Monthly Archives: October 2009

Going on the Account: Sails Sighted and Cited (A Round-Up)

A few random items of interest:

 

 

#   There is an article about Somali pirates published at playboy.com (which is potentially NSFW if you’re accessing the Internet somewhere where anything associated with PLAYBOY could get you flagged/in trouble), which has some interesting facts about the Somali scene:

 

  • The success rate for a crew going on the account in Somalia is about 5%; the rest of the ventures come out empty handed
  • There are suggestions that a large amount of the ransom collected is funneled out of the country to criminal syndicates based in Europe and the Persian Gulf
  • The article describes past acts of collecting ransom for individuals over the last few years, which makes the Chandler kidnapping one in a long line of seizures; hopefully their ordeal will end better than the ones Bengali describes in his piece

 

This is worth reading if you are able to access the article or have no objections to the source; in other words, if you can claim with a straight face that you visit this site only for the articles, then go for it…

 

 

#  Speaking of acts of piracy, an article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL about the online book price war discusses why the three participants are limiting the number of books you can order from them online (very early on in the article, too, so you don’t need to buy a subscription to WSJ.com to get to the main point of the piece): 

 

Apparently independent booksellers were buying copies at rates lower than the publishers were charging them at wholesale, and then selling them from their locations at a competitive discount.

 

Yo ho ho and a bottle of wine snagged from an author meet-and-greet…

 

 

#  Credit to a group trying to win a prize for building a space ladder discussed at io9.com, calling themselves the K. C. Space Pirates.  After all, with a name like that, how could they not draw some interest?

Mind you, I don’t know if these guys seriously considered the name of the robot they’re using to climb their construction; I wonder if they called the robot “Maryann” without considering “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” by the Who…

 

#  I noted above that the success rate for pirates in Somalia is around 5%; that’s still a lot better so far this year than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done…

 

Admittedly, they have a tough schedule this year; they don’t have much of a break between now and December, so they’ve got long odds before them.  But even if the season goes down like an overloaded galleon in a hurricane, they can at least point with pride to Gay Culverhouse’s advocacy on behalf of NFL players.  For taking on tough opponents like entrenched interests in the League, she certainly deserves notice and admiration.

 

 

And my best to everyone doing trick-or-treat tomorrow, especially if you’re doing Halloween in gear that’s appropriate for going on the account in the neighborhood…

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Going on the Account: Refiguring the Tonnage

I saw this week the article in the TIMES about ELECTRIC LITERATURE.  What struck me was the description of “Twitter literature,” the delivery of content by tweets to an audience willing to invite a writer’s streams to interrupt their lives.

 

And part of me asked, if I had had that option at the beginning of this project, what that might have looked like.

 

I did a little quick figuring that over the course of two parts, I can have about 45 sentences posted in the twice a week format I use now.  Assuming that I keep each sentence to the 140-character limit (with the same vigilance I use to keep the word count per part to no more than 550 words, unless the narrative benefits from bending that rule), that means I could have each sentence carried by its own tweet.

 

And keeping up with the current per week output, that means you’d be receiving about six sentences a day from me.  Seven days a week.

 

Yeah, I think Twitter’s future in literature rests more comfortably in short fiction, too…

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Going on the Account: Too Long In Port

Been so damn busy that I didn’t realize until now that the slotted announcements I had for the last two parts never got posted.  Gotta love technical issues..

 

In any event, Part the One Hundred Eighty Third and Part the One Hundred Eighty Fourth are now up and ready for your enjoyment.  And baring any new distractions, the regular announcements will resume, allowing for you to keep…

 

Sorry, the Yanks just got a third run; where was I again?  Ah, right, that, yes…

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Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Eighty Second

Part the One Hundred Eighty Second is now up, and may be read here.

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Going on the Account: 嗨海盗 *

Word is on the wires today that the People’s Republic of China might be considering a rescue of the De Xin Hai

 

Having not been able to keep their assets from being seized, whether through reliance on the navies of the Real Coalition of the Willing or through dolphin intervention, the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) is now looking to conduct an operation in waters that hasn’t seen that active forces from there since Zheng He sailed his fleets off the coast of Africa.

