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Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

One of the things that stands out to me about O'Brian every time I read him or any other historical fiction is how drat good he is at navigating the differences between modern and historical social beliefs. People in the 19th century believed some pretty horrific stuff by modern standards - casual racism and classism was a general thing, people weren't so great about personal cleanliness, and slavery was a fact of life. Most historical authors seem to try to deal with that by having the main character be enlightened about racial or gender equality, or have funny ideas about hygene, or something like that, but O'Brian doesn't. Both Aubrey & Maturin have completely consistent and period-appropriate social beliefs, without shying away from the fact that some of them would be weird or offensive by today's standards or making them unapologeticaly horrible to modern readers. Maturin is an abolitionist and a believer in racial equality, but it's fully consistent with his background and education, and he doesn't think twice about things like using dissecting tools to cut lunch meat without cleaning them; while Jack is a kind of unthinking proponent of slavery. In fact, the whole way his beliefs change after seeing industrial slavery is more powerful to me than if he were anachronistically egalitarian the whole time.

I really can't think of another author of historical fiction that walks that path as well as O'Brian does - all the others I can think of either ham-fistedly stick in anachronisms or just ignore the issue.

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Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

I've been wondering about Diana's relationship with Jagiello the Swedish cavalry officer:

After Stephen and Diana are married, he gets an anonymous letter (I've always assumed from Wray) that says she's cheating on him with Jagiello. He just thinks it's funny. After she hears that he was seen around with another woman, she runs off with Jagiello. I've been wondering what O'Brien wanted us to understand about their relationship. My take has always been that Diana wasn't cheating on Stephen when she thought he was faithful, and he knew her well enough to believe that even when he got a letter. After she runs off with Jagiello, though, I've always assumed that they were a couple until Stephen came to get her, but Stephen is "modern" enough not to really care. It's ambiguous, though.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

The Merry Marauder posted:

It's been a while, but I remember he was at the door when the tipstaff and his mates broke in on Pullings' dinner, did he tip them off and then disappear?

That's my take - it comes up later, in fact, when Aubrey yells at Steven for being too kind-hearted. He uses him as an example. I absolutely love Scrivens as a character because he's such an O'Brien character - he's barely sketched out, but if you think about the sketch you end up with a surprisingly deep character and one that illustrates a theme of O'Brien's, which is that people can develop irrational resentments and act on them to hurt others. My read of Scrivens is that he's really a scrub - he's faking being kind for a long time, but he's at heart an rear end in a top hat. It makes me wonder how much of his back story was false. I love that all of that is implied but not really stated.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Murgos posted:

In The Surgeons Mate there is a section where Stephen is going to negotiate with some Catalan soldiers on a fortified island and in the lead up to it many bad omens happen. Stephens patient dies, he accidentally drops a glass of wine that Jack is handing to him, they sail on Friday and it's the 13th day of the month, etc... But nothing bad happens. Jack specifically calls out that he is going to ignore omens from now on. While touching wood of course, because that's not superstition that's just good common sense.

But that's almost the exception that proves the rule, generally bad omens and superstitions pay off.

Worse, the wine is specifically a toast for his safe return - that's the clearest case of something that should be an enormously bad omen that comes to nothing. I'm not so much convinced that O'Brien wants to show bad luck and superstition coming true, so much as he wants to show how the seamen constantly interpret everything through the lens of the superstition.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Colonial Air Force posted:

Not enough nudity for HBO to be interested.

That's just O'Brien being polite: if they shot every one of Jack's escapades there'd be more nudity than in Showgirls.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

uPen posted:

Every time I go through these books again I find something new to love.

He's amazingly good at communicating clearly through implication. It's appropriate that he's writing period pieces - it's very Jane Austen-esque.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

ItalicSquirrels posted:

It's Commandante Harte's wife when she's wetting Jack's swab.

heh heh

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Robot Danger posted:

I've been planning to join this party and start this series - just saw that the Kindle edition is $1.99 right now. Good timing!

You lucky bastard, getting to read the series fresh.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Huggybear posted:

... although the way Stephen talks about her to other people is hilarious also.

