Thursday, 10 February 2022

the dread pirate roberts

Killed during the melee of the Battle of Cape Lopez (off the coast of modern-day Gabon) on this day in 1722, Bartholomew Roberts (*1682, also known by the Welsh monicker Barti Ddu, Black Bart) was the most successful privateer and defining figure of the Golden Age of Piracy, capturing over four hundred ships in his relatively short career and terrorising merchants in Newfoundland, the Caribbean and West Africa. Roberts and his compatriots developed one of the first Pirate Codes of Conduct that outlined pay, recompense, responsibility and punishment and flew under a variety of rogue banners that eventually came to be the familiar skull and cross-bone flag.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

maughold

Venerated on this day in the Roman Catholic Church (31 July on the Anglican calendar), the late fifth century saint also known as Mawgan or Macc Cuill is the patron saint of the Isle of Man, was an Irish princeling of sorts and leader of a band of marauding freebooters who frequently derided Patrick and Brigid and their followers as fools and simpletons. According to one local legend, wanting to expose Patrick as a charlatan, Maughold presented a living man in a shroud and presented him to saint to revive and restore to life, only to find out that their decoy had in fact died in the interim. Patrick later resurrected him, and impressed and repentant, Maughold followed the advice to leave his career of piracy and to make amends for his past behaviour by committing himself to the mercy of the elements in a wicker boat set out to sea. The boat drifted to the Isle of Man, coming to rest in the pictured coastal headland, and a Christian community already established by Patrick’s disciples and was eventually acclaimed bishop.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

mercenary pirate

Our gratitude to TYWKIWDBI (indeed) for reminding us about the etymology of the practise of political stonewalling wherein a parliament, congress or other legislative body obstruct a proposal by talking it to death, which ultimately comes from the old Dutch vribuyter meaning plunderer (a freer of booty) with the antiquated intermediate English term freebooter. Eventually such mendacious piracy came to refer to the unsanctioned—that is operating outside the government in a fashion similar to a soldier of fortune but strictly working for oneself—in hopes of fomenting revolution and installing a regime more amenable to one’s business or trade interest, particularly said of United States citizens acting as agent provocateurs in Latin America (previously) in the nineteenth century, but this is of course a recurring role for the USA. It passed in the vernacular as a campaign by extension to block or delay the passage of legislation with tactics to buy time (see also)—that is squander it. The procedural remedy for filibustering and taking up floor time and leaving the opposition with no recourse is cloture, but this termination of debate usually requires more than a simple majority to move on it.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

crunch berries or pipe to any meal

After a rather lengthy discursive discussion on the naval officer’s rank inflation and ensuing “stolen valour” accusations lobbied against him, we are treated to a rather interesting anecdote on how the cereal—thanks to a give-away inside—was formative for the landscape of information technology and the invention (see also) of the smart phone.The prize was a plastic bo’sun whistle—a boatswain’s pipe (giving us also the phrase “pipe down,” the call used to dismiss the crew members not on watch), which accidentally introduced a whole cadre of kids to phreaking by producing a tone that matched the US telephony monopoly’s control signals that regulated the lines and sounding the whistle at the right moment hijacked control of the system, allowing sophisticated adolescents the ability to place free calls and avoid tolls. Graduating from this parlour-trick, enterprising pirates began creating kits called “blue boxes” with all sorts of whistles and bells to take control of the phone lines. Two entrepreneurs had their first collaborative venture making such devices were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

the poseidon-whisper or i am elmer j fudd, millionaire, i own a mansion and a yacht

