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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!
Now that the days are growing longer again, ol’ Robbo’s evening commute currently begins right around sunset. Heading west nor’west from the office to Port Swiller Manor, I get the full glory of dusk across my windshield.
Know one of the things I’ve always loved seeing at this time of day? The contrails of jets heading west. There’s something about the rosy glow of the vapor trail and the (occasional) twinkle of the plane itself, set against the profound blue depth of the sky, that moves me. I can’t really explain it, except that there is some combination of the aesthetic, historickal, musical and religious connotations that strikes home.
Yes, I include “musickal”. There’s a recitative from Purcell’s King Arthur that I always associate with this time of day.
Great Love, I know thee now:
Eldest of the gods art thou.
Heav’n and earth by thee were made.
Human nature is thy creature,
Ev’rywhere thou art obey’d.
And lest you draw the wrong, Niles Crane-like, conclusions, I may point out that when I articulated the idea to a young Randy-Mack gel long ago while we were driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the only thing that stopped her from jumping me then and there was the fact that she was a good Catholic girl and I was semi-hemi-demi-seeing her friend. It’s a long story.
But those records are sealed.
On the other hand, in messing about researching this post, I stumbled across the following YooToob clip of the Passacaille from the same King Arthur, about which was made a movie of which I had not heard, England, My England – The Story of Henry Purcell. Not Netflix-worthy, apparently, but available at the devil’s website.
Enjoy teh sample:
I may cough up the readies to see the whole thing.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yet another round of snow this morning in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Fortunately, the temperature is well above freezing so it doesn’t look like more shoveling the driveway for ol’ Robbo. Still, I think the ref ought to throw the flag on Snow Miser for taunting.
Still in my “hoping for spring” mood referenced in the post below, I am half inclined today to shovel out a path to the grill so I can do up some steaks for dins this evening. You know, “snap my fingers at the foeman’s taunts” as Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, would say.
We shall see. I have to replace the flow valve of the downstairs loo first, always a fun job. I’ll decide whether to take on the extra work once that’s done.
And speaking of the loo, I discovered this week that my children, on whose collective education we have already expended lavish sums of money, appear to be illiterate. You see, when the old flow valve gave up the ghost, I shut off the water line and put a very large note on the lid reading, “DO NOT USE!”
I need hardly tell you the sequel.
UPDATE: Decided to go for it. I suddenly developed an overwhelming craving for bratwurst and you really can’t cook those any other way than on the grill.
Georg Phillip Telemann’s violin concerto in A Major “Die Reline” (“The Frogs”).
Ol’ Robbo spent several hours this morning hacking away at the layer of ice that Storm Snochi left on his driveway as a parting gift before heading on up the seaboard. I’m not sure which is worse, the strained back and calves from shoveling off her initial foot+ deposit or the blisters from clearing away her follow-up present.
However, it was really rayther a nice day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with an absolutely brilliant blue sky and temperatures in teh 40′s. And as I chipped away, the smell of the sun on the melting ice gave me renewed hope to believe that spring is not that far away.
Which brought me further to think about the fact that during the spring and summah around here, after a rainfall the woods behind Port Swiller Manor are often full of the sound of frogs singing away, a sound that I always love to hear.
Which made me think of Telemann’s little exercise in tone-painting.
As we batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of the latest Storm of the Century of the Week, ol’ Robbo is listening to “Oh My Son”, a piece of choral musick by a young contemporary fellah named Marcos Galvany.
The piece, described as “operatic tableaux”, purports to portray the story of various incidents in the life of Jesus that the composer recalls being told by his mother during his yoot in Spain. It seems to have premiered about three or four years ago to enthusiastic reception, and has since been performed in several prime venues, including the Vatican.
On just a first hearing, it doesn’t seem to be too bad to me, although it feels a little more Broadway than Seven Last Words, if you know what I mean. Still, compared to what often passes as “musick” these days, it is quite refreshing in its adherence to traditional forms.
Anyhoo, the reason I’m listening to it – or even aware of it at all, for that matter – is that Galvany is getting ready to release a limited edition CD of the thing, and a couple of tracks are going to feature none other than teh Middle Gel and her fellow choristers. They recorded their bits this past weekend:
(Pic lifted from Señor Galvany’s FB page. I’m sure he won’t mind, since I’m plugging his CD here.)
Is ol’ Robbo proud of his daughter, the professional musician? Oh, you betcha!
UPDATE: It was only as I was typing this post that I realized the link to the piece leads to a loop. I thought the musick sounded rayther repetitive….
