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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Earlier today, a friend of the decanter (who knows who they are) asked of ol’ Robbo, “Tom, how have the first few weeks of school worked out so far this year?”
Well, I’m happy to say that things are (touch wood) going pretty well.
Teh Eldest, now a high school junior, seems finally to have grasped that whatever her record is, she owns it. In other words, after all those years of complaining about us nagging her, she’s finally beginning to learn to nag herself. Laus Deo.
Teh Middle Gel, now a high school frosh, is talking much about leadership (particularly in her choir program) and is running for Class VP. She’s an awesome kid, about whom we have very little to worry except for her apparent resistance to learning math. (I say this here because she regularly reads this blog. Thpppppt!! )
Teh Youngest is taking to middle school like a duck to water, loving every aspect of her new school. One thing: she originally signed up to play cello in the school orchestra, the course description assuring that no previous experience was necessary. Well, it turned out that a) she and one other kid were the only ones in teh whole troupe with no experience, and b) the director was not much interested in babysitting newbies. After a couple days, teh YG decided to chuck it and I can’t say that I blame her. The good news is that, when she went to her counselor, it turned out that a slot had become open in drama, the course the gel had wanted to take originally but was full up when she applied. And so she switched. Apparently, teh gel had them rolling in the aisles during an improv session this week, and her new theatre teacher is quite bananas about her. I’m not in the least surprised.
And speaking of such things, this week teh Eldest was assigned by her Art teacher the task of snapping a photo of a family member in a “characteristic” situation, and using such photo as the model for a sketch. In pursuit of said goal, teh gel caught me quite unawares as I was engrossed in Handel:
Not the greatest pic, but nice composition. And, I must admit, substantively quite pleasing, at least to me.
An opera lover beat a cabbie over the head with his ornate walking stick and swore at him because he feared he would miss a performance of Puccini.
Peter Williamson, a retired doctor, swore at the cab driver as he shouted at him and asked where they were going because he feared he would be late for the open air show in Holland Park, west London.
The physicist, who is a fellow with the Royal Institution, was turfed out of the taxi after launching a tirade of abuse at driver Kevin Johnson.
After dropping Williamson at a cash point on Kensington High Street, Mr Johnson saw Williamson walk past the machine, so climbed out of the car to point him in the right direction.
But Williamson raised his stick above his head and struck his head with the handle, leaving him bleeding and needing stiches.
At a hearing at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court Williamson admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The court heard he had been keen to see a performance of one of Puccini’s lesser known works, ‘The Girl of the Golden West.’
Mozart or Monteverdi, I perhaps could understand. But Puccini? Really?
Incidentally, the fellah was trying to get to the open-air opera center in Holland Park. I don’t even know if this place existed when I spent a year in London back in ’87-’88, but I used to go to the open-air theater in Regents Park no great distance away to see performances of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and others, and the shows were more than once disrupted by air traffic going in and out of Heathrow. When it got bad, the actors would simply stop and wait for the roar to subside. How do you do that with an opera?
UPDATE: As long as I’m on bombastic, diva-driven 19th Century opera (of which I am not a fan, in case you haven’t cottoned yet), let me just stick in this extremely short clip from the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera. (It became something of a Thing in the Robbo Family Household in my misspent yoot.) In the immortal words of the New Yorker’s review, “doing to ‘Il Trovatore‘ what ought to be done to ‘Il Trovatore‘”.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! Via the Puppy-Blender, ol’ Robbo found himself reading this fascinating article today: The Kennewick Man Finally Freed To Share His Secrets.
Remember Kennewick Man? He was a 9000 year old skeleton that turned up on the banks of the Columbia River during the Bubba Clinton years. When the remains were first discovered, they produced a good deal of consternation among forensic anthropologists because he didn’t seem to look anything like the usual ancestral “Native” American. The Army Corp of Engineers and several local tribes sought to get him put right back in the ground P.D.Q. without further study, but the scientists who got their mitts on him pushed back.
The kerfluffle, about which I read a couple articles in the WSJ at the time, sank beneath the surface after a short while and I had more or less forgot about it myself, but it seems that the scientists actually won. And get this: Kennewick Man looked different because he was different:
As work progressed, a portrait of Kennewick Man emerged. He does not belong to any living human population. Who, then, are his closest living relatives? Judging from the shape of his skull and bones, his closest living relatives appear to be the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands, a remote archipelago 420 miles southeast of New Zealand, as well as the mysterious Ainu people of Japan.
