A Pirate’s Toolkit: the VPN

It is one of my core beliefs as a pirate that if a corporation tells you that you can’t do something, you should probably find a way to do it anyway. Especially if this corporation is a member of FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Neflix, and Google.)

So, if Netflix decides to tell you that you can’t watch something because you’re in the wrong country, it is our bounden duty to ignore them and do it anyway.

Enter the VPN (virtual private network.)

What is a VPN, you ask? Simply put, a VPN is a way of tricking whatever website you’re trying to access into believing that you are accessing it from somewhere else. It also seems to increase your privacy (hence the P in VPN) in general on the web, although how much security you get depends on the provider and the country it operates in.

For most of us in the Western world, this is important mainly because of the differences in service between US, UK, and Canadian versions of Netflix. However, for those living in more authoritarian countries, such as China, a VPN can mean much more than that.

At present, to the best of my knowledge, there are two versions of the internet. The web most of us get, and the authoritarian web controlled by China. Other countries may have their own version, I’m not sure. Kind of like parental controls, but on a country-wide scale.

(Grr. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate it when governments try to be paternal?)

In these countries, citizens can use VPNs to get access to information they wouldn’t have. For example, finding out how events are being reported in other countries, which is especially important if the media in one’s own country is directly controlled by the government. Like in North Korea.

It is however important to note that, for obvious reasons, VPNs tend to be illegal in said authoritarian countries.

Currently, VPNs are not illegal in the Western world. Mostly because, like I said, we mostly just use them to access other country’s versions of streaming services. While technically a violation of Netflix’s user agreement…nobody really cares that much if you do that.

Okay, a few people care, but fortunately for the time being they don’t make laws. At least not directly, yet.

Why these different versions exist in the first place has to do with the people Netflix gets its content from. To gain access to this content, Netflix has to make agreements with these people, which includes in which countries they want their content shared with.

Don’t ask me why. The foibles of content providers are one of the great mysteries of the universe. Any librarian will tell you this.

Now, you may be wondering, if I get a VPN and use it, will Netflix (or whoever) get mad at me or suspend my account?

No they will not. You’re paying for their service, and they know not to bite the hand that feeds them.

They only “get mad at” your VPN provider, which they do by playing whack-a-mole with the servers VPN providers well…provide.

In which case you may occasionally get a polite error message telling you to turn off your VPN. If this happens, simply switch to another server on your VPN provider. If you’re with one of the good ones, they should have plenty to choose from.

In the future, however, where you’re accessing the internet from (and hence the usage of VPNs) may become less trivial. In addition to the authoritarian, and non-authoritarian versions of the internet, the EU may end up with its own version due to its copyright laws.

Websites that want to operate in the EU may have to change, so they may develop versions of themselves that comply with EU laws. Or they may simply refrain from doing business in the EU, resulting in a different overall experience.

What effect that will have on the average user remains to be seen. It’s possible we could see more and more differences in the way websites are viewed in different countries, as the laws around copyright and internet content mature. In which case the humble VPN may become more salient for the average user.

(For a much more in-depth discussion of VPNs, including security, as well as a handy website dedicated to figuring out which is the best one, click here.)

That being said, for the brief period I used a VPN, I used ExpressVPN. Once I figured out how to download the darn thing (it was only complicated because I had a Chromebook, and only until I realized that I could get the app via the Google Play store) it worked quite well.

It was a little expensive, but they do the one-month free trial, which is more than enough time if you only want to binge watch one thing.

So if you want a VPN, either Google it, or just click on that handy link up there.


Once More Unto The Breach

Well, well, well my pirate people. So it seems that Disney has decided to reboot PotC, sans actor who made said pirate franchise a big deal in the first place.

(Which really isn’t surprising. Disney has long been known to do very unDisney-like things to anyone associated with them that no longer fit their family-friendly brand.)

The question remains. What are we to make of this?

I mean, obviously this is evidence of Disney’s addiction to money and rebooting things for the sake of making money. The reasons behind their choice to do this, and the ridiculousness thereof, have probably been discussed enough elsewhere.

