You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2011.

Now under glass.

Oscar Wilde’s restored tomb has been unveiled in Paris, complete with a glass barrier to make it “kiss-proof”.

Work was carried out on the gravestone because it was covered in lipstick marks left by tourists, which was gradually destroying it.

Actor Rupert Everett, who has penned a screenplay about Wilde, said the tomb was “being eaten away by lipstick”.

The star attended the ceremony along with Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland.

The tomb was designed by Modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein and survived almost unscathed until 1985.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Everett said: “The Irish government have taken it upon themselves to renovate the Epstein gravestone, which is literally being eaten away by lipstick, endless women kissing it.”

The glass barrier prevents visitors from touching the stonework, although tourists have already started leaving their lipstick marks on a nearby tree.

Everett, who starred in the 2002 film version of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest [Ed. – which was awful, IMHO], said: “I find him very inspiring and touching, not just for his genius, also for his stupidity, in a way.

 “He was a human being, and made mistakes like everyone else.”



It’s my understanding that the old boy was baptized, received into Holy Mother Church and given the last sacraments on his deathbed, so I am willing to forgive him the naughtiness which is, no doubt, the basis for this apparent urge to plant kisses on his tombstone.   However, I can’t help smiling at the thought that just this morning I read this passage from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

“Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets.  But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets.  We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.”

I see where the annual Christmas Holiday Market” has come to the streets of Dee Cee.

Or, as I like to imagine as I trudge by, Aslan’s army is once again laying siege to the National Portrait Gallery.

Yes, I am that easily amused.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As we were chatting of this and that last evening, the middle gel mentioned to me that she’s already into Chapter 4 of Great Expectations.  After this, she apparently intends to tackle both A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Moby Dick.

Now, let me just hasten to say here that I don’t relay this conversation in order to stick on side about my Lake Woebegone-like above-average children.  As a matter of fact, the first thing that flashed across my mind was the Bard’s line about“Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, And falls on th’other.” We shall see how far she actually gets with the project.

No, instead I bring it up because whilst noodling on the authors mentioned, particularly Dickens, it occurred to me that it is perfectly absurd that I haven’t touched one of his novels since high school, a period during which I am unashamed to say the value of his work, beyond its most superficial aspects, was no doubt quite thrown away on me.   (By the bye, does anyone actually still teach Dickens in secondary school these days?  And by that I mean teaching Dickens as a great author and not as a poster boy for the imperialistic, religiously-blinded, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, capitalistic, Euro-centric slime pit out of which we only just managed to crawl thanks to the gift of post-modern enlightenment.)

Aaaaanyway, our little chat inspired me to dip into Dickens myself, not just rereading the ones I’ve done before, but also tackling the ones I should have but didn’t.   (Bleak House comes to mind, for instance.)

Oh, and speaking (at least tangentially) of Dickens, I caught Scrooged on the teevee last evening for the first time in years and years.  All I remembered from the past was the ditzy Ghost of Christmas Present and Bobcat Goldthwaite wandering around with a shotgun and an attitude.  Thus, I was unexpectedly and absolutely sandbagged by the big climax.   I tell you truly, friends, Bill Murray’s speech on the meaning of Christmas and the way in which the spirit of love celebrated on that day ought to build and flow out to the rest of the year left me in something pretty close to tears.  Well said, indeed.

I’ve received word from Netflix that the first disc of “Band of Brothers” is on its way to the port-swiller residence.

I post this piece of information for no reason whatsoever other than as an excuse to once again air my long-held opinion that Damian Lewis looks like a constipated cat.   He does, too.

Yes, Vic, this one’s for you!

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!  Yes, I’m afraid it’s Tuesday again.  Please just try to bear with it.

♦   Ol’ Robbo managed to forget both his ulcer medicine and his reading glasses this morning.   I’m not sure which is more worrisome, the fact of my forgetfulness or the thematic association of the items forgotten.

