Monthly Archives: April 2009

Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Thirty Sixth

Part the One Hundred Thirty Sixth is now up, and may be read here.

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Going on the Account: Cast Thee to the Lazarette

The latest from off Somalia: The Russians are now capturing pirates, though where they’re being taken is not mentioned in this piece from the BBC.  If they don’t give them to local authorities, that’d mean a trial back in Russia; if I were the pirates, I’d have wished that I’d been in New York with Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse…


Then again, maybe not; the swine flu fear in the city as I write this [EDIT: and is now a dead link; that’s the news cycle for ye…] is palpable.  With a wife and son in a public school (as employee and student, just to clarify things), the worry is high about exposure, and indeed, a communicable disease with what might be a high mortality rate (10% out of all cases in Mexico, unless they get a better infectious count to move the numbers down) is nothing to take lightly.  Any time when if you getsick you have better odds of it killing you than taking the subway would, then it’s time to be concerned…


Mind you, getting sick as a pirate was  a given that went with the job.  In addition to traumas and lacerations from combat, there was the persistent likelihood of gangrene from badly treated wounds and the many STDs caught during liberty calls.  Staying aboard ship too long wasn’t the best way to avoid health problems, as scurvy was likely for those too long aboard.  And if you wanted to go for the whole regalia as a buccaneer, complete with parrot on the shoulder, you’d have to worry about parrot fever

There’s a famous story about Blackbeard’s blockade of Charleston in 1718.  He bottled up the harbor with the Queen Anne’s Revenge  and took hostages, threatening to kill them if they did not meet his demands.  At the last possible minute, beyond the deadline but before the slaughter of the hostages could begin, the citizens of the colony gave in to his demands and paid him… with a medicine chest.  Most likely he needed to treat the effects of STDs ravaging his men, who otherwise might not have gotten treated had Blackbeard not taken this tack.  (Insert your own jokes about finding a good doctor in South Carolina here, folks…)


If anything, this has made me go back to some notes I had for another project.  It was meant for a work that involved a plague hitting in modern times, and the challenges left to the survivors.  I shared a summary of an initial take on my story with the Lovely and Talented Susan, and she was honest:  “Congratulations on your reworking of I Am Legend, Jim.”  (No not the movie, the original book; thank God I didn’t screw up THAT bad…)  So it went back into development hell (which is more like purgatory the way I treat my projects), with some more imaginative considerations applied to the notes for development later on. 


Originally, it would have been a lot later on; if this H1N1 outbreak keeps distracting me like this, though, well…

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Going on the Account: Part the One Hundred Thirty Fifth

Part the One Hundred Thirty Fifth is now up, and may be read here.  As for Parts the One Hundred Thirty Third and One Hundred Thirty Fourth, they got posted but not sighted; that’s a technical glitch I have to work on, but in the meantime can offer links to both of them here and here, respectively.

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Going on the Account: Taking the Wind Out of Their Sails

I found recently this article from the Wall Street Journal, about how pirate re-enactors might feel daunted pursuing their interests with Somali buccaneers currently practicing their trade.


The article goes on to discuss how the real pirates make the players uncomfortable, though the feared backlash against the frock coat-wearing pirates hasn’t materialized yet.  Not that these folks aren’t worried; quoted in the piece is Rob Ossian, who states:


       “People think of pirates the way they think of vampires…  If there really were vampires around, I don’t think people would be lining up to buy Twilight. ”


You know, in many ways that sums up the main issue here: reality vs. fiction.  Sadly, the pirates in our history that sailed the Carib 300 years ago are just as cruel and bloodthirsty as the real pirates over in the Indian Ocean today.  And both of them are doing it for the same reasons, essentially:  seeking money, quickly and easily. 


The big difference between them is the wall of fiction that keeps one group shackled safely so that we can play with them without fear that our interests could turn on us and bite.  Much like the difference between playing SAINT’S ROW on the Xbox 360 and joining the Crips in Los Angeles, you can draw parallels between the two and find many different points of convergence, but never reconcile the fact that one of them you can walk away from to go home at night and sleep it off.