What's the quote? From memory it's something like "a deeply grasping shrewish lickpenny." I remember "lickpenny" in particular. It's evocative as all hell.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

builds character posted:

a deeply stupid, griping, illiberal, avid, tenacious, pinchfist lickpenny, a sordid lickpenny and a shrew

That's the one. drat, it's even harsher than I remembered.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Arglebargle III posted:

Oh my God the scene in Post-Captain when Diana invites Stephen into her bedroom to look at butterflies or whatever is so painful. We're seeing the scene through his internal monologue and he never seems to notice that she's propositioning him. Repeatedly. Their whole romance is so painful. She's throwing out hints left and right and clearly lonely and unhappy. Stephen is too involved in his own morose thoughts about the Diana in his head to notice that the actual Diana in front of him is practically throwing herself at him. Then he gets confused and wounded when she's mean to him the next time they meet. He's so conscious of the difference of Diana the mental construct and Diana the actual person in an abstract sense, because he's a sharp study of character in the abstract, but he never seems able to connect his own actions to Diana's behavior.

That's true, but Diana is also hot and cold - at the ball early in their relationship (in Post Captain?), he's gearing up to declare his affection and she shuts him down completely and intentionally. Stephen is proud enough that it has to be hard to come back from that and try again, and also unsure enough about her like you said that I always felt that he was cued to assume that her behavior wasn't as meaningful as it was.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Arglebargle III posted:

I never realized Stephen's friend in Paris M. La Motte was gay but he practically says as much.

I have always loved that. Stephen is an intelligence officer and a genius strategist who has to figure out who in Paris should be the host for his beloved but very likely to gently caress off with somebody else wife. He naturally finds the perfect person.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

What's the exchange between Stephen and the lady of the house when the previously-jealous naturalist tells Stephen that he's so indebted to him that he has named a plant after him that then stinks up the room? I remember the scene but not the exchange, and it was one of my favorites.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

PhantomOfTheCopier posted:

While I would not expect much of lofty sails at 100% humidity, surely with the wind you could have arranged a bit of evaporative cooling?

Also I lied, I'm on ten now and have seen a few terms that I can't even place from context. I'll have to flip back some pages to find them; the only one I remember is after they paint the ship then "Badger-Bag comes aboard to shave the crew". http://www.cannonade.net/static_map.php?map_name=HMS_Surprise&id=114512

It's an extremely old tradition that's still part of the modern Navy (or at least the USN): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line-crossing_ceremony

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

It's been a while, so I don't remember why I got this perception but my memory of it was that O'Brien left the Jagana question open enough that you could definitely see them sleeping together (she's 'under his protection,' almost) but implied that Diana had gotten tired of banging dudes as a pathway to influence and instead just kept Jag at arms' length. I remember coming away from a discussion that she and Stephen had with the perspective that she never slept with Jagiello not because of any concern about Stephen or morality or anything, but just because she was past that point of her life.

The alternate interpretation is that of course they slept together, but Stephen never challenged Jagiello because he blamed himself for Diana's departure and Jag didn't attempt to control Diana. I never got the impression that it was Diana's sleeping around per se that led to Stephen challenging her lovers - it was them not making room for him in her life. When Stephen shows up and explains himself there's never any thought that she'd stay with Jagiello.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

AlphaDog posted:

Yeah those are great as is raspberry shrub.

I got shitfaced drunk (possibly still sober by naval standards) on Admiral's Flip on a 35 degree celsius aussie summer day. Never again. gently caress.

Admiral's flip is the drink that even Jack fuckin' Aubrey was like "woah, slow down man" when Pullings was drinking it.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Phy posted:

(I think my favorite Swearing Stephen bit is still "Boiled poo poo.")

Speaking of boiled poo poo, there's a bit that I've always appreciated - I forget in which book, but there's a reference to the fact that among the other bad starts to the morning, rats had gotten into the coffee and eaten it. Stephen and Jack had a breakfast including coffee made from some phrase like "the scrapings of the very bottom of the bags, which would have been called dubious if there was any doubt as to what they were." I have always interpreted that to mean that they were drinking coffee literally made of rat poo poo. Did anybody ever interpret that differently?

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

InediblePenguin posted:

O'Brian's writing style is closer to that of Jane Austen and other period authors, while Cornwall writes historical novels you can buy at an airport kiosk. Don't get me wrong, I like Sharpe too, but it's definitely a quite different style and that's probably a large part of why it feels much more anachronistic than the Aubreiad.

I also feel like the O'Brien's characterization is very carefully period, while Cornwall mostly follows typical adventure tropes. I really hate when authors have characters whose worldview or morals conveniently follow 21st century norms, but I also give authors who don't acknowledge the period racism and classism the side-eye. O'Brien is the best author I've ever read at navigating that - Maturin is aggressively antislavery for period-appropriate reasons, and cluelessly racist while trying to be nice (as per his interactions with the Native American orderly in the US hospital), while Aubrey is casually pro-slavery out of ignorance until he's directly exposed.

