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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had one of his patented bizarro dreams last evening, doubtless from a combination of giving up the grape for Lent, thinking about obscure Augustine history references (see below) and being in the midst of reading Chesterton’s Manalive when he dozed off.
Anyhoo, I found myself at a lavish costume party held in some great ball room. There was no particular theme that I remember, but rather a large assortment of historickal figures. I, myself, was made up as Julius Caesar and wore an enormously elaborate tunic and toga. I especially remember how vivid the red and gold were.
As I say, there was no particular theme to the party. Nonetheless, I found myself trying to chat up a young lady dressed as a Roman matron. (I’m inclined to think she was a very young Jessie Royce Landis (which see) because I happened to watch “To Catch A Thief” not long ago and have always liked her style of lazy humor.) Every time I got going, however, some other fellah in Roman attire would try to horn in on us. These weren’t just random people, either, but celebs of the old school. I distinctly recall both Peter O’Toole and Charles Laughton among my rivals.
Somehow or other, it got to the point where we decided that the question of who was going to get the girl would be put to the vote of the Roman Senate. (By this point, the theme obviously had declared itself.) I found myself on the edge of a stage, listening to one of the other suitors arguing his claim and making a hash of it. Remembering Who I Was and determining that I could do a much better job than that, when my turn was called I strode out to center stage and, in a surprisingly clear and deep voice, made the following speech (as near as I can remember):
“Senators of Rome! I am a plain man and therefore will speak plainly to you! I deserve the girl above all these others here! Who among them has brought to Rome so much wealth and honor as have I? Who has been so successful in foreign wars? Who has ensured such domestic peace? None of them, I say! Therefore, as reward to me and as encouragement to others to emulate my efforts, give her to me!”
And then, as they say, I woke up. Dunno who won the vote.
After pausing here to let the feminist heads finish up exploding (All done? Good.), I will simply say I have no idea what any of this means. ’Twas a good dream, though.
UPDATE: Google reminds me that yesterday was the “International Day of the Woman”, whatever that may be. Derp!
Ol’ Robbo had not seen this video before, I think. It made me laugh and laugh:
Way, waaaaaay back in the fierce young days of the Llamas, when every blog pronouncement seemed worth fighting about, I recall getting into a kerfluffle with some camelidophiles over my opinion that German is an ugly language, full of gutturals, rocky with consonants and ridiculous in some of its excessive compounding. I stated something to the effect that it reminded me of nothing but dark fir woods; cold, dismal swamps; and howling hordes of barbarians swarming out to fall on Varus and his Legions in the Teutoburg Forest and cut them to ribbons.
I still feel that way, but here’s a defense by a native-speaker, which I include out of fairness since it was from this article that I lifted the video. Enjoy!
A glass of wine with Arts & Letters Daily.
UPDATE: After pondering whilst shoveling off the patio, it occurs to me that maybe I have seen this video before. Still funny. Also, I’m willing to bet all of those so-called Europeans are actually ‘Muricans. If that Johnny is a genuine Brit, then so am I.
Recently ol’ Robbo got his hands on Peej O’Rourke’s latest book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way, and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again. As the title suggests, this is O’Rourke’s take on his own generation, its origins, rise and impact on history, which he achieves through a mixture of personal recollection and larger picture analysis.
I’ve been kinda down on Peej’s writing ever since he hit his peak in the 90′s with All The Trouble In The World and Eat the Rich. To me, his style has gradually gotten somewhat, well, staler and a bit crusty. With that said, this is a very well-written book. Even though Peej is an essayist by trade and I believe this is his first attempt at a genuine book-length narrative, nonetheless it holds up very well throughout. (One tool he uses that particularly impressed me is a series of descriptive snippets of his own personal history – starting from boyhood – that he gradually weaves together into metaphoric themes as he progresses.) Also, his observations are as sharp and funny as any others he has made.
