Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Magical cruise from Tahiti to the Tuamotus

On July 18, the amazing little cruise ship Paul Gauguin sets sail from Papeete, Tahiti, to the Tuamotu Islands -- once known to sailing ship captains as the Dangerous Islands, and now one of the remotest destinations possible.

And I will be on board as one of the lecturers.

I have explored the Tuamotus before, and recommend it as one of life's adventures.  On Fakarava (now a UNESCO-classified Nature Reserve where experienced divers can descend up to 130 feet to visit a world inhabited by gray sharks, schools of colorful fish, and untouched coral) there is an amazing church, originally founded in 1850.  Inside, it is all mother-of-pearl and blue.

And then there is Rangiroa, the largest of the Tuamotus.  Rangiroa (rung-ee-roh-ah) is one of the biggest atolls in the world, with a lagoon so vast that it could fit the entire island of Tahiti inside of it. While visitors coming directly from Bora Bora or Tahiti will probably find Rangi (as it’s known to its friends) to be a low-key, middle-of-nowhere sort of a place, this is the big city for folks coming from anywhere else in the archipelago. With paved roads, a few stores, a couple of resorts, plentiful internet and gourmet restaurants, there’s really everything here you need – and in the Tuamotus, that’s a really big deal!

Other islands visited include one of my favorites, Huahine, which is an undiscovered tropical jewel. Here, you can buy the best vanilla in the world, and explore ancient marae.

And then there is iconic Moorea, with its amazing mountainscape.  If you want to stay in the Tahitian Islands before or after your cruise, Moorea is strongly recommended.

The Paul Gauguin people have their own private island, Motu Mahana.  You have to swim ashore from the tender, and then swim out to the floating bar for drink to accompany your BBQ on the beach, but what the hell, if you would rather stay on board the lovely little ship, there is amazing food and service there, too.  And you have the lovely little ship almost to yourself ... except for the captain, who once served me my salad meal!

And Bora Bora.  Who needs explaining about Bora Bora?  One of the hugely iconic islands in the Pacific.  Personally, I like the pareu dyeing trip.  And I really rather like the village, where the shops that sell black pearls are more like world-class art galleries.

And then there is the ship itself.

As you can see, it is small.  It is like sharing a luxury yacht with just 200-300 other guests.

Designed specifically to glide through the shallow seas of the South Pacific, The Gauguin is the flagship of Paul Gauguin Cruises and a small-ship cruiser’s dream. She delivers travelers to intimate ports inaccessible to larger cruise ships, all the while providing an onboard experience that is nothing short of luxurious. Guests aboard our luxury cruises enjoy spacious suites and staterooms (more than 70% with private balconies), an onboard watersports marina, three dining venues, an extensive spa, and five-star service. Life onboard also reflects the beauty and rich cultural heritage of the islands she calls upon, with a warm, friendly feel, informal setting, and even a beloved troupe of Gauguines and Gauguins—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers.
The food is amazing.  The staff are even better.  Highly recommended.
And the flights to and from Los Angeles are included, along with transfers to the port.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Toilet for Trump

From The Independent

I found this story hilarious.

Trump and Trump wife Melania wanted a painting for their bedroom.

So they asked the Guggenheim for a Van Gogh.

And the response was classic.

The White House apparently contacted the Guggenheim Museum in New York and asked for the loan of Van Gogh’s 1888 Landscape With Snow. The museum wrote back to say it could not loan the item but instead offered an 18 karat gold sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan of a functioning toilet.
The piece, America, designed as “a cipher for the excesses of affluence” and the creation of which was inspired by Mr Trump's decision to run for the White House, had been on display at the museum where countless thousands of museum visitors made use of it.

“We are sorry not to be able to accommodate your original request, but remain hopeful that this special offer may be of interest,” curator Nancy Spector wrote in an email to the White House, according to the Washington Post.
The museum’s online notes accompanying the sculpture, say that “like all of Cattelan’s most complex works, this sculpture is laden with possible meanings”. They also say the sculpture was inspired by Mr Trump's decision to run for the White House. They say that more than 100,000 people made use of the toilet when it was on display.
“The equation between excrement and art has long been mined by neo-Marxist thinkers who question the relationship between labour and value,” add the notes.

