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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 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.
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!!!!!!
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!
O-fficial Word got about this afternoon that Disney is in the process of putting together a sequel to the Pixar classic, “The Incredibles”. I haven’t seen any substantive details except that the second installment is being written by Brad Bird, who helmed the first.
To quote a recurring line from another line of films recently acquired by Disney, I’ve got a baaaaad feeling about this.
Why? Well, two reasons. First, a general gripe. Sequels (and their cousins, remakes) signal to me a cynical desire to pull more golden eggs out of the same goose combined with an admission of imaginative defeat. Hollywood, unable to come up with any really new ideas, hits on the solution of repackaging the old ones. Yes, you can throw “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Toy Story 2″ at me in refutation of the latter part of the formula. And you’d be right about them and other individual examples. But the exception doesn’t disprove the rule, the examples of which I could site being Legion. However, as this is a more generic grumble, it’s not quite so heartfelt, and if this was my only objection, I’d probably just shrug and say p’ffft. (Well, I might kick the cat, too. But that wouldn’t really be going out of my way.)
However, in this specific case I have to ask: Are you kidding me? “The Incredibles” was an almost pitch-perfect film about the strength of the family bond holding out against the buffets of parental midlife crisis, the blitzkrieg of adolescence and assault from the outside world. (Buh-leave me, I know exactly what I’m talking about here. In re the second element, I get teary at that scene of Violet coming to grips with herself in the cave every time I see it.) It was also a glorious celebration of individual talent and merit, a refutation of corporate-think and a take-down of the politicks of envy.
But the movie was made in 2004. Since then, in case anyone has failed to notice, Syndrome actually won! I’m not naming any names here, but read the headlines and for ten points spot the fly-weight, delusional narcissist hell-bent on imposing his ersatz vision of teh “super” on the land. Go ahead. I can wait. Under these conditions, aided and abetted by Hollywood itself, how on earth could a sequel maintain the spirit that made the original so great?
In just the ten years since the original came out, the drift of the so-called “Popular Culchah” toward the brink of the the nihilist abyss has accelerated into something equivalent to “Ramming speed!” While it’s a relatively minor concern in comparison to the broader implications of this headlong plunge, I very much fear that any new story about the Family Parr will get swept over the brink with it.
Better, in my opinion, to leave the original unsullied.
Greetings, me fellow port swillers, and a happy St. Patty’s Day to ye!
Well, ol’ Ma Nature has delivered yet again, dumping (as reported by the NWS) something like 7 inches of snow in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and, of course, bringing Your Nation’s Capital to a screeching halt once more. At the moment, I’m loitering around waiting for her to finish up so that I can go out and get cracking on the driveway, after which I intend to spend the afternoon gently dozing in front of the fire in well-earned sloth.
This is the first big late season storm we’ve had in ages, as I ought to know. For one thing, the Eldest Gel turns sixteen this week (YIKES!) and weather has never been an issue round about the time of her birthday before. Also, I happen to remember the last mid-March blizzard (in 1993) because I was moving from one apartment to another that weekend in anticipation of my June wedding to Mrs. R. When you have to haul heavy boxes around in the snow, it tends to stick with you, even if you have as porous and fluffy a memory as I do.
So anyway, here we are.
I was musing this morning on the bizarre transmogrification of the Feast of St. Patrick into the modern, secular “holiday” which seems to have no other function than to give people an excuse to get blotto and to provide a forum for vicious public spats over whether Gay Pride groups should march in parades. Of course, many of our major modern holidays are similar corruptions of Church originals, but at least with most of the rest of them there is still recognizable some faint image of their religious intent and meaning. For the vast majority, St. Patty’s seems to me simply an excuse for self-indulgence, no matter how much green one is wearing.
Then, of course, there’s the whole leprechaun biznay. If you’re looking for an example of the real Irish attitude toward the Little People and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, may I recommend to you a short story of Patrick O’Brian (yes, of Aubrey/Maturin fame) entitled “The Happy Despatch”? It’s part of a collection called The Rendevous and Other Stories, all of which I would recommend and, without giving anything away, is really quite terrifying.
Well, it appears looking out the window that Ma is just about done, so I suppose it’s time to get dressed and get busy.
UPDATE: Well, it was closer to 4 inches than 7 on Robbo’s driveway, so shoveling didn’t take that much time after all.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
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.
One 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.
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”.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
No, ol’ Robbo has not given up blogging for Lent this year, as it’s simply a much more limited part of my time these days and I don’t feel the need to curtail it. Instead, my silence this week has been due to my having other matters to attend to. My apologies.
