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Following up on my rereading of the Flashman Chronicles by George MacDonald Fraser, I wondered in a post below who might be cast as Harry Flashman in the movies.

Well, it turns out that this question has been answered already.  Would you have guessed……Malcolm McDowell?

Me, neither.  I wouldn’t have thought McDowell was big or imposing enough, although he certainly has the nasty in abundance.

Nonetheless, it’s true.  A film version of Royal Flash was made back in 1975.  As GMF actually wrote the screenplay for the thing, I can only assume that if he didn’t necessarily have McDowell in mind as Flashy, he at least didn’t stop it happening.

Needless to say, when I discovered the existence of this moovie, I immediately nipped over to Netflix and put it at the top of the ol’ port-swiller queue.  I’ll let you know what I think.

When I was a lad, my piano instructor hit on the idea of having Self and another student play the Mozart D-Major Sonata for 2 pianos (K. 448).  I was all for it, however after a few weeks of practice and rehearsing it became quite apparent that it wasn’t going to work out.  This was because Wally, the other student, although a pretty good hand at more Romantic composers (he did a very good Chopin Polonaise), simply did not have the touch for Mozart.  So the project was dropped.

I wish we had thought of the Schubert Marche Militaire at the time.  I’ve always liked it, for one thing, and the combination of finesse and banging would have accomodated both of our styles quite nicely.

I have a two-hand version of the piece which, from time to time when I feel I need to get away from Bach for a bit, I dig out and mutilate.

Of course, I still would have preferred the Mozart.  Too bad about that.  Here’s the first movement of that piece, too.  Enjoy!

Is it just me, or has Opinion Journal Online suddenly gone to an all-subscriber format?

As much as I love reading Taranto’s Best of the Web column every day, if the WSJ thinks I’m going to shell out coin to get it, they’ve got another thing coming.

Hopefully, this is just some kind of technical glitch and will get better by itself.

I was noodling about over at The Art of Manliness when I came across this post about that fiend of exercises, “the burpee“.

Back in the day when I rowed crew for the Glorious People’s Soviet of Middletown, we used to incorporate a form of the burpee that also involved a double push-up into an exercise circuit known as “the Chief”, so I’d had some experience with it in the past.  (Granted, that was – yikes! – 23 years ago now.)

Well, I’ve been feeling a bit on the flabby side lately, so perusing the article (which sings its praises to the heavens) put it into my mind that I ought to give the ol’ burpee another try.  Thus this morning I donned my kit, toddled down to the basement and began to hurl myself about.

All in all, I did a ladder of them, meaning a set of ten followed by a rest, then a set of nine and so on.   On first squatting down, my knees cracked like a pair of horse pistols.  About half way through the second set, I began to feel that “burpee” wasn’t the right name and that “ralphee” might be more apropos.  At first I could jump up and hit the ceiling with the flats of my palms.  By about half way through, I was lucky to get it with my fingertips.  By the end, I was heaving like a bellows and could taste blood in my mouth.  Hours later, I still feel like I’ve been put through a mangle-wurzel.

But…..I’m glad I gave it a try.  As the article correctly points out, the burpee really is about the most efficient exercise a fellah can do.  I’m just going to have to pace myself a bit better. 

I suppose I really am not young anymore.

Reading this article about PETA seeking to get Punxsutawney Phil replaced by a robot got me thinking of Woody Allen’s animatronic dog in Sleeper.  (“Woof! Woof! Hello, I’m Rags!”)

I watched the film again not too long ago.  It only cemented my opinion that most of Woody Allen’s work doesn’t age very well.  But the soundtrack is still mighty sweet.

(A glass of wine with Gail for the link.)

I suppose, since I pretend to some literary knowledge when sitting over the decanter here, that I ought to offer some comment on the news of the death of J.D. Salinger.

Well, rest in peace, of course, but if you’re looking to me to offer a glowing tribute to The Catcher In The Rye (and let’s face it, who reads Nine Stories or Franny and Zooey anymore?),  I’m afraid I must decline.

You see, even when I was a sulky, brooding adolescent myself, I just could not stand sulky, brooding adolescence.   And I particularly could not stand stories that depicted sulky, brooding adolescents as having some kind of special insight into the hypocrisy of the adult world.  Holden Caulfield, Benjamin Braddock, young Harold from Harold and Maude, even Hamlet for that matter – they always filled me with more contempt than anything else.   Not only did their “insight” strike me as nothing more than an exercise in reinventing the wheel, I couldn’t help noticing that it also seemed to them a ticket to self-indulgent loutishness.

As I say, I felt that way even when I was one of them.  (Rest assured, I tried – albeit not always successfully – to keep my own loutishness to a minimum.)  I’m afraid that over the years I have only become hardened in my opinion.   Thus, while I can understand TCITR’s importance in terms of the novelty of its style – recognizing, for instance, the radical language in which the story is told – underneath it strikes me as shallow and vapid and, in the end, as really nothing more than a literary stunt.

I remarked in one of my recent posts that I was having a quick go at the Flashman Chronicles again, just by way of getting in a jolly romp before Lent.

