Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Pirates in the News: December 12, 2009

Piracy in Somalia and around the world continues to hit the news,

in Spain, the opposition party questioned the choice to pay pirates a ransom for the crew of the trawler Alakrana. The $3.3 Million ransom was paid and the full crew released just before Thanksgiving.

In Kenya, courts are prosecuting many cases of piracy on the high seas but face many problems including translation, sluggish proceedings and international pressure.

The North Korean Captain of the tanker MV Theresa VIII was mortally wounded during the hijacking of the tanker off the Seychelles in November.

In Bangladesh, 16 fishermen went missing and are presumed dead after a pirate attack in the Bay of Bengal.

Eighteen fishermen were assaulted in the Bay of Bengal by a band of 25-30 pirates Friday, said fishermen Shahidullah and Abdur Rahim. Shahidullah like many Bangladeshis uses only one name.

The survivors said the pirates severely beat them and slashed some of the fishermen with knives before throwing them all overboard.

Shahidullah and Rahim were rescued by another fishing boat, but the other fishermen remain missing in waters off Cox's Bazar, a coastal town 185 miles (296 kilometers) south of the capital, Dhaka.

"The pirates took away the boat, fish and nets from us," Shahidullah told The Associated Press.

The British Couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler are still reportedly being held on land in Somalia, and remain in fear for their lives. Their captors continue to release death threats against the pair if ransoms are not paid.

Pirates have captured the Greek Owned, Red Sea Spirit:
"Red Sea Spirit was taken by gunmen off the Yemeni coast last Thursday. She is flying the Panama flag," Mwangura said. "She is a Greek-owned bulk carrier."
The ship was captured off the coast of Yemen. Another Greek ship, the Maran Centaurus captured by somali pirates reached the coast of Somalia on the 2nd of December. Yet a third Greek-Owned ship paid a ransom for the Maltese flagged Ariana which pirates have said they are happy to release:

In the Somali coastal town of Hobyo, a self-proclaimed pirate who gave his name as Ahmed Gedi said his group had been paid $2.8 million to free the Ariana. It was not possible to independently verify the amount of ransom paid. "After we check and count it, we will leave the ship and free it," Gedi told the AP on the phone."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pirate Economies: the Somalian Pirate Stock Market

Pirates are becoming increasingly media savvy and their international profile has achieved new levels of sophistication in recent months if press coverage is anything to go by. While the news increasingly covers attacks thwarted by international navies, and new ships in the waters: here, here, here, and here.

Media attention is increasingly turning to feel good followups of the Maersk Alabama, Editorial analysis of the approaches begin taken to protect shipping, and like the concept of "victory in Iraq" can we "win against pirates?"

While the debate about piracy is also framed in two interesting ways "the downtrodden impoverished native" versus "the pimping playboy" these two simplifications are interacting in a fascinating cultural development that shows how modern technology is creating a new black-market economy in Somalia. In fact, a Pirate Stock Market has been established and is going strong.

Distributed infrastructure, like cell phones, coupled with the availability of weapons and technologies that allow start ups to make high risk business endeavors (pirate attacks) that put their human capital at risk but yield very high profits if they are successful have led to a new upper class of gang-leaders and warlords on mainland Somalia, who are not only living lavishly by comparison to their employees but also, reinvesting their earnings in these pursuits from the relative safety of their strongholds. The evolution of this business model has hit a new threshold, as years of ransom profits have fueled the creation of a Stock Market in Haradheere.

The Haradheere Market as reported by Reuters, comprises 72 'maritime companies' and investment in stock in the companies is publicly available. This investment opportunity is significant in several ways: It is protected by local government, and benefits the district-

"Piracy-related business has become the main profitable economic activity in our area and as locals we depend on their output," said Mohamed Adam, the town's deputy security officer.

"The district gets a percentage of every ransom from ships that have been released, and that goes on public infrastructure, including our hospital and our public schools."

and provides economic opportunity and a community center for those in the pirate industry.

"Given the choice of moving with his parents to Lego, their ancestral home in Middle Shabelle where strict Islamist rebels have banned most entertainment including watching sport, or joining the pirates, he opted to head for Haradheere.

Now he guards a Thai fishing boat held just offshore.

"First I decided to leave the country and migrate, but then I remembered my late colleagues who died at sea while trying to migrate to Italy," he told Reuters. "So I chose this option, instead of dying in the desert or from mortars in Mogadishu."

Haradheere's "stock exchange" is open 24 hours a day and serves as a bustling focal point for the town. As well as investors, sobbing wives and mothers often turn up there seeking news of male relatives missing in action.

This example of economic development shows capitalism in action, the options provided by the pirate industry are high risk, but the risks are not that much higher than other economic options in the region, in fact, with such significant rewards and the implementation of a stock market to increase investment profits are up.

"Ransoms have even increased in recent months from between $2-3 million to $4 million because of the increased number of shareholders and the risks," he said.

"Let the anti-piracy navies continue their search for us. We have no worries because our motto for the job is 'do or die'."

Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel.

"I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation," she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony.

"I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the 'company'."

In Foreign Policy, Elizabeth Dickenson has been covering the Somali pirate situation and says the following in regards to enforcement of international law:

As I argued earlier this year, piracy is becoming increasingly like drug trafficking: it's not the little guys who you want to go after. It's the big financial gurus who are making bank. In that vein, news of a 'stock market' of sorts might just be good news. That money must be being laundered somewhere... meaning there's a chance financial sanctions could cut deep. It's pirates' pockets that are their Achilles heels.
Until then the western world has to ask, at what point does a 'pirate economy' become a regular 'economy'? Both in our definition of the crimes, and whether or not this criminal market infrastructure won't eventually lead to legal economic development?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pirates in the Media: December 10, 2009

Bruce Wayne is lost in a time stream in an upcoming 6 comic release from DC.