Creating beauty out of evil

A beautiful story by Jennifer Homans in the New York Review of Books

On March 14, 1934, in New York City, George Balanchine began working on a new dance set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, Op. 48. He had arrived in the United States from his native Russia via Europe some five months earlier, and had just taught a morning dance class at the School of American Ballet on the fourth floor of the Tuxedo Building at 59th Street and Madison Avenue. He and Lincoln Kirstein had founded the school that January, and they had a small following of students. Everything was new: Balanchine barely spoke English, barely knew Kirstein, and barely knew his American dancers. Serenade would be his first American ballet. As the class ended, one dancer later recalled, Balanchine climbed onto the “watching bench”—a stool that allowed him a vantage point over the dancers—and stretched his arms invitingly toward them with open palms. He quietly dismissed the men and asked the women to take a break and return in fifteen minutes ready to work.
When they were all gathered, Balanchine nodded to the pianist, his fellow Russian √©migr√© Ariadna Mikeshna, and turned to the sweaty young women in leotards, tights, and practice skirts leaning nervously on the barres. They were teenagers at the peak of health; he was thirty, fighting tuberculosis, and had recently lost the use of one lung, the consequence of living through the brutalities of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian civil wars during his youth. He graciously approached each dancer, took her by the arm, and escorted her to a spot on the floor. There happened to be seventeen women in class that day, so he made a pattern in the large studio for seventeen: two perfect diamonds of eight, with a single dancer at the point joining the two formations. From the front, every dancer could be seen—like an orange grove in California, he later liked to say.
As they stood in their places, he started to talk. In pidgin English, he told them something of his Russian past. He was a ten-year-old student at the Imperial Theater School when World War I began, and only thirteen when the revolution erupted in 1917. He left for Europe in 1924. A decade later in New York, the memories still haunted him: gunfire in the streets, scavenging for food, killing and eating cats, and freezing in subzero temperatures, not to mention the dead bodies piled in the streets as the war and revolution took their toll. He told his students about the small dance company he had started in the midst of it all, and about leaving for Berlin and Paris and working with Sergei Diaghilev. He talked anxiously about Germany and Hitler, much on everybody’s mind in 1934, and about the "Heil Hitler" salute.
Who knows what went through the minds of the young dancers?  Balanchine showed them how to stand facing forward, and raise their arms straight up, in the pompous gesture that Hitler would have recognized and been delighted to watch.
But then he showed them how to create beauty out of evil, by turning their arms and heads gently to the side, gazing up at their hands. 
And so the classic ballet evolved.  Balanchine changed it often over the years, but still it opens with the dancers standing with their right arms raised. Then, slowly and gently, the pose relaxes, as the hand drops, moves toward the brow, and then down to fold across the chest, and down again, as the women move through ballet's classic positions, and on into the dance.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

America's last slave ship?

From The Smithsonian

After a “bomb cyclone” hit the eastern seaboard earlier this month, reporter Ben Raines used the abnormally low tides in Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta to search for the wreck of an infamous vessel—the Clotilda, the last slave ship known to have transported enslaved Africans to the United States. In a feature published this week on, Raines reports that he discovered the remains of a ship that matches the description of the Clotilda a few miles north of Mobile.
The site of the wreck is only accessible by boat and would normally be submerged in water. But due to the storm conditions, the wreck was instead sticking out of the mud, with the hull tipped to the port side with the other side almost completely exposed. Raines documented the find with photographs and used a drone to take aerial images. He also invited a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida to examine the wreck to get their expert opinion.
The researchers, led by Greg Cook and John Bratten​, won’t say conclusively that the wreck is the Clotilda, but they are optimistic. “You can definitely say maybe, and maybe even a little bit stronger, because the location is right, the construction seems to be right, from the proper time period, it appears to be burnt. So I’d say very compelling, for sure,” Cook says.
“There is nothing here to say this isn’t the Clotilda, and several things that say it might be,” says Bratten.
Not only does the ship date to the middle of the 1800s, the time the Clotilda was constructed, it is also the same type of Gulf Coast schooner as the ship and shows signs of being burned, which is consistent with the Clotilda story.
As historian Slyviana A. Diouf reports in Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Last Africans Brought to America, the Clotilda was a heavy freighter originally constructed in 1855 and first was used to ferry supplies to and from Cuba, Texas and Louisiana. Around 1860, the ship’s owner, William Foster sold the schooner to a local Mobile businessman by the name Timothy Meaher, who bet that he could bring a ship of enslaved people into Mobile Bay without anyone noticing. While slavery was still legal in the South at that time, the slave trade itself had been outlawed for over 52 years in the U.S., meaning importing slaves was a serious violation of federal law. Nevertheless, Meaher decided to put his plan in action, commissioning Foster to lead a slave-buying mission to Ouimah, a port town in the present-day nation of Benin. 
The Clotilda anchored off of Ouimah for a week while Foster and the 11-man crew used $9,000 in gold to purchase 110 people. By July 8, 1860 (or according to some accounts, the fall of 1859), the ship had departed from the port town and arrived back in the Gulf. There, under the cover of darkness, the Clotilda was tugged up the Mobile River where the captives were transferred to a second ship and quickly sold into slavery. Foster and Meaher worried that their scheme had been found out, though, so they decided to burn the evidence in the marshes, getting rid of the pens they used to hold the more than 100 people, full of human waste and other telltale proof. It is in that location where Raines encountered the wreck.
In a separate story, Lawrence Specker at reports that the enslaved people of the Clotilda held fast to their native language, traditions and family relationships. After the end of the Civil War, a group of these newly freed people formed their own self-sufficient community north of Mobile, which became known as African Town. They elected a chief, based the 50-acre village on African law, and eventually built their own school and church. The story is chronicled in Diouf’s book, which she published in 2007.
After stories of the Clotilda transport of enslaved Africans leaked out, Meaher was briefly arrested and Foster was forced to pay $1,000 for not registering in port after an international trip. But, as Raines reports, the Civil War overshadowed the case and it was abandoned.
So far, Raines reports no digging has taken place at the purported Clotilda site, and it will take permits, funding and planning before archaeologists can examine the ship more closely and confirm whether it is indeed the Clotilda. Cook says he’s in the process of gathering input from the Alabama Historical Commission and Corps of Engineers on the next steps. “If it turns out to be the last slaver, it is going to be a very powerful site for many reasons,” Cook says. “The structure of the vessel itself is not as important as its history, and the impact it is going to have on many, many people.”
Expect more revelations from the Clotilda to come forward later this year for another reason— Zora Neale Hurston’s almost 120-page book about the life of one of the ship’s enslaved passengers will be posthumously published this May. The book will tell the story of Cudjo Lewis, who was born Oluale Kossola in West Africa and was captured and forced onto the Clotilda. After gaining his freedom, he went on to serve a critical role in the founding of African Town.