Because my mind works that way, finishing off the first of the books has got me in the mood to charge the ol’ Netflix queue with what one might call Empire movies.  This involves revisiting both The Man Who Would Be King and Gunga Din.  I’ve also tossed in Khartoum, not having seen it before.  I have no doubt that Charlton Heston’s portrayal of General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon (whose birthday it is today, by the bye) is positively cringe-making.  However, I’m hoping that Larry Olivier’s portrayal of the Mahdi will more than make up for this in terms of entertainment value.  Aaaand, I also got hold of The Four Feathers – the 1939 version with Ralph Richardson, not the 2002 revisionist remake.

So, my fellow port-swillers, what other films of this sort do you think ol’ Robbo would enjoy?  (Don’t say Zulu, as I’ve seen it too many times.)  Recommendations would be gratefully appreciated.

I know it’s wrong of me, but somehow I can’t help but be amused by the attribution of yet another harm to green technology: wind-turbine syndrome.

Wind farms have traditionally been seen by protesters as a blot on the British countryside, but it has now emerged that their noise may make people ill.

A new study found no evidence for “wind turbine syndrome” where the wind farms directly cause a host of health problems such as headaches, nausea and panic attacks.

But the swishing sound caused by wind turbines can be a problem for certain people, causing sleep deprivation and even mental health problems.

It has sparked renewed debate on the Government’s plans for more onshore wind and led to calls for more research into the problems caused by noise.

And, as the night follows the day, verily it has sparked litigation as well.

Jane Davis is hoping to take the country’s first private nuisance case against a wind farm to the High Court.

The 54-year-old was forced to move from her home in Lincolnshire after eight wind turbines were built in 2006.

The qualified nurse said one in five wind farms cause noise problems for the local people.

“All I know is the amount of health problems people have suffered since [the turbines were put up] seem to be excessive in relation to what was happening,” she said. “Those symptoms include sleep deprivation, tittinus, vertigo, depression, raised blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart beat), needing to go the lavatory at night more often than you would normally, pneumonia, ear infections, stomach disorders and psychological stress.”

Mrs Davis said 190 campaigners around the country have complained of noise and are expected to consider legal proceedings if the test case is successful.

I don’t doubt it.  Cry “havoc!” and release the dogs of personal injury law.

Also, I always thought “tittinus” was a condition that had to do with cold weather and injudicious ladies’ clothing choices.  (Which, I suppose, could also be related to wind farming.)  Here, however, is seems to be a corruption of tinnitus, which is basically a ringing in the ears.

Yes, today is the 254th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  I don’t have anything particularly intelligent to say to mark the occasion this year, so how about a little silliness instead?

First, I give you Rollerblade Bottle-Tune Guy:

And how about the Rondo alla Turca done on the F.A.O. Schwarz giant keyboard?

And if that isn’t enough, perhaps some classick Falco?

Okay, I know that last one is a bit different.  But I’ve always liked the way it riffed on the movie Amadeus, which I really didn’t like very much.

The other evening, the eight year old gel presented a book she had just bought and wished to read with me at bedtime.  It was The History of Vampires and Other Real Blood-Drinkers, by Sylvia Branzei and Jack Keely.

Bear in mind as I go forward that this is a children’s book, designed for 4-8 year olds learning to read.

The first chapter of the book was devoted to vampire bats, their nature and habits.  It was a bit on the gorey side, but I reasoned that after all it was just nature, so no real harm done.

The second chapter was about Dracula and other mythic vampires from around the world, with a little bit about Bram Stoker and how we got our modern image of Drac thrown in.  While it made clear that they were all just make-believe, I began to get a bit uneasy at the fairly detailed descriptions of the way the various beasties preyed on their victims.

The third chapter was about Vlad the Impaler.  Let’s just say that it didn’t really leave very much to the imagination about Vlad’s bloody-mindedness or the way in which we went about expressing himself.  And for good measure, the book then swung over to the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathóry (of whom I’d never heard), a crazy 17th Century Czech who killed hundreds of schoolgirls so she could bathe in and drink their blood (in order to preserve her own youth and vitality).

Children’s book!

Next, we got a travelogue of peoples and their blood-drinking traditions, from the Incas and the Maori to the Celts, the Romans and the ancient Scythians.   (We are the World!)   No suggestion that any of these habits were in any way, you know, wrong, or anything.  No real pity for the poor victims of such practices (ditto with Countess Bathóry’s schoolgirls, btw).

No, all throughout the tone of the book was “Eeeew, but isn’t it kinda cool, too?”

(Of course, the book did show some propriety in using C.E. and B.C.E. instead of A.D. and B.C. when giving dates.  Wouldn’t want to be insensitive, after all.)

Well, by the time we got to the end, I was positively appalled.  Indeed, I felt awash in blood and gore, without any sense that the authors felt the least bit apologetic about it.  Have we really descended to such a level of barbarity that we believe this sort of thing is suitable reading for a child?

It isn’t often that I do so, but slapping the book shut, I informed the gel that I thought it not at all nice and was going to throw it away (which I did).

I mean, really.


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January 2010