February 2013

“Give it back,” Jennie growled.

“Give what back? This?” The Zaar let Jennie’s pendant slip between its wax fingers, sending it toward a floorstrike shattering before pinching the chain at the last minute.

The Fáidh redoubled his chant, as did Cary and Syke at the other corners of the triangle hemming in the malicious spirit garbed in a wax-museum copy of Eamon de Valera. “You won’t let it break,” Jennie said with what she hoped was a convincing facsimile of courage. “My family jewels are too important to your boss.”

“Such naughty and ignorant words for a piece of clay,” sneered the Zaar. “But you have shown a certain promise in hunting me down and casting a circle, I must admit. I haven’t been bound since Aix in 1611.” Its dull eyes gleamed maliciously from behind its spectacles. “Perhaps it’s time for a new approach.”

The creature carefully replaced Jennie’s pendant in one of his pockets and then leapt at her with astonishing speed and ferocity. Its cold, waxy hands wrapped around her throat with surprising strength, while foul incantations hissed not from the Zaar’s borrowed mouth but from every point in its form.

“κατοχή του σώματος, αποβολή της ψυχής! κατοχή του σώματος, αποβολή της ψυχής! κατοχή του σώματος, αποβολή της ψυχής!

“Break it apart, Jennie!” cried the Fáidh. “Its spirit is potent but the body is just wax! It only has the power you’ll let it have!”

The small ceremonial dagger Jennie had taken from Whelk’s corpse flashed, and the wax form stumbled backwards, stumps where its hands had been. A swift follow-up blow to the left leg led to total collapse; the simulacra of de Valera toppled to the stone and shattered into pieces. Knife in hand, the waxwork’s vanquisher fished the pendant out of the pocket that contained it and donned the jewel with a triumphant smile.

“All right, Jennie! cried Cary. “Rah rah rah, that’s how it’s done!”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Jennie’s companions crowded around, offering their congratulations.

“Thanks, but there’s no time to waste. We need to move, and quickly.”

The Fáidh nodded. “Come, let’s away from this dank and fetid place of suck for groovier environs.”

Jennie watched as she led her friends away, utterly perplexed at how she could see herself moving and speaking from such a detached viewpoint. “Hey, where are you going?” she cried. “That’s not me!”

Not only could her friends not hear her, but Jennie herself couldn’t either. The words were dead upon entering the world, and with horror Jennie realized that she had no lips to utter them with…not to scream with.

Through some dark trick, the Zaar had torn her from her body and left her an aimless and un-anchored spirit.

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“Well, my friends, we have put our latest vintage through the usual tests: color, swirl, smell, taste, and savor. As per the tradition of the competition, you will all be provided with another glass and asked to render your judgement,” said Sommalier Quislyng.

The first judge, Graf von Blutmord, sipped daintily at the crimson liquid in his glass. “It has a fine bouquet. Woody, complex, and round with a hint of basil and nuances of toast. I would surmise it’s a vintage Hungarian AB-positive from a 35-year-old female in the Budapest area.”

“I hate to differ with you,” said Earl Vätskasuga, the second judge, as he dabbled his fangs in gently swirled liquid. “While I agree in the fineness of bouquet, I find it has much more a delicate coconut flavor, and a sinful sushi essence with velvet overtones. A young and prime B-negative male from the Pyrenees, most likely Andorra. I do so enjoy these Andorran boutiques.”

Countess du Nălucăamor made a derisive sound and took in her entire goblet in a single suck. “You’re both naive old fools. It’s a raw vintage from the parts of Romania where there’s still a taster in every village and the old ways have been refined for a new century. Intoxicating gingerbread essences, a bouquet of passionate molasses, and a caramelized chocolate perfume undercurrent. It’s an A-positive from the Sighişoara region, I’m sure of it.”

“Well, now that you’ve all rendered your verdicts, allow me to reveal the truth,” said Sommalier Quislyng. He pulled the velvet covering from the bottle on a refrigerated and gently vibrating pedestal to reveal…幸运的777快乐的猫血, a Chinese O-positive vintage from Guangzhou commonly disparaged as a cheap garbage brand in connoisseur circles.

“Impossible!” cried Graf von Blutmord.

“Ridiculous!” shouted Earl Vätskasuga.

“Treachery!” roared Countess du Nălucăamor.

