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Over the weekend, Mrs. Robbo and Self availed ourselves of the discovery of a small, new theatre nearby to go and see the original stage version of Philip Barry’s 1928 play, Holiday.

Regular port swillers will know that the 1938 film of the same name starring Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant (among a host of other first-class actors) is Robbo’s very favorite picture these two did together (yes, even including The Philadelphia Story – which was also based on a play by Barry), and is easily among the films that would make the cut were Robbo ever to play Desert Island DVD’s.

For those of you who know the film, you may be interested to learn of a change in the characters of Nick and Susan Potter.  In the movie, played by the incomparable Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon, you will recall that they are an academic couple, great friends of Johnny Case, poorish but content, and prone to outbursts of eccentricity.  Here, they are Idle Rich friends of the Setons (although Nick tells a somewhat confused tale of his own self-made success) and don’t seem to do much more than wander about the stage drinking heavily and planning their next getaway.  I’m assuming this is the way they were written originally by Barry, and I’d be curious as to how and why they were transmogrified for the screen.  (Donald Ogden Stewart and Sidney Buchman are credited for the screenplay.)  Frankly, I think they’re much stronger in their Mark II incarnation.

(Yes, you read that right.  Robbo actually admitted a preference to a modified screen treatment of another work.  Wake the kids and phone the neighbors.)

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So I was listening to a fellah give a little talk yesterday in which he repeatedly opined that being “judgmental” is a Bad Thing.  What he actually meant, as was clear to anyone who was paying attention, was that being judgmental is a Bad Thing if and when the particular judgment in question is contrary to this fellah’s own.

I know it’s an old trick, but this sort of thing drives ol’ Robbo to distraction.  It’s both intellectually lazy and dishonest.  Not to judge is simply not to think.  Of course, there’s plenty of room to debate the substantive merits of any given judgment, but to disarm your opposition by denying that they even have the right to argue in the first place is contemptible.

And speaking of such things, allow me to be judgmental about a hymn that gets trotted out at RFEC every All Saints Sunday.  It is my humble opinion that Lesbia Scott’s “I Sing A Song Of The Saints Of God” is the silliest hymn in the entire canon.  Not for nothing is it known as “Icky-Poo” amongst my nearest and dearest.

Man Ray

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!  No doubt you are waiting with bated breath to find out the answers to the great literary dog challenge posted below!  Well, I will, ah, curtail the suspense by giving you the animals, their owners and the books from which they come (where applicable):

1.  Ponto – Laura Fielding from Treason’s Harbor by Patrick O’Brian.

2.  Krak – “Stiva” (Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky, Anna’s brother) from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

3.  Pilot – Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

4.  The White Boys – Mr. Flurry Knox from Some Reminiscenses of an Irish R.M. by E.Œ. Somerville and Martin Ross. (The original “White Boys” were an outlawed secret society in 18th Century Ireland seeking an end to English rule through terrorism.  The dogs of this particular story are terrible renegades themselves.)

5.  Bartholomew – Miss Stephanie “Stiffy” Byng from The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse.

FDR and Fala

6.  Pug – Lady Bertram from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

7.  Man Ray, Fay Ray and Chundo – William Wegman (popular photographer of these same dogs doing strange things.)

8.  Blondi – Adolph Hitler.

9.  Sandy – Little Orphan Annie (Arf! Arf!) from the comic strip of the same name.

10.  Muggs – The family of James Thurber from “The Dog That Bit People” in My Life and Welcome To It.

11.  Jack the Bulldog – The Ingalls Family from Little House in the Big Woods (et al) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

12.  Fala – Franklin D. Roosevelt.  (As an aside, do you say “Rose”evelt or “Rooz”evelt?)

13.  Blanche, Trey and Sweetheart – King Lear from the play of the same name by William Shakespeare.

14.  Laska – “Kostya” (Konstantin Dmitrich Levin) from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

15.  Keeper – Emily Bronte.

16.  “..the nicest little black bitch of a pointer…” – Mr. Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

17.  Grasper – Emily Bronte.

18.  The pet [or little] dog (a Pomeranian) – Anna Sergeyevna von Diedrichs, the Lady with the Little [Pet] Dog in the story of the same name by Anton Checkhov.

19.  Checkers – Richard M. Nixon.

Lord Byron and Boatswain

20.  Moretto (a bulldog) and Lyon (a Newfoundland) – George Gordon, Lord Byron.¹

21.  Tricki Woo – Mrs. Pumphrey from All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

22.  Freda – Ivor Claire from Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh.

23.  Tigger – Joseph Broz (aka Marshall Tito), found by me in Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean.

24.  Reilly – Squadron Leader Rex from Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson.

25.  McIntosh – Aunt Agath from Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse.

And so there you are.  Feel free to use any of these to make yourself the star of your next cocktail party! And kudos to the lovely and talented Sarah G. for her winning entry in response to the port-swiller challenge!  Woof! Woof! indeed.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one more doggy quote:

“God bless Your Majesty!  But God damn your dogs!” –

– Attributed to a “loyal gentleman” in the suite of Charles II, who had just been bitten by one of H.M’s spaniels.  Royal Charles by Antonia Fraser.