“Just think of Polynesians,” said [anthropologist Douglas] Owsley, [of the Smithsonian Institution].
Not that Kennewick Man himself was Polynesian. This is not Kon-Tiki in reverse; humans had not reached the Pacific Islands in his time period. Rather, he was descended from the same group of people who would later spread out over the Pacific and give rise to modern-day Polynesians. These people were maritime hunter-gatherers of the north Pacific coast; among them were the ancient Jōmon, the original inhabitants of the Japanese Islands. The present-day Ainu people of Japan are thought to be descendants of the Jōmon. Nineteenth-century photographs of the Ainu show individuals with light skin, heavy beards and sometimes light-colored eyes.
Jōmon culture first arose in Japan at least 12,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 16,000 years ago, when the landmasses were still connected to the mainland. These seafarers built boats out of sewn planks of wood. Outstanding mariners and deep-water fishermen, they were among the first people to make fired pottery.
The discovery of Kennewick Man adds a major piece of evidence to an alternative view of the peopling of North America. It, along with other evidence, suggests that the Jōmon or related peoples were the original settlers of the New World. If correct, the conclusion upends the traditional view that the first Americans came through central Asia and walked across the Bering Land Bridge and down through an ice-free corridor into North America.
Sometime around 15,000 years ago, the new theory goes, coastal Asian groups began working their way along the shoreline of ancient Beringia—the sea was much lower then—from Japan and Kamchatka Peninsula to Alaska and beyond. This is not as crazy a journey as it sounds. As long as the voyagers were hugging the coast, they would have plenty of fresh water and food. Cold-climate coasts furnish a variety of animals, from seals and birds to fish and shellfish, as well as driftwood, to make fires. The thousands of islands and their inlets would have provided security and shelter. To show that such a sea journey was possible, in 1999 and 2000 an American named Jon Turk paddled a kayak from Japan to Alaska following the route of the presumed Jōmon migration. Anthropologists have nicknamed this route the “Kelp Highway.”
“I believe these Asian coastal migrations were the first,” said Owsley. “Then you’ve got a later wave of the people who give rise to Indians as we know them today.”
He goes on to theorize that these early migrants, never large in number, were possibly swamped by the later, larger waves of immigrants coming over the Bering Land Bridge.
How cool is that?
We have no problem with theorizing about waves of emigration into Europe and Asia out of Africa, or even with speculation about the relations between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal. Why should early human migration into the Americas be any less mosaic?
Read the whole thing for a discussion of teh research and a history of the attempts of the Powers That Be to repress it. As you might imagine, it’s a story of politicks poisoning science.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, Daddy is home from Peru. (Spot the riff, if you can. I’m actually back from Maine, of course.)
All in all, a fairly relaxing week staring at the bay, marred only by the fact that ol’ Robbo neglected to pack his tummy medicine before setting out, in part out of 4 ack emma sloth, in part because he figured that the absence of the usual workaday stresses would render said meds unnecessary.
Well, I was wrong about that. After the last dosage had cleared the ol’ system, the Port-Swiller tummy began to do a thoroughly unpleasant buck-and-wing, in turn rendering your host somewhat, shall we say, dyspeptic to those around him. After a few days, Mrs. R got so tired of it that she went into town herself, found some more meds, returned to teh cottage and shoved them at me with a curt, “Take them, dammit!”
Ah, middle age……
Anyhoo, a few odds and ends:
♦ Made the run from Westport, CT to Port Swiller Manor in the wilds of NoVA in 4 1/2 hours yesterday morning, including two Indy-like pit stops. Not that I’ve ever kept a log or anything, but I believe this to be a personal medal run. I’m not a reckless driver, but I’ve always been somewhat lead-footed, especially when traffic is relatively light, as it was Sunday morning. (Note, however, to that red van with Indiana plates: If you insist on doing 65 mph on the south end of the Jersey Turnpike, do it in the right-hand lane, for Heaven’s sake! You’ve no idea how many near-accidents I saw involving hot-heads trying to get around you.)
