Tony Barber's "The Causes of the First World War: How recklessness, unstable alliances and bad luck plunged Europe into crisis" in The Financial Times looks at three books about the Great War, which began 100 years ago this year.
On August 1, 1914, Germany's ultimatum to Russia expired at noon with Russia having not responded to it. That morning, Germany had alread drafted its declaration of war. French mobilization is ordered at 3:40 p.m. German general mobilization is ordered at 5:00 p.m.; Germany declares war on Russia at 7:10 p.m. claiming that Russians had crossed frontier in the afternoon and begun war. In fact, the Russians had not done so though they had begun mobilization.
My friend Simon Gregor is coordinating the Remembrance Image Project "a library of creative photographs which document key sites associated with the war."
The War That Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War, by Margaret MacMillan, Profile Books, RRP£25, 704 pages
July 1914: Countdown to War, by Sean McMeekin, Icon Books, RRP£25/Basic Books, RRP$29.99, 560 pages
Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, by Max Hastings, William Collins, RRP£30, 628 pages.
I highly recommend to fans of fantasy the comic book series The Mice Templar. Created by Bryan J. L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming in 2007. It is now into the second half of its fourth volume. Beginning with Volume 2, Victor Santos took over as main artist.
The principle characters include the young warrior mouse Karic.
The strong and character-abundant narrative unfolds within an impressive and interesting mythos set in a medieval-esque world of mice, rats, owls, and other animals. Only a few species are anthropomorphic. Why some are and most aren't is tied into the metaphysics of the rich imaginary world that Glass and Oeming have created. How much of that metaphysics is, within the fictional world, reality and how much of it is reality as perceived and understood by various sets of the characters is open to interpretation. That ambiguity is a concept at play in the series along with destiny, loyalty, religion, tyranny, self-doubt, moral agency, and myriad others.
As the series' Wikipedia page summarizes, the series has been published in four story arcs; Volume 1 consisted of six issues; 2, eight issues; 3, nine issues; and the final volume, 16 issues of which some are still forthcoming, expected in November 2014.
I have purchased and read the series' issues using the Comixology app (styled "comiXology") on my Apple iPhone and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7". Here's The Mice Templar No. 1.
You can also read Comixology purchases using their browser-based reader, too. Click on the screen capture above.
Comixology's app (and web-based reader, too) offers optional use of its proprietary Guided View reading technology that glides the reader along—zooming in and out from each illustration panel on the page. It's perfect functionality for consuming comics on a touch screen but works well in your browser, too, via your desktop machine, if you prefer. I highly recommend the app and Comixology as a service. In fact, so keen was I to use Comixology after having used it for years on my iPhone that I made certain the app existed for the Kindle Fire, too, before commiting to buy my Kindle Fire HDX in 2013. (Granted, I also made certain of the availability for the Kindle Fire of the Evernote and Pocket apps, too.) Little did I know that Amazon would end up purchasing Comixology in the spring of 2014.
As great as the Comixology app is, I've found it easier to shop Comixology's available titles using the Comixology website on my desktop PC.
Top: Cropped screen capture of the cover of The Mice Templar, Volume 3: A Midwinter Night's Dream, No. 5, viewed in the Comixology reader in Chrome. Click to enlarge the screen capture.
Bottom: Screen capture from The Mice Templar, Volume 4.1: Legend, No. 5, viewed in the Comixology reader in Chrome. Click to enlarge the screen capture. (Volume 4.1 consists of issues No. 1–8, Legend. Volume 4.2 consists of issues No. 9 on, entitled Legend Part 2, the current series of issues.)
From "Dungeons & Dragons Saved My Life," by John Michaud, The New Yorker, Culture Desk, July 18, 2014:
[D&D] ushered in a seminal change in the way games were created and enjoyed. Instead of pieces...there were characters—avatars—who the players inhabited; instead of a board...there was a fictional world that existed in the shared imaginations of those who were playing; and instead of winning and losing, there was, as in life, a sequence of events and adventures that lasted until your character died. These concepts are now commonplace...but four decades ago they were revolutionary, and a key part of D. & D.’s addictive quality. By 1981, more than three million people were playing Dungeons & Dragons.
