Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
See interview with Captain Barossa,a.k.a. Michael Cawelti, theatrical combat expert and star of the festival.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
But most pirates saw land more often than navy sailors, and Caribbean pirates ate a lot of fresh fruit. Scurvy was not much of an issue of them. So they ditched the lime and added sugar and nutmeg to make it taste yummy.
Today, some bumbo recipes include cinnamon or grenadine.
Here's a simple recipe:
2 shots rum or dark rum
1 oz water
1-2 tsp sugar
dash nutmeg (& cinnamon if desired)
Saturday, May 23, 2009
But according to hearsay, Captain Kidd, upon learning that he was wanted for piracy, buried a substantial amount of treasure somewhere, hoping to use its location as a bargaining chip for his freedom. His gambit failed, and he was hanged on May 23, 1701. Actually he was hanged twice, since on the first attempt the rope broke, which under some jurisdictions would have been considered an "Act of God" proving his innocence.
Captain Kidd spent his career trying to do the right thing, but his bad luck led him to a probably undeserved fate. But thanks to him we have the classic pirate trope of buried treasure.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
In 1995, Renny Harlin, the creative force behind such masterpieces as Exorcist: The Beginning and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, decided to write and direct a summer blockbuster about pirates. He wrote a script, and talked a studio into greenlighting his project. Then every leading man he approached passed after reading the script.
So what did he do? He revamped the script to make the love interest the main character.
Geena Davis was Harlin's wife at the time. The studio didn't think she was summer blockbuster leading lady material, but evidently Harlin has hypnotic powers. He cast her in the lead and never looked back.
The result? Cutthroat Island is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the worst film flop of all time. Budgeted at $100 million, the film grossed $10 million domestically.
But it's not a terrible movie. It's just not that interesting. The dialogue is bland and cliche-ridden. The direction is uneven: Harlin couldn't decide if his adventure movie should be campy or straight (best guess: he wanted it straight but his wife could only do campy). The plot is not driving; things happen in sequence, but no tension is established. There is a reason this film has been forgotten.
Although the writing and directing are fairly incompetent, the story itself is okay... since it's basically lifted from Treasure Island.
There are some who say, "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." So let's take a moment to praise the art director. The costumes, ships, props and locations are all gorgeous. If you have a pirate party, project Cutthroat Island on the wall without the sound and play some music. Actually, play the CD of the film soundtrack, because John Debney's musical score is award-winningly good.
This film gave pirates a bad name in hollywood for ten years, and ended Geena Davis' film career. For some reason, the real perpetrator, Renny Harlin, is still being given work.
Two out of five skulls
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Near the end of the 17th century, Montreal-born Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville conducted a series of raids against the English in what is now Newfoundland. With the consent and blessing of the French government, he conducted a land campaign against English settlements. There was some plunder going on, but not at sea. In this case, I'd say he was a mercenary.
Then, in 1697, d'Iberville sailed to France and was given a commission by the French Navy to retake the mouth of the Mississippi river and resettle Louisiana. Sounds like a straight ahead Naval operation. At best we could call him a privateer...
But at the Pointe-a-Calliere museum in Old Montreal, they're calling him a pirate. They have a floor set up like a ship's deck, and they're displaying cutlasses, canon, sea chests, and other 17th-18th century seafaring goodies. The exhibit is called "Pirates, Privateers and Freebooters," and they're probably just promoting d'Iberville because he's a local boy and a loyal Frenchie (not that there's anything wrong with that). We say it's worth checking out if you're in the area.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Tortuga, featured as an anarchistic pirate haven in Pirates of the Caribbean is a mountainous, rocky island off Haiti's northwestern coast. Christopher Columbus encountered the island in 1493, and it was his crew that gave it the name Tortuga: its shape reminded them of a turtle. Some Spanish settlers eventually inhabited the island, and in the 1600's the Spanish fought over it with the English and the French. The Spanish ultimately abandoned it as unimportant, leaving it to the English and the French who set up neighboring colonies to grow tobacco and such.
The island was never well controlled by the colonial government, and it became a haven for Buccaneers who began calling themselves Brethren of the Coast. Henry Morgan-- who the rum is named after-- was a Brethren, and codified the previously loose association. In 1645, the French governor attempted to gain control of the island by bribing the pirates with over a thousand prostitutes. But pirates are an uncontrollable lot, and Tortuga remained under Brethren control for most of the 17th century.
Monday, May 18, 2009
When pirates were asked what country they were loyal to, some would euphemistically say "We're from the sea!" Meaning their allegiance was given to no nation.
It has long been thought that Edward Teach (Blackbeard) was a less-than-loyal subject of the British Crown, hailing from Bristol. But now Kevin P. Duffus, an author from North Carolina, is promulgating the idea that the notorious pirate is not from Bristol at all, but rather a local boy from the Carolinas.
