Posted by: bkivey | 15 July 2014

Summer Reading

I’ve been spending time with old friends Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin as they sail they high seas and ‘serve a round turn’ to the French and Spanish.  Patrick O’ Brian’s works are literary masterpieces, and there are scores of websites devoted to Aubrey’s voyages, the food (including recipes), life on 18th century English Naval vessels, a sailing simulator, and English society in general as pertains to the novels.

Despite being a 20-novel series, some of the books don’t jibe with others in that the events described would take far longer than the available time-frame.  O’ Brian’s response was that had he known how successful the series would be, he would have paid more attention to placing the novels in the correct temporal context. The reader is left to imagine that some of the novels take place in an alternate reality.

The Aubrey-Maturin novels have a surprisingly large female following for an action-adventure series; in no small part because it’s not all ships-at-sea. Large chunks of the novels have to do with the societal doings of lords and ladies and balls and manors. Food and provisions also feature, as well as copious amounts of alcohol. How these people do drink.

It’s apparent that O’ Brian’s favorite character is Stephen Maturin. A physician and polymath, he often gets the most ‘screen time’, and his ‘fish-out-of water’ persona allows the author to explain things that on a Naval vessel wouldn’t need  explaining. It’s through his eyes that people who may not be attracted to this genre can make a connection.

The 2003 movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is based on the series, and a fairly good representation, although an amalgamation of several novels. My thoughts on the closing scene were: how do they keep their instruments in tune?

O’ Brian’s gift is that he puts you inside the story, and that’s enough to ask of any author. If you’re inclined toward historical fiction, or just want to feel the heave of the deck or the grace of the ball, give O’ Brian a try.

World Cup

I watched the final between Germany and Argentina Sunday. Unusually for me, I watched the entire game. My normal practice is to wait until halftime for any game, because unless it’s a blowout (viz. Germany – Brazil), the best part of the action will take place in the second half. Or later, as we saw.

For most of the game, Argentina held the advantage, getting their chances, but failing to capitalize. The Germans started attacking late in the first half, but could not score.

As the game wore on through regulation, the feeling was that one goal would do it, and it seemed that the Argentinians would score that goal.

Somewhat surprisingly, leading scorer Klose was pulled for Gotze late in the second half of regulation. Klose said something to Gotze before leaving the pitch: don’t know what he said, but halfway through the 2nd OT Gotze scored on as pretty a goal as you’ll see, so maybe the words had some effect.

My partisanship in the game was with Germany: I was born there, so I had a rooting interest. I didn’t start following World Cup until 2010, while living in Soccer City USA (aka Portland, OR). It was a lot of fun watching matches, and, as always, watching the best in the world.



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