New Zealand and 10 other nations sign trade deal

Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker
It's a new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that looked endangered when US President Trump flounced away from the table.

But now a swept-up version has been agreed.  And the US is not part of the deal.

After two days of talks in Tokyo, the 11 nations have ironed out the four unresolved issues that remained after negotiations last November.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week about preserving the cultural heritage of each country.

The TPP is now  CPTPP -- the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has rather a nice ring about it.

The countries are New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker confirmed that the deal will be signed in Chile on March 8.  And, further, as he observed --

"The CPTPP will provide New Zealand exporters with preferential access for the first time into Japan, the world's third largest economy and our fifth-largest export market

"The CPTPP is even more important to signatory countries given current threats to the effectiveness of the [World Trade Organization] and rising protectionism in many parts of the world."

The sticking points were Canadian protection its cultural industries, and labour protections in Vietnam. There was also a controversial Investor State Dispute set of clauses, which gave industries freedom to sue governments over contract decisions.  These have been removed.

The deal will come into effect after it has been ratified by at least six of the eleven countries.

A huge accomplishment for our new Prime Minister.

Read more.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Cindy Vallar review of THE MONEY SHIP

From Cindy Vallar's Pirates and Privateers

 The Money Ship
By Joan Druett
Old Salt Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-9941246-4-7, $13.95
e-book ISBN 978-1-9941246-6-0, $9.99
Gold starGold starGold starGold starGold star 
Inquisitive and headstrong, six-year-old Jerusha Gardiner loves being with her father aboard his whaling ship. She basically does what she wants since her parents assume someone else is watching her. (She often does the same ashore. Although she tries to please her mother, she usually fails. And it’s no different on the Huntress.) As the three-year voyage passes, her inquisitive nature compels her to learn whatever she can, including studying discarded medical books and asking the first mate to teach her navigation.

Going to sea is more his mother’s idea, rather than Nelson O’Cain’s. But it does provide him with one advantage; he’s far from his vindictive half-brother, the duke’s legitimate son. During the voyage, his meteoric rise from apprentice to first mate leaves Nelson feeling ill-equipped to handle any problems that arise or Captain Gardiner’s precocious daughter. Yet when he finds her aloft, away from her mother’s rants, he keeps her secret and when his brother comes aboard with spiteful news, she is the only one to offer solace.

After a strange sail is sighted, Jerusha is sent to visit the captain in hopes of acquiring some fresh supplies. She expects to find someone like her father, but Captain Rochester of the Hakluyt is quite different and his cabin is like a magical place. He is a collector of treasure stories, so Jerusha shares the only one she knows – the day her father, as a young boy, found gold aboard a wrecked money ship – long before he became a sailor and was pressed into the Royal Navy. Rochester shares a tale of his search for the lost or buried treasure of a pirate, which he believes is somewhere in the South China Sea.

