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CoriolanGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pace Cole Porter, I couldn’t resist the post title because last evening ol’ Robbo kicked off his annual Bachelor Week by watching Ralph Feinnes’ 2011 production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.  (Go here for a synopsis of the story, which the Bard is supposed to have pinched from a translation of Plutarch.)

I will confess that, despite having concentrated on Shakespeare as a college English major, I have never read this play nor seen a performance of it before.  Indeed, aside from being aware of its bloody reputation, my only previous encounter had been a still photo of Laurence Olivier playing the part, being held upside down by his ankles and covered in gore.  (Oh, and as a complete aside, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture is, IMHO, one of his best bits of incidental musick, although it has nothing to do with the Bard’s play.)  So my opinion probably isn’t worth all that much.

Nevertheless, I believe the film was, on balance, worth a dekko, and I raise a glass to whomever of you recommended it.

On the plus side, the play itself is classic tragedy.  Coriolanus (if you haven’t clicked the link yet) is a noble hero of the young Roman Republic, having devoted his life to her wars against both her Etruscan oppressors and neighboring cities.  By every right, he ought to be propelled to the highest offices and receive the highest accolades, but his Patrician pride and his refusal to kiss the collective backsides of teh Roman mob drive him to his eventual undoing.   You will seldom see a better teeing up of the ancient Grecco-Roman literary concept of hamartia, the Tragic Flaw.  Furthermore, with Feinnes himself as the glowering Coriolanus, Gerard (“SPAAAARTAAAANSSS!!!”) Butler as his arch-enemy Aufidius, and Vanessa Redgrave (yes) as his mother, Volumnia, you’ve got a solid core of actors who actually know what to do with the Bard.  (Most of the extras seem to be Jugs of one sort or another with names ending in -jovic and -jevick.)

On the minus side, the play is set in modern times, something which regular friends of the decanter will know generally displeases ol’ Robbo.  (Indeed, I suppose the point Feinnes was after was to make it look like an episode out of the recent unpleasantness in the Balkans, which would explain the ethnic make-up of the extras.  The comparison to the history of early republican Rome is not completely illegitimate.)  So instead of men running about with plumed helmets and swords, you get men running about with body armor and modern weaponry plus lots of stuff blowing up.  I suppose I could live with that.  What I didn’t like was the accompanying modern media portrayal of war – complete with nooz flashes, punditistas (including a Bill O’Reilly lookalike) and video cameras everywhere.  There’s where your “relevant” setting drifts across the line to annoying distraction.  On the other hand, I thought the scenes of parliamentary maneuvering – especially the bits featuring the Tribunes – the “crows to peck the eagles” – who were out to hocus Coriolanus for being such a shhhnob- were really quite effective.

Finally, the film is shot in that bobbly, hand-held style so fashionable these days that tends to give ol’ Robbo something of a headache, particularly when, as was the case last evening, he is weighed down to the Plimsoll mark with wiener schnitzel and potato pancakes.

All in all, though, I’ll give this film two and a half bumpers out of five.

Next up,  The World’s End.

UPDATE:  I was chatting with teh Mothe this afternoon about this fillum and she remarked that since Schindler’s List she simply can’t bear to watch Feinnes.  I admitted I’ve never actually seen it, as I am too much of a coward.  Same deal with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  I dunno how I would respond to the Real Thing, but my tolerance for, well, Screen Evil is pretty durn low.

liebster2Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As fellow parents are no doubt well aware, the last weeks of May and the first weeks of June are times of seemingly endless brouhaha.  Recently ol’ Robbo has found himself attending all kinds of end-of-school-year activities, including awards ceremonies, picnics, talent shows and the like.  Plus, teh Middle Gel was confirmed into TEC on Sunday.  With all this going on, opportunities and energy for any kind of substantive posting have been correspondingly curtailed.

In teh midst of all these alarums and excursions, ol’ Robbo discovered that he had been nominated by long time friend of the decanter  Zoopraxiscopean Don for the highly coveted Liebster Award this year.  A glass of wine with you, sir!  And subsequently, during the time this post has half-finishedly hung fire, I also seem to have got tapped by our Maximum Leader.   A glass of wine with you, sir!  (And note to self: Extra aspirin tablet before bed, since we still have work in the morning.)

Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo’s been blogging for nearly eleven years now altogether and it seems to me that I haven’t seen a meme like this one floating around the ‘toobs for some time now.  Takes me back to the Earlies, it does, when every new meme was fresh red meat.  (Indeed, I’ve a vague recollection that we might have done this one back at Llama Central.)

