Monday, September 30, 2013

Prepared for Battle – the Annual Stink Bug Invasion

Prepared for Battle – the Annual Stink Bug Invasion

Few things cause me more angst than the annual invasion of the insidious pest known as the brown marmorated stinkbug. Initially, with the first influx of sink bugs, the invasion seemed just mildly annoying, a few ugly, foul smelling, shield shaped bugs that dived bombed humans but didn’t bite. They hung out on the siding of the back porch, munched on a few green tomatoes, and caused the cats some mild indigestion.

But they seemed to multiply like tribbles from the original Star Trek series. Unfortunately, unlike tribbles they are not cute, cuddly or appealing in any way.
And there is no easy way to eradicate them. Scientists have not developed an insecticide that murders them en masse. Nope, the only option I’ve found it filling the reservoir of the shop vac with some Dawn infused water and suck the evil critters up and drown them. And, I’ve been assured, if they don’t drown the Dawn will cause them to have fatal insect diarrhea.  I’m ok with that.

So, like the manic enemy of the stinkbug that I’ve become, I spent hours this evening sucking hundreds of the enemy combatants into the Oreck shop vac, one offensive being at a time. I admit that as a yogini I do try to love all sentient beings. But I am not convinced that stink bugs fall into the category of a sentient being. And even if they do, I am making an exception. Their presence eliminates my sense of well being and ability to connect with nature during this glorious time of year when experiencing the beauty of an autumn afternoon can afford me the joy of nature that I want to keep within to recall during the blighted days of winter.  So, my serenity takes precedence over this non-native invasive species that harms my psyche.  I will continue to murder these invaders with impunity. And I will celebrate what will ultimately be triumph. Yes!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What Not To Wear – 1861 to 1865, Part 2 / Dresses

What Not To Wear – 1861 to 1865, Part 2 / Dresses

Some of the most heinous faux pas among women who attend American Civil War reenactments involve confusion as to what constitutes an appropriate day dress or evening dress.  Too many women of any age want to channel their inner Scarlet O’Hara at the Wilkes BBQ.  Please let me repeat my advice from yesterday’s post~ movies do not necessarily represent reality. Just because a character in a movie wears a particular style does not make it historically correct.

There are numerous vendors purporting to offer for sale period correct day dresses, “tea dresses” or ball gowns that have absolutely no clue what was actually worn in the day. Some misguided souls pay hundreds of dollars for awful dresses that are alleged reproductions of fashion plates or original garments.

As I channel Stacy and Clinton for this post, please let me explain a few simple guidelines: 1) if it is really shiny and made of fabric that might melt near a fire, it is inauthentic; 2) if it is a “ball gown” sewn of cotton, polyester, acetate, faux taffeta, corduroy, or dupioni silk, it is not an authentic reproduction; 3) if it is a solid color dress sewn of cotton, it is not accurate; 4) if the print resembles a candy cane, a Dalmatian puppy, a Jackson Pollock painting, or has an irregular pattern, it is not period authentic; 5) if the outfit consists of a white blouse and a calico skirt- it is not an appropriate ensemble; 6) if your impression is that of a Vivandier – remember this is a military impression, not one that involves pastel prints and little Scottish hats set at a jaunty angle.

While I have recently tried to surreptitiously photograph the greatest offenders with my iPhone, I hesitate to post photos of actual reenactors because they might, at some point become customers. So to avoid alienating those who might want to use our services as period photographers, I’ve rummaged the Internet for examples of What Not To Wear in the Civil War. Please understand we who portray those actors of another time owe them the honor of doing it right. 

Just say no!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Not To Wear – 1861 to 1865 / Part One ~ Ladies Head Coverings

What Not To Wear – 1861 to 1865  / Part One ~ Ladies Head Coverings

I’ve often wished that a Civil War Stacy and Clinton would visit a re-enactment, select an unsuspecting offender of mid 19th Century fashion, show the years of secret footage, and then throw away all of the shiny/flammable acetate ball gowns, fascinator style hats with yards of matching rayon lace cascading down the back,  pink kepis, fingerless mitts, and faux tapestry knapsacks. 

It never fails to amaze me how the sutlers (vendors) at reenactments selling the most unfortunately inauthentic wares tend to appeal to the masses. Listen up – just because a sutler has a sign posted outside the tent saying “period correct” does not make it so. Just because you have seen it in a movie, on a website or on TV, doesn’t mean it is correct. As P.T. Barnum is perhaps wrongly credited with saying “there’s a sucker born every minute”.

Don’t take your cue from movies, online vendors, your best friend, eBay, or what a sutler offers at an event. Look at original images, paintings, period magazines, museum collections, and talk to credentialed historians.

The photos associated with this post provide a compendium of “What Not To Wear” head coverings from 1861 to 1865 – or perhaps EVER! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Triumph Over the Demon Swinging Bridge After 48 Years of Angst!

Triumph Over the Demon Swinging Bridge After 48 Years of Angst!

For most of my life I’ve had of fear of bridges. Fortunately, the fear has not translated into a phobia that adversely affected my ability to enjoy life. However, it has caused psychological angst since childhood.

It all started when my parents decided we were ready for a family vacation circa 1965. One facet of the trip involved a visit to Rock City at Lookout Mountain. It was the cite of a Civil War battlefield and developed into a tourist attraction that straddles Tennessee and Georgia.

Rock City is an attraction that screams 1960’s kitsch. (even though the current incarnation was designed in the late 1920’s). There are gnomes, an ode to Grimm’s fairy tales, and mazes through rocks that do not cater to horizontally challenged persons or 21st Century proportions.

When I was a wee child of 6, the parental units brought us to Rock City, which includes among its features a rickety swinging wooden bridge across a gorge that allows the viewer an intimate close up of the dangers of falling to one’s death.  My younger siblings, ages 2 and 4, were protected from falling into the abyss by our parents, who clearly decided I was expendable. I was forced to walk across that swinging bridge alone, fearful of plunging into nothingness. This created a fear that stymied me for nearly five decades. I feared crossing bridges. The instability of bridges scared me. Fortunately, my desire to reach a destination caused me to press on despite the angst.

But I never forgot the fear brought about by that crossing. I felt resentment that my siblings were apparently more valuable. And I knew the only path to sanity lay in facing my fears. However, we live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia – which is not within spitting distance of Rock City.

Amazingly, we were presented with the opportunity to visit the area in conjunction with the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.  My husband and I attended the commemoration and took wet plate images of the living historians who came.

My husband decided it was time I faced the demons and crossed that darned bridge as an adult. So yesterday morning we arrived at Rock City ready to do battle with the bridge. My spouse intended to memorialize my journey with a video recording from his iPhone. He planned to jump on the bridge to make it sway  as I crossed. But I was determined to eradicate the source of my bridge angst. I approached the bridge, started across, felt the vibrations from my spouse’s self entertainment, and sauntered across will nary a moment of discumbobulation. I made it. Then I walked back to the center and photographed my feet in the middle of the bridge. I conquered the fear, faced the dragon, met the hydra and moved on.