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Standing in line at the deli this afternoon, waiting for my prosciutto to be sliced, my eye fell on a pamphlet put out by the Boar’s Head ® meat people.  It featured a military campaign service bar design across the top, a picture of a pile of salt with a white flag sticking out of it, an apparently decapitated shaker and a large caption that read, “Launch Your Own Assault On Salt.”  A little further exploration reveals that this is just one of several “Assault on Salt” themed slogans employed by the company.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know about you, but I for one feel that this kind of inflammatory, eliminationist rhetoric is totally inappropriate for our national nutritional dialogue, as it is likely to do nothing but incite violence.  In the name of civility, I strongly recommend to Boar’s Head ® that they do away with this campaign (whoops! I mean “consumer outreach project”) and adopt some other motto like, say, “Have a candid conversation with your salt and gently but firmly explain to it why it is being insensitive to positive nutritional alternatives.” 

Here’s hoping Boar’s Head ® takes up my suggestion before somebody “goes sodium”……

Later tomorrow afternoon, some of the musickal folk at RFEC are going to be putting on a production of John Rutter’s “The Reluctant Dragon”.  Mrs. Robbo is planning on taking the gels to see it.

As for myself, I find that I am somewhat conflicted.  On the one hand, I know and like several of the people involved in the project, and feel that perhaps I ought to rally round by way of support.  On the other hand, I find Rutter’s musick to be loathsome.  And from what I’ve read of the story, it sounds absolutely icky-poo.

We shall see which instinct gets the upper hand.

 I note that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1717, of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, prominent British commander during the French and Indian War and the first Governor General of British North America.

At least in this country, Amherst’s primary legacies are a rayther disreputable college somewhere in the wilds of western Massachusetts, plus the widespread  currency of the name Pontiac, since it was almost entirely due to Amherst’s ham-fisted bungling of Indian affairs at the close of the French and Indian War that said Pontiac was driven to incite a widespread Indian revolt, thus achieving his own historickal notoriety.

The gels all have their little friends over to play this afternoon.  Needless to say, this has driven me to take refuge in the study, in which I am indulging in a few rounds of spider-solitaire on the computer and listening (via headphones) to a collection of Renaissance and Baroque dance musick.

While this is some partial defense, I still find myself thinking back to my own yoot, and specifically to a friend of mine whose father was a veterinarian.  They had three or four ferocious and extremely loud German Shepherds at their house, and the story goes that the father got so sick of the noise that he extracted all of the dogs’ vocal chords.  Ever after, all they could do was rasp.

It strikes me at times like this that there was some method to the man’s madness.  Alas, though, because I suppose that even if I could swing something of the same sort with the gels, that still wouldn’t prevent them banging around like a herd of rogue elephants.

Better just crank up the musick a bit more….

(Image found here.)

Last summah, in a post about a trip Mrs. Robbo and I made out to western Maryland, I believe I mentioned my delight in the discovery that a portion of I-68, on which we travelled, in fact followed the line of Braddock’s Road, blazed during his disasterous campaign against Fort Duquesne in 1755.

Well, imagine my equal delight in the discovery that Pennsylvania Highway 30, which runs very close to the gels’ summah camp, in part follows the line of Forbes’ Road (starting at Beford, PA and heading west), blazed during his successful campaign to capture Fort Duquesne in 1758.

History and geography – what is not to thoroughly love?

Unlike Braddock, who took an enormous baggage train all the way, Forbes’ strategy was to construct a number of forts and strong-houses along the way where he could establish supply dumps.  The farthest west, Fort Ligonier, is no more than 20 miles or so from the gels’ camp, just on the other side of Laurel Mountain.

I have been ruminating the idea of doing a Braddock/Forbes/Bushy Run excursion while out dropping the gels off for some years now.  I think this extra nugget of discovery is enough to make me all the more serious about it.

Spending a loooooong, snow-bound day with the gels at the port-swiller residence, I found myself contemplating the terms “childish” and “childlike”.

“Childish” is defined by Merriam’s as “marked by or suggestive of immaturity and lack of poise” and, of course, is usually used in a negative sense.  On the other hand, “childlike” is defined as being “marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness” and is most often used in a positive sense.