I’m not really all that interested. As befits a pirate, my interest is in what’s in this for me.

I don’t care about Disney’s gross profit-mongering. I just care about watching good pirate movies.

And as the ship’s surgeon who just cut off a gangrenous limb might say, I’m cautiously optimistic.

The fact is, Disney seems to be the only one in the business of making pirate movies.

I’ve heard the guy from Deadpool is going to be in the new pirates movie. I don’t know if that’s true. And if the new pirates movie is anything like Deadpool I might just throw something at whatever screen I’m watching it on.

Or depending on the size of said screen, I might just throw the screen.

But I hope it will be good. I know they can make good pirate movies. It doesn’t even have to be as well done as the original pirates movie. I’ll settle for something along the lines of 2,3 or 4.

5 was a disaster, I’ve said it before.

Until I see signs that indicate otherwise, I’m taking the reboot as a sign they’ve learned the error of their ways.

One can only hope.


A Pirate’s Defense of Index Investing

I suppose you could call this part three of my supposedly two-part series on stuff I learned from reading Mr. Money Mustache. Irregardless of the general absurdity of the situation, index investing is just what I felt like writing about today.

Of course I realize MMM didn’t invent index investing (that was John Bogle, as far as I know.) But still, I learned about it from him so I thought it only right to give credit. Good form, and all.

Before we really get started I should mention I’m not going to get real technical here, which some of you may appreciate. There are a lot of good resources on the nuts-and-bolts of investing available, so I won’t bother with the details.

Plus, one of the nice things about index investing is that it relies on the economy doing what it tends to do in order to work, not on you being an expert on investing.

I’ll begin today’s discussion with this seemingly irrelevant exchange between Captain Hook and Henry Mills from ABC’s Once Upon A Time:

Hook: Do you know what the secret to winning is?

Henry: Practice?

Hook: Loaded dice.

Henry: That’s cheating.

Hook: Only if you get caught.

Henry: I’m pretty sure it’s cheating either way.

Hook: The point is, you win.

I’ve implicitly promised that these pirate-y bits of advice will work in real life, so obviously I’m not advocating actual cheating. Like on your taxes, for instance.

That kind of cheating is doesn’t work. It’s bad form, for one thing. And in the long-term it is likely to be counterproductive.

But there is something we can learn from this that relates to investing.

Hook is teaching Henry that the best way to win at gambling is not to gamble at all. Because if you know the outcome already (i.e. with loaded dice) you’ll win every time.

This is relevant because investing is essentially gambling. You’re making a bet that the stocks you buy will be worth more in the future, based on little to no first-hand knowledge of the companies you’re buying stocks in.

A lot of people pay someone else to make these bets for them, either through managed mutual funds or a financial advisor. The idea being that these people, through a combination of experience, talent, and necromancy, will be able to predict which stocks will beat the market.

The thing is, almost nobody does well at this in the long-term.

(“But I can think of people who do this!” you say.)

Of course you can. The rare few who have done this inevitably become famous. Because they’re rare. And it may not even have anything to do with them. With a playing field this big, some people will win tremendously just by chance.

People who win the lottery don’t win because they’re good at it. It’s the same with stocks. Most of it is just luck, and sooner or later whoever is picking your stocks is going to lose. Because they’re not Warren Buffet.

Even Warren Buffet (guy who made a vast fortune on the stock market) advocates index investing, because he knows most people are not him. What does that tell you?

So if we can’t rely on ourselves or someone else to beat the market consistently for us, how do we win?

Well, we win by being the market. Basically, you’re betting that in the long-term, the entire economy will do well. Which economy? Whatever you like. You can pick your country, the whole world, or a country with a strong economy like the United States.

Or all of the above, just in case a bomb gets dropped somewhere.

Historically, this bet wins by an average of 7% per year. Some years it goes down, others it goes up. But on average, it tends to go up.

And that’s not all.

