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sandeman port sherryGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is jumping the gun by a couple hours but to modify a common truism, it’s midnight somewhere.  Therefore, allow me to note that July 30, 2008 was the birthday of this blog and that it turns six today.

Three cheers and a tiger for me!

Of course, things aren’t what they were back then in terms of freedom of expression, and prudence has dictated that I curtail a good deal of what I would like to say concerning our sinking civilization, so discussions over the decanter have centered on the realm of the arcane, the trivial and the unobjectionable, but still, here I am.

And here you are.  Or at least those of you who are still here.  “Not near as many as there where a while ago,” as that song about the Battle of New Orleans would put it, but still very much welcome and appreciated.  (Besides, there’s more port, Stilton and chestnuts for us what’s left, right?)

And so, if I may, I ask that you all charge your glasses, gunn’ls under.  Here’s to TPSAYE with three times three and no heel-taps!  (And don’t forget to tip the dancer!)

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening ol’ Robbo popped in the latest new-to-me Netflix DVD, “In A World“.

The film is a quirky story about the fight to replace Hollywood legend Don Lafontaine as the top dog among movie preview voiceover specialists.  The story pits its protagonist,  a hipster-doofus underachieving voice-coach gal, against her second-fiddle father and his smarmy, disgusting, hot-shot protege.  The secondary plot involves the protagonist’s sister and her husband, in a walking-dead marriage, suddenly having to deal with a terrible misunderstanding.

My opinion?  Meh.

The film seemed somewhat thin.  Well, very thin, actually.  It didn’t go into much detail in terms of character development and left me with a fair number of questions about motives.  Also, the whole business with the surreptitious recordings was pretty contrived and unconvincing, and the near-rape “encounter” between the protagonist and the smarmy rival left me appalled my its amorality.

If you want a meaty story that combines a rich plot-line with the technical arcana of theatrical vocals, stick with “The King’s Speech“.

One out of five bumpers.

Next up, safe bet “The Guns of Navarone“.

And speaking of which, check out this video – via the Puppy Blender – of a firework display taken from inside by a drone-mounted camera.  My first reaction was to think that watching this would cause any veteran combat pilot to go into conniptions.   My second was to reaffirm my dislike of the hyper-intrusive nature of drone technology.  On the other hand, I must confess that the film is  both beautiful and fascinating.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has a few minutes before getting ready for Mass so I thought I would post one of my favorite paintings in honor of what is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday because of the Gospel passage for the day:

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of St. Thomas

Caravaggio – The Incredulity of St. Thomas

And here’s the text, (John 20:24-29):

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Now, I could be completely mistaken in my interpretation, but it’s always struck me that amidst all the marvel and meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, in this particular passage He’s actually…. teasing poor old Thomas just a bit.    Somehow, that touch of humor makes the whole thing that much more wonderful to me.

entry-into-jerusalem_Giotto

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday!  Yes, today we join the jubilant crowd who thinks the long-awaited Massias has finally returned in triumph to turn the Roman garrison into pumpkins, clean house in the Sanhedrin, restore Israel to her former glory and take the hammer to all her enemies, knowing full well that this same crowd, in just a few days, will come to see Jesus as a complete dud and start howling for his blood.   It’s a complicated moment.

Owing to unexpected circumstances too tedious to relate, ol’ Robbo wound up going to early Mass this morning and so missed the procession of palms at his usual noon Traditional Latin Mass.  In years past this likely would have prompted a fair bit of grumping and grumbling on my part, but I’ve been working hard on improving my patience and charity and find that this kybosh only produces a passing wistfulness in me this year.  Is it possible that ol’ Robbo is actually growing in teh Spirit?

Maybe, but it’s equally possible that something else will reduce me to the gnashing of teeth at some point in the not too distant future, so I’m not going to get cocky.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to note for the two or three who gather here together that I am putting the stopper on the decanter and sticking the Stilton in the fridge for Holy Week but will be breaking  forth again after Easter.  I hope those of you who celebrate will have a truly holy week and I’ll see all of you on the other side.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary!  Over in one of my little FB groups, a friend posted a rendition of this which I can’t recall having seen before, but which I really like:

 

"The Annunciation" - Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

“The Annunciation” – Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

The reason I like it is because it comports with my idea of what encounters between angels and humans must be like (one very heavily influenced, I must admit, by the writings of C.S. Lewis).