As time passes, the Gardiners and Rochester frequently cross paths as they visit ports in these exotic waters. One day, he shares his latest find to prove his hypothesis, which is reinforced when Jerusha catches a fish that turns out to have a plate of gold within its belly. But no one is getting younger and Rochester’s sudden death leaves Jerusha and her father, as her guardian, owners of the Hakluyt. Nelson also leaves to sign aboard an East Indiaman, but during a visit, he intervenes when his brother attempts to blackmail Captain Gardiner and physically threatens Jerusha. Then his brother is murdered, Nelson is arrested, and Jerusha is sent to the United States to live with an aunt she’s never met while her father remains in Borneo intent on continuing Rochester’s treasure hunt and conducting a profitable trading venture that raises the ire of the British East India Company.

The Money Ship isn’t a typical nautical tale. Rather it is a coming-of-age story in both familiar places and exotic locales. Divided into four separate parts, it follows the lives of Jerusha from childhood into womanhood and Nelson, who is just entering adulthood when he signs aboard the whaler. While no specific dates are given, it begins after the Napoleonic Wars have ended and transports readers from England to Singapore, Borneo, and Massachusetts. Druett wonderfully populates her story with a plethora of characters that include pirates, Sea Dyaks, missionaries, Illanoans, and many others both reputable and despicable. She intricately weaves a tapestry of unusual cultures and complicated politics with infidelity, secrets, arranged marriage, and betrayal. 
From first page to last, The Money Ship transports readers back to the early nineteenth century on an epic journey spiced with high adventure and contemptible lows. Be forewarned: the tempests blow not only at sea, but also on land and one is never quite certain who will survive.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Woman marries pirate ghost


Not only is there an energetic debate in the Letters to the Editor of the Dominion Post regardingthe legality of Pastafarianism, where pirates are regarded as celestial beings, but a woman had trumped Helen Hollick's confession about falling in love with her fictional pirate hero.

She has actually married one.

According to the New Zealand HeraldAmanda Teague says she couldn't connect with anyone in the physical world, so looked to the afterlife to find her kindred spirit.