♦ We had a friend come in and house-sit for us while we were away. I was delighted to see that all the porch plants survived and thrived in our absence and that none of the cats was killed by the others. Oddly, it seemed to me that the two kittens (a little over a year old now) appear to have grown in our absence. I always thought cats reached full stature in about a year, but teh gels insist that their growth cycle is longer than that. Any of you know?
♦ Speaking of growth, I also was delighted to note that the jasmine I planted earlier this year – about which friends of the decanter may recall my blathering at length – all have new leaves on them, a sign that they like where they have been put. And while we’re on the subject of gardening, I would also note that I have a climbing rose out front, an Improved Blaze. For some years I have not touched the thing, and it gradually got so tall as to start getting tangled in the second-story gutter. This would be fine, except that every year after its glorious bloom and when the weather started hotting up, it would promptly shed all its leaves, rendering me open to snide remarks from teh Middle Gel about putting out the Halloween decorations too early. Well, this year I decided on radical action: After it was done blooming, I cut the thing way, way back (to about four feet high, in fact). For a number of weeks I had nothing but a handful of canes left and thought I might have killed it, but this morning I noticed new shoots on each and every one of them. Yay.
♦ I read four books while loafing about the Port-Swiller summah cottage:
- Hercules, My Shipmate by Robert Graves, a rendering of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts in the form of an historickal novel. I’ve read this book many times before. Once you get past Graves’ paganism (I think he really believed his carryings-on about an ancient, all-encompassing Mother Goddess usurped by the followers of more recent fraudulent religions – including Christianity), it’s a jolly fun and rayther lusty adventure story.
- Haydn’s Visits to England by Christopher Hogwood, a delightful little book (an extended essay, really) giving a day-to-day overview of Papa’s doings in Blighty. One thing I learned (this was my first time reading it) was that the Prince Regent was very, very attentive to Haydn during his visits. Good. I think very little of George IV in the main, but credit where it is due.
- Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Just to keep my ire up against that rat-bastard Jean-Jacques Rousseau and all of his ideological spawn who have dedicated themselves to establishing Heaven on Earth, even at the need of putting millions of said Earth’s inhabitants to fire and sword for their own good. The book came out in January 2008 but seems all the more timely now. (Incidentally, I’ve decided to devote a deal of time this fall to rereading Locke, Smith and Burke and to finally introducing myself directly to Hayek.)
- The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. I’ve long been a fan of the movie (which I’ll probably pop in when I’m done with this post), but this was my first time reading the novel, which Mrs. R picked up for me somewhere for a dollar. What a lot of fun! And how refreshing to find a young author (he was about 29 when he wrote it) who isn’t a first-class, self-absorbed, whiney wanker. I’m curious about how those more Doyle-conscious than me think about the differences between book and movie: The latter, while, I think, adhering nicely to the tone of the book, did turn Joey The Lips inside out as a character, and its soundtrack had very, very little overlap with that of the former, but most of the differences strike me as de minims. Was Doyle involved in teh movie?
♦ Didn’t look at the Innertoobs a single time while on hols, so I’ve much on which to catch up. What did I miss? (I see this evening that Robin Williams killed himself. Depression, apparently. I despised much about him during his career, but you hate to see something like this happen to anybody.)
♦ To be honest, however, I did ask teh gels to keep me posted on my beloved Nats’ doings while we were away. From what I see at this point, I am (touching wood) pretty confident that we are going to win the NL East. On the other hand, I also think the Dodgers are going to win the NL pennant and that the A’s will beat them in the Series.
♦ Whelp, now that the summah hols are over and ol’ Robbo turns his attention to the impending start of school and other fall activities, I have to ask: Just where the hell did this year get to?
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?
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.
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.
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):
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 afternoon ol’ Robbo attended the annual “Father’s Day” pick nick and elementary class talent show at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, his very last, in fact, given that teh youngest gel graduates next week.
All in all, the talent show was somewhat above average, considering the available, um, talent. It was the usual array of piano recital pieces, tin-whistle Irish jigs and teeny-bopper choreography, leavened with a few odd-ball acts such as a demonstration of origami and a stand-up routine of Spoonerisms.
Indeed, it could have been a lot worse.
Nonetheless, I have to say this: If I hear the song “Let It Go” too many more times, I feel I may well reach that point famously identified by H.L. Mencken at which I spit on my hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.
See if I don’t.
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.