Their verdicts praising the cheap 幸运的777快乐的猫血 vintage have been known ever since as the “Judgement of Chateau Bloodtooth” and remain controversial to this day.

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As surely as autumn follows summer, the latest contribution by Willam “Black Bill” Cubbins has been followed by a counter-post by Felisa Lloyd Matsumura-Tamaribuchi. In the interests of balance we present it to you here. Ms. Matsumura-Tamaribuchi is a noted participant in the Anti-Pirate Freedom Flotilla, the Port Elizabeth Tribunal for Buccaneer Crimes, and the Boycott Booty campaign. She is a current Distinguished Fellow at Kaizoku University and is the current Tokugawa Chair of Shinobi Studies there.

Rather than feeling sorry for the plight of pirates who are being undermined and reduced in number by so-called foreign competition, we should rejoice in the fact that this vile way of life is slowly and naturally becoming extinct. Ninja activists like myself have long since held that there is no room in the modern economy for pirates or piracy, and the racist, disenfranchising, and bigoted attitudes they encourage.

Piracy is, no matter how “locally” and “sustainably” conducted, an inherently dishonorable and disenfranchising profession built around taking–taking of land, of lives, of booty. It has no value in any economy, much less an economy as bad as the one now facing the world. Activists in the pro-pirate media can talk all they like about “cherished” and “ancient” ways of life, but all pirates are nothing more than thieves and cockroaches.

Contrast that situation with that of the shinobi–or “ninja” to use a less-aware but more popular term. The silent, amoral assassins that make up the major ninja clans have value in any economy. As scouts, as spies, and as dealers of death to those who deserve it, ninjas have no peers–and those skills are needed more in a bad economy than in any other. While pirates only take, ninjas give back by cutting away the dead wood of society with a surgical knife. There will always be a need for the subtle art of honorable killing, and ninjas will always be there to provide it from the shadows.

This makes them unlike pirates, whose days are limited by both a world that increasingly sees them as the disenfranchising barbarians that they are. A skyrocketing ninja birth rate that will soon see the pirates’ one advantage, that of numbers, whittled down to nothing as they are hurled back into the sea.

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Partial transcript from the February 24, 2013 interview of Petra Burgess by Jerry Sovak of WKΔD Radio.

JERRY SOVAK: I’m here with Petra Burgess, who has recently been at the center of come controversy over her “Fair Trade Coffee for the People of Syria” sketch on LNTV.

PETRA BURGESS: “Some controversy?” Don’t soft-pedal it, Jerry. My Twitter feed turned into a river of fire not seen since the days of Vesuvius.

SOVAK: You’ve been accused of being insensitive to the plight of the Syrian people, and sexism and racism for the parody of Halle Berry suggesting that the Syrian rebels ought to be more concerned with the provenance of their coffee than anything else. Stubb’s Coffee didn’t like seeing their logo on the fair trade coffee that was being “airlifted” to the people in the sketch, either.

BURGESS: I was worried they wouldn’t notice, actually. I’m also very upset that I haven’t heard from anyone about making the Predator drone pilot an effeminate Marine or from the dig at the Sarah McLachlan commercials about the icky puppies, only this time with the puppies replaced with coffee beans.

SOVAK: So you’re…you’re upset that more people weren’t offended? Unpack that a little for us, Petra.

BURGESS: You see people talking a lot about being gadflies and equal opportunity offenders. What that usually means is that they’re gadflies to people they don’t like and their idea of equal opportunity offensiveness means offending both moderate and conservative Republicans. The problem is that there are so many unspoken sacred cows in entertainment in general and Hollywood in particular that no one dares to touch. It might as well be blacklisted, against the Hays code.

SOVAK: So you were trying, with your sketch, to offend everybody at once?

BURGESS: Well I tried to be as offensive as possible to as many people as possible, sure. But I also focused on those sacred cows, people and causes that never get critiqued or tweaked or smeared with satire because they’re too near and dear to the hearts of Hollywood.

SOVAK: Is that an expression of your own political views, then?

In as much as I have any, yes. Don’t go mistaking me for a Republican; their starched collars need to be tweaked, and often, and badly. But don’t go lumping me in with the Democrats, either–if anything they need a harsher beating because they have so many friends in my industry. My politics are simple: everything needs to be made fun of in the most uncompromising terms to keep them defensive. Keep ’em off-balance and people are less likely to let them get away with murder.