Via Super Punch, we are introduced to the Danish consultant named Christian Due Hammershรธy, whose services are in high demand by the yacht-set for his talent in naming ocean-going vessels. Putting aside the problematic nature of celebrating a maiden voyage or the attributed feminine wiles of boats, this interview with the former shipbuilder whom also helps clients with obtaining said yacht before its christened is an interesting look into the lore and superstitions surrounding baptism and how names are drawn and decided upon. Us peasants only get to give our WiFi routers such punny or provocative names. Especially groan-worthy was the some five thousand yachts registered under “Carpe Diem,” sometimes translated as Seas the Day.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

hushpuppies

By coincidence, respectively on this day in Tennessee (near the Opryland theme park) in 1969 and then three days later in Kentucky—neither places one would necessarily associate with fresh fish—the first eateries of the seafood themed restaurants Captain D’s and Long John Silver’s began serving.
It’s cannon given the fact that the restaurant is named after the galley-master and chief cook—and undercover pirate—aboard the Hispaniola in Treasure Island. I have no memory of the former—maybe there was a turf battle between these natural rivals—but do remember going to the latter not overly often but pretty regularly as a kid and remember the fishing village kitsch with the planks and the heavy ropes and associated all wooden decks with piers and ships because of it.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

a buccaneering buffet

Atlas Obscura presents a fascinating profile of ex-pirate and food writer William Dampier (*1651 – †1715) whose explorations were a span bridging the Golden Age of the exploits of Empire of Sir Walter Raleigh and James Cook with the later scientific expeditions of Alexander von Humboldt, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, Dampier’s travelogue accompanying the latter on the HMS Beagle.
Though also responsible in part for propagating the portrayal of aboriginal peoples as less than human, ultimately court-martialed for cruelties perpetrated in Australia and whose valuing of cargo—an exotic staple crop, breadfruit, for export to struggling colonies—over the well-being of crew informed Mutiny on the Bounty (circumnavigating the globe three times, also inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels), without Dampier’s gustatory sense of swash-buckling and adventurous appetite, our palette might not have the taste for soy-sauce, bananas, cashews, barbeque or guacamole—to name a few. Fortunately, other delicacies sampled, like matinees and flamingos, did not catch on. 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

e mare libertas

We’ve had a passing acquaintance with the Principality of Sealand, one of the constellation of micronations whose territory consists of a disused anti-aircraft platform off of the coast of Suffolk, for a few years and even knew of the coup d’รฉtat and the power struggles, but we sorely failed to appreciate the outsized intrigues (recommended by Digg) that this rather long-lived, tiny princely state has experienced—with the overthrow and leadership in exile being a far more dramatic and stranger story than we had supposed.
In addition to this singular offensive, the micronation’s uncertain legal status and sovereignty has been co-opted by a rash of pretenders, including an operation to issue ten of thousands of passports in the name of Sealand, unofficial, unsanctioned internet presences, shell companies and claims of diplomatic immunity by dint of above fabricated associations.
For this dynastic enterprise that began as a pirate radio station to escape the hegemony of the BBC, subsequently proclaiming independence and creating all the trappings of statehood, it’s disheartening that it is yet attended by this persistent and darker, parallel version of itself and we hope that going forward, in keeping with the spirit of staking one’s independence, that the Principality is allowed to tell its own story.

Monday, 30 April 2018

freixenet

This overview of medieval European microstates (micronations can be equally idiosyncratic but with severely limited recognition) that came into being either through omission, neglect or force, with nearly half still in existence, struck us a fascinating material and urged us to learn more. One favourite that we had not heard of was the outpost Fraxinet, a stronghold founded and held by Muslim pirates (a press-gang) sailing from Andalusia (al-Andalus) in the vicinity of Saint-Tropez in the late ninth century.
The settlement expanded and was as much a centre of trade and commerce as a place of piracy, if not more, and peace was negotiated among other Frankish ruling families in the area. The uneasy peace held for an astonishing eighty years with the Andalusis bringing all sorts of innovations to the indigenous people, including medical skills, tar, ceramics and the tambourine, but Fraxinet finally ended with the Battle of Tourtour when a group of nobles from Provence dispatched with the raiders, worried that they would seize control of an important Alpine pass nearby, conveniently spurred to action at the ransoming of an influential abbot.

