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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The latest “Weird” Al Yankovich bit-o’-silly is making its way around the Innertoobs.  I repost it here for those of you (yes, Mothe, I’m looking at you) who haven’t seen it elsewhere already.  Enjoy!

 

I gather this is a parody of some other song (as most of Big Weird Al’s stuff is), but I don’t know the other song so that part is lost on me.   Nonetheless,  I find the piece amusing because by today’s sub-sea level standards of literacy ol’ Robbo is considered something of a Grammar Nazi and it is, if you will, musick to my ears.

It’s really rayther horrifying when you think about it.  The basic rules touched on by Al are the sort of thing one was expected to master in grammar school just a generation ago.  (Personally, I adored sentence diagrams.)  These days?  Cor lumme, stone the crows!  I work with other lawyers, holders of graduate degrees who depend on their literacy for their livelihoods.  Nevertheless, again and again and again I find myself having to detangle badly-written documents – everything from emails to court pleadings to peer-reviewed academic studies.  Indeed, I’ve actually developed an informal office consulting practice, as several of my colleagues routinely send me drafts of their work product and ask me to look them over.

Well, that’s “Progress” for you.

Oh, and speaking of past generations and grammatical education for the masses, let me just point out that many, many of the grammar ditties from the Schoolhouse Rock series aired on Saturday mornings during Robbo’s misspent yoot are still tattooed to his brain.  Let’s jump in the Wayback Machine and enjoy one of Robbo’s favorites, shall we?

 

 

UPDATE:   Thinking further on on the subject of SHR, I’m reminded of a different, non-grammar-themed one that I don’t actually recall ever seeing when I was a kid, but which certainly seems apropos today:

 

UPDATE DEUX:  Oh, I forgot to mention this bit o’vanity.  The fellah in the “Conjunction Junction” song pronounces “either” and “neither” as “ee-ther” and “nee-ther“.  One of my affectations developed a long time ago was to adopt the Hanovarian pronunciations of “eye-ther” and “nye-ther“.   Pretentious? Moi?

 

 

 

seven elevenGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  And happy Feast of the Overpriced Convenience Store!

Sorry about the dearth of posties this week – it may be that ol’ Robbo’s brain has passed into the doldrums as it so often does this time of year.  At any rate, here are a few odds and ends to make up for it.

♦  I took advantage of a day off from work today to get an early start on my weekend yard work, my main task being to slap a coat of wood sealant on the inside surfaces of the porch posts.  (The outer surfaces are faced by some kind of weatherproof poly stuff but the other three are bare PTL.  They’ve been up for almost a year now and are nice and seasoned.)  For about 30 seconds or so I flirted with the idea of maybe staining them, but at the last regained my sanity and went with a clear sealant with a light gloss instead.   It turned out to be a much easier and faster job than I had originally feared, as I found I could easily get around the railing and other edges without all that tedious taping up biznay.

♦   While I was going about my task, I noticed something I had not known before:  A woodchuck will climb a chicken wire fence if it’s feeling greedy enough.

♦  The middle gel sang at a funeral down the Cathedral this morning for a woman whose son had himself been a chorister there many years ago and thought it would be a fitting thing for her, if any of the current crop were available and interested.  About a week ago, therefore, a request for volunteers went out and the gel, being the kind of gel she is, stepped up along with two or three others.  They sang Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire.  I thought the gesture was really very, very sweet.

♦  One of Mrs. Robbo’s nieces is flying down from Baahston on Monday to spend a week with us and see the sights.  Yesterday, Mrs. R’s sistah sent her a copy of the gel’s plane ticket, on which Mrs. R noticed that her sistah had paid for two checked bags.  Mrs. R immediately got on the phone and said, “Look, I don’t do checked bags.  We’ve got a washing machine and, in an emergency, the gel can borrow whatever she might need from my lot.  Carry-on only.”  I thought that very amusing.

♦  Speaking of gels, within the past month or two, I have heard several very different women in very different geographical locations using the phrase, “get her big girl pants on” or “get her big girl britches on”.  Is this a thing?  It must have some common source, but I work so hard to disassociate myself from pop “culchah” that I just don’t know what this might be.

♦  And speaking of hearing things, one of the most chilling things I’ve heard in recent memory was a colleague of mine down the office this week using the expression “Brave New World” without irony.   Telephone call for Gods of the Copybook Headings.  Will the Gods of the Copybook Headings please pick up the white courtesy phone.  Thank you.

♦  Finally, speaking of Kipling, I am deep into P.C. Wren’s Beau Geste for the very first time.  I won’t review it here since I’m not done but I will say that I’m enjoying it very, very much.

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.

