Going on the Account: Assembled on Deck (Round-Up)

A round-up of articles of interest:

  • Paul and Rachel Chandler may soon be released after the pirates holding them come up with a new lower ransom.  There’s only so long a hostage can be held before the expense outweighs the value; much like any acquisition, depreciation sets in after a while until your hostage is further underwater than your home in Nevada…
  • Part of the pressure they may be feeling comes from the recent action of the USS Farragut capturing eight pirates, rescuing a Tanzanian ship.  This is part of a string of victories for Task Force 151 as of late, where interdiction has brought pressure to bear on the region.
  • Speaking of getting ahead on things, there’s supposition that Störtebeker’s missing skull may be in the hands of the Hamburg Hell’s Angels.  I can sort of see why they may make that claim; cycle gangs have tried to evoke the terror that pirates had inspired as part of their image, and Hamburg has been trying to clean up their image ever since the Beatles played the Reeperbahn, so it makes sense to pin this on them.  A little far-fetched based on what little evidence there is, but hey, it moves electrons…  (Thanks to the site Bilgemunky.com for flagging this one.)
  • Some casting rumors coming out regarding PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, naming Penelope Cruz as well as Ian McShane as Blackbeard.  On the one hand, I can’t really see McShane as Edward Teach; most accounts bring to mind a taller, leaner gentleman than McShane.  On the other, it makes the supposition that the movie will follow the Tim Powers novel of the same title more believable.  And to be honest, Penelope Cruz in a pirate film is not something I’d complain about, believe me…

Going on the Account: Keeping It a Mystery Gets to Me…

When word came recently about the death of Doug Feiger, lead singer for The Knack, I found myself with conflicted feelings.  Sure, I remember the song “My Sharona,” also known as “The Little Pop Hit That Wouldn’t Die,” a song that love or hate depending on the mood could never be ignored or forgotten.

And of course as with the deaths of most famous folks, Feiger’s obit hit the wires and gave people a chance to recall the man and his career, which all said may seem puny compared to the initial expectations for the band.  Considered in their day as the next Beatles, they took a career parabola that tracked closer to Badfinger’s in terms of output and staying power.  Still, they had that song, “My Sharona,” and if nothing else, it gave them a lot of currency on which they could call on for years.

The funny thing is, the song and the artist responsible for it generated a lot of attention and interest, more so than the inspiration.

And it’s a shame, because Sharona Alperin is a remarkable woman in her own right.  Her’s is a story that had it not been a reality would have made amazing unbelievable fiction, a piece I would have given someone else’s soul to write.

The first time I got introduced to her story was in a piece in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY from 1998.  A high school student when she met Feiger in 1978, she left behind everything and one she knew to live the rock and roll lifestyle with the band, which considering how fast their rise was a year later meant a particularly harrowing course with all the pressures that sudden fame brought with it.  One thing that stood out was this quote from the profile:

”My life was decadent then,” [Alperin] admits. ”When Doug [Feiger] was looking for houses, he was always on tour, so I would house-shop in the limo. I’d choose five houses and then show him. One of the agents said to me, ‘I’ve never seen anyone show houses like you; you should be an agent.”’

Consider this a moment:  A sudden head-on slam into instant fame, followed by a quick burn out as the Knack found themselves unable to capitalize on the song Alperin inspired, would have left most people brought along for the ride adrift and without direction at the end, with the chance of something the rest of us consider ‘normal’ a distant dream.  Alperin found herself there, took her experiences with Feiger and turned them into a career.  At the time of the article, she was with the real estate firm of Dalton, Brown and Long; she’s now a prominent agent with Sotheby’s International Realty, and through her web presence you can contact her to help you find the property you desire in the Los Angeles area (if you’re looking for something about $850,000 and up).

There are further details mentioned in passing in the statement Alperin released to the press via PRLog.  By all accounts, she certainly came through the other end a lot better than she entered, with more to show than most folks who don’t sign on to accompany a rock star through the machine.

What makes all this relevant is how much Alperin’s experiences echo through the tale here.  Like the women in the novel, here’s someone who was expected to fill a certain role, was given her marks on the stage, took one look at the script before chucking it aside, and took the role in a new direction that was worthy of an Oscar nomination.