Because you’re not paying some hot-shot to pick stocks for you, the fees for index funds are way lower. Less than one percent in a lot of cases, which is let’s say around 2% better than a lot of mutual funds (I have no idea what financial advisors charge but I imagine it’s similar.)

It varies of course, but it’s usually close to that and the principle works either way.

So in order for your stock picker to be better than just buying an index fund and getting on with your life, they have to consistently get returns greater than 9%, forever. (Or 7% plus whatever they charge you.)

That’s a tall order. Pretty much no one can do that.

And as much as I advocate believing in your own “specialness,” make no mistake. That’s not going to be you. Not long-term.

Even if you want to try, is it really worth the effort?

With index investing, you don’t have to be paranoid about every little thing that happens in the stock market. You just sit back, and know that your stocks will go up on average 7% per year regardless of what the talking heads on TV are freaking out about.

Which is nice because, let’s be honest, the stock market is by-and-large irrational.

Supposedly stocks are valued according to how much the company is worth. Or it would be that way if humans were rational creatures. But like the guy from Men in Black says:

A person is smart. People are stupid, panicky, dangerous animals.

(Sorry, couldn’t find a quote from an actual pirate for this.)

Hence every stock market bubble and financial crisis ever.

It’s also why for about the last two years or so, I can tell when Donald Trump has done something just by looking at what my stocks are doing.

Oh look, lots of red. Government shutdown, ah I see.

What does that have to do with the long-term prospects of the companies my index funds are made of? Nothing. At all.

But it does make a nice buying opportunity. Yay, the stocks are on sale!

I also don’t have to worry about buying the stocks of a company that goes belly-up. Because I’m betting on the whole economy, which is a really safe bet.

Now that may not technically be cheating, but the point is…you win.


What This Pirate Learned From MMM: Part Two

This is the second blog post inspired by MMM. I feel like the issue we’re going to discuss today is going to come up in a lot of posts, but really it’s so important that it deserves a blog post of it’s own.

As I said in the last post, pirates rebel against the powers that be. And the powers that be are usually out to trick you out of your hard-earned loot. We do not allow this.

Why do we care so much about this when said powers are giving you nice stuff that everyone agrees is cool?

Firstly, because as I discussed in my last post, spending your life indulging in comforts will make you a weak landlubber.

And secondly, more importantly, throwing away your loot on stuff you don’t need makes you dependent. On your employer, on banks, and on the insane ups-and-downs of the economy.

If you depend on your employer to keep you in your cushy lifestyle, you pretty much have to take whatever crap they throw at you.

And that’s only if the economy doesn’t decide to go haywire, and take your job away entirely. In which case depending on your debt situation the banks can do fun stuff to you too.

Jack Sparrow does not let the East India Trading Company push him around, and you shouldn’t be beholden to the corporations in your life either.

(Fortunately we haven’t gotten to the point where Wal-Mart and Amazon are going around imprisoning and executing the Financial Independence crowd.)

Now now do we do this exactly?

Well, to explain that properly would take a lot more than one blog post (see MMM’s entire blog), but I’ll attempt to get you started.

They Are Lying to You

Marketing is bullcrap, and we’re all eating it. No, you are not immune to advertising (literally everyone thinks they are.)

You’re not, okay?

The Starbucks “experience” is not worth the markup.

(Actually any markup is not worth it. If it’s cheaper somewhere else, buy it there. If that means waiting a while, deal with it.)

You do not need to buy chocolate because it is Valentine’s day.

You can leave that “omg I must have it” thing you just saw in the store, and your life will go on unchanged. Conversely, whatever you buy will not change your life.

The truth is, if you actually need something, you will know about it before an advertiser tells you that you need it.

So if you see something in a store and just “have” to have it, then you have been lied to.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is all the awesome stuff that happens when you rebel against the evil corporations and stop giving them all your money.

Let me give you myself as an example. Now, some of you may not be in a situation comparable to mine, but unless you can honestly say that you don’t spend any money on stuff you don’t need, or that there aren’t people in situations like yours (I’m thinking of kids, etc) who live on less than you and are perfectly happy, then my point is still valid.