Although I can appreciate the more classical renditions as art for art’s sake,  when it comes to the Real Deal I don’t go much for the anthropomorphized  portrayals of the Heavenly Host, neither the Adonis-like fellahs kitted out with a pair of wings nor the twee adowawable babies.   Angels are of a completely different order of existence from humans and it should be noted that in just about every encounter between them in Scripture, the appearance of the former scares the willies out of the latter, so that the first words out of the angel’s mouths are, “Be not afraid.”

Lewis develops this idea of the terrifying alieness of angels a great deal in his Ransom Trilogy and elsewhere, and I think there is much to it.

Anyhoo, let’s go to today’s gospel, Luke 1: 26-38 (KJV because my old Palie English Major prejudices die hard):

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

I may say that in all my former experience, so far as I can remember, the Blessed Virgin got almost no mention outside references in the formulaic prayers such as the Nicene Creed and elsewhere in the Liturgy.   Back in those days, most of the substantive discussion of wymminz in the Gospels seemed to focus on Mary Magdalene in her role as some kind of proro-femininist.  So it’s only since my swim across the Tiber that I’ve really begun to understand the perilous awesomeness of this moment and to ponder the true glory of it:  Mary could have said “No!”  She could have been not “the New Eve” but another Eve.   But she wasn’t.  Amidst all the terror and confusion and incomprehensibility, She trusted God.  And, in a way I can’t begin to explain, I think God trusted her.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen. 

Awe inspiring, when you start to ponder it.  And whenever I think of her crushing the snake under her heal, I get the shivers.

Frankly, I’m a bit mystified why the Annunciation is not, at least in my Diocese, a Holy Day of Obligation, requiring attendance at Mass.  (I went, anyway.)  After all, it’s a key waypoint in the journey of the second part of the Trinity in his human manifestation.   Surely, it’s at least as important as teh celebration of the Assumption of The Virgin, which is a HDoO.

But what do I know.

Update:  Oh, speaking of what I don’t know, it was only in the past couple years that I suddenly understood why J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout Catholic), in his Lord of teh Rings trilogy,  chose March 25 as the date  of the downfall of Sauron and the end of the Third Age.  Snake? Meet crushing heel!

Update Deux:  Okay, I think I managed to delete all the repetitions.   My apologies.  Me no likey Apple…..

My Lenten fast this year (at least the one that stuck) is to refrain from listening to musick.

I am not yet at that level of religious purity that I can compel myself, by not listening to musick, to stop thinking about it.   The past week, a particular piece has fastened itself on my brain, so this evening I am indulging in it.   And so, my fellow friends of the decanter, I give you Georg Frideric Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Opus 3, No. 1 in B-flat major:

The first movement, and ol’ George’s use of those arpeggios in particular, has been on my mind all week.  I don’t especially know why, but there is a good-natured air to the movement that somehow gives me strength and vitality.

 

Ancient Roman Fresco Painting of Flora Picking FlowersGreetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Spring!

Regular friends of the decanter and former camelidophiles will know that ol’ Robbo is in the habit of regularly posting this ancient Roman fresco of Flora picking flowers on the first official day of Spring.   I have always found it to be a particularly delightful work of art, the Goddess lovingly portrayed in a graceful, dignified and yet uplifting manner, and a source of hope and inspiration.

Well, I wish that this year ol’ Flora would drop the bouquet and devote her divine powers to putting her knee to Snow Miser’s groin, as he’s  really outstayed his welcome.  We already had a mid-March snowstorm this week and now the weather-wallahs are making noise about the possibility of another one next week.  This week’s seems to have been dubbed Snow Patrick’s.  Will next Tuesday’s predicted event be dubbed the Snownunciation?   (Somehow, I doubt it, but a Catholic geek can always hope.)

Anyhoo, I know that friends of the decanter in more northerly climbs than mine will only chuckle at my frustration, but of course these things are all a matter of scale and expectation.   (Remember, I grew up in South Texas.  By this time of year down there, I’d already be sweating.)  And frankly, the mid-Atlantic in mid-March should not be experiencing the same kind of weather as teh Mothe normally gets at this time of year in Mid-Coast Maine.    It just ain’t right!