From "A Game as Literary Tutorial," by Ethan Gilsdorf, The New York Times, Books section, July 13, 2014.
For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives.
The playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire, 44, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole,” said D&D “harkens back to an incredibly primitive mode of storytelling,” one that was both “immersive and interactive.” The Dungeon Master resembles “the tribal storyteller who gathers everyone around the fire to tell stories about heroes and gods and monsters,” he said. “It’s a live, communal event, where anything can happen in the moment.”
2014 is the 40th anniversary of the creation of commercial role-playing games (RPG).*
In 1974, Gary Gygax (1938–2008) and Dave Arneson (1947–2009), both influenced by tabletop wargames and fantasy fiction, created Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). In 1977, the Dungeons & Dragon's Basic Set was published by the company Gygax and Arneson co-founded, TSR, Inc., and Gygax next wrote the more complex three-book Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
The game, under the simple title Dungeons & Dragons, is the epitome of tabletop role-playing games. Its fifth edition debuts in summer 2014 as a product of Wizards of the Coast (WofC), a Hasbro subsidiary based in Seattle.
Tabletop wargames, a major influence on Gygax and Arneson, descend from chess but are less abstract. They are strategy games that first became popular in the 1950s in the U.S. through the Avalon Hill gaming company.** Before that time, wargames existed as instructional tools for military officers--for instance Kriegsspiel (1812) used by the Prussian army--however, popular wargamming arguably descends more directly from the game H.G. Wells created in his 1913 book Little Wars. The book transforms typical improvisational play with toy soldiers into a parlour game version based on codified rules.*** (Read Little Wars at the Gutenberg Project website.)
Both tabletop wargames and RPGs use dice and probability. In wargames, dice and chance tend to stand in for battlefield or strategic conditions generally termed "friction," which are not encapsulated by the rules, e.g., weather conditions, the "fog of war" (Nebel des Krieges, a concept identified by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), troop morale, etc.)****
In role-playing games, the dice serve the same basic function but relative to friction usually operating at the level of the individual character each player controls (known as a player character or "PC") and not a military unit, and the result of the rolls may effect the sort of narrative structure unfolding during the gaming session.
The various polyhedral dice used in many RPGs are sub-cultural icons and are designated by their number of sides, e.g., d4, d6, d8, d10, d20, etc.
Fantasy fiction was the second influence on Gygax and Arneson. It dramatically expanded as a literary genre following the tremendous popularity beginning in the 1960s of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954).***** The genre includes hundreds of unremarkable "Tol-clones" written since the 1960s as well as a few comparatively more worthwhile works. As I see it, the genre as it exists now descends from three literary categories predating Tolkien, the first two of which influenced Tolkien and the latter two of which are now generally considered to be sub-genres within fantasy fiction:
1) mythology and myth-imbued lore, primarily those of medieval Germanic peoples (e.g. the Prose Edda, penned c. 1220 by Snorri Sturluson, and Beowulf of the Nowell Codex that was penned c. 975–1025);
2) a type of tale Tolkien describes in his 1947 essay "On Fairy-Stories," which includes works by George MacDonald (e.g. The Princess and the Goblin, 1872) and William Morris (e.g. The Well at the World's End, 1896); and
3) fantastical or horror pulp fiction, such as the short stories published in the 1920s magazine Weird Tales, including works by H.P. Lovecraft (e.g. "The Call of Cthuhlu"); this category also falls into one often termed "weird fiction".
The Role-playing Games Industry After D&D
From the 1990s on, tabletop role-playing games evolved into card-based games, computer and mobile device role-playing games, and what is now the $1.4 billion massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) industry.
I spent many hours during my teenage years playing tabletop role-playing games. Some fellow Generation X gamers include Steven Colbert, Conan O'Brian, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Jon Favreau, Ewan McGreggor, Seth Greene, Patton Oswalt, Joss Whedon, Jack Black, and David Boreanaz. Vin Diesel is a major D&D fan. He's been interviewed about role-playing and cites Dungeons & Dragons as an influence on his Riddick films. (On the set of Riddick in 2004, he introduced Dame Judi Dench to D&D.) Wil Wheaton is also a fan and an enthusiast of tabletop gaming in general. He hosts the program TableTop on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. Among the Baby Boomer generation, Stephen King is one celebrity who is a D&D fan.
