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From my email quote-of-the-day guy, celebrating the 103rd anniversary of the birth of John Wayne:

“If everything isn’t black and white, I say, ‘Why the hell not?'”

That’s right, pilgrim!

Regular port-swillers will recall Robbo’s longstanding belief that of all the Hollywood stars out there, past and present, the Duke (at least on screen) actually comes closer to the character of Patrick O’Brian’s “Lucky” Jack Aubrey than anyone else, certainly more so than the broody, dour, sulky Russell Crowe.

Yes, of course you’ve got to calibrate for the accent and for the difference in style between the typical Wayne frontiersman and a Royal Navy Post Captain of the Napoleonic Wars.  (If you were able to time travel back and actually cast Wayne in the role of Jack Aubrey, the effect would be absurd.)  But I am convinced – convinced, mark you! – that the underlying type of man is the same:  Big, naturally sanguine and good-humored, leonine.  Upright, devoted to a code of behavior, honest and direct.  Intensely professional in his craft and scornful of incompetence, sloppiness or fraud, but with a tinge of simple-mindedness about outside matters.   A large presence that swells in times of crisis.

It’s all there.  And as I say, I am completely unaware of any other actor who captures all those qualities together.

As I mentioned some time ago, I am currently rereading the Aubrey/Maturin novels.  (I have just started The Ionian Mission.)  I was all set to really do some serious research on Captain Aubrey to support this point, hoping to pull out some choice descriptive passages.  Curiously, I find that so far those passages are extremely thin on the ground.  At least in the earlier novels, one builds up one’s sense of Jack’s character not so much by naked description, as by witnessing it in action.  (On the other hand, there is almost an overabundance of such descriptions of Stephen Maturin’s character.)  If memory serves, O’Brian starts to get somewhat more descriptive of Jack himself in the next couple of novels, so hopefully I’ll be able to mine those sources to my profit.

From a Telegraph article today on man-caves:

[E]every adult male deserves, nay requires, some place, any place, to escape the tyranny of women and children.


Alas, the port-swiller residence does not have a man-cave (or a Fortress of Solitude, as I prefer to call it).  Some years ago, I fixed up a room in the basement, a sort of architect’s throw-away which, due to its position directly under the kitchen and next the furnace, has some unusual corners and bumps in its ceiling.  I had all the bumps outlined in trim, which I painted navy blue.  I hauled in an old sofa, an old teevee, my model-building table, my stereo, my desk and some bookcases.  I tacked up old prints, posters and maps.  Mrs. R, when I had finished, said somewhat contemptuously that it looked exactly like my old school apartment.  Which was the idea, actually.

I had thought that Mrs. R’s dislike of the room would, in fact, keep her out of it.  Alas, no, as she soon discovered that it was an excellent place in which to set up her very large and very messy scrap-booking operations.  Furthermore, it’s the only room in the house with computer access, and the gels now regularly claim that they have to come in to use it for some homework assignment or other.

Wow! Somehow I had missed all this:

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Plunging into the waters off Alexandria Tuesday, divers explored the submerged ruins of a palace and temple complex from which Cleopatra ruled, swimming over heaps of limestone blocks hammered into the sea by earthquakes and tsunamis more than 1,600 years ago.

The international team is painstakingly excavating one of the richest underwater archaeological sites in the world and retrieving stunning artifacts from the last dynasty to rule over ancient Egypt before the Roman Empire annexed it in 30 B.C.

Using advanced technology, the team is surveying ancient Alexandria’s Royal Quarters, encased deep below the harbor sediment, and confirming the accuracy of descriptions of the city left by Greek geographers and historians more than 2,000 years ago.

Since the early 1990s, the topographical surveys have allowed the team, led by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, to conquer the harbor’s extremely poor visibility and excavate below the seabed. They are discovering everything from coins and everyday objects to colossal granite statues of Egypt’s rulers and sunken temples dedicated to their gods.

Coo. El.

As I say, I’d never even realized the Royal Quarters still existed, much less that they were so well preserved in the muck.  I had always had a rayther hazy notion that whatever was left of the Ptolomeic city after the Vandals got done with it had probably been razed by the invading forces of Islam a hundred-odd years later.

Somewhere or other I’ve got a copy of E. M. Forster’s Pharos and Pharillon, which I read a long time ago and recall enjoying.  This news makes me think I should dig it out again for a fresh dekko.

UPDATE: I should note, after a quick check, that apparently the Vandals never got that far east.  Told you I had only a hazy notion of the city’s later classickal history.

Regular port-swillers will recall that a couple of months ago ol’ Robbo was fuming about the aenemic flowering of his forsythia hedge and vowing to hack the whole thing way back this year in order to engage its enthusiasm.