♦  Speaking of such things, whilst stocking up on toilette requisi-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t’s the other day, I noticed that Old Spice was marketing a new deodorant labelled “Cyprus”.  Being in a somewhat adventurous mood, I decided to give it a whirl.  Alas, I had been thinking of a fragrance redolent of garlic, lamb and retsina, with perhaps a whiff of gunsmoke drifting down from the U.N. buffer zone.  It wasn’t until I got it home that I noticed the copy on the side of the thing promising “lime, an ocean breeze and freedom.”  In fact, I didn’t even know they did limes in Cyprus.  And the “freedom” tag still puzzles me.

Actually, the biznay turned out to be largely moot since, upon sampling, the stuff smells more like tangerine flavored Life-savers than anything else.

♦   During our Thanksgiving trip to Brother’s house, I found myself casting a very appreciative eye over his effort to turn his back porch into what I believe is known in the trade as a “three season room.”  Indeed, I was so inspired that I have been obsessing over doing the same thing with my own (which is usually so hot and buggy that we don’t much use it) ever since.    I may have missed my calling in life, because the possible configurations are coming out of my imagination like bats out of a barn.  Where does one begin?

♦  And speaking of barns, I had the oddest dream the other night that I was at our summah cottage up in Maine watching lava flowing into the sea from a nearby volcanic rift.  As sparks began to drift over the house, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to get people and things out of it.  We’ve long joked that we would love for a natural disaster to destroy the place so that we could rebuild with the insurance money, but I always imagined it would be an unusually powerful nor’easter that would do the job.

♦  And speaking of sparks, it would appear that the middle gel has herself a young man, as one of her classmates volunteered that he really “likes” her and, as a token of his affection, presented her with a small ankh brought back from Cairo.   The gel is quite pleased and, if I know anything about her, will milk the situation for all it’s worth.  For myself, I simply smile indulgently at such harmless puppy-love.   No need to reach for the horsewhip just yet.  (I learn that the young man’s mother has already told him: No kissing!)

♦  Alert friends of the decanter will have spotted the semi-obscure Monty Python reference above.  I’ve been wending through the Flying Circus episodes of late, after a rayther prolonged absence.  What strikes me this go round is how unevenly they’ve withstood the test of time, like a mountain range withered into fantastic shapes by erosion.  Some of the material simply wasn’t funny to begin with.  Some of it now seems dreadfully dated.  But some of it remains as sharp as ever.

♦  And speaking of forever sharp things, I note that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1898, of C.S. Lewis.   This being Advent, as is my custom I plan to run through his collected meditations on the spiritual (along with those of Chesterton).

First hearing of “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” of the year.

Going to be a looooooong season.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope all of you had a very happy Thanksgiving, coupling the proper sense of gratitude with the festive board groaning, as it were, with food and drink.

Such was our own experience as we merrily freeloaded off my brother and his family down in North Carolina.  Brother’s bird, cooked on the grill, turned out fabulous.  And as the gels and my nephew and two nieces, all of whom are roughly coeval, are finally crossing the threshold from Barbary ape to civilized human being, we were able to sit down, eleven to the table, with a hearty flow of good cheer without having to worry about tantrums, accidents or food fights.

Which is not to say that I didn’t witness some pretty awful behavior this weekend.

First, unbeknownst to us, the hotel in which we were staying had let its “banquet facility” Friday night to a group that wanted to throw a party “for young people who would otherwise be walking around on the street.”  What could possibly go wrong?  As we pulled in late in the evening, the parking lot was full of cars, as well as many, many unsavory-looking types, most of them carrying some kind of adult beverage and some already well under the influence.  As our room was directly across from said “banquet facility,” the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo of the “music” literally made the windows rattle.   As I lay there listening to it, coupled with the screams, shrieks and yells of the revelers, the thought came to mind that if Mussorgsky ever considered rewriting “Night on Bald Mountain,” he could have picked up a hint or two from being in my shoes.   A call to the front desk around 12:30 AM produced an offer to change our rooms if we wanted.  Yes, I thought, I’m going to pack up my family in the dead of night and, under the gaze of this crowd, sneak off to the other side of the building.  Right.

Anyhoo, the thumpa-thumpa stopped around a quarter to two, while the sounds of revelry continued for about another hour, many of the “young people” apparently having no means by which to go anywhere else.  Needless to say, Mrs. R and I didn’t get much sleep that night.  (The gels, with the blessing of yoot, slept right through it all.)