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, this afternoon ol’ Robbo and the youngest gel attended the annual little league softball tryouts (indoors, I hasten to add). She’s hoping – and likely – to be drafted into the majors this spring. Meanwhile, the eldest gel will be playing in a senior (13-16 y.o.) league and the middle gel will be playing for her school team.
Aaaaaand in the Show, pitchers and catchers report this week.
Despite the fact that we got a dusting of snow this afternoon with more forecast for the middle of the week, I don’t think it’s too early to get excited, do you?
I know it’s twenty-four hours late and everybody else has already moved on, but lawdy what a lame sooper bowl that was! I mean, I hadn’t watched a single NFL game all year and this was my first? Thanks, guys.
In fact, I didn’t have a dog in teh fight although I felt some sympathy for the Broncos going in. It wasn’t so much that they lost but the fact that the thing turned into such a comic blowout. After the Seahawks ran back the opening kick of the second half for that TD, I gave up and flipped over to a Star Trek: TNG rerun on Beeb America.
Of course, you can’t talk about the sooper bowl without also talking about the sooper bowl commercials, which is really the main object of this post. I thought the overall quality of said commercials was pretty bad this year, too. However, one in particular actually got to me in an odd way. This was the Radio Shack® “The 80′s Called And They Want Their Store Back” one. Since I know at least teh Mothe hasn’t seen it yet, I repost it here:
It happens that ol’ Robbo was a member of what I like to call the Reagan Youth: the kids who went to high school and college in the 80′s. And back in those days, I was much more connected with teh popular culchah than I am now. So it was downright startling to see so many members of that lost culchah suddenly reappearing before my eyes. (It was also rayther depressing having to explain so many of them to teh gels, who had no earthly idea who many of them were. Dang, I’m getting old.)
Although I laughed heartily and fully appreciate the effort that went into this thing, a few specific observations come to mind:
1. I dunno about Ponch. IMDB says that “ChiPs” ran until 1983, but I still think of it as a product of the late 70′s in its overall feel. If it were truly a child of the 80′s, there would have been a lot more explosions and gratuitous skin.
2. Although, as I say, I was more tied to pop culchah back then, this didn’t extend to rockers. Are the guys here actually famous, or are they just generic heavy metal types?
3. Mary Lou Retton probably should have thought twice before agreeing to this. I suppose she needs the money, but self-respect, ya’ know?
4. Why is it that, out of all these artifacts, the only one the gels recognized was Chucky? Hmmmm…….
5. It struck me that there should have been an “A-Team” angle. But that would have meant B.A. Baracus, and Mr. T and the Hulkster together was probably too much muscle for too few slots. (Although I could envision them working together to heave computers out the door.)
6. Good ol’ Cliffy. Do you realize how many big-time movies John Ratzenberger has been in? Not only just about every Pixar film ever made, but also movies like “A Bridge Too Far” and “Star Wars V”. He had parts in “Reds” and “Gandhi”, fer crying out loud! Forget Kevin Bacon: You could get up a seriously good game of “Six Degrees Of Cliff Clavin”.
7. The mechanical owl escapes me. Not ringing any bells whatsoever. Somebody care to enlighten me?
8. In thinking of other 80′s characters that might have fit in, I was somewhat saddened to think of how many of the actors who played them are dead now: Hannibal Smith, Pappy Boyington, J.R. Ewing, Boss Hogg…..
Dang, I am getting old!
8. The Delorean at the end was wrong, since most of the other screen stars are from teh teevee. If the producers had really wanted to hole out their approach shot at the 18th, the getaway vehicle would instead have been K.I.T.T., the Talking Car. I can just hear him saying, “We’ve got all the supplies, Michael. Let’s go!”
And I’m sure teh Hoff would have been up for it.
Oh, two other small points about teh game and its attendant hype: First, teh gels hadn’t the faintest idea who Joe Namath is. Second, I hadn’t the faintest idea who the half-time show people were. The former is bad, since Broadway Joe is part of history, and History is a Good Thing. The latter I can live with. Don’t know these people. Don’t care to.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I dunno how wide-spread this particular practice is among grocery chains, but my local Gourmet Giant (pronounced “Gerrr-May Gee-ohn“) provides miniature carts with little flags reading “Shopper-in-Training” for the amusement of the offspring of its patrons while said patrons stock up on food and drink.
I refrain from commenting here on what one might call the moral or philosophical issues raised by such provision and instead focus on the practical: Trying to navigate an aisle populated by a gang of the little darlin’s pushing these things hither and yon reminds me of nothing so much as Han Solo trying to pilot the Millenium Falcon through the asteroid field.
