Category Archives: pirate


when people hit my blog, they’re usually looking for pirate maps.  there’s some interest in the quantum posts, and no interest in the plot of the story i’m going to write.

i’m used to this.  in one of my unfinished novel i kept getting search hits for one of my characters, a guy who was a professional barney.  he was a great character, and deserved the name, but i had to change it and actually redact it through the blog, because i kept getting hits by people looking for barney.

and not just the purple dinosaur, but kill barney, death barney, electrocute barney.  it was frightening, actually.  but i learned about extraneous search terms.  unfortunately, the pirate theme has worked itself firmly into my story line, so i’m going to keep having a million hits a day landing on ‘pirate map’.  i’m not counting hits, so i don’t care.  i’m doing all this for me, and you all can read along, but you don’t have to, and i don’t mind.

author’s note

i’m trying to figure out my main characters, and imagine some secondary ones.  i watched your highness last night, and really liked the younger brother’s attitude, and all the movie references.  i don’t know if it’s a lot harder to do in print than visually, but i really got enthusiastic about all the gags.

the boy wants to put pirates into the game in a bad way.  the girl leans toward fairies and fantasy.  kurt the kernel programmer doesn’t do gaming but sees himself as wizard of the game anyway.  snake the replacement programmer is your basic first person shooter, the fairy godmother fan is a role player and social type, (sims and farmville, mario).

the boy puts piratesque things into the game levels, like hidden stashes and treasure maps, bolt holes, spy holes, black holes.  he bases his game on pirate principles (which are?) and on levels 3 and 4 he raids and steals, and when he gets to the mountain strongholds on level 4 it becomes institutionalized, with tribute from enderby.  when he comes to hell, level 6, he is a corporate raider, of course.  and his appearance at the gamburtsevs, for the showdown with the girl, he’s got on showy pirate gear.


but now his pirate ways, instead of being charming and roguish, are brutal and rapacious, causing misery everywhere he goes and leaving the population spitting at the mention of his name.  this is the bad side of piracy, where society finally gets organized to discourage pirates from attacking.  they never go away entirely because it’s such a part of human nature to want to take it all, but it can be minimized, and that’s what organized society is all about.  so it’s his atrocities that drive people to the girl’s side.

when they learned about the quantum world, they understood different things.  she understood that we are all one and that the important thing was to nurture and grow more connected.  but he went for the glitz, the magic of quantum physics, the power of controlling it.  he was enthusiastic when he came to cooperating with them, when they finally approached him.  he’d been thinking for some time about the uses of quantum physics, and had a lot of influence on the direction of their weapons lab.

when people begin to study magic, they’re usually looking to learn the secret powers.  but the whole point of studying these things is to learn mastery of your own self.  the secret powers are side effects, and not worth the bother.  that’s what they say.  the secret powers are really a trap.  and the boy will become trapped by it.

the girl, on the other hand, is trying to use quantum powers to help.  and this is actually the same trap as the boy falls into.  it’s actually an ego builder, and walls her off from the quantum source as much as the boy is walled off.  so they both have shedding to do, transformation.  she doesn’t just start out good and get holier.  her desire to help is from pain and fear, from whatever it was way in her past that taught her to fear.  and so it can’t turn out right.  she has to do the work on herself, not just the world.  so in the end her following is mawkish and self righteous and dogmatic, just like the boy’s following.  they are both sick of the whole edifice they’ve built and the trap it’s become.

and in this spirit they meet each other in the gamburtsevs, for that final showdown that will end the antarctic part of the game and let them go on to level !.

modern pirates – hackers

how to run your own internet crime ring

Inside a global cybercrime ring

(Reuters) – Hundreds of computer geeks, most of them students putting themselves through college, crammed into three floors of an office building in an industrial section of Ukraine’s capital Kiev, churning out code at a frenzied pace. They were creating some of the world’s most pernicious, and profitable, computer viruses.

According to court documents, former employees and investigators, a receptionist greeted visitors at the door of the company, known as Innovative Marketing Ukraine. Communications cables lay jumbled on the floor and a small coffee maker sat on the desk of one worker.

As business boomed, the firm added a human resources department, hired an internal IT staff and built a call center to dissuade its victims from seeking credit card refunds. Employees were treated to catered holiday parties and picnics with paintball competitions.

Top performers got bonuses as young workers turned a blind eye to the harm the software was doing. “When you are just 20, you don’t think a lot about ethics,” said Maxim, a former Innovative Marketing programer who now works for a Kiev bank and asked that only his first name be used for this story. “I had a good salary and I know that most employees also had pretty good salaries.”

In a rare victory in the battle against cybercrime, the company closed down last year after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit seeking its disbandment in U.S. federal court.

An examination of the FTC’s complaint and documents from a legal dispute among Innovative executives offer a rare glimpse into a dark, expanding — and highly profitable — corner of the internet.

Innovative Marketing Ukraine, or IMU, was at the center of a complex underground corporate empire with operations stretching from Eastern Europe to Bahrain; from India and Singapore to the United States. A researcher with anti-virus software maker McAfee Inc who spent months studying the company’s operations estimates that the business generated revenue of about $180 million in 2008, selling programs in at least two dozen countries. “They turned compromised machines into cash,” said the researcher, Dirk Kollberg.

The company built its wealth pioneering scareware — programs that pretend to scan a computer for viruses, and then tell the user that their machine is infected. The goal is to persuade the victim to voluntarily hand over their credit card information, paying $50 to $80 to “clean” their PC.

Scareware, also known as rogueware or fake antivirus software, has become one of the fastest-growing, and most prevalent, types of internet fraud. Software maker Panda Security estimates that each month some 35 million PCs worldwide, or 3.5 percent of all computers, are infected with these malicious programs, putting more than $400 million a year in the hands of cybercriminals. “When you include cost incurred by consumers replacing computers or repairing, the total damages figure is much, much larger than the out of pocket figure,” said Ethan Arenson, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission who helps direct the agency’s efforts to fight cybercrime.

Groups like Innovative Marketing build the viruses and collect the money but leave the work of distributing their merchandise to outside hackers. Once infected, the machines become virtually impossible to operate. The scareware also removes legitimate anti-virus software from vendors including Symantec Corp, McAfee and Trend Micro Inc, leaving PCs vulnerable to other attacks.

When victims pay the fee, the virus appears to vanish, but in some cases the machine is then infiltrated by other malicious programs. Hackers often sell the victim’s credit card credentials to the highest bidder.

Removing scareware is a top revenue generator for Geek Choice, a PC repair company with about two dozen outlets in the United States. The outfit charges $100 to $150 to clean infected machines, a service that accounts for about 30 percent of all calls. Geek Choice CEO Lucas Brunelle said that scareware attacks have picked up over the past few months as the software has become increasingly sophisticated. “There are more advanced strains that are resistant to a lot of anti-virus software,” Brunelle said.

Anti-virus software makers have also gotten into the lucrative business of cleaning PCs, charging for those services even when their products fall down on the job.

Charlotte Vlastelica, a homemaker in State College, Pennsylvania, was running a version of Symantec’s Norton anti-virus software when her PC was attacked by Antispyware 2010. “These pop-ups were constant,” she said. “They were layered one on top of the other. You couldn’t do anything.”

So she called Norton for help and was referred to the company’s technical support division. The fee for removing Antispyware 2010 was $100. A frustrated Vlastelica vented: “You totally missed the virus and now you’re going to charge us $100 to fix it?”


“It’s sort of a plague,” said Kent Woerner, a network administrator for a public school district in Beloit, Kansas, some 5,500 miles away from Innovative Marketing’s offices in Kiev. He ran into one of its products, Advanced Cleaner, when a teacher called to report that pornographic photos were popping up on a student’s screen. A message falsely claimed the images were stored on the school’s computer.

“When I have a sixth-grader seeing that kind of garbage, that’s offensive,” said Woerner. He fixed the machine by deleting all data from the hard drive and installing a fresh copy of Windows. All stored data was lost.

Stephen Layton, who knows his way around technology, ended up junking his PC, losing a week’s worth of data that he had yet to back up from his hard drive, after an attack from an Innovative Marketing program dubbed Windows XP Antivirus. The president of a home-based software company in Stevensville, Maryland, Layton says he is unsure how he contracted the malware.

But he was certain of its deleterious effect. “I work eight-to-12 hours a day,” he said. “You lose a week of that and you’re ready to jump off the roof.”

Layton and Woerner are among more than 1,000 people who complained to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about Innovative Marketing’s software, prompting an investigation that lasted more than a year and the federal lawsuit that sought to shut them down. To date the government has only succeeded in retrieving $117,000 by settling its charges against one of the defendants in the suit, James Reno, of Amelia, Ohio, who ran a customer support center in Cincinnati. He could not be reached for comment.

“These guys were the innovators and the biggest players (in scareware) for a long time,” said Arenson, who headed up the FTC’s investigation of Innovative Marketing.

Innovative’s roots date back to 2002, according to an account by one of its top executives, Marc D’Souza, a Canadian, who described the company’s operations in-depth in a 2008 legal dispute in Toronto with its founders over claims that he embezzled millions of dollars from the firm. The other key executives were a British man and a naturalized U.S. citizen of Indian origin.

According to D’Souza’s account, Innovative Marketing was set up as an internet company whose early products included pirated music and pornography downloads and illicit sales of the impotence drug Viagra. It also sold gray market versions of anti-virus software from Symantec and McAfee, but got out of the business in 2003 under pressure from those companies.

It tried building its own anti-virus software, dubbed Computershield, but the product didn’t work. That didn’t dissuade the firm from peddling the software amid the hysteria over MyDoom, a parasitic “worm” that attacked millions of PCs in what was then the biggest email virus attack to date. Innovative Marketing aggressively promoted the product over the internet, bringing in monthly profits of more than $1 million, according to D’Souza.

The company next started developing a type of malicious software known as adware that hackers install on PCs, where they served up pop-up ads for travel services, pornography, discounted drugs and other products, including its flawed antivirus software. They spread that adware by recruiting hackers whom they called “affiliates” to install it on PCs.

“Most affiliates installed the adware product on end-users’ computers illegally through the use of browser hijacking and other nefarious methods,” according to D’Souza. He said that Innovative Marketing paid its affiliates 10 cents per hijacked PC, but generated average returns of $2 to $5 for each of those machines through the sale of software and products promoted through the adware.


The affiliate system has since blossomed. Hackers looking for a piece of the action can link up with scareware companies through anonymous internet chat rooms. They are paid through electronic wire services such as Western Union, Pay Pal and Webmoney which can protect the identity of both the sender and the recipient.

To get started, a hacker needs to register as an affiliate on an underground website and download a virus file that is coded with his or her affiliate ID. Then it’s off to races.

“You can install it by any means, except spam,” says one affiliate recruiting site,, which pays $6 to $180 for every 1,000 PCs infected with its software. PCs in the United States earn a higher rate than ones in Asia.

Affiliates load the software onto the machines by a variety of methods, including hijacking legitimate websites, setting up corrupt sites for the purposes of spreading viruses and attacks over social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Anybody can get infected by going to a legitimate website,” said Uri Rivner, an executive with RSA, one of the world’s top computer security companies.

A scareware vendor distributed its goods one September weekend via The New York Times’ website by inserting a single rogue advertisement. The hacker paid to run the ad, which was disguised as one for the internet phone company Vonage. It contaminated PCs of an unknown number of readers, according to an account of the incident published in The New York Times.

Patrik Runald, a senior researcher at internet security firm Websense Inc, expects rogueware vendors to get more aggressive with marketing. “We’re going to see them invest more money in that — buying legitimate ad space,” he said.

To draw victims to infected websites, hackers will also manipulate Google’s search engine to get their sites to come up on the top of anyone’s search in a particular subject. For instance, they might capitalize on news events of wide interest — from the winners of the Oscars to the Tiger Woods scandal — quickly setting up sites to attract relevant search times. Anti-virus maker Panda Security last year observed one scareware peddler set up some 1 million web pages that infected people searching for Ford auto parts with a program dubbed MSAntispyware2009. They also snare victims by sending their links through Facebook and Twitter.