That's right Pirate Batman.

In addition, Rob Marshall, director of the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is excited to work with Johnny Depp. And who wouldn't be?

"I think [Disney is] probably looking for a fresh approach," he explained. "I think it's good when you're doing these series' of films, like 'Harry Potter.' It's nice to bring in a fresh approach." The real question is, how does Marshall define "fresh"?

"I don't know yet. Johnny's playing Captain Jack, so that's there," he revealed. "It'll be its own thing. I'll approach it as a film." This confirmation is at odds with that he'd only do another "Pirates" if he read a script that was "worthy of the audience's attention," but Marshall is pretty sure the actor is in.

Taking a break from his busy Dinosaur Skull purchasing schedule; as part of a UN Goodwill tour, Nicolas Cage met with imprisoned pirates in Kenya.

The actor visited Shimo La Tewa prison in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa to interact with suspected Somali pirates awaiting trial and know the reason behind the increase in piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Also, Michael Crichton, who died in 2008, is going to have his final manuscript, Pirate Lattitudes posthumously published. The film rights have been secured by Stephen Spielberg.

Set in the Caribbean in 1665, Latitudes is nothing like Crichton's last novel, Next (2006), a cautionary tale about genetic research. It's more history as entertainment, as in The Great Train Robbery (1975), which he set in Victorian England.

It stars a dashing Harvard-educated English privateer, Charles Hunter. With the colonial governor's unofficial blessing, he sets out to capture a Spanish galleon laden with treasure.

The novel is laden with violence and sex. Throats are cut, along with less public body parts.

There's little of what English teachers call "character development." But what colorful characters, including a tough female pirate who dresses as a man. In raids, she's in the "habit of baring her breasts in order to confuse and terrify the enemy."

Crichton has done his homework on nautical matters. His cinematic descriptions and sex scenes waste few words.

If that's not enough, there's a hurricane and sea monster that should put Spielberg's special-effects team to the test.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pirates attack the Maersk Alabama... again

Wow, someone clearly didn't get (or couldn't read) the memo about not attacking the Maersk Alabama. Not deeply surprising if you think about it 1) undereducation and lack of communication 2) you're thousands of leagues away from any other targets and you think, what the hell, why don't I attack this ship.

But! The long and short of it is that another group of pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama again and were deterred by the ship's security measures.
A security team on board the Maersk Alabama responded with small-arms fire, long-range acoustical devices painful to the human ear and evasive maneuvers to thwart the attack, the Navy said in a statement.
Interesting stuff. This editorial caught my eye in the shuffle of google news, it's worth a read.

Monday, November 16, 2009

British Couple... still captured by pirates

Despite earlier reports that the pirates holding British Couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, their captors have lately threatened their lives if their demands are not met.On October 30:
A British woman who is being held by Somali pirates with her husband after their yacht was hijacked said in a phone call broadcast Friday that the couple were "bearing up" and she described her captors as "very hospitable."

Rachel Chandler told her brother, Stephen Collett, in a telephone call broadcast by ITV News that she is fine.

"They tell us that we're safe and we shouldn't worry and that if we want anything they will provide it in terms of food and water and everything like that," she said, according to a transcript. "They are very hospitable people so don't worry ... Physically we're fine, physically we're healthy."

The BBC says the pirates have called the broadcaster to demand $7 million in return for releasing the couple.

By November 8:

The pirates appeared to have been angered by a lack of communication from either the Foreign Office or the Chandlers’ family. “I’m waiting for a response from the family, but no one is making any calls to us,” Omer said.

The threats against the Chandlers indicated mounting anger among the pirates, who have generally treated their hostages well. However, the majority of their targets have been well- insured commercial vessels.

The hostages are generally kept aboard their ships for months until a ransom is paid, often running into millions of dollars.

According to Somali sources, the Chandlers have fallen foul of an internecine feud.

They are being held by an inexperienced gang who did not realise how difficult it would be to defend a small yacht and so abandoned it.

The pirates have spoken to many news outlets, including the BBC and Fox News. Most recently the event has been in the news because a British Ship may have allowed the couple to be captured by their inaction.

A Royal Navy ship withheld fire as it watched Somali pirates kidnap a British couple on the high seas, British authorities said Friday.

Previously the British Defense Ministry said it could not rescue Paul and Rachel Chandler on Oct. 23 because the couple was already on the pirates' ship and their yacht abandoned when the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Wave Knight arrived at the scene, The Times of London reported.

But a ministry spokesman confirmed Friday the Wave Knight arrived as the couple was being transferred from their yacht to the pirate's ship 50 feet away. The crew was ordered not to intervene because the pirates were carrying AK-47 assault rifles and there was fear a gun battle would result in the hostages being killed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pirates in the News: November 14, 2009

A judge in Spain is considering a swap of pirates for hostages:
In a tradeoff with Somali Pirates , a Spanish judge would consider sending two pirate suspects held in Madrid back to Africa, as demanded by the outlaws holding a Spanish fishing boat and its crew off the Somali coast.

Judge Santiago Pedraz would consider such a move if he’s asked by prosecutors or by lawyers at Spain’s justice ministry, reports CNN on its website. The two pirate suspects — captured by the Spanish military were transferred to Madrid.
Spain has also called for a blockade against pirates, refusing to negotiate for over 35 Spanish Sailors held by pirates in Somalia. This could also aid aid organizations who are constantly harried by the violence in these areas.

Spain wants a European Union naval taskforce to blockade three ports in Somalia, known to be used by pirates.