Here’s the thing. Peej spends the majority of the book laying down the character traits of the Boomers – spoiled, selfish, perpetually adolescent, hedonistic. He also describes what a wild ride it’s been unleashing such traits on the society built up by its stick-in-the-mud predecessors. All this I expected. After all, so long as somebody is working hard to keep the pantry and cellar stocked, sure, you can have one hell of a party. But, going by the book’s title, I also expected a climactic denunciation and something akin to an apology. After all, Peej has been a Professional Conservative for 40-odd years, specializing in sniping at the foibles of his generation, and I thought the rest of the book was going to be a set up for pulling Peter Pan over his knee and whaling on him with a belt-buckle.
But in the last chapter, entitled “Big Damn Messy Bundle of Joy”? Where he should have looked around and noticed just how badly his generation has trashed the place and how hard – if not impossible – it’s going to be for those of us following to clean it up? He celebrates! While he rightly lauds the creative energies unleashed by the Boomer revolution, he conveniently forgets that for every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that it might have made there are legions of my hippy Uncle Dave, who last I heard of him 20-odd years ago was tending bar part-time and crashing on a buddy’s sofa. He actually praises the “liberation” of the sexual revolution, which, so far as I can see, has only brought about the destruction of the family unit, plummeting birth-rates, the commodification and dehumanization of sexuality and wide-spread misery. He completely ignores the fact that the Boomers’ looting of the coffers will leave those succeeding them no other use for all those worthless I.O.U.’s than to wipe their bottoms (which won’t even matter because they’ll have nothing to eat). And while he is correct that envy of Western prosperity was a major cause of the Soviet Union’s cracking and faltering, his prediction that the spread of Boomer “values” throughout the Third World will lead to the collapse of all those myriad tin-pot dictators and medieval theocracies strikes me as, well, naive.
Maybe I’m reading his conclusion wrong. Maybe he’s trying to be snarky and sarcastic and it’s simply sailing past me. Maybe he’s only aping his generation’s zeitgeist while not actually sharing it himself. Feel free to share your own takes here. But his conclusion seems to me to come awful close to, “Screw you, Jack! I got mine!” And that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Prompted by catching AMC’s umpteenth re-showing of Braveheart t’other evening, ol’ Robbo started to write a post on the predictability of Mel Gibson movie characters, but after re-reading the draft, I decided that my insights were so bloody obvious that they would insult the collective intelligence of my fellow port swillers. So consider yourselves spared.
In keeping with the theme of big-budget 90′s historickal beefcake films, however, I will note instead that, following up on my recent re-enjoyment of Francis Parkman’s history of French and British colonial history in North America, I’ve chucked Last of the Mohicans into the ol’ Netflix queue again.
Friends of the decanter might be puzzled by this. After all, said movie makes a complete hash of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel – the wrong couples get together, the wrong characters live and die and the movie’s Major Hayward is teleported in from the Bearded-Spock Universe – and we all know what Robbo thinks of movie bowderlizations of cherished books. (Peter Jackson, for example, is going straight to hell.)
So how can I watch this one? The key word here is “cherished”. I’ve never understood why Cooper enjoys the literary status that he does, or anyway did back in the day when more young people still knew how to read. His books, at least to me, are long-winded, pompous, condescending and heavy-handed. And, as Mark Twain famously noted, as a limousine liberal of his day, Cooper not only was a poor writer, he also didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to stories of the wild. Frankly, I struggled through LOTM and I positively gave up on his Wing and Wing after a couple chapters despite the fact that it was a sea-story. So it simply doesn’t bother me much that his tale of Natty Bumppo is so thoroughly mangled by the film.
Well, there is one part that bothers me: Col. Munro, the real one, was not killed in the massacre at Fort William-Henry by Magwa or anyone else. He actually died some months later, apparently from exhaustion. And I recall that the movie downplays the fact that many of those murdered and carried away by Montcalm’s Indian allies were women and children.
Nonetheless, the movie is gorgeously filmed (although I believe at least some of the scenes were shot in the Blue Ridge near Roanoke instead of the Adirondacks ), there’s plenty of action and a lot of the period (circa 1757) detail is pretty good. And for some reason, Robbo’s beloved Nationals have adopted its score as the “theme” musick at the beginning of their home games. Kinda gets to you after a while.