The second part of Jerry Whitworth's excellent article "The ’80s – Geek Edition" gives a good sense of the evolution of RPGs, in part from from the perspective of the comics art profession.
Here is a list of tabletop RPGs that I often played. I highlighted those still in production as of January 2014:
- Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP), a product of Ice Crown Enterprises, Inc., and the first role-playing game I purchased,
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, a product to Fantasy Flight Games in Roseville, MN licensed by the British company Games Workshop (LSE: GAW.L),
- GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System; see the Web site), a creation of Steven Jackson Games—the Austin, Texas offices of which were raided by the Secret Service in the 1990s relative to concerns that GURPS Cyberpunk was a how-to on cyber crime—including related products GURPS Autoduel, GURPS Horror, and GURPS Old West.
- Star Frontiers,
- Twilight 2000,
- Top Secret,
- Ars Magica (I merely dabbled in this RPG; it's now in its fifth edition)
and, of course,
- Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), the fifth edition of which will be released in 2014 as a product of Hasbo-owned Wizards of the Coast (WofC).
ARTICLES OF SPECIAL NOTE:
"Happy 40th Birthday to Dungeons & Dragons," The Guardian, Jan. 3, 2014.
The Great Kingdom is an upcoming documentary about the origins of D&D.
This TSR timeline offers a look at D&D's evolution over the last 40 years.
See the Salon.com article, "All I needed to know about life I learned from 'Dungeons & Dragons'"
Images: Top: "The red box," the 1983 revision of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. This product probably more than any other introduced people to tabletop RGPs. Second from top: my polyhedral dice, unused for about 20 years now!. Middle: the first edition of The Lord of the Rings. Second from bottom: a webisode of the Geek & Sundry program TableTop. Bottom: the cover of an edition of Middle-Earth Role Playing (MERP).
*What's a role-playing game? The short first two paragraphs devoted to the topic on Wikipedia are as good of a definition as any I've encountered.
**The Avalon Hill brand is, like the Dungeons & Dragon's brand, owned now by Wizards of the Coast (WofC). As a teenager in the 1980s, I played numerous Avalon Hill tabletop wargames, too. That quality tabletop wargames possess that chess lacks I term "military simulation;" others use the term "battlefield emulation." I find it difficult to describe. It's something like a concern for the historicity of the simulated military encounter or some history-based technical detail that not only the aesthetic of the game but also at least some of the rules attempt to impart. This degree, the depth, of military simulation varies widely from game to game.
Regarding the emergence of tabletop wargames in the 1950s, perhaps it reflects, in part, American society's heightened awareness of military matters as the U.S. moved into its second decade of almost unrelenting war or concern for war: the Second World War followed by the Cold War and the Korean conflict.
***Wells' game may reflect British society's formality and preoccupation with the British Empire, which in 1913 was arguably at its height, or the concern with geo-political contests between European empires as well as the fact that the upper and middle-class lifestyles afforded the leisure time necessary for Wells' game. As others have pointed out, it's ironic that Wells, a pacifist, created Little Wars. Perhaps him doing so points to just how pervasive the aforementioned societal preoccupation was. Wells couldn't escape it. Nonetheless, Wells notes in his book that "much better is this amiable miniature [war] than the real thing." (See Michael Rundel's "HG Wells' 'Little Wars': How An Icon Of Sci-Fi Invented Modern War Games 100 Years Ago.")
****The most original wargame I encountered, though I never had opportunity to play it, was Ogre, which is now in its sixth edition and which also exists as the Kickstarter-funded, 29-pound The Ogre Designer's Edition (photo, click to enlarge) that shipped in November 2013. The special edition's production garnered 5,512 backers on Kickstarter and $903,680 in excess funding above the stated $20,000 goal.
*****Some might include certain historical novels set in the Middle Ages in the fantasy category, too, but this is a gray area. These are the sort of historical novels in which magic is real at least in minds of some or all of the novel's characters. An example is Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. To her characters, magic is a reality—they presume it to be an actual, operative thing in their world—and so it's described as such from a first-person point of view. However, the reader herself is not expected to suspend disbelief and accept that magic was in historical fact operative in 500s Britain and France.
