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Specialist or Generalist?
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isaac, I've seen you in a lot of different personas, and you always look comfortable..... like you're wearing the clothes from the inside out. Great example of what I'm trying to get at. (Or maybe you've just got a damn good tailor. lol)

A "Deedle" is a cute derogatory term coined by some joker in 90's when the the longhunter persona started getting really big, it's more or less synonymous with "Baker Clone", and it's roots are in "Daniel Day Lewis look-alike".


Last edited by Jim Jacobs on Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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Swanny
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Joined: 17 May 2007
Posts: 186
Location: Two Rivers, Alaska
Real Name: Thomas Swan

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the Northwestern trade, even the most highly placed gentlemen were more than 1 trick ponies. We have a letter written by Roderick Mackenzie who noted that during his idle hours he was running a recreational trapline, making sledges and learning to use the crooked knife (paraphrased).

I'd have to look in my notes to remember who, but there was a case of a senior clerk who was passed over for promotion, got pissed and left the company and country for a year or two - with the note that his absence was felt all the more keenly because he was an excellent canoe builder.

The early frontiersmen were as human as we, and were multi-dimensional just as we are. I agree that too much focus on a single aspect can result in a rather limited portrayal, but unfortunately time constraints sometimes make it necessary.

Think about the historical craftsmen you know. There are a few, who have been at this game for a long time, who are well balanced. That noted, there seems to be a disproportionate number of blacksmiths, gunsmiths, bladesmiths, carpenters, coopers, whitesmiths &c who aren't particularly well versed on other aspects of time/place. The same can be said for a more than fair percentage of merchants.

I used to think that was because they felt they had to focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of their craft while at events, but now I think it may be because they had to spend so much time at mastering their craft that none remained for more generalized study.

Those old timers spent their entire lives developing their 'persona'. We have only a small fraction of that time available to do the same.

There is an appropriate balance in there somewhere, but I suspect it takes all of us together, each working in his or her own direction following his or her own interests, to bring things into some sort of equilibrium.

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A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other. (William Francis Butler) Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs at http://www.tworiversak.com/mushing.htm
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Isaac
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Joined: 21 May 2007
Posts: 289
Location: Ouisconsing, Pays d'en Haut
Real Name: Isaac Walters

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Jacobs wrote:
Isaac, I've seen you in a lot of different personas, and you always look comfortable..... like you're wearing the clothes from the inside out. Great example of what I'm trying to get at. (Or maybe you've just got a damn good tailor. lol)


Thanks Jim, that is a heck of a compliment. I doubt it is because I have a good tailor (that would be me). I just am comfortable in these things. Perhaps it is all the time wearing historic duds for work at Grand Portage or perhaps jsut something weird in me that likes the clothing.

IW

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Fitzhugh Williams
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 385
Location: Greenville, SC
Real Name: Fitzhugh Williams

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isaac wrote:
.
BTW... what is a "Deedle" I am lost on that one


DDL as in Daniel Day-Lewis
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isaac wrote:
Thanks Jim, that is a heck of a compliment. I doubt it is because I have a good tailor (that would be me). I just am comfortable in these things. Perhaps it is all the time wearing historic duds for work at Grand Portage or perhaps jsut something weird in me that likes the clothing.

Just going on your Avatars, you've got that look even in the clothes you've just made. You've obviously researched the persona and kit very well. I agree that wearing the clothes regularly is of prime importance, and there's nothing "weird" about liking these clothes, when they fit your taste anyway (I'd wear the 2nd and 3rd qtr 18th c. stuff every day if I could, and I love nothing better than my "Indian Walking Dress", but I just can't get used to the Regency fashions), but I think part of your look has to do with just knowing and assuming the attitude and posture of your character, and that only comes from research.

Quote:
Thanks Jim, that is a heck of a compliment.

Oh I don't know, I do recognize talent when I see it, but who am I really but a weekend warrior and a rank amateur. "Blessed is he who knows his place." (Lord Montrose- Rob Roy.)
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Swanny wrote:
The early frontiersmen were as human as we, and were multi-dimensional just as we are. I agree that too much focus on a single aspect can result in a rather limited portrayal, but unfortunately time constraints sometimes make it necessary.