♦ I hope those of you practicing had a happy Ash Wednesday. Of course, “happy” is not really the appropriate term, is it? Everyone says it automatically anyway. For myself, I toddled round to the church near my office at lunchtime. The place was packed to the rafters. The Mass was conducted by the priest that I privately think of as Father Shecky, who couldn’t resist making a crack about how happy he was to see the usual weekday crowd. Buh-DUMP-dah! Perhaps I’m a bit of an old fuddy-dud (oh, shut up!) but it didn’t strike me that such a rimshot was particularly appropriate to the day, so I confined myself to a thin smile.
♦ Anyhoo, I wore the ashes all afternoon, much to the obvious discomfort of a number of my progressivista colleagues, and made a point of being especially cheerful and courteous. This year, more than any other I can recall, I was really filled with the spirit of silent witness. I’m sure it bumped me up a couple places on the list of those to be sent to the camps, but I like to believe that perhaps I might have got at least somebody to think about things a little.
♦ Speaking of thinking about things a little, the Dalai Llama is speaking down the Cathedral today, which made dropping off the Middle Gel for choir practice a royal pain, what with police cordons and crowds of New Age types wandering about. Personally, I’ve nothing against the Dalai Llama, nor against Buddhism for that matter, which from what I gather is not really a religion but more of a system of ethics. What irks me is the sort of people who buy “Free Tibet” vanity license plates and fawn all over the Llama because he’s cute, nonthreatening and mystical, perfect for the type who likes to say, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.”
♦ And speaking of school runs, getting around the local streets these days makes me feel like Han Solo in the asteroid field, what with all the potholes. Show of hands for all of those wishing Algore’s Globull Warminz would come back? Yeah, me too. I’ve also noticed a great many new cracks between moldings and walls in Port Swiller Manor, no doubt put there by the excessive cold we’ve experienced. (The other possible explanation is that the house is getting ready to collapse on itself due to the collective pounding of the gels’ feet. I don’t care to dwell on that possibility.)
♦ Speaking of the cold, despite the fact that the grounds of PSM are still covered in snow, I nonetheless feel that I must start spring gardening this weekend with the annual cutting back of the butterfly bushes known to regular friends of the decanter as Kong and the Konglings. Perhaps I’ll have a go at the wisteria, too. March is a schizophrenic month in these here parts and despite the fact that it’s only in the 30′s now, there’s no knowing when we might suddenly find ourselves up in the mid-70′s. (Typing this entry reminds me that if I want to but any spring plantings online, I damn well better do it today if it’s not already too late. UPDATE: Found some Confederate Jasmine vines at a nursery down in Georgia that I’m going to try on a trellis fronting the new porch. The innertoobs swear it’s hearty to Zone 7, which is us. We shall see.)
♦ And finally, speaking of local things, I was flipping through the local fish-wrapper this morning when my eye fell on this editorial paragraph:
Ukraine is not the only place where civil war threatened to erupt last week. In Fairfax County, Loudoun County and the City of Falls Church, there are battles raging between School Boards and the elected bodies (Boards of Supervisors and City Council) that hold ultimate responsibility for allocating taxpayer money.
Okay, ol’ Robbo is throwing a flag on that statement. Unsportsmanlike conduct: Unnecessarily hyperbolic metaphor. Fifteen yard penalty and loss of down.
Well, that’s it for now. Ol’ Robbo is off to scan the headlines before getting about his biznay. What fresh hell awaits us today?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Driving along this evening, ol’ Robbo found himself behind a truck belonging to some kind of office furniture store. The ad copy on its backside read, “ABC (or whatever it was) Furniture – Where the Customer Becomes Family”.
Similarly, I have noticed from time to time the use of the word “family” in various notes, announcements and invitations down the office: “Come join the Department of Silly Walks’ Happy Feet Section Family for a Holiday Celebration” and the like.
Frankly, this irks me.
As far as being a customer goes, XYZ Company provides me goods or services and I supply it monies. It’s a business relationship. I might very well get to be quite chummy with the owners or their staff, but unless this goes so far that I or one of my kin actually marries one of them….we’re not family.
Again, as far as office relations go, I always endeavor to be professional and courteous, and am on various levels of friendship with colleagues there, but….we’re still not family.
Now , I doubt very seriously whether the people who use the word “family” in these contexts actually mean any harm. I don’t see this as deliberately Orwellian double-speak. Nonetheless, I find it to be an unwarranted assumption of familiarity, an intrusion into what the kids call my “personal space”, a co-opting of a term that properly describes the fundamental unit of human life established by God the Father Himself, a get off my lawn moment.
Perhaps I’m being hypersensitive, but these things matter. We already live in a day and age in which the traditional definition of family – people united by blood and marriage – has been completely tossed aside in favor of whatevs, dude. This is a Very Bad Thing, and I can’t help feeling that the sloppy transposition of the term to the market and the workplace does nothing to help.
Oh, and bonus points for spotting the quote in the title.
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.