I just graduated not too long ago. I don’t make very much, relatively speaking.

Yet, despite that and annoying housing costs and my student loans, I still manage to sock away a sizable chunk of money every month.

I’ve been working full time less than two years, but if I lost my job right now, I would just be annoyed.

(I mean, I’m sure I would freak out.)

But financially, it would just be a setback. With some small adjustments, I’m pretty sure I could manage a year even without a severance package, unemployment insurance, or going into debt.

If unexpected expenses come up, such as the vacation opportunity I mentioned in another post, I don’t bat an eye.

(I just delayed buying a couch, because I don’t need a couch. In fact, I’m rethinking the whole idea of buying a living room set while I still need a job, because I’m perfectly happy without one.)

Since beginning my entry into the adult workforce, I have never worried about money. In fact I’ve made it a goal of mine that if I ever do end up having to worry about money, it won’t be for lack of effort on my part.

Will I be able to retire as early as I hope (before 40, preferably)? I don’t know. But I won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.

I’m not saying this to brag (except maybe a little.) My intent is to describe the freedom that comes from controlling your own money, and intentionally deciding what your priorities are in where you put it.

If people thought about it, I really don’t think they would decide that another bag of clothes, or a weekly Starbucks habit, was more important to them than financial freedom.

And a pirate’s life ultimately is about freedom. That, and developing the skills and savvy necessary to achieve it.


What This Pirate Learned From Mr. Money Mustache: Part One

My next two blog posts will be about the single most useful blog I have ever come across.

In fact, it has been so useful, and came in such fortuitous timing that I can only credit the event to Providence. I was just about to graduate, get a job, and move out.

So while it didn’t neccesarily immediately change my life (it’s a personal finance blog, and I had no income to speak of) it certainly changed the trajectory of my life.

As I’ve mentioned briefly in other posts, I knew what I wanted out of life at the time, but I didn’t have the tools.

MMM gave me those tools.

I’ve had to break down this discussion into two parts. First, a discussion of what MMM calls “badassity,” and then another on not being what MMM calls a “consumer sucka,” and the financial independance that tends to follow.

Granted, this isn’t a personal finance blog, but you can’t have a proper pirate lifestyle blog if you don’t talk about the proper management of treasure.

Being a pirate is about rebelling against the powers that be, not about allowing said powers to bilk you out of your hard-earned loot. I mean, really.

And Now For Our Actual Topic…

Pirates Are Not Wusses

The premise here is two-fold. One: occasional, voluntary discomfort is good for you. And two: if you don’t like something, either do something about it or learn to live with it. No whining allowed.

Our first principle comes up frequently throughout the MMM blog, but especially in his discussion of hedonic adaption.

Basically, the idea is that pampering yourself makes you weaker. Physically, mentally, and often financially as well.

Going for a run when its chilly involves discomfort, but you come out of it invigorated and in better physical and mental health.

Cooking for yourself involves acquiring new skills, and might cut into the time you spend staring at a screen. But you’ll end up eating healthier, saving money, and gain confidence from having learned said new skills.

Forgoing HD or 3D, or choosing a smaller screen, might mean you notice differences in video quality…for maybe even a whole five minutes. But the money you save won’t go away.

Unless of course you waste it on something else.

At home, I watch stuff on my little laptop. When I go back to the family home to visit, I watch stuff on my parent’s HD TV. And yes, I notice the difference. But I stop noticing really, really quickly.

Just like you stop noticing your movie is 3D after a few minutes. That’s called hedonic adaption.

How powerful is this? A study on the subject found that the happiness level of a lottery winner, and a parapalegic had returned to normal six months after the events that changed their lives.

Humans are incredibly adaptable, and a good pirate uses this knowledge to maximize their enjoyment of life, and allocate resources to places that really matter.

When you upgrade comfort, you’re paying for something you won’t even notice after a while. Is that really worth it?

Things like skills, confidence, health, money in the bank. That’s what will last.