 

There’s some concern that this attempted operation might end badly, though anyone with memories of the IDF raid on Entebbe is not going to hold distance against the PLAN.  Perhaps the bigger concern is not the price of failure, but of success.

 

If the Chinese conduct a successful military operation so far away from Asia, it will be something of a coming out party for the country as a world power.  Even in this day and age, soft power doesn’t make as much of an impression on others as pure force does.  Not scarred enough of an economic powerhouse, the world will likely plotz at the idea that China now has the military might with which to conduct policy.

 

(Which all said would give the remake of RED DAWN a lot more heft with the audience; so yes, there would be winners here…)

 

All kidding aside, the one major connection between the Golden Age of Piracy and the Modern Age of Piracy that both share is now apparent: Both had/have the ability to change the math regarding the global balance of power.  By the end of the pirate campaigns in the Caribbean, Spanish/Hapsburg dominance was questioned, tested and found lacking in reflection of their inability to handle their New World possessions, and the French and English emerged as stronger powers.  American dominance of world affairs might well give way to new players if the Somalis offer a chance for members of the BRIC nations to prove themselves; with both the Russians and the Indians already at sea off East Africa, we could well see some action that would stick in the minds of people the same way the American intervention in World War I did.

 

And it’s not too late for the Brazilians to join the party…

 

* Supposedly this should translate into “Ahoy pirates” if the service provided at http://www.worldlingo.com/en/products_services/worldlingo_translator.html is of any value; my apologies if the site is as accurate as the Hungarian phrase book in the Monty Python sketch “The Tobacconist”

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Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Eighty First

Part the One Hundred Eighty First is now up, and may be read here.

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Going on the Account: What Port Be We Weighing Anchor In?

Found out this morning that Atlanta wants to build a pirate museum.  A whole big museum, complete with recovered treasure, interactive exhibits, and maybe a barbecue restaurant.

 

Yep, a museum.  About pirates.  In Atlanta.

 

 

*sigh*

 

 

Now, first problem I see, is justifying putting a museum that involves any naval history in a city so far inland.  It’s about 250 miles from the proposed site to Savannah, Georgia’s closest port.

 

Second, it involves basing it in a town without a lot of connection to those days.  The first recorded settlement noted there is found in 1782, a good 64 years after Blackbeard’s death up the coast at Ocracoke Island, with the first European structure raised 31 years later.  (I might be tempted to throw them a gimmie if they can prove that Fort Gilmer was authorized to defend Georgia from Jean Lafitte; lots of luck there…)

 

In fact, the closest we get to pirates in Atlanta are the parts in GONE WITH THE WIND where Rhett Butler discusses his naval career as a blockade runner, moving his ships past the US Navy’s efforts to starve the CSA.  It sorta counts, kinda, maybe…

 

…not…

 

If these folks really want to do a pirate museum, it might make more sense to have it in a port city, one that was actually around during the Golden Age of Piracy and could serve as a wonderful host.  Places like San Juan, a major port for the Flota de Indias, or Charleston, where Blackbeard conducted his own one-ship blockade in return for medical supplies.  Heck, Baltimore, which hosted so many privateers that the effort to drive them out during the War of 1812 gave us The Star Spangled Banner, has a greater claim.

 

Then again, there’s New York City.

 

Think about it:  New York has every claim to a pirate museum that Atlanta can’t raise up with the colors.  William Kidd started his ill-fated voyage from these docks, and Thomas Tew set up shop here and home based from this port.  Freebooters and other mariners in the dark trades were very welcome in this town, as I noted before.  This also includes George Trenholm, who may have been the basis for Rhett Butler; he had an office of his shipping company operating in the city that stayed open throughout the conflict, running goods through the lines.

 

And frankly, there’s greater need for it here.  The South Street Seaport Complex could frankly use a hand, and the galleries like the ones being proposed for Atlanta would be a great boon to them.  The wealth of materials that they could get on loan from the South Street Seaport Museum (which has vessels docked along side the complex), the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York would be invaluable.

 

If not on Manhattan island itself, then a site in the Bronx or Yonkers near some of the land originally held by the Philipse and Van Cortland families could work.  It’s not to late to add this into the redevelopment plan recently approved for downtown Yonkers.