Defence minister Carme Chacon will call for the international force to change its tactics at a meeting next week, Spanish radio reported.

Gunmen in Somalia killed a local judge

Mr Aware was also a member of Puntland's Supreme Judicial Council which supervises the judiciary and nominates senior judicial officials.

"He sentenced hundreds of pirates, people-smugglers and members of al-Shabab during his work in Bossaso," said a cousin, Abdulahi Jama.

"These gangs hate him for his justice. We suspect one of them may have something to do with his assassination."

Also on Wednesday evening masked gunmen killed a Puntland lawmaker as he was heading to his house.

The French Navy caught another 12 pirates off the Somalia yesterday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pirates on Social Media- If 1ml people join....

Yesterday, October 31, 2009, this group showed up on my Facebook feed, in the hour that I had joined it, it had not only gone from 900,000 to 1 million, but well over the limit set to ensure that the group's owner's girlfriend would accept in order to allow him to turn their residence into a pirate ship. As of the time I'm writing this some 16 hours later the group has well over 1,100,000 members, and has unmistakably, gone viral.

Here's the description:

The first photo was uploaded on March 13, 2007, and represents blueprints for the "pirate ship house" and obviously over the ensuing two years it has gained some presence, 61 pages of photos, and 306 discussion topics.

Frankly, I want to see what this guys house looks like as a pirate ship, obviously, I'm not alone.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pirates in the Media: October 2009

Following up Wednesday's Pirates in the News, here's some lighter, entertainment news.

The Cayman Islands is having its annual Pirate Festival coming up, so if you're in the Cayman Islands, and you know you'd like to be, check that out.
The Cayman Islands are hosting their 32nd annual Pirates Week Festival, Nov. 12-22, with music, street dances, food festivals, costumes, games and more in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac.

The town house of Inverness, Scotland flew a pirate flag briefly to promote a Halloween event on the Loch but was taken down after mariners suggested it was in poor taste.

And finally, Columbia Pictures has hired screenwriter Billy Ray, author of Flightplan, Breach, State of Play and The Shooter, to pen their slated film about Captain Richard Phillips' ordeal aboard the Maersk Alabama.
"The studio also optioned the film rights to Phillips' upcoming memoir, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Five Dangerous Days," which will be published in April by Hyperion.
Billy Ray is currently working on Gears of War and Motorcade.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pirates in the News: October 29, 2009

Pirates are all over the place again, especially since it's Halloween in America and Monsoon Season is well over in the Horn of Africa.
Once again, Pirates take the top spots in desired Halloween costumes for children this year according to the National Retail Federation.

In Modern Pirate news, the top story this week is that a British Couple was captured from their yacht in the Indian Ocean and being held by Somali Pirates. Here's an interview with the sister of one of the pair:

Paul and Rachel Chandler were sailing from the Seychelles Islands to Tanzania on Friday when eight swashbucklers boarded their yacht, the Lynn Rival.

"The British couple are in our hands now. We captured them as they were touring in the Indian Ocean," a pirate who called himself Hassan told Reuters.

Hassan said the couple is healthy and ransom demands will come soon.

Also captured are a number of cargo ships and hostages from non-European countries are in the hands of pirates. Among those:

"The MV Al Khaliq, a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier, has been hijacked early this morning off Somalia."

"There were 26 crew on board, 24 of whom are Indian and two Burmese."

Nato's closest ship to the Al Khaliq was eight hours away when the ship was seized.

NATO has been patrolling the waters around Somalia extensively, American Drones are being employed to protect shipping, and negotiators have been brought in from all sectors trying to negotiate peaceful exchanges of crews and cargo.

On the legal end of all this, trials continue in Europe and America of Somali pirates captured by the NATO navies. One such man on trial illustrates a key legal issue in the trial of pirates from Somalia, they are often teenagers and whether or not they are legal adults according to the countries prosecuting them is a consistent issue at trial.

A suspected Somali pirate captured after the hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat will face trial in the high court because a second medical test has confirmed he is older than 18, court sources said on Wednesday.

The Spanish navy captured the two Somalis in the Indian Ocean shortly after pirates overran the tuna boat Alakrana on October 2 and took hostage its multinational crew of 36.

The pirates are still in control of the boat from the Basque Country in northern Spain, and have said they will not discuss the crew's release until their two comrades are freed.

A Spanish court had decided to hand the younger suspect over to a juvenile court on Tuesday after an initial test based on samples taken from his wrist suggested he may be less than 18.

This story caught my eye from the Business Daily, the International Maritime Bureau released its yearly reports on pirate attacks and suggested strongly that removing captured pirates from their countries of origin for trial may not be the most effective deterrent.

An international maritime organisation has proposed that suspected pirates arrested off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden be investigated and prosecuted in their home turf to boost the war against piracy.

“It is vital that regions in Somalia such as Puntland continue to take firm action in investigating and prosecuting the pirates. This will be a far better deterrent against Somali pirates than prosecution and punishment in a foreign country,” Mr Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Several countries including Kenya host judicial procedures on suspected pirates arrested in the Horn of Africa nation as part of an international pact under the UN security council.

The IMB, however, observed that such foreign trials had failed to contain the piracy menace even as statistics showed the number of attacks reported this year had surpassed those registered in 2008.

It emerged on Wednesday the number of attacks involving the use of guns had shot up over the nine months to September by more than 200 per cent in the corresponding period of 2009, triggering fresh debate on whether ship owners should deploy armed guards to counter pirates whenever they attacked vessels.

There's always more news out there, but that's an idea of what's been going on this month in pirate news.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dolphins, Jerks of the Sea: Part 6

As part of my ongoing series on how Dolphins are magnificent jerks:

Dolphins play soccer... with other creatures

From the Sunday Express:

Marine biologists were amazed to see dolphins swim under jellyfish and, with a flick of their tails, shoot them out of the water.