Some rogue vendors manage their partnerships with hackers through software that tracks who installed the virus that generated a sale. Hackers are paid well for their efforts, garnering commissions ranging from 50 to 90 percent, according to Panda Security. SecureWorks, another security firm, estimates that a hacker who gets 1 to 2 percent of users of infected machines to purchase the software can pull in over $5 million a year in commissions.

Hackers in some Eastern European countries barely attempt to conceal their activities.

Panda Security found photos of a party in March 2008 that it said affiliate ring KlikVIP held in Montenegro to reward scareware installers. One showed a briefcase full of euros that would go to the top performer. “They weren’t afraid of the legal implications, ” said Panda Security researcher Sean-Paul Correll. “They were fearless.”


One of Innovative Marketing’s biggest problems was the high proportion of victims who complained to their credit card companies and obtained refunds on their purchases. That hurt the relationships with its merchant banks that processed those transactions, forcing it to switch from banks in Canada to Bahrain. It created subsidiaries designed to hide its identity.

In 2005, Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait severed its ties with an Innovative Marketing subsidiary that had the highest volume of credit card processing of any entity in Bahrain because of its high chargeback rates, according to D’Souza.

Innovative Marketing then went five months without a credit card processor before finding a bank in Singapore — DBS Bank — willing to handle its account. The Singapore bank processed tens of millions of dollars in backlogged credit card payments for the company, D’Souza said.

To keep the chargeback rate from climbing even higher, Innovative Marketing invested heavily in call centers. It opened facilities in Ukraine, India and the United States. The rogueware was designed to tell the users that their PCs were working properly once the victim had paid for the software, so when people called up to complain it wasn’t working, agents would walk them through whatever steps it took to make those messages come up.

Often that required disabling legitimate anti-virus software programs, according to McAfee researcher Dirk Kollberg, who spent hours listening to digitized audio recordings of customer service calls that Innovative Marketing kept on its servers at its Ukraine offices. He gathered the data by tapping into a computer server at its branch in Kiev that he said was inadvertently hooked up to Innovative’s website. “At the end of the call,” he said, “most customers were happy.”

Police have had limited success in cracking down on the scareware industry. Like Innovative Marketing, most rogue internet companies tend to be based in countries where laws permit such activities or officials look the other way.

Law enforcement agencies in the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Singapore are the most aggressive in prosecuting internet crimes and helping officials in other countries pursue such cases, said Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the U.S. Department of Justice. “In the rest of the world, it’s hit or miss,” he said. “The cooperation is getting better, but the level of crime continues to increase and continues to outpace the level of cooperation.”

The FTC succeeded in persuading a U.S. federal judge to order Innovative Marketing and two individuals associated with it to pay $163 million it had scammed from Americans. Neither individual has surfaced since the government filed its original suit more than a year ago. But Ethan Arenson, the FTC attorney who handled the case, warned: “Collection efforts are just getting underway.”

(Editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)

pirate uniforms

if i had to write uniforms, they would be someplace between those gothic skull shirts you see everywhere and indian chic.

Mexico’s hottest fashion craze: ‘Narco Polo’ jerseys

Trend sweeps neighborhoods, inspired by drug dealers who were arrested wearing shirts

Edgar Valdez Villarreal

Alexandre Meneghini  /  APTexas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “the Barbie,” center, smiles during his presentation to the press after his arrest in Mexico City. “Narco Polo” is the new fashion trend sweeping lower-class neighborhoods in Mexico.
The Associated Press
updated 6/10/2011 11:29:52 PM ET

MEXICO CITY — “Narco Polo” is the new fashion trend sweeping lower-class neighborhoods in Mexico, inspired by seven high-ranking drug traffickers who were arrested over a three-month stretch wearing open-neck, short-sleeved jerseys with the familiar horseman-with-a-stick emblem.

The polo shirts are becoming ubiquitous in street vendors’ stalls from the drug-war-ravaged state of Tamaulipas to the cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, Sinaloa.

Demand is so high that a Mexico City street vendor named Felipe stocks several colors, and names them after the drug lord who was wearing that color at the time of his arrest.

“This is the ‘J.J’,” he says, pointing to a blue one, “and this is ‘La Barbie,'” indicating a green number. That was a reference to Jose Jorge (“J.J.”) Balderas, who allegedly dealt drugs and shot soccer star Salvador Cabanas in the head, and to U.S.-born Edgar Valdez Villarreal, “La Barbie.”

Despite their Ralph Lauren labels, the shirts on sale on Mexico City streets for 160 pesos ($13.50) are clearly pirated goods, sold by unlicensed vendors like Felipe who don’t want their full names used for fear of attracting police attention.

But some of Felipe’s customers have their first names embroidered on the back of the shirts, a service he offers for an extra fee, as a sort of dare.

It’s probably not the demographic that designers at Ralph Lauren were thinking of for their polo shirts. The company did not respond to several requests for comment about the shirts’ popularity in Mexican criminal circles.

The shirt La Barbie wore when captured appeared to be the only potentially authentic one of the bunch. The rest of the drug traffickers appeared to be wearing cheap knockoffs of the $98 to $145 Ralph Lauren “Big Pony” jerseys.

‘You can’t say anything to me’
The shirt is becoming so pervasive that it provoked public grumbling from Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez.

“Now you see how these shirts like La Barbie’s have become the fashion,” said Lopez Valdez. While he didn’t suggest an outright ban, he told a local radio station that “I think we have to close off everything that promotes criminal behavior.”

He complained that the fad glorifies traffickers.

Image: Suspect Victor Valdez, known as "El Gordo Varilla" (The Big Stick) is being presented to the media in Cuernavaca Reuters
Victor Valdez, known as “El Gordo Varilla”, in Cuernavaca in May 2011. The suspected drug boss is wearing one of the Lauren-style shirts now popular in lower-class neighborhoods in Mexico.

“Many young people want to emulate them as idols in some way … and they want to be drug traffickers. And there are a lot of young girls who want to be the girlfriends of drug traffickers.”

But it may not be sheer adulation; wearing the shirts may also be a way for youths to thumb their noses at authority, a time-honored pastime among young people around the world.

“To the police, it’s a message that says ‘I could be a drug trafficker and walk right in front of you and you can’t say anything to me because I’m just wearing a shirt,'” said Oscar Galicia Castillo, a psychologist at the IberoAmerican University who studies prison inmates. “Many youths are also using it as a way of making fun of snobbish status markers.”

For Pedro, who sells snacks at a stand on a downtown Mexico City street, his light blue polo shirt just represents an indefinable sense of cool. He said the shirts had become all the rage in his tough neighborhood of Tepito, and that his wife bought him one as a surprise.

“It looks good. It gives you class,” he said. He declined to give his last name, saying police had recently caught him selling cigarettes to minors.

In some rough barrios, a shirt that conveys a vague sense of menace and a “don’t mess with me” attitude may be helpful.

“The guys who buy them want people to think they’re tough,” said Cesar, a counterfeit-shirt vendor who said most of the customers at his downtown Mexico City stall are young males. “It’s about putting on a look.”

All about standing out
For at least two decades, Mexicans have fretted about youths emulating drug traffickers, from the days when narcos favored the designs of Versace and exotic-leather boots, or marijuana-leaf insignia on belt buckles, shirts and baseball caps. But such trends remained largely regional, and were derided as tacky.

But the new fashion trend has been helped along by a new, more urbane and sophisticated generation of drug traffickers, who dress more like Mexico’s wealthier classes.

In 2010, Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of drug lord Vicente “El Mayo” Zambada, was arrested in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood, wearing a preppy ensemble of sports coat, designer jeans and striped cotton shirt.

Vicente Carrillo Leyva, the son of another drug lord, was collared around the same time wearing a jogging suit emblazoned with the name “Abercrombie.”

Media coverage also can promote the trend. Newly captured capos are paraded before television cameras wearing the latest narco-fashion, often with beautiful girlfriends at their sides. Authorities allow some, like J.J., to sit down for interviews looking self-assured, fit and unrepentant.

“My business improved. Everybody wanted to work with me,” Balderas said of the notoriety he achieved while a wanted man.

It wouldn’t be the first time designers have faced an unexpected market. Uber-preppy designer Tommy Hilfiger’s clothes became a must-have item for inner-city youths a few years ago.

For Galicia Castillo, the psychologist, it’s all about standing out, identifying oneself as a member of a certain sector of a crowded world, probably much the same reason people shell out $145 for the original: “That’s why I wear it, so that everyone will look at me, will see that I can afford this. And I could be a narco, so don’t mess with me.”

pirates of the imf

Sexual ‘pirates’ prowled IMF for women

‘It’s sort of like “Pirates of the Caribbean”; the rules are more like guidelines,’

The New York Times
updated 5/20/2011

WASHINGTON — It is an international island in the midst of the American capital, a sharp-elbowed place ruled by alpha male economists. The days are long, and employees are regularly pressed together for weeks on end during overseas “missions.” It is a climate in which romances often flourish — and lines are sometimes crossed.

Some women avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Others trade whispered tips about overly forward bosses. A 2008 internal review found few restraints on the conduct of senior managers, concluding that “the absence of public ethics scandals seems to be more a consequence of luck than good planning and action.”

This is life at the International Monetary Fund, the lender of last resort for governments that need money and, under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, an emerging force in the regulation of the global economy.

But with Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest earlier this week and indictment on Thursday on charges that he tried to rape a New York hotel housekeeper, a spotlight has been cast on the culture of the institution. And questions have been revived about a 2008 episode in which the I.M.F. decided that Mr. Strauss-Kahn had not broken any rules in sleeping with a female employee.

What may draw even more attention to the culture of the fund is the revelation of an affair involving a potential successor to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director on Wednesday. Kemal Dervis of Turkey had a liaison while working at the World Bank years ago with a woman who now works at the I.M.F., according to a person with direct knowledge of the relationship.

Interviews and documents paint a picture of the fund as an institution whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment. The laws of the United States do not apply inside its walls, and until earlier this month the I.M.F.’s own rules contained an unusual provision that some experts and former officials say has encouraged managers to pursue the women who work for them: “Intimate personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates do not, in themselves, constitute harassment.”

“It’s sort of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; the rules are more like guidelines,” said Carmen M. Reinhart, a prominent female economist who served as the I.M.F.’s deputy director for research from 2001 to 2003. “That sets the stage, I think, for more risk-taking.”

‘He wasn’t punished’

In 2007, officials at the fund declined to investigate a complaint by an administrative assistant who had slept with her supervisor, and who charged that he had given her poor performance reviews to pressure her to continue the relationship. Officials told the woman that the supervisor planned to retire soon, and therefore there was no point in investigating the charges, according to findings by the I.M.F.’s internal court.

The official, who is not named in the records, told investigators that he also had a sexual relationship with a second employee, and that he did not believe he had acted improperly.

In another case, a young woman who has since left the I.M.F. said that in 2009, a senior manager in her department started sending her increasingly explicit e-mails seeking a relationship. She complained to her boss, who did not take any action.

“They said they took it seriously, but two minutes later they were turning around and acting like everything was O.K. to the person who had done it to me,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she still works in the international development community. “He wasn’t punished. Not at all.”

Virginia R. Canter, who joined the I.M.F. last year with responsibility for investigating harassment claims, said the institution recently took a series of strong steps to protect employees. A new code of conduct adopted on May 6 specifies that intimate relationships with subordinates “are likely to result in conflicts of interest” and must be disclosed to the proper authorities.

“It’s recognizing that sometimes relationships grow in the workplace,” Ms. Canter said. “But it doesn’t mean we’re not sensitive to this issue and we will investigate if there is evidence to suggest harassment.”

She also said that the fund would not again brush aside an employee complaint like the one from the assistant who was sleeping with her boss. “Absolutely that wouldn’t have happened today,” she said. “We would investigate the matter.”

Different cultures thrown together
The I.M.F., created in 1945, has 2,400 employees evaluating the economic health of nations from a pair of huge Washington buildings and on regular trips abroad. When nations borrow money from the fund, they typically must agree to adopt economic reforms, and employees are sent to watch their progress.

In recent years the fund has tried to diversify by hiring more women, Even so, only six of the I.M.F.’s 30 senior executives are women. Only 21.5 percent of all managers at the fund are women, compared with 32 percent at its sister institution, the World Bank, and 26 percent at the United Nations secretariat.