 

I can sort of see why the Atlanta pirate museum makes sense if it’s an excuse for putting a barbecue restaurant on Centennial Olympic Park.

 

…OK, no I can’t, sorry…

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Going on the Account: Gather Ye Round for A Sea Tale On Screen…

A few days ago, a discussion got started here about sexism in fiction.  I really appreciate the people who wrote in and commented; it’s been a spirited debate that’s been worth having, and the people who dropped by have had a lot of good things to say.

 

During the course of putting together the initial rant, though, an interesting discovery was made:  When I referred to the pirate movie ANNE OF THE INDIES through a link, I found that IMDB allowed you to watch the entire movie through hulu.com with a few commercial spot judiciously inserted.

 

I’ll warn you first off, there’s a reason this movie doesn’t immediately stick in the minds of many folks.  Jean Peters did much better work than this elsewhere, especially in THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN, and there aren’t as many sparks between her and Louis Jourdan as the story requires.

 

Which brings me to the biggest problem with it: what the story puts our protagonist through.  We have here a tough woman who supposedly was based on Anne Bonny yet comes across like a combination of Veda from MILDRED PIERCE and the witch Hansel and Gretel push into the oven at the end of their tale (after they did more damage to her house than Chinese drywall).  She’s supposedly this tough captain in the Hollywood pirate captain model (i.e., a despot without worry that her crew would parley and boot her off the quarterdeck) who thinks with her heart (the only organ involved in desire among women that can be mentioned by name in the movies…) and allows that to get in the way of her captaincy.  Which, by the way, seemed very successful off-screen until Jourdan shows up in the first reel, meaning we have to sit and watch it all fall apart.

 

The main blame would appear to go to the lack of care given by the writers.  There’s no major fansite devoted to this film to break this down, so we have to make a few assumptions based on the following facts:

 

  • The original story was written by Herbert Ravenel Sass, a novelist brought to Fox who contributed two scenarios late in his career right before his death

 

  • The script assignment goes to Arthur Caesar, who gets this as part of the studio writing staff late in his career (according to IMDB, it’s his last credited work)

 

 

End result is a project that goes through three sets of distracted hands according to Fox’s timetable; damned all the character development, they said, we need those reels in the theaters by October!

 

Such were the old sins of the studio system; content was required first and foremost, and if we’re lucky maybe it’ll be good.  And as easy as it’d be to point to the old studios and their quality control procedures, it’d be from a glass fortress that would be tasked to defend YouTube and a multi-channel cable TV universe.

 

(And as an aside, it’s interesting to see the whole movie here for free considering how Fox is looking for more compensation for their online content…)

 

So take from this what you do have:  A flawed but still watchable tale of a female pirate on film.  Even if this is, as the Lovely and Talented Susan noted, “a low-B movie on the high seas” (a comment I gotta embrace), there’s still enough touch points here to draw you in and give you a few satisfying moments.

 

Could the movie have been a lot better?  Hell yeah!  But it wasn’t, which means there’s room now for someone to take on the elements of the story and craft something better.

 

BTW, I am always open for pitches on what you can do for me as a talent rep…

 

 

Speaking of creations, a few shout outs for folks with new projects started this week:

 

  • Garrison Dean just welcomed his daughter Saskia into the world.  Last I heard, he, daughter and the wife (who is strangely unnamed; that should be corrected…) were doing well
  • Aaron Williams and wife Cristi just welcomed little Joshua Williams into the world.  All three are also doing well and ready to begin the voyage through treacherous waters known as “the first few years of life”

 

My best to both families as they get comfortable with themselves and their new situation.

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Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Eightieth

Part the One Hundred Eightieth is now up, and may be read here.

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Going on the Account: Pirates All Around Us

  • It appears there’s a political movement out there called the U.S. Pirate Party.  No, it’s not a social group that downs rum drinks with Jolly Rogers in their glasses, but a real political movement that has copyright reform as one of its planks (hence the pirate name).  For those of you thinking that pirates have no place in politics, remember Henry Morgan’s governorship and John Hancock’s smuggling career; with those models at hand, who’s to say…

 

  • If you’re looking for pirates away from Somalia, there’s the waters of the Philippines.  The account of the abduction of Father Sinnott sounds more like a party a-viking than traditional seizure at sea, though kidnapping from onshore is not out of the ordinary for activities any pirate might put on the ‘to-do’ list.  There’s not a lot of info out there about ‘Commander Ingo,’ the man the Philippine Army believes is responsible for this kidnapping; we’ll have to see what happens as this develops.