The second instance was much closer to home and of a different nature entirely.  At the beginning of his homily at Mass yesterday, Father S took a few moments to talk about the tradition of liturgical etiquette.  Noting that church is a place specifically for the purpose of worship and that we are, as it were, on God’s time, congregants should be mindful not to create distractions for those around them.  This means no gossiping while waiting for the bell to ring, no cell phones, no unruly children, no extended bouts of hacking and coughing and, as we’re Catholics, no banging of rosaries against pew backs.  Simple courtesy, one would think, although the crack about the rosaries got an appreciative chuckle.  I smiled to myself, thinking that since ours is the Tridentine Mass and therefore full of Rad-Trads, such a reminder was rayther like getting coals to Newcastle.

Well, shortly after Father started in on his homily proper, which was of course about the meaning of Advent, one of the side doors opened and a group of about half a dozen people I’d never seen before started noisily to stream in.  They had a couple little girls, aged about three or four, who immediately started squealing and dancing about the aisle, whilst the adults had a lengthy and apparently somewhat acrimonious discussion about where to sit.  This finally sorted out, and the crowd beginning to drift en masse toward an empty pew, one of the females of the group suddenly whipped out a camera and started taking photographs, flash photographs, mind you, of various group members with the altar in the background.   After a couple of shots, one of the regulars finally got the woman’s attention with some subdued but serious flapping, and got her to cut it out.  (Where’s a good usher when you need one?)

Group A, if I may so term them, had finally settled down, and Father had by then started in on the Consecration of the Host, when much to my horror, reinforcements arrived, in the shape of another half-dozen or so people.  Call them Group B.  Evidently, Groups A and B knew each other, as they all started waiving as the second group came in.  Not content with this acknowledgement, sundry members of Group A then proceeded to get up, move out into the aisle and begin hob-knobbing with their counterparts.  I was gobsmacked.   Meanwhile, I could see Father, now very red in the face, determined to stick to his sacred duty but just itching to ex-communicate the lot of them, possibly offering physical violence as well.  As I remarked to somebody later, I could not tell at that point whether the smoke which wreathed the altar was coming from the censor or from Father’s ears.  It was truly appalling.

Finally, the combined forces of Groups A and B settled down.  I noticed that none of them came forward for Communion.  It was probably just as well, because I am fairly certain Father would have told them to go to blazes.

Afterwards, as I shook hands with Father S upon leaving, I found myself on the verge of asking him if the whole thing had been a set up to illustrate the point he had been making about distractions.  Fortunately, Reason stepped in and kyboshed the joke, which was just as well as he probably would have told me to go to blazes.

All the same, I ask you!  What on earth could these people have possibly been thinking?

Well, so as not to end a post in darkness, I will light two candles for you:

Regarding the Friday Night Fiasco, when Mrs. R called the next day to demand a deep discount on what we paid, the manager actually thanked her for being so polite about it:  Apparently, he’d been being yelled at by infuriated fellow guests all day.  That sort of (to use an old-fashioned, almost taboo word) class, makes ol’ Robbo very, very happy.

Saturday afternoon found the Family Robbo, homeward bound, coming through Charlottesville, Virginny, just in time to get caught in the traffic headed for the UVA/Virginia Tech slay-fest game.  Once on the north side of town, we stopped at Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  People of a certain ilk like to sneer at Chick-Fil-A on the grounds of its heavily Christian business ethic.  But I will tell you this:  The place was absolutely mobbed with football fans.  Nonetheless, the staff were bright, courteous, efficient, patient and friendly.  And despite the fact that the place was a sea of humanity, I heard not a single grumble, saw not a single rude gesture from anybody in line.  Instead, there was nothing but goodwill and cooperation, even amongst the SUV pilots in the parking lot.  As I sat contemplating the scene, the evidence of Mankind’s potential for Good, the evidence that we can be civilized if we only try, even in very trying circumstances, was quite heartwarming.  And it made my chicken sammich taste that much better.  Gratitude will do that.

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was thinking a bit about this most peculiar of American holidays, more specifically about its origins.

