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Happy Birthday to James Thurber!

Born this day in 1894 in Columbus, Ahia,  Thurber, in my humble opinion, was quite possibly the funniest American writer of all time.   In fact, I would rank him above Twain simply because, while Twain was biting and satirical, Thurber was insane.  Or, as he put it himself, “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

Perhaps I will celebrate this evening by digging out “The Dog That Bit People,” one of the stories of the collection entitled My Life and Hard Times, a book I cannot read on the metro because people look at me and my helpless reactions to it with such alarum.

The other day, Mrs. P and I were chatting on Facebook about the P.G. Wodehouse novel French Leave, which she and Mr. P are currently enjoying listening to on an audiobook.   I asked who was doing the narration, to which Mrs. P replied that the book was being read by the actor Jeremy Sinden.

My friends, those of you who drop by for a glass of port on a regular basis have, I suspect, formed your own views as to the lengths of ol’ Robbo’s eccentricity and the tangled and matted strands of thought that clutter up what passes for his brain.  Well, I’m afraid that whatever your estimation, it’s about to get worse, because I must be the only person on the planet who instantly recognized in Sinden the actor who played both Boy Mulcaster in Brideshead Revisited AND Gold Two in Star Wars.

And I sometimes wonder why I have all these headaches……

Anyhoo, that aside.  What I really wanted to talk about was this biznay of books on tape, something to which I have never really warmed.  Most people tell me that they enjoy them either while exercising or else on long drives.  For myself, I don’t think I could concentrate properly if I were trying to listen to a book while hoofing it on the treadmill.  And as to long drives, I have become over the years something of a silence crank, preferring the background hum of the road as an aid to my musings, rayther than actively listening to anything.  I don’t even much like musick on such trips anymore.  In fact, on our last family jaunt over Thanksgiving, I so arranged things that Mrs. R and the gels were all plugged into their iThingies and I, as it were, had the car to myself.  Everybody wins.

So I don’t actually have anything against books on tape.  I just don’t care for them myself.

French Leave, as it happens, is not one of my favorite Wodehouse novels.  For a different taste of things French, I recommended that Mrs. P give Hot Water a try.  One of my very favorites.  Apparently, she already has it.  I don’t know if Sinden narrates that one, too, but if so, he’s certainly got his hands full in terms of variety of character.  The stories concerns at least five gradations of Americans (a millionaire Yale football player, a Senator and his daughter, a self-made businessman and his wife, a con artist (who pretends to be a French nobleman) and a safecracker), a real French nobleman who is drunk most of the time, an Earl’s daughter, a Mayfair “artiste” and various female detectives.  How does one go about handling such a mob?  Does one attempt to pitch one’s voice?  Or read it straight and hope for the best?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today, as many of you no doubt know, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and, as such, a holy day of obligation.  I shall be toddling to the church up the street at lunch time to make the appropriate devotions.

I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about either the feast or the doctrine, except to note that it is the cause of the single time anyone at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church has been downright rude to me on theological grounds since I swam the Tiber.

In fact, it was about this time last year.  A friend of mine at RFEC who has taken a friendly interest in my doings and picks my braims about Catholic matters from time to time had approached me during coffee hour to ask exactly what the Immaculate Conception was.  As with many people outside the Church (and, I suspect, some within it), he was confused, thinking it had something to do with the birth of Jesus.  As I walked him through things to the best of my ability,  another parishioner I do not know sidled up.  After listening for a few minutes, the fellah suddenly started in on me, scoffing at “Mary worship” and then going on to sneer at Pius IX, whom he apparently believed simply woke up one morning, thought the doctrine would be a pretty good idea, and therefore made it Law.  From his rant, it was obvious he didn’t have the faintest idea what he was talking about, either with respect to the Feast or the doctrine of Papal infallibility.   Nonetheless, he finished his tirade by saying loftily, “I can think for myself, thank you.”

Well, good luck with that.

For my part, I simply stared at the man.

It is a curious thing I have noticed among self-styled religious “progressives” that while they will most often argue points of Biblical interpretation calmly and, at least in their view, rationally, when the subject of Mary comes up, they seem to see red.  I have had some struggles in, as it were, opening up to her, but this is not because of some history of hostility, but because she simply wasn’t emphasized much in my conservative Episcopal background.  What provokes this kind of violent antagonism in these other folks remains, to me, something of a mystery.


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December 2011