 

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Going on the Account: This Ship Be Not the Toughest Lady Here…

There was an article published on io9.com by Annalee Newitz concerning reactions to a statement about the “feminization” of science fiction noted by an anonymous poster at a site called “The Spearhead” and how introducing such feminized traits as “moronic relationship drama” was ruining the genre. 

 

(Yes, I said the site’s name is “The Spearhead,” and that relationship drama is apparently a feminine storytelling trope.  Like Will Rogers said, some days I don’t have to make this stuff up…)

 

So of course, considering what I’ve been doing here for close to two years, this topic is of interest.  And as Annalee points out, it’s not so much this guy’s writings that are the focus here, but what it reflects; to quote the piece:

 

People are piling onto this guy in a giant hatefest not just because he’s an easy target. He’s also a safe target. And that’s what worries me. Because sexism still exists in the world of science fiction, but it is just more politely masked than this guy’s overt outlier opinions.

 

And the sad thing is, it’s not just in SF.  There are lots of literary niches out there where women are not being given the same shot as men, where traits that are marked as ‘feminine’ are frowned upon.

 

Take for example the women among superheroes.  Between the existence of a title like MARVEL DIVAS and the development hell the live action Wonder Woman movie has been in, it’s clear that when it comes to folks being asked to save the world, the boys get the first crack at it.  And don’t get me started on MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND

 

And when it comes to hiring a PI, it seems we’re being steered towards the offices where they don’t have a key to the ladies room to offer clients while they wait for their appointment.  Anyone here remember the HONEY WEST TV series?  And what they did to Sara Paretsky’s character with the film V. I. WARSHAWSKI?  For that matter, how many other women PIs out there can you name off the top of your head?

 

(That last one’s gonna get me in trouble; all I need are a few readers with more time to pursue their mystery books than I’ve got to rough me up like a suspect in a Dashiell Hammett story being questioned by the protagonist when they give me their list of must-reads…)

 

And what makes Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja and Dark Agnes stand out is not so much their well-crafted tales (though in all fairness the former got a lot more ink from him) than their existence among the Pantheon where the men definitely had a representational advantage.  And who can quickly point out the great sword-weilding woman found in any of Tolkien’s books?  And what do Lucy and Susan get to do in Narnia?

 

If the article Annalee posted did anything, it reminded us that as far as our fiction goes, not just SF but through a large swath over all terrain, there’s this sex role bias that seems to be binding characters to roles like a whalebone corset.  It’s disturbing that there’s no seeming effort to try something else, something different, if for no other reason than to avoid entropic heat death in re-releasing the same thing over and over again.

 

When working on the novel, I wanted to challenge some conventions, explore areas that were not so well sailed, though here that’s a little harder to do.  After all, there’s no way you can write about an Abigail Sanders or any female buccaneer without at least nodding towards the ghost of Anne Bonny.  And yet, even with history on your side, with her, Mary Read and even Grace O’Malley as historic models, how many women leads are there in pirate tales?  Top of my head, we’re looking at two films and a musical as far as visual media goes.

 

But why?  What is it about women doing things out in the field that they do in real life but can’t do in fiction?  Why do we not get that?  Do we blame the gatekeepers, the editors and studio execs that won’t bankroll these tales?  Are we to blame because we don’t support such offerings with enough gusto to get more made?

 

If this anonymous poster were a fiction character in my hands, I’d have had his rant posted on a site called “The Wedge,” partly to emphasize some of the divisiveness of his comments, but mainly to point to how the edge of tool  allowed for cutting through the larger block to get a better look at the resulting pieces.

 

And I’d have it revealed later on that he’s a she…

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Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Seventy Ninth

Part the One Hundred Seventy Ninth is now up, and may be read here.  Yes, things are back to what passes for normal round these waters…

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