Monday, 26 March 2018

de americaensche zee-roovers

Without the contributions of a Flemish chronicler and ship’s surgeon Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, our pirate lore and tales of swash-buckling would be rather impoverished.
Having himself enlisted as a privateer with the buccaneering Sir Henry Morgan, later reformed as the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, Exquemelin appeared on the muster rolls of several vessels operating in the Caribbean over a period of several years, with a significant hiatus before retiring around 1670 to commit his pirate biographies to paper. The Buccaneers of America includes some pretty fantastic accounts and recalls stories of the daring raids by Captain Bartholomew Sharp, the demented treatment of prisoners by Alexandre Bras-de-Fer (Iron Arms) and the infamous cannibal Franรงois Lolonois whose conceits inform our own ideas of how pirates ought to behave. The urge for embellishment and mythologizing becomes appear almost right away with subsequent printings and translations betraying a complex bibliographic history and wild tales of adventure on the high sea being inserted on the foundation of Exquemelin’s reported experience.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

troglodyte

Somewhat reminiscent of the accursed crew of the Flying Dutchman who are beginning to fuse with their ship in the Pirates of the Caribbean, the excellent Futility Closet introduces us to Altamura Man, discovered in a karst cave in Apulia (the heel part, near Bari) in 1993. The Palรฆolithic fossil is the best preserved and most complete example known, but owning to the calcite concretions of some one hundred and fifty thousand years of water funnelling over limestone, Altamura Man is merged with the cave and can only be studied in situ.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

theatre district and whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense pinafore

Just a few kilometres away from the westernmost reach of England at Land’s End—visited in the grey when a sudden fog came up but we wanted to cross all the way from East to West and weren’t being deterred by the weather—lies the cove of Porthcurno with the open-air amphitheatre hewn into the wave-rocked granite outcroppings.
The skies opened up suddenly and the sun returned to the Penzance peninsula and we stopped to explore the stage and arena seating of the Minack Theatre, the endowment of a local patron of the arts who recognised that the gully looking out to the sea who be a perfect venue for the community players to stage their performance of The Tempest.
From the first show in 1929 whose footlights were car headlights, the theatre has evolved into the beautiful sculpted gardens that attract many matinee-goers just to see the playhouse. I am unsure whether Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance was ever shown there but the location certainly provides the proper backdrop.
The comic-opera’s premiere rather took place on Broadway instead of their native London, interestingly, because America afforded no copyright protection and did not respect the intellectual property rights of foreign authors, and when HMS Pinafore debuted in the West End dozens of unscrupulous US companies “pirated” the performance with unsanctioned productions. Hoping to forestall further copy-catting, the duo figured that a New York inauguration might distinguish the genuine from the plagiaristic.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

pour, oh pour the pirate sherry

PfRC will be taking a much overdue sabbatical soon. This time, we will be crossing the Channel and exploring south-west England. Stay tuned—same time, same station—for further adventures.

Friday, 28 September 2012

post-meridian or l’isola del tesoro

Here is a brilliant graphic for the Treasure Island music festival held in the bay of San Francisco, on the artificial island of the same name built to host the World's Fair and Golden Gate Exposition and was used later as a naval station and numerous times as a film-set. The over turned ship is of course a visual reference to the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. I find that series infinitely watchable, especially for its rather convoluted storylines, and that particular maneuver to escape the Doldrums and the prior marooning of the captain on a deserted isle where he was made to face splintering alter-egos reminds me a lot of the Umberto Eco of the long, complex reminisces woven for the shipwrecked and stranded nobleman from The Island of the Day Before (L'isola del giorno prima). The ill-fated expedition was seeking out the Prime Meridian and anchoring skies, in an astronomical sense, and the forsaken character, alone with his memories, believes the archipelago straddles the International Date Line, with neighbouring shores just out reach in yesterday and tomorrow.