Damn you, Algore! Damn you to heeeelllll!!!!!!

-Pause-

On a somewhat related note, teh Middle Gel has bagged herself a ticket to go see a concert next week by an outfit I’d never heard of called  The Piano Guys.  This evening, as an example of their output, she showed me their mash-up of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with “Let It Go” from the recent Disney movie “Frozen”:

Weyeell,  I frankly think that the crossover from the one work to the other is a bit, erm, jarring.  And I, personally, would  have preferred  to take the Vivaldi neat.  On the other hand, who am I to criticize at 14 year old these days whose tastes aren’t of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo-dawgz n’ beyotches variety?

However, while watching the video together, I was reminded suddenly of a yootoob I had seen several times of the third movement of ol’ Antonio’s flute concerto “The Goldfinch”, RV 428*.  I could not immediately find it but promised teh gel that I would do so this evening and post it here for her pleasure.  And here it is:

I hope teh gel takes me up on this and actually watches the durn thing.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo is something  of a purist himself when it comes to art musick, disdaining “multi-media” stunts to get people interested in it, but I can’t deny that this is an excellent performance.

* There’s an old joke about Vivaldi in musick geek circles.  We have a catalogue of approximately 500 concerti credited to him.  The joke goes that he really only wrote two but that he wrote each one 250 times.  N’yuk, n’yuk.n’yuk.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Trouble Last evening, ol’ Robbo watched a movie which, if you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, you might consider tossing into your Netflix queue, “Trouble Along The Way” (1953).  The movie stars John Wayne (yes, the Dook) as Steve Williams, a once-great-but-now-down-on-his-luck college football coach hired by Father Burke (played nicely by Charles Coburn), head of a small and failing Catholic college, who gets the idea that if he can field a good football team, he might generate some doubloons and save dear old St. Anthony’s  from being kiboshed by the Diocese.   (In a way, then, this flick is somewhat akin to both “Horsefeathers” and “The Blues Brothers”.  Good company, that.)   Because he sincerely wants the Padre’s scheme to succeed, Steve uses every recruiting trick he can think of – legal and illegal – to turn St. Anthony’s squad into world-beaters.  (Chuck Connors is one of Steve’s coaching minions.)  Trouble ensues.

Steve lives with his 11-year old daughter/sidekick Carol (Sherry Jackson), only issue of Steve and his ex-wife Anne (Marie Windsor) on whom Steve had walked out five years previously after leaving an elite game early only to catch her hootchie-cooching in his bower with some high-end toff.    As the film opens, Anne has just unleashed the long arm of the law on Steve in the person of Alice Singleton (Donna Reed), a Probation Court investigator determined to prise Carol out of Steve’s loving arms because, on first impression, she thinks Steve is a bum and  a bad influence.   More trouble ensues.

While not the greatest movie ever made, “TATW” is really not bad.  A lot of people make the mistake of dismissing the Dook as a real “actor” because a) of his politics, and b) they’ve only caught snippets of him costumed either as a cowboy or a soldier.  Fact of the matter is, his range was a lot greater and more subtle than such people might imagine, and here he really had the opportunity to show a side that you won’t normally see in the standard western or war flick.  He used it, too.  His interactions with little Carol were especially endearing and his approach to Father Burke and the other priests was both reverent and dignified, while at the same time preserving a certain worldly knowingness.

I may say, by the bye  that, overall, the film is very respectful of HMC and whoever wrote it knew exactly what he was about in terms of the Mass, Church politicks and the bailing-wire-and-bubble-gum plight of so many Church -affiliated places of learning.  I couldn’t help wondering if making this film had anything at all to do with the Dook’s later conversion to Catholicism.  Why not?  Alec Guinness has said that his swimming of the Tiber was influenced, at least in part, by the work he did filming Father Brown.

