HMS Surprise with Dolphins
A trip to San Diego provided an unexpected "surprise" (the ghost of Jack Aubrey must be my muse today) for this Patrick O'Brian fan. The star of Master and Commander, H.M.S Surprise is on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. A replica of an 18th Century frigate, she was first launched in 1970 as HMS Rose and used in sail training on the east coast of the United States. Director Peter Weir spotted her in Halifax and in suitably grand Hollywood fashion decided to make HMS Rose a star at the cost of her name... not the first would-be actress to lose her bloom after a trip to tinsel town (Capt.RN J.A collapses)
HMS Surprise (is a Yankee really allowed to call herself HMS I wonder) contains props from the film, fiberglass cannon, costumes, etc. The detail is wonderful, it might all be real. Often film sets look ticky, tacky close-up but everything in the ship might be on loan from a museum. It's a commitment to detail that reflects the great integrity of the movie which remains one of my all-time favourites.
Sadly by that time we had run out of batteries in the digital camera and on my mini-disk recorder. We had spent the day before photographing and recording dolphins (see pic) on a trip with Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari. I console myself that I'm unlikely to take a better shot of the Surprise than Peter Weir. Missing the opportunity to speak with one of the ship's curators was a shame though.
Directly behind H.M.S Surprise is a Soviet B-39 diesel attack submarine. To see it leering over the wheel of the wooden frigate creates a peculiar impression, as though you were looking down a temporal telescope. In an interesting footnote to the obesity crisis before entering the B-39 overweight visitors (and those who have difficulty bending) are encouraged to attempt passage through a mock circular door like those found on the sub. I wonder, for those who get stuck, if the curators rouse out powerful emetics and purgatives from Dr Maturin's supplies on Surprise? The blue pill and the black draught would be just the job to effect a reduction in the circumfrence of those of an Aubrine figure.
My War: Colby Buzzell
It was veterans day this weekend, an appropriate time to spare a thought for those serving in Iraq, some of them, as has nearly always been the case in conflict, barely more than children. The war has been extraordinary in producing numerous blogs. Colby Buzzell's was perhaps the best known. His post entitled Men in Black highlights the difference between the kind of Green Zone reporting we get from Iraq and the first person accounts of soldiers. It's Buzzell's contention, and there is surely some truth to this, that the public needs to have this sort of information to make informed choices about the conflict. In that respect I think blogging helps the military - ensuring that their work isn't forgotten as news networks lose interest in long running conflicts. But that doesn't seem to be the way the top brass see it, yet. This podcast is an extended version of an interview first aired on the pods and blogs segment I do on Five Live.