her face, I think Zaahira felt like she was imposing on me for asking. I don't blame her thought, our introductions were made only weeks before at Gulf Wars. A wonderful sole, and married to Don Trevor, an amazing person. I smiled, laughed and said "sure."

I love feast heraldry, and I love adding pageantry to the display of feast itself.

I cried the removes with I felt was a good mix of humor, honor, dignity, and drama. The audience cheered where appropriate and I didn't see any frowns.

One [name/title/descriptors redacted] was obnoxious enough to use me for target practice with his food catapult. I'll need to think long a hand about how to handle that in the future.


The feast was a success, and the event transitioned into court.

A good event to be sure, with only one small detail left to be discussed.

Saturday night at Beltane, I found out that my exploits of Gulf Wars were actually intended to be even grander, but in a twist of irony, that page in my story was moved to another chapter, another day.

It seems that the crown wanted to recognize me for my work in heraldry. However, I missed court that night because I was... well... talking with a client so I could herald him into a competition the next day.

So, none the less, I walked into court Saturday night wondering what in the hell I had done to be called before the crown. His majesty spoke simply and said "And here we have yet more unfinished business from Gulf?"

As those words echoed in my ears, I wonder what he could be talking about now, weeks after my return.

Could this be a Sable Sparrow for trenching the herald's pavilion?

Maybe a Flur for stalwartly manning my post at the scribal tent, even as the ceiling was letting water in by the bucket?

I honestly had no idea. As much as I loved gulf, and I did, most of my best memories were of me running around, talking with cool people, working with cool people, and occasionally getting to be loud.

As the herald took his first breath to read the scroll into law.. His majesty opened his hands and spread out a gold garter with black edging and a single black star stitched on one end.

I felt my jaw go absolutely slack, my eyes wide and my breath leave my chest from total shock.
The Black and Gold garter denoting a
Companion to the Order of the Sable Star
of Ansteorra. 

I gave up on awards a long time ago. Not for spite or anger or anything as dramatic as that. I just realized that I didn't need rank to do what I was good at, and looking for it did nothing but distract me from so much else. Constantly asking what I could do/had to do/should do to get noticed had me looking in 20 different directions at once, and none of them had anything to do with heraldry.

The moment I said "enough", and walked away from it all was one of the great moments in my life. A re-embrace of what I love to do, and the people I love working with. Building those types of relationships was so much of why I went to Gulf this year, and so much of why I think of the war as such an outstanding personal success.

And yet it seems the king has his own design on the war to make it even that much more epic for me.

Signed by the same King who had signed my Crane years before, and his current Queen, Nicollet, the scroll was signed and dated for the Thursday of Gulf, the night I was at the Green Dragon, taking notes for another heraldry Job.

I was now a Companion to the Order of the Sable Star, holder of a grant of arms for service to the kingdom.

As I half walked, half staggered away from court, completely stunned by the turn of event, and listening to my wife celebrating next to me from excitement over the award, I happened into a friend form my local group. Jon was  are relative newcomer, but hard worker and pure hearted to be sure. A good friend to have I dare say.

"I heard all of the commotion, what was the award?" he asked.

"A star of Merit." I answered.

"Okay, what does that mean?"

"Think of it as a promotion," I explained to the former US Marine. "In this case in recognition for service.
"its a Grant level award."

"Well then," he said. "Congratulations, Your Lordship."

The comment caught me of guard, and gave me pause.

Even in wearing the award, I had had yet to be addressed by that title. For some reason, Joned simple congratulations helped make the whole thing real for the first time since I had been called into court moment before.

I was now, indeed, an Honorable Lord.

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"