So, obligatory “You love me! You really love me!” acceptance speech aside, here we go.  First off, the instructions:

The Quasi-Official Rules of the Liebster Award

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:
1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. list these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

*****

PART THE FIRST, QUESTIONS TO ME:

Eleven questions.  Don was here first, but the wise minion does not provoke our Maximum Leader to acts of villainous retribution via needless snubs.  Therefore, I’ll take six of Don’s questions and five of Maxy’s:

1.     Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?  Pfft.  Portable electronic devices are a bane themselves.  I love disconcerting people by sitting in quiet, self-contained contemplation in, say, an airport gate while they furiously fumble with their i-Whatevahs.

2. Who should direct the movie version [of your biography]?  Terry Gilliam.  I’m more Walter Mitty than Baron Munchausen, but his knack for cinematic dancing back and forth between reality and fantasy seems to match my thought patterns better than anyone else I can think of off hand, not that I pay any real attention to cinematic directors.

3. Who should do the musical score for the movie?  Hrrrrmmm…..I would prefer a compilation of classickal works, involving at least one chase scene set to one of the more intense minor-key concertos by Vivaldi.

4. Please tell a favorite joke (keep it tasteful, thank you).  Well, I heard a good one recently:  It seems that a father up ta’ rural Maine  questioned his son one morning about whether the son had anything to do with the family out-house having been tipped over the night before.  The son, after a moment’s hesitation, decided to come clean and admit that he had been the perpetrator.  The father then proceeded to chastise the son.  When he was done, the son said, “But Dad, when George Washington’s father asked if George had been the one to cut down the cherry tree and George had told the truth, HE wasn’t punished.”  “Maybe,” replied the father, “But I doubt his father was sitting in the cherry tree at the time George cut it down.”

5.  Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?  The ability not to draw attention to myself.  You may call it “Stealth” if you like.  

6. What is the earliest memory you have?  Playing with some toy army trucks.  This would have been in Rochester NY when I was no more than 3 y.o.  I also have a very vague memory of being in a car crossing a long bridge.  This would have been when we crossed the Mississippi at St. Louis on our way from Rochester to set up in South Texas when I was about 3 1/2.

7. Do you have a battle song, i.e., a tune that you hum, sing or stomp your feet to while on the way to a difficult day at work or an unpleasant appointment?  Well, nothing in particular for the office itself.  However, I still use the Star Wars scene of the Millennium Falcon’s escape from Mos Eisley for airplane takeoffs.  Indeed, when the pilot first hits the throttle and we start rolling, I always mutter to myself in a clipped British accent, “Oh, dear.  I’d forgotten how much I hate space travel!”

8. What fictional character do you particularly identify with?  Not one in particular, but I love Evelyn Waugh’s stable of anti-heroes:  Paul Pennyfeather, poor old Tony Last, William Boot and Guy Crouchback.  All of them are decent, traditionally-minded men caught up in the absurd and appalling whirligig of the Modern World, tossed about and, with the exception of Last, eventually set back down on their feet, somewhat dizzy but still intact.  (Please note that Basil Seal, Charles Ryder and Dennis Barlow are not included in this group.)

9. Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.  Well, regular friends of the decanter will already know that this is a gimme and involves ol’ Robbo’s swimming of the Tiber back in ’08.  Indeed, that was probably the principle reason I set up this blog in the first place.  

10. What neglected writer, composer or performer deserves rediscovery?  Well, I’ll go with a painter:  N.C. Wyeth.  Yes, he was really an “illustrator” in the same sense that Norman Rockwell was, and yes, the sorts of stories he illustrated – which centered around subjects like pirates and swashbucklers, Indians and frontiersmen – are considered nekulturny under the current ethos.  But I think his use of color and shadow and his sense of dramatic groupings and action were superb.

11.  Your favorite word? “Defenestration”, of course.  In actual practice, we could use a bit more of it these days, don’t you think?

PART THE SECOND, TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT OL’ ROBBO:

1.  I am punctual to the point of obsession and absolutely cannot stand being late for anything.  On the other hand, I am the titular head of a household of wimminz to whom this is a completely alien concept.

2.  We had a pet raccoon when I was a boy, an orphaned cub (or is it pup?) who we eventually had to let go when he grew up and got too wild and rough.  I was about eight at the time.  A year or two later, I stumbled across Sterling North’s classic novel of boyhood, “Rascal”.  It was the story of exactly the same scenario:  Boy finds cub.  Boy raises cub.  Boy has to release cub because Call of the Wild.  I used to read that book over and over and the ending made me tear up every single time.

3.  I dislike bivalves (clams, oysters, etc.) but like crustaceans (lobster, shrimp, crab).

4.   I played cello in elementary school and took private lessons for a year or so afterwards but eventually dropped it because I had got as far as I could as a soloist and was too afraid to join the middle school orchestra out of shyness.    Now the youngest is going to start middle school this fall….learning cello for her school orchestra.