Well, so much for good intentions.

The fact of the matter is that I left it until too late, and now there are a number of birds nesting therein.  And the truth is that I just don’t have the heart to disturb and disrupt their domestic economy.

Guess I’ll have to wait until next year.

Oh, and whilst inspecting the growth recently, I noticed that the nearby pear tree had managed to drop a fruit into the forsythia, and now there is a ten foot sapling shooting up in the midst of it.  Part of me says take it out right now.  Surgeon’s knife and all that.  ‘Nother part of me says that the pears we get are awfully good, and maybe I ought to be cultivating a second source.

During our weekly jaw t’other day, the Mothe mentioned that one of my favorite summah vacation haunts, Popham Beach, was in a serious way this year, due to the pounding the Down East coast has been getting from all the nor’easters.

Well, it turns out that things are pretty bad, but that in the end the storms have actually set in train the means to make them better:

PHIPPSBURG — The steady erosion that ate away at Popham Beach for nearly three years has subsided, but park officials have taken steps to remind summer visitors that it will take time before the beach builds back up to full size.

To that end, a sign has been erected near the entrance of Popham Beach State Park to alert people about “red days,” when high tides occur during the busy daytime hours and the beach is at its narrowest.

Brian Murray, manager of the park, said on red days beach goers should plan to schedule their visits for a few hours before or after high tide.

“Those are the days when we have high tides during the busy parts of our days, and when we’re going to have a very limited amount of beach available for people to put towels down on,” he said.

The sign currently posted at the entrance shows June 15, 16 and 17 as red days, and lists the afternoon high tide times on those days.

“It’s going to be pretty crowded during those times,” Murray said. “The high tides are really going to limit the beach.”

High tides that occur during the nighttime hours, when the park is closed, aren’t a concern, the park manager said. Only stretches of daytime hours affected by the reduced beach are noted on the sign.

During the course of nearly three years, sand buildup at the mouth of the Morse River redirected the river across the face of the beach, washing away tons of sand, swallowing dune grasses and gouging into mature pitch pine stands. Early this year, state officials began to worry that the water might reach a newly constructed $1.4 million bathhouse on the edge of park’s westernmost parking lot.

But in early March, state geologists announced that late February storms and high tides helped the river break a channel through the sand buildup, allowing it to flow straight to the sea and away from the beach face.

At the time, a state expert said the beach could be “spectacular by the summer of 2012,” but cautioned that the sandy stretch would still be narrow this summer.

It’s the wundah of Naychuh!

In my usual weekend of running about chicken-like (sans head and flapping violently), I neglected to mark the fact that Sistah celebrated her, oh what was it – 25th or thereabouts – birthday on Saturday.  (I didn’t forget the date itself.  Within the most immediate circles of the family, I’m pretty good about that.  Doing something about it? Well, that’s a different kettle of feeesh.)

So by way of making amends, I offer this little ditty which, I am sure, will amuse her.

For Pentecost this year, our choir served up a delightful early Missa Brevis in G by Mozart.  It occurred to me that, especially if Archbishop Colorado had been used to a diet of conservative, high Baroque fare,  this was probably the sort of lighter, innovative and at times theatrical musick that (among other things) got ol’ Gangerl so disliked by that worthy Prince of Salzburg.

Although I could see where some of Mozart’s contemporaries might have detected some flippancy – especially if they were listening for it, I personally thought that the joyousness of the musick (where appropriate, of course) added to the worship.

DAAAAAA-aaaaad! There’s a dead chipmunk in the dining roooooooom!!!!”


Regular port-swillers will recall that I mentioned the 10 year old’s upcoming figure-skating competition a couple of days ago?  Well I am pleased to let you know that the competition was held this morning and the gel (wearing an outfit I’m pretty sure was not among the choices being debated earlier) captured the gold.

Granted, there were only four girls in her particular grouping, but this was her very first competition, and I understand that the judges’ decision was unanimous.

I would tell you more – about her routine, and so on – except that I know absolutely nothing about figure skating, or the enormous and highly technical vocabulary that goes along with it.  The only thing I do know about it is that one is always being told that one must buy a new pair of skates for some arcane reason or another, and that each successive pair is exponentially more expensive than its predecessor.

At any rate, well done indeed.

While home with a tummy bug the other day, the 8 year old watched the Jackie Chan comedy The Spy Next Door.

This gave her the idea that she wanted to be a spy, too.  Since then, she’s been springing out from behind doors and under tables with her face masked in a scarf and armed with a water gun, assassinating me several times.


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May 2010