I like the Sharpe novels, but none of the characters are anywhere near that fully realized - they're clearly written for a modern audience.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Hieronymous Alloy posted:

OTOH the books tend to just ignore and duck issues rather than have the characters react to them (so far on this readthrough I've seen exactly one reference to slavery and exactly one gay character, and in both cases Sharpe just sort of ignored the issue because he was too busy brooding). Sharpe doesn't have to worry about fitting into modern morals because he's not a particularly moral character either way and he doesn't have well-thought-out ideals; he's mostly just id fantasy + class resentment mary sue + fightin' round the world, and so the moral aspects go sailing over his head.. In essence Cornwell ducks the problem rather than addressing it but for me at least that's better than turning the protagonists into magically enlightened beings.

Yeah, that's my read - the books are aimed at middle-aged dads who don't want to think too much, and so a lot of issues just slide by without much commentary (doesn't Sharpe "inherit" a wife from a dead buddy of his?), but they're not nearly as bad at modernizing as most historical fiction is. Honestly, I think the Sharpe books & Cornwall in general are pretty good historical fiction that at least try to be historically on-point, but it just shows the huge gulf between the good and the great historical fiction authors.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

One of the things that strikes me when I read the books is what looks like O'Brien's negative view of relationships. There's at least a few couples who are described as basically hating each other - there's one couple who he describes as "constantly battling for moral supremacy" or something like that, and there are fairly few examples of true partnerships in the series. Jack & Sophie clearly love each other but arguably don't understand each other at all, while Diana and Steven seem to understand each other perfectly but are constantly deciding whether to stay together or leave. Is there an example of a really positive romantic relationship in the series?

I know he was divorced at least once, and I've always kind of suspected that the relationships in his books described his view the world.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Hieronymous Alloy posted:

Well, Maturin's marriage to Christine Wood. They lived happily ever after.

After she escaped her really awful first marriage.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Arglebargle III posted:

Stephen and Diana don't understand each other at all and it takes them 10 years you court for that reason exactly. Both of them have pretty extreme self esteem problems

You think so? I always read their relationship as a near-perfect intellectual connection that Diana just wasn't interested in turning into a romantic relationship. They obviously get a lot of pleasure out of talking with each other, and they frequently communicate in subtext in a way that Sophie and Jack never would. Diana acknowledges from pretty early in their acquaintance that she knows Stephen is attracted to her but she's looking for someone who can set her up in style. The only genuine misunderstanding I can think of is the question of whether he's cheating on her, and there was a lot going on to drive that misapprehension.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Hieronymous Alloy posted:

There's actually a few fairly strong -- subtle, but present -- implications in the early books that Diana and Stephen's relationship is . . .consummated . . . before Jack gets involved. She invites him to her bedroom, etc. It's just that Jack is a potential husband catch and Maturin isn't.

That's true - there's the scene where she invites him to sit next to her while she's in bed so they can "talk" and suggests that it's not the first time - but I don't know if I attach much meaning to that in the sense of her actually being romantically interested in Stephen but forcing herself to go after other better potential husbands. I always read that as more a demonstration of her libertine attitudes, since she never seemed to attach much significance to sex. She never seemed all that reluctant to leave him in favor of better prospects no matter what they got up to, but at the same time they definitely seem to connect intellectually.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Sax Solo posted:

As for Dil, I think she is sort of an illustration of the problem Stephen is having with Diana. It's through her he decides to make a go of it, though it's not exactly looking like "this way to a happy ending".

I had a similar reading for her role in the book. That's one of the first times, if i remember right, that Stephen makes a real push for Diana - where he formally declares interest in her in a way that she can't ignore. Her rejection of him is utterly desolating, because he's a prideful guy but "wholly conquered by her." The story of Dil to me was a counterpoint underscoring that complete desolation - Dil is a delightful character and all he does is try to give her what her deepest wish is, but he gets her killed in doing so. It's a brutal illustration of the gaps between good intentions and outcomes, and the fact that the world doesn't care about your emotions. The emotional arc follows his experience with Diana.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

I'm rereading the series and I hit on something I didn't notice before. O'Brian often has his characters omit swearwords in the narration, and I thought on earlier reads that he was just following convention of the period. But I just noticed that it's not consistent - like in chapter eight of Post Captain, he has the same character say about two pages apart "We should never have let him off alone on these - - sands. Mr. Babbington said 'don't let him go a-wandering on them - - sands, Plaice." and then "He was to see how cold he was, blue and trembling like a loving jelly." So it's not a consistent thing, but at the same time I can't tell why he chooses to use either. I always assumed reading things like this that when a character said something like "You old - - " that we were supposed to infer that he was actually cursing and the author didn't want to write it out. Is it possible that we're supposed to read that as the character intentionally blanking himself out?

