Thursday, April 28, 2011

Various Interesting Things About The Napoleonic Era Part I

Having read through the entire Sharpe and Aubrey-Maturin series, I realize I know perhaps a little too much about the Napoleonic era given my age, general disposition to pipes, and my inability to procure a single piece of furniture that might be described as an 'ottoman'.

Without resorting to taking strolls through the retirement communities of British ex-pats and striking up conversations with fellows sporting luxuriant moustaches and alarmingly hopeful comb-overs, I doubt I'll have opportunity to discuss the various interesting things about the Napoleonic Era.

And there are many.

The Sharpe series follows a loud, rambunctious, go-getter in the Army with recurring money problems and a taste for the wench as he climbs the ladder of promotion by grit, luck, and raw love of violence. The Aubrey-Maturin series features Jack Aubrey, who well, is very similar to Sharpe except that he's in the Navy, his idea of 'fiscally destitute' is quite different from Sharpe's, and he plays the violin.

Obviously, there are many other differences, the general gist is that they are both underdogs, and who doesn't love a good underdog story? Even if it happens to be 20 odd books long, right?

That era, early 1800's to about 1820's or so, was kinda the zenith of Crap We Can Just Make With Your Hands. Before industrialization and the whole machines making machines making machines things came into play. It's radically noticeable with the Navy. On a ship, you'd have a cooper (barrels), armourer, carpenter, gunner, surgeon (staunch the flow, amputate at will, no real training), sailmaker, and, I'm sure, about 20 other REALLY important positions I'm forgetting. But the thing is, that ship, say, a frigate, could land anywhere, and make stuff work from the rawest of materials. They could make boats, they could repair their own boat, they could slaughter and salt and store their own food. This is mind blowing to me.

Consider now, a boat made of carbon fibre, or steel, about a trillion transistors worth of electronics and radar and GPS and doppler. If that thing breaks, yer screwed. The amount of civilization to make the smallest component of a modern ship is enormous. Advances in mathematics, hydrodynamics, laminar flow, materials processing, metallurgy.

What that era was like is, well, I was thinking. It's basically the most advanced we could hope to get within a reasonable time after the zombie apocalypse. Or. Or a apocalypse.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Vice Admiral of the Blue Alexander "Like A Steel Trap" Parakov's Last Rallying Speech Before the Great Mutiny Of 4962

I know I ask alot of all here today, what after the quasi-sentient bloodthirsty dark nebula 8301-wS, and the shockingly violent parasitic tribes of the Acbsenmil asteroid belt, there might be some trust issues in the fleet. I mean, never mind the Fzerom brain melters or the curiously strong limb-ripping pond scum from Aquas III. Only a machine, not unlike the Baader Hoff Decapitate-Maim-KILL! Kings of Circuita, to not appreciate that perhaps I'm asking too much; that perhaps every man and woman has a breaking point, as, indeed, the Gel Monsters of the Angel IV Outlander Colonial post found out for everyone there, in the longest time possible. Where was I.

Yes, breaking points. But we are the Inter Galactic Space Force Triumvirate Regiment! Conquerer of galaxies and usurpers of celestial dominions! Our people are made of harder stuff! Sterner stuff! Our suicide rate is nearly 0.000894% off the entire Imperial Navy. That's some real numbers! Sure it might be because we don't count murder-suicides but let's not quibble. I mean, we did include the Suicide Inducer Virus that rampaged through the fleet for nearly 30 years before someone thought that maybe doing a few autopsies might be in order. And it only took 3 more years until we realized that autopsies techinically only apply to the dead. That's a ten fold increase people.

But numbers shmumbers, right? I'm here to talk about victory! Something we haven't seen in anyone's lifetime but, our history assures us, has happened to a regiment that could very well be traced down to us.

And we can have it again.

Just like we shrugged off the Undead Infants of Barbyl 4 and the giant babooned faced multi-limbed Eviscerators off the moon Titus G, I'm sure we can shrug through these difficulties before us. Well, perhaps shrug is not the word. But 'screaming bloodily while rending each other limb from limb while narrowly averting fleet-wide hysterical madness' is hardly a rallying cry, now is it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Dream Within A Dream

I've been a little writerly blocked up lately. It's irksome. Last night I dreamed I had become friends with Patton Oswalt, although I didn't recognize him until I woke.

In any event, he was my new, real life friend! And we were walking down a street at night, and he looked at me and said, 'ok, GO!', basically asking me to riff on anything, it was an audition for his friendship, this is what I remember saying. 

Plus added fluff, because, really, who remembers their dreams?
I like blue drinks, the sort made by marginally paid scientists who's last work involved Dow chemical and horrific civilian casualties in some easily coerced Banana republic. Something that rings with a metallic taste and the undefinable comforting finish of something entirely man-made. Like the Constitution, the GMC Gremlin, and Lisa Carlise. Centuries of science and civilization and experimentation and the march of humankind bolstering a colour of drink that would only be found in nature if nature happened to have a lab full of copper sulfate.

It's not that I'm particularly pro-science, or pro-industrial chemical engineering, but literally years of bathroom cleaning product television advertising has convinced me that blue is the colour of the clean and fresh future; even if it's not that of what is always hopefully labelled 'berry' flavoured.

Or maybe it's my love of science fiction. Blue drinks always feature prominently in shows made with plenty of gold painted styrofoam, looped space battles and heroes who should have died from space VD about three seasons ago. It's like somewhere in our ape brain a fuse is being blown when we even consider an aqua marine drink. It shouldn't exist, it's existence refutes millions of years of hunting and gathering and eating reasonably coloured food. But no, there it is: BAM, the blue of progress, the blue of clean bathrooms, the blue made possible by trace amounts of a chemical banned in Europe due to it's nasty tendency to cause severe pancreatic failure.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I Don't Understand This Mainstream Star Who Is So Popular

I don't understand how this mainstream star can be so popular. Sure he has the looks of a young Errol Flyn and the disarming charm of a Sean Connery during the golden age of Bond films, but please. Really? This guy? With the millions of albums sold and the half a dozen multi-million dollar movies to his credit? I mean, where does the public get off?

Sure he can dance and sing and seems to have the fashion sense of a high-end Parisian heroin dealer while retaining some of that down-home charm that makes even mothers swoon, but come on! It's entirely puzzling. Look at that face! And that skin! It's almost too perfect! How can the general public find him appealing in any way at all?

No one without a published genetic disorder has a chin that chiselled, or a self-effacing manner that calls to mind Carey Grant without some serious, serious personal issues.How is that so hard for Joe Six-Pack to understand?

He's only appeared in films where his natural charm, good looks, or brooding intensity can shine through as electrically charged anti-heroes or heart-stoppingly perfect romantic leads, right? I don't get it. I don't get the draw.