Saturday, November 28, 2009

Attacking Forts and Camps

One thing that bothers me about pirate reenactors, even the good ones, is that they tend to use close-in weapons for battles. You see a lot of pistols and blunderbusses being used beyond their effective range. I've said before that there should be more long guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pirate Radio

My wife and I saw Pirate Radio (aka The Boat the Rocked) over the weekend. There are no actual pirates involved although there is a ship and a couple of guys climb a (transmitter) mast. Also, two actors from the PotC series are in it (Bill Nighy/Davy Jones and jack Davenport/Norrington).

The movie is a period piece about 1966 when half of England listened to Rock and Roll transmitted from ships anchored just beyond the three mile limit. This was the height of British Rock but the BBC only played it for around an hour a day.

Pirate Radio is great fun. Most of it takes place on the ship operated by Radio Rock. The DJs and crew lived on the ship, pumping out Rock, amusing themselves between shifts, and looking forward to alternate Saturdays when women were allowed to visit.

The movie is an ensemble piece. There isn't much plot except for the British government's efforts to shut down the pirate radio stations. There are plot threads, mainly around the rivalry between DJ Gavin and the Count and Young Carl's efforts to lose his virginity.

I do have one quibble. 1960s Rock was a young man's game but several of the DJs are in their late 30s or early 40s.

Regardless, it's all good fun with a killer soundtrack.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Swords and Candles

This is really about Hollywood swordsmen but movie pirates are always champion fencers so it sort of applies.

How often has this scene been shot - two swordsmen are about to fight. The villain turns and cuts through a candlestick. The hero makes a swish and appears to miss. He stomps his foot and the candle falls.

So, can this be done? I experimented with this years ago. I discovered two things. First, you cannot cut through a regular candle. The sword is stopped by the wick. There just isn't any way around this. It is difficult to cut a string with a sword. If it is under a load and you have the right stroke then you can do it but it takes a slicing stroke. You can't do this with a candle because of the wax. You have to cut the wax with a straight cut. If you try slicing it, the wax will stick and the candle will go flying.

So, you have to have a special candle with no wick. If you make one of these then it is possible to cut through the candle with one stroke. Thinner blades work better. A machete worked better than a sword.

So that's the first part. The second part is - can you slice through a candle so well that it will not show the cut? This part is impossible.

Think about the physics involved. No matter how sharp your edge is, the rest of the blade takes up space - up to a quarter of an inch. Two solids cannot occupy the same space at once so the candle has to move enough to let the blade pass through. If you could do this very slowly then gravity might pull the top half of the candle back in place but then the sword would not have enough energy to slice the candle in the first place. Instead you have to make a very fast strike. That is going to send the top half flying. There just isn't any other possibility.

This is also true when cutting people (although I have not tried this). The movies Equilibrium and Underworld both have sword fights where someone's head is cut but he doesn't realize it until his face slides off. It can't happen.