Now to our second point. A pirate’s life is a mixed bag, and some of it you won’t like so much.

(I should mention here that I am writing this as a person who hasn’t dealt with a lot of hardship compared to a lot of people. Therefore, dial up the amount of empathy and compassion you read into these words as suits your personal circumstances.)

As I said before, you can do one of two things. You can decide that, while a given situation is not what you’d prefer, but changing that situation would take resources away from areas you feel more strongly about.

This is why I still don’t have a car, a pet, a living room set, or a queen-sized bed, or a whole host of other things.

Or, you can decide that your situation is unacceptable and push your mental, financial etc resources into changing said situation.

Whiners (or in MMMspeak “complainypants”) can walk the plank.

If you’ve decided to do something about your situation, feel free to snarl, growl and make as much of a fuss as you like about it. The key is to keep your energy going in a direction that means something.

In sum, pirates do not sit on their rear ends feeling like lazy slugs and complaining about things in their lives that they could change.

Pirates get stuff done.



Chart Your Own Course

“Hang the code, and hang the rules. They’re more like guidelines anyway.” – Elizabeth Swan.

So the second rule is…ignore the rules. We will pause to savor the irony before continuing.

Okay.

The first Pirates movie hit theatres in 2003 when we the Millennial generation were all in our formative preteen, teenage, young adult years.

Pirates are pretty much defined by rule-breaking, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first movie about pirates to make it big would come at a time when the generation that has become known for doing things differently was coming of age.

Millennials tend to reject the traditional college, job, marriage, mortgage, babies, retirement life-plan.

Partly because that’s who we are, and partly because for a lot of us the stable job never materialized and we’re too worried about finding affordable housing and paying student loans to think about the other stuff.

That sucks a lot, for a lot of people, but I think it has also led to a lot of the out-of-the-box thinking that millennials are also known for.

 Which brings us back to Pirates. Most fictional pirate captains are more-or-less based on Long John Silver from Treasure Island. They make a living by taking what they want, and get away with it by scaring the living daylights out of people. Yet somehow they also remain likeable because, hey, they’re not all bad.

And there’s Jack Sparrow who, while sort of following that pattern, has also managed to invent a completely different way to “pirate,” leading to one of the most unique and interesting characters I’ve ever come across.

He’s not all that intimidating, and despite insisting on being a pirate captain, he isn’t a leader. Instead, he succeeds against all odds because he’s smarter than he seems, and possesses a unique ability to wreak havoc with the laws of physics.

In other words, the rules don’t apply to him.

So if you want to be a modern pirate, one of the most important things is to realize that you can’t live a different life than other people by doing the same things other people do.

This assumes of course that you want something else, but if you’re reading this blog…

In any case I definitely did the first time I watched Pirates, and I still do.

By and large I think I have achieved what I wanted. Or at least I have arrived at an adult life with the financial flexibility and relative dearth of encumbrances that allow me to do the sort of things I envision doing.

For instance, when a travel opportunity recently came up I was able to jump at it with only a few mental readjustments. No spouse to confer with, no kids or pets to worry about, no concerns over where I was going to get the money.

Sure, details to follow, but no concerns over whether or not it was going to happen (at least as far as it is up to me.)

That’s the sort of exception-to-the-rule I was aiming for. Maybe for you it’s different.

But my goal didn’t just happen. I got there for a lot of reasons, but it wouldn’t have even been a goal if I didn’t have the belief that my life could look the way I wanted it to. Not the way everyone else’s life looked like. That I was (or could be) special.

Maybe that seems arrogant, but pirates kind of are. One of the things I liked best about Jack Sparrow was his ridiculous confidence. Which only looked ridiculous until you found out he could really back it up.

That’s who I wanted to be. The person who could chart their own course. And so can you.

How to Avoid Being Duped by Soulless Corporations

This is to be the first of many posts dealing with The Pirate’s Code. Or rather, my pirate’s code.

