You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 23, 2009.

Well, here we are again on what has always been my least favorite day of the week.  (Pay no attention to the GMT-centric date-stamp on this post: It’s still Tuesday evening at the Port Swiller residence.)  What better way to deal with this veritable hole in the week than to put on some Telemann, charge the old glass and prattle on?

♦  I believe I mentioned before how happy I am with my new glasses.  The fact of the matter is that I am rapidly finding that I actually prefer wearing them to wearing my new contacts, since the glasses have the bifocal function while the contacts do not.  The only problems I find are a) that of course the glasses cut down on peripheral vision, and b) that they tend to promote a kind of fish-eye effect, especially when I’m looking down and away, as it were.  I wore them to Mass this past Sunday for the first time.  My church, alas, is built on the worship-in-the-round principle.  As I started toward my accustomed spot, the combination of curved pews and downward sloping aisle – magnified by the ol’ windshields – nearly caused me to topple over.

Curiously enough, I can’t help feeling a sense that I’m abandoning my contacts (which I’ve worn almost exclusively since about 7th grade).  Indeed, if I didn’t think my family would start yelling at me about it, I’d almost say that I feel a slight bit guilty about this betrayal.  

♦   Speaking of Mass, while for most of the year we have an absolutely top-notch choir singing absolutely top-notch musick mostly from the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, during the summahs they are reduced to a rump and the congregation is expected to chant its way through the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.   Even then, the organist usually gives us a lead.  This past Sunday, however, he forced us to chant the Gloria a capella.  Extreme hesitancy ensued, not to say a number of spectacular trainwrecks.  Bastard.

I don’t know much about the chant modes we use, except that they’re obviously medieval.   I was chatting with the Mothe the other day about more modern liturgical musick and remarked to her that it always reminds me of the creepy mutant underground people who worship the nuclear bomb in Return to the Planet of the Apes.   Do the people who write this kind of garbage not understand this?

♦    I remarked the other day that I was reading Chris Buckley’s latest satire Supreme Courtship, questioning whether I would go on with it in light of a completely gratuitous and over-the-top jab Buckley takes at DubyaSupreme Courtship early on.  Well, I kept going in spite of this, and it turns out that, barring a really spectacularly heavy-handed footnote later on, he pretty much leaves Dubya alone.  On the other hand, Buckley also proceeds to go after a certain well-known current Justice.  I need say no more about which one it is other than to state that Buckley’s fictional version is named “Silvio Santamaria,” and he’s something of a cartoon character of a hard-Right Catholic.   I can’t help wondering: Supreme Courtship was published the same year that WFB Jr. died.   I know a thing or two about the curious effects an Old Boy’s cashing in can have on his offspring:  Is this book perhaps a lashing out inspired by such an event?   Of course, I know absolutely nothing of the relationships in this particular case, so I offer no opinion.  On the other hand, I’d be prepared to lay a wager that there is some basis to my curiosity.

On, and and as for the book?  Well, it’s okay.  Fairly typical of the Chris Buckley canon, I would say.  Not his best, but not his worst, either.  I would call him on one thing though: If one is in a car driving from McLean, Virginia to Dulles Airport, there is no conceivable reason why one would cross the Potomac, as Buckley pens, unless one’s driver is seeking to rook one for an exhorbitant fee.  Trust me on this.   

♦    Speaking of pedantics, I am also more or less finished with Robert Harvey’s biography of Robert Clive, essentially the founder of the British Raj in India.  As loyal port-swillers know, I have been harping on technicalClive errors in this book the past few days.  In the end, I wish I could say that I like it more than I do.  Apart from confusing “ship” with “boat” and “rifle” with “musket”, Harvey’s overall style is not very good.  He’s needlessly repetitive, and tends to switch topis violently, sometimes within the same paragraph.  He also has a curious habit of using the same set of facts to prove two different principles.  For instance, with regards to the famous Battle of Plassey, on the one hand Harvey notes that Clive was able to carry the day thanks to the tactical mistakes of his foes, coupled with some plain dumb luck, without which he might well have suffered a staggering defeat.  Nonetheless, a page or two later, Harvey is referring to Clive’s “military genious” in winning the battle.  It does not strike me that both propositions can live together in harmony.

And it’s all the more the pity, because overall I like Harvey’s sympathies very much.  He rightly praises the second half of the 18th Century in Britain – one of my very favorite times and places in history.  He is also quite fair about British influence in India, not giving in to the p.c. sensibilities about a harmonious and holistic native population suddenly being rent assunder by mindless, money-grubbing, imperialist Saxon invaders.  (For one thing, as Harvey points out, the Mogul rulers of India at the time were Moslem foreigners from Central Asia.  They lorded it over a native Hindi aristocracy and merchant class.  All of these, in turn, kicked the bejaysus out of the peasants without batting an eye.)  

At one point, Harvey quotes Elizabeth Longford (whose two-volume biography of the Iron Dook is the gold standard for Wellington-philes) as one of the best modern historians of the period in question.  Quite right, but I wish Harvey had the same talent as Longford. 

♦    So what’s next?  Logic would dictate that, having finished a book about Clive, I should next read one about Warren Hastings, the first Brit Governor-General of India.  Recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

♦  beer_gogglesAt RFEP this past Sunday, an old friend and ally came up and asked whether I was still blogging about politics.  Well, not that much, I replied.  Given that I am on the guv’mint payroll, it don’t seem very, ah, politic. Tace is the Latin for a candle, after all. 

 Nonetheless, I assured her that I was watching events closely.  I also noted that my long-standing theory of the beer-goggle election seemed to be proving spot on and that we are now in what might be described as the morning-after-“Oh, My God, What Have I Done?”- phase.

It’s a curious dynamic now, ain’t it?  Without going into the merits, I would think it’s safe to say that there has been an attempt to drive the Country in a radically left direction on many issues.  It is equally safe to say that the Country has no desire to take such a drive, despite its justifiable worries about the current state of things, and that the spontanious eruptions at the town halls and tea-bagger rallies is simply a manifestation of this reluctance. 

  In a Big Picture Dynamics way, it’s all kind of teh awesome.

♦   Oh, speaking of Big Pictures, I ran off Kevin Costner’s The Postman the other night.  Truly. Bad. Film.   What is it that possesses certain people to believe that anyone is interested in their navel-gaving about the Apocalypse if such gazing is presented in so blatently awful a manner? 

And what’s the deal with Costner and mules?  In this film, his recalcitrant yet loveable pack animal gets turned into stew by the neo-fascists.   In the only moment I can remember from his Dances With Wolves, some lonely fellah bushwacked by the Sioux out on the prarie uses his last breath to ask them to take good care of his mule.

Coincidence?  Or, like the psychiatrist in Fawlty Towers, should one mutter that there’s enough material here for an entire conference? 

What else have I to say for myself? Well, not all that much.  Except that in taking the time to type this post, I missed the Nats getting slaughtered by the Dodgers this evening.  The loss is bad, but this also means that I’ve squandered watching the first of the last nine games of the season.  Therefore, not to get all egotistical about it, but perhaps you lot could, you  know, comment a bit about these musings? Sort of get the conversational ball rolling, as it were?

Sorry to be so blunt in my solicitations, but every now and again I suffer the curious sensation of feeling that I’m a ghost in my own world, whom nobody else can see.   Just a leetle affirmation does wonders to make this sensation go away.


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September 2009