Some women say the fund is a welcoming work environment.

“I haven’t met any cases in my career of sexual harassment,” said Teresa Ter-Minassian, who spent 37 years at the I.M.F. and retired last year as director of the fiscal affairs department.

Some issues arise from cultural differences. In one case, a married Muslim woman complained when her European boss paid her a compliment that was innocuous but unrelated to work, the only subject she considered permissible.

“Culturally, there are a lot of people thrown together,” said Susan Schadler, who spent 32 years at the fund, rising to deputy director of the European department before leaving in 2007. “There’s a lot of scope for misunderstanding, misreading signals. I think that’s a particular vulnerability for the fund.”

The new relationship policy is a response to the 2008 case in which a Hungarian economist, Piroska M. Nagy, had a relationship with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

Ms. Nagy described herself in a letter to investigators as “damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.”

An independent investigation found that Mr. Strauss-Kahn had not abused his power. Though he apologized publicly, many women at the I.M.F. were dismayed by the outcome.

“What are we supposed to make of this when we go into Strauss-Kahn’s office?” Ms. Schadler said, recounting conversations with former colleagues. “Do we sit there and think, ‘He’s sizing me up as a potential sexual object?’ ”

“There is this implicit culture that this wasn’t really seen as something that the fund is going to worry about,” she said, “and I think that’s what bothered women.”

This story, “At I.M.F., Men on Prowl and Women on Guard,” originally appeared in The New York Times.

the mythology of piracy

How Robin Hood became a socialist

Ridley Scott’s grim action film is the latest in an evolution that includes Errol Flynn and blacklisted writers

TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010 17:01 ET

Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood,” starring Russell Crowe as a common archer turned proto-revolutionary and national warrior, will bring no merriness to the month of May. Given Crowe’s surly persona, the film affords no capering in the greenwood in the manner of Douglas Fairbanks, no cocky Saxon tricksterism in the vein of Errol Flynn, and mercifully no SoCal modernity in the style of Kevin Costner. In their desire to break with the traditional aura of the English outlaw, Scott, Crowe and writer Brian Helgeland have created a moody war movie redolent of their 2000 Oscar success “Gladiator,” that offers a lesson in medieval realpolitik.

The majority of “Robin Hood” movies are much softer than Scott’s because violent realism wasn’t an existing style at the time they were made. The likes of “Prince of Thieves” (1948), “The Men of Sherwood Forest” (1954), and “Sword of Sherwood Forest” (1960) were hidebound by the merry England clichés that were the rule of thumb in Hollywood and British cinema until Richard Lester’s beautifully spare and rugged “Robin and Marian” (1976), with Sean Connery, subverted the storybook visual style.

In all, Robin Hood has featured in around 50 live-action films, 15 TV series and 15 cartoons. Five were made in the early silent period before Allan Dwan’s 1922 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle set a benchmark for flamboyance. It’s a wildly uneven film, ranging from the monotonously ceremonial to the absurd, with the acrobatic star proving giddy to the point of clownish. Inarguably the one masterpiece in the canon, Michael Curtiz’s swashbuckler “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) starring Errol Flynn implied a comparison between Prince John’s cruelty toward the Saxon peasants with Nazi atrocities in Europe. However, with its chemically bright Technicolor palette, majestic Erich Korngold score and Flynn’s gentrified Robin in sequined Lincoln green, it is wholly artificial, a fantasy extrapolated less from the 15th-century ballads, in which Robin is often brutal, than from 16th-century plays and bucolic Victorian renderings.

Though not without flashes of excitement or, more rarely, political insight, the Robin Hood movies that followed in the next 20 years were stylistically unambitious. But then came clean-cut Richard Greene in TV’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1955-58). This remarkable show, which ran for 143 episodes, was produced by a British-based company funded by the CPUSA to provide clandestine work for blacklisted Hollywood screenwriters. Among the 22 who contributed were Ring Lardner Jr.Ian McLellan HunterRobert Lees and Waldo Salt, who, working for producer Hannah Weinstein, a “silent” left-wing organizer, sent their scripts pseudonymously from America. The socialistic stories, often based on historical laws and customs, revolved around Robin’s efforts to protect the heavily taxed serfs and teach the well-born lessons in humanism.

Not only did the series suggest support for the British welfare state, it created offshore opportunities for its American writers. As Tom Dewe Mathews noted in the Guardian: “Lardner explained that a TV show about an outlaw who takes from the rich to give to the poor provided him ‘with plenty of opportunities to comment on issues and institutions in Eisenhower-era America.'” Mathews cites blacklist scholar Steve Neale’s discovery that “within the scripts’ emphasis on redistribution of wealth there is ‘a theme that recurs in the first two series: the probability that Robin Hood or one of the outlaws will be betrayed,'” like the writers themselves.

The Greene series raises the question of what constitutes realism in the Robin Hood firmament. Atmospheric external filmed sequences were intercut with those taped on cramped studio sets, giving an impression of simultaneous verisimilitude and artifice. While it wasn’t realistic in the mode of “Robin and Marian” or John Irvin’s ribald, pleasingly grimy “Robin Hood” (1991) — with its caves, huge black pigs, and omnipresent mud — in the ’50s it managed the trick of making the myth itself seem credible, and it was enormously popular. So, too, 30 years on, was Richard Carpenter’s haunting “Robin of Sherwood” (1984-86), which, contriving to be lush and gritty, blended the doleful hero’s scrappy war of resistance with medieval folklore and necromancy — far more convincingly than would Costner’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991). Michael Praed and Judi Trott, his red-ringleted Marion, were an idyllically beautiful pair that could have stepped from a Burne-Jones canvas while Praed has been invoked as a “student radical” Robin. But the show had its own solemn integrity — unlike the BBC’s laddish soap-opera version of 2006-09.

One film that went all out for realism and duly disappeared was Johnny Hough’s grim and humorless “Wolfshead: The Legend of Robin Hood,” which was shot as a never screened 1969 TV pilot and released theatrically in 1973 (and on VHS in the U.S. as “The Legend of Young Robin Hood”). Influenced by “A Gest of Robyn Hode” c.1400-1460, it’s set in a bleak Barnsdale terrain and pits yeoman farmer Robin (David Warbeck) against a corrupt landowner and an abbot in a low-level guerrilla war. Jeffrey Richards observed that it was “clearly concerned to be grimly realistic: no fancy hairdos or dinky Lincoln green suits, no scriptwriters’ repartee and gaudy, multicolored costumes, no eternally sunny skies and purpose built Hollywood castles. Instead there is Welsh location shooting (damp woods, overcast skies, dark brown soil, mist), genuine weathered castles, dull-colored authentic-looking costumes, and a narrative which includes rape and torture.” This sounds like Robin Hood as Ken Loach might have filmed it, except that Loach would have added humor and, in relishing the “rob from the rich” ethos, applied a Marxist critique.

A more likely candidate to make a genuinely revisionist version is another British filmmaker, Shane Meadows, himself from Robin Hood country, who once expressed interest in doing so. However, as Stephen Knight has written, “there is, at least in this myth … a limit to how much detailed realism the story can accommodate … The audience knows about cold weather and defeat; the function of the myth is to offer an immediate sense of escape and also a more distant promise of Utopia.” Ridley Scott’s quasi-realist film may find Utopianism beyond the reach of its bowstring, though, to risk cynicism, one suspects its streamlined violence will hit the bull’s-eye again and again.

Graham Fuller has written about movies for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Film Comment, Sight & Sound, and His website is at

trading pirates between us

Manuel Noriega Extradited To France


WASHINGTON — The U.S. extradited former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France on Monday, clearing the way for him to stand trial there on money laundering charges.

The former strongman, who was being held in a federal prison in Miami, was on an Air France flight to Paris, according to a Department of Justice source who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to comment on the case.

Yves Leberquier, one of Noriega’s lawyers, confirmed Noriega was headed to France.

“When he arrives he will be presented to the prosecutor and notified of the arrest warrant, and he will confirm his opposition” to the warrant, Leberquier said.

After that, at some point Tuesday, Noriega will be presented to a Paris judge who will determine whether he should stay in custody pending further action. Leberquier said Noriega’s lawyers will push for that hearing to be open “so that the defense can be totally transparent.”

Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a so-called surrender warrant for Noriega after a federal judge in Miami lifted a stay blocking the extradition last month, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“Now that all judicial challenges to Noriega’s extradition have been resolved, the secretary of state issued a surrender warrant for his extradition to France,” he said.

Noriega was ousted as Panama’s leader and put on trial following a 1989 U.S. invasion that drove him from power. He was convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992. His sentence ended in 2007, but France requested Noriega’s extradition shortly before his U.S. drug trafficking sentence ended Sept. 9, 2007.

The French claim Noriega laundered some $3 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. Noriega was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to give him a new trial if he was extradited.

Federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court turned away Noriega’s claims that the Geneva Conventions treaties regarding prisoners of war require him to be returned to Panama. Noriega was declared a POW after his 1992 drug conviction by a Miami federal judge.

Noriega, believed to be in his 70s, was Panama’s longtime intelligence chief before he took power in 1982. He had been considered a valued CIA asset for years, but as a ruler he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.

President George H.W. Bush ordered an invasion in late 1989 to oust him. He was brought to Miami and convicted of drug charges.


Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Pete Yost in Washington and Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

can we do that?

england shipped many pirates to england for trial, before hanging their bodies where other ships could have a good look.  i guess america can do it, too.  except that they’ll be hung on cspan.

US indicts 11 suspected pirates in Norfolk, Va.

Associated Press Writer

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Eleven suspected pirates were indicted Friday on U.S charges of piracy and other counts related to attacks on two U.S. naval vessels off the coast of Africa.

The indictment was unsealed an hour after the suspects were led into the federal courthouse in Norfolk under heavy security.

One of the accused pirates had a bandaged head, while another was carried into the court building. The 11 were scheduled for a court appearance Friday afternoon.

In addition to the piracy count, the charges include attacks to plunder a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

Five of the men were captured March 31, after the frigate USS Nicholas exchanged fire with a suspected pirate vessel west of the Seychelles, sinking a skiff and confiscating its mother ship.

The other six were captured after they allegedly began shooting at the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland on April 10 about 380 miles off Djibouti, a small nation facing Yemen across the mouth of the Red Sea.

The 11 had been held on U.S. ships for weeks off Somalia’s pirate-infested coast and nearby regions as officials worked to determine whether and where they could be prosecuted and prepare legal charges against them.

The indictment did not indicate the pirates’ nationality.

The Somali mission to the United Nations said it is attempting to sort out jurisdictional issues.

“We prefer those kids to be tried in Somalia,” said Omar Jamal, first secretary for the mission. “As far as we know, they are all Somalis.”

The suspects were taken from the USS Nassau amphibious assault ship Thursday and flown to Virginia on a government plane in the custody of the Justice Department.

The transfer of the case to a U.S. court comes amid discussions about setting up an international court to prosecute piracy suspects, which some nations have been reluctant to do because of difficulties transporting suspects, fears they may claim asylum and thorny jurisdiction issues.

U.S. warships are part of an international flotilla protecting shipping in the region. The navies of other countries have also have taken alleged pirates home for trial.

Kenya, south of Somalia, has taken some to its courts but now says pirates are putting too much strain on the country’s court system.

Some pirates have been released after capture because no nation could be found to try them.

© 2010 The Associated Press.

you can’t stop piracy

It’s time to fight the copyright police state

by Molly Wood

Ok, nerds. It’s time to mount up. We’re going to war. We’re living in what is increasingly becoming a copyright and intellectual property police state, and it’s time we self-organize and do something about it. Here’s the deal.

Recently, the office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (a new post under the Obama administration) asked for comments as it puts together its “Joint Strategic Plan” for intellectual property enforcement. Yes, you the public are also invited to comment, and that’s what I’m hoping you’ll do after you read this. Or during. Or both.

See, the RIAA and the MPAA submitted a joint commentary that the EFF refers to as a “wish list” and, most accurately, a dystopian view of a future in which most government and police resources go toward stopping intellectual property theft and illegal downloading.