5.   The farthest west I’ve been is Dillingham, Alaska, on Bristol Bay.  (It’s also the only place at which I’ve ever landed in a commercial jet on a gravel strip.)  The farthest north I’ve been is Anchorage.  The farthest south is Brownsville, Texas.  The farthest east is Richborough Castle (ancient Roman fortification) in Sandwich, England.

6.   When I was a kid, my brother and I used to chase armadillos in the Texas Hill Country.  Once they got into their burrows, their tails always stayed within hand’s reach but it was no good trying to pull them out because they had very strong claws that dug tenaciously into the ground and proved too strong an anchor.

7.   I once unwittingly insulted Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., by ranting at length to a law school classmate about fence-sitter, swing-vote justices without realizing that Powell was standing directly behind me.  (Powell was an alum of my law school and frequently visited for guest lectures and the like.)  On the other hand, I have more than once almost been run down in the parking lot of my church by Justice Antonine Scalia (who is a member of my parish and often attends the Tridentine Mass at which I am a regular).

8.   Bill Cosby was my college commencement speaker.  Tom Wolfe was my law school commencement speaker.  Both of them were excellent.

9.  I have a talent for picking up local accents and, without consciously trying, adapting to them.  Although I spent most of my misspent yoot in South Texas and arrived at college in Connecticut with a subtle but noticeable twang, by the end of my senior year somebody once said to me, “Oh! I always assumed you were from Boston.”

10.  I have no sweet-tooth whatsoever.   Candy, donuts, cake, anything sugary – their siren song falls on deaf ears.  Indeed, I find them quite repulsive.  On the other hand, salt is practically a food group to me.

11.   I once made it from the American Legion Bridge over the Potomac (on the Dee Cee Beltway) to the end of teh Mass Pike in Boston in seven and a half hours.   The Need for Speed, baybee!

12.  BONUS!  I hate Apple and its freakin’ iMac platform.  I could have had this post done in 1/8th the time it’s taking me to drag and click and copy and paste and whatnot.  And  every time I twitch the mouse the wrong way, the screen goes all a-hooey and I have no idea how to get it back to where it was.  How the hell am I supposed to quaff from the true, the blushful Hippocrene when goddam Apple keeps slipping me a dribble glass?  GRRRRRRRR……..

PART THE THIRD, PASSING THE TORCH:

M’kay.  First, a selection of victims (in which I pass up all those friends of the decanter who appear to have been tapped already by someone else):

Diane, the Quilting Babe

Fiddle-Dee-Dee (Release the Vic!)

The Lovely and Talented Sarah of Life At Full Volume 

Mr. Nightfly - Because I can guarantee hockey will be involved.

Mr. Obscurorama – because we’ve traded memes back in the day.  And, no doubt, will do so again.

Second, a list of very random questions for them.  Are you ready?  Here we go:

1.  Let’s play Desert Island Disks.  Singles or albums.  Pick your five and explain.

2.  Who shot first?  (Understand that the wrong answer here will doom you straight to the appropriate circle of hell.)

3.  In baseball, what is your opinion of the DH rule and the introduction this year of the replay review challenge rule?  (See above.)

4.  When the light turns green and the fellah sitting in front of you obviously fails to notice it, how do you remind him?  (Please include horn technique, appropriately-censored vocabulary and body language.)

5.  Are you better off than you were six years ago?

6.  Name a historically significant point in your life and tell us how it affected you personally.  (I ask this because, owing to an assignment in her history class in which teh eldest gel has been asked to broach the same question to some member of her family, I learned that Mrs. R’s grandmother (who is still with us and is visiting this weekend) was so upset by the news of the death of FDR that she went into labor several weeks prematurely and bore Robbo’s MIL the next day.  I reckon teh gel is going to get some extra points for that  story.)

7.  Brush with Greatness.  Go.

8.  Cats or dogs and why?  (See Nos. 2 and 3 above re incorrect responses.)

9.  If you had to pick an historickal epoch in Western History with which you have the most sympathy, which would you choose?  Why?  If you don’t identify with any given period, why not?

10.  Charcoal or gas?   Why?  (See Nos. 2, 3 and 7 above.)

11.  How has the experience of blogging influenced you over the course of your time dabbling in the innertoobs.  Best positive?  Worst negative?  How has your approach/attitude towards blogging changed as you’ve gained experience and as your personal circumstances have changed.  Tell us about the crossing of the streams between your bloggy life and your real-world existence.  (Okay, I’m cramming a bunch of questions into one, but they’re all interrelated.)