His theory is that Blackeard was really Edward Beard, the son of Captain James Beard, a landowner near Charleston. Edward Beard went to Philadelphia to learn sailing skills, then went pirate, acquiring the moniker "Black," in the tradition of Black Bart Roberts and Black Sam Bellamy, thus "Black" Beard. Teach was just an alias.
Duffus admits he doesn't have any proof of this theory, but cites lack of documentation of anyone named Teach or Thatch in Bristol in those days. He is further attempting to bolster credibility of his idea by petitioning the state of North Carolina to DNA test an old skeleton to see if it is from one of Blackbeard's crew members. No, we can't see how that makes any sense either. But in our view, anything that gets historical pirates in the news is good.
So, one dude thinks Blackbeard was from South Carolina, and the rest of pirate scholarship thinks he was from Bristol. But one thing is for certain: he was from the sea.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Today is the birthday of Bartholomew Roberts, arguably the most successful pirate of the Golden Age.
Born John Roberts in Wales in 1682, Bart was an honest hardworking seaman until 1719, when the ship he was third mate of (the Princess) was captured by pirates off the Gold Coast of Africa. He was pressganged into piracy, and by all accounts, he was reluctant at first. But his Captain, Howell Davis, found him to have excellent navigation skills, and being that Davis was also Welsh, he could communicate sensitive information to Roberts in their native tongue. So Roberts became a close confidant and soon reoriented his life philosophy. Captain Charles Johnson quotes Black Bart as saying:
In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.
At the island of Princess off the African coast, Captain Davis flew the flag of an English merchantman, and invited the governor on board for tea, hoping to hold him for ransom. But the Portuguese found him out and lured him into a trap and shot him. Bart Roberts was elected captain by the crew and he ordered a raid on Princess to avenge Davis. Roberts and his men killed almost all the male inhabitants and took as much booty as they could carry.
After this, the crew voted to go to Brazil. So they sailed across the Atlantic and became successful Caribbean pirates. In his career, Bart Roberts captured almost 500 ships! Roberts also instituted a version of the Articles of Agreement (the "Pirate Code") that forbade rape, instituted a kind of medical insurance for crewmen, and prohibited gambling and fighting on board. All disputes were to be settled by duels on land.
On February 10, 1722, the H.M.S. Swallow engaged Roberts' ship the Royal Fortune at Cape Lopez off Equitorial Guinea. Roberts and his crew had just plundered the Neptune and his crew were still drunk with success (and alcohol). Bartholomew Roberts was killed in the battle, shocking many who thought him invincible: three years is very long for a pirate's career. Some historians cite Roberts' death as the end of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Alas, the age old question: who would win in a fight: pirates or ninjas?
We thought after the pirate-ninja peace summit in 2008, this age-old question would be finally put to rest. But alas, the debate rages on, no doubt fueled by rum on the one side and... uh... puffer fish on the other?.
If ye want to display yer allegiance to one side or the other, you can get fine t-shirts to declare such (see end of post).
If instead ye want to set sail for Texas, you can see a spectacle of battle with periodic song and dance numbers. Pirates Versus Ninjas: The Musical runs Fridays and Saturdays through May 30 at the Overtime Theater in San Antonio.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Earlier we reported on the museum exhibit of relics recovered from the ship thought to be Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. The more stuff they excavate from this wreck, the more sure they are that it is indeed the vessel of the infamous Captain Teach. National Geographic recently reported on some recent finds which lend more certainty to the identity of the ship. And of course they have great photos. Here's the article.
And in other news, if you're in New Orleans, or have a way to get there, consider checking out PyrateCon this weekend!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
You can see episodes one through six of Bus Pirates, as well as some behind the scenes clips, on their MySpace page.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Blackbeard made his last stand off the coast of NC almost three hundred years ago. Despite the fact that Blackbeard had decided to accept a Royal pardon and retire, Governor Spotswood of Virginia sent two sloops out of his jurisdiction to hunt down the illustrious Captain Thatch.
Lieutenant Robert Maynard, in command of the mission, engaged Thatch near Beaufort Inlet. After a spirited exchange of insults and gunfire, Blackbeard and ten of his men threw grenades made of rum bottles full of gunpowder onto the deck of Maynard's sloop. After covering the deck with smoke and broken glass, they boarded.
They say Blackbeard was shot five times and stabbed close to twenty before he fell. Maynard cut off Thatch's head-- not only for a trophy, but also as proof to collect the bounty (a meagre £100). He hung the head from his bowsprit. That's the beam that juts out from the front of a wooden ship.
According to legend, Blackbeard's decapitated body was thrown overboard, where it swam around the sloop seven times before sinking. But the head was kept, this we know. And scholars suspect that we still have Blackbeard's actual skull.