SOVAK: Could you…distill that a little bit for us? It sounds like you’re giving advice to other would-be satirists out there. Break that down to a one-liner for us, if you would.

Satire: if there’s a group out there who isn’t burning you in effigy, you’re doing it wrong.

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“Open it! OPEN IT!” The gun was pressed against the man’s temple.

“All right, all right,” the man sobbed at the black-clad home invader. “I’ll open it.”

He swung his dryer open, unlatched the lint catcher, and handed it over.

Five thousand miles and two days later, the man in black handed the lint to his handler.

“Excellent,” the older man purred, adding it to the massive pile accumulating behind his vault door. “Most excellent.

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This essay was contributed by our regular pirate affairs commentator, William “Black Bill” Cubbins IV and based on a speech he delivered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the William Kidd Center for the Study of Pirate Culture at the University of Plunder Bay. In addition to his other pro-pirate activism, Black Bill Cubbins is currently serving as pirate-in-residence at UPB, and he remains a practicing pirate with three galleons and a Dutch party cruise boat to his name so far this year.

At one point in time, 37% of the world’s sailors earned their living through piracy. Today that number is less than 1% despite an explosion in the number of ships at sea and cargoes (and crews) that are more valuable than ever before. Yet the only sustained growth in piracy has been in Somalia and Malacca, both prime areas of pirate outsourcing. The plundering once done by Caribbean pirates, for instance, is now sent to cheap pirates off Somalia that work for pennies on the dollar and often do not enjoy the same benefits, like elected officers and relatively equal distribution of spoils, that pirates elsewhere fought and died for. I’m not criticizing our pirate brothers-in-arms, simply saying that our drive for cheaper plunder, globalized plunder, has negatively impacted both our livelihood and theirs.

The solution, my friends, is to make sure you source your plunder locally and sustainably. Be an informed consumer. Ask whether the precious gems in that overflowing trunk came from standards-compliant corsairs in the Caribbean or North Africa, ripped from the hold of a freighter belonging to Spain or the Holy League, or whether it is cheap outsourced plunder ripped from a Liberia-flagged bulk carrier off Singapore and processed in the illicit prize courts of Guangzhou. Don’t support businesses that rely on outsourced piracy to keep their coffers stuffed with argent; don’t support jewelers that trade in conflict doubloons.

Act globally but pirate locally. Support your local pirates by buying their plunder at local prize courts. Invest in sustainable sources of piracy like the Spanish Main or the Golden Triangle rather than the lucrative but unsustainable trade in looted North Korean freighters off Socotra. If you can, pirate a little yourself on the side. Not much; a frigate or two every now and again, or even a station wagon on the Mexico trade route, is enough to help keep the sacred connection that pirates have felt to their profession for many years. Many young pirates are choosing not to follow in the family business, preferring instead to move to the big city to try and pass as non-pirates. Our culture is in danger as never before, beset by this decay on one side and negative portrayals by media and biased ninja activists on the other.

Only through education and action can we stem this tide. So I urge you: find or found a local prize court or pirate co-op. Speak pirate to your children or support those who do. Support pirate studies programs at universities and organizations like the FPA, the Future Pirates of America. And most importantly of all, support your local pirates in whatever way you can.

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Marauders from the Republic of Pisa seized the artifact from North Africa during a raid. Once placed atop a pillar in a now-sacked city, the great bronze dragon was rumored to ward off bad luck and the machinations of the devil. The Pisans took it as a prize ad because of a local legend that claimed its interior was filled with gold.

The dragon was displayed in Pisa for some time, but as the Republic’s fortunes began to decline, the citizenry became more and more adamant that it be cut open and its golden contents shared. Warnings in Arabic had been etched into the dragon’s bronze, cautioning against the dire consequences of opening the statue, which would release all the misfortunes that it had absorbed over the years.

Eventually the pressure was too great, and the authorities ordered the dragon smashed. It turned out to be hollow, with most of the weight being in the form of lead weights ornately etched. Only a small golden cup was found, barely larger than a thimble, and not enough to offset the cost of dismantling the dragon statue and its plinth.

Ten days later, the Pisan fleet was decisively defeated–annihilated–by the Genoans. Within a few years, the city had lost its independence and ceased to be a port of major importance.

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