Oh, may I also note here in reference to the pic above that I absolutely love N.C. Wyeth’s work? Sure, the man was but an illustrator, but he carried illustration to a sublime level. I’d take ol’ N.C. over a legion of “abstract” artistes any day.
**Spot the reference.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You will no doubt be asking yourselves about the print posted above? Well, it’s by James Gillray – one of ol’ Robbo’s favorite late 18th Century British politickal cartoonists – and is a 1795 piece titled “The Death of the Great Wolf”. It is a parody of Benjamin West’s famous 1770 painting, “The Death of General Wolfe“, another great favorite of mine, given my (well-known to regular friends of teh decanter) fondness for colonial American history, and has to do with a bit of Gubmint over-reach in re the (then) Tory effort to crack down on seditious speech in the face of the French Revolution.
Anyhoo, I won’t go into all the details of Gillray’s parody – go here for a brief description – but I will point out that the glasses-wearing fellah on the immediate left of the expiring Billy Pitt’s “Wolfe” is a caricature of Edmund Burke.
I bring all this up – well, besides using it as a pretense for posting a Gillray print – because I have started in on Yuval Levin’s latest books, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. Levin’s thesis, very broadly put, is that the differences in the philosophies of the relationship between governors and governed between Burke and Paine, specifically regarding the French Revolution, have framed the same debate between classical liberalism and progressivist radicalism that has haunted American politicks ever since, and which seems, at least IMHO, to be coming to something of a head these days. I don’t often read politickal books simply because I loathe politicks as a whole (what the great Peej O’Rourke once described as the business of achieving status and power without merit), but somehow I thought this one was worth a dekko.
We shall see. As I say, I’ve just started. So long as Levin reaches the conclusion that Burke was an incremental realist who, with a genuine desire for gradual societal improvement, also took into account both empirical historic evidence and an understanding of Man’s inherent fallibility; and also that Paine was a rabble-rousing Utopian moron who believed in a unicorn in every garage and free, rainbow-flavored Skittles for all, and who didn’t care how much blood it took to get to this vision; well, then we’re good.
As long as I’m on the subject, allow me to throw out this: While I have a great many Whig sympathies about societal improvements, I utterly reject what is called the Whig theory of history. Per Wiki:
Whig history (or Whig historiography) is the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasize the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms, and scientific progress. The term is often applied generally (and pejoratively) to histories that present the past as the inexorable march of progress towards enlightenment. The term is also used extensively in the history of science for historiography which focuses on the successful chain of theories and experiments that led to present-day science, while ignoring failed theories and dead ends. It is claimed that Whig history has many similarities with the Marxist-Leninist theory of history, which presupposes that humanity is moving through historical stages to the classless, egalitarian society to which communism aspires.
Whig history is a form of liberalism, putting its faith in the power of human reason to reshape society for the better, regardless of past history and tradition. It proposes the inevitable progress of mankind. Its opposite is conservative history or “Toryism.” The English historian A. J. P. Taylor commented, “Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, prefers the past to the future.”
A.J.P. Taylor was a Commie bastard. Suff on his “interpretation”. More generally, however, I take this whole “inevitable progression” reasoning as a variation on the Unicorns n’ Skittles thing I mention above and condemned as a load of crap. You’re damned right, Mister A.J.P. Taylor, that I have doubts in human nature. History bears me out, I think. And as I repeatedly tell anyone who will listen (an increasingly shrinking audience, I’ll allow), there is nothing, nothing that guarantees our current level of prosperity and order. See, e.g., Fourth Century Rome.
So I suppose that I am either a conservative Burkean or else an enlightened Tory. Which is why I use a portrait of Billy Pitt as my, how do you kids say it, avaterz when commenting on teh toobs.
Idly flipping through the latest PBS magazine today, ol’ Robbo noticed that “American Masters” will be airing a tribute to Pete Seeger, who died last month, in a couple weeks. The plug for the program includes this language:
“Largely misunderstood by his critics, including the U.S. government, for his views on peace, civil rights and ecology, Seeger went from the top of the hit parade to the top of the blacklist – banned from commercial television for more than 17 years.”