This supposed skull of Blackbeard and many of the recovered artifacts from the supposed Queen Anne's Revenge will be on display at a grand exhibition of pirate history from antiquity to the present at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. The exhibit, entitled Knights of the Black Flag, opens tomorrow.
Monday, March 2, 2009
To keep the water from growing, they would sometimes put salt in it (enough to kill algae but not pirates). Or they would put some alcohol in it. Pirates of the Caribbean found an abundant supply of "kill devil," an alcohol that came as a byproduct of sugar cane production. When people began to cultivate kill devil on purpose, its name became rum. A bit of rum in water (and sometimes also with a little salt) is the drink that became known as "grog."
Rum was very cheap and abundant in the Caribbean, and so it was the alcohol of choice for our brethren around the Spanish Main. The Royal Navy gave strict rations of hootch, but pirates could be freer, at least when recruiting Navy sailors. During a voyage, the captain would still ration the rum, and the Articles usually outlined stiff penalties for being drunk during battle.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Any word with an -ing endin' now has an -in' endin'. Most of us do this anyway ("are you comin to the party?"), but with pirate speak, you actually hang on and give emphasis to that final N.
As soon as ye show yer scurvy face-- at home, at the bar, at the underground cockfightin' den, or wherever-- immediately establish your piratocity by greetin' everyone with a hearty "ahoy!" It's how pirates say hello. In Klingon, the hello greetin' basically amounts to "what do you want?" In Pirate, the hello greetin' basically amounts to "I see you."
Yes & No
Simple as mud. This rule alone will make you sound like a pirate. If you forget all the others, remember to say "aye" and "nay" in answer to questions of truth-value. If someone tells you to do somethin', and you decide to do it, say "aye" twice.
To Be or Else
Pirates do not conjugate "to be." I be a pirate. Ye be a scallywag. She be a saucy wench. They be askin' fer a keelhaulin'!
Friends & Enemies
Finally, when addressing friends, call them "hearties" or "maties." Call a disreputable friend a "scallywag." If someone pisses you off, call them a dog. Nowadays, "dog" is what male friends call each other. But in the Golden Age of Piracy, there was nothing worse you could call someone than a dog. Tone of voice helps-- say it with spitting anger. You can add adjectives: "Ye scurvy dog!" "Ye damned dog!" or make it poetic: "Avast, ye bilge-sucking wagtail!"
Right, that last one be a bit complex. But follow some or any of these rules, and ye will be well on yer way to a life of adventure and plunder! May fortune smile on yer voyages!
P.S. There's a new comic coming out in April called Cursed Pirate Girl. We're not sure how much actual piracy is in it, but it sounds mighty interesting and the art is made to look old-timey. Read an interview with the artist and see some pages here.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The Spanish Empire in the Americas largely consisted of Florida, Mexico, Central America and northern South America. From these regions the Spanish reaped mind-blowingly vast amounts of wealth in the form of gold, silver, precious jewels, New World spices and hardwoods, tobacco, and other goods. These riches would be hauled to the Caribbean coast, loaded onto galleons, and shipped back to the motherland. Goods from Asia were also brought in from the east to Acapulco, brought overland to Veracruz, and added to the treasure fleet for transport to Spain.
This is the major reason why the Caribbean was so rife with pirates. A Spanish treasure fleet was not easy to capture, but perhaps trailing the fleet you could pick off a straggler and immediately retire! This did not happen often, but the presence of such vast riches was enough to attract the hopes and aspirations of many an outlaw, who would then wise up and pick easier targets.
There's also a film entitled "The Spanish Main," and there are pirates in it. It is an adventure film from 1945. Check it out if you're so inclined:
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Yes, you can dump a bunch of silverware, nails, and whatever else is expendable into a cannon and shoot it. This is known as a blunderbuss shot, and while not at all effective in breeching the hull, it would be downright nasty if it hit a person on deck.
They also used bomb shots-- a hollowed out cannonball full of gunpowder, with a fuse. The fuse is lit just before putting the bomb in the cannon. If you time it right, the bomb explodes just as it is hitting the opposing ship. If you time it wrong, it could land on deck and blow up later; or it could blow up in the air and be wasted. If you time it drastically wrong, or if your flash pan doesn't light, it could blow up your cannon and kill you.
What do you get when you attach two cannonballs to a length of chain? You get chain shot. A chain shot spins in the air, and if you shoot it at the rigging, it can wrap around ropes, tear sails and break off the spars, to prevent your prey from sailing away.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Bellamy was born in England, became a sailor, and sailed to Cape Cod. There he met a girl so fair: Maria Hallett. She was so fair that he decided to scour the coast of Florida looking for shipwrecks to bring her treasure. When he couldn't find any, he turned pirate.