I had seriously considered an April Fool’s chapter, one where Hope briefly finds herself with a different crew.  Instead of playing the citern as the four pounders are rolled forward, she’d be cranking the speakers while a crewman on the bow of the speedboat used his RPG to slow the tanker down.  All I can say is, after the Maersk Alabama was taken, I counted my blessings that I hadn’t posted that; at best it would have been crass, if not downright gauche.  And with the MSC Melody having just fended off an attack, that would have made things even dicier to write about.


Mind you, there’s always a chance in the future, once the heat dies down and the moment’s right…


But this goes back to the unfortunate problem of how we get drawn sometimes to those whose track we want to follow, but not so close to allow us to touch.  As much as we have an admiration for pirates (and indeed have a lot to admire them for), they were still criminals who in real life would have behaved badly towards us had we meant them.  That’s a fact that should never be lost or ignored, and can be held in mind as you pursue more social pirate hijinks in costume.  Whether you don for fun the armor of vikings or the orcs modeled after them, dress like Roaring Twenties gangsters and flappers, or go all out for Klingon battle regalia; whatever your interests, you should never forget the dangerous aspects of the characters you remember.  Their reputation is built on messy and inconvenient facts, and while you may never do any of that ever it can’t be ignored.


I know full well were I to meet Abigail Sanders in real life, I’d probably end up like the Dutch captian in Part the Fifteenth, lost at sea and never to see home again.  The only thing going for me would be, I’d be a lot less disappointed than all those teenage girls reading Twilight who found themselves a real vampire…

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Going on the Account: Battening Down the Hatches Smartly

With the warm weather on us, I ended up in the park with my son tying the line to the kite he was going to fly, and the question of knots came up.  When he asked me how many I knew, I had to admit, to my shame, that it’d been too long since I had to secure a line with anything beyond a square not.


Thankfully, he’s a very forgiving child, and he didn’t hold against me having forgotten the ropes.  All the same, I found the site for Grog’s Animated Boating Knots, bookmarked it and made it part of my roll.  Because, you never know when you may need to cleat hitch…

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Going on the Account: The Pirates Without Ships

For those who are following the raiders of intellectual property, this declaration from THR, Esq. featuring Harry (Ain’t It Cool News) Knowles makes a great case for their new service, tracking the top ten most pirated movies and TV shows found on the Internet.


Ah, the modern age, when you can be a pirate without any seamanship whatsoever, not even having to know how to tie knots…

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Going on the Account: The Bronx Be Boward, and the Battery Aft…

There was a piece in today’s New York Times concerning New York’s pirate history.  And while it makes a few good observations about how the Big Apple was a haven for buccaneers back in the day, it made a comment in passing about who were involved in the Sweet Trade that really needed to be expounded upon.


According to the book The Story of The Bronx by Stephen Jenkins (available online through Google Books), one of the major backers listed in the article, Frederick Philipse, was a merchant who became a major supplier for pirate expeditions, as well as a buyer of goods the pirates brought back with them, what we’d call today a ‘fence.’  When he marries a second time to replace his departed wife, it’s to the sister of  Stephanus Van Cortland.


Yes, the same Phillipse and Van Cortlandwhose houses are historic sites.  The same Phillipse who owned a bridge (the King’s Bridge) the name of which graces a neighborhood in the Bronx (Kingsbridge), and the Van Cortland whose name is given to the park in the Bronx.  Both men made a killing in real estate  developing what would become Westchester County, enticing colonists to the land with grants and promises, and were on the governor’s executive council for the Colony of New York in the 1690s.


And yet, when we talk about the Bronx, pirates don’t immediately come to mind.  After Phillipse and Van Cortland pass on, we don’t see pirates going upriver towards Yonkers until Sadie the Goat sets sail, followed by those folks selling illicit DVDs on Fordham Road today.


And that’s a bit of a shame.  There’s a lot of the Sweet Trade, especially the attitude and institutions, that contributes to American culture and how we see ourselves.  And if you live in the Bronx or Westchester, there’s a bit of pirate booty to thank for your streets up there, too…

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