Pirates: The True and Surprising Story of the Pirates of the Caribbean by Patrick Auerbach

Pirates: The True and Surprising Story of the Pirates of the CaribbeanPirates: The True and Surprising Story of the Pirates of the Caribbean by Patrick Auerbach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Patrick Auerbach’s delightful account of the pirates of the Caribbean in the early 18 century, which is hailed as the Golden Age of Piracy is Pirates: The True and Surprising Story of the Pirates of the Caribbean by Patrick Auerbach for readers of all ages whose curiosity about these buccaneers is prompted either by the popular Disney movie installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean “ or Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless novel Treasure Island. Auerbach’s vivid descriptions and elegant way of narration engages the reader in the history of these infamous sea marauders with telltale details of the piracy and the crew based on a wide variety of resources, including Captain Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates published in 1724 and other relevant historical records. This book will render the reader a new viewpoint on piracy that comes in a surprising twist of myth and legend in an instructive as well as an entertaining fashion.

The Golden Age of Piracy (around 1716 to 1726) descended upon the open seas as a consequence of the end of the War of the Spanish Succession that begot a great number of unemployed able-bodied seamen turning into pirates in the business of plundering at sea. Although these jobless seamen had no alternative but becoming pirates to make a living, there were others who were captured from ships and forced into signing the articles under duress that stipulated fair distribution of the loot acquired from any plunder. Some of notable clauses of the articles set forth that (1) every man shall keep his watch night and day; and at the hour of eight in the very evening shall retire from gaming and drinking in order to attend his respective station; and that (2) no man shall open or declare to any persons or person his identity or any personal information. In fact, the articles were promulgated by captains based upon their own experiences by working under harsh commands on board naval/merchant ships to create a better life for all at sea to prevent the crew from causing a mutiny against their captains, who were democratically selected by the crew’s votes. Ironically, the society of pirates was comparatively freer from the despotic ruling of the powers that be on land, and it was this democracy of pirate regime that attracted many experienced seamen into piracy.

Pirate ships were commonly known as privateers, commissioned by the government of their country or wealthy merchants (especially and notably the British) to attack and raid enemy ships in times of war by carrying letters of marquis served as legal proof , a license to steal. These privateers were most prevalently seen in the Bahamas because it was a base for pirates with a harbor tucked in water too shallow for any intervening force to enter and harass them. On board these ships, the hierarchy of pirates was reasonably strict in the necessity of each following status and role:

  • Captain: democratically selected and ousted at any time; needed to be able to provide enough money to the crew lest they would bring about a mutiny.
  • Quartermaster: nearly on the same level as the captain; played a role of cop; also elected; acted as bookkeepers and accountants.
  • Sailing Master: “the navigator”; an officer in rank; very valuable “worth his weight in gold.”
  • Mate: higher position than a sailor; a term used to signify that a person was under training
  • Sailor: the rest of the crew

Auerbach provides the reader with many an interesting tidbit of popular imageries related to piracy. Take “Jolly Roger,” a white skull and crossbones image on a black flag associated with a pirate ship promoted by movies. Pirate ships usually and traditionally raised a solid black (signaling there would be no blood if a captured ship abandoned resistance) and red flag (death upon resistance). Then how did this image of Jolly Roger come about? It was used by the Knights Templar and later adopted by the Knights of Malta, who were also renowned pirates ultimately popularizing the flag as the emblem of piracy in later period. With respect to the pirate life on board, it was much better than on merchant or warships. Although rats were rampant and a range of food limited to salted pork and hard tack, pirates were obliged to do all kinds of chore and to spend their time for singing, playing cards, dancing or sleeping. Turtles were a specialty because they could live longer aboard, hence they were a precious source of protein in the form of soup. When pirates landed on Caribbean islands, they usually ravished hot spicy West Indian dishes and drank themselves in beer, rum, and gin.