This Gizmodo post describing the comments reads like something only hyper-overreactive, FUD-spreading free-stuff-loving Internet types would come up with as a paranoid nightmare: the RIAA and MPAA want spyware installed on your computers that would automatically delete “infringing content.” They want network-monitoring software that would halt an illegal download in its tracks. They want to deputize the FBI, Homeland Security, and border crossing guards to examine and seize MP3 players and laptops (something so egregious it even came out of the wildly over-the-top ACTA agreement). Crazy talk, I know.

But read the comments for yourselfIt’s all in there. And there’s more: the MPAA wants blockbuster movie releases to be treated with the same kinds of security measures and law-enforcement mobilization that might occur when, say, a head of state comes to visit.

The comments call for bandwidth throttling and shaping, network filtering and deep-packet inspection (especially on college campuses), and accelerated federal investigations into the theft of “pre-release music and movies…as this is one of the most damaging forms of online copyright theft and requires immediate attention and swift action.” Dive in anywhere. It’s a minefield of overreaching, unbelievably punitive, alarmist language.

And this is just insult to injury, considering the other things the music and movie industry have either asked for or forced on us over the years, as they become increasingly paranoid about digital piracy and increasingly panicked about their outmoded, pre-Internet business plans. And let’s not forget their historic unwillingness to make any sort of actual business changes and instead try to rely on government to keep them in business. Let’s review.

Thanks to the DMCA, it is illegal for you to make a digital copy of a DVD that you have actually purchased. That’s because, under the law, you are not allowed to break the technological DRM that keeps you from ripping the DVD. It’s also because you have no explicit right to fair use with the content or devices you own. The RIAA has spent years flirting with ways to stop you from ripping CDs, hinting that they don’t think making digital copies of your own CDs is, in fact, fair use. Several labels briefly issued widely despised copy-protected CDs, until consumer outcry put a stop to it because the crippled CDs frequently wouldn’t even play. And of course, when that failed, they resorted to dirty tricks like embedding rootkits in CDs that would essentially break your computer when you ripped one.

When, after years of fighting the very concept of digital distribution tooth and nail, the labels finally found themselves willing to dip a toe, they wrapped everything in such restrictive DRM that consumers found themselves locked in to devices with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of music that would only play on one platform. And even as music DRM gradually faded, we learned to live with artificial technological restrictions, like the idea that you couldn’t transfer your own, legally purchased music from one computer to another; that you would gradually lose the ability to mount your music player as a drive and simply transfer music to and from it; that you wouldn’t be able to sync a device with more than one computer, just in case you were trying to offload music to a friend.

And when all of that failed to stop the flood of business-destroying pirating (never mind that the industry took 10 years to even enter into the business of digital distribution, a move that frankly could have headed off all this agony from the outset), the RIAA resorted to a campaign of legal terror.

It fired off indiscriminate lawsuits, often without anything even remotely resembling proof, and usedpatently ridiculous math to assert the “value” of pirated songs and the amount it was owed. And our legal system, terrified by the sight of this powerful industry lying in smoking ruins at the hands of the pirating hordes (never mind said industry’s complete refusal to adapt to changing market conditions or come up with a technologically appropriate solution when the “problem” of downloading reared its head more than a decade ago), let it happen.

The movie industry, on the other hand, decided to start from a different position: nuclear. And it’s never backed down. No DVD ripping. Period. Technological barriers that, if breached, will land you in jail. They forced “zero tolerance” policies on movie theaters so that teenagers taking 20-second movie clips to show their little brothers end up arrested and facing a year in prison. The industry sued RealNetworks straight out of existence for trying to bring DVD ripping to the masses.

Plus, the MPAA has been front and center on the lobbying lines from the get-go, has steadfastly refused to engage in widespread digital distribution, and even as it creeps into the idea of streaming video content, it only gets there by extracting consumer-unfriendly delays in actual DVD rentals. Its approach? Keep it on the disc at all costs and beat into submission anyone who suggests otherwise–no matter how archaic the disc and how digital the consumer.

And all the while, the entertainment industry has been pushing copyright protection laws that got steadily stricter, and whose unintended consequences now impact everything from coffee-house performances to libraries to security research. Its rhetoric and PR attempts have gotten so wildly distorted that the RIAA’s CEO recently tried to associate China’s hacks against Google with Google’s own attitudes toward IP, and claimed that file-sharers were actually harming the Haiti relief effort. At this point, the Internet is littered with writings and stories about how the misguided attempts to lock down every single idea, piece of content, and emerging technology are harming individuals, wasting time, costing us money, and just plain pissing us off.

In short, these industries have done everything they possibly can to stop the forward march of technology, and, failing that, they’re now turning to the government and the police to enforce their business plans for them. And that, as my colleague Tom Merritt points out in today’s Buzz Out Loud podcast, is now threatening to spill over into our personal safety–the RIAA and MPAA’s joint comments to the IPEC office essentially ask border crossing guards to prioritize pirated music or movies alongside bombs, and would pull federal resources out of serious criminal cases and focus them on illegally downloaded movies.

And some of that might make sense if the industry could back up the claims it’s made for all these years that the economy is suffering billions of dollars in lost jobs and sales due to piracy. Buthere’s the thing. This week, also in response to IPEC office requests, the General Accounting Office issued a report saying that most estimates about the impact of piracy AND counterfeiting on the economy are either totally made up or are simply wild assumptions.

For example, the FBI said in 2002 that U.S. businesses lose $250 billion to counterfeiting. When asked by the GAO, according to the report, the FBI could not provide any proof, methodology, or source data for that number. The Business Software Alliance said it lost $9 billion to piracy in 2008. The GAO said there’s simply no evidence to back that up. The MPAA, which has already been busted for wildly exaggerating the number of illegal downloads happening on college campuses, gets dinged for making convenient assumptions that make piracy look worse than it is, but again, have little quantifiable basis in fact.

We are being bullied into a technological police state because these industries failed to see the technological writing on the wall, to innovate appropriately, or to follow the most fundamental rule of business: give the consumers what they want. And they have used bogus numbers, scare tactics, and the worst kind of legal intimidation to get it done.

And yet our own government is still leading the charge on negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in secret, saying its contents are national security-level secrets. And we know that those contents happen to include, say, just the kind of three-strikes ISP enforcement that’s already been stricken from previous global agreements and swatted down by the EU, and the type of warrantless search and seizure of your personal property the industry is clearly so excited to have happening at borders.

Now, I sincerely hope that Victorial Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, is taking into account the GAO report right alongside the crazy house of horrors that is the entertainment industry’s wish list. But the fact is, the MPAA and the RIAA are well-heeled, well-organized machines that have made it their business to drive piracy and intellectual property theft (no matter how overblown their interpretation of the threat) into the ground at all costs. It’s time we lovers of a free and open Internet (and, what the hell, society) became just as vocal and determined.

Please, write to Victoria at Tell her no intellectual property legislation is complete without explicitly defined legal exceptions for personal fair use of your property, including ripping CDs and DVDs, limited personal sharing of music, movies, and other digital property, and protections for device and network innovations. Tell her ISPs aren’t cops, and we’d rather have our cops solving murders and stopping terrorist attacks than checking MP3s at the borders and securing movie theaters on release day.

And most of all, tell her the entertainment industry needs to prove that it’s after more than a bailout, that its claims of monstrous economic damage are based on actual fact, and that it hasn’t just plain failed to get its digital act together. The Internet is not a giant, flag-waving pirate ship, and it’s about damned time this industry stopped treating it like one.

notes: “under the black flag” by david cordingly

under the black flag; the romance and the reality of life among the pirates.  by david cordingly, harcourt brace, 1998

“when william phillips was wounded in his left leg during a skirmish between two pirate ships, there was no surgeon on board either vessel and it was decided that the ship’s carpenter was the most suitable man to tackle the job.  the carpenter produced the largest saw from his tool chest and went to work ‘as though he were cutting a deal board in two and soon the leg was separated from the body of the patient.’  to cauterize the wound, the carpenter heated his broadax, but he proved less skilled with this tool and burned more of the flesh than was necessary.  miraculously phillips survived the operation.”  p8

“although a surprising number of women seem to have gone to sea on merchant ships or joined the navy disguised as men, very few women became pirates.  apart from mary read and anne bonny, the only female pirates mentioned in any of the pirate histories are the scandinavian pirate alwilda, the irishwoman grace o’malley, and the chinese pirate leader mrs. cheng.”  p71

“there was therefore a seasonal pattern to the pirates’ voyages.  most of the winter months were spent in the warm waters of the caribbean, and not until april or may did they head north.  bartholomew roberts, for instance, attacked shipping on teh newfoundland banks in june and july 1720, but was back in the west indies by the winter.  blackbeard was on the coast of virginia in october 1717 and blockading charleston, south carolina, in june 1718, but in the intervening winter he went south and plundered ships off st. kitts and in the bay of honduras.  edward low was cruising of rhode island and newfoundland in july 1723, but by september he had headed across the atlantic to the azores.”  p89

“a closer look suggests that pirate life at sea was well organized, and similar in many respects to life on a merchant ship.  this is not surprising, partly because the majority of pirates were former merchant seamen and would have adopted similar routines, and patly because ocean voyaging deemanded a certain level of discipline if the crew were to survive the perils of the sea.  there was the same need to establish watches, to post lookouts, to take soundings in shallow waters, and to navigate as accurately as possible.  in heavy weather life would have been as wet, as cold, as physically demanding, and as dangerous as on a merchent ship.  in calm weather there would have been days and sometimes weeks with little to do but men sails and gear, carry out minor repairs, and eat and drink.

“there were, however, considerable differences too.  apart from the inevitable dangers involved when attacking a ship which might fight back, the daily routine on a pirate ship was considerably easier than life on a merchantman because the crew were not driven by owners and captains to make the fastest possible passage with the biggest possible cargo, and because the pirates operated with very much larger crews.  the typical crew of a merchantman of 100 tons ewas around twelve men.  a pirate ship of similar size would frequently have a crew of eighty or more.  the pirates therefore had many more hands to haul on ropes, heave up the anchor, set the sails, work the pumps, load and unload provisions, man the boats, and go ashore for firewood and water.”  p90-91

“there were three qualities required in a pirate ship:  she had to be fast, seaworthy, an well armed.  a fast ship enabled the pirates to catch their prey and to make a quick getaway, ‘a light pair of heels being of great use either to take or to escape being taken’ in the words of captain johnson.  for this reason, many of the pirates in teh west indies used the single-masted sloops built in bermuda and jamaica which had a well-deserved reputation for speed. the pirates kept the in good order, careening them regularly to keep the hulls smooth and clear of seaweed, and they could usually outsail any craft sent after them.”  p158

“in retrospect it is surprising how effective the royal navy and authorized privateers were in hunting down the pirates.  the pirates’ cruising grounds extended for thousands of miles, and there were so many places in the caribbean and along the coasts of north america and africa where they could hide their shops.  and yet, without radios and telephones, the news of a pirate’s whereabouts would be passed among the thousands of ships and small craft plying among the islands and up and down the coast.  the information would eventually reach the governor of a colony, the captain of a naval ship, or an agent of the royal africa company or the east india company.. a warship would be dispatched, and a patient search made until the pirate was tracked down.”  p222

“it was not simply the numbers of pirates executed which contributed to their downfall.  the publicity surrounding the trials and the public nature of the executions ensured that seamen and their families were keenly aware of the penalty for piracy.  the pronouncements of the judges, prosecutors, and clergy stressed with wicked nature of their actions and made it plain that pirates were enemies of all mankind.  the trials, hangings, and the heavy condemnation of piracy by church and state acted as a powerful deterrent to anyone tempted to join the pirates.”  p228

notes: “the pirate queen” by barbara sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm, The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, Seal Press, 2004

“the captain of a  pirate ship must be, hands down, the most transgressive role to which a woman could ever aspire.  dirty, greedy, sensual, tough, a nd charismatic; a gambler, a wife, and a mother, a leader of men, a politician when necessary.”  p.xvii

“the island where she’d grown up, clynish, was one of five that were inhabited.  in the past, more families had made their home out in clew bay.  but over the last centuray, in particular, people began to leave, either for the mainland or england or america, more because of isolation than anything else.
‘No one went hungry, here,’ said mary [gavin hughes].  ‘it was a rich life, between the fishing, the animals, and your potatoes and vegetables.  we always had fish to eat, and raiased cows and sheep, too, which we sold.  we used to put halters on the cattle and put them in boats or lead them across to the mainland during low tieddes.  islanders would also gather seaweed and sell it on shore.’
mary and her brother were first taken to school on the mainland by their father in a small boat with an outboard motor.  later she and her brother went back and forth by themselves.  ‘there were days when the motor didn’t work.  it was a long way.’ ” p24

“the mythological realm, where sea goddesses stirred up cauldrons of whirling water, storm kettles of surge and drag.  in gaelic these cauldrons are called coire, and one of the most famous of them lies not far from iona and mull in the hebrides, between the sparsely inhabited islands of scarba and jura.  there, the atlantic tide comes and goes so quickly and voluminously that the narrow gap between the islands becomes a watery conflagration of currents, creating waves that slap up twenty feet tall.  it is called corryvreckan, or coire breckan, “the cauldron of the plaid,’
this tub of violence is where the great winter hag cailleach was said to wash her cloak.  when storms came on, especially in the autumn, people told each other, ‘the cailleach will tram her blankets tonight,’  she washed her plaid and when she drew it up, it was white and the hills were covered with snow.. they used to say that, before a good washing, the roar of the coming tempest was heard by people on the coast for a distance of twenty miles.  it took three days for the cauldron to boil.” p41

“the northern waters have another sea goddess, the benign sea deity and summer spirit, the mither o’ the sea, often invoked by fishermen in orkney and scotland.  she brought warmth to the ocean and stilled its storms; she filled the waters with fish.  her enemy was the winter spirit, teran, and each march, around the vernal equinox, they fought each other.  it was teran’s voice in the howl of the march gales and the thunder of the waves.  when the storms subsided, the fishing folk knew the mither o’ the sea had defeated teran, wrapped him tight as a baby in swaddling clothes and thrown him to the bottom of the ocean.  sooner or later, in autumn, teran escaped again and fought the sea mither in a series of shrieking storms known as the gore vellye, or ‘autumn tumult.’  in winter he was victorious and she was bound and banished.  in this story it was the male who created storms, and the female who stilled them, quite the opposite of the cailleach, whose calender corresponded to teran’s.  in some tales cailleach turned to stone april 30 and came alive again october 31.” p45

“ran, the norse goddess of the sea, who lived in a great golden hall under the ocean with her husband, aegir, and their nine daughters.  it’s said that ran steered a ship with one hand, while with the other she swept her net through the waves.  with this net, this golden net, she snared sailors and carried them to her underwater palace, and there they lived as if they were on earth.  to die by drowning was ‘faring to ran’ or ‘falling into ran’s hands.’  many sailors, knowing her love for gold, carried coins in their pockets to allow them to enter ran’s domain, her bed.  ran-bedr, the ocean floor was called.” p203

“myth places ran’s golden palace near the island of hlesey, which could perhaps have been the island of hellisey in the westmann chain.  hellisey is home to a great many gannets, but no one else.  from the air it has the shape of a half-submerged horseshoe, clearly the visible C of a volcanic cone, with one side eroded and open to the sea.  i found it interesting that, unlike the celtic storm and sea goddesses, ran had a home.  in fact she was, like few norse mythological figures, in a stable relationship with many progeny, everyone in the household working together.  aegir kicked up the storms at sea, ran cuised underneath gathering drowned souls, and their nine daughters helped out however they could.  the nine daughters, the waves, had these names:  cold one, white one, grasper, howler, heaven-bright, billow, comber, dip, and bloody-haired.  medieval icelandic poets called them ‘the claws of ran’ and described a time ‘when hard gusts from white mountain-range teased apart and wove together the storm happy daughters of aegir, bred on frost.’ p204

freya introduced divination to mortals, and her cult of followers, many of them women, included seers and foretellers.  freya was also known for bringing discord among the gods.  but before freya joined the complicated pantheon of norse gods, and was relegated to a lesser position as female troublemaker, she’d been the great goddess herself.” p243

” [lars borge myklevoll] ‘myths have a function whether people are aware of it or not.  myths strengthen the roles between the sexes, and emphasize what is prestigious and what is not.  taboos keep women in their place.  taboos also disguise reality.  there were men who did not have sons, who took their daughters fishing.  the taboo made it seem as if that was not happening.’ ” p288


oh no, i’m not prepared for a trilogy.  but this is how it seems to be going.

our heroine and all the other kids on the island are the kids of a pirate dynasty.  in volume one, their parents raided the caribbean, using a secret underwater passage to travel in time, and had many glorious tales to tell, but they’re tired now.

in volume two, our heroine gets stranded in the past, learning a part of her elders’ secret.  she spends a good deal of time trying to get back home.  when she returns, the old ways aren’t enough for her, and she organizes the kids and strikes out as a real pirate.  this causes all sorts of grown-up trouble, and in the end our heroine is the one who has to save her entire pirate clan as their enemies are poised to strike.  she comes up with a novel method of saving them.

volume three would be the new world that the clan encounters after they escape from the modern menace, a twist on the traditional pirate tale – modern pirates in a warped version of 17th century caribbean.

and this is all because i can’t get over the idea of having the caribbean set in the antarctic – or the antarctic set in the caribbean.  and the idea of piracy in the far distant future.  and the idea of modern pirates going back to the 17th century, when things were a lot tougher than they are now.   and the idea of the parents earning the scorn of the righteous youth by slacking off as pirates and getting all consumer and always stoned and just not being good parents.  these are powerful ideas to me.

notes: “piracy the complete history” by angus konstam

notes taken from “Piracy, the Complete History,” by Angus Konstam, Osprey Publishing, 2008

“for almost two centuries this [treasure] convoy followed a set routine.  there were two treasure fleets.  the first of these, the new spain fleet, sailed from seville in april, and after a transatlantic crossing from the canary islands it made landfall in the southern part of the lesser antilles.  in september the tierra firme fleet followed the same route, but once in the spanish main took a different direction.  after collecting the royal quota of the silver p roduced in mexican mines, the new spain fleet wintered in vera cruz, then sailed on to havana in the early summer.  the tierra firme fleet wintered in cartagena, where it collected colombian emeralds and venezuelan gold.  in the spring it continued on to nombre de dios, where it collected the king’s share of peru’s vast silver production, which had been shipped up the coast from lima to panama, then transported by pack mule across the isthmus to the caribbean port.  following drake’s attack on the town in 1572, the treasure terminus was moved just the coast to porto bello, which was considered more defensible.  it then sailed on to join the new spain fleet in havana. p42

by the 1530s the french threat became even more serious.  in 1533 another spanish treasure ship was captured off the azores, while between 1535 and 1547 no fewer than 23 spanish ships operated by the casa de contratacion in home waters.  corsairs captured nine ships in 1537 alone, reducing spanish royal income from the new world by half – to just over 1 million pesos.

conditions on board [the new galleons] were primitive.  the golden hind was less than 70ft (21.4m) long, with a 20ft (6.1m) beam.  below desks space was taken up by the stores, by guns and ammunition, and by the crew of 80 men and boys.  while drake had his own tiny cabin, his senior officers only had alcoves on the deck below.  the crew only had space to swing a hammock amidt the guns of the lower deck. p53

it has been estimated that during the three years between 1589 and 1591, some 236 privateering ships were at sea, and while the majority of these displaced less than 100 tons, at least 16 were much larger – with a displacement of 200 tons or more.  of these, most came from either london or the devon ports.  the picture is repeated in 1589, when some 86 licensed privateers were operating.  this time over a quarter of the ships displaced more than 200 tons, which suggests a general move towards large and better-armed private men-ofwar. p69

during the first years of the 17th century other european powers began establishing small unofficial settlements in the west indies.  in 1600 the dutch colonized the barren island of st eustatius, but the settlement failed, and the island was abandoned.  however, when the dutch west india company was founded in 1821, a fresh wave of dutch settlement began.  a small colony was established on st croix in 1625, then on nearby st martin.  in 1622 the english settled st kitts, and the french joined them on the island three years later.  barbados was colonized in 1625 – part of a privately funded drive ‘to cut the kind of spain at the root and seek to impeach or supplant him in the west indies’.  other colonies would follow throughout the west indies, an area that had never been properly settled by the spanish. p101

[after the spanish attacked the french settlers to st kitts (don fadrique de toledo 1627)] a number of french refugees from st kitts headed west, seeking out a new place to settle somewhere along the deserted northern shore of hispaniola.  they selected the island of la tortuga, off the north-west corner of the island, which seemed to offer everything they needed.  within a few years a thriving tobacco crop was being harvested there, while the island also attracted local boucaniers, dutch and french smugglers, and other refugee ‘interlopers’  it was the dutch who gave this new settlement some degree of legitimacy, as the dutch west india company offered to protect the fledgling colony in exchange for leather hides.  in other words, the greatest pirate den on the spanish main began it life as a backwater trading post.  p102

just as on st kitts, the english and the french co-existed on the same island, although following the death of governor hilton in 1634 the english left the island to join another colony on providence (santa catalina) – an island off the coast of nicaragua.  the providence island colony, first established in 1630, was after all the main focus of the english company’s efforts.  this left the french in sole control of tortuga, altho the y still enjoyed the protection of the dutch west india company.  p103

until the arrival of le vasseur the islanders had busined themselves with growing tobacco, trading with the boucaniers and acting as a trading post for dutch west india company ships.  however, under his leadership tortuga became a haven for fugitives of any nation, who all shared a common distrust of the spanish authorities.  from around 1640 on, these settlers began to attack passing spanish ships.  tortuga lay at the north-eastern end of the windward p assage between cuba and hispaniola , and this busy supping lane became the new hunting ground for le vasseur’s pirates.  the way these attacks were conducted was simple but effective.  the pirates used small sailing or rowing boats (flyboats or pinnaces), and attacked at night.  their aim was to creep up astern of larger spanish ships, then board them before a lookout could sound the alarm.  while marksmen shot the helmsmen and officers, others wedged the ship’s rudder to prevent their prey escaping.  they then swarmed up the side of the enemy vessel, and in most cases the attackers would have outnumbered the spanish crew.  these pirates soon developed a reputation for cruelty and torture, whether deserved or not, and this worked in their favour.  it was often enough to encourage the spanish to surrender without firing a shot in the hope that their lives would be spared. p104

pierre le grand was born in dieppe, and arrived in tortuga soon after 1640.  gathering a group of followers together, he began cruising the waters off tortuga in a small canoe, hoping to intercept a small spanish trading ship.  according to exquemelin he managed to capture a small pinnace, and then used ti to hunt for larger prey.  after months of fruitless searching he finally stumbled across one of the most lucrative prizes on the spanish main – a straggler from a spanish treasure fleet.  he brought his boat up behind the spanish ship then boarded her before the spanish realized they were being attacked.  to encourage his 28 followers to attack he scuttled his own craft, so they had no option but to board their prey.  the spanish ship was duly captured, and rather than take her back to tortuga, pierre le grand sailed her home to dieppe, where he retired on the proceeds of his venture.  if exquemelin is to be believed, pierre le grand was the first real ‘pirate of the caribbean’, and his exploits served to encourage others to follow in his stead.  however, the story lacks any real corroborative evidence, and we are probably expected to see the tale as symbolic of a new breed of pirates, rather than to accept it as a straightforward account.  more interesting than the actual details of the attack is the way in which the french pirate was said to have carried out his raids.  it suggests a trend in the waters off tortuga – small canoes being used to prey on coastal shipping, after which these captured spanish vessels were turned into pirate ships in their own right, cruising a little further afield in search of larger victims. p105

our understanding of buccaneering society comes from exquemelin.  he claims tht the buccaneers of hispaniola operated in hunting parties of six to eight men, pooling their resources and making decisions by consensus.  he also suggests that a pairing of buccaneers was also common – a male union known as matelotage – a term which essentially meant ‘bunk mate’, but which has been more commonly linked to the french word matelot, meaning a sailor.  this union – essentially a single-sex marriage – was recognized in the self-administered buccaneering laws or guidelines knows as ‘the way of the coast’. a matelot stood to inherit the possessions of his partner on his death, and may well have had other rights akin to marriage that have gone unrecorded.  the brethren of the coast was no tightly knit brotherhood, but more a loose confederation built of these smaller partnerships and hunting groups…according to exquemelin, around 1650 the french governor le vasseur imported prostitutes to the island, in an attempt to break up the matelotage system. p106

