Monday, July 29, 2013

The Little Boys of Summer: Coda

So, we thought the Cabin Boy's baseball season was done last week. As it turns out, there was much more yet to come.

Last fall the Cabin Boy was invited to play on a travel ball team, pulled together by a couple of dads from his rec league. They played eight or nine tournaments over the winter, amassing a sub-.500 record but gaining phenomenal experience playing at a much higher level of competition than their regular rec league games. It really showed when ten of the thirteen boys drafted for the All Star squad came from the travel ball team.

Just before they headed to their All Star World Series last week, the travel team manager asked the families if they wanted the boys to play in a travel ball World Series as well; it would be the boys' last chance to play in a 6U tournament together, and the tournament offered a really special prize to the winners: a custom World Series ring for each boy on the team.

I'm sure by now you know where this is going.

The boys went on a 6-0 run, including playing their last four games over the course of eight hours on Sunday, and won their travel ball World Series. Perhaps the sweetest victory of those four games was the semi-final, when the boys beat dominated the best 6U travel team in southern California by ten runs.

All of the boys played their hearts and their guts out. As parents we were exhausted, and none of us had to swing a bat or run the bases or field a ball. The boys played through heat and through bumps and bruises; they kept the pedal down when they were ahead and battled back - in four different games - when they were behind. They played their game, and they showed - without contestation - they can play with anyone.

And their rings will be ordered this week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Unusual DVR Alert

On Saturday, 27 July, TCM will show Kingdom of Saguenay, a short documentary from 1964 about the Saguenay region of eastern Canada.

Now, that's not the usual sort of movie I recommend, but there's a very interesting bit of history here. The modern region known as the 'Kingdom of Saguenay' in fact goes back to the exploration of New France by Jacques Cartier in the sixteenth century. A post at the blog The XIVth Century explains it thus.
He searched the area for five months, sailing completely around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but he found no road to the wealth of the East. When he sailed back to France he took with him Taignoagny and Domagaya, sons of Donnaconna, a Huron Indian chief. They told Francis I a story about a kingdom called Saguenay, a country where yellow metal could be found practically everywhere.

It was located far up a mighty river which flowed straight down from the north and joined an even greater one where Hochelaga, a city of hundreds of wigwams, stood on an island. The people of this mysterious kingdom, according to the Huron tale, dressed themselves in cloth like that of white men, wore ropes of gold around their necks, and had plenty of precious stones.
Rumors of this city of gold in the forests of the north fueled the fantasies of trappers and explorers for generations, but the reported kingdom was never found. The place name lives on, however.

Tales of the kingdom of Saguenay continue to exist in my campaign, possibly spurring adventurers to journey to New France, so I'm looking forward to the short film to get a look at the countryside.

On the tangent of movies about New France, I highly recommend Black Robe. Find it if you can.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wyeth

I'll be honest - most of the artwork displayed at DeviantArt doesn't really appeal to me, which is why I was doubly surprised when I stumbled across this picture by SirJarva - a Finnish artist named Jari - while searching for something else. There's also a color version but it doesn't grab me as much as this one does, which is why SirJarva is standing in for NC Wyeth this week.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Buccaneer is Out Again

The Cabin Girl has her dance recital - four performances - the Cabin Boy has his last All Star tournament - six games to win the whole thing - and the Captain's Mother is in town; needless to say, blogging goes on the back burner.

Depending on how the boys do, I'll be back by next Wednesday at the latest.

Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Buccaneer's Nightstand

I have a hard time reading one book at a time. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to bounce back and forth between three or four books at once, so my nightstand tends to be a bit crowded. Right now there are just two books there - at least for the moment.

The first is Warrior Pursuits: Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France by Brian Sandberg, assistant professor of history at Northern Illinois University. Focusing on the first quarter of the 17th century, when the southwest of France was riven by confessional conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots as well as secular strife between noble clienteles, the book examines the sword nobility - the warrior elite - in Languedoc and Guyenne. The presentation is very thorough, describing in accessible detail how families participated in clienteles, how they gained ranks and offices, how they managed their finances, and so on.

What I particularly enjoy about this book - and about regional history generally - is that Dr Sandberg uses case studies from different families to illustrate broader themes. Sharon Kettering is another writer who does the same in her books on Early Modern France, and I've drawn deeply from her work in creating characters and situations for my campaign; Dr Sandberg's book provides me with a wealth of similar details, in a part of my campaign world which is likely to see considerable attention from the player characters in the near future. It's also a very good nuts-and-bolts look at history behind the military, bureaucratic, and noble careers in Flashing Blades. The prose is accessible and a pleasure to read.

The second is David Parrott's The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Dr Parrott is also the author of Richelieu's Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642, and in The Business of War, he turns his focus from France in the Thirty Years War to private military enterprise over the 16th and 17th centuries. As historiography, it takes a new look at the 'military revolution' of the 17th century, arguing that rather than the end of military entrepreneurship, the period saw a resurgence of private military enterprise. The book provides a comprehensive look at how armies were raised and kept in the field.