One particularly talented mammal could flip a jellyfish six feet into the air.

Scientists believe the game goes back hundreds of thousands of years and may even explain why dolphins in captivity are so skillful with balls.

Marine expert Jonathan Easter, 23, who was studying the bottlenose dolphins at play in Cardigan Bay, West Wales, said: “They were having fun flipping barrel jellyfish about.

“They swim under the jellyfish then at the right moment flick their tail up and give it a good kick.

“They were not always accurate but when they had a direct hit the jellyfish were kicked out of the water.

“This has never been seen before and it raises more questions than answers.”

But it is highly unlikely that the jellyfish share the dolphins’ fun – many do not survive the rough treatment.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Journalist's experiance while in the hands of Somali Pirates

Read the full article here...

Along the route, a confrontation ensues between the pirates onboard while deep in the Gulf of Aden. A section is opposed to the idea of a journalist recording and visiting the highly guarded territory. Two of them turn, pointing their AK-47 rifles at me. At this point I am speechless that the men who only a few minutes ago were friends are baying for my blood.

After more than four hours roaming the Gulf of Aden, we finally come ashore. They lead me to a dark room and hold me hostage for eight hours, often threatening me: “You’re going to die in the next four hours if we don’t get a kill today,” one of them says.

My Sony H4 Zoom recorder is my only companion as I keep the record button on, making sure that I leave evidence even if they end my life. At this point, I reflect on my initial questions that led me to this mission: Who is behind this trade and does it have links to the development that is on going back in Eastleigh? My nose for news is slowly being replaced by a desire to survive the ordeal. I keep praying for a quick intervention. I see July 31 as my last day on Earth.

Eventually, they release me, but not before a parting shot: Western forces must respect Somalia. “You must tell the international community that we are here to stay despite what the U.S., Russia, and France do,” the ringleader, Guled, said. “They should respect our waters and avoid dumping waste here.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pirates in the News: October 8, 2009

So there haven't been a whole lot of pirates in the news, one could say that that is because of policing, but just and possibly more reasonable is the fact that it was just monsoon season, and if you've ever seen a monsoon, you know you don't want to sail in that.

So! with monsoon season mellowed out, here's some news from the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere.

On the Sea:
Somali pirates in two skiffs fired on a French navy vessel early Wednesday after apparently mistaking it for a commercial boat, the French military said. The French ship gave chase and captured five suspected pirates.

No one was wounded by the volleys from the Kalashnikov rifles directed at La Somme, a 3,800-ton refueling ship, French military spokesman Rear Adm. Christophe Prazuck said.

La Somme "was probably taken for a commercial ship by the two small skiffs" about 250 nautical miles (290 statute miles) off Somalia's coast, Prazuck said.

In Europe:

Two men captured in connection with the hijacking of a Spanish tuna boat in the Indian Ocean will be brought to Madrid on orders from a judge, a Defense Ministry official said Tuesday.

As the trawler Alakrana and its 36-member crew remained under pirate control for a fifth day, the wife of one of the sailors said she worried the arrests would stretch out the drama, perhaps causing the pirates to demand the release of the arrested men as a condition for freeing the hostages.

The suspects — identified in court papers as Abdu Willy and Raageggesey — will be brought to Madrid as soon as possible to face preliminary charges of kidnapping, criminal association and theft, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules. Their nationalities were not given.

and in Business News:

Add The Yachts of Seabourn to the list of cruise lines steering clear of the pirate-plagued waters around Somalia.

The globetrotting luxury line says it has canceled a series of voyages through the Indian Ocean scheduled for late 2010 and early 2011 due to worries about the increasingly brazen attacks on ships in the region.

The 208-passenger Seabourn Legend, which had been scheduled to offer the trips, instead will head to the Caribbean for the winter of 2010-2011, sailing out of Fort Lauderdale and St. Thomas.

The move comes just six months after a widely-reported pirate attack on an MSC Cruises ship in the Indian Ocean prompted that line to swear off future voyages through the region. Britain's Fred Olsen Cruise Lines also recently announced it will no longer sail through the area.

That's what I've got for you today, enjoy pirate fans.

Oh wait,

The EU vows that the war on piracy isn't over.

But the commanding officer of the European Union armada warned Tuesday that it is too early to declare victory over heavily armed Somali pirates in tiny, fast-moving skiffs.

"This is not a thing where we can say 'job done,'" Rear Admiral Peter Hudson said on the sidelines of an EU defense ministers' meeting.

Pirates, the Best Selling Pornographic Movie ever made.

Pirates, the 2005 XXX rated pornographic film broke records, its budget was an unheard of $1 million plus and swept through the AVN, XRCO and Adult DVD Empire awards. Also, in a time when pornographic film sales are suffering hugely due to the free market of the Internet Pirates made bank.

It also played at several small, but mainstream film festivals in a push to appeal to a wider audience.

Taking advantage of the pirate craze that had swept the world in the wake of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and getting plenty of publicity about its production, both good and bad-

Several scenes were shot on board a replica of the HMS Bounty in St. Petersburg, Florida. The owners of the ship were not aware of the true nature of the film as they were advised that the film being made was a "Disney-type pirate film for families.
The adult film was groundbreaking for the genre, and has proven that a high budget pornographic film can be lucrative enough to sustain itself and indeed, has justified a sequel.
Which like the first film, is already getting plenty of press for scandals its justified.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on pornography or that part of the business, but what I do think this is a compelling argument about new and old media models. The pornography industry is suffering because it's most simple content, videos of people having sex, can be easily accessed for free. This is at least one example of showing how adding story and greater value in the form of storytelling, has transcended the major hurdle facing any pornographic film coming out. People pay for story, people care about story (even when acted by porn stars) and they'll come back again if they enjoyed it the first time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All Things Fangirl Interview! Part 2

The second half of my interview with is up, check it out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Skuttlebutt around the interweb is that Johnny Depp may be questioning his involvement in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film!