Muggs

¹  Byron had another dog named Boatswain, whom he supposedly nursed back from a case of rabies without fear of being bitten.

Since I imagine my fellow port-swillers have had about enough of Robbo’s religious mania for a bit, and since circumstances pretty much bar me from commenting on the 800 pound Topic of the Day, I’ll instead give you a few odds and ends:

♦   We had three jack-o-lanterns for Halloween this year, all carved free-hand by Self using nothing but a spoon and a kitchen knife.  I’ve never been into “pumpkin art,” but instead retain what one might call a primitivist taste (triangular eyes and nose, maybe some fangs in the smile) from my own childhood.  Another thing I retain is a distinct dislike for sticking my hands into the pumpkin guts while cleaning them out.  But Dad’s gotta do what Dad’s gotta do.

♦    It has become a tradition at the port-swiller residence to begin the pumpkin carving ceremony by reciting Calvin’s line, “Okay, Jack, time for your lobotomy!” Laughs every year.

♦   Last night saw the first frost of the year.  Bowing to this, I finally put the side panels (which had been off since about March) back on the ol’ Wrangler.  Cold canvas is cussed stuff to fool with, so I probably will leave them on until next spring.  However, as is my wont, I will leave the back flap rolled up as much as possible, putting it down only for snow storms.

♦  What Mrs. Robbo says: “We need to paint the upstairs hall.”  What Robbo actually hears: “You need to paint the upstairs hall.”  Funny how that works.

♦   Some time ago I read Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, a novel about anarchists in London in the late 19th Century.  This week I have picked up G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which is also about…… anarchists in London in the late 19th Century.   Interesting contrast.  The mental impression I retain from Conrad’s book is one of sordid, nasty grubbiness.  The feel I get from Chesterton’s is one of mad, almost absurd energy.  In Conrad’s case, I believe the word-painting was quite deliberate.  In GKC’s, I think it’s just his personality bubbling through.

♦  Finally:

Two for two at the new church round the corner.  Interesting that I woke up this morning conscious of a very distinct urge to attend Mass today as a matter of corporate responsibility.  I don’t know how much my prayers will aid those who have gone before me, but every little bit helps.  (I don’t like the “you should do this because some day you’re going to want others doing it for you” line because it smacks too much of a quid pro quo, which I think is incompatible with agape.)

I especially tried keep in mind those poor martyrs from Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, but I would imagine none of them have long to wait before reaching Heaven.

One of my very favorite feasts and indeed very favorite days of the year.

At lunchtime I was inspired to toddle over to St. Patrick’s Church, which I was pleased to see was quite full.  Lovely building and at least respectable liturgical practices.   It seems to me that I have lit upon a good new resource.

 

Despite your post-Halloween sugar-crashed torpor, please don’t forget the Great Literary Dog Quiz currently in progress.  I’ve had some pretty good entries so far and it looks like competition will be pretty tight!

Please submit your entry by Noon Eastern Time this coming Friday.

 

IMPORTANT UPDATE! I received the following request for a ruling:

1) Is google banned outright?

2) If not google, may I go to the library and find an appropriate print reference?  That’s not sneaky googling – it’s merely using the resources available to me.

Well, I originally had thought to bar googling outright.   But I want people to have fun, too.  So let’s do this:  Go ahead and use whatever resources you wish, if you like.  Just let me know how you go about getting your answers when you send them in.  Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can’t figure out a way to handicap for it.

Last night I had a dream that included a (mercifully brief) appearance by a black mamba.

After reading Roald Dahl’s tales of life in East Africa (noted below), I knew this was going to happen.

Brrrrr…….

Mr. FLG likes to rattle the cage over gender identity issues every now and again, so perhaps he’ll find this amusing.

After a flurry of last minute invitations, cancellations and general jockeying, the elder gels wound up going to friends’ houses to trick or treat last evening, leaving Ol’ Robbo to go round the neighborhood alone with the eight year old.

Following what seems to be a general trend (last year she was Princess Almedwhatever-it-is), the gel decided to go as Darth Vadar this year.  And tricked out in her LucasFilms©StarWars©OfficialDarthVadar©Costume and a pair of black boots borrowed from an elder sister, I may say that she actually looked pretty durn good.   As we marched up the sidewalk toward the neighbors, I coached her in saying, “Trick or treat!” in as James Earl Jones-like a voice possible.

For the most part, things went very smoothly.  At one house, however, an older lady made some remark to the effect of “oh, what a nice boy.”  “I’m a girl,” the gel replied calmly and without rancor.  However, the woman seemed so flustered at her gaff that she immediately insisted the gel help herself to two or three or four more pieces of candy.  I must say that I felt rayther sorry for the woman in her evident embarrassment.

As we trudged on to the next house, I found myself musing on the fact that it simply never occurred to me to care one way or the other that the gel wanted to dress up as a male character or that this would catch anybody on the hop.  Flipping things around, though, I readily admitted to myself that had she been a boy and had s/he announced that s/he wanted to trick or treat as, say, a ballerina or Snow White, well then I would have had some serious concerns about that.

Perhaps I’m inconsistent in this, but I don’t really care.

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