the following january [1654] juan francisco [montemayor cuenca] landed a powerful expeditionary force on the western side of the island, then marched on the fort du rocher,.  by all accounts he carried the stronghold by a direct assault, then held its defenses in the face of a series of counter-attacks launched from the island hinterland.  within a week the resistance had been crushed, although it soon became clear that the majority of the buccaneers had fled the island before the spanish arrived.  a total of 330 buccaneers were captured, including the french governor’s brother, while another 170 inhabitants – presumably women and slaves – were shipped to santo domingo with the rest of the captives.  all the prisoners would become slaves on spanish plantations.  in addition the spanish captured some 70 artillery pieces, and goods valued at approximately 160,000 silver pesos, or pieces-of-eight  although the spanish left behind a small company-sized garrison, it was evacuated in april 1654 after the troops slighted the island’s defences. this was shortsighted, as within a year the buccaneers started to return to tortuga, and by 1660 the island was fully operational again as a buccaneering haven…in 1664 the french west india company took over the administration of tortuga, and the english governor in jamaica removed the restrictions he had imposed that prevented english buccaneers from using the french island as a base. p107

another large expedition was launched later that year [1665] against the dutch island of curacao, off the venezuelan coast.  its leader was captain edward mansfield, the former deputy of christopher myngs.  however, mandsielf was unable to make his buccaneers attack their fellow protestants, and so he bowed to the inevitable and led them against eh spanish instead.  this expedition almost ended in disaster off the coast of what is now costa rica.  having taken on water in teh well-known buccaneering rendezvous of the bocas del toro (mouths of teh bull) archipelago, now in northern panama, mansfield reiaded portere, on teh coasta rican coast.  however, when he marched inland towards the regional capital of cartago he found himself outnumbered by the spanish, who drove the buccaneers hack to his ships.  mansfield was forced to return home empty-handed, but as a consolation he attacked the spanish island of santa catalina as he passed.  the island – once the home of the provicende island company’s colony – was captured and garrisoned by mansfield and his men, who thought it would make a useful base for future raids. p128

morgan visited santa catalina on the way [to sack panama] (now renamed providence island), and discovered that the spanish had recovered the place in 1668, three years after mansfield’s capture of the island.  morgan promptly reclaimed providence on behalf of the jamaican government, although a small spanish garrison still held out on the well-fortified isla chica.  the next morning – on christmas day – the spaniards agreed to capitulate after staging a face-saving ‘mock battle’.  morgan now had a secure base to fall back to if things went wrong in panama. p136

in europe, ports such as dunkirk for the french and bristol for teh british turned into majore privateering havens, while in the caribbean, fort-de-france in martinique, bridgetown in barbados, petit goave in sant dominique and port royal in jamaica were all filled with seaman and captains bearing letters of marque. p152

one of the many drawbacks of being a pirate was that unlike the buccaneers of old, who spent their time raiding the rich treasure ports of the spanish main, the plunder captured usually did not come in the form of coins, which could easily be divided up amongst the crew.  the merchant ships that were the victims of pirate attacks were not the towering spanish treasure galleons of the late 16th century, but everyday trading vessels and transatlantic merchantmen, which sailed through pirate-infested waters to deliver their cargo. p154

the pirate haven on the island of new prividence in the bahamas came about because of a spanish maritime disaster.  on 30 june 1715 the annual spanish treasure flota was homeward bound, heading north up the bahamas channel between florida and grand bahama.  the winds had risen steadily all day, and that evening the fleet ran into a hurricane.  one by one the ships were dashed against the florida coast, and by morning only one of the dozen ships in the flota remained afloat.  it sped back to havana with the news, and the spanish governor wasted no time in sending a salvage expedition to rescue the survivors and to recover the shipwreck silver.  unfortunatey others had the same idea.  in late november a force of some 300 raiders attacked the salvage camp, driving off its small garrison of 60 soldiers and capturing the salvaged treasure.  these men – mainly former privateers from port royal – made off with an estimated 60,00 pieces-of-eight. p155

in november 1715 the privateer-turned-pirate benjamin hornigold arrived off the struggling british settlement on new prividence in teh bahamas and traded with the locals.  by the time he returned a few months later the island population had grown, as a handful of jamaican merchants had established small trading posts there.  by the following summer, when the treasure hunting was in full swing, new providence had grown into a small pirate haven, capable of providing a marketplace for stolen goods, and of supplying the more basic needs of hornigold’s men.  it was inevitable that henry jennings and his salvors would gravitate towards this friendly port, and so new providence grew into a bustling den of pirates, treasure hunters, smugglers and illicit traders.  in june 1716 the governor of virginia wrote to london complaining that pirates had taken over the bahamas, which means that the new pirate den was already well established.  new providence was ideal.  it was close to major trade routes and to the florida wreck sites, and favourable winds allowed an easy passage to these pirate hunting grounds.  its natural harbour of nassau was large enough to hold a hundred ships or more.  the island had a good supply of food, water and timber, vantage points for lookouts, and even a small fort, built by the island’s original (and now heavily outnumbered) settlers.  above all new providence contained a thriving shantytown that provided for the pirates’ ever need. p156

[charles] vane seemed undeterred by being left with a small sloop and a skeleton crew [after calico jack rackham was elected and he was deposed].  he decided to head off towards the gulf of honduras, and so he sailed round the north side of jamaica, capturing a sloop on the way, then made landfall off what is now belize in mid-december 1718.  he established a base on an island that captain johnson called ‘barnacko’, and then used this haven while he raided southwards into the gulf – the home of the logwood cutters.  then disaster struck.. sometime in february 1719 a violent storm hit the two sloops and, after being pummeleled gy the seas for two days, vane and his men were shipwrecked on a small island – probably around what is now lighthouse reef off belize.  as captain johnson claimed, ‘vane himself was saved, but reduced to great straits, for want of necessaries, having no opportunity to get anything from the wreck.’  the pirate castaways survived for several weeks before a ship put in to the island for water.  unfortunately the skipper – a captain holford – recognized vane, and refused to rescue him or his men.  however, the next ship was more obliging, and the marooned men were rescued.  then, in an unlikely twist of fate, the rescue ship encountered the one whose captain had refused to pick up vane and his men, as he knew them to be pirates.  as the two passing ships heaved in the middle of the ocean, the captains yelled greetings to each other, and one invited the other for dinner.  after the feast, as he was returning to his own ship, captain holford spotted vane amongst the crew.  the game was up.  he told the rescuers who the castaways were, and vane and his men were captured.  the pirates were transferred to holford’s ship, which returned to jamaica [hanged march 1720 at port royal] p161-162

whatever the truth behind the lives of anne bonny and mary read [1720], the two women seemed to fascinate, scandalize and titillate contemporary society in equal measure, the most shocking revelation being that both had dressed as men, and had passed themselves off as seamen.  in other words, bonny and read had broken all the rules, and had escaped from the restrictions imposed on the lives of women at the time.  if this was not shocking enough, they had also turned to a life of crime, and had used their bodies to avoid sharing the fate of rackam and his men.  it was little wonder that the newspapers of the day were full of the story, and what was not actually known about the two women was happily made up for the readers.. however, this was probably not the first time that women had followed the black flag.  there was the medieval french noblewoman jane de belleville, who reputedly sided with the english following the invasion of brittany in 1345.  she was supposed to have fitted out three privateers and led them on raids of the normandy coast.  then there was charlotte de berry, a 17th century englishwoman, who according to tradition dressed as a man to follow her husband to sea.  she was captured by a privateer, and after being raped by its captain she engineered a mutiny, which ended with the murder of her assailant.  the trouble with these tales is that they cannot be substantiated, unlike the account of the irish pirate grace o’malley, whose exploits have already been mentioned (see p.35).  another verifiable woman privateeer was lady killigrew, who commanded a ship that operated in the english channel during the mid-16th century.  however, these were very isolated cases, and so female pirates were very much a novelty when bonny and read made the headlines. p167-168

johnson’s description of her [bonny] relationship with ‘calico jack’ rackam is particularly revealing.  ‘here (new providence) she became acquainted with rackam the pirate, who making courtship of her, soon found means of withdrawing her affections from her husband, so that she consented to elope with him, and go to sea with rackam in men’s clothes’.  however, johnson went on to claim that anne became pregnant, and so rackam lodged her with friends in cuba until after the child’s birth.  he also places this before rackam accepted the kind’s pardon, which is virtually impossible given the timing of known events in rackam’s life.  it is much more likely they met after he returned to new providence and signed the pardon. p185

in june 1996 the wreck of what is thought to be the queen anne’s revenge was discovered in the waters off beaufort, and since then the site has been surveyed and systematically excavated.  a bronze bell dated 1705 was found, along with numerous cannons, weaponry, roundshot, and a small venereal syringe.  was it part of the medicine chest  blackbeard demanded from the citizens of charles town?  flakes of gold dust were also found – the kind of thing often carried by the crew of slaves ships who visited the west african coast.  p195

[captain johnson] mentions how they spent their time – living off the land, and amusing themselves by dancing and holding mock pirate trials.  in fact johnson goes into some detail about this bizarre game, which involved the pirates appointing a judge and jury, and then trying one of their own. p247

[thomas tew from newport rhode island]according to captain johnson, tew met up with another pirate off madagascar who had made the same voyage into the indian ocean.  captain james mission and his ship victoire had recently arrived in madagascar, where the french pirate had apparently established a fortified piratical settlement he called ‘libertaria’.  tew and his men certainly spent a few months in madagascar, probably on st marie’s island, and it has even been claimed that tew used the island as a base from which he attacked and captured a dutch east indiaman somewhere off the cape of good hope. p253

not all of these pirates were capable of operating on the high seas – some were little more than collections of local fishermen and bandits, who attacked passing shipping as a means of supplementing their income.  in effect the caribbean had become a dangerous and semi-anarchic place, where a once powerful central authority had been replaced by a patchwork of warlords, revolutionary juntas and petty rulers.  p273

in 1823 the american national newspaper the niles weekly register reported that between 1815 and 1823 over 3,000 acts of piracy had taken place in the gulf of mexico and the caribbean.  in 1820 there were 52 piratical attacks in the florida straits alone, of which 27 were against ships flying the american flag.  that year, insurance premiums were raised to a higher level than during the recent war of 1812, when british and american ships were regularly attacked by each other’s privateers.  p275

modern-day pirates now enjoy all the advantages of technology – radios, radar, satellite navigation, automatic weapons and high-performance boats.  this gives them an advantage over their historical predecessors.  above all there is a lack of regulation on the high seas due to a shortage of interest, of international goodwill and of resources.  p304

pirate map

whenever i think about a pirate story, i think about maps.  old maps, drawn with ink on parchment, with unknown places illustrated fancifully.  a map is necessary for many kinds of stories, and this story is rapidly approaching the fantasy genre, which would in fact require a map.

but not a regular historical map.  i want a fantastic caribbean, something in between what sailors knew about the waters they sailed in in the 16th and 17th centuries, and what we know now with google earth and disney animation.

so i was reading michael crichton’s posthumous novel about pirates, and it has a nice map of the caribbean in the endpaper.  i was thinking about drawing the negative space of the map, that is, drawing the water, and doing strange things with the features of the area, like number and placement of islands.  my mind began to work, and for several days i’ve been obsessed with the caribbean, even to the point of looking at real estate in the tropics.  i also admit to a certain fascination with google earth, and have been spending a lot of time cruising around looking at shorelines and natural ports (and never mind the cities that have grown up around every one).

the sargasso sea, where since the middle ages there’ve been tales of ships lost and ghost ships.  yes, way before the same region became knows as the bermuda triangle.  gotta have that, just thought i’d put it in while i was thinking about it.

this is an early map (early 1500s) showing the caribbean islands all out of proportion to their actual size, but reflecting the importance to the early explorers.  they knew of rich lands to the south of the islands (quick thinking on the part of the natives) and to the west, but at this point they still thought china was just over the horizon.