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo and I were sitting over a kaffeh this morning and reviewing the past week, as is our wont, when we suddenly realized:  It’s been pretty durn good.  No crises, no fights, no drama, and everyone seemed to have good news of one sort or another.  (Needless to say, these discussions are dominated largely, almost exclusively, by the topic of teh Gels.)

The klaxons will probably start sounding the alarum again over one damned thing or another as soon as I post this, but it was lovely for both of us just to sit back and savor the moment.  And in that spirit, some gratuitous Dad posting for you:

+Teh Eldest Gel:  Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo hasn’t posted much about teh Eldest here over the last few years.  Suffice to say that she and Adolescence didn’t get on very well with each other and we had an awful lot of stuff to get through, none of which would be suitable for discussion here.  However, now that she’s on the backside of it, and especially this spring, we are seeing what we believe to be a genuine blooming.  She’s paying attention in school, developing her game plan for college and just generally beginning to enjoy life.

Anyhoo, yesterday she was bearding me about politicks, which has become one of her favorite topics.  Specifically, she was lamenting the fact that she didn’t get to grow up in the Reagan Era like I did (although I pointed out that I was only a year younger than her when we got rid of Jimmah and brought in the Gipper), and wondering what is going to happen in ’16.  As she talked, it occurred to me again that this isn’t just academic:  She’ll be old enough to vote then and, buh-lieve me, she has every intention of exercising her franchise.   It also occurred to me that she doesn’t really have a “thing” yet, and that maybe she’d be interested in doing some campaign work – stuffing envelopes and whatnot.   (She’s announced that she’s a Randian, by the bye. (As in Paul, not Ayn.)  I think she looks up his speeches on YouToob.   Apart from giving my stock reservation about apples and trees and the dangers of neo-isolationism, I’m not going to quibble with her at this point.  She absolutely loathes She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and identity politicks in general, so I know that I’ve done my job well enough.)

+Teh Middle Gel:  Last evening, teh Middle Gel attended her 8th Grade class “Morp”.  “Morp” is “Prom” backwards- what used to be called Sadie Hawkins- and is the Big Event of the social year at her school.  I had been a bit uneasy ahead of time because she generally doesn’t like this sort of thing and I didn’t want her to come home feeling flat after all the build-up.

Well, I needn’t have worried.   As teh Gel almost invariably dresses casually, comfortably and modestly for school, nobody there ever really associates here with fashion despite the fact that she is really very pretty.  However, she put on the dog for this dance, and my spies tell me that there were some bulging eyes and dropping jaws, and even a number of the Beautiful People complimented her in surprise about her appearance.  (I didn’t see her myself because she got dressed at a friend’s and I had dozed off by the time she got home, but I got a preview last week so I can imagine what was going through their heads.)   I know she had a lot of fun dancing and chatting and whatnot, but I also suspect she got as much amusement out of spiking these people as anything else.

*Teh Youngest Gel:  Yesterday saw teh Youngest give her final appearance down the Folger Theatre as a member of St. Marie of the Blesséd Educational Method’s troupe of actors.  This year, her class did a stripped-down version of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors,  teh Gel playing the role of Angelo (or in this case, Angela) the Goldsmith.  (Curiously enough, I was cast for this same part in my first venture into theatre – I was a sophomore in high school, I think.  The play never came off for some reason or another, but still.)

The gel has a perfectly round head, enormous blue eyes and a small nose, the result being that her facial expressions are clearly visible when she’s up on stage.  Couple that with a lively personality, seemingly infinite lung capacity and a voice that can penetrate like a steam-whistle, and you’ve got acting gold.  (Gold, Jerry!)  I can very much see her pursuing an interest in theatre as she moves up to middle school and beyond.  Indeed, again looking back to my own high school days, she would have fit right in with the Drama Geek crowd at my old school, around the periphery of which I used to loiter.

Musing on her performance, it occurred to me to wonder about the origin of the expression “to ham it up” on stage.  This site gives the following explanation:  “1880–85; short for hamfatter, after The Hamfat Man, a black minstrel song celebrating an awkward man.”  Anybody know if this is true?  And are we even allowed to say such things anymore?  (I also looked up the lyrics to that song.  I sure as hell am not reposting them!)

Well, that’s it for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you unaware, today is the sesquicentennial (I love using that word whenever I can) of the Battle of New Market, Virginny, fought on this day in 1864.

As regular friends of the decanter may recall, ol’ Robbo has posted about this battle here before, once after a visit to the field itself (hit the linky to see a healthy, happy, stress-free Robbo before teenaged gels), and a second time to promote Mr. Charles Knight’s excellent book about the fight, Valley Thunder.