Another gray area is what I call naturalistic fantasy: works that are devoid of magic or or the supernatural or downplay it, but that are set in a time and place imagined by the author and not corresponding to reality. George R.R. Martin's fiction comes close to this type of fiction. Compared to Tolkien's fantasy, for instance, Martin's is less mythic in tone, less concerned with magic, and is more informed by gritty, human interaction and the dynamics of power and politics than, say, the arguably more academic concepts of philology and mythology that inform Tolkien's works so greatly.
BBC Radio 4's In Our Time program for May 8, 2014, discussed the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The Japanese army in China used the case of a missing Japanese soldier to increase armed aggression in China in what became known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident on July 7–9, 1937, when Chinese republican forces and Japanese imperial forces crashed at a bridge written about by Marco Polo in the 1200s.
In fact, the soldier, Private Shimura Kikujiro, had not been killed or kidnapped as the Japanese commander thought, but had wandered off to relieve himself.
Though it is an oversimplification to call this curious case of a missing soldier a direct cause of 23 million deaths, it was the final significant incident triggering the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), which claimed approximately 24 million human lives, 22 million of those being Chinese civilians, approximately 480,000 being Japanese military personnel.
From the In Our Time episode's Web page:
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia. With: Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford; Barak Kushner, Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge; and Tehyun Ma, Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter
The architecturally remarkable 11-span bridge is located near the village of Wanping about 9.3 miles southwest of Beijing's city center. In the Pinyan ("spelled-out sounds") system of Chinese using Latin characters it is the Lúgōu Qiáo bridge. It was built during the years 1189–1192 and extensively repaired and in large parts reconstructed in 1698. A few of its approximately 500 decorative lions date back to the original 12th-century structure.
Japan's victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) shocked the Western world. In the conflict's wake, the Japanese government claimed control of railway-related rights that China granted to Russia in the 1896 Li-Lobanov Treaty. As the years passed, the presence of the Japanese army in China grew, as did the meddling of the Japanese government and army in various Chinese affairs. In 1931, rogue Japanese military personnel staged the "Manchurian Incident" or "Mukden Incident" as a pretext for the Invasion of Manchuria that year. (The invasion is part of the dramatic backdrop for the film The Last Emperor).
The Second Sino-Japanese War was primarily a conflict between rival Chinese nationalist and Communist forces in armed resistance against the Japanese army on Chinese soil, though it merged with the Second World War's Pacific Theater, with Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America all becoming involved in the Sino-Japanese conflict proper to lesser degrees. Parts of the conflict spilled over into French Indochina, too.
The war was horrific. The Japanese forces used chemical and bacteriological and chemical weapons--including Japanese Army Air Force bombs of fleas carrying the bubonic plagues. The war's most notorious atrocity was the "Rape of Nanking" during which anywhere between about 40,000 to more than 200,000 Chinese non-combatants were killed over a six-week period beginning December 13, 1937.
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863. One of the many important locations associated with the battle is the Trostle farm, which still shows a now quite famous hole in it from a Confederate artillery shell.
Here's a photograph (click to enlarge) that I took of the farm when I visited the battlefield with friends.
Below is a photograph of the farm taken some days after the battle. (Click to enlarge.)
From the Stone Sentinels website:
Owned by Peter Trostle, it was occupied at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg by his son Abraham, Abraham's wife Catherine, and their nine children.
The Trostles were abruptly forced from their home during the fighting, leaving dinner on the table, which was enjoyed by Sickles' staff. Like many of their neighbors, the Trostles returned to find most of their belongings looted or destroyed.
The 9th Massachusetts Battery fought a desperate last stand on their farm, with at least sixteen dead battery horses just in the front yard and over a hundred on the farm. Damage to property and real estate was estimated a $2,500 in a claim filed after the war, but it appears no compensation was ever paid.
The UpStairs Lounge arson of June 24, 1973, was the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and the largest massacre of gay people ever in the U.S. Yet it didn’t make much of an impact news-wise. The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.
