Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tanking of you this holiday season


(via Wikipedia)

(via Wikimedia)

(via Wikimedia)

(via Wikimedia)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Turn: America's First Spy Ring looks hella interesting

Saw the commercial for this new show just now and my interest is definitely piqued. I mean, how many TV shows set during the Revolutionary War are there?

From AMC's website:
Based on the book Washington’s Spies written by Alexander Rose, Turn is set in the summer of 1778 and tells the story of New York farmer Abe Woodhull, who bands together with a group of childhood friends to form The Culper Ring, an unlikely group of spies who turn the tide in America’s fight for independence. Turn, from AMC Studios, is written by showrunner Craig Silverstein (Nikita) and executive produced by Barry Josephson (Bones, Enchanted) from Josephson Entertainment. The series stars Jamie Bell as Abraham Woodhull, Kevin McNally as Judge Richard Woodhull, Burn Gorman as Major Hewlett, Angus MacFadyen as Robert Rogers, JJ Feild as Major John Andre, Seth Numrich as Ben Talmadge, Daniel Henshall as Caleb, and Heather Lind as Anna Strong.
I think the only thing I've seen Jamie Bell in was that movie Jumper with Hayden Christiansen (aka Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader), but he's been in a bunch of other movies. I've never heard of any of the other actors, but then again, how many people had heard of the casts of Mad Men or The Walking Dead before those shows came along? Here's to hoping this doesn't flop like Rubicon did. AMC has had a pretty good track record thus far, so I'm optimistic.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another WWII movie starring Brad Pitt, you say? Yes, please.

I wasn't aware of this until the other day, but Brad Pitt is starring in another World War II movie directed by David Ayer called Fury. It's about the crew of a M4 Sherman fighting against the Germans near the end of the European Theater of the war. Besides Pitt, the cast list is pretty impressive: Shia LaBeouf (the guy from the Transformers movies), Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson movies), Michael Peña (End of Watch, Gangster Squad, Shooter), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies and has done a couple of war movies such as Black Hawk Down and Wind Talkers), and Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead.

The last WWII movie Brad Pitt did, The Inglorious Basterds, was pretty damn good, so there's hope that this one will at least be a good popcorn movie. I have this feeling that it probably won't be hugely accurate, but what war movie has ever been dead-on? Honestly, I don't care too much about strict accuracy in war movies. As long as a movie doesn't include anything absurd and blatantly inaccurate (aside from like comedies), I'll probably enjoy it.

On the other hand, Fury is only the fifth movie David Ayer has directed and the first war movie; all of this previous movies have been crime and cop dramas. He also wrote the script for U-751, which was based on the capture of that German u-boat and its Enigma Machine. Unfortunately, in the movie, he altered history by having an American submarine crew in place of the British crew who had actually captured the u-boat. He also wrote The Fast & The Furious, so take that as you will.

I guess we'll just have to wait until the first trailer comes out before we'll have any idea of whether it'll suck or not.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Check out this picture of the USS Constitution's original sail plan

Via Wikipedia.
So, Monday marked the 201st anniversary of the USS Constitution's (Old Ironsides) victory over the HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. Indeed, it was during this battle that the ship earned her famous nicknamed of 'Old Ironsides' due to her hull withstanding the cannon shots of the Guerriere. Apparently, this was due to American oak trees being more dense than those grown in Europe. So, to mark this occasion, here's the original sail plan for the Constitution.

Credit: National Archives.
Probably my favorite thing about the Constitution is that 215 years after she entered service, the ship is still a commission warship today. Only the HMS Victory beats it and that's the only time a British warship has bested her.

h/t Popular Science.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge naming their son George was beyond predictable, wasn't it?

Old news for sure, but what the hell. When I heard that the future King of the Commonwealth* and his wife had named the future future King** George, I thought it was rather anti-climatic. George is one of the most common first names for princes in the UK, along with Richard, Edward, Henry, William, and James. George is the second most common, after Henry and seeing as how they already have a prince named Henry, George would've been the most obvious. I wonder if there's a reason why the Royal Family has such a limited pool of names? Other than tradition, I mean. Succession-wise, we're looking at a Charles III, a William V, and a George VII. At least we will, provided that the Queen doesn't turn out to be a Highlander and lives forever.

*We can all agree that sounds badass, right?
**Unless he ends up becoming a trans person and then a woman or something.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Iron Maiden - The Trooper

The Trooper, of course, is based on the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, which itself was forever immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his epic poem. Amazing how an absolute clusterf*ck like that gets turned into some sort of celebrated event, yet Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War is infamous as a huge blunder and isn't immortalized.

I just wonder if any wargamers have played this during a Victorian era game? If not, then I am terribly disappointed in all of you. :P

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sexy Tudors!

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton.
Haha! Now some context for those who are probably a bit confused: Showtime used to have a show called The Tudors. Nominally, it was supposed to be about the reign of Henry VIII, but in actuality, it was nothing more than a faux-historical drama filled with so much nudity and sex, it left you wondering if you weren't watching late night Cinemax by mistake. It was also horribly inaccurate. On the show, Henry was played by a guy named Jonathan Rhys Meyers who many women and quite a few dudes would describe as "sexy". In other words, he was not a 300+ pound redheaded dude. They did keep the festering ulcer on his leg, however. Actually, the funniest part about The Tudors is that all of Henry's ministers were played by young hot dudes in their 20s and 30s, even if they historically weren't young hot dudes. None of them really aged either, even though the show covered Henry's entire reign, although near the end, they did act old.

