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I consider myself to be a firm supporter of the great Commonwealth of Virginny in many, if not most respects, but I confess that I can only shake my head when I read of the continuing expansion of the Old Dominion’s grape harvest

The state’s grape harvest increased by 25 percent last year, according to news from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That brings total harvest to 7,000 tons, the seventh highest in the nation. Some 3,000 acres are devoted to grape production, with Chardonnay being the number one grape followed by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Thirty years ago, according to VDACS, a mere 286 acres were devoted to grape production.

The current grape acreage represents a 7.5 percent increase over 2007 levels, when 2,790 acres were planted. In 2006, the number was 2,680. Chardonnay remains the top varietal even as acreage increases and that comes as no surprise. Chardonnay is one of the most planted grapes in the world, growing in more regions than any other. There are two reasons for this: the ease with which it grows and the ease with which it sells. Cabernet Franc and Merlot have been second and third respectively for the last several years as well.

Why does this news make the old bean oscillate?  Because, as I have said here and there several times before, it is my experience that Virginia wine is almost uniformly abominable and monstrously over-priced.  And the thought of all that Chardonnay is especially sick-making.

Now I say “almost” because I am still reserving judgment on the Barboursville Vinyard, about which I have heard good things from people whose opinions I respect.  They have both a Barbera and a Sangiovese that I am eager to try.  For reasons that I can’t fathom, neither of these seems to be available at the local Total Bev.  One of these days, we’re just going to have to jump in the car, scoot down Rte. 29 a couple hours and check the place out.

UPDATE: Speaking of such things, behold the Playmobil Wine Bar!  (A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.)

sword-honourNow that I am back into my Netflix routine, the other evening I popped in the 2001 tee vee dramatization of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy.

I think it fair to say that these happen to be my very favorite novels, written by one of my very favorite novelists, so perhaps my expectations (or suspicions) were unusually high.  But really, I’m afraid this dramatization  just won’t do.

 Two major problems spring to mind.  First, there is the inherent impossibility of trying to jam three medium-sized novels into just over three hours of film.  Why do people insist on trying?  It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.  Such a surfacy production simply cannot replicate the tone and feel of the books, which gradually change over the arc of the story.  In addition, the result of the rush job is that whole chunks of the books and many, many characters (with their excellent dialogue) – including, for example, poor Tony Box-Bender, “Jumbo” Trotter, “Chatty” Corner, the Laird of Mugg and his mad niece, Everard Spruce and his set of Communist-poove friends – get thrown overboard completely.  Others, like the rest of Guy’s family, Ben Ritchie-Hook and the various characters within his group of Halberdier officers, barely get lip service paid them.   Even a great deal of the Apthorpe episode – including his mysterious High Church aunts – gets skimmed right over.  (I would perhaps forgive this if the production hadn’t also muffed the great Thunder Box battle between Apthorpe and the Brigadier.)  And as for Virginia Troy, well, you wouldn’t really know any difference between the one who Guy comes to see at the beginning of the story and the one who gets killed by a buzz bomb at the end.  (Of the various subplots, I do have to say that the one involving Trimmer was reasonably well done.  The whole Ludovic episode started out quite strong as well, but suddenly faded into oblivion after Crete.)

The second major problem was the casting of Daniel Craig as Guy Crouchback.  It was a very poor idea.  Craig may be a good enough actor, but he’s a bloke.  I have read here and there that he does not have the polish to pull off James Bond properly and the same is very much true of his ability to be a convincing Guy, who, after all, comes from an ancient aristocratic family and has had the best of breeding and education.

One other thing that particularly bugged me was the deliberate alteration of the story of Il Santo Inglese, Sir Roger of Waybrooke, the Crusader knight who inadvertently became the unofficial patron of the little Italian village where Guy lives.   In the novels, Sir Roger is waylayed in Italy on his way to the Holy Land, and is killed there fighting on behalf of a local noble to whom he is obliged against a neighboring lord.  The story sets up Guy’s personal Crusade against the Nazis and provides a kind of running parallel to his own side-trackings and disillusionments through the course of the War.  For reasons totally unfathomable to me, in the tee vee version the local priest states that Sir Roger simply drowned in the local harbor on his way to land and that nobody could ever know if he was a good or a bad man.

All in all, I don’t think I’d recommend this DVD.  If you’ve read the books, you’ll probably be disappointed.  If not, I’m not sure there’s enough independent entertainment value in it to make a dekko worthwhile.

I awoke at about 2:30 ack emma this morning to the sounds of crashing and banging that could only mean one thing: Our mailbox and the speed limit sign on the other side of the driveway had been hit by a car wandering off the road.  Again.  In the nine years we’ve lived in our current house, the mailbox has been run down three times now.

The car managed to knock the mailbox and its (splintered) post all the way across the driveway.  The speed limit sign ended up on the other side of the street.  And a large chunk of plastic got torn off the car’s bumper.  It stayed in the street, so for the rest of the night and into the morning rush, whenever somebody came by there was a loud chunk-CHUNK!


I fail to understand why our mailbox is such an inviting target.  The road is straight and headed uphill.  Our box isn’t any closer to the edge than anyone else’s.  It isn’t particularly dark.  And there is the speed limit sign looming up as well.  Yet each time the tire tracks are quite plain: Whoever it was veered off the road and onto the shoulder, the pathof the wheel coming right across the base of the post (a 4×4 which, by the way, since the last time, we’ve had set in concrete.  Don’t like to think about what the underside of that car looks like this morning.)

Go figure.

Anyhoo, I suddenly find that I have a new project with which to deal this weekend.  The good news is that the box itself survived intact this time.  So all I need to do is set up another post.

Ah, Spring……


Mrs. P remarks that, what with the end of Lent, it’s time to get back into Art.  Couldn’t agree more.

This particular print is especially apropos because I am inching closer and closer to  digging up my entire garden and starting afresh, only this time with raised beds and carefully prepped soil.  (And any hints or suggestions about the best sort of material to frame the beds would be greatly appreciated.)

Have to admit that despite the obviously back-breaking effort that such a project would entail, were it to attract this kind of, em, fauna, well….doesn’t seem to me that it would be all that bad.

(I’m talking about the butterfly, of course.)

Last week I finished up John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World.  One passage in particular struck me as so apt that I actually highlighted it, book-marked it and stored it in my braims as something blog-worthy.

The speaker is one Eldridge Moores, a geologist.  He is surveying the area around San Juan Baptista, California on the San Andreas Fault shortly after the big 1989 tremor that rocked the environs of San Francisco:

“People look upon the natural world as if all motions of the past had set the stage for us and were now frozen,” Moores remarked. “They look out on a scene like this and think, It was all made for us – even if the San Andreas Fault is at their feet.  To imagine that turmoil is in the past and somehow we are now in an more stable time seems to be a psychological need.  Leonardo Seeber, of Lamont-Doherty, referred to it as the principle of least astonishment.  As we have seen this fall, the time we’re in is just as active as the past.  The time between events is long only with respect to a human lifetime.”

It strikes me that this passage ought to be printed out and stapled to the foreheads of the sort of people who fuss and fume about the state of this or that glacier, the sea level in New Yawk Harbor or around some South Pacific Island and the average annual temperatures of the past hundred years.  It is applicable not just to plate tectonics, but to just about every other aspect of the “environmental sciences” as well.

**Spot the quote.


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April 2009