Beau-Geste-2-739297Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Several times in the past week or two, ol’ Robbo has come across the name of author P.C. Wren in his readings.  As regular friends of the decanter may know, it is a practice of mine to pay attention to what I like to think of as these little cosmic hints.  As summah time is now O-fficially upon us, and as I’ve never actually read any of Wren’s books before, it occurred to me that I ought to follow up.  Thus, a quick trip to the devil’s website and I now have Beau Geste and Beau Sabreur winging their way toward Port Swiller Manor.

I’ll let you know what I think of them.  As Wren is appreciated and admired enjoyed by the sort of people I appreciate and admire, I expect to enjoy them myself thoroughly.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s memory may be a bit fuzzy, of course, but I simply don’t recall this much ballyhoo in the MSM during the last World Cup.  Of course I understand that it’s long been a pipe dream of the Sports-Industrial Complex and its hangers-on to get soccer really well established in this country and the Cup represents a fresh opportunity to make it a Thing.  But I also can’t help wondering if there isn’t a certain amount of “SQUIRREL!” attached to this year’s pitch:  Yeah, the Middle East is in flames, the Russian Bear is on the loose, the economy is flat-lining, the border is being tsunami’d and the Constitution is being used as t-paper by Certain Persons, but how ’bout them gutsy Americans making it to the knock-out round? GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!!!

Per my post below, call it “Starbucks and Fútbol”.

As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo does not care to be hustled by the so-called popular cultchah.  He tends to flat his ears back and dig in his heels.  Whelp, I’m a-flatten’ and a-diggin’ on this one.

Anyhoo, I’ve always found the sport, except when it was being played by teh gels, to be excruciatingly dull.   (True, I enjoy George MacDonald Fraser’s descriptions of fit’bah matches in the McAuslan stories, but  that’s because of the way he tells them.  The man could describe paint drying and make it seem hy-larious.)   Yes, I’m well aware that there’s a tremendous amount of skill and strategy that go into it, but, well, it still bores me.  So there.

Also, now that it’s being enthused over by hipster-doofus Euro-weenie wannabies of the kind who also love electric cars, free-range veggies, the United Nations and post-Christian social mores?  I dislike it even more.

Indeed, there’s only one match that ever really made a significant impression on the so-called braim of Robbo:

 

N’yar, Jim-lad!

So that’s that.  Now if you will excuse me, ol’ Robbo is off to watch a Real American Game, hoping his beloved Nationals will thrash the Cubbies this evening up to Wrigley.

* A riff on a long-standing entry in the Port Swiller Family lexicon.  Go here for the original.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening, ol’ Robbo looked into the first of the DVD’s recently recommended to him by friends of the decanter, namely Joss Whedon’s 2012 take on the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing”.

I gather from the notes that this was a sort of vanity project of Whedon’s, a long-standing idea that first manifested itself in some informal group readings and eventually became literally a home movie, as it was shot at his own house.   I suppose I found that novelty somewhat interesting, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would view this movie as a serious performance of the piece.

First of all, I believe Whedon’s decision to set the film in contemporary Santa Monica with a cast of contemporary Hollywood types proves fatal.  The first order of biznay in dealing with Shakespeare effectively is to get us out of our own world and into the one he creates.  This is done most effectively in three possible ways:  Setting the piece (stage, costumes, etc.) in the Bard’s own time; setting the piece in its own historickal context (this works best for the histories, obviously – Julius Caesar, Richard III, etc.); or setting the piece in some vague “Once Upon A Time” that can’t really be pinned down but is sufficiently far away from the here and now to engage our fantasy (Branagh did this pretty effectively in his version of “Much Ado”).

But southern California in 2012?  One’s first instinct is to ask, “Why is everyone talking like that?”  Archaic language does not do well in the present tense.  (Nor do myriad anachronistic titles, addresses and the like.  And as to Claudio trying to maintain his antiquated code of morality in O.C. Gomorrah?  Fuggedaboudit!)

Second, I must say I really wasn’t impressed with any of the cast, all of whom seemed to play their roles like modern teevee characters instead of stage classics.  (Indeed, when the dumb blond playing Conrad managed to turn “into” to “inna”, I laughed out loud.)  I will say, once again going back to Branagh’s treatment, that Nathan Fillion did a better job than Michael Keaton with Dogberry, because Fillion properly played him as a bumbling idiot who’s had some hard knocks and desperately clings to any shred of respectability he can, instead of as a Beetlejuice-like lunatic.  Whedon left in some of Dogberry’s lines that Branagh had cut which I think key to the character:

“Dost thou not suspect my place?  Dost thou not suspect my years?  O that he were here to write me down as ass!  But, masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.  No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness.  I am a wise fellow, and which is more, an officer, and which is more, a householder, and which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina, and one that knows the law, go to, and a rich fellow enough, go to, and a fellow that has had losses, and one that that two gowns, and every thing handsome about him!”

