Nautical types like to call people “swains.” If you have some sort of job, you’re probably a swain. Refreshment-swain, office-swain, and the ur-swain, the boatswain. The boatswain (often abbreviated, in fine nautical tradition of abbreviations that don’t make sense, as the “bosun”) is a generalist, in charge of the care and keeping of any particular part of the ship, but of everywhere and everything else. Lines, tar, tools, and (in the golden age of sail) the application of the lash were all the domain of the boatswain.
This column is an extension of my duties as program Mediaswain, a position with no nautical abbreviation, as it was coined by the Williams-Mystic program. Presented here, for your viewing pleasure, are some media artifacts of the Williams Mystic Fall 2008 class.
And lastly, a text-based media artifact, transcribed from the tale of an oysterman in Louisiana:
So we play sometimes in New Orleans. We were in this bar, playing, you know, and this guy—richest guy I met—comes up and says “Can you play Jolie Blonde?” This is a French song about a girl. So I say sure, and we play the song. Well, some more people come in and sit at this guy’s table, and he comes up and he says “Look, I really want these people to hear you play this song again.” And I say “Look, we just played this song and we don’t want to play it twice.” So he says “Where I come from, I get what I want.” And I say “Well, where I come from, money talk and bullshit walk.” And he nods and pulls out a chunk of cash, and he peels off a hundred. And I don’t say nothing. And he peels off another one, and I don’t say nothing. And he peels off another one, and I look back at the band and I say, real quiet, “Let him keep going.” So he gets to five hundred, and I say “Okay, we’ll play it again.” So we play it, and they love it, dancing around, you know, in a circle. They’re having fun, and we play some more songs. Later in the night, all these pretty girls come in and sit down. There must’ve been forty people at this guy’s table. And he comes up to the stage, and I’m saying “Oh no, here he comes again.” “You know,” he says, “Where I come from, I get what I want.” And I say “And you know where I come from—” “I know,” he says, “So if you play Jolie Blonde again…” And he sets down one thousand dollars. “Money talks,” I say to him, and we play the song, and they’re all dancing again, and my friend the bartender comes up to me after the song and says, “You know who that is?” “No,” I say. “That’s the prime minister of Canada dancing out there!” And it was, and he asks us to come up and play in Canada, but it never happened. My bass player, he started doing drugs, and then the band broke up…I still play at that bar in New Orleans sometimes though.
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