The actual Pirate’s code (yes, set down by Morgan and Bartholomew, among other people) were much more like case law, and way too specific to be useful for my purposes. Except maybe for the prohibition on gambling, which I am most certainly going to steal borrow without permission.

You can check out the Wikipedia article on the pirate’s code here, if you are so inclined.

The first discussions of my Pirate’s Code will be a series of foundational articles that detail my own introduction to pirate theory more-or-less chronologically, as well as allowing me to talk about life skills useful to any pirate.

Being as I’ve decided to be chronological about this, I thought initially that my first post of this type would have to be what I learned from watching the first Pirates movie. But then I realized that my first introduction to pirate theory as I have come to understand it actually came from my dad.

Because it was my dad who taught me how the world works, how to spot scam emails, and how to avoid being taken in by corporations who don’t have my best interests at heart. Therefore:

Beware Of Sharks

If you listen to economists, you may come to believe that there are two types of entities in the world: corporations, and consumers.

To my mind, there are three: sharks, landlubbers, and pirates.

Sharks are people or entities that want to exploit you. Scammers on the internet. Corporations with chirpy marketing teams and PR departments. As friendly as they may seem, their only interest is what they can get from you. Today I’m mainly going to focus on corporations.

I’m not necessarily talking about the people employed by corporations, you understand. I don’t intend to bash any people working for any of the corporations I discuss in this article or elsewhere. I’m talking about the behavior of the corporation itself.

So whenever any corporation offers you something, you have to ask yourself what their purpose is in offering it to you, whether the offer is actually something that is good for you, and how you might turn the situation to your advantage.

Take the banks, for instance. We need them. My bank allows me to do a lot of fun stuff I couldn’t do without them (well, without a bank. Not necessarily the one I use specifically.)

For instance, my bank allows me to loan money to corporations which they will then eventually return to me with interest in the form of dividends and capital gains. This is my preferred form of interaction with corporations.

However, my bank also does some sneaky things in order to attempt to take money from me. Like offering me identity theft insurance policies I don’t need (and no, I really don’t, but more on this later.) Or an unsecured line of credit.

Why is an offer of credit bad, you ask? Because the bank is using its reputation of responsibility to imply that it thinks it is a good idea for me to go out and buy stuff with this money it’s offering to lend me. Which it is, but only for them. Because they want me to pay them interest on line of credit loans forever.

They want to make money. Fine, I get it.

But that is the difference between landlubbers and pirates. Landlubbers take the line of credit and use it to buy a car or assorted other crap they don’t need, and unnecessarily give the bank money in addition to unnecessarily giving money to the makers of said crap.

Pirates are the people who make it their mission to never ever ever unnecessarily give their money to anybody.

Granted, a pirate is never going to be perfect at that, because sometimes what they’re offering is shiny and you really want it. But then you go into the deal with full knowledge that you’re acting like a landlubber, and you don’t make a habit of it.

(To practice Good Form, I should mention here that I’m not the only blogger who writes about this. Mr. Money Mustache has also talked about this at length, but he refers to landlubbers as “consumer suckas.”)

Now, I did take the offer of the line of credit, just as a cash cushion in case of unavoidable emergencies.

Credit card companies are of course even worse, with their outrageous interest rates. But you and I can get back at them by using them to collect reward points and paying charges off monthly so as to deprive them of said outrageous interest.

Points offered by grocery stores are a lot like this too. They like to trick you into thinking that you save more by spending more. Because the more you buy, the more points you get. Right?

No. That’s dumb.

The only way to save money is by not spending it.

But sure, use the point rewards. But use them as you would a coupon, because that’s basically what they are. On mine, it generally adds up to a ten percent discount.

Or actually, use them the way frugality experts use coupons. That is, by waiting until a staple is on sale, or points, or whatever, and then stocking up. That way you only buy the stuff you were going to buy anyway, but cheaper. So you save money.

Of course most people end up buying things they wouldn’t have otherwise, which is why companies run rewards programs. But you don’t have to.

Don’t be a landlubber, be a pirate. It’s more fun.