By now, of course, the myth that the Puritans at Plymouth celebrated the “first” Thanksgiving in America, in 1621, has been well exploded as nothing more than a piece of Yankee propaganda.  Records make plain that celebrations of thanksgiving were held in the spring of 1610 at Jamestown and on December 4, 1619 at Berkeley Hundred, both in the great Commonwealth of Virginny.

And if you want to go even further, the founding of Quebec under Champlain in 1608 was also celebrated with a thanksgiving.   The Englishman Martin Frobisher, searching for the Northwest Passage, celebrated one in1578, which the Canadians now claim as the first Canadian thanksgiving.  As Christine notes, the Spanish held a thanksgiving at St. Augustine, Florida in September, 1565.  In fact, a group of French Huguenot colonists under Jean Ribault beat them to it, celebrating one just to the north at the St. John River on June 30, 1564, not long before the Spanish descended on them with fire and sword.  And Coronado is recorded to have celebrated a thanksgiving in May 1541 at the Palo Duro canyon in north Texas.

So you’ve got a wide variety of “firsts” from which to choose, depending on your preferences in religion, national origin and geography.

Some other time, I may ponder more thoroughly these “first wave” immigrants, although I’d have to say it isn’t necessarily a very pleasant exercise.   The vast majority of people who were willing to embark on what was then an extremely risky sea adventure for the purpose of coming to an almost completely unknown new shore were either rapacious, desperate or insane, often some combination thereof.  (No, ol’ Robbo isn’t suddenly going all p.c. on you.  But it was a brutal time and place.  Frontiers always are.)

But just look where we are today.   Thanksgiving is the least commercialized, the least bowdlerized, the least cheapened holiday on the entire calendar, remaining mighty close to its roots in simple gratitude and festivity for what we have and who we have.  Granted, this is probably because it sits in the shadows of the monstrosities of modern Halloween and Christmas, but it’s still pretty nice for all that.

(Image filched from Mrs. P.)

What with being distracted by medical matters, ol’ Robbo completely neglected the fact that yesterday was the Feast of St. Cecilia, patron of musick and one of my very favorite of all the saints.  Indeed, I appeal to her far more often than I do my own patrons, as I need all the help I can get when I’m butchering Bach or Handel, Mozart or Haydn at the keyboard.

I regret the oversight.

At any rate, a few apropos quotes:

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”

– Johann Sebastian Bach

Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.

– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“Whenever I think of God I can only conceive of Him as a Being infinitely great and infinitely good. This last quality of the divine nature inspires me with such confidence and joy that I could have written even a miserere in tempo allegro.”

– Franz Joseph Haydn

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high:
“Arise, ye more than dead!”
Then cold and hot and moist and dry
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began;
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.

– John Dryden

Qui cantat, bis orat (He who sings, prays twice).

– St. Augustine

Ol’ Robbo was noodling on the concept of harmony a bit and on the nature of musick in general.  Isn’t it fascinating that among all the arts, musick is the only truly abstract one?  To be sure, there is some occasional programmatic musick; depictions of goldfinches, thunderstorms, cantering horsemen and the like, but by and large, musick is self-referential, its own language.   It doesn’t mirror anything.

Except that I think it does.   Somehow, in a way impossible for me to articulate, I think musick is a product of the divine spark in mankind.  And harmony – as reflected in my selection of quotes – is somehow bound up in this, an aural manifestation of the ordered patterns and relationships of Creation, an echo of the Musick of the Spheres, the choiring of the cherubim and seraphim.

So go the thoughts of Robbo on St. Cecilia’s Day.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

For those of you interested (well, even for those of you not interested, since you’re reading this far anyway), I will report that at my visit to the gastro-intestinal doctress yesterday (how is it that ol’ Robbo always winds up finding attractive lady medicos, do you suppose?), it was definitively stated that, yes, an endoscopy is warranted to find out what exactly is going on in the ol’  tummy.  So that’s all set up for mid-January.  In the meantime, it’s more or less stay on the meds and deal with it.

The good news is that the doctress did not feel there was any particular need to, as it were, have a look up the other end, and that I could wait another few years before enjoying that particular experience.   And if the receptionist’s reaction was anything to go by as I was scheduling upcoming events, apparently not volunteering for a colonscopy if not needed is quite the joke among G/I office staff.


Blog Stats

  • 501,221 hits
November 2011