Overall, this is a comprehensive overview of piracy and pirates during the early 17th century in the Caribbean with fresh information on the subject matter succinctly put together by well-categorized chapters and the summaries at the end of each chapter to help the reader absorb the content lucidly. It will also be an excellent primer on the subject in the historical context of the era in case the reader wants to pursue his/her genuine curiosity about the subject matter in the quest of the legendary treasure buried by the pirates of the Golden Age.

Taking it like Edgar Allan Poe in Criticism

It is hard to digest criticisms. Sometimes, it can plunge your inspiration, motivation, and determination to a gaping crevice of diffidence. But then in a tweak of mind to see a reality favorable to the growth of the mind,  it is mentally stimulating to receive constructive criticisms  in the form of thoughtful, intelligent comments on any of your work because it gives you a chance to see how others think about subjects or things you see in different and usually interesting ways. Edgar Allan Poe took even tougher stance on criticism:”In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.”

They might be disagreeable to your own opinion. In my case, reading a reader’s comment on my work is a form of information processing, giving me an opportunity to learn new things – also known as consilience, the unification of the understanding of one one principle and that of another – thus creating a synthesis of new viewpoint.

In light of the above, I find some of the comments I have received on my book reviews that I have so far published concurrently on Amazon.com scintillating in their contexts according to the individual weltanschauungs. I try to respond to such comments on my reviews only if they are legitimately sound, thought-provoking, and thoughtfully composed even if the commentator disagrees to my points of view, such as the following one I received from my past book review on Breakfast at Sally’s by Richard LeMieux,  a book on homelessness based upon the author’s own brief spell of living in his car with his canine companion until witness to humanity was finally manifested to them. Poe was right. In response to any feedback that does not read affably favorable, my confidence should be ironclad, my conscience armed with reason clear and just even with dissenters.

xenia10 days ago
We are NOT all responsible for homelessness in this country. As is evident from this book, many people are homeless because they have untreated substance abuse problems, many are veterans who were deserted by government agencies which are supposed to help them, some have mental health issues, and some all of the above. There are also some, like Richard, who were quite irresponsible in life while they had very comfortable living, and did not have enough common sense to think about “rainy days”. Also, let’s not forget that one of the greatest causes of homelessness in this country is the breakup of the family, yes, divorce and people just “leaving” and everyone pretty much thinking just of themselves and their own “happiness” and not willing to sacrifice for other members of the family.

Thank you for reading my review and leaving me your comment thereon. My agreement and disagreement to your opinions on homelessness are as follows:

Yes, you are right in pointing out that there are substance abusers, neglected veterans and family members, and the mentally afflicted who become homeless against their will. But some of the homeless are the middlings who used to eke out a living by working hand to mouth without long-term job security despite their willingness to work at a low wage.

Apropos of your point on a weakening family value, the big issue of our society is a dissolution of a family, which is the basic unit of any civilized society. Accordingly, my assertion of collective responsibility as members of this society ensues from the increasingly prevalent disintegration of families without moral obligations and ethical standards.

What I mean by our collective responsibility is , therefore, our disregard for losing touch with the values that keep families and a society together. As for Richard, if his children would have asked him to move in with them, he would not have been homeless. Yes, he was responsible for himself in the first place, but he did not have to be homeless should his children give him a helping hand. Let’s not forget what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “Charity begins at home.” Hope this helps.

Alone Again

Don’t know why
I’ve been thinking of you all day
I’ve been pretending; it’s all I can do
My heart isn’t making it thru to your heart

I never cared till I saw you alone
‘Cause I could get by on my own
But the secret is my own for ever
My heart for you is unknown evermore

But you’ve been gone, gone forever
Never letting it show nevermore
Leaving me in the sound of silence
That grows loud and louder in tears

Martin Luther: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

Martin Luther: A Life From Beginning to EndMartin Luther: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Martin Luther represents the rapidly changing 16th century Europe where, many thanks to wide popularization of printing press, the spread of new knowledge, including Copernicus’s suggestion of the universe as being heliocentric and the discovery of new sea trade routes by the Spanish and the Portuguese, was available to the mass. Accordingly, this reading of Martin Luther: A Life from Beginning to End elegantly narrates Luther’s role of not only a religious reformist but also a cultural leader of the epoch. The reader will learn that Luther was in the right place at the right time to be in the vanguard of the Reformation by defining the emerging Protestant church and putting Europe in medieval mindset toward the new Europe in a modern way of thinking like never before.