New Year, New Blog

Well, I’m back, and since I’ve been gone I’ve done some thinking about the future of this blog. Up until now, it has been about whatever I felt like writing about at the time, with no unifying idea to pull everything together in a way that makes sense.

After some soul searching, and possibly too much eggnog over the Christmas season I’ve finally come up with a theme that suits my purposes: piracy.

Roughly meaning breaking rules with good reason.

Clear as mud? Good.

You see I wanted an idea that made me excited, and that was broad enough to encompass everything I want to write about: stories from my life, current events, my creative works, people I find interesting, and random pop culture stuff.

Let me begin by further unpacking what I mean by piracy, or a pirate’s life.

Piracy is about freedom. About having the guts to go after what you really want. It’s about having the wits to survive and thrive in this world because no one else is going to do it for you.

It’s about economics, and politics, and art, and computer science and DIY and about a hundred other things.

Matt Mason does a pretty good job of summing it up in his book, The Pirate’s Dilemma:

Our world is today is starting to look a lot more like a punk gig (okay, maybe with slightly less spitting). The barriers to entry are being kicked down, and this new breed of fans-turned-performers, including you, is rushing the world stage. Technology is cheap; information is everywhere…The only thing left to do is stop defining ourselves by the old hierarchy and run up onstage.

Think about something you have always wanted to do but haven’t. You probably didn’t do it for a good reason; maybe you didn’t know how, couldn’t afford it, or didn’t think you could get your foot in the door. But with the wealth of information now available to us, we can easily find out how to give most things a try, for the price of access to a computer.

That my friends, is the pirate spirit.

Now here’s what you can expect from me:

  • Introductions to modern pirates. Out of the box thinkers who have done cool things we can learn from, like the guy who invented robots to talk to telemarketers for him (and you, if memory serves, for about 99 cents a month.)
  • Reviews of awesome books, like The Pirates Dilemma and The Scavengers Manifesto, and Superfreakonomics.
  • The Pirate’s code: where I talk about the principles that guide a pirate’s life.
  • Tales, mostly or completely true, of happenings out in the world and in my own life. After all, a pirate should practice what she preaches, and how could you believe me if I didn’t show you now all this works for me?
  • And the aforementioned discussions of pirates in pop culture. Sometimes with good reason, sometimes quoted completely out of context to lend colour to a point I’m making. And sometimes just for fun.

You’ll also be seeing significant structural changes to the blog as I move to a self-hosted site, and construct a shiny new layout, so please bear with me during the construction. I’ll see you all next week.

The Pirates Movie That Should Not Have Been

(Spoiler warning, btw.)

pirates

That I like the PotC franchise used to be one of the first things people knew about me, but I gave that up to become merely a closet fan after writing a feminist essay about it*. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as much of a fan at all.

It turns out the only thing that could revive my interest in it is outrage. First, I was upset when I found out that Johnny Depp had decided to take on a role in the Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise instead of continuing to make Pirates movies.

Having seen the last Pirates film, I now think he quit one movie too late.

I will say this, Dead Men Tell No Tales (hereafter DMTNT) had some good moments. The explanation of how Jack Sparrow got his name (as opposed to being called Jack Teague) was really clever. I would have wholesomely enjoyed that flashback scene if the CGI wasn’t so awful, and if it didn’t directly contradict the other movies and Jack’s backstory in general.

DMTNT was *just* good enough to demonstrate what a great movie it could have been…if the writers hadn’t screwed it up so badly.

In all the other movies, Jack is not great at the basic, practical elements of piracy**. This is true in the fifth movie as well. Except that they missed the part that he is really, really good at being a lousy pirate. He’s like a basketball player who makes all the trick shots but can’t play on a team.

DMTNT really lost me when Jack walks into the bar and sees his wanted poster with an ever decreasing monetary reward for his capture. That’s not Jack.

Jack is the person who is at first glance mistaken (key word) for “the worst pirate” one might have heard of, and then quickly proves himself to be otherwise.

In contrast, the Jack Sparrow in DMTNT is just a smarmy drunk who used to be a good pirate, and does virtually nothing that has an impact on the plot.

And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of Jack’s fantastic monologues. But I will. The time in Dead Man’s Chest when he explains why what happened to Norrington was really William Turner’s fault. His speech at the Brethren Court, during which he quotes Shakespeare and speaks Latin. (Both of which imply that he has been to university at some point. The writers may not have intended this, depending on how much they know about history, but nevertheless it does.)

Where did those go? I can’t think of a single, remotely clever thing Jack says in DMTNT, let alone a monologue.

The videogame did a better job of capturing his wit. There’s one moment in particular. Captain Teague goes to break Jack out of jail and says something like, “You’d sleep through your own hanging, Jacky.”

To which Jack responds, “I always assumed they’d wake me.”

Poetry.

It’s not just Jack’s character who suffers in this movie, although those sins are in my mind the most unforgivable. The movie makes numerous logical missteps, in this case indicative of poor writing rather than fanciful leaps the other movies used to make their stories work. I will provide a short list of sins. Not a full list, because many of them I am still trying to erase from my memory, but a short list. Feel free to provide more of your own in the comments.

  • If Barbosa was Carina’s father, why didn’t he already know all about his own journal and the island it led to?
  • Speaking of Barbosa, why is he back on the fake nobility kick he clearly abandoned in On Stranger Tides?
  • In Dead Man’s Chest Tia Dalma states that Jack bartered his compass from her, contradicting the flashback scene in DMTNT.
  • Dead men tell no tales? Posidon’s trident? Really? Well, I suppose they were running out of nautical cliche’s after using up Davy Jones, mermaids and Blackbeard.***
  • Unless William Turner decided to stop ferrying dead people to the underworld, there is no reason why he would turn all barnacle-y, or act pretty much exactly like Bill Turner did in P2 and P3.
  • Speaking of the Turners, why doesn’t William take steps to free himself if there might be a way to be with Elizabeth? Why isn’t Elizabeth helping Henry to free him?
  • Also, Henry Turner? When the child of William Turner and Elizabeth makes an appearance in the easter egg at the end of At World’s End, he is listed in the credits as Young Will Turner (it’s on imdb, I checked.) His name should be Will Turner Jr.
  • Assuming Jack was 20 when he made his deal with Davy Jones (at 20, William Kidd was one of the youngest ever captains), he would be 33 at the start of Dead Man’s Chest and, adding the 18  or so years between that movie and DMTNT, he can be no younger than 51, more realistically late 50s or early 60s. Yet he still looks like a forty-something with access to make-up, modern health-care, and hair dye.
  • As a logical extension to the above, how in the blue blazes is Barbosa still even alive!? If we assume Barbosa is in his 50s when we first see him, in DMTNT he’s pushing 70, in a time period when people even in low-risk lifestyles lived to 45ish. (Pirates had an average career-length of five years.) And he has little or no gray hair either.
  • At the time of the flashback scene, what will later be called the Black Pearl is still known as the Wicked Wench, as per the name painted on the stern. Jack renamed the ship shortly after being branded a pirate and making his deal with Davy Jones. Therefore, there is no reason for the pirate-slaying Captain Salazar to be going after the Wicked Wench because Jack shouldn’t be a pirate or part of a pirate crew at this point.

 

Now, having unburdened myself of my outrage, I wash my hands of this weirdness.

 

 

*Don’t ever write a feminist essay on your favorite Hollywood movie. Now I can never unrealize that Jack Sparrow treats women like dirt and is mean to animals. However, I have also come to realize that like most Hollywood movies, pirate movies in particular are about saying “for the next two-and-a-half hours, I don’t give a crap.”

**Although the stories Elizabeth mentions in Curse of the Black Pearl suggest that he can be, unless we interpret these as well as the sort of “trick shots” we see in the movies.

***Although this I could have forgiven if the movie had been as good as the previous ones. That being said, I don’t see why the writers didn’t try inventing something original like the first movie did.