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pilgrimindianProbably not much more posting from here on out until after the feast.  My very best wishes to all of you and yours: Be safe, be sated and be thankful.

– Robbo

vmiI know there are some Keydets among my readers, so I thought they would appreciate this nice little article in the WaPo honoring Virginia Military Institute.  The piece starts with a short description of VMI’s most memorable collective fight, the Battle of New Market:

Set the scene: It is the spring of 1864, late in the carnage of the Civil War. The main Southern army, under Robert E. Lee, is hunkered down in Richmond. To the west, a Union force is probing down the lush Shenandoah Valley, attempting to cut a critical supply line.

The Confederate commander in the valley, Gen. John C. Breckinridge, desperate for reinforcements, sends for the corps of cadets at Virginia Military Institute at Lexington.

VMI is “the West Point of the Confederacy,” but almost all the older boys are long since off to war. The ones who are left average 16 years old. They march 84 miles up the valley to New Market to join Breckinridge, who faces a superior Union force.

Breckinridge plans to hold the cadets in reserve. As the battle swirls and eddies, he sees a chance to strike a decisive blow. But there is a ragged gap at a critical spot in his line. His only option is to call on the fresh-faced cadets, in their spotless uniforms with shiny brass buttons.

He tells an aide: “Put the boys in, and may God forgive me for the order.”

Go and read the rest of the article, which for Pravda on the Potomac, is surprisingly respectful.

We used to subject the Viamees (as we called them) to a certain amount of ribbing when I was at Dubyanell, but that was just the natural byproduct of two schools that literally stood right next to each other and, perhaps more importantly, competed for the attention of the various girls’ schools scattered about central Virginia.  I think it’s fair to say that under our brag, all of us really knew and admired what the Keydets were all about.

A glass of wine with Mark Krikorian over at The Corner.

Today was a half day at the 10 year old’s Fairfax County public school and the plan for the day in her class was to have a pajamas and movie party.  Teachers are not allowed to show movies to their classes in the FCPS system unless said movies are on a grade-specific County approved list.

The gel’s teacher had wanted to show the class Matilda, but discovered that it had not been approved for 5th graders, but only high school kids.  The gel, who is quite fond of this particular movie, called me a few minutes ago to complain, saying, “Jeesh, they’re perfectly willing to teach us about sex but they won’t let us near Roald Dahl!”

Heh, indeed.

I know one thing in which she’s getting an education at any rate: the mysteries of the educational bureaucracy.

Go read Jennifer’s account of her swim across the Tiber over at On The Road To Rome.

Interestingly, the sorts of questions Jennifer asks as she makes her way to the shore remind me very much of issues that Mrs. R continues to have about HMC.  It strikes me that this is just the sort of thing she ought to read, too.

A glass of wine with Taylor Marshall.

laphroaigThe Family Robbo is off to my brother’s house in North Carolina for the Thanksgiving hols this year.  This morning, Mrs. R asked me to stop by Total Bev on the way home and pick up some wine to take with us as a little house present.  (Any suggestion that we might be doing so in order to ensure that there is something decent to drink while we are there is, of course, utterly without foundation.)

Mulling over my task, it occured to me that my brother has had a pretty hectic year.  He and his family have only recently moved into their new digs; he’s got a boy and two girls to deal with; and he’s an Internist, one of the more thankless branches of medicine these days.  The man, in short, has been working pretty durn hard of late.  So why not do a little extra for him and also bring along a bottle of this? (Any suggestion that I might be doing so in order to ensure there is some decent single malt to drink while we are there is, of course, utterly without foundation.)

nelsonA letter written by Nelson a few days before Trafalgar contains instructions for providing his sailors with the makings for some hearty meals:

The Vice-Admiral made sure his sailors went into the clash with full bellies, helping to ensure victory despite being outnumbered by the Franco-Spanish fleet.

The letter, recently donated to the Norfolk Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth by an anonymous benefactor, reveals the asked a supply vessel for more raisins and suet one week before the big day, in 1805.

The suet could have been used in a main meal, or the ingredients could have been combined to make a steamed suet and fruit pudding similar to Spotted Dick.

Lord Nelson’s brief note, dated October 14, 1805, was written from the warship HMS Minotaur to the purser of the HMS Ajax, A Jackson. Part of it reads: ‘Supply the Minotaur with one…suet and fruit.’

James Davey, of the Greenwich Maritime Institute, said: “Nelson’s letter would have referred to raisins, or possibly currants, as both could be stored for months at a time. It was standard practice to stock ships up with such dried fruit.”