Some time ago I wrote a first draft of house rules for my Flashing Blades campaign, using a variety of sources - including Dr Parrot's earlier book - and its interesting to re-examine those rules in light of this exhaustive treatment of the subject.

And yeah, this is the stuff I read for fun.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Pen and the Sword: Swords of the Red Brotherhood

"They are coming ashore in long boats!" exclaimed the child. "Oh, my Lady, I am afraid! How the sun strikes fire from their pikes and cutlasses! Will they eat us?"

In spite of her apprehension, Francoise burst into laughter.

"Of course not! Who put that idea into your head?"

"Jacques Piriou told me the English eat women."

"He was teasing you. The English are cruel, but they are no worse than the Frenchmen who call themselves buccaneers. Piriou was one of them."

"He was cruel," muttered the child. "I'm glad the Indians cut his head off."

"Hush, child." Francoise shuddered. "Look, they have reached the shore. They line the beach and one of them is coming toward the fort. That must be Harston."

"Ahoy, the fort there!" came a hail in a voice as gusty as the wind. "I come under a flag of truce!"

The Count's helmeted head appeared over the points of the palisade and surveyed the pirate somberly. Harston had halted just within good ear-shot. He was a big man, bare-headed, his tawny hair blowing in the wind.

"Speak!" commanded Henri. "I have few words for men of your breed!"

Harston laughed with his lips, not with his eyes.

"I never thought to meet you on this naked coast, d'Chastillon," said he. "By Satan, I got the start of my life a little while ago when I saw your scarlet falcon floating over a fortress where I'd thought to see only bare beach. You've found it, of course?"

"Found what?" snapped the Count impatiently.

"Don't try to dissemble with me?" The pirate's stormy nature showed itself momentarily. "I know why you came here; I've come for the same reason. Where's your ship?"

"That's none of your affair, sirrah."

"You have none," confidently asserted the pirate. "I see pieces of a galleon's masts in that stockade. Your ship was wrecked! Otherwise you'd sailed away with your plunder long ago."

"What are you talking about, damn you'?" yelled the Count. "Am I a pirate to burn and plunder? Even so, what would I loot on this bare coast?"

"That which you came to find," answered the pirate coolly. "The same thing I'm after. I'm easy to deal with-just give me the loot and I'll go my way and leave you in peace."

"You must be mad," snarled Henri. "I came here to find solitude and seclusion, which I enjoyed until you crawled out of the sea, you yellow-headed dog. Begone! I did not ask for a parley, and I weary of this babble."

"When I go I'll leave that hovel in ashes!" roared the pirate in a transport of rage. "For the last time - will you give me the loot in return for your lives? I have you hemmed in here, and a hundred men ready to cut your throats."

For answer the Count made a quick gesture with his hand below the points of the palisade. Instantly a matchlock boomed through a loophole and a lock of yellow hair jumped from Harston's head. The pirate yelled vengefully and ran toward the beach, with bullets knocking up the sand behind him. His men roared and came on like a wave, blades gleaming in the sun.

"Curse you, dog!" raved the Count, felling the offending marksman with an iron-clad fist. "Why did you miss'? Ready, men - here they come!"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Little Boys of Summer

The Cabin Boy's All Star team won their district championship in dramatic fashion, coming from behind twice to win their final game and complete a 4-0 run through the tournament. The championship earns them a berth in the Southern California 6U 'World Series' later this month.

I'd say I'm proud of the Cabin Boy, but I'm always proud of him, and more importantly, it's inadequate to describe what I'm feeling. The first time he put on his uniform two years ago, he said, "I want to be a big hitter." Later he wanted to hit a home run, and to make All Stars. He set those goals for himself, and achieved them all, and pride doesn't even begin to cover the joy and excitement and awe in my heart today.

Wednesday Wyeth

Monday, July 8, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

. . . try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try again.

Congratulations Andy Murray and British tennis fans everywhere.

DVR Alerts - Yes, Plural

Clear some space on the DVR - it's a good week for swashbucklers!

On Tuesday, 9 July, TCM airs The Spanish Main, starring Paul Henreid, Maureen O'Hara, and Walter Selzak. Binnie Barnes, as Anne Bonney, steals every scene she's in.

On Wednesday, 10 July, TCM follows up with King Vidor's Bardelys the Magnificent, based on the Rafael Sabatini novel of the same name. It's funny, chastely erotic, and swashbuckling by turns - not to be missed.

Thursday, 11 July, features no less than three swashbucklers: Return to Treasure Island, with Tab Hunter, and two great Ray Harryhausen (RIP) Sinbad movies, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, with John Phillip Law and the incredibly sexy Caroline Munro, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, with Patrick Wayne and the stunning Jane Seymour.

Finally, Friday, 12 July, TCM shows The Warriors, with Errol Flynn as the Black Prince and Joanne Dru as the damsel in distress - not strictly a swashbuckler, it's good inspiration for gamers running swashbuckling campaigns nonetheless.

Check local listings for times.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Buccaneer is Out

I want to spend some time catching up on my sadly-neglected campaign wiki, so I'm going to take a short break from blogging this week.