Friday, July 29, 2011

Ethics of a Sinking Lifeboat: Abandon Ship! and the Case of the William Brown

By the wonderful powers of On Demand, last weekend Zanne, Bev, and I watched a movie that Zanne had been recommending for some time, alternately known as Abandon Ship! or, more poetically, as Seven Waves Away.  The movie stars Tyrone Power, a man in the same classic movie firmament as Flynn and with piratical cred to boot.  He crossed swords with Basil Rathbone in The Mark of Zorro; Rathbone claimed Power "could have fenced Errol Flynn into a cocked hat."  He crossed wits with my favorite swashbuckling Hollywood redhead, Maureen O'Hara, in the essential The Black SwanAbandon Ship!, however, is a nautical movie but not an action movie.  This is a play on the water, a drama that takes place entirely in a lifeboat.  After their ship, the ocean liner Crescent Star, hits a rogue mine and sinks in seven minutes, the twenty seven survivors crowd onto a boat designed for nine.  Power's character, Executive Officer Alec Holmes, is given command of the boat when the Captain passes away.  As the weather worsens, Holmes has to make a terrible choice:  If all stay on the boat, perhaps no one will survive, but in order for some to survive, passengers have to be sacrificed to the sea.  He opts to keep those both useful and more likely to survive; the wounded and the cowardly are, essentially, discarded.  Holmes also keeps his girlfriend, the ship's nurse, and a sassy, sexy socialite portrayed by the elegant Moira Lister.  The movie is an exploration of moral dilemma.  It is also based on a real historical event, a key case in the annals of United States law, and a fascinating instance of ethics being tested by the harshest reality.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Howell Davis, Rest in Peace

Howell Davis was the gentleman pirate.  A Welshman during the Golden Age, he went on the account in 1718 off the coast of Africa.  He made for New Providence, but by then Woodes Rogers had cleaned up the place.  He signed aboard Rogers' own Buck and led a mutiny.  Davis soon established his modus operandi, one not of cannon fire but of craft and wile.  Working the rich waters off of Africa, Davis would pose as a privateer or a pirate hunter, work quickly into the good graces of a local governor, and then give the word to his waiting crew to pillage and plunder.  This approach worked well for some time.  Davis gained larger and larger ships and sailed for a while with the French pirate La Bouche.  Unfortunately, after a while Davis' reputation preceded him.  When Davis reached Príncipe, the trap had been set.  Davis and a group of his men were ambushed.  Davis' protegee, the perhaps even more famous Bartholomew Roberts, avenged his fallen captain by bombarding the town.

Howell Davis was a Maine Coon.  In late July 2007, Zanne learned from her job that "Howie" had been left after a move and was about to be turned into a barn cat with no people.  Being cat people, we couldn't let that happen.  So we brought him into our house, and Zanne discovered Howell Davis as a pirate and gave him his new name.  Like all cats, he gained names over time.  He was the "Commodore."  He was "Mr. Moisty," because when he was getting petted (or, rather, jowled) and feeling loved he would start drooling.  He was also sometimes, simply, "The Dude."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes

A few admissions right off the bat.  I am NOT a fan of Michael Crichton.  I loved the movie Jurassic Park, because I was a complete nut about dinosaurs when I was maybe 6, but I tried to read the novel and didn't get very far.  "Techno-thrillers," what Crichton was famous for, are not really my thing, although on Zanne's recommendation I did (mostly) read Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio and was completely sucked in.  So when Pirate Latitudes was discovered on Crichton's hard drive and published posthumously in 2009, it for me was not something to pick up because it was Crichton:  I picked it up because it was a massively publicized pirate novel I felt I should give a chance.  I finally got around to reading it, and I have to say I enjoyed it.  I have a tendency whenever I read fiction to translate it into a movie in my brain.  I did it when I read Powers' On Stranger Tides, although I knew that by the time it became a Pirates of the Caribbean movie probably little would remain of the source.  That turned out to be true.  With Pirate Latitudes, however, the idea of thinking about it as a film was completely obvious:  Crichton's ubiquitous adapter, Hollywood behemoth Steven Spielberg, had the rights almost as soon as the book was in existence.  So, here's the query:  Will it work, and how?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prizes of the Perished

Sign found today in Seattle's Rainier Beach neighborhood.

We didn't get anything, but there was still plenty to be picked off the bones...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monkeys love kittens

This has nothing to do with piracy or even sailing, unless you totally stretch things and say that sailors and pirates used to have monkeys as pets just like they did parrots.  But parrots do not adopt kittens.

Logan, by the way, loves both monkeys and kittens.  So forgive me the distraction and just go "Awwwww."  OK?

Congratulations are in order

Huzzah for the "Purple Pirates" for winning the "Float the Fleet" contest in support of the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain.  We gave it our best, but to the winners go the spoils, aye?  More importantly, here's to the tall ships we love.  May your timbers be strong and your sails full.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival 2011

Sails are ready

Day One, Saturday, 7/2:  Get In The Groove.  As usual, the arrangement of the Festival is completely different from the year before.  There seems to be more space for vendors in the new Lake Union Park, but there seem to be less boats.  Lavengro, Zodiac, and Adventuress represent for the tall ships.  Logan does what he does--fascinate some, frighten others.  I am pleasantly surprised to be joined by old pirate buddies the Carlsens, who find me at a table behind the boat house.  They join me as the beer garden opens, which this year has been expanded because it is now being run by nearby Jillian's but has lost any sense of character, with big Redhook and Budweiser banners and out of place music like Huey Lewis and Elton John.  I storm the Model Boat Tent and the pond--with flintlock and megaphone!--and progress to the Arthur Foss.  My Pirate Pied Piper routine pulls in a young boy named Matthew, who sits next to me and watches for the British Navy with my brass telescope as I get down to Story Time.