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

jerman999 posted:

I actually saw a reddit thread about this.

That's interesting - it raises more questions than answers, because none of their suggestions work! It's not gentry vs foremast, because the example I gave above is both from Plaice. It's not obscenity vs blasphemy because some blasphemies are spelled out - earlier in Post Captain a gentleman yells out "is this a god-damned debating society" at Stephen talking during a hunt. I think the only answers that might work are the hypothesis that it's UK printers not wanting too much cursing, like a movie trying to avoid an R rating, or the possibility that it's a deliberate style choice by O'Brian to increase the emotional impact of some lines when he generally prefers to use --

The example of Diana saying "get over, you - " kills my idea that the characters were actually censoring themselves, though, because of the line about "Jack had never heard a woman say - before"

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Mr. Mambold posted:

I'd totally be leery of a Deadwood article on the commonality of the English language as it was used in 19th century England. I'd go with O'Brian every time.

Considering he's got an author's note apologizing for (IIRC) having a certain kind of perfume before it was widely available, he seems like a sound source. Although if his publisher/he was self-censoring cursewords to avoid offending his audience, maybe he would consider it not an appropriate topic to discuss.

I get the impression that the social norms of the UK were deeply weird for most of the 20th century.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

jerman999 posted:

I mean Stephen did ambush, kill, and dissect two dudes in the jungle, the latter part perhaps good for eliminating evidence but maybe extreme?

And also ambush, beat over the head with an obsidian dildo, and then cut the throat of a Frenchman and shoot his partner although in that case it was suggested he was a bit disturbed by it

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

freebooter posted:

I'm only up to book 13, but it's striking how Jack and Stephen have virtually nothing in common except music, and yet they are great friends. I am actually hard-pressed to remember moments when they sit and pass the time together that doesn't involve music: their dinners are usually larger social affairs, and their private conversations are usually about critically important matters relating to their duties. (The one exception I can remember in the recent books I've read is, I think, The Ionian Mission where Stephen is excited about his diving bell and Jack is also sincerely fascinated, asking him questions about it, until he realises he's expected to ship it.)

O'Brien likes to have a lot of plot happen off-screen, so I wouldn't assume that the lack of a lot of discussion in text means it doesn't happen. More than that, though, I get the sense that they both fundamentally admire the other. They have relatively few interests or areas of expertise in common, but at the end of the day they're both honorable, intelligent, and active men who share a lot of the same society and social context. Without the accident of Stephen's indigence and Jack's need for a surgeon they probably would never have been around each other enough to appreciate each other, but I think they were in enough proximity for long enough to recognize the ways in which they were complimentary. And after a certain point, the longevity and closeness of the relationship becomes self-perpetuating - they lived together in close quarters for probably a decade, and my experience is that requires enough intimacy that if you don't end up hating each other then there's a strong bond. They don't talk much about their private lives, but neither of them probably have anybody else in their life that they can even be that open with.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Nektu posted:

Wasn't he actually poor when he and Jack first met? I think the inheritance came a few books later.

There's two big shifts in his character between M&C and Post Captain. His relative wealth/inheritance in Spain* and the fact that he's suddenly an intelligence agent for the British Government where in M&C there's no hint of it an in fact he explicitly says that he's completely done with politics of all stripes. My take has always been that these changes are less a reflection of changes in his thinking as a person, and instead they're changes that O'Brien made when he decided to turn a one-off book into a series. I think the two changes give him a lot more plot hooks to develop and O'Brien inserted them for authorial strategy reasons rather than natural character development.







*Catalonia

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Genghis Cohen posted:


Dude's a member of 2 proscribed political organisations when Jack meets him, and at least one of those is explicit from the first book.

Yes, but his focus on Irish freedom is much stronger in M&C than later books and the British government tortured and killed most of his friends in the United Irishmen so you'd think there'd be some acknowledgement of the tension there. But to me the big piece is how he's portrayed in talking to Dillon... he comes across as genuinely and honestly done with politics after how badly the United Irishmen rebellion goes and how the French rebellion turns into tyranny. He tells Dillon something like "at this point in my life I wouldn't walk across the room to unseat Napoleon."