Over on FB recently, I have been tracking the fortunes of a new movie about the Virginia Military Institute Keydets who participated in the battle, called “The Field of Lost Shoes”.  I was going to plug in the trailer here, but it seems to have been yanked from teh innerwebz.  Oh, well.  I understand it has had a very limited initial theatrical release, but I don’t know anything about its future availability.

Ol’ Robbo would very much like to see this movie, it at all possible.

Not that I condone the Confederacy, of course  (I consider VMI to be rightly proud of the courage and self-sacrifice of her Keydets, not the cause in which they served), but I can’t help noticing that this film reminds me of several other independent, under-the-radar movie productions emphasizing themes of sacrifice to a higher cause not necessarily in favor in this day and age that have popped up in the past couple years.  (Specifically, I’m thinking of “The War of the Vendee” and “For Greater Glory”.)

Is it that such stories are being driven underground by our modern so-called cultchah?  Or that an Underground is beginning to emerge?

 

 

 

This evening, ol’ Robbo attended Evensong down the Cathedral, in part because teh Middle Gel was singing, in part because my godparents were coming up for the service and we were all to go out to dinner afterwards.  Because teh gel had mentioned that the service was going to involve “some Scottish stuff – men in kilts”, I was inspired to wear my (perfectly legitimate) clan tartan tie.

Just as well, because what the gel called “some Scottish stuff” turned out, in fact, to be the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington’s annual National Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan.  (“Kirkin’” in this instance essentially means “blessing”.)  The ceremony involved many, many men tricked out in full highland fig (including former Senator John Warner, which really rayther surprised me since I had thought he was dead), together with a Highland color guard and all the fixin’s.

It also involved a dozen massed pipers supported by bass and snare drummers.  They appeared several times, including the initial procession, the ceremony of Kirkin’ itself and the recessional.

I must confess that I am of two very different minds about the bagpipes.  On the one hand, I fully appreciate the criticism that their wailings sound like the anguished cries of some soul in torment or some wounded beast.  I myself love to tell the old chestnut about how the Irish actually invented the pipes in the 11th Century and gave them to the Scots, and the Scots still haven’t caught on to the joke.

On the other hand…weeeeell….perhaps it’s something in the blood, because I have to admit that for all their aesthetic awfulness, I really rayther enjoy them myself.

Of course, the bagpipe – especially when massed – is best suited for the open air, not for an enclosed space, even as spacious as that of the interior of a cathedral.  Fortunately, I only got the full blast when they passed me by.  Teh gel had them practically on top of her for the entire service.  When it was over, she wanted nothing more than quiet…..quiet.

The other thing that occurred to me as I watched this body make its way up the central aisle to the Great Choir was to agree with George MacDonald Fraser’s assessment that the smartest move the British government ever made regarding the Highlanders was to enlist them into HM’s Army as quickly as possible.

And speaking of which, how about a genuine Scots Highland fighting tune?  I give you “Cock O’ The North”.  Enjoy!

 

colonnadeUPDATE:  I put this at the top because once I’ve got to a certain post length my Mac won’t let me get at the toolbar in order to hit the linky button.  Anyhoo, Ace posted a very good essay on this same issue – the loss of cultural plurality now that the Progressivistas feel they’ve gained the whip-hand – in connection with gun rights and the NRA convention this week.  (I assume most friends of the decanter are also members of the Moron Horde over at AoSHQ, but I flag the piece here for those who might not be.  I also urge any such persons to start going over there regularly.  Just remember to keep your vaccines updated.)  Mark my words, the next couple years are going to be a damned near run thing.  On the other hand, I’ve a sneaking feeling that Hubris-fueled overreach eventually is going to provoke a serious backlash.  One way or the other, it’s ugly and it’s only going to get uglier.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall that ol’ Robbo picked up his legal education at Dubyanell University.

For those of you unfamiliar with W&L’s history, the place was founded in 1748 as Augusta Academy.  (It is, I believe, the 6th oldest school in the country.)  During the Revolution, it changed its name to Liberty Hall Academy.  After the Revolutionary War, ol’ George donated some stock (in the James River Canal Company, if I recall correctly) to the school, which promptly changed its name to Washington College in gratitude.

In 1865, the school was on the verge of bankruptcy.  It had five professors and three students.  In a Hail Mary move, it sent a representative to Robert E. Lee to see if he would be interested in taking on the presidency.  The thinking was that his name recognition would generate some monies to keep the place afloat.

Lee, who really only wanted to retire into obscurity, nonetheless agreed to come aboard.  But he was no figurehead or mere money-magnet.  He reformed and restructured the place, insisting on high moral and academic standards.  He established the Honor Code still in use today.  He grafted on the law school from which I graduated.   Under his spirit and guidance, not only was Washington College saved, it began to thrive.  A grateful Board changed the name to Washington & Lee in honor of the man’s achievements shortly after his death.