I am increasingly convinced that the former word has its origins in simple empirical observation, while the latter is the product of a mind that had no actual hands-on experience with kids, probably somebody like that dog Rousseau.  From my own observations, I don’t believe in the “childlike” child any more than I believe in the “noble” savage.

Anyone who has spent any time around ol’ Robbo knows of his hobbit-like fondness for the routine and predictable, and his dislike of the random and chaotic.  This extends to just about every aspect of his existence, including life’s irritations.

Thus, as I was out yesterday morning clearing the driveway of the six or seven inches of heavy, wet snow we got Wednesday night, I suddenly said to myself, “Self, something is not right!”  And looking about, I realized what it was:  Despite the fact that the snow plows had been churning up and down the street all night…….the mailbox was still on its post!  

When I saw it sitting there, its little red flag flying like that of a miniature Fort McHenry, I found myself curiously torn.  On the one hand, I was pleased that it had survived the night.  On the other, a certain part of me felt that this couldn’t as a genuine Snow Event™ without me finding the box and its crosspieces on the ground, the nails twisted about in fantastic shapes.

Thus bemused, I toddled off to the office.

Now mind you, by the time I left the port-swiller household mid-morning, the storm had long gone.  The sun was out and the snow was melting.  It’s true that the road still had ice all over it and that the plows were still working, but visibility was crystal-clear.

I assume that by now you know where this is all headed.  Upon my return to the old homestead in the evening, I discovered…… the box and its crosspieces on the ground, the nails twisted about in fantastic shapes.   And as an added bonus, not only was the mailbox on the ground, but so was an important tax document that had been in the box but was liberated when the plow took it out.

Circle, meet complete.

As I once again repaired the box this morning, risking life and limb by turning my back to traffic so that I could nail it up,  I felt that curious juxtaposition of sensations:  On the one hand, I was thoroughly annoyed.  On the other, it was a familiar annoyance, and thus somehow comforting.

Georg Philipp Telemann, Tafelmusik (Musique de Table partagée en Trois Productions), performed by Musica Antiqua Köln under Reinhard Goebel.

Not a bad way to spend a quiet, snowy birthday afternoon, with a nice hot cup of tea and the gels banished to their rooms for a while.

The Mothe and I were talking of classickal musick the other day, as is our wont from time to time, and comparing and contrasting the overall quality of the various periods of its development.   One of the points of interest on which we dwelled was the fact that there seems to be almost no such thing as bad Baroque musick.  Oh, there’s plenty that is mediocre and pedestrian, but very little that can be called truly bad.  Indeed, the only really awful piece of Baroque musick I could recall ever hearing was a concerto written by a Scotsman – which fact should tell you everything you need to know right there. 

We figured this had something to do with the fact that the rules of composition were so strictly set then.  The true geniuses – Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, et al – could transcend those rules, push them and bend them, but without violating them.  On the other hand, lesser talents (and here I am thinking for some reason of Geminiani) were at least kept out of trouble by such rules.

Contrast that with the Romantic period, by which time Western musick had jettisoned a lot of its prior formalism in favor of more emotive influences.  While there are some truly great Romantic works, there’s also an awful lot of rubbish, precisely because of the loss of these restraints.  It is arguable that the overall average quality of the canon of this period is considerably lower than that of the Baroque.  (Well, I think so.) 

I suppose that all of this illustrates one of the primary reasons I am so much of a believer in Rules not just in musick but in any facet of civilization, from art to religion to social intercourse:  Where there are such rules, those with the talent to do so rise to heights of elegance, while those without are at least kept on the straight and narrow.  Take away such rules and introduce a more anything-goes ethos, and the floodgates are opened wide to a wave of truly bad ideas that diminish not just those responsible for  them, but the culchah as a whole.

Yes, I see by the calendar that today is my birthday and that as of about six thirty ack emma, ol’ Robbo turned 46.


The middle gel auditioned this week down to the local community theatre for a part in a production of “Cinderella”. 

Alas, although she came back from auditions quite happy with her performance, she didn’t get a call-back.  (The competition to get cast in these shows is wicked.)

But you know? After crying a little bit about it, she dusted herself off, pulled herself up straight and started talking about Next Time.

That’s my gel…..


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January 2011