You can retrofit that as him maintaining his cover, but to me it's too consistent with how he's portrayed in M&C and there's a rather sudden switch in Post Captain to his secret agent activities being front-and-center. I think if O'Brien had him as an intelligence agent in his mind the whole time he wouldn't have been so fully realized as a young idealist who was completely burnt out on politics.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Lockback posted:

There wasn't a term, you'd be free to go when the ship was paid off. Practically, this had the effect of giving sailors a heap of money in port after they'd been at sea for likely years, which means they'd be broke quickly, which means they'd want to sign back up.

O'Brian mentioned one of the times Jack paid off the crew that a bunch of them tried to open pubs that failed, which I bet was a common plan for a lot of those sailors who came back with a large prize purse. Though from what I understand Navy pay was frequently in arrears and delayed months/years, which would be a huge problem for sailors trying to start a new life, another thing pushing them to stay on.

Also, keep in mind, outside of war time their wasn't nearly the kind of standing Navy you'd think of now, they'd only employ a small portion of the sailors. So being a lifer wasn't exactly a common occurrence either, during peacetime it'd be hard to find a ship to crew. Also, the kind of prizes Jack brought in were ludicrous, so you probably couldn't count on any money beyond the (again, delayed_pay.

So to answer your question, there was no hindrance to switching careers (and most did once war was over) but many/most were probably broke shortly after so starting a new enterprise wasn't exactly easy either.

There's an important adjunct to this though which is that the Navy got to decide when the ship was paid off, not you. So you could switch careers easily enough once the ship was paid off, but until then if you tried that was desertion and you'd be hung (edit: hanged - pictures are hung, people are hanged).

Notahippie fucked around with this message at 21:34 on Jun 8, 2020

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

I'm rereading the series, and I'm at Treason's Harbour and found a bit that I hadn't thought about before. Stephen is taking coffee with Wray and has just said he wants to go gaming and there's an aside that reads "since he [Stephen] had spent a long time in a Spanish prison in the same cell as a wealthy card-sharper (a man not condemned to the garotte for cheating, since he had never been discovered, but for rape) it was at least unlikely that he should be grossly imposed upon."

That has to be outside of the time covered by the books, right? I can't think of any Spanish prison in the series, which makes me wonder WTF he was getting up to before Master & Commander.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

A few paragraphs later he says he won't play dice because he promised his godfather never to touch them after he "got him out of a sad scrape when he was younger," so there's an interesting picture of young Stephen there.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

The Lord Bude posted:

It's been years so my recollection might be rusty but I'm pretty sure there are scenes in M&C which in hindsight were subtle hints that Maturin was a spy Wasn't he dropped off on a beach somewhere to 'visit a friend' or some such thing?

Resurrecting this post because I'm rereading the series and in The Thirteen Gun Salute O'Brian explicitly deals with this - he has Maturin reflecting on his history and remembering how he was when he first met Jack. He suggests that he was basically incredibly depressed after his romantic reversal and the failure of the uprising, to the point of disinterest in everything including politics, but that shortly after the events in M&C he meets a British intelligence agent and is recruited as he slowly recovers from depression and becomes more horrified with Napoleon.

I'm not sure the timeline makes much sense because I didn't think all that much time had passed between M&C and Post Captain, but O'Brian at least explicitly tries to square the presentation of Maturin in M&C and in the rest of the series.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

ChubbyChecker posted:

exactly the same thing happened to me

None of them are as good, in my thinking. I don't think there's any other author that captures the period with the subtlety, accuracy, and nuance that O'Brian does. The closest I have been able to come is reading authors from the period, but those are weird in themselves - I forget which book it was but I was reading a sea story from the mid 19th century where the author paused in the middle of the story to write a page-long defense of the idea of people "passing as gentlemen." The argument if I recall was that you clearly could never expect a commoner to fight as hard as someone "fighting to maintain the cleanliness of an unstained escutcheon with centuries of history." It may or may not have been the same book where a side plot featured an evil Jesuit dressing up as a devil to scare dying people into giving money to the Catholic church.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Cessna posted:

I'm a little late to this, but the closest I've come to a 19th c. formal affair out of O'Brien was USMC "Mess Night."

Dress uniforms, absurdly elaborate rules, toasts, and the thrill of watching your First Sergeant getting blackout drunk. They're glorious.