“Misunderstood”? The man was a goddam Stalinist. And the HUAC people didn’t know the half of it. Yeah, I know Seeger apologized later on, but his apology was of the “Whoopsie!” variety. 20 to 40 million of Uncle Joe’s “whoopsies” could not be reached for comment. Also, I gather that while Seeger came to realize Stalin was, in fact, a Bad Man, he never understood that any system of collectivist utopianism is per se evil.
The column finishes thusly:
“His inspiring story is told by everyone from Bob Dylan to the Dixie Chicks and through a remarkable historical archive - a history that Seeger himself helped create.”
A.) Wow, what a cross-section of perspective, and B.) I’ll bet he did.
This sort of thing drives me nuts. One strategic point the collectivist/progressivist/New World Order types have grasped is that to control the narrative is to control the high ground of both history and the future. You will notice that these people have infiltrated, and now dominate, the Academy, the Press and the Entertainment Industry, from which all modern cultural (and modern politickal) sensibilities flow.
What we do to fight back, I’m not sure that I know. For myself, I suppose all I can do is chip away in blog posts read, probably, by no more than fifteen or twenty people. Well, every little, right?
Now if you all will excuse me, it seems somebody is knocking at the door. Strange, this time of night……..
In honor of Washington’s birthday, as is my usual wont I post my favorite portrait of him by Charles Wilson Peale (1772) in his uniform as Colonel of the First Virginia colonial troops:
As I’m sure I’ve written before, I have read that the background in this portrait is said to be Jumonville Glen (about 30 miles southeast of what is now Pittsburgh) where, on May 28, 1754, young Lt. Col. Washington, at the head of a force of colonial militia and Indians, got the drop on a band of Frenchmen led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, sent by Montreal to clear British encroachers from the Ohio country, and killed or captured the entire French force, thereby opening the conflict now known (at least by anyone who’s ever actually heard of it) as the French and Indian War. Despite the fact that Washington himself had to surrender to another French force at Fort Necessity a few days later, I believe he remained pretty darned proud of his initial success.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Amidst all the fresh clashes and crises boiling up around the world – and thank Heaven we have Top Men working on them (Top. Men.) - Ol’ Robbo noticed a small nooz article this week about David Bowie creating a minor kerfluffle by including some anti-Scottish independence rhetoric in a speech at some musick awards to-do.
I’ve been hearing mutterings about Scottish independence for ages but hadn’t realized that it’s got as far as the scheduling of a referendum later on this year. I suppose I ought to read up on things in order to better understand what exactly the Scots mean by “independence” here, because at first glance the idea appears…what’s the word?…insane.
I’m assuming that their own parliament in Edinburg is a given. But would an independent Scotland still be part of the Commonwealth under the Queen? Somebody mentioned that this might be an excellent opportunity for the revival of the House of Stuart. (Okay, to me that would almost make the effort worth it.)
Would an independent Scotland be responsible for the provision of her own armed forces? A revival of the Highland regiments, for example? Again, that might make it worthwhile.
But here’s the thing that I don’t quite get and is at the bottom of my off-the-cuff assessment. Scotland’s entire economy, from what I can see, is dependent on sheep, tourism and great big fat subsidy checks from London. Without funding from the South, she’s really a pretty poor place. And the people have been on the dole for so long that I don’t get the sense there’s a pent-up spirit of rah-rah entrepreneurship just champing at the bit to be turned loose. How does she propose to, you know, feed herself if she makes a clean break with the rest of G.B?
I’m guessing, however, that the pro-independence types don’t actually want that kind of independence, and that the movement is really more of the Get Out Of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl To The Mall variety.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You may call ol’ Robbo “old school” – I’m sure you already call me much worse – but I for one prefer the celebration of Washington’s birthday to this generic chief executive tribute stuff. Old George surely merits his country’s eternal memory and thanks. Fellahs like Buchanan, Johnson, Wilson, Carter and, ah, others we need not name? Not so much. So for me, today really isn’t much other than a day off work.
