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James Gillray – “Matrimonial Harmonics” (1805). Just as applicable to the office setting.

One of ol’ Robbo’s ironclad rules of office etiquette is never to discuss politics.

Would that everyone in my little professional community felt the same way.  I’ve just had to listen to an excruciatingly enthusiastic and brayingly loud description of the latest presidential candidate kerfluffle report to come out of the pages of Pravda on the Potomac, emanating from a pair of colleagues up the hall.

This time around, I was merely a collateral auditor.  Four years ago, one of these same persons actually tried to rope me into a debate on the comparative worth of the candidates.  I simply fixed her with a frozen stare and a very thin smile.  It shut her up for a while, but I’m not so sure whether the burnt fool’s bandaged finger may not go wabbling back to the fire.

At any rate, I’ve an idea it’s gonna be a looooong summah and fall.

A fascinating story about the recent discovery of a nearly perfectly preserved RAF P-40 Kittyhawk crash-landed in the Sahara 70 years ago.  According to the signs, the poor pilot seems to have struck out to try and walk home.  Of course, the chap was never seen again.

The story reminded me of the novel A Good Clean Fight by Derek Robinson.   It’s a fictional account of the desert war in North Africa, featuring both the RAF Kittyhawk squadrons as well as the SAS long-range patrols and is well worth a read if you’re interested in this sort of thing.  (With all the special ops stuff I’ve been reading of late, I’ve felt the urge to pull this one off the shelf again, too.)

The book certainly has its flaws:  As in his other works that I’ve read, although his descriptions of military matters on both the large and the small scale are exquisite, Robinson tends to get rayther ham-fisted when it comes to depicting personal relationships.  (In this, he’s not half so bad as, say, Tom Clancy.  And anyway, you’re reading the book for the guns and the bombs and stuff, right?)   Also, he brings back from the dead a character who was most unceremoniously killed off in my favorite Robinson novel, Piece of Cake, which I think is literary cheating.    However,  having read AGCF, I had a much better perspective on the story of this long-lost plane and its most unfortunate pilot.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For all of his Luddite proclivities, there are times when ol’ Robbo really loves these Internets.

To wit: A day or two ago I was indulging in a little criticism of the art work of the late Maurice Sendak, comparing his thinly-disguised hippie “monsters” unfavorably with what I remember of fantasy stories from my own misspent yoot.  Well, a quick peak in the port swiller library this morning refreshed my memory as to the particular story and illustration I had in mind, and by virtue of a few keystrokes, I can present same to you.  Here we go:

The story I had in mind is called “The Tale of a Youth Who Set Out To Learn What Fear Was“, collected by the Brothers Grimm and here  published by Andrew Lang  in 1889 in The Blue Fairy Book, one of a set of twelve collections of folk tales and legends .   As you can see from the sample, which is fairly typical of the flavor, there was no Disneyfication going on here, no bubble-wrapping – the stories were often red in tooth and claw and the illustrations could get quite lurid.  I recall that we had at least the Red, Blue and Green books.   I still have the Blue, but I’m not sure what happened to the others.

As I also mentioned in my previous post, this particular illustration always gave me a case of the willies because of a black cat we owned in my childhood by the name of Bathsheba.  Ol’ Bash (as we liked to call her) was of, shall we say, independent temperament.   And while she could be quite friendly when she wanted, she could also turn on one with lightning speed, especially if one happened to be an overly-frisky child of whom Bash had decided that she’d had Just. About. Enough.

The combination of Bash’s quick temper and this illustration generated in the subconscious mind of Young Robbo more than one nightmare about being attacked in my bed by a black cat.



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May 2012