Like a page torn out of the Marvel comic template, the latest exhibit at Morikami Park (4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach) shows that even in 17th-century Japan, the idea of superheroes was tangible. Not in powers, mind you, but in wardrobe. Huh? Well, fashionistas, sit back for a minute and let's recall the years 1600-1868, better known as the Edo period, where a certain brave group of men called the machibikeshi banded together as perhaps the first structured firefighting unit in the world. You see, the concept of flame retardant wasn't in the blueprints for many villages in urban Japan at the time. Their homes being perfect fuel for fires and with scant equipment to actually extinguish them, the homeowners relied on the machibikeshi, who were construction workers and carpenters by day, to pull down the burning buildings and other surrounding structures to prevent the fires from spreading.
How, you ask? To minimize the risks to life and limb while still looking fashionable, those machi guys dressed in hanten: thick indigo-dyed jackets soaked with buckets of water. The jackets were adorned with various extravagant designs, bold graphic patterns, and images culled from history, theater, and other forms of Japanese legend. Many of the depicted characters, including mythical creatures, symbolized the brigades to which these men belonged, as well as serving as emblems of wellness and longevity. Culture-heavy and durable enough to sustain wear and tear centuries later, the jackets have reached our Florida shores, and you can check them out, along with a collection of happi jackets, which are less layered but share the same design as the hanten, at Morikami's latest exhibit, "Hanten and Happi: Traditional Japanese Work Coats from the Sumi Collection," which runs through March 21. Call 561-495-0233, or visit www.morikami.org. -- Kiran Aditham
Canada Fest 2004
Yes, it's easy to immediately want to make fun of Canadians. But go easy on them. What have they ever done wrong? Sure, their counterparts over in gay Paris get a bad rap, but Canadians just want to eat bacon (which is actually ham to us), love Celine Dion, live in communities with almost nonexistent gun crime rates, and use lingo that indirectly makes us fearful of them, such as "hoser" (which means a friend), "screech" (a drink), "seein' the governor" (drinking rum), and "puck" (a hockey player's girlfriend). At Canada Fest 2004, you can observe the Canadian in action; watch them drink a "two-four" (case) of Labatt's or hear them say "What do you think aboot this weather, eh?" and chuckle. Of course, you can also enjoy Canadian and American entertainment, art, food, and a whole lotta tourists in Speedos on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, on the corner of Johnson Street, Hollywood. The festival takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is free. Call 954-924-9705. -- Audra Schroeder
Joust One of the Guys
Wench, get me a Diet Pepsi!
Chain mail, corsets, and codpieces can be so binding in the South Florida heat. But ya know what? The lords and ladies who participate in the Renaissance Festival wear them with pride, so raise your glass of mead and toast these swarthy gents and bosomy wenches for having the balls to do so. It's easy to poke fun at those who take getting medieval seriously, participate in human chess games, and wish they could hop a time machine back to the Middle Ages and get all King Arthur on yo' ass. But you can actually learn stuff at the Ren Fest, such as how music is made on a wooden flute, how the local apothecary made medicine (turns out you didn't need those leeches!), and how to eat a giant turkey leg without looking like the village idiot. Check out this year's Renaissance Festival at Quiet Waters Park (401 S. Powerline Rd., Deerfield Beach) every weekend through February 29. Hours are 10 a.m. until sunset. Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 12. Call 954-776-1642. -- Audra Schroeder
Glance through photographer Cindy Sherman's collection of 1970s untitled film stills and you'll find photo after photo of attractive women in each frame. One is a martini-swilling beach blanket bombshell, one is a bookish housewife gazing out of her kitchen window, and another is sprawled on a bed wearing a slip and smudged eyeliner. The thread that ties all these photos together is Sherman, because she made herself the subject of her photos. She was her own muse, her own model. Her uncanny ability to change identities as quickly as she changed wigs brought her a decent amount of exposure before she decided to remove herself from her photos and take a gorier approach in the '80s and '90s. You can check out her photographs, along with works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud, Chuck Close, and Anselm Kiefer, at the Boca Raton Museum of Art (501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton), as part of the "Return to Realism" exhibit. Check it out through March 28. Call 561-392-2500. -- Audra Schroeder