You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 16, 2009.

For those two or three of you who still stop in for a glass of port, yes, I am here, and is that decanter stuck to the table? 

I thought not.

So, what is floating throught the so-called brain of Robbo at the moment?  Well, if you really want to know:

♦   Some interest was expressed in the post I put up a few days ago about what struck me (at any rate) as glaring errors in Robert Harvey’s biography of Lord Clive.  (See below.)  I may add that since then, I have discovered several others:

 –  For one thing, in describing the armaments of the British forces in India in the 1750’s, Harvey freely mixes the words “musket” and “rifle”.  This is flat wrong.  A rifle and a musket are two very different things.  And while a rifled musket was eventually to be developed, this did not occur until the mid 19th Century.   While I believe the first rifles did appear in the mid 18th Century, I can tell you without even looking it up that they were not standard issue for British Army infantry units fighing in India at that time.  Such soldiers, along with most everyone else, used smoothbore muskets. 

–  For another thing, Harvey doesn’t seem to understand that when one is speaking of three or more   individuals, one uses the word “among” instead of “between.”

–  For a third thing, Harvey’s use of superlative adjectives becomes quite conspicuous after a while.  Every event is either the “greatest” or the “largest” or the “most disastrous” of its kind anywhere in the world at the time.  I understand that he wants to make certain points, but please – hyperbole quickly gets quite tarsome.

Now you may think these are petty nits, but I was talking about all this with a friend over the weekend and we agreed that if this kind of thing could both flow from Harvey’s keyboard and get past his editors, how are we supposed to attach any credence to the larger points or more obscure assertions in his book?

♦   I watched Downfall for the first time this past weekend as well.  (For those of you unaware, it depicts the last days of Hilter in the Bunker, more or less through the eyes of his young stenographer.)  I have only two words: Good. Lord.   I think an awful lot of people these days, armed with 20/20 hindsight, naturally wonder how anyone could have let the National Socialists do what they did.  The most horrid parts of this movie, it seems to me, are the hints at the actual ease with which Germans at the time let themselves be both blinded and seduced by the Nazis’ promises of Greatness.   As They Might Be Giants say, “can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.”

Might be worth keeping in mind.

No, actually, the absolute worst part of the movie was watching the Goebbels murder their six children (not because they didn’t want the Reds to get their claws on them, but because they didn’t want the kids to live in a world without National Socialism) before killing themselves.  Pure. Evil.

♦   Want something a bit cheerier?  In the same mailing as Downfall came the Kevin Costner post-apocalypse epic The Postman.   The cry goes round the clubs, “Why, Robbo? For the love of God, man, Why?”  Well, there are two reasons.  First, I had a hankering for a Truly Bad Film, which this is, beyond any reasonable doubt.  Second, it happens to be one of those movies that, while I’ve seen it several times on cable, I’ve never actually seen it all the way through, and suddenly felt an urge to do so.  Surely, you know what I mean. 

♦   There’s a bit of folk wisdom that says you can tell how early and severe a winter is going to be by both the fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillars and by the spiderwebs.   I can’t really say anything about the former, but when it comes to the latter, I have noticed a marked increase in both number and thickness this year in our neck of the woods.  The Mothe reports the same phenomenon up in Maine.   Ayuh, could be a weathah-breedah……

I bring this up in part because we have had neither a severe winter nor any major tropical weather in these parts in six or seven years.  As a result, the trees have gone unpruned by Nature for a considerable period.  I have been predicting – to anyone who stands still long enough – that when she finally does get down to business, there’s going to be the devil to pay.

Am I great cocktail party material or what?

♦   Speaking of insufferability, I can honestly say that picking out new kitchen counters and cabinets with one’s wife is almost, but not quite, as painful as going shoe-shopping with her.   I can laugh now because finally, finally, everything has been measured, selected and ordered.  Laus Deo.  True, the actual installation is going to be an almighty pain, but that’s a kind of discomfort with which guys are more naturally capable of dealing.  

♦   And speaking of home improvement, given the general slump in contractor jobs these days, we got the fellah who is going to put in our new cabinets for us to also construct a nifty little portico to grace the front of the Port Swiller’s residence, something Mrs. R has wanted for years.  If you’d care to see, I might just be persuaded to post a photo…..

♦   We had our first softball practice of the fall over the weekend.  I must say that my second season of attempted coaching is proving to be an awful lot easier than my first season last spring, at least in terms of organization and skill-teaching.  It is not easier on the old frame, though, as I am still quite sore from demonstrating fielding moves. 

♦   Speaking of volunteer work, for one of the readings at Mass last Sunday we had the letter of St. James about how faith without works counts for bupkiss.   I’ve been chewing on that lately because, having spent the last 18 months or so settling into my new Church, I am now beginning to feel a definite call to do something above and beyond just showing up for worship on a regular basis.   What that something may be, I don’t yet know.  I’ve already been pestered by the Legion of Mary to join up, but somehow I don’t think standing around in grocery store parking lots and handing out anti-abortion bumper stickers is quite my line.

No doubt time will point me in the right direction.

♦  Well, friends, I hadn’t intended to write a post quite so transparently derivative of Jay Nordinger’s Impromptus, but it looks like that’s where we’ve got to.  Jay, if you’re reading this, all I can say is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  

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