From IGN:
A "regular tipster" for Latino Review claims that "even if (Depp) makes the fourth film, he definitely won't be back for a fifth or sixth. Given that the Pirates franchise was the only live-action property making any money for the studio, they could reach deep in their pockets and keep Depp on for #4, but they're also preparing to replace Captain Jack with a entirely new character if he refuses a fifth and sixth film." If true, might it be the oft-rumored Russell Brand as Captain Jack's brother Jonathan?
Gasp! With the movie still years out and the questionable veracity of internet rumors in general, only time will tell...

All Things Fangirl Interview!

Check out this interview with Me and Jeff Gomez at I even talk a little about the work I did on Pirates of the Caribbean for Disney.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pirates at the South Street Seaport!

From now until Oct. 18, history buffs, pirate enthusiasts and NYC addicts can treat themselves to Michelle Vaughan's FREE Sea Warriors art exhibit, which depicts 11 historical pirates -- including Queen Teuta and Sir Francis Drake -- painted on wood panels.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Talk Like a Pirate Day Freebies

For Talk like a Pirate Day:

Video Games:
In observance of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Telltale will be giving away the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island.

Gamers looking for this free booty should set their compasses towards Telltale’s “Play Like A Pirate” website starting at 8 p.m. Eastern Friday (that’s midnight UTC) to nab the download. A classic Monkey Island game will be discounted on Saturday as well. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, LucasArts’ re-release of the 1990 original created by Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, will be half off for the iPhone and iPod Touch (via the Apps Store) and PC (via Steam and Direct2Drive).

Less enjoyable probably but still topical:
The Pirate Translator
The North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh is offering free admission to those dressed as pirates.

There's a pub-crawl in Phoenix, AZ and I'm sure lots lots more...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Ghost Fleet of the Recession

'This is the time of year when everyone is doing all the Christmas stuff,' he points out.

'A couple of years ago those ships would have been steaming back and forth, going at full speed. But now you've got something like 12 per cent of the world's container ships doing nothing.'

Aframaxes are oil bearers. But the slump is industry-wide. The cost of sending a 40ft steel container of merchandise from China to the UK has fallen from £850 plus fuel charges last year to £180 this year. The cost of chartering an entire bulk freighter suitable for carrying raw materials has plunged even further, from close to £185,000 ($300,000) last summer to an incredible £6,100 ($10,000) earlier this year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pirates in the News, August 13, 2009

Hey there pirateological readers,

Plenty has been going on in the world of piracy, and in my life as well, so it's worth noting that this will not be a comprehensive summary of recent pirate news, but I'll hit some highlights.

The number one sexiest pirate story right now may or may not actually involve pirates in any way... but it COULD and that's got a lot of people all aflutter.

The Maltese ship the Arctic Sea crewed by 15 Russians disappeared on July 28 after communicating with a station in Dover, England. It is suspected that piratical foul play is afoot.

Four days earlier she had apparently been boarded in the Baltic Sea.

The intruders appear to have left the ship some 12 hours later on a high-speed inflatable and allowed the vessel to continue on its passage but with its communications equipment damaged.

However, there are fears that the 3,988tn ship, carrying about £1m worth of sawn timber from Finland to Algeria, was still under the control of pirates when contact was made with the British Coastguards.

Mark Clark, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said Dover Coastguard did not suspect anything untoward as a supposed crew member made radio contact before the ship made its passage along the Channel.

The person on board the vessel told the Coastguard the ship was due to arrive in Bejaia in northern Algeria on August 4 at 11pm.

The Russian Navy has sent a ship that claimed to spot the Arctic Sea on August 13 but now denies the earlier reports. The vessel is presumed hijacked, and it's fairly compelling to think that in the waters around Europe it's still this easy to lose track of a cargo ship.

In other news, the Turkish Navy captured five suspected pirates on August 11.

Also, Merchant Marine Schools are increasing the course loads and available training programs for dealing with pirate attacks and piracy in general.

"... Cadets at the Merchant Marine Academy and SUNY Maritime are being taught to reduce the risk of pirate attacks on their own. "Anti-piracy training has been part of the USMMA curriculum for at least the past 18 years," says Captain Jon Helmick, director of USMMA's Logistics & Intermodal Transportation Program. He adds, however, that "because the enhancement of vessel security in general improves the ability to deal with piracy in particular, it is somewhat misleading to separate out those training topics that are piracy-focused." Academy graduates receive an officer's commission into another branch of the armed forces, either on active or reserve duty. Those entering the reserves often take civilian or government jobs in the maritime industry, including serving on ocean-going merchant vessels, "brown water" coastal trade ships, tugboats, or barges, says Captain Dan Croce, a director at GMATS."

And on a lighter note, Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama was interviewed on the Today Show and is still inundated by offers to portray his story.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Captain Blood remake to go where few pirates have gone before...

Warner Brothers has been in preproduction on Captain Blood for a few months now, and they've finally settled on a pair of directors:
Warner Bros. has set Michael and Peter Spierig to direct and John Brownlow to write a new version of "Captain Blood," the 1935 swashbuckler pirate classic that starred Errol Flynn as a wrongly imprisoned British doctor who escapes to become a pirate in the Caribbean.

The Spierig brothers got hired because of their innovative idea to set the pirate film in space.