So all in all, although I’m glad I actually sat down and watched the film, I really didn’t much like it.

I’d give this film one bumper out of five.

Next up: “Coriolanus“.

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!

This evening, teh devil’s website delivered to the door of Port Swiller Manor a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s “Love Among The Ruins“, a work new to me despite my increasing fondness for and familiarity with Mr. Woo’s canon.  Although the book is included among the volumes listed in the Back Bay Books editions of Waugh’s works, which comprise most of my collection, it seems it has long been out of print:  I only managed to find a fairly battered old hardback edition.

I read it over dinner.  (It’s really only an extended essay of about 50 pages.)  The story is Waugh’s take (from 1953) on the the Brave New World and Wiki’s summary is pretty durn good:

It is a satire set in a dystopian quasi-egalitarian Britain. The protagonist, Miles Plastic, is an orphan who at the beginning of the story is finishing a prison term for arson. Crime is treated very leniently by the state, and conditions in prison are actually quite superior to those among the population at large, leading to an understandably high recidivism rate. Upon release, Plastic goes to work at a state-run euthanasia center. The centers are not restricted to the terminally ill and are so popular that Plastic’s sole responsibility is to stem “the too eager rush” of perfectly healthy but “welfare weary” citizens.

Plastic soon falls in love with Clara, a bearded woman who is a “priority case” at the center. However, she does not wish to die (she was sent there by her department) and the two begin a romance. One day, however, she suddenly disappears, and when he finds her, she has a rubber jaw replacing her formerly bearded face. Distraught, Plastic sets his former prison on fire, and, unidentified as the perpetrator of the crime, becomes elevated in status as the prison’s only “successfully rehabilitated inmate.” Sent to become a lecturer on the worthiness of the prison system, Plastic is directed to marry an unattractive civil servant. A curtain is drawn on the final conclusion as Plastic reaches into his pocket for his cigarette lighter.

I should add that the reason Clara has a beard is that, as a professional ballet dancer, she was advised to get sterilized so as not to lose her figgah through child-bearing.   (As it turns out, the sterilization was unsuccessful.)  The beard was a side-effect of the particular method involved.

The tone and, if you will, vision is somewhere on a line between “A Clockwork Orange” and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”.  There are too many little jabs and details for me to catalogue them all, but the very first paragraph of the piece set me laughing uproariously because of its anticipation of the collective pipe-dream (and predictable failure) of Al “ManBearPig” Gore and his ilk:

Despite their promises at the last Election, the politicians had not yet changed the climate.  The State Meteorological Institute had so far produced only an unseasonable fall of snow and two little thunderbolts no larger than apricots.  The weather varied from day to day and from county to county as it had done of old, most anomalously.

Somehow this reminded me immediately of an old “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode (oh, shut up) in which Captain Picard and staff are trying to delve into the background of a young guest with mysterious psychic powers:

PICARD:   What is it, Mister Data?

DATA:  I have some information regarding Amanda Rogers’ parents.

Picard reaches the Aft Science Station.

DATA:  Records indicate that they died in Topeka, Kansas.  Their home was destroyed during a tornado.

PICARD:   A tornado? Why wasn’t it  dissipated by the Weather Modification Net?

DATA:  Unknown, sir. The bodies were found in the rubble after the storm had passed.

PICARD: (a beat as he ponders) See if you can find out any details. I’d like to know more about that storm.

DATA:  Yes, Captain.

What is it with Utopian Statists and their belief that they can command and control the very ebb and flow of Nature itself?  Dare I suggest a “Non Serviam here?  I think so.  I think so.

Anyhoo, LATR represented a little detour from my current chronological reworking through Mr. Woo’s output.  (I must say that I enjoy this journey more and more each time I undertake it.)  Yesterday I spent a glorious day flopped in teh hammock, the scent of blooming wisteria wafting in from the fence, rereading Brideshead Revisited.   It’s still not my favorite of Waugh’s novels, not so much because of the story itself or its message but because he chose to write it in the first person, thus exposing the reader to more of Charles Ryder’s  (the protagonist) inner maunderings than I really care to see.   Too Much Information, as teh kids say these days.   Mr. Woo was far more effective in the dispassionate third person.

Next, I will be revisiting The Loved One, Mr. Woo’s satire on Hollywood and its environs.  The very name of one of the main characters in this book – Mr. Joyboy – causes me endless amusement, for which crime I will no doubt be one of the first sent to the camps…..

** The original phrase was coined by one Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936), a typical limousine liberal of his time who shilled for that rat-bastard Stalin and his crew.   I’d insert a link, only this post is long enough now that I don’t know how to on a Mac.  Google will get you there if you care for authentication.

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?

 

 

 

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