Think about the historical craftsmen you know. There are a few, who have been at this game for a long time, who are well balanced. That noted, there seems to be a disproportionate number of blacksmiths, gunsmiths, bladesmiths, carpenters, coopers, whitesmiths &c who aren't particularly well versed on other aspects of time/place. The same can be said for a more than fair percentage of merchants.

I used to think that was because they felt they had to focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of their craft while at events, but now I think it may be because they had to spend so much time at mastering their craft that none remained for more generalized study.

Those old timers spent their entire lives developing their 'persona'. We have only a small fraction of that time available to do the same.

There is an appropriate balance in there somewhere, but I suspect it takes all of us together, each working in his or her own direction following his or her own interests, to bring things into some sort of equilibrium.


"I used to think that was because they felt they had to focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of their craft while at events, but now I think it may be because they had to spend so much time at mastering their craft that none remained for more generalized study."

Absolutely. One of the many pitfalls of trying to be an entrepreneur supplying wares in a fluid and ever changing market/"hobby" like Living History.



"The early frontiersmen were as human as we, and were multi-dimensional just as we are. I agree that too much focus on a single aspect can result in a rather limited portrayal, but unfortunately time constraints sometimes make it necessary......Those old timers spent their entire lives developing their 'persona'. We have only a small fraction of that time available to do the same."

Here's where the specialist/generalist dichotomy comes into play. What I generally try to do is specialize in developing any new (and related) skill set until I've reached a level of proficiency roughly equivalent to that of my other skill sets, with the goal being to generalize by bringing all of the related and contextual skill sets and aspects together in a fairly complete persona, and then I continually try to go back through and develop those skill sets and my understanding of the persona's mindset concurrently.

My ultimate goal is to recreate a complete "day in the life of" my persona (or as in the case of my hunter-farmer impression, even a year in my persona's life), even though I have to encapsulate that persona's 24 hour day/365 day year into just a few hours a day and a few weekends or extended weekends/vacations a year. Under those conditions you can still have a fairly complete persona, though it takes a lot longer to develop, and it will never become as fully developed as the historical figure you're attempting to imitate.
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Rod L
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Joined: 16 May 2007
Posts: 226
Location: the Forks of the Yellowstone and Missouri
Real Name: Rod Lassey

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's the quote Swanny was speaking of:

"You will, in the next place, wish probably to know how I spend my time; but stop till I smoke my pipe! I rise with the sun and, after debarbouilling mon visage, I take a walk to my traps, return to the house, eat Tollibees about nine; then take another walk or work all day at something or other. About 7 p.m., I again eat tollibee boiled or roasted and pass the rest of the evening in reading or writing. When Indians are about the the house I, of course, attend to the interests of my employers.

Indeed, my dear man, I find time very long, which I fear may affect my constitution; but there is no help to it. I have worked beaver lodges, killed a few beavers. I make traines, bend snow-shoe frames, and, with perseverance, I'll perhaps learn to handle the couteau croche. I was very unfortunate in respect to my nets, four out of seven were entirely rotten. I have made one, seventy-five fathoms long, but the season once passed could not be recalled."

Angus Shaw to Roderic MacKenzie, Lac d'Orignal, 16 Dec. 1789

From Les Bourgeois de la Compangnie du Nord-Ouest, Vol I.

Shows what the average NWC factor was doing in his spare time during a long winter. The problem we all face, as has been already stated, is that these guys did this every day, all day long. Our time (or at least for me) is extremely limited ---as much as I would like to think that I know a thing or two about my chosen area/era of study, I have to admit I am only scratching the surface of the experiences of those I emulate. I figure if I can learn one new thing each time I'm doing this, or learn a new skill, however common at the time, then I'm slowly improving in this obsession of mine.

Rod

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...yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life...and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the woods, when there is no reclaiming them.
B. Franklin, 1753
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A day in the life. Great post. Thank you Rod. Yes sir, we're only scratching the surface, but personally I think it's beneficial to try and scratch all of the surface. You could put together a real good, real enlightening piece of reenactment just with the quote you've given, even though you could never hope to attain Angus Shaw's level of proficiency.


Quote:
Here's where the specialist/generalist dichotomy comes into play. What I generally try to do is specialize in developing any new (and related) skill set until I've reached a level of proficiency roughly equivalent to that of my other skill sets, with the goal being to generalize by bringing all of the related and contextual skill sets and aspects together in a fairly complete persona, and then I continually try to go back through and develop those skill sets and my understanding of the persona's mindset concurrently.