That's right, Captain Blood... In.... Spaaaaaace. Space Pirates

Gerber said that despite the radical period and venue switch, the film will be fairly faithful to a plot in which the doctor, Peter Blood, joins up with a French pirate (played in the original by Rathbone, only to clash with the buccaneer when the woman he loves (Olivia de Havilland) is captured by the pirate skipper.

"There are some things you don't mess with, and that is as classic a movie storyline as you will ever find," Gerber said.

Who wants to bet that we get a green alien Olivia de Havilland?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pirates and Drinking

From my friends at The Brew Yorker:

A Pirate’s Life For Me

Say what you will about pirates – they were rapists, they’re not popular anymore, they haven’t had a winning season since George H.W. Bush was in office – but those bandana-wearing mofo’s knew how to drink. No group of people before or since has ever come close to reaching their prodigious outputs of drunkenness. Devil Bless You, Sirs!

Pirate drinking was an everyday part of life. It helped socialize newcomers, made long stretches of time out at sea bearable and could be used much in the same way that drinking games are used today (”Argh! Aces and Eights! You owe me three drinks!”). Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart) was himself a teetotaler, and tried to get his crew to relinquish some of their drunken revelry. When his punishments – whipping, keelhauling, fining them each time they drunkenly said “Argh!” – completely failed to control their behavior, he broke down with the rule “drinking to be allowed on the foredeck only”. Kinda like how your parents gave up trying to stop you from drinking in the 7th grade.

All this was, in part, based on necessity. Clean drinking water wasn’t always available in ports. Liquor, on the other hand, was one of the few things on board a ship that never spoiled. It could be traded, consumed, used for bribes, put to medicinal ends, and also mixed with flame to make primitive Molotov cocktails. When mixed with water (the infamous “Grog”), it killed most germs, hydrated and gave a little bit of a buzz. Not bad for a foul-smelling, foul-tasting, evil-inducing beverage.

So, in the spirit of these fine, upstanding individuals, I hereby name this upcoming week “Pirate Drinking Week”. To get you started off, here are some pirate drinks, some songs, and some games. Enjoy, ye mateys, else you wind up in Ol’ Roger’s bosom fer yer scallywagin’ ways! Pirates! ‘Cuz when was the last time you saw a Ninja with wenches?



1 Part Rum
1 Part Water

Mix. Drink as much as you can stand.

    Thames Water

1 Part Rum
1 Part Whiskey

Mix. Drink as much as you can stand.

    Salutin’ Day

1 Part Rum
1 Part Rum

Don’t bother mixing. Just chug from the bottle.


    Whiskey Johnny

Whiskey is the life of man Always was since the world began
Whiskey-o, Johnny-o
John rise her up from down below Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o
Up aloft this yard must go John rise her up from down below
Whiskey here, whiskey there Whiskey almost everywhere
Whiskey up and whiskey down Whiskey all around the town
Whiskey killed me poor old dad Whiskey drove me mother mad
(Finish by mumbling incoherently.)

    Traditional Toast

(Take one healthy swig after every line)

One for me mum
One for me brud*
One for me mates
An’ one for me gut!

*Brother, slang for the friend one would have on voyages ashore (like a buddy system, each would hopefully make sure that neither didn’t into TOO much trouble that would get them hung by a judge, shot by another pirate, or into bed with an obvious disease-pot/hag/man).

    The Drinking Chant

Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!
Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!
Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!
(Continue until someone finishes a pint of rum)



Two-Four-player game. Four-Sixteen dice (depending on amount of players). Everyone gets two dice and a cup. Roll the dice in the cup, and then slam it on the table with a hearty “HAH!” Glance at your cards, but don’t let the other players see. One player (determined by chance) starts off, either stating a number on one of his dice or bluffing. The player to his right must go higher than that, either by saying a higher number on one of his dice, moving up the total of his two dice, or bluffing. Anyone at any point can call a bluff on a single player. If it turns out the player was bluffing, then he pays the total of his bluff (or, in our culture, drinks the total). If he was not bluffing, the caller(s) must drink his total. Play continues until all players are broke and/or comatose.

    Bounding Main

Up to Ten Players, with a deck of 54 cards (52, plus two jokers). Bet pieces o’ eight (if you have ‘em), or drinks if you don’t. Dealer flips the first card. Second player bets higher or lower for the next card, which the dealer flips. If he bets right, he wins one from each other player. If not, he puts two in the pot. The third player bets higher or lower than the second player’s card and so on. If at any point, someone pulls a joker, he wins what’s in the pot.

To play with drinks, simply replace pieces o’ eight with coins that represent “Drink One, Asshole” which can be given out at any point in the proceedings.

    The Devil’s Way

Two-player game. One person drinks, then the other. Continue in this manner. The winner is declared when the other vomits, passes out and dies.

- Steele

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pirates killed by US Presidents since McKinley

Pirate Comics: Fireworks


And I quote:
According to several news sources, Russian yacht owners will begin offering "pirate hunting" vacations to those interested in wielding AK-47's and shooting at pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Tickets aboard the ocean liners, which will cruise at about five miles per hour in an attempt to attract pirates, will cost about US$5,000, with AK-47's and ammunition available for rent each day. The ships will be protected from pirates by private security guards made up of ex-special forces troops.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pirate Video and a little bit on Aljazeera

Like many Americans, I've been a bit wary of Aljazeera as a network, because well, for a while there I had the paranoid thought that if I logged into it big brother would think I'm a terrorist. Which was silly but it was like 2005 and paranoia was all the rage, then I just sort of forgot about it when I considered a news source though I would see it in google news results. Well, it was silly to let paranoia keep me from reading a news source and examining different sources.

