Sunday, June 15, 2008

Renaissance Fair?

Well it’s that time of year again, to slip on your favorite woolen clothing, with undergarments made of linen, and head off to the nearest Renaissance Fair. Yes, I’m talking about those ubiquitous flea markets plumed in cap and bells. And for those who are greatly experienced in costumery (from all those science fiction conventions), break out the hose and jacket with pleating or skirting, or the tunic with a surcoat. Women don’t forget your flowing gowns and elaborate headwear, ranging from headdresses shaped like hearts or butterflies to tall steeple caps.

For those of you unversed in fair punctilio, I suggest that you scour your closet and attic for the following:

1. Natural leather shoes, boots, and sandals.
2. Blowsy shirts in natural colors.
3. Natural leather vests.
4. Blowsy dresses in natural colors.
5. Snug fitting pants without pockets if possible

In other words, break out the old hippie stuff!

Now, when you show up, here’s what you’ll encounter: a replica of a formed small community, supposedly around a central lord or master. Not unlike the real thing, which were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms (who would practice their jousting skills with each other). There was no electricity, no water from faucets, no television, and no cars.

This is the Renaissance Fair experience- partly a craft fair, partly historical reenactment, and partly performance art.

But wait!

I want to know which idiot came up with the name, because if you know anything about history, everything I have just been describing can be referred to as: The Middle Ages. And as we all know (at least those who care about history), the Renaissance Period comes after the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages are commonly dated from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century) to the beginning of the Renaissance. This new modern period , lasted from around 1400 to 1500 A.D. It was a time that saw the birth of Humanism, a search for knowledge rather than accepting what already exists, and a faith in the republican ideal. In the arts it produced the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael Sanzio, and Michelangelo Buonarotti (not “Theater in the Mud”) (Face it; it’s your favorite part of the fair).

I don’t believe that thinkers like Galileo (mathematics and astronomy), Nicolaus Copernicus (astronomy), Tycho Brahe (astronomy), Johannes Kepler (mathematics and astronomy) and Isaac Newton (astronomy, physics, and mathematics), walked around peddling turkey drumsticks or replica swords.

But I do believe that their contribution to science was the foundation for modern science and technology, which eventually brought out the possibility of space travel and all of the ancillary science fiction, including the sci-fi conventions where you can really express yourself via costume. By the way, some of the alien creations that I have seen at these conventions could put a Hollywood makeup/wardrobe artist to shame.

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