When I was there in the late 80′s/early 90′s, Lee’s spirit of Christian Gentlemanliness (because that’s what it was) still almost tangibly walked the grounds.  The fact that he’s buried in the chapel and his horse Traveler is buried just outside certainly helped foster that sense, but it wasn’t the real reason.  Rayther, it was the man’s awesome moral force.  One could leave valuables in one’s study-cubby without fear of theft.  Strangers regularly greeted each other in passing along the Colonnade.  The Honor Code – wholly student run – was taken very, very seriously when it came to academic matters.  Guys wore ties and girls wore dresses to football games.  It was that sort of place.

Mind you, I had been an undergrad at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  I don’t call it that for nothing.  Wes-U in the mid-80′s was a hotbed of Radical Progressivism.  Although the place prided itself (and still does) on its “Diversity”, I wasn’t on campus more than ten minutes or so before I realized that what it really fostered was a lockstep Leftist orthodoxy.  “Politically Correct” was a term I first heard used without irony in August, 1983.  It meant that opposing views, opinions and tastes – most of them conventional and/or traditionalist – were not argued with or challenged on their merits.  Rayther, they were vilified, delegitimized, ostracized and stamped out.

Being the stubborn idjet that I am, rayther than immediately transferring to a more hospitable environment, I stuck it out and waged a very lonely counter-revolution.   I won’t go into all the detail, but suffice to say that one of the high points of my time there was receiving an after-the-fact report that on the night of Reagan’s reelection landslide over Mondale, one of the fellow-travelers in my dorm had vowed to find me and break my nose, but had collapsed in an alcoholic stupor before he could put his plan into effect.

(I’m actually thankful for the experience I had as an undergrad:  The constant hostility taught me to be a better debater by forcing me to pick apart and examine my views that much more carefully.  It also taught me what a fraud Progressivism is as a whole in terms of its professed concern with general well-being and the common good.  When “The People” are more important than just plain people, and especially when God is taken out of the equation, somebody’s going to get hurt.)

Nonetheless, by the time it came to looking at law schools, I had had about enough.  I wanted a campus much more given to academic and intellectual rigor, as well as to the honoring of traditions.  Hence, Dubyanell was a gloriously perfect fit for me.

So it is with particular, ah, emotion that I read where the Shadow has advanced even as far as Metro-Lex:  Students threaten disobedience if school doesn’t denounce Robert E. Lee:

Black students at Virginia’s Washington and Lee University have issued an ultimatum: Denounce Robert E. Lee, one of the school’s two namesakes, or face civil disobedience, the National Review Online reported Monday.

 Students also want the school to apologize for what they call Lee’s “racist and dishonorable conduct,” remove Confederate battle flags from the chapel and ban    Confederate reenactors from the campus on Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday. They also want the university’s undergraduate school to cancel all classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Well.

I’m not even going to get into the merits of Lee’s conduct, its historickal context or the substantive pros and cons of continuing to honor his legacy, because although I would grant that there is room for such debate, that’s not really what this is all about.  (I would only point out the obvious in noting that there would’t even be a school against which such protest could be launched BUT FOR the efforts of Lee to save the place to begin with.)  These people (I believe they call themselves “The Committee” and initial reports suggested they were a multiracial group) don’t want an honest assessment of the school’s history, legacy and modern face.  Instead, they simply want to disappear a major part of it – using guilt, but also force if necessary – in part because it offends their sensibilities, but more because causing such a disappearance proves that they can.  (Another W&L alum, Tom Wolfe, summarized  this thinking nicely in his essay “Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers”.)

In other words, this has nothing to do with comity and everything to do with control.  In fact, it’s war to the knife.  Back when I was an undergrad in the heyday of Reaganism, this sort of thing was relegated to a few outlier college campuses like mine.  Now?  It’s spread to all aspects of the so-called Cultchah and can no longer be indulged or shrugged off.

Co-incidentally, the school was blasting a massive fundraising drive all across various social media today.  Not that I give all that much anyway, but given this nooz I think I’m just going to sit on my hands until I see how Dubyanell handles these demands.  If they tell the Committee to go stick its collective head in a pig, I intend to react generously.  If they cave?  Well, upon graduation I was presented a lovely wooden walking-stick with a brass knob and inscription.  It has sat for years in the umbrella stand by the front door of Port Swiller Manor.  Should the school cave to these bullies, I will break it in half and burn the bits.  See if I don’t.

