You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 17, 2009.

How about some Friday Random? Here we go:

1.  One of the sure signs of returning spring in Dee Cee is the irresistable-force-meets-immovable-object dynamic of a sandwich shop full of officer-worker regulars trying to grab their lunch and go, and shoals of tourons standing about spelling out the menu boards.  I leave it to you to imagine where my sympathies lie.

2.  What exactly is “Twitter”?  Is it anything like “Instant Messaging”? I was pursuaded to sign up for I.M. when it came out and hated every minute of it, in large part because other people knew when I was logged on the system and thus had positive proof that I was ignoring them instead of only the suspicion.

3.  I see a new Harry Potter moovie trailer is making the rounds. I may be the last man in Christendom to have never seen one of these films.  But then again, I’ve never seen E.T., either.  Not that I think there’s any particular substantive similarity.  Rayther, I just can’t stand the feeling of being hustled into something that I so often get from Hollywood.

4.  When I am appointed Language Czar, one of the very first expressions I’m going to ban is “drill down”.  Unless you’re actually talking about petroleum engineering or dentistry, I don’t want to hear it.

5.   I was watching the sunrise this morning and it occurred to me that perhaps places like Stonehenge were built not for some aboriginal religious purpose but just because somebody thought it would be really cool to mark the sun’s path along the horizons throughout the year.

6.    I’ve taken up my reading of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall again.  I’m roughly half-way through now and am currently in Gibbon’s discussion of the Justinian Code and the sources and development of Roman jurisprudence.  I have to confess that frankly, it’s pretty damned tedious.  However, I’ve always had a horror of skipping so I have no choice but to plod on.

7.  Here’s a minor bit of good news: I recently discovered that one of my favorite obscure movies, Eric the Viking, is now both out on DVD and available from Netflix.  And while we’re on the subject of Pythonalia, I see that Terry Gilliam has picked up his project of attempting to film Don Quixote again.  His first (failed) attempt was the subject of a pretty interesting little documentary called Lost In La Mancha, also available from Netflix.

8.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, today marks the anniversary of the first telling by Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales, at the court of Richard II in 1397.  I took an excellent class on this work in college and one of my crowning academic achievements was to score an A+ on the Middle English recitation exam.  (Of course, excellent Middle English recitation skills and $3.50 will get you a vente latte at your local Starbucks if you can also cover the local sales taxes, which is why I wound up going to law school.)

9.  I mentioned a week or two ago that all the throwing I do at softball practices is causing my shoulder considerable pain.  It still hurts.  On the other hand – so to speak – I’ve become pretty damned good with the glove.

10.  Never buy “Tai Pei” frozen Chinese dinners, even on a lark.  They’re vile.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. James Lileks is in the house, screeding to the rafters about George Will’s denigration of denim yesterday.  A foretaste:

It pains me to write this, because it reminds me of the times we woke Grandpa because he fell asleep smoking, and his column of Winston ash was in danger of toppling into his lap. But Mr. Will should be gently guided away from the keyboard when he decides to winch himself down from Olympus and write about popular culture.

Go read the rest (which incorporates the bulk of Will’s column as well).  I’m not altogether sure whether Will’s own pants-crankiness was over the top on purpose or whether he’s just getting senile.  I certainly share many of Will’s sympathies about creeping casualness and lack of decorum, but even I think his column makes him look like a caricature of himself and does his cause more harm than good. 

 Whatever the case, the fisking Lileks gives him is hy-larious.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: In response to a flood of port-swiller inquiries, yes, I do own a pair of jeans, which I use primarily for yardwork and “home improvement”.  I never own more than one pair at a time, and wear them until they literally fall apart.  My current pair is very near this point, with large holes in the knees, inseem and backside.  It’s been some time since I could wear them in public.  Now I really can’t even go out in the back yard in them.

charlie-brownNo doubt many of my fellow port-swillers are asking themselves, “Self, how do you suppose ol’ Robbo’s softball adventures are going?”

In fact, the season starts this afternoon.  Are we ready? Beats the hell out of me.

schubertA couple weeks ago, in a fit of I-don’t-know-what, I decided to purchase the complete cycle of Schubert’s symphonies. 

Over the past couple of days I have been listening to the first disc of my new set (performed by the Vienna Phil under Riccardo Muti), which includes Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8, plus the Rosamunde musick.  And in that time, I have thought again that a metaphor I came up with years ago is still perfectly valid: At least as far as his orchestral musick goes, Schubert was a fine weaver of cloth, but a poor tailor of clothes.

Indeed, I was reminded again of that old joke about the fellah that goes to his tailor for a new suit.  When he tries the suit on, he’s appalled.  “This is horrible!” he says. “Just look at the way this elbow sags!”

“Well,” says the tailor, “Just hold your arm up like this.  It’ll be perfect!”

“But look at the seat of these trousers – it’s lop-sided!”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” says the tailor. “Just turn your hips this way a bit and it’ll be perfect!”

“But these shoulders! They’re way too tight and the collar gapes three inches!”

“No problem,” says the tailor.  “Just hold your head back and your shoulders up, bend over a bit and it’ll be perfect!”

So the fellah leaves the shop.  As he’s walking down the street, hunched and twisted round in accordance with the tailor’s suggestions, he passes two men.

“Poor guy,” says one. “Wonder what happened to him.”

“Dunno,” says the other. “But don’t his suit fit nice?”

Ha, ha, ha.

I toss that joke out specifically to bait Schubert defenders who, in my experience, are perhaps the touchiest of all musick lovers.  “It’s so unfair!” they say. “You’re not giving him a just hearing!  He died young! He was living in Beethoven’s shadow!  He just didn’t get the chance to show his genious! You’re nothing but a judgemental, anal prig!”

(That last part is a direct quote, by the way, from a young lady who lived in my college dorm, in response to my remark that I thought Schubert a second-rank composer.)

Well, my answer to all those criticisms can be summarized in one word: Mozart.  He died young, too.  And he was living in Haydn’s shadow.  Neither of these circumstances stopped his genious from shining through. 

Now don’t run away with the idea that I dislike Schubert, because I don’t.  I find his orchestral musick to be pleasant enough, if needlessly repetative and not especially imaginative.   But I believe firmly that his best work is really to be found among his keyboard and chamber pieces.  For whatever reason, he simply could not make the jump to the larger scale, and I don’t believe that any amount of time or lack of overbearing precedence would have made much difference.

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