When ol’ Robbo becomes Emperor of the World, I intend to have all such mini-carts melted down and their metal put to some more advantageous use.
In the meantime, never tell me the odds……
UPDATE: It occurs to me that the Mothe probably doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Here’s a snippet from said reference:
I might add that this is one of those scenes that I use to help combat my fear of flying, and of turbulence in particular.
I might also add, by the bye, that in going back and listening to the full “Asteroid Field” track from John Williams’ score, I can’t help noticing that certain parts of it bear a suspicious similarity to Bernard Herrmann’s score for North By Northwest. Just saying.
UPDATE DEUX: Well, you be teh judge. Here’s Williams’ “Asteroid Field” track:
And here’s the opening credits from NBNW:
(If you experience trouble trying to get to this link, I feel your pain. It happens to me a lot. Easiest to go to http://www.youtube.com and search ‘North By Northwest theme’ yourself. Sorry.)
I’m not suggesting a direct comparison of what one might call teh musickal meat. Rayther, I simply bring forward the curiously similar syncopated bits around teh peripheries.
(Then again, I’m teh fellah who thinks Williams stole material from Mussorgsky for some of his incidental musick for Lost In Space, so what do I know?)
Well, some small celebration may perhaps be in order due to the fact that ol’ Robbo has just completed a task he assigned himself about thirty years ago. Yes, I’ve just finished reading War and Peace. First attempt. All the way through.
Well, now. I can see why Henry James referred to the book as a “large loose baggy monster”. This opus is all over the place, part novel, part history, part technical discourse, part screed, with the author’s viewpoint constantly zooming in and panning back. It’s a bit dizzying until you get used to it.
Indeed, Tolstoy defended the criticism that the book didn’t adhere to any particular traditional form by stating that he wasn’t concerned with traditional European”forms” but instead of simply telling a story and letting it shape itself. Interestingly, this sort of “writing from the heart” was also championed among a group of contemporary Russian composers known as the “Mighty Handful”, most of whom had little formal musickal training but simply sought to “express” themselves in an “authentic” Russian manner. Probably a connection there.
Probably the weakest parts of the book are those in which Tolstoy goes off on tangents about his personal theories of history, historickal writing, free will and what I will call collective determinism. So far as I can tell, their main purpose seems to have been to beat down the notion that Napoleon was an important figure whose actions changed the course of history. I won’t attempt to summarize the argument here, only suggesting that it reminds me of the sort of thing I used to hear in late night dorm-room bull sessions. However, it seems to me that if Uncle Leo insisted on getting his chops in, instead of taking time out in the narrative, it might have been better to consolidate all of them and toss them into an appendix. (Then we wouldn’t have to read ‘em.)
Yeah, I’m thinking some professional editorial assistance might have been a good thing.
For all that, however, I really actually like the book and would certainly read it again. When you start picking your way around the soapbox stuff (much of which is repetitive) , the story of the tangled interrelationship among the Bezukhov, Bolkonsky and Rostov families and the various side characters that periodically wander in and out of their orbits is just first-rate. And the broader military scenes – especially Tolstoy’s description of the fighting at Borodino – are superb. It seems to me that perhaps next go round I could simply skip some of Uncle Leo’s side-rants in the same way that everybody skips some of the technical and economic chapters in Moby Dick and not suffer for it.
Well, now that’s done, perhaps I’ll go back to another long-time assignment that’s been sitting in my “In” box since college, namely re-reading Paradise Lost.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, since everybody else is getting in on the action, I’ll just go ahead and mention that the temperature in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor is supposed to drop down to about 5 above tonight and the wind-chill is forecast to tank to about eleventy-billion below, or some such figgah.
I know it’s not as bad as conditions farther north and west, but it’s still pretty damned cold. I’m going to be mighty crabby if we lose power or one of the pipes bursts.
The eldest gel’s (public) high school has already announced that it will be closed tomorrow. The younger gels’ (private) middle and elementary schools most likely will not be. As you can imagine, there is much seething bitterness in teh household this evening, not reduced by ol’ Robbo’s rhetorical question, “Hey, who says life is fair?”
As for myself, I will just say this: Tomorrow promises to be one of those days in which I will have no regrets whatever that I no longer walk seven blocks between the metro and my office, but instead now park in the building across the street.
And while we’re on the topic, how about the Cold Genius’s aria from Purcell’s King Arthur? (Sorry about the stupid staging, but the performance is the best I could find on YooToob.)
Pre-Dawn School-Checking Update:
Five three degrees on the port-swiller accu-thermometer, baybee! The good news is that, at least from the sound, it isn’t quite so windy (at the moment) as they feared.