Like any normal couple, Amanda and her husband Jack Teague go on dates, have arguments and even have sex - despite the fact he died almost 300 years ago. And amazingly, Amanda even hired a registrar and journeyed into international waters so she could legally marry him - using a spiritual medium to allow him to say 'I do' during the ceremony.
Amanda, 45, says: "He is my soulmate. I am so happy, it is the perfect kind of relationship for me. There are a lot of people out there who don't know about spiritual relationships, but it could be right for them - I want to get the message out there."
Amanda's love affair with the spirit started in 2014 when she was lying in bed one night and could feel his energy laying beside her. She says she initially wasn't that interested in making contact with the spirit, until she realized she could speak to him through mediumship. [Now, that's a new and useful word!]
The spirit used to sit with her when she watched TV or while she was driving her car, and the pair started to get to know each other. Amanda says she soon started developing "strong loving feelings" towards him. She says: "We became really close, the more I learnt about him, the more I liked him.
"One day he said to me 'We can actually be together you know' but I had never heard of an intimate relationship between a spirit and a human before. I did some research and found out that it is a real thing and there are lots of people in spiritual relationships, but not many people like to talk about it."
Amanda had a previous marriage to a "physical being" for six years, and had five children with her ex husband. But says she has never been able to relate to anyone alive the way she connects to Jack.
Amanda says in his past life, her husband was a Haitian pirate who lived in the 1700s. He was eventually caught and suffered a traumatic death - being executed for being a thief on the high seas. [How typical.]
Amanda says Jack had one serious relationship whilst he was alive; he was even engaged to be married, but his fiance changed her mind and left him at the altar. Jack would have to wait three centuries before he finally got the wedding of his dreams.
Amanda works as a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator.
And (of course) she believes the pirate connection is what brought them together. And even though she has never seen her husband in physical form, she imagines he is very similar to the character of Captain Jack, played by Johnny Depp, 54, in the movie series Pirates of the Caribbean.
"He is black, so he is not the same color as Johnny Depp, but he is dark skinned and has very dark jet-black hair, so he tells me," Amanda says.
Having lived hundreds of years ago, the world Jack lived in is very different to the one he sees today. But Amanda says he is fascinated by modern technology, especially mobiles phones and tablets, and he likes trying to switch them on and off.
Amanda says: "I have always had a real fascination with his era, I like a lot of the stuff from that time.  And there is a lot about the modern world that he likes. I am very 1700s and he is quite modern, so it balances out."
Amanda says Jack is a very powerful spirit and has witnessed him turning stereos on and off, flickering lights and even moving things.
Two years after they first met, the couple got engaged. "Jack proposed to me," Amanda said. "I told him I wasn't really cool with having casual sex with a spirit and I wanted us to make a proper commitment to each other. If I am going to be in a long-term relationship with somebody I have the right to be married. I wanted the big traditional wedding with the white dress, it was very important to me."
Amanda found a Shaman priest and legal registrar who agreed to marry the couple - despite their unusual relationship dynamic.
There is no provision in UK law for posthumous marriages, so the couple took a boat into international waters in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Irish Coast, for their ceremony. Marrying a dead person is legal in certain countries such as France, Singapore and China [WHAT???], so by going into waters which aren't governed by any particular country, Jack and Amanda's union can be upheld.
Amanda chose a 1700s style dress - similar to the ones from Jack's time - to wear to the ceremony. She also held a flag bearing a skull and crossbone as a symbol for her husband.
"I told him I didn't want him to see the dress before the wedding but if he had a cheeky sneak peak while I was trying it on, I wouldn't know," Amanda says. "I don't know where he is or when he is around most of the time - it is hard to keep secrets from him."
The couple also had matching rings designed for the ceremony. The design incorporated brass, which is Jack's favorite metal [which is probably the hardest part of this story to believe], and white-gold, which is Amanda's. Because Jack cannot wear his ring, it has been fitted to a candle which was used in the wedding ceremony to represent him.
Only 12 people were allowed on the boat, so Amanda and Jack invited their closest friends and family to join them in international waters.
They also had to ask a medium to say "I do" on Jack's behalf.
Amanda says: "Obviously I can't speak for him but there has to be verbal consent from both people. "If I gave consent on his behalf it would put a question mark over the authenticity of the marriage, so we had an independent medium to speak for Jack."
When the boat returned home, they had a wedding reception with the rest of their guests.
The newlyweds even went to Newcastle, in Northern Ireland, for their honeymoon. Amanda signs all her documentation as 'married' and says her posthumous relationship has never been questioned by authorities. But she says if she had to go to court to fight for her relationship, she would.
After the wedding, the couple bought their first home together, and even though Jack couldn't contribute financially, he helped pick the new house and had an input with the interior design.
Amanda says sex with a spirit is surprisingly similar to sex with a physical human - and can even have a happy ending. She says: "It is well known that people often feel a spirit touch their hands, their face or their hair. The only difference with having a sexual relationship with a spirit is obviously that sense of touch goes a lot deeper. You can feel the weight of the spirit, their touch, the pressure. You can literally feel the physical act of what the spirit is doing to you, and the spirit can feel it too."
Amanda cannot see her husband physically, but she says this isn't an issue because she only experiences sexual attraction when she forms a strong emotional bond with someone. She says: "For me, it is much more about a spiritual and emotional connection than it is about the physical looks and the physical body."
Amanda says there is no way a person and a spirit can have a baby - but after the wedding she did have a pregnancy scare. She says: "Shortly after we got married, my periods stopped. I did a couple of pregnancy tests and they came back positive - I was shocked! I did not think I had to worry about birth control when having sex with a spirit. On further tests it turns out it was the start of the menopause, and sometimes you can get high HPG readings - what a relief that was."
Amanda says her family and friends are very accepting of her spiritual relationship and that Jack is treated like part of the family. He is included in Christmas cards, invited to parties and there is always a place set up for him at the dinner table.
Amanda swears she and Jack and are like any other normal couple, and says they even have date nights. The pair go out for dinner, drinks and even to the cinema - except Amanda doesn't have to pay for Jack's meal or his movie ticket, saving her cash.
She says: "He can't eat or drink, but he can sense it through me, it is called 'embodiment'. I can order Jack a drink and allow him to feel it through me, or he can taste my food."
They also buy each other birthday and Christmas presents, with Jack making clear what he wants to buy her through one of her daughters, who often has vivid dreams that Amanda is convinced are messages from Jack. Amanda says: "We get each other Christmas and birthday presents. Obviously he doesn't physically buy them - it has mostly been through one particular daughter. Although she is not a medium, she often has dreams and premonitions and usually coming up to a birthday or Christmas, she will have a dream of him and he will say what he wants to buy me. So last Christmas as an example, he had told her that he wanted to buy me a coffee maker, and it cost £40. And she told him 'I hope you're going to come up with the money because I'm not paying £40, I have to buy my own present for her!'
"And he said someone will be giving me some money in the sum of £40 and that money will be for the present. And literally as she was telling me this, we were sitting in the car and I got a message from this guy, who wanted to buy something I was selling on Facebook - and it was for £40. It was so strange.
"In the beginning, the first couple of years, it wasn't too hard me buying stuff for him because I could only buy symbolic kind of stuff - candle holders, a plaque - that kind of stuff. But there are only so many plaques and memorials you can actually buy before it becomes really really tacky. For his last birthday, I just paid for us to go away for a couple of days so we could spend some time on our own together. I thought that was more practical than buying physical things. Even though he can look at them - there is only so many ornaments a person can have. Men are hard enough to buy for anyways. I can't buy him clothes, I can't buy him aftershave, I can't buy him jewellery. It is kind of difficult."
Amanda, of Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, says she was inspired to speak out about her spiritual relationship after reading about spiritual advisor Amethyst Realm, 27, who only has sex with ghosts. Amethyst, from Bristol, says she has had more than 15 spirit lovers - but Amanda says the "amateur" doesn't have a clue.
"Without doing a reading for her, it is hard to tell but I am certain it is just one spirit and not many, like she claims," Amanda says "But she doesn't appear to connect with the spirit at all, she doesn't know its name or anything about them. I think it is really sad she doesn't realize she can have a real relationship with this person, get to know them and even marry them - rather than just these weird one-off sexual experiences."
Amanda and Jack are now co-writing a book about their relationship, with advice for other singletons on how to find a soulmate on the other side. The book will be called "Ain't no grave can hold my body back", after the Johnny Cash song - one of Jack's favorite singers.