Please read the rest of the article at www.patheos.com
Below is the first post, "Why This Site," that I published. Most of the links are dead. (Also, above is a screen cap--click to enlarge--of the top potion of the blog's first page's worth of posts. It's in my digital archives, not online. Back then I used Fat Cow's hosting services.)
Okay, I admit that I'm a tad impressed that a decade ago I was blogging about wealth disparity and the top 1%. Frankly, they're topics I moved away from over time though they're certainly on my mind again a lot nowadays.
I launched Isebrand.com on January 7, 2004. It was entirely focused on U.S. politics and done in HTML. If TypePad or WordPress existed back then, I didn't know about them. What's annoying is that I went from several hundred daily unique visitors on average (getting more than 5,000 daily during the week of the 2004 General Election and the day after) to 100s fewer once I switched to TypePad in 2006. All of a sudden many followers couldn't find my blog as easily and it seemed lost to search engines.
Now, "Isebrand.com 2.0," as it were, is just a sort of scrapbook of Web snippets, more likely to be about the UK or British history or a good cocktail recipe as it is to be about U.S. politics. On an extremely good day, I might get 200-300 visitors but that's rare; merely 50-80 is more common.
If my initial post's tone seems angry, it's because I was. I'd been a big Al Gore fan and his tone-deaf, stiff-as-a-board, and ill-advised campaign style infuriated me to no end. I'd met him in person and he was droll, quick, clever, and likable. (Okay, and a little stiff.) I didn't welcome but didn't thoroughly dread a Bush administration after Gore conceded. Remember, "compassionate conservative" was a motto in the air then, and Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was relatively centrist even by the standards of the GOP then. By the standards of the Tea Party-era GOP, the George H. W. Bush of the late 1980s couldn't today win a primary race for county dog catcher.
But, 9/11 and its aftermath showed G. W. Bush's true colors. I found the GOP's demagogic lies of the 2002 midterms to be utterly unconscionable. To successfully insinuate that the likes of Max Cleland and other Congressional Democrats were potentially traitorous or dangerous of opposing a rush into a war of choice against Iraq, a nation not involved in 9/11, almost literally sickened me. It sickened me that the GOP dared to do such knavish things and that so many voters bought into it.
By late 2003, I was part of the Draft Clark movement and agreed with Gore Vidal--now the late Gore Vidal (and I still agree with him on this)--that George W. Bush's administration was one of the worst to ever befall the republic, largely a calculating and grotesquely cynical cabal bent on warmongering globally for personal profit and glory, stirring up the religious right domestically, and deliberately spending while cutting taxes in order to cause a crisis of debt that could be used as an excuse to undo the New Deal.
My late and beloved Aunt Ardith Buffington was among the sweetest and least judgmental people I've ever had the privilege to know. She was not very political. I remember being taken aback when she somewhat sharply declared once to me and my uncle when President George W. Bush appeared on the television screen, maybe in 2005 or 2006, "Oo, when I see his face, I just want to slap him." There was something about that man. Not just the policies but the swagger, the smirk, the seeming lack of serious-mindedness, that could cause strong antipathy. In general, I think it was often warranted, and while I am very good about avoiding the ad hominem these days (guideline: "attack the idea, the message, not the person or messenger") and think it is an important principle, back then on Isebrand.com, I often referred to the President as a "frat punk."
Why this site?
by IseFire - Wed. 01/07/04; 8:51 pm EST
BECAUSE the wealthiest 1% of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 95% combined;
BECAUSE the president threw away a $237 billion government surplus, leaving America no emergency funds;
BECAUSE his imprudence has given us a $400 billion deficit;
BECAUSE he feeds wealth disparity with tax give-aways that help the rich, force service cuts for the rest of us, and drive state and community taxes up;
BECAUSE on January 28, 2003 the president lied to America before Congress assembled;
BECAUSE he exploited the 9/11 tragedy to start an unrelated war, and deceived Americans to gain their support.
BECAUSE his war is diverting money and immeasurable resources from the fight against terrorism;
BECAUSE his warmongering showed contempt for our allies and squandered their goodwill;
BECAUSE he protects officials who treasonously betrayed an American intelligent agent;
BECAUSE he and his staff censor information and withhold from the American public even basic facts about their secret governance;
BECAUSE his environmental record is the worst of any president in American history.