Royal Ugly Dude

Royal Ugly Dude

As Robbo’s beloved Nationals had an afternoon meeting today (sweeping the Feesh, I may add), this evening’s entertainment consisted of a rerunning of the very excellent 1989 movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Although I’ve seen this movie something better than twenty times already, our old VCR gave up the ghost several years back and I only had a tape of it.  So it was because I tossed the DVD into the Netflix queue on a whim recently that I got to see it again tonight.

I must say the movie holds up surprisingly well after all these years.  It’s light-hearted, silly and yet morally sound at the same time.  (The sequel, which took itself waaaaay too seriously, was comparatively rotten.)  It’s also full of most excellent quotes.  Perhaps my favorite exchange is this between Bill and Ted’s little brother, Deacon:

Bill:  You ditched Napoleon?  Deacon! Do you realize you’ve stranded one of Europe’s greatest leaders in San Dimas?

Deacon:  He was a dick!

I love that.

As for the “history” presented in teh film, Robbo was reminded once again of his sole real gripe about it, which you will have to endure here since this is my blog.  And it is this:

Among the historickal periods which Bill and Ted visit was that of 15th Century England, where Bill says, “That must be the castle of King Henry.”  There, he and Ted come across two babe princesses, identified as Joanna and Elizabeth.  Eventually, both of them are whisked away to 1989 San Dimas by Rufus the time-traveler and join Bill and Ted’s band, Wild Stallyons.

Well, okay.  But the only King Henry of 15th Century England was Henry VII.  He had no daughter named Joanna. He did, indeed, have daughters named Margaret and Elizabeth (and also Mary and Katherine), but Margaret died when she was 10 and Elizabeth when she was 3.  Hardly what Ted would call “historickal babes”.

I only bring this up because all of the other historickal characters encountered by Bill and Ted – the aforementioned Napoleon, Socrates, St. Joan of Arc, Billy the Kid, Abe Lincoln, Sigmund Freud and Beethoven- are at least plausible.  It’s always struck me that this vague reference to a medieval “King Henry” and his babe daughters was a piece of sloppy shorthand on the part of the writers.

Oh, and git off my lawn.

By the way, the older this film gets, the more prophetic one of its throwaway lines gets.  I’m speaking, of course, of the oral history report given by “Ox” Robbins in which he tries in his jock way to describe an historickal view of the modern world:

 “Everything is different, but the same… things are more moderner than before… bigger, and yet smaller… it’s computers “

Yep.  What else can one say to this than, “SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Ol’ Robbo is once again playing semi-bachelor, as Mrs. R and the Youngest Gel departed Port Swiller Manor for Noo Yawk City this morning, along with the rest of the gel’s class at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, to participate in the annual Model U.N. session held at their H.Q.  This sounds fun and exciting and all that, but as a matter of fact it is an extreme pain in the backside in terms of covering logistics (not to mention costs) and the Missus and I are both heartily glad that this will be the last year we have to deal with it.

Teh gel is representing Australia this time around.  I’ve been trying to teach her the proper inflection while saying, “G’day, mate” but she still comes out sounding Cockney. Oh, well.

Her issue this year seems to have something to do with banning child labor in the Third World.  In connection with this, we were discussing recently some proposal or other floating about in the real U.N. that had to do with amending its declaration of “universal rights”.  She couldn’t understand why so much of the World seemed to be in favor of this proposal while the United States, Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth nations oppose it.

“Ah,” I said, “Well, you see, that’s because our understanding of the relationship between the governing and the governed is (or at least used to be) based primarily on what are called Negative Rights.  That means rights that are not given by the government but endowed in us by God and with which the government is not allowed to interfere.  Our right to free speech and assembly, for instance.  Our right to practice our religion.  Our right to defend ourselves.  Our right to be secure in our property.  Our right to due process at law.  And so on.  The message there is that these are ours and the government cannot take them away from us or unduly limit them.  Most of the time, we ask nothing more of Uncle Sam than that he just bug off.”

“On the other hand, the sort of rights bandied about at the U.N. - like a right to education or housing or water or a job at a decent wage – are called Positive Rights.  That means they require somebody, usually a government, to do something positive on its citizens’ behalf.  Now, the Third World likes this sort of thing in part because a Positive Rights philosophy makes a people that much more beholden to its government’s largesse and thus much more subject to its power and control.  If Dear Leader “gives” you a house, Dear Leader is going to tell you exactly what you can and can’t do with it.   (And who to “vote” for if you know what’s good for you.)   Also, since you can’t just “get” tangible things like water, education, houses, wireless networks or wage-paying jobs from the Magical Land of the Rainbow Skittles-Shyting Unicorn, but have to, you know, actually buy them, they can hit up countries like the United States and the Commonwealth Nations for mucho moolah.  Of course, most of this is pocketed by the governments themselves and very, very rarely actually produces any benefit for their people.”