My ultimate goal is to recreate a complete "day in the life of" my persona (or as in the case of my hunter-farmer impression, even a year in my persona's life), even though I have to encapsulate that persona's 24 hour day/365 day year into just a few hours a day and a few weekends or extended weekends/vacations a year. Under those conditions you can still have a fairly complete persona, though it takes a lot longer to develop, and it will never become as fully developed as the historical figure you're attempting to imitate.

Blah, blah blah.... so many words. Allow me to sum it up.....

Abbreviate but never truncate.
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Loyalist Dave
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Joined: 21 Aug 2008
Posts: 294

Real Name: David Woolsey

PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sort of confused by this thread...,

Quote:
We all would have had jobs in the period we represent.What our job is what we specialize in and is what we would be good at.We would also have had vast amounts of life experiances that would have shaped who we were.I think we must specialize in our jobs and flesh out our personnas t make a more rounded impression


AND...,

Quote:
But Mario, if you were a farmer, you would know how to farm, whether or not you use it at events is irrelevant


Are you talking externally or internally?

I think my question and perhaps Mario's point..., HOW does this make one more rounded; HOW is the lack of use relevant?

I too ran a tavern, and was kicked out, as although I agreed with my neighbors that the King and Parliament had wronged us colonials, I refused to allow my neighbors to use my tap-room to plot violence against the King's Troops. So when my rights were ignored by my neighbors who were upset about their rights, and they evicted me by authority of their Committee of Safety (for which I was never asked to vote), I knew who the real criminals were, and so now I fight for English Law and order, and my rights to person and property as a freeborn English subject!

NOW I CAN talk brewing, and curing and storing meat, but HOW does that make my impression as a Serjeant Major of a Provincial Loyalist Battalion a better one if none of the spectators ever asks me to elaborate on my previous method of income? Internally it gives me the ability to "talk shop" if I run into a brewing enthusiast, but it isn't externally relevant unless that question is posed. I don't know 18th century dancing, nor do I know how to use a quill pen..., so what? Would I like to learn, yes, should I learn, well maybe, but my pencil works fine right now, and I don't go to dances. It has zero impact on my external impression persona. At an event my "JOB" is not what I was before the war. Mario and I are soldiers, so by the first quote and by Mario's comments that follow, we concentrate on our present, visible job, ...., soldiering.

One can explore and learn more, always, but we will never be an 18th century tavern keeper, or an 18th century farmer, no matter how much we learn, for we are a product of our experiences now, just as they were then. Knowing the "how to" of outdated technology does not internally give me the mind-set of the persona. Nor, does the fact that I can argue my political point-of-view with any tourist (and most pro revolution reenactors) mean that I actually prefer we had remained subjects of George III (although I have had several tourists on odd occasions get pretty torqued with my arguments against Mr. Washington and his lawless rabble of rebels). I can argue my point because I have often been asked why I fight for the king, and the tourists seem genuinely interested in the opposite point-of-view from what they learned in school.

So again when it comes to persona, are we talking external skill sets as they are needed?

LD

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Puffer
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I "guess" That I would bee seen as a "specialist" In that I Limit my Persona & presentation, to the PNW Fur Trade (1820s +++) & to the NWC/HBC ( & their functioning etc at this time. My Persona is that of an upper level Employee. ( an also occasionally portray the Person I was before "joining" the NWC/HBC in the PNW (1812-1820s)

But I also could be viewed as a "Generalist" In that I Study not only Prior NWC?HBC History, other Fur Co.s, ESP. FIREARMS.

Puffer
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45.70
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Joined: 21 Mar 2010
Posts: 15

Real Name: garry smith

PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello all,

I'm just getting started here and just wanted to say this discussion was very interesting and helpfull. It's actually helped to refine the timeframe I would like to work around. I did notice alot of your statements revolved around the diversity of skill's people had in the late 1700's. I would have to say that people still do have a diversity of skills. Neccesity is the master of invention. I've had the fortune of travelling around the world quite a bit for work, and I have to say I've seen some amazing things. I've seen people build all kinda of widget's out of nothing. Of course some where better than others, but resources or lack of knowledge didn't stop them. Didn't mean to interrupt, just wanted to say thanks.
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