Luther was born in 1483 and christened Martin on the feast day of St. Martin, the day after his birth. The oldest of five siblings, Luther was brought up in a strict disciplinarian household in which his miner father’s no-nonsense work ethics and mother’s strict methods of corporeal punishment (e.g., she beat her son’s hands until they bled for stealing a nut from a market.) had strong impacts on his character and belief system. Academically speaking, Luther was a reasonably intelligent student, not a brilliant one with flying colors aiming to be a lawyer at the University of Erfurt. His favorite subject was classical literature of which Virgil’s Aeneid was his passion that led him to the humanistic idea of reading original texts in contrast with other mandatory subjects including rhetoric, reasoning, and argument based on a translated version of writings of Aristotle with commentaries. His original aspiration to become a lawyer was fatefully changed when he encountered a turbulent thunderstorm on his way to see his father and became so frightened that in fear of mortal danger, he prayed to St. Anne that if she protected him from the storm, he would take a vow of monastic life. Hence, instead of returning to the university, Luther went to the monastery of the Augustine to become a monk.

Luther’s doubt and despair over his inability to please God according to the nominalism, a medieval school of thought teaching that good works through the Church would please God, continued to vex his conscience and question the true meaning of Christianity, all the more fueled by his study of scripture in its original language. Luther’s indignation at the dogmas ruling over Christianity not the Gospels alone in its original text resulted in the famous 95 Theses opposing the Church’s sale of indulgences on a variety of grounds nailed to the door of All Saints’ Church in Withenberg, which ignited embers of the Reformation especially against Church of Rome. Surely, that the papacy was secular, not divinely appointed was to infuriate the Church and excommunicate him. Notwithstanding the mortal threats from his foes, Luther was a man of convictions and successfully led the Reformation movement with a group of his followers. Be he ever imperfect, Luther was also a generous and kind man who cared for orphans and the sick even by lodging them in his house. Furthermore, Luther helped a group of nuns escape from a convent in 1523 during the Reformation and married Katharina von Bora, one of the escaped nuns without home and family whom Luther affectionately called, “My lord.”

In the eyes of Rome, Luther might be an infidel heretic to be condemned in the Sixth Circle of Inferno, but he was more of humanistic thinker, a pioneer educator putting his ideas into actions to upend the fallacies of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy and its practices under the pretext of redemption of fallen souls and blessing of celestial graces through the Church that had already become corrupt with the cardinal sins. What distinguishes Luther from other religious leaders is his role as a public activist, advocating church reform based on Christian freedom and the message of the Gospel in scripture without resorting to the use of violence because it was not of Christian conduct. He worked on the vernacular bible based on Erasmus’s recent edition of the New Testament in its original Greek by transcribing into German word by word without the use of commentaries in order that his translation would be accessible to the public and convey the contexts as truthfully as possible to the original. Also, Luther encouraged medieval German’s history of folk hymns in the vernacular during mass by rewriting the hymns himself, one of which was famed “A mighty fortress is our God.”

To encapsulate, the achievements of Luther that have influenced our modern way of thinking appertain to education of minds of people on the ground of individualism which are: (1) examination of each Christian’s conscience; (2) the sufficiency of scripture alone as the bedrock of Protestant church tenets; (3) building a direct relationship to God through only Christ, not through a priest; (4) active participation of laypersons in church worship; (5) emphasis on grace, forgiveness, and salvation by faith alone; and (6) the use of hymns in the vernacular for the mass. Had it not been for Luther’s pyrrhic vanguard of the Reformation movement, Europe would have still remained in the medieval mode of thinking and living.