i like this map because it doesn’t show anything beyond the coast of south america.  hispaniola is the center of this area, and altho they’ve got the coast of venezuela, colombia, panama, and on up into the gulf and then up the eastern seaboard, these are all sketchy details, as if the islands were the important feature of this particular universe.

this one also shows huge islands and tiny continents.  look, you can see both right and left coasts of the u.s.

and these days, who can do without google earth?  even movies are using it, the news, the weather, kids’ films.  yay.  wish i’d bought google stock back in the day.  so i’m like sitting on google earth looking at my caribbean, where my pirate novel will be set.  and i’m thinking that the caribbean that’s sticking in my mind, my dream caribbean, if you will, the caribbean i would go hang out in while dreaming at night.  my caribbean is more like the old maps, where you don’t care what’s past the coast, and all you’re really interested in is the island chain, and the places you can get to by boat.

now, i’ve got to say i’ve always been interested in antarctica, too. i wanted to go on the nsf artist and writer’s residency, boy oh boy, but because i’m totally unknown as an artist, and because i’ve had cancer, they wouldn’t want to approve my application, so i just haven’t bothered.  but that doesn’t mean i haven’t spent a great deal of time fantasizing about it.  i blame kim stanley robinson.

i’ve always been interested in questions of extremity.  for example, what if all the ice were to melt off of the continent of antarctica?  what if there were a physical polar shift, such that antarctica was now in the tropics?  and what would be the new poles?  turns out the new poles would be anywhere i wanted them to be (i mean, anywhere they ended up), because i can set antarctica

(and thus the north pole (here’s what greenland would look like without ice.  it’d be ferociously fertile; make a great jungle in fact))

at the equator and spin the google planet around on its axis running thru loads of other-than-traditional pairs of points.  like, i could make the north pole run thru the northeastern part of the united states.  i could make the middle east the south pole.  politically, that would tend to stifle the energies of these rather warlike countries.  as would putting europe flat on the equator stifle their energies.  cultures do better, speaking economically, industrially, when they’re in the mid latitudes, around 40-60 degrees.  so in order to have anything much happen to antarctica, you’d have to physically move it into at least the temperate zones.  i’m just saying.

when you strip off all the ice, you get a nice little group of islands, rather than a continent.

the northwestern arm is the antarctic peninsula, and adjoins the tip of south america.  look at those adorable bays and those fierce mountains.  wouldn’t this make a great map for a fantasy novel?  and when you add the islands that lie outside the antarctic landmass(es), you get a nice bunch of really great islands that absolutely nobody lives on now except for a few shepherds and a military outpost or two.

the south shetlands are so near to the antarctic peninsula as to be part of it, so of course nobody lives there.  at the moment it’s cold and stormy most of the time.  penguins and climatologists.

the south orkneys are a little balmier, the south sandwich  islands are warmer still, and then there’s south georgiaand the falklands where people actually live.

i like the idea of putting antarctica in the tropics.  there’s this cool archipelago between the antarctic peninsula and the tip of south america, called the scotia sea.  it curves out and around, and makes a nice basin, fringed with islands.

cool islands.  the south sandwich islands

and this is the scotia sea basin.  you can see the falkland islands plainly, the south orkneys are the white slash to the east, at the beginning of the curve south.  the south sandwich islands are along the easternmost curve of the chain, and running along the southern edge to the west are the south shetlands.  altogether a lovely bunch of islands.

and in case you missed my point, i find these two areas to be quite similar.  so, what would happen if a comet hit the earth and put the scotia sea at about 20 north latitude, and what if it dried up alot of the oceans’ water, whereupon the landmass south of the scotia sea would rise up and become continental, and the landbridge between south america and antarctica would emerge.  you wouldn’t believe how much like the pacific northwest the pacific southwest looks.

there.  a bunch of islands, wonderful places for piracy.  and it would be awhile before civilization got to that point, and with similar scientific and technical advances.  what a great idea for a book.  copyright 2010.

our heroine

when she was little, she had a pirate flag hung over her bed.  a real pirate flag, from a famous pirate’s ship (calico jack, perhaps), fresh as the day it was struck from the mast.  the sight of it over her bed always gave her a little thrill.  later, the sight of anything vaguely resembling her flag (a plate of chicken bones, crossed anything on black) made her edgy and adventurous.

what was it like growing up in a theme park?  the parents with their arcane interests and boring meetings, making a mockery of their glorious past in order to shill the tourists, while the kids her age were the only ones who took their pirate heritage seriously, layering real skullduggery with the cute fuzzy costumes they had to wear to charm the babies.

sometimes the only one she could talk to was Wallace the Talking Ape, a curiosity they’d picked up years ago after a storm.  all sorts of things washed up onto the island after a storm.  strange things.

she was one of the older kids, she and another boy led all the explorations and practice raids, and all the younger kids turned to her.  she still wasn’t sure what the adults were up to, but it was something odd and maybe dangerous, and she was determined to discover their secret.

the talking ape

they’re not sure if he’s wise because he wont talk around most people.  but if you bug him he’ll tell you, ‘eat me’.  they assume he’s wise, because he looks wise.  it’s his eyes.  wise eyes.

sorry.  he’s inscrutable, like an old buddhist monk.  so everyone takes his every gesture as meaningful.  but are they just gullible?

our heroine knows his story.  he came with her from the island and they’ve banded together.  he’s actually from the future, where they’ve been messing around with primate dna and produced an ape who could talk.  they enhanced certain other abilities, too, starting with his mental capacity.  not sure why they did it, but it would dictate what they actually did.  anyway, he got sucked into the bermuda triangle, too, washed up on the island, and found the cenote, and popped out in an age where they’d as soon as eat an ape as laugh at its idea of fashion sense.  they shave him in order to disguise him.  our heroine has to be a transvestite to operate in the 17th century; and so does our talking ape.

this is i suppose a direct ripoff of planet of the apes.

  • i need to research planet of the apes
  • apes vs gorillas to see which one i’m really talking about
  • what it looks like when you shave an ape’s face
  • the geography of the caribbean island
  • the geography of the bermuda triangle
  • cenotes

plot idea

groove with me here.

the pirate clan has lived on this island for generations.  in fact, when the spanish discovered the caribbean, the island had people on it.  because of how the bermuda triangle kicks people around, the island has always been inhabited by the same people and/or their descendants and forebears.  people wash up on the island and then discover this cenote with a bunch of passages.  go thru one and wham you’re in the 17th century.  go thru another and whee you’re in the 22nd.

while the kids all play pirate, the adults (while playing pirate in the buckaneering past) have their own games, and one faction is against the other.  the laid back island types who just want to enjoy the timestream, versus the driven profiteers who scheme about upgrading the theme park.

a hurricane destroys everything, or perhaps an earthquake and tidal wave.  if the wall-street-type pirates had their way, the theme park would have been rebuilt out of steel.  but the hippie-pirates won and the old wooden rides stayed, giving people something to float on when the waters rose and there was nowhere to go.

i think i can make a good deal out of the antipathy between the financial shark pirates and the dope smoking pirates in their struggle against each other thruout the ages.

it’s getting clearer

our heroine wakes up after being lost at sea, and finds herself back in the 17th century.  she and her crew man a vessel and limp to port.  this is only the beginning of a long voyage full of adventure, trying to get to the famed pirate island where her people have always lived.  this takes us on a romp thru 17th century caribbean piracy.  along the way she loses all of her crew except for the ape.  but she’s made a mint, and has the ability to transport her original cabin cruiser back to the island with her.

she gets back to the island,  and knows to swim thru an underground river, which goes thru some sort of time portal, and she appears back in the present, exhausted and delirious.  they put her to bed and ignore her ravings.  silly thing, lost in the 1600s for months and months –  how wizard of oz, shall we call a doctor?  some of the adults look at each other silently.  nobody’s supposed to know about the underground river and its many passages to other eras.  our heroine takes months to recover, having picked up some disease back in the past.

while she recuperates, we see her as one of several dozen teenagers living on a caribbean island that makes its living being a pirate theme park.  the inhabitants also do eco-tours, treasure hunting, big game fishing, and scuba diving trips for their living.  at times they go on real pirate raids, but that’s not something everyone knows, and certainly not the children.  which they’ve lost a boatload, and she’s the only one to come back.  things are quiet for awhile.  we see how the parents run the theme park like their own private pirate town, their cynical attitudes, their lazy ways, which the kids don’t like.  the kids take the pirate image seriously.

the island’s children have discovered what might be treasure, buried in the sand offshore.  it’s illegal to dig for treasure, and the government patrols constantly.  the kids go out to see for themselves, and dive for a bar of spanish gold.  a patrol comes up and they narrowly avoid suspicion, being kids.  they sneak the gold back to the island and start discussing how to get all that gold past the government and out into some market where it can be sold.

the adults go on a raid.  they bring back items that our heroine remembers from her voyage back to the pirate island.  they’re corroded, like they’ve been underwater for three centuries, but they’re not corroded enough, and our heroine is suspicious.  she’s pretty sure they’re going back and forth between the past and the present, and being pirates in the past.  searching while they’re away on a raid, she finds a lab where they artificially age fresh 17th century artifacts to make them look old.

the parents don’t come back.  weeks go by, and there’s only the kids left on the island.  they’ve got the gold up and are busy turning it into fake-looking pieces of eight to smuggle out as cheap tourist trinkets.  it’s a plan that just might work.

our heroine realizes what happened to the adults, and decides to take the older kids and go rescue them.  they travel thru the underground river, directed only by a cryptic entry in a secret logbook, and after almost getting fatally lost down a dead-end passage, arrive back in the past, where her old boat awaits them.  the kids use her knowledge of the era (and modern weapons) to take first a pirate ship, and then a whole fleet of them, and go find the parents.  the parents are sitting in jail awaiting hanging as pirates.  the kids sail in with their rag-tag fleet, there’s a ferocious battle against the english navy, and the kids win.

but now what?  because all this time, the feds have been closing in on the pirate island’s operation.  it was inevitable, since that island has been known for piracy all thru caribbean history, since the same family has been living on it since there were first pirates in the caribbean.  now that the theme park idea is blown out of the water, where are they going to go?  or rather, when, since they’ll always live on the pirate island.  some of the unexplored passages of the underwater river may go to the future, or the very remote past.  or maybe they’ll stay right there in the golden age of piracy.

how’s that sound?

from my dream

our modern heroine and her crew (posse, entourage) of modern-day pirates awake in their cabin cruiser after a disastrous storm at sea.  they hear a rhythmic knocking, and come on deck to find the boat in the shade of an enormous wooden ship.  the ship is abandoned, so they board.  it’s a spanish galleon, a replica, they believe.  then they discover bodies, dressed in 17th century clothes, run thru with cutlasses, shot up with flintlocks, crushed by heavy cannon balls.

in the hold is a captive ape, caged and starving.  they dump the bodies and feed the ape, and tie their cabin cruiser (which is out of gas anyway) to the back of the ship.

none of her crew has much experience with sailing ships, so they blunder their way out of the sargasso sea, in the middle of the bermuda triangle, where they ended up after the storm.

they are surprised by a pirate ship as they near a welcoming island harbor, but the pirates aren’t expecting their prey to have submachine guns, and the pirate crew soon have a new leader.  now they have two ships, a crew for each, a cabin cruiser with all its equipment, and other modern appurtenances.

they return to the pirate stronghold and soon our heroine is leader of a pirate colony.

it occurred to me as i was waking up this morning.

figuring out what happens

i’ve got a modern tale of a tribe of pirates surviving to the 21st century, the kids being the active pirates while their parents live in denial.

i’ve got a tale of a modern pirate girl thrown back into the golden age of piracy.

i’ve got a tale of a colonial pirate queen.

i’ve got a tale of a ship with a female captain, a simian first mate, and talking rats.  and fairies.

i’ve got an alternate tale of piracy in the 16th-21st centuries, where a dynasty changed the course of history.

not a bodice ripper.

and who knows what’s going to happen by the time it comes to be written.  there are all sorts of wild things percolating at the moment.

and it’s all on board some ship sailing between green and mountainous caribbean islands.  i’m not sure the time actually matters.

what if i had a universe where all the times could live together, where all the ages of piracy could happen at once in their various locations.

so what kind of universe would it take to make this kind of temporal mixing possible?  what kind of world do i have to create in order for this melange to be credible?

jasper fforde would just put it into a library shelf and let all the different books mix, and it would make perfect sense that they would all talk to each other, and run into each other at favorite dive spots.

maybe this is what the bermuda triangle was invented for, to make crews of animals and long-dead pirates and punk teenagers.  and fairies.

but maybe there’s another explanation.  maybe all these characters from various periods of caribbean piracy are just that, characters in the theme park.  but somehow it has come alive, and when people aren’t working fooling the tourists, they’re really out roaming the spanish main and boarding silver-laden ships.

maybe they know they’re really the ghosts of all this history, pretending to be carnival operators.  maybe they’re dreaming.  maybe they’ve got some voodoo spell that keeps them here, undying.

that’s creepy.

jim will come up with something.

jim’s idea

okay, the pirates of this island have gone thru all sorts of changes over the centuries.  the grownups on the island are ashamed of their pirate ancestry, and allowed a theme park to be developed.  now they rake in money from the tourists in sort of piracy, and drink alot.

the kids of the island reject all the sellouts of their parents.  they have pirate fever, and all their acts of rebellion take this form.  they rob the ticket booth, for example.

they have taken the old stories seriously, and think they know where the gold from a shipwreck lies.  they arrange to recover it and hide it from the authorities, which is piracy.

their parents know what’s going on, and exploit the situation.

my heroin(e)

a word about my lead character.  it’s a girl, and she’s a lot like suzie in my second unpublished novel, splat.  she’s a 20-something punk girl who’s had her brush with trouble and is tired of it, but can’t seem to settle down, and finds herself being a modern day pirate of a sort.  she comes from a long line of outlaws, bandits and pirates, and there’s a tradition she follows,  a code she tries to uphold, family expectations she tries not to disappoint.

and then she or someone very like her appears in caribbean history as a notorious female pirate, with a posse of dedicated buccaneers, and leaves a trail of glory and adventure.