Thus ended the lesson.

I’m fairly sure only a little of it sank in, but I believe mustard seeds are very small, too.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention a semantic problem baked into this debate.  “Negative” Rights sounds, well, negative.  On the other hand, “Positive” rights sounds, well, you know.  How do you suppose the average LIV-type is going to respond?   Somehow or other, we need to get back to the rhetoric of Magna Carta and Wicked King John if we, that is the Negative Rights side, hope to sway the general publick.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you keeping track of Robbo’s latest home improvement project will be interested to know that I spent the better part of the day today cutting, fitting and screwing in lattice panels. A glass of wine with those of you who gave advice – I used two inch wood screws spaced about a foot or so apart and pre-drilled the lattice.  The end result looks and feels quite solid, even with the strong winds we had today.   I’m not actually done yet, as the charge in my drill ran down and I had to come to a stopping point in time to get to the store for dins food, but I’m a good two-thirds/three-quarters of the way through, and as far as the construction goes I feel I could plant my jasmine tomorrow if I really wanted to.  (I can’t, as a matter of fact, because as soon as I’m done with noon Mass I have to take teh youngest gel off to a make-up softball game.  I’m also not yet convinced we’re completely out of the frost zone.  But never mind.)

I should note that I was aided and abetted by teh Middle Gel, whose primary task was to “hold things”.  This is an old joke in my family.  When my brother and I were lads, the Old Gentleman used to put us to work in the yard practically every weekend.  Somehow the meme developed that he only really wanted the company and that our tasks actually consisted of nothing more than “holding things”.  The phrase eventually entered the family lexicon.

As a matter of fact, he worked us like serfs: clearing rocks; digging flower beds; filling flower beds; hauling brush, firewood, stones and railroad ties; laying sod; weeding; mowing; planting; watering – you name it.   We hated every minute of it, in part because the work was often back-breaking, the weather beastly hot and the menace perpetual that the next thing we picked up would have either a snake or a scorpion lurking under it, but mostly because we felt it monstrously unfair that Sistah somehow always got away with not having to contribute to the cause.  (She was nominally supposed to help teh Mothe with indoor tasks, but we knew perfectly well that she in fact spent most of the time skulking in her room listening to Adam Ant records – and let her try denying it.)

Anyhoo, teh Gel was, in fact, immensely useful in her task of, er, holding things – the panels, to be specific.  It is physically impossible to brace a 4×8 panel up against beams and at the same time screw it in, so I literally could not have done the job without her.  My plan, in all fairness, is to draft teh Youngest Gel to help me with the rest.

There were no real mishaps today, either in terms of mistakes or accidents.  The closest I came was when I nicked the end of my thumb with my handsaw.  Anyone who has ever met teh Gel will readily assert that she is one of the sweetest and most sympathetic of souls.  What those who don’t live with her everyday may miss is that she can be startlingly phlegmatic and deadpan at times.  So when she noticed that I had cut myself, she simply said, “I see you’re getting blood all over everything.”

What could I do but reply equally coolly, “Yeah, I know.”

Anyhoo, a good day.  I’ve been feeling a bit in the dumps the last few weeks and this was just the tonic – fresh air and exercise and a plan working out- that I think I needed.  Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to grill a large steak on the bar-b and to get ready for an evening of watching my beloved Nats (hopefully) taking their first win off the Braves.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was casting an eye over his old school alumni calendar this afternoon for scheduling purposes when he noticed a curious thing.  According to the entry for Saturday, April 26, “Yom Hashanah” begins at sundown that day.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on Jewish holidays, but my reaction on spotting this was an audible, “Say what? Where does that fall in relation to Rosh Kippur?”

I mentioned the thing to a little FB group to which I belong and one of my fellows suggested that the writers probably meant Yom HaShoah.

Now, as I say, I’m not up on Jewish holidays, so I looked up Yom HaShoah for some education, only to discover that a) it is the annual remembrance of the Holocaust (the existence of which I knew but not by its Hebrew name), and b) it actually starts at sundown on April 27 this year.  And never mind that Rosh Hashanah is actually an early fall holiday.

So, if I am reading this aright, not only did the calendar manage to mix up the celebration of the Jewish New Year with a day of utter grimness, it even got the date of the latter wrong.

Just how many levels of editorial review this thing managed to get through without notice, the world wonders.

I flipped through my pile of school calendars from prior years (yes, I keep old calendars – got a problem with that?) and found that there was no equivalent entry in any of them, so this appears to be a new innovation on the part of the dear old Alma Mater.

Given the weapons-grade tackiness of the attempt, easily exposed with about five minutes of research on the innertoobs, it might want to reconsider such innovations.

 

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