Surely, Amanda's dead lover is confused with EDWARD TEAGUE, the fictional father of the fictional Jack Sparrow?

He's not black, but he is rather lovely.

According to his fan site, Edward Teague  was not just a pirate (and a rather "sweet" one, too, who could "break hearts" with a "ballad from his guitar"), but also the Pirate Lord of Madagascar.  More excitingly still, he went on to feature in a couple of his son's films (though actually portrayed by Keith Richards), at one point saving his son's life by knocking out the vile Rusty Knickers. 

Jack, according to the story, went missing when he was young, so Daddy Edward went a-searching for him, in his ship Misty Lady.  And lo, the quest was successful, because he found young Jack Sparrow in command of a pirate ship called Barnacle. 

And so the story goes on.  Hit the link, and have fun.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Writers falling for their fictional heroes

Some years ago, after Shark Island, the second in the Wiki Coffin series, came out, I received a horrified letter from a fan.  The book had a hot love scene, and she took great exception to it. "You were supposed to be saving him for ME," she complained.

Well, I guess Wiki is a hunk.  As my agent observed, he is hot.  A lot of detail went into creating him, but did I fall in love with him?  Just like his fan?  I must confess I had never thought about that before, not until Helen Hollick, the author of the rousing Sea Witch series, confessed that she had fallen in love with her dashing hero, the pirate Jesamiah Acorne.

So I asked her about it,  and this is what she wrote.

Falling for a Fictional Hero…
by Helen Hollick

The first character I fell in love with was a rabbit. Little Grey Rabbit from the tales by Alison Uttley. Well, I was only three years old!

Several others (characters, not rabbits) followed through the years, mostly entering my little shy (and somewhat lonely) childhood world at night beneath the covers by the romantic light of a torch. I can’t remember many of them now, but most of my fictional heroes and heroines had something to do with animals, especially horses.

I branched out as I ‘grew up’. (Jury is still out on whether I ever actually have grown up….)
Characters came, characters went. Then along came Llewellyn ap Fawr in Sharon Penman’s Here Be Dragons. I fell for him – what a hunk of a guy! It was somewhat disappointing to realise, some months later when I had the great pleasure, and honour, of meeting Sharon personally that Llewellyn was not a one-reader-man. It turned out that many dozens of readers had fallen in love with him. I guess fair enough. The real man had, after all, been dead for several hundred years.

Meanwhile, I had created my own hero: my version of King Arthur. Did I ‘fall in love’ with him? No, I don’t think I did, I thought of him as more of a really close friend, a brother, a favourite uncle, a mentor – a forever presence in my life. Not surprising really, it took me over ten years to write what was eventually accepted by William Heinemann and materialised in print as my first historical novels, the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.

But, oh! Finishing that third part! We all know that King Arthur dies at the end of it all. I felt like I was planning an assassination or a divorce after a long-term relationship. In the end, I wrote that very last chapter first, then went back to the beginning to write Book Three.

I am, still, most fond of my Arthur. Even if he isn’t always a ‘nice guy’. (Come on – he was a rough-tough warlord. You don’t get to be King by being nice all the time!) I was somewhat comforted when I received a letter from the fabulous Rosemary Sutcliff, written in her own hand and complete with her famous dolphin signature. In it, she confided that after completing Sword at Sunset, her magnificent novel about Arthur, it took her six weeks to get him out of her head.

Is there something charismatic about ‘Arthur’? Does his ghost continue to haunt the realms of imagination? Is that why he will always be the ‘once and future king’? Why, wherever he appears, writers and readers fall in love with him? That poser of a question aside, I grew fond of my next Character, King Harold II (he of 1066 Battle of Hastings fame), and then King Cnut - better known as Canute, who tried to turn back the tide. (Only actually he didn’t:  the story has got mixed up. He was actually trying to show that he couldn’t turn the tide…) So fond of, admiring of, honoured to research and write about. But not love.