♦ Robbo spent most of yesterday afternoon in his favorite chair overlooking the bird feeders, reading his Parkman and staring out the window from time to time. In the course of a couple hours, two different hawks blitzed the feeders. The youngest gel and I identified one of them as a Cooper’s Hawk. The other was immature. As I discovered from my Peterson’s Field Guide (always at hand), almost all immature hawks look exactly like each other. The only way to even guess at the subspecies is by the bird’s size. This one was pretty durn big.
Neither one was successful, by the way. The immature bird in particular spent several minutes perched on the roof of the porch looking extremely indignant.
♦ Speaking of which, I may have mentioned before the youngest’s interest in ornithology? She loves to show off her knowledge about comparative features – crests and caps, rounded vs. squared tails and the like. She recently asked me what schools had good ornithology programs.
“Well, there’s Cornell,” I said.
“Where’s that?” she asked.
“Upstate New York. It gets very, very cold.”
“Ummmm, I don’t think I’d like that. Anywhere else?”
Beats me. I suppose I ought to look into it.
♦ Another dose of snow/sleet is on the way tonight and tomorrow morning, although it looks like it’s just going to be a nuisance this time around. Then the temperatures are supposed to get up into the 60′s by the end of the week. I may say that I’ve had plenty of wintah, thank you very much. Moar warm, please!
I say this now so that, when I am being slowly parboiled over the summah and complaining bitterly about it, I can dig up this post and remind myself of what I will be missing.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
By now I’m sure that all of you know of the death, announced this morning, of Shirley Temple Black at the age of 85.
From all I have ever heard, a remarkable woman. Childhood stardom didn’t warp or ruin her. Instead, after giving up movie making in her early 20′s, she turned to teh world of international diplomacy, where, from what I gather, she was quite the success. (And as an aside, I knew she was Ambassador to Ghana. For some reason, I never knew she was also Ambassador to the old Czechoslovakia.) Alas, I understand from some things I’ve seen round the innertoobs that she is getting a thorough trashing on certain moonbat lefty sites today because she was a solid Republican. But these are the times in which we live, I’m afraid.
At any rate, most of the MSM coverage of her passing focuses, not unnaturally, on her early films. Now, no disrespect intended, but frankly, I couldn’t stand them myself. The adowable widdle gerrewl character tends to awake the sleeping fiend in ol’ Robbo.
But that’s just me.
Actually, what her death really got me thinking about was a memory of my own misspent yoot.
You see, back when ol’ Robbo was a kid, there were – at least where I lived – only the three network broadcast stations, plus PBS. And on Saturday afternoons, when the networks weren’t supplying some sports event feed or the like, the local stations used to fill in the time with programming such as, well, Shirley Temple movies. As I say, I didn’t care for those, even though I watched several of them. But I also was introduced to a lot of other classic fare: Abbott & Costello; Laurel & Hardy; the Marx Brothers; Charlie Chaplin; Inspector Clouseau; Tarzan; Fred and Ginger; cheesy SciFy stuff like Planet of the Apes, Barbarella, Fantastic Voyage and 1 Million B.C.; epics like Ben Hur; westerns and war movies of course; and dopey stuff like The Cannonball Run. And I swear I once saw a movie about brother and sister ancient Egyptian royals who somehow became king and queen of some sub-Saharan tribe. Oh, and as filler, they also used to run the old “Our Gang” shorts and the like. (This, obviously, is not an exclusive list, BTW.)
Good times. Good times.
The majority of the films that I saw on these lazy Saturdays had been made back in the day, some of them preceding not only my own birth, but even those of my parents. In this exposure, then, there was a sort of cultural continuity, a handing down of shared experiences and values, a canon of popular film culchah, if you will.
Given the explosion in media outlets and tailored,
diffuse oh hell, Balkanized programming that has occurred in the past, oh, twenty years or so, is such a phenomenon even remotely likely with today’s yoots?
I very sincerely doubt it. And somehow, I think this is not a good thing.