BECAUSE savvy conservatives overwhelmed our insipid and lazy media (while Democratic Party leaders sat idly by) with well-funded think tank data, right-wing commentary, and partisan spin;
BECAUSE the grassroots campaigns of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark offer the hope of a resurgent Democratic Party;
BECAUSE Democrats are finally recognizing the need for better political communication;
BECAUSE grassroots organizations like MoveOn.org show that the Internet can help defend the republic and its constitution;
that's why this site.
On this date 624 years ago, King Richard II gave the verdict in the most famous case, and one of the earliest, in heraldic law. One Richard Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton, Yorkshire, and Sir Robert Grosvenor of Cheshire, while participating in King Richard II's 1385 invasion of Scotland discovered that they bore identical coats of arms. Scrope sued Grosvenor.
After a trial in military court involving hundreds of witnesses including Geoffrey Chaucer, the "Father of English Literature" and author of The Canterbury Tales, Grosvenor lost the case and picked a new coat of arms. (A summary of Chaucer's 1386 deposition is here.) That coat of arms is still used in by the family's descendant, Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, the #1 richest person in the UK on the Forbes list and #89 globally as of March 2013. His eldest son, Hugh Grosvenor (Earl Grosvenor) is godfather to Prince George, third in line to the monarchy of England and the Commonwealth realms. (Grosvenor is in the photo below as the second from the left person in the foreground row of individuals--the young clean-shaven chap wearing a suit and tie; click to enlarge, more details below.)
Heraldry is more than 900 years old and still used, perhaps most notably in England, Scotland, France, and Canada, but in most nations of Europe as well. It was originally a way to visually identify yourself on the battlefield. By the 1200's they became a sort of familial logo.
Formal rules of heraldry persist; officers of arms oversee heraldic matters in some countries.* Only an individual, not an entire family, can possess a coat of arms, there can be no identical coats of arms between any two individuals, and a coat of arms can be inherited as legal property from father to eldest male heir.** A system known as cadency adds small variations known as brisures to a living inheritor's coat of arms to distinguish it from the elder's coat.***
Azure, a Bend Or
The formulaic description of an heraldic achievement, the overall heraldic display for an individual and of which a coat of arms is the main part, is called a blazon, from the French blason, "shield", and uses in part technical Norman French terms. A coat of arm's blazon's grammar at its most elementary level first describes the field (background), field-related elements including tinctures (colors and metals),**** then charges (emblems, devices), and if necessary in a clockwise manner beginning from the dexter (left) and chief (upper) position.
Scrope's arms (shown above) being very simple are blazoned merely "Azure, a Bend Or", meaning blue (azure) with band/strap (bend) golden (or). A bend runs upper dexter to the lower sinister unless described otherwise.
A complex example from an old original coat of arms (c. 1619), Winston Churchill's arms (shown here) are blazoned as follows, the significance of all the elements of which indicate Churchill's genealogy (both Churchill and Spencer arms) and honors history. See and read about Churchill's entire heraldic achievement (his "armorial bearings") here. Note that a coat of arms and especially the heraldic achievement can change during someone's life according to heraldic rules.
Quarterly 1st and 4th Sable a lion rampant on a canton Argent a cross Gules; 2nd and 3rd quarterly Argent and Gules in the 2nd and 3rd quarters a fret Or overall on a bend Sable three escallops of the first and as an augmentation in chief an inescutcheon, Argent a cross Gules and thereon an inescutcheon Azure, three fleurs-de-lis Or.
Photo; click to enlarge: Earl Grosvenor at Prince George's 2013 christening, here seen between James and Pippa Middleton, brother and sister of Catherine ("Kate") Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the English and Commonwealth thrones.
**In Canadian heraldry a woman can inherit and transmit arms as a result of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982).
***There are no such things as "family crests". Selling them is a scam. A crest is a small part of an heraldic achievement, the main component of which is the individual's coat of arms. To use a coat of arms without being descended from the original grantee is usurpation.
****There are five traditional tincture colors and two traditional tincture metals but non-traditional ones exists; in Canadian heraldry, Rose is officially recognized as a color and Copper as a metal.