Anyhoo, I say not the greatest because this film definitely has its weaknesses.  The character development is rather uneven. (Anne is such a two-dimensional villainess that you practically need a razor blade to scrape her character off the screen.)  The plot gets somewhat wobbly here and there.  (Why Steve chucks big-time college ball because of Anne’s infidelity in the first place escaped me.)  And Donna Reed was….well, a disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong – Ol’ Robbo has always been a fan of The Donna.  Here, though, she starts out as a clueless and bloodless bureaucratic busybody (I, ah, am familiar with the type (heh)) but, to me, never really warms up under the Dook’s sunny smile the way I think she might have done.  I was left wondering what Steve really could have seen in her, apart from a nice pair of legs.

Eh, not a deal-breaker, but this isn’t exactly a film I’d want to watch over and over again.  Still, as I say, worth a dekko.

trouble 2One other thing about Sherry Williams, who played Carol.  She was quite endearing here, both in her loving joshing of Steve and in her wretched miserableness at being forced to miss St. Anthony’s opener at the Polo Grounds and instead being dragged off to Evil Anne’s apartment for some high-end bacchanal.   11 y.o. herself at the time, Williams reminded me rayther of my own youngest gel in both spunk and looks.  Although my own gel has almost dramatically larger eyes and a somewhat leaner face, there is definitely a certain resemblance. ===>

Looking Williams up on IMDB, I found that this role was one of the first of many over the course of her career.  She apparently specialized mostly in “guest” appearances on various tee-vee series and seems to have hit all the major ones from the 50’s through the early 80’s, including “The Rifleman”. “Maverick”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Gunsmoke”, “Perry Mason”, “Gomer Pyle”, “My Three Sons”, “Batman”, “The Wild, Wild West”,  “The Rockford Files”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “Barnaby Jones”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Alice”, “Charlie’s Angels” and “CHiPs”.  In other words, barring “The Love Boat”, “The A-Team” and “The Dukes of Hazzard”, damn near every series that formed ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

"You call THAT the 'Captain's Log'?"

“You call THAT the ‘Captain’s Log’?”

Oh, I almost forgot, she also had a (to me, at any rate) very memorable gig as one of the myriad space babes in “Star Trek: TOS”.

Yippee-ki-yay.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had one of his patented bizarro dreams last evening, doubtless from a combination of giving up the grape for Lent, thinking about obscure Augustine history references (see below) and being in the midst of reading Chesterton’s Manalive when he dozed off.

LandisAnyhoo, I found myself at a lavish costume party held in some great ball room.  There was no particular theme that I remember, but rather a large assortment of historickal figures.  I, myself, was made up as Julius Caesar and wore an enormously elaborate tunic and toga.  I especially remember how vivid the red and gold were.

As I say, there was no particular theme to the party.  Nonetheless, I found myself trying to chat up a young lady dressed as a Roman matron.  (I’m inclined to think she was a very young Jessie Royce Landis (which see) because I happened to watch “To Catch A Thief” not long ago and have always liked her style of lazy humor.)  Every time I got going, however, some other fellah in Roman attire would try to horn in on us.  These weren’t just random people, either, but celebs of the old school.  I distinctly recall both Peter O’Toole and Charles Laughton among my rivals.

Somehow or other, it got to the point where we decided that the question of who was going to get the girl would be put to the vote of the Roman Senate.   (By this point, the theme obviously had declared itself.)  I found myself on the edge of a stage, listening to one of the other suitors arguing his claim and making a hash of it.  Remembering Who I Was and determining that I could do a much better job than that, when my turn was called I strode out to center stage and, in a surprisingly clear and deep voice, made the following speech (as near as I can remember):

“Senators of Rome!  I am a plain man and therefore will speak plainly to you!  I deserve the girl above all these others here!  Who among them has brought to Rome so much wealth and honor as have I?  Who has been so successful in foreign wars?  Who has ensured such domestic peace?  None of them, I say!  Therefore, as reward to me and as encouragement to others to emulate my efforts,  give her to me!”

And then, as they say, I woke up.  Dunno who won the vote.

After pausing here to let the feminist heads finish up exploding (All done?  Good.), I will simply say I have no idea what any of this means.  ‘Twas a good dream, though.

UPDATE:  Google reminds me that yesterday was the “International Day of the Woman”, whatever that may be.  Derp!

N.C. Wyeth, "Last of the Mohicans" illustration, 1917.

N.C. Wyeth, “Last of the Mohicans” illustration, 1917.

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.

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