Enter at a swagger, one pirate, stage left. (Page left?)

I met him one drizzly  October Friday afternoon on a beach in Dorset, southern England. I wanted to write something different to my previous historical novels already gathering dust on my bookshelves. I wanted something with a touch of fantasy and a charming rogue of a hero alongside his comely heroine. I wanted a Richard Sharpe, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey-type mixture. There were several young adult novels that partially fitted the bill, but not quite. There were many ‘straight’ nautical novels, but back then in November 2004 nothing remotely like Jack Sparrow’s fun-adventure on the Big Screen in print as a novel. I wanted a darn good adventure tale written for adults, with adult content. I wanted an exciting read that was something akin to that first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But better.

I decided to write my own.

I had my plot and my research was accumulating. All learnt via books and the Internet. I’ve never been aboard a sailing ship in my life – not one that was moving that is! I had my heroine, my secondary characters. But not my hero of a Captain.

I sat on a rock on that Dorset beach and pondered. I looked up. And there he was standing as bold as brass, as cocky as he later turned out to be. Dressed in full pirate regalia, complete with three-corner hat, pistol, cutlass and a gold acorn-shaped earring dangling from his ear.
He touched his hat, nodded at me.
“Hello Jesamiah Acorne,” I said. *

And that was it. Hook, line and sinker, as they say, I was in love. Who could resist those gorgeous eyes?

I wrote the first draft of Sea Witch in less than three months, the words pouring from me every day except Christmas Day, when I took a (reluctant) break. From the moment I met him, Jesamiah become a real person to me. I know what he looks like, smells like (hmm maybe, given that he’s a pirate that isn’t such a good thing?) I know his voice, how his eyes sparkle, or frown when he’s angry. I know every callus on his hands, every scar on his body. I don’t always know what he is thinking, for often when I am writing he startles me by throwing in something unexpected. I do occasionally wish he would clear off to sea and leave me alone to write his adventures, but this writing process doesn’t quite work like that. Not when your lead character has entered your head, heart and soul as part of you. Not when you can clearly feel him standing behind your shoulder chuckling or grumbling beneath his breath – depending on what you are writing.

He is there now, standing behind me, glass of rum in one hand, in need of a shave (and a bath,) querying, “You’re not going to share all that, are you?”
“Yes, Jes dear, I am. Do you object?”

… He’s sauntered off. (I doubt he’s gone in the direction of the bathroom – more likely the drinks cabinet.) I did, however, distinctly hear the words: “Well, if your readers conclude that you’re barmy, don’t go blaming me.”

Ah, these  fictional characters. You have to be mad to listen to them, let alone love them, don’t you?

* I swear all that is true!

©  Helen Hollick

Helen lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon, England. Born in London, she  wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction. Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with her novel about Queen Emma The Forever Queen (UK title A Hollow Crown.) She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy. She has written a non-fiction about pirates and one about smugglers in fact and fiction, due to be published in 2018

Amazon Author Page (Universal Link)
Newsletter Subscription:
Twitter: @HelenHollick

Friday, January 12, 2018

Seabird doggedly attached to his concrete love

We have some crazy birds in New Zealand.

First, there was Sirocco, the kakapo (a kind of really dumb parrot) that became an internet sensation when it was filmed trying to make love with Stephen Fry's photographer's head.

You can watch the shameful episode on the BBC, here.

But the craziness is not just on land.  We have a goofy gannet, too.

His name is Nigel, and it is quite a story.

For the past twenty years the Department of Conservation has been trying to lure gannets to Mana Island, just north of Wellington, hoping to establish a colony.  Their plot was diabolical and complex, involving eighty concrete decoys, and a lot of concrete bird poo, which was dutifully sprayed white at regular intervals, to make the guano look real.  And there is a solar-powered gadget, which hoots gannet noises, also at regular intervals.

Success of a kind arrived in 2016, with the alighting of one lone male.  He seemed quite happy to be alone (which was why he was named Nigel), to the extent of falling in love with one of the concrete birds, and even building a nest for "her."

And so life went on for two whole years.

But then fate intervened, in the shape of a visiting scientist, who suggested that the gannet-noise-making gadget might be pointing the wrong way.  So they adjusted it.  And it worked!  Three other gannets moved in.  "I was flabbergasted to see them," said Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger, Chris Bell. "I nearly fell off into the sea in shock."

But Nigel was not welcoming at all.  Instead, he shunned them. As  Chris Bell observed, "They are on one side of the colony and on the other side is Nigel, who is still making love to his concrete bird. He definitely has some sort of fetish.  It's tragic."