Well, long story short, Aljazeera English is frickin' awesome. I read Mission Aljazeera by Josh Rushing (also awesome, and it definitely gave me some perspective on the goals and history and effects of aljazeera on journalism and media in the Arab world, and the non-western world. It made me reconsider my pretty narrow idea of what aljazeera might be, which was totally uninformed, and frankly, is right now based on a single book that was highly convincing and made me feel more than a little sheepish about my intellectual laziness, and general wimpiness.

AND is the site if you want news, and is actually not associated with the news network, and tends to carry stories that seem to be aimed at discrediting the news organization. Which had actually fooled me, I didn't realize they were different and they very much are.

So check out it's amazing coverage on Somalia, which is in active fighting right now in addition to being all piratey, and apparently the US backing the "government" with weapons which is just a bit ... well... I have no specific words but it makes my gut hurt a little. It just feels a little like throwing napalm into a swampy quagmire of alligators fighting pythons and komodo dragons and some giant spiders, Michael Bay should get the movie rights to make that, 'cause my analogy here is clearly directed by him.
Aljazeera has awesome coverage on Somalia by land and sea, and generally is a fascinating news source. My point, watch the video, read/watch (in English or your language of choice), and decide what you think of it for yourself.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pirates in Romance Novels

Welcome to my first Pirateologist General/ Mystery of Girls Media cross-post! what's it about, Pirates and Romance Novels! Prompted by People Magazine's hottest bachelors spread (one such pictured above).

Two serious cash cows for the entertainment industry. Why do they fit together like Peanut Butter and Jelly? Because they both embody an idealized noble savage, a man who is both wild, independent and rustic, but also, domesticatable and able to maintain hunkiness after months at sea being made leathery, amazingly gross and maintaining his heterosexuality in the face of well, months at sea, saving himself (in a lusty fashion) for an idealized woman who happens upon his path. While he may be a brute he secretly desires both feminine companionship, but also, feminine domination.

Now here's the rub,


Reality: Ok, so also fictional and from a movie, but don't try to google an image of "dirty pirate" it just doesn't find an image that helps my point.

The romance of the pirate in the romance novel is an abduction fantasy, where the brutish lustful pirate takes the noble lady (often in spirit and lineage) and then takes the noble lady. In the process, often revealing his inner turmoil and desire for a more meaningful relationship with her, in which she makes many decisions for him, he reads her mind and while still humping like amazingly endowed bunnies, build a life for themselves in an idealized future where they fill in the blanks of one another's lives. As fantasy, excellent, wish fulfilling and fulfilling all the way to the bank.

While historically questionable, and until holding one's escapist fantasies to strict standards of historical accuracy is en vogue, it's not going to change any time soon. But! that doesn't mean that there isn't much to be done with the formula to make it new again. While there are some classic governor's daughter romances with randy swashbucklers being remade, the true test of the genre is the megalithic Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Look at that! you have two heartthrobs one dirty and hunky, one clean and hunky! they have a seriously tempestuous love triangle with a Governor's Daughter who is obsessed with the romantic notion of pirates, who eventually becomes Pirate King herself. Nice. Covers every base, and plays with the genre, satirizing it at points without abandoning its conventions.

Why does Pirates of the Caribbean fit the romantic pirate fantasy and say... Cutthroat Island, fail so miserably? Well, aside from the cleverness of the writing in general, the problem in Cutthroat Island is primarily one of the power dynamic.

In Pirates of the Caribbean, the protagonist, Elizabeth Swann, is a real match for the men around her while being able to handily maneuver through social currents of polite society and impolite society. This factor is an important aspect of the modern lady's aspirations. She is an equal member of the pirate crews and the shifts in power did not make her too weak or put any male in a position over her that she had no hand in creating. This creates an air of choice and real validation of her as a character and a person, rather than a waif or a harpy.

Cutthroat Island's protagonist, Morgan Adams, is a bit of a shrew. She's caustic and constantly coming at people from a position of inferiority because of her gender that undermines her aspirational qualities. Her crew doubts her and undermines her, but she's also a captain without having risen through the ranks, there is a sense that she hasn't earned the post. Where Elizabeth tends to defer to other people's knowledge but stand up for what she knows to be true and right, giving her a greater sense of legitimacy than Morgan, who tries to bulldoze her way through most problems.

What does this have to do with Romance Novels? a lot. Romance novels are all about the fantasy, who you want to be, who your idealized mate might be, and how that might come together in a volcano of fiery passion. They are a strong example of aspirational driving, the desire to be beautiful, desired, noble, and powerful in the face of other powerful people (even if that only manifests as making a man a slave to his lust), but also the desire for a man to be strong, a leader of others, to be passionate and to have something going on underneath his ruggedly handsome exterior.

So, what have we learned from Romance Novels and Pirates that can be applied to franchises for women in general? 1) Aspirational Fantasy Sells, 2) A man who can be hunky while caked in gross dirt is REALLY hot, 3) when considering power dynamics, gender equality trumps female supremacy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wife Swap, Professional Organizer vs. Pirate Family

The Baur Pirate Clan takes on the Fine family in last September's season premiere of Wife Swap.
I know, I SHOULD have known this, but life is not always perfect, and I'm making up for it now.

I'm amazed the full episode is on google video, but there it is, linked for your enjoyment.

I'm glad that this show was on, because it truly faces the stereotype that pirates can't be organized, successful pirates are totally organized.

While pirate mom Tori is surprisingly judgemental and Organizer Lisa is flipped out about the fleas that everyone at the pirate house has caught from the dog (yeah, I'm with her, that's where commitment to a period and just plain no starts for me), lives are changed, lessons are learned and we're all a little better for having forced these two groups to intermingle.