Nelson’s request, which had been stuck to a piece of card, will go on display at the Norfolk museum in January in an exhibition about the admiral.

Just goes to show that Nelson paid attention to logistics as well as tactics.

***Stop sniggering. It’s for real.

smirnoff-and-bond Can this be right?  Last night I saw a tee vee commercial that stated Smirnoff was the vodka of James Bond.  A little research today suggests that this is a relationship that goes all the way back to 1962 and “Dr. No”.

I don’t pretend to know anything about vodkas, but I was always under the impression that Smirnoff was the sort of low-budget stuff that college kids buy to make screwdrivers and the like.

Is this impression incorrect? Surely the real James Bond would not go slumming when it comes to his martinis?

Ian Fleming junkies and the vodka cogniscenti are welcomed to provide enlightenment.

UPDATE: Thanks to a tip from Maxy, I went and perused Sir Basil’s file on Bond (Sir Basil being off on hols at the moment and unable to assist himself).  According to SB’sFOB, the (or at least “a”) vodka of choice of 007 is Stolichnaya.

richard-hickox Bad news for musick lovers.  Conductor Richard Hickox died unexpectedly this weekend:

British conductor Richard Hickox, who made a particular mark in opera and choral music with orchestras around the world, has died of a heart attack, his agent said Monday. He was 60.

Hickox died Sunday in a hotel in Cardiff, Wales, said Stephen Lumsden, managing director of Intermusica Artists’ Management Ltd.

Hickox had been due to conduct the new English National Opera production of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Riders to the Sea,” which opens on Thursday.

He was musical director of Opera Australia, associate guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, founder and music director of the City of London Sinfonia, co-director of the period instrument group Collegium Musicum 90, and conductor emeritus of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

“He was working with us yesterday on a CD recording in the Brangywn Hall Swansea, when he was suddenly taken ill,” David Murray, director of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, said Monday. “As well as losing an inspiring conductor, we have lost a great friend and supporter.”

Following study at the Royal Academy of Music and as an organ scholar at Queen’s College Cambridge, Hickox in 1971 founded both the City of London Sinfonia and the Richard Hickox Singers & Orchestra.

Hickox made more than 300 recordings for the Chandos label.

He was music director at the Spoleto Festival in Italy for five years, where his productions included Richard Strauss’ “Rosenkavalier,” Leos Janacek’s “Cunning Little Vixen,” Sergei Prokofiev’s “War And Peace,” and Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul.”

Hickox also conducted leading orchestras in Europe, Japan and the United States, including the Bavarian Radio Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre de Paris, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

He is survived by his wife, mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen, and three children.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

–  –   –   –  –   –   –   –   –  –  –

What a shame.  I’ve got some of his Haydn Symphony recordings with Collegium Musicum 90 and they’re quite good.

Remember, it’s not mau-mauing if it’s For The Children:

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won’t be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child’s depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

“It’s demeaning,” Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter’s teacher. “I’m sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation’s history.”

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without “dehumanizing” her daughter’s ancestry.

Just as a point of clarification, it strikes me that the Pilgrims were the struggling racial minority at the time of the First Thanksgiving.  Also, I’m puzzled as to exactly how a reenactment of an event meant to represent salvation through generosity and cooperation in any way “dehumanizes” anybody.  Finally, I’m at a loss as to what lesson this woman thinks her daughter is going to pick up by seeing Mom make a stink over what I’m sure the kid just sees as a chance to play dress-up and have some fun.


As foreshadowed yesterday, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, fought near Chattanooga in 1863.  Here is a summary of the battle, remarkable in two ways.  First, it demonstrated Grant’s masterly ability to remain both calm and aggressive at the same time.  Although his initial plan to dislodge the Confederates from their position all along the ridge did not materialize the way he had hoped, Grant kept his cool, adjusted to the tactical situation and kept pressing.  Second, the final charge of the Union troops for the summit of the Ridge was not of Grants’ doing at all – he had wanted them to stop and reorganize after capturing the first line of Confederate defences.  However, the troops themselves, recognizing that to do so would have made them sitting ducks for the defenders at the top of the Ridge, simply kept going until they reached the summit.

James Thurber, perhaps facitiously, states in his story “The Dog Who Bit People” that he had an uncle who claimed to be the third man up Missionary Ridge.  (A perfectly plausible claim, btw.)  It was remarked by Thurber’s brother that if said dog (Muggs by name) had been after him, the uncle would have been the first man up Missionary Ridge.


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November 2008