So when I hear “My Sharona,” it’s not so much underage lust that comes to mind (or more appropriately, the places lust is supposed to go…), or who I was dancing with when the song had its chart run and occasional revivals.  It’s more for me the reminder of someone who didn’t do what she was told… she did better than that.

Good for you, Sharona!  Lord bless and keep you.

Going on the Account: Long Time Coming

The Win Far 161 was released by the Somalis holding it for ransom today.  Seized in April of 2009, this fishing vessel’s crew had the distinction for being held the longest in captivity of all hostages taken.

No word on how much ransom was paid, nor was there word on the condition of the crew.  Having mentioned that three members of the crew died during the ten months, though, we can assume the worst…

Going on the Account: The Sweet Trade, Via the Dismal Science

Review:  THE INVISIBLE HOOK by Peter T. Leeson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009)  ISBN 0691137471

There is a new must-have book out there for students and scholars of pirates, one that approaches the subject from a unique angle.

Leeson examines pirates, and in particular the rovers from the Golden Age of Piracy, from an economic perspective.  As an economist, and currently the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Leeson does an analysis of the ways and means of pirates using the laws of economic theory to explain how business was conducted at sea.  A sample of his work in this field can be found in his article published by the New York University Journal of Law and Liberty , Vol. 4 No. 2.

There are a number of findings he presents which may surprise a general audience, findings that students of the Sweet Trade will be well versed with.  His discussions of among other topics the practice of parley (“pirate democracy” in the work), the pirate code and the use of the “Jolly Roger” are geared more for an audience that has not studied pirate practices, as he shatters such popular perceptions as the tyrannical pirate captain and pirate press gangs with well-documented evidence.  (Of course, “well-documented” in pirate studies being something of a misnomer, as there are not as many primary sources one can turn to, which Leeson readily acknowledges.)

For those familiar with pirates and their ways, however, the work’s value comes from reverse engineering the tome.  Leeson’s use of economics to explain pirates can be inverted, to enable models of pirate practices to explain economics.  Thus, concepts such as “rational choice” and the “principal-agent problem” which may not be familiar to someone that can relay from memory the last encounter between Robert Maynard and Edward Teach are now far more approachable, and are presented through such examples in a way that can be readily grasped.

(Some may take issue with explaining the use of the Jolly Roger through the concept of signaling.  A more obvious case could be made for explaining such flags with branding, which Leeson applies instead to the use of torture by pirates.)

The scholarship is exquisite, well laid out and noted, and the text is very approachable.  Whether you are new to the study of pirates or an old salt well versed in the topic, Leeson’s book deserves a place on your shelf.

Available via Amazon.com, bn.com, Borders.com, and your local bookseller

Going on the Account: Raided and Riled

There’s a great account of the liberation of the Ariella from the Associated Press that went out today.  Of all the ways to fight off a pirate incursion, this sounds like one of the better ones.

Mind you, it helps to have forces close at hand to respond quickly should you find yourself under assault.  How well abandoning the bridge for a safe room would have worked if there was no one to respond quickly is an interesting question, especially if the ship were a tanker.

The initial reports this morning were considerably more positive, discussing captured pirates as opposed to abandoned prey.  Such is the fog of conflict…

Yes, I said “fog of conflict.”  The original quote is “fog of war,” but can you have an actual war with non-state entities?  Even if it’s an instrument of state you are using against semi-organized hostile individuals, can you still call it a war if only one side qualifies to be an entity against which a war can be declared?

And if we agree that no, going up against pirates is not a war, just an application of force against hostiles, can we then agree to stop calling anti-terrorist actions a war?  By throwing the term “war” around freely, you not only give more gravitas to bad actors that don’t need it, you diminish the concept of war, and all the effort and skill required to execute a war properly.  If they’re not an actual state, you can’t claim to be at war with someone that cannot be recognized as in your league.  

As long as some folks want to have strict definitions as to who can love whom, then damnit, why can’t those same folks take the state of war as seriously?  War’s been more heavily defined for longer than marriage has been; where’s the respect here?

Because frankly, using that title to describe actions against these elements elevates these bad apples by making them feel as important as an actual state, when in fact they’re just a gang of cutthroats, no better than a racket or a street gang.

Or a batch of pirates…