The best comments came from the kids (don't they always?):
"Not many of my friends dads get to buy swords and write it off on their taxes... not many of my friends' dads buy swords"

"I'm only sassing you 'cause I hate you"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Good Times are ending for Somali Pirates?

While Somali Pirates who survive to brigand another day have been supporting themselves lavishly of late, it is becoming harder to be a pirate in Somalia, which, while good for International Shipping, is a truly dire prospect for people in Somalia.

Take this interview with a Somali Pirate, Mohamed Said

He and his colleagues have hijacked nearly 30 vessels this year, meaning 2009 is on course to be even worse than last year, when pirates from the Horn of Africa nation seized 42 ships.

But the crime wave has prompted a hurried deployment in the region by foreign navies, thwarting several attacks -- and now the weather is turning too, making the seas rougher and the pirates' prey harder to hunt.

"My biggest fear is that the piracy business will have to stop. The weather will be terrible in the coming days and the warships have increased in number," Said told Reuters in Eyl.

"I have experienced the bitter-sweetness of piracy," he added, pointing out that his car, satellite telephone and speedboat were all paid for with his cut from ransoms.

Those who have must enjoy their earnings, while the have-nots die of hunger and worry," Said added with a shrug...

...I wish this merry life would last forever. But I'm afraid that circumstances may force me to give up piracy completely."

Now, no one is going to argue that the excesses portrayed in the article, the sense of the swaggering gangster, and indeed, the attacks that put both his and the lives of others at risk are things to be lauded. But consider that Piracy is one of the only options for betterment in a globalized society in Somalia.

Take a different interview with another pirate, Yassin Dheere from an article I mentioned in January:
"I was born in Eyl town and I used to be a fisherman.

I was forced to hijack foreign ships after the central government collapsed. No one was monitoring the sea, and we couldn't fish properly, because the ships which trawl the Somali coasts illegally would destroy our small boats and equipment. That is what forced us to become pirates.

The first time I was involved in hijacking a ship was 2003. It must have been Arabian, there were 18 Yemeni crew. It was a big fishing ship that destroyed our boats several times.

We surrounded it with our boats and seized it at gunpoint at night. We did not know these modern methods of using hooks and ladders, so we got near with our boats and climbed on.

We held it for two weeks, then some Somali and Arab mediators stepped in to negotiate. We were convinced to take $50,000 as compensation. Gosh! This was a huge amount for us. That inspired us and gave us an appetite for hunting ships.

At that time we had no idea what we were doing, we were very worried about what would happen. Two of my friends backed out because they were afraid.

In fact, my life has changed dramatically because I've received more money than I ever thought I would see. In one incident, I got $250,000, so my life has changed completely."

So, let's talk about what this says, in order to provide for themselves basically, by harvesting food from lands that they have real geographic relationships to, they are forced to either starve or pirate. It's not like they have much to trade in a globalized society, check out the CIA Factbook to see what their economy looks like, it is based on livestock, and at one time, fishing.

Take a major resource off the table, fish, and you have taken what was already an extremely tenuous group of resources and created a situation that isn't survivable. Desperate situations lead to desperate action, action that brings in more money than most Somalians had ever imagined.

Take that away suddenly, and what do you have? What is left for them after piracy?

Pirates in the News: Tuvalu!

For those of you who have only heard of Tuvalu from Survivor, Tuvalu is a small island nation in the South Pacific, well several islands, just look at the map.

Well, Tuvalu is feeling the pirate menace of Somalia. I know, I thought it would be news about "NOT Somalia" too, but c'est la vie.

Eleven sailors from Tuvalu and one from Fiji were kidnapped two months ago and very little has been heard from them since.

The pirates are demanding a ransom of $US15 million - the kind of money a tiny island nation like Tuvalu does not have a hope of raising...

...About 40 per cent of Tuvaluan men work at sea, mainly for German shipping companies.

Reverend Iosefa says the entire population is now very scared.

"Eleven men in a population of around about 10,000 people is a lot," he said.

"And 11 men to us is one of the biggest resources for the family.

Tuvalu is not only a tiny country, it is also one of the world's poorest...

Tuvaluan community leaders have pleaded for more assistance from their neighbours, Australia and New Zealand...

...One rescue attempt has already failed. Last month the German Government sent in its elite combat force to storm the ship, but they abandoned the mission at the last moment after fears from America that it would all end in a bloodbath.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned

Disney has released information about a new Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG, Armada of the Damned.

From MTV's John Constantine

When you’re brought in to make an original game based on one of the most popular film franchises in history, your hands are usually tied to all kinds of characters, story elements and setting. Propaganda is taking the road less traveled with their action role-playing game “Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned”. No Jack Sparrow, no Orland Bloom Keira Knightley make-out sessions here. The game is all about you and you are the baddest ass pirate n the high seas.

That is, you will be. The game’s design and creative directors didn’t have anything to show us during our private session with them at E3. What they had was a solid looking concept trailer and many good ideas about what a great “Pirates” game should be. Set fifteen years before the movies, you play your own customized pirate and explore both Caribbean islands and the surrounding seas on your own ship, with unique combat and character growth in both.

While it seems like a must, multiplayer is still unconfirmed and they’ve yet to decide if you can play as a female character, “Fable 2” style. Disney? I want to be a lady pirate when the game ships for Xbox 360 and PS3 next year.

As you may remember from my review of Disney's first Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG I will probably play but not go into much depth on this, but I agree with Mr. Constantine, I want to play a girl. Pirates has some great girls in it, not the least of which is the fantastic Anamaria, who was absent from the second and third films, but has proven herself a fantastic xenolinguist and a likely even more compelling alien-cat-lady.