Edit: Rules - Link.

I'm a little skeptical about the claim that this traces it's lines back to the vikings - the British navy link is completely obvious, but it seems to me like the British navy was just civilian elite etiquette translated directly into military protocol. Like, the formal dining was pretty much what the nobs in the UK did every evening, and I don't think that came from the vikings.

It's cool how the etiquette has been preserved over time, though. I think that Aubrey would immediately recognize Mess Night and feel at home.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

VendoViper posted:

As soon as I can stand at the counter for 10 minutes again, I am making this, it looks fantastic.

I made it for my kids, so no brandy. The cream I had didn't rise fully - there was either too much simple syrup in it or it was old - so we ended up with what amounted to melted lemon ice cream and it was still outstanding.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Sax Solo posted:

To me this is like.. the Big Lie of individualism, or romanticism, or something. It's a fine thing to believe, sure.

Yeah, agreed. I'm not sure the foremast sailors would agree, especially the ones who were pressed. And even the officers would probably find a rich-rear end life in New York or London or wherever to be pretty compelling compared to the life they lived aboard ship.

There's a compelling and ancient pastoral myth that people removed from us in time were living the "real true life" and we're persisting in a shadow of it. You find versions of that idea as far back as ancient Greece, but I think it mainly reflects the fact that life is always stressful and uncertain and boring and we as humans always search for meaning, rather than any real historical differences.

I think it's interesting that a reviewer took that away from the books & movie, because the period equivalent was Rousseau's idea that life in its natural state is inherently more pure than life distorted by living in modern civilization, and that idea is a regular punching bag throughout the book. Maturin takes every opportunity he has to poo poo on it, and every proponent of Rousseau is shown to be both somewhat evil (in their willingness to use violence without considering its moral implications) and an idealist.

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Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

freebooter posted:

Maybe I'm interpreting it wrong but it's the "entrancing to the eye and spirit" line, I think, that resonates with me?

There's a beautifully written moment in Desolation Island when Maturin sees a blue whale surface alongside the ship just for a moment before diving again, and is utterly enchanted by it. And what struck me about that moment was that they're at the very edge of the charted world, in this cold and distant ocean, and for him to glimpse that as a naturalist is an opportunity he never in a million years could have dreamed of, let alone striven for or organised. Whereas I would go on school excursions as a kid to the maritime museum and see the big life-size plastic model of a blue whale and be like, yeah, whatever, big deal. I've gone whale watching. I've swum with a whale shark. It was great. But, you know, I can look up pictures of it whenever I want and read all about it on the internet. There's another wonderful moment in The Reverse of the Medal, I think, when someone is describing a balloon flight to Maturin, who's enraptured. And it's because O'Brien is such a brilliantly descriptive writer that it works, but also because it throws into contrast how miraculous human flight is when we today take it utterly for granted.

Now it sounds like I'm romanticising the past which isn't what I meant to do... I guess you're right. I am searching for meaning, and romanticising the past.

I think there's a real natural tendency to do that, though, because media can really capture and express a sense of wonder that is hard to actually feel in real life. The Handsome Family have an album called "The Last Days of Wonder," which is a line in one of their songs about Nikola Tesla (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6k5BRwIPxk). In that song, they explicitly call out the idea that people were exploring and discovering things back then that they aren't now and kind of imply that the sense of the numinous has disappeared.

The thing is, I think that's more a reflection of two things. One is that you can still do that stuff - you can go explore and experience the world, or become a scientist staking out new areas of human knowledge, or whateve, but it's hard and expensive and most people don't get to. But that's true about back then, too... we just don't hear about the people who didn't. The other thing is that if you get to get out there... if you join the military or are born to a rich family or get a PhD or whatever, in the modern world the actual experience of wonder or discovery is watered down by all the other stuff you're feeling. Like, just like Steven I've been to a Buddhist temple in Java (not one in a caldera, unfortunately) and it was amazing and mindblowing and wonderous but I also remember that my feet hurt and my rear end itched and everything was hot and muggy and I'll admit that watered down the transcendence a little bit. When you read an account from the past the editor can cut all of that out and distill it down to the pure experience.

I think the experience we have of resonating with that is part of our general human call to meaning, and I don't want to poo poo on someone for feeling it... but I also think that it's easy to respond to that by thinking that "those days are different," when instead it can inspire us to go find the modern equivalent. It's probably not going to live up to what's in our head though.

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