But the outlook is optimistic.  After all, Nigel might be super-odd, but at least he helped attract the newcomers. "He may be a weirdo," Chris Bell ruminated, "and they may not want to associate with him, but he's played his part.  Maybe one day he will figure it out."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Russian "space" pirates tie the noodle knot in Wellington

Down here in the coolest little capital in the world, we sure do enjoy a lighthearted romp.  And so it is perfectly proper that the world's first legal marriage by a celebrant of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should have been staged here.

Pastafarians (and yes, that does does with "P", or else you don't get the joke) Dmitry and Daria Losev, from Moscow, chose Scorching Bay Beach as the ideal venue for renewing their vows to be meatballs to each other's pasta.

So, what the devil is a Pastafarian, pray?  He or she is a member of a movement that promotes a lighthearted view of religion.  Not only is it as legitimate as any other creed -- or so they say -- but it is perfectly harmless.  Its deity is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and pirates are divine beings.

The ceremony was conducted by Wellingtonian Karen Martyn, who is not just the Ministeroni and Top Ramen, but also the world's first legal marriage celebrant for the Church.  And, you must admit it, Karen has style.  "All hands on deck," she boomed. "Ye be welcomed to the nuptial noodle nodding of Dmitry and Daria.

"'Tis their love and lust that hooked 'em to each other and we be here to witness and support them with all our hearts."

And so, forthwith, the happy couple became "lawfully wedded co-captains," vowing to "stay at the helm when the seas are rough, whether he [or she] brings you a bouquet of flounders or a case of clams."

"I declare there be two captains of the good ship Losev," hollered Karen. "What say ye?"

No one dissented, and so an exchange of rings was made, each ring tastily made of ring-shaped "ringatoni," and the union was blessed with a slurping of the "noodle of love."

"Pastafarians are serious sceptics," declared Karen to the reporter, presumably with a straight face.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Rare pirate ship papers uncovered

It seems that there really were pirates who could read and write.

The Smithsonian reports on the latest find from the wreck of Blackbeard's ship.

Three-hundred-year-old scraps of paper that somehow survived centuries aboard the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship are offering new insight into what pirates read during their down time, according to conservationists at the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
As George Dvorsky at Gizmodo reports, researchers found 16 tiny scraps of paper embedded in sludge pulled from a cannon recovered from the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s flagship vessel re-discovered in Beaufort Inlet in 1996.

According to a press release, the largest scrap from the exciting find is only about the size of a quarter. That made identifying the literature somewhat of a challenge. However, Megan Gannon at LiveScience writes that the team was successful in transcribing the words “South of San,” ”(f)athom” and “Hilo,” which they believed referred to the name of a city in Peru. 
For a year, the researchers scoured the library, looking for books that referenced Hilo. Finally, in August, Kimberly Kenyon found a match in the book A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711 by Captain Edward Cooke. “Everyone crowded into my office and we started matching all the fragments we had,” Kenyon says in an interview with Gannon. 
As it turned out, the book recounts the voyages of two ships, Duke and Dutchess, which set off on an expedition in 1708. Ironically, the expedition leader Captain Woodes Rogers was later sent to the Bahamas as Royal Governor in 1718 with the mandate of getting rid of pirates. The book also recounts the rescue of Alexander Selkirk, a man who had been marooned on an island for four years and who was the inspiration for the 1719 book, Robinson Crusoe.
Dvorsky reports that narratives of voyages were popular reading material at the time. While no one can say if Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach, read the book himself, it’s likely someone on his crew did, either for fun or to gather ideas for places to pillage or insights into pirate-hunters of the Royal Navy.
Kristin Romey at National Geographic writes that historically speaking, some members of a pirate crew needed to be literate. That’s because, to plunder the high seas, they needed to read navigational charts. There are also accounts of pirates stealing books from ships and there’s even some evidence that Blackbeard kept a long-missing diary. 
Kenyon tells Gannon that finding the book might also be a political statement. It’s likely that pages were torn from the book and used as wadding in the cannon. Someone could have randomly grabbed the book during the heat of battle. It’s also possible that Blackbeard and Rogers knew of one another or tangled with each other. The same year Rogers arrived in the Bahamas, Blackbeard departed the area, heading to North Carolina. “We’re starting to formulate ideas about whether these two men knew each other,” Kenyon says. “Were they connected somehow? Did Woodes Rogers’ arrival spark Blackbeard’s imminent departure? Was this act of tearing up a book of his a statement of some sort?”
It’s probably impossible to know for sure. Romey reports the conservators are currently working with the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Division of Archives and Records and experts at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation to preserve the fragments.  They hope they will go on display sometime later this year as part of celebrations commemorating the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death.