Oh, and Henry's wives were all played by babes. Basically, Showtime tried to convince us that the Tudor era was full of sexy people.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bones of Richard III found!

Is it just me, or does he look like Christopher Walken?
Credit: Wikipedia.
Because science is amazing! Last year a group of archaeologists were excavating the site of a car park, which had previously been the grounds of a medieval church, when they found a skeleton. Now this wasn't just any skeleton and it certainly wasn't Jimmy Hoffa's, the archaeologists believed this was the remains of King Richard III, who ruled England from 1483 until 1485, when he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field, becoming the last English king to die in battle. The War of the Roses ended there and he was succeeded by Henry VII.

Well good news for the scholars and any interested history geeks, testing has shown that the skeleton is indeed those of Richard! Quite impressively too is that his skull has no less than eight wounds, including one that took off the back of his head, so he clearly did not die easily. Actually, this account of his death does him quite a bit of credit:
Perhaps in realisation of the implications of this, Richard then appears to have led an impromptu cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself. Accounts note that Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheney, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry's standard bearer Sir William Brandon and coming within a sword's length of Henry himself before being finally surrounded by Sir William Stanley's men and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard's horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king's helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn implies that the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he "killed the boar, shaved his head". The recent discovery of King Richard's body shows that the skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting the king had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull. Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle.
Given that Richard suffered from scoliosis, charging into the thick of battle like that is impressive as hell. Of course, he wasn't entirely a good man. He's believe to have been involved in the murder of his two nephews, the so-called Princes in the Tower. His reputation as being evil was due to William Shakespeare's Richard III and effective Tudor-era propaganda. As for his remains, there are plans to build him a tomb. I wonder if any members of the current royal family will attend his reburial? They should, with him being a king and all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I guess you could say that my reading lately has been pretty Sharpe

Wow that was bad. It wasn't punny at all.

Okay, I'll stop now.

As you might be able to guess from the title, I've started reading Bernard Cornwell's excellent Richard Sharpe series of novels, beginning with Sharpe's Tiger.

I'm on the 43rd page, but damn it is good. Here's the gist:
In a battery of events that will make a hero out of an illiterate private, a young Richard Sharpe poses as the enemy to bring down a ruthless Indian dictator backed by fearsome French troops.

The year is 1799, and Richard Sharpe is just beginning his military career. An inexperienced young private in His Majesty's service, Sharpe becomes part of an expedition to India to push the ruthless Tippoo of Mysore from his throne and drive out his French allies. To penetrate the Tippoo's city and make contact with a Scottish spy being held prisoner there, Sharpe has to pose as a deserter. Success will make him a sergeant, but failure will turn him over to the Tippoo's brutal executioners — or, worse — his man-eating tigers. Picking his way through an exotic and alien world. Sharpe realizes that one slip will mean disaster. And when the furious British assault on the city finally begins, Sharpe must take up arms against his true comrades to preserve his false identity, risking death at their hands in order to avoid detection and thus to foil the Tippoo's well-set trap.

Monday, January 14, 2013

That one time everbody thought ships ramming other ships was a great idea

And I'm not talking about the ancient world, either. No, in the mid-19th century navies of the world went gaga with the idea of attaching rams to their new iron-hulled, steam-powered warships. Largely this was because of the CSS Virginia and the Battle of Hampton Roads, where the ironclad successfully sank the USS Cumberland after ramming her. This idea was further reinforced after the Battle of Lissa, which had so much ramming, you'd think it was a gay porn shoot.

CSS Virginia ramming the USS Cumberland.
Credit: Wikipedia.
The single biggest reason for the reintroduction of ramming, however, was technology. Armor had outpaced gunnery and as a result, ship mounted cannons of the day couldn't penetrate the hulls of ironclads. So combine the three and everybody went "Well clearly ramming the hell out of the other guy is the way to go!" and so you have countries building battleships and cruisers with those things. Ironically, these rams were sinking friendly ships whenever one accidentally collided with another.

There was even a variation: the torpedo ram. These ships combined rams with torpedoes - first as a combined weapon and later as two separate entities - because once people get attached to an idea, they're going to ride it all the way home, no matter how ill-thought out it is.

Fortunately, naval gunnery eventually caught up and the idea of ships ramming other ships quietly faded away. Mostly. Torpedo rams were immortalized by H.G. Wells in War of the Worlds when the HMS Thunderchild, a torpedo ram battled and destroyed two Martian walkers.

Gotta love mid-to-late 19th century naval warfare and its awkward, puberty like growth.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Still alive

Sorry for the last of posting, but I've been busy. Met an odd man with a blue 1960s police box and a woman he called his companion and traveled with them for a bit. It was fun until we decided to take in a merry little battle in Ireland and I got some poor bastard's brains splattered all over me thanks to an ill-timed (or well-placed, depending on your disposition) cannonball.

In all seriousness, I was just in one of my slumps and didn't feel like posting anything historical lately. I'll be fixing that soon enough. I found a very interesting book during a visit to a Goodwill: A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714 by Mark Kishlansky. It's part of Penguin's History of Britain series and covers the Stuart period, including the English Civil War and the Commonwealth. The prologue really got my attention and lured me in by describing all of the different achievements that occurred during that era, from science to politics to fashion and economics. Short too at 386 pages; 342, if you don't count the index and "further reading" sections.