* * *

or else, if i could pull it off, i’d want to do a dynasty, starting with grace o’malley, and going down thru the 150 years of piracy on the spanish main, and then down to this day, where a tribe of pirates carries on the ancient traditions in the 21st century.  a dynasty of pirate queens.

that’s just what i’ve had come to consciousness in the few weeks i’ve been thinking about this story.  there will be much more, and in little bits and pieces.  but i already know her character at the start of the story.

how about cartoon characters?

i was sleeping this morning, dreaming of a bunch of animals sitting around in a small room, talking.  an ape or gorilla, dogs, cats, a rat, smartass birds.

watching this dream, i began to think of my characters as animals, as an animated story.  but as i came more awake i started to think about just having a couple of animal characters on board?

the ape would be really handy in the rigging.  and you might as well recruit the rats who live onboard all ships.

so how do we come by an ape?  captured by slavers on the east coast of africa and shipped over as a slave.  currently working for the spanish as a diver.  dresses, acts just like the men, nobody ever tries to get a word out of him.  they call him tarzan once he comes aboard the pirate ship.

but how come they talk?  is this like an animated cartoon in that all the characters talk, and to each other?  are we supposed to blink once when the animals have something to say, and then accept it as normal?  or is some magic required, a spell perhaps?  feh.  how about some futuristic device for giving animals speech?  some universal translator, something like the dog collars in up.  eck.

it seems every wrinkle i think up is doomed to obscurity.  but that’s because i’m only starting to think up characters.

when i get them all together, then it’ll really be ridiculous.  a female buccaneer, a modern girl transported back, an ape.  that’s a good start.

port royal research bits

when i write a novel, half of the work is research.  this one is no different.  and in fact, in being historical, it’s a whole lot more difficult.  here is what i gleaned from one book.

Pirate Port:  The Story of the Sunken City of Port Royal, by Robert F. Marx, The World Publishing Company, 1967.

because spain had never troubled to colonize the smaller west indian islands, they were open territory to anybody who wanted them, and by the middle of the seventeenth century french, english, and dutch settlements were scattered among the leeward and windward islands. p29

in 1595 sir anthony shirley captured villa de la vega after a struggle that did not amount to much and held it for a ransom that did not amount to much either.  in 1603 captain christopher newport attacked the island; he probably would have captured it too, had his men not first captured a warehouse full of spanish wine and brandy in puerto de caguaya and rendered themselves unfit for fighting.  in 1643 a force led by captain william jackson landed well to the south of any spirits that might be stored at puerto de cahuaya, and he was as successful as shirley had been.  none of these raids was an attempt to take permanent possession of jamaica.  the word had spread that the place had little of value, and no one wanted it. p29-30

early in the seventeenth century drifters from all nations had gravitated to tortuga.  some were ships’ deserters, others political or religious dissenters forced to flee their homelands, still others adventurers seeking a life free from the restrictions of organized society.  p48

one of the earliest pirates to achieve notoriety was a portuguese known as bartholomew, who scored many successes against the spaniards and kept port royal’s merchants and tavern owners happy.  on his last voyage he encountered a large galleon of twenty guns bound from cartagena to havana with a cargo whose value was estimated at 250,000 pieces of eight.  though greatly overmatched (his small sloop had only four small guns and a crew of thirty), he attacked the galleon off cape corrientes on the southwestern tip of cuba.  the first attempt to board failed, but he tried again and succeded.  heading back to port royal, his treasure-laden sloop was captured by three large spanish galleons and taken to campeche which was still smarting from myngs’s recent attack.  the spanish governer, in no mood to be merciful with pirates, ordered them all hanged.  bartholomew managed to escape in a small boat and was picked up by a privateer sloop.  but luck was not with him on this voyage:  the sloop, on its way back to port royal with plunder, wrecked on a reef off the south coast of cuba and all aboard were drowned.  p54-55

another celebrated pirate was the dutchman known as roche brasilano.  a former planter who had been expelled from brazil by the portuguese, he made his way to port royal with a band of followers and started his pirate career as a common seaman on one of the vessels operating out of there.  soon he was elected captain, no doubt as a result of some feat of daring, and on his first voyage of command he captured near havana a homeward-bound spanish galleon carrying a great quantity of silver.  the carousing and debauchery that followed his riumphant return to port royal set something of a record even for that town.  brasilano probably contributed more heavily than any other pirate or privateer to port royal’s reputation for lewdness.  claiming he owed no allegiance to any government, he returned from each successful venture more arrogant and unruly than before.  a large band followed this particular leader, and there was little the jamaican authorities could do to curb his outrages.  these included striking, slashing, or throwing beer at people he encountered in the street when he was in a bad mood, and when he was feeling more sociable, buying a huge barrel of wine, setting it out in the street, and inviting passersby to drink with him – few refused, since he usually issued the invitation with pistol in hand.  everyone in town was afraid of him.  it can be no coincidence that during the years brasilano frequented port royal the governor made plans to move to spanish town (this he did in 1667 after a proper residence had been built there).  if brasilano terrified the english, he terrified the spaniards  even more, for he submitted all spaniards he captured to the most cruel and excruciating tortures.  fortunately for everybody, his career lasted only a few years – he departed on a voyage and was never heard from again. p55-56

it (port royal) was also the center of a new and thriving industry in the caribbean – treasure hunting, or ‘the wracking trade,’ as it was then called.  the treasure sought lay at the bottom of the sea on wrecked vessels, and to recover it divers were necessary.  port royal served as a base for divers, most of them escaped negro slaves who had worked in spanish pearl fisheries around several islands near venezuela.  vessels in pursuit of treasure would put into port royal, pick up divers, and depart.  in 1682 william phips, an american from boston, left from port royal on an expedition that culminated in the recovery of treasure worth three million dollars from a spanish galleon sunk on a reef off the north coast of hispaniola.  it was the greatest sum recovered from a single wreck until the present century, and we can safely assume that a fair share of the profits went into the pockets of port royal’s tavern owners. p72

in the three decades following the 1692 upheaval port royal was destined to face three more disasters, spaced at ten-year intervals.  in 1702, when the cay had filled out to about twenty-five acres, a fire broke out and spread so swiftly that almost all the town was consumed by the flames.   the governor of jamaica ordered the evacuation of the town and forbade further resettlement, but king william iii rescinded the order.  nevertheless more than half the survivors of the fire moved to kingston.  port royal, rebuilt slowly, was beginning to look like a town again when it was leveled in 1712 by a hurricane that also caused considerable damage to kingston.  the few resolute souls who elected to remain and rebuild saw the place collapse in ruins around them again as the result of a worse hurricane in 1722.  while the cay, once the hub of jamaica took a constant beating, matters were different on the island itself:  as early as 1695, only three yeas after the great quake, the planttions and sugar mills were prospering again. p79

to complicate matters further, an earthquake in 1907, jamaica’s worst since 1692, caused the majority of the buildings still standing under water to topple over, and they were soon covered by sediment:  my own excavations have turned up items from the first decade of the twentieth century under walls dating from the 1692 upheaval. p87

a novel at its very beginning

i’ve only been thinking about it for about a month.  a pirate novel.  with a woman pirate.  set in the caribbean.  there are about a million pirates of the caribbean stories out there.  why on earth would i want to enter such a crowded genre?

so i ordered all the library books on pirates.  i got books on grace o’malley.  i got books on port royal, jamaica.  i got books on the spanish empire and piracy.  yummy yummy.  and of course i spent days sitting looking up pirate strongholds like tortuga and providence, and researching the spanish main, and reading up on pirates.  there’s so much basic research to do it’s daunting.

jim and i were thinking about what if grace o’malley set sail after her meeting with queen elizabeth, and instead of living her last decade in her cold and musty tower, she sailed off to the caribbean with her ships and her sailors, and started over in the colonies?

grace o’malley lived from 1530 to 1603, supposedly.  not a whole lot is known, but she’s one hell of a character.  there are a few other novels about grace o’malley – here and here and here.

they say the golden age of piracy was the last half of the 1600s.  grace’s time, the last half of the 1500s, was the infancy.  during grace’s time, there wasn’t much for an english, or an anti-english pirate to do in the caribbean.  but, since i don’t know much, i had better check my facts.

i’m not sure what to call my pirate novel.  i’m not sure when to set it, or where.  and the more i think of it, the more i just want to make up someone entirely and put her on a fantasy pirate island and make her responsible for a chunk of faux history.  but no bodice rippers.

and then this crazy idea comes into my head – why don’t i have a modern pirate in the same waters?  or why don’t i have an archeologist in the ruins of these pirate strongholds that dot the sea?  or why don’t i have someone catapulted back to the golden age from some mishap in the bermuda triangle?  why don’t i have a whole dynasty of pirate queens starting with grace (who was too old to have kids) and going all the way up to the modern day, when someone very like suzie from my novel, splat, is being a modern pirate, which i guess means running some sort of contraband stolen from some passing criminal.  and then somehow she’s transported back to grace’s day.

and it kind of stalls there.  i could do a dynasty, i could even present some of them at the same time as the others.  but mixing them?  adding science fiction?  or fantasy:  time travel, anyway.

i know i need a twist.  something to make it drastically different from other pirates of the caribbean stories.  i’m not really that interested in submerging my readers in a swashbuckling tale full of pirate speak, either.  that’s why i like a modern transgressive  protagonist.  quaint speech and customs can be made fun of, and local conditions can be reported with breathless horror.  but i’m  not sure about time travel.  or psychic, or other mystical.  the easiest for me to imagine is a modern pirate thrown into history by the bermuda triangle.

it could happen.

what appeals to me now is a fictional pirate island thru the entire 150 years of official piracy, and on until today and the modern version of piracy.  a dynasty of pirates.  a family, a clan of pirates.  a pirate state.

and today, right now, they’re opening up a pirate theme park on the island, with buccaneer raids on passing cruise ships where the passengers willingly hand over money and jewels.  everybody on the island is a real pirate, but nobody takes them seriously.

they change their strategies with every passing generation.

i like it told from the present perspective.  i want real characters way back in the 1500s and every period of pirate history since then.  i want them meddling in all sorts of real history and melting away into the mists afterwards.  i want them to be able to trace the line back to ancient mediterranean pirates, and further, to chinese pirates.

wherever there are riches, there are pirates.  pirates by sea, bandits by land.

jim wants to end the story with a teenager holding up the ticket booth of the pirate theme park, the new generation making its move on the establishment.