He first joined Benjamin Hornigold's crew on the Mary Anne. In 1716, Bellamy took command of the Mary Anne. He later captured a better ship, the Sultana. Bellamy was known for his mercy and generosity. When he captured the 300-ton slaving ship, the Whydah Galley, he gave its captain the Sultana. The Whydah Galley was laden with ivory, gold, and silver. Evidently he had finally captured enough for his lady love, for he sailed back to Cape Cod.
Tragically, he never saw Maria again. The Whydah Galley was caught in a storm off the cape, wrecked, and went under the tide. Nine men from Bellamy's fleet made it ashore, and all but two were captured.
Bellamy himself went down with the Whydah Galley. The ship and some of its treasure were recovered by treasure hunters in 1984. Many of the artifacts are on display at the Expedition Whydah Sea Lab & Learning Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. There is also currently a travelling exhibit with Whydah artifacts called Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. It just moved to The Field Museum in Chicago & the show opens on Wednesday.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Hair and nail clippings were sacred to Persephone, a Greek demigoddess. So it was considered bad form to make them while your fate rested in the hands of Poseidon, god of the sea. Consequently, many pirates ended up with noticeable beards. Some beards were so noteworthy that the name of the beard is more well known than the name of the man.
Especially Blackbeard. His beard, in addition to being black, was long and wild, and he was known to braid it and weave burning pieces of rope into it-- to terrify opponents.
Bluebeard was not a pirate. Bluebeard is a European folk tale about a character who serially marries and murders women. But this tale is outside the scope of this blogge.
Redbeard was not a pirate, technically. Redbeard was two pirates, probably the most famous of the Barbary corsairs. Baba Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa were Ottoman Turks born on the isle of Lesbos (then called Midilli). They and their other two brothers were all seamen in the Mediterranean. Aruj was given a small fleet by an Ottoman Prince in order to fight the Knights of St. John who were interfering with Ottoman trade and shipping. He was later given authorization to raid Italy and other Christian nations on the northern mediterranean coast. When he was killed in battle with Spain, his brother Hayreddin took over his mission. Hayreddin eventually grew wealthy and ultimately became Pasha of Algiers.
Yellowbeard is a pirate-themed comedy film by Graham Chapman of Monty Python. It is an example of a film that was probably ruined by development hell, but the finished product is still quirkily entertaining. Ah, but what might have been, if it had starred Keith Moon and Adam Ant as originally planned...
Check it out for yourself:
Thursday, February 19, 2009
In the early eighteenth century, the skull and crossbones motif became popular among pirates. The flags were handmade, and many different variations existed.
The Jolly Roger of Edward England
Calico Jack Rackham
Some pirates used a different device entirely, such as an hourglass with wings to indicate "time is running out," or the Devil stabbing a heart.
Edward "Blackbeard" Teach
Black Bart Roberts
This only serves to indicate the endless ingenuity and creative expression that pirates of the Golden Age represent!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
If you're in Florida, or have a way to get there, you may want to check out the 17th annual Florida Renaissance Festival which is underway, weekends through March 8. It's at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, on the east coast near Boca Raton. The weather forecast for this weekend is partly cloudy mid-70's.
This particular weekend, the 21st and 22nd, is the pirate-themed weekend. They call it the Pillage of the Village. While you're in town, be sure to scour the coast for buried treasure. Both Blackbeard and Sir Henry Morgan deposited loot in the area.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Today is the 290th anniversary of the death of Richard Worley, an English pirate of note for being one of the first to fly a skull and crossbones flag.
Worley set out from New York in a small boat with a skeleton crew of eight men, scored some loot along the east coast, picked up a few more crew members, and headed for the Bahamas.
It was about this time that King George I issued a proclamation ordering the execution of any pirate who refused his generous offer of royal pardons, a threat backed up by the departure of the 24-gun HMS Phoenix, sent to the Caribbean to hunt pirates.
Worley and his crew managed to evade the Phoenix, and signed a set of articles that included a pledge to fight to the death if captured. Worley decided to head back to the colonial waters that were proving so lucrative for the likes of Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet. The governor of North Carolina got wind of his plans, and sent out two warships to intercept him.
Unfortunately, Worley mistook the two warships for merchant ships and tried to block their entry to Jamestown harbor, effectively removing his avenue of escape. All hands were killed in the battle, save Worley and one other crewman. Worley was injured, and the authorities wanted to be sure his sentence was carried out before he died of his wounds. He was sentenced to be hanged the following day, February 17, 1719. Let us remember our fallen brother on this day!
Fly your own skull and crossbones in his honor:
Monday, February 16, 2009
So why is piracy romantical? Freedom, me hearties. Pirates represent the eschewing of authority and making one's own way with courage and a rejection of the domination of the spirit. The ideal of rational anarchy is perhaps best expressed by Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: "The only law that matters is what a man can do, and what a man can't do." Blow "the Man" down, maties!