Prepare for Plundering, Matey!

After all my complaining and whinging about the hot weather it finally broke, or perhaps shattered is a better word because it caused some damage when it changed. Ernesto blew a hole in our roof, right over my middle son's bed, and there's been flooding and enough rain that my neighbor is building something that looks suspiciously like an ark. I don't care to go out much when I have to do the standing long jump over giant puddles just to get off my porch so I'm going to spend my weekend preparing for one of the most important days of the year, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, coming up on September 19th.

The first thing you need to do to get ready to transform into a pirate is to drink some grog (if you haven't got any grog handy, or just don't feel like making it yourself, I suppose you can make do with a barrel of rum but for goodness sakes please don't drink the whole thing at one sitting.) Once you've got that out of the way you and your parrot/monkey/hound/black cat can settle down to do some research. Here you have a couple of choices. You can spend your time wading through scholarly tomes that use expressions like "unauthorized deprivation of property on the high seas" or you could read a really fun book that says things like "Scupper me wi' a handspike, else!" To me it's a pretty simple choice; I'll take the fun, salty novel any day.

It's called The Pyrates and it's written by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the brilliant Flashman books. The story is about a hero who is so good that you hate him because he's just too perfect to like. His name is Captain Benjamin Avery, R.N. and he runs into trouble delivering the crown of Madagascar when his ship is boarded by the scurvy dregs of the sea who promptly make off with the crown and the beautiful and completely spoiled Vanity, the love of his life. Avery and the scurrilous Captain Blood are left on a deserted island where they eventually team up to recover the pieces of the crown and the heroine in distress. Every cliché ever written about pirates, whether in film, literature, or on the bathroom wall, appears and is set on its ear by the author, to dazzling effect. We meet pirates like Calico Jack Rackham and Black Sheba; the female pirate who wears Gucci boots and is madly in love with Captain Avery. The Pyrates is one of the funniest books I've ever read and Mr. Fraser's love of the very material he skewers mercilessly is quite apparent.

The next book you'll want to pick up is called What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor? Unexpurgated Sea Chanties by Douglas Morgan. While technically not about pirates, it is full of wonderful songs sung by sailors, who are of course the root of piracy, after all what is a pirate but a former disillusioned sailor? These lyrics and background stories are not for the easily offended, when the title says unexpurgated it's not joking. Titles include Blow the Man Down and Whup Jamboree, both popular songs among pirates performing at Renaissance Festivals the world over.

The only thing left that could stand in the way of your total enjoyment of Talk Like a Pirate Day is those nasty rumors that pirates weren't decent people. Believe it or not there is a school of thought that pirates were filthy terrorists who stank, stole, and raped innocent people. Who wants to talk like someone with that sort of reputation? Don't worry, according to this article Dr. Marcus Rediker of the University of Pittsburgh says that many pirates were working class Joes who were trying to escape the horrible life in the Navy. They did things like capture slave ships and ask the slaves if they would like to become pirates and they had fairly democratic ships, electing their own captains and voting on issues like punishment and regulations. See, they were actually democratic freedom fighters, right? What's not to like?

This week we have a one-sentence review from me. I saw the premier of a TV show the other day called Standoff, about hostage negotiators and I have to comment. "Stilted dialogue, poorly delivered in clichéd situations, therefore it's bound to be a smash hit." Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit.