One could argue that the pirates of the Caribbean were forced into their rough lifestyle by cold, hard economic and environmental factors. But that reasoning would leave a certain theme-park ride rather uncatchily named “Up Shit’s Gulf Stream Without a Paddle.” The well-worn tales of bloodthirst and treasure-burying are not entirely without warrant—buccaneer raids were certainly brutal and occasionally quite fruitful. But pirates were also complex and talented people. Take William Dampier: An accomplished mapmaker and explorer, Dampier left behind more than just a rum-fueled, body-strewn, booty-worshipping legacy, as Diana Preston details in her book (co-authored with her husband, Michael Preston), A Pirate of Exquisite Mind. Reconsider a pirate’s life when Preston speaks at 7 p.m. at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $15. (202) 357-3030. (Mike Kanin)