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My email quote of the day source (from whom I also filched the excellent G.B. Shaw description of musick – from Man and Superman- with which I title this post), informs me that today is the 140th anniversary of the birth, in 1872, of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Because I’m actually more eclectic in my tastes than many people realize, I may say that I really don’t mind some of Vaughan Williams’ musick.  But I notice that it’s all the derivative stuff, the settings of folk tunes, the fantasias on ‘Greensleeves’ and the theme by Thomas Tallis, and so forth.  Not that I’d go out and actually spend money on these works, but when they turn up on the local classickal station (as they so often do), I can take them in my stride and even enjoy them a bit.  But when it comes to Vaughan Williams’ own original creations?   Fuggedaboutit!  I find these pieces to be uniformly sappy, twee dollops of mush that give me the guts-ache.  (My QOTD source pays particular accolades to The Lark Ascending.  Suffice to say that I disagree with his opinion.)

I would also remark that the rector at RFEC is a fan of Vaughan Williams’ hymn settings.  Not only is the sap factor present, but these hymns often trip up the congregation, what with all the awkward rhythms and intervals that RVW felt compelled to stick in that are over and above the ordinary non-schooled pew jockey’s ability to sight-read.

And speaking of such things, the annual fall pledge drive has started over to the local classickal station.  We hates annual fall pledge drives!  Nothing but Pachelbel’s Canon and the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ and the ‘Blue Danube’ and the ‘Bolero’ and similar garbage (to use the technical term).  Nothing but horrid, bombastic, big name-yet-awful performances which the disk jockeys flog as wunnerful even when they know better.

I’ve also become increasingly aware that the jocks are marketing classickal musick almost exclusively on the basis of its therapeutic value.  “It takes you to another place!”  “It’s an outlet for your inner joy!”  ” It soothes and relaxes!”  Then they play clips of “real members” mouthing the same treacly pablum right back.  “I don’t know much about classical music, but I know it helps me… myself.”

Look, I know that they do this because they need to cast the widest possible donor net, but to me it’s just such a disservice to the art itself.   Musick isn’t just about feelings, it’s an intellectual venture as well and, indeed, even more so IMHO.

No doubt you are saying to yourself, “Self, if pledge week drives Tom so batty, why doesn’t he just turn off the radio?”

What, and spoil my fun?

I happen to be rereading the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.  If you were to ask me why, I’d probably say that I just happen to like rereading the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant every so often (and, almost inevitably, following up with Bruce Catton’s masterful Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command).  Robbo is very Pro Grant, believing that the man’s sterling qualities of character get unjustifiably overlooked because of his less-than-flamboyant personality and because of the scandals that plagued his cabinet during his presidency.  I think I would have rayther liked sitting about a campfire with him, perhaps taking a drop of the crayture and simply hobnobbing about things.  Something tells me we’d get on pretty well.

Anyhoo, I mention this because last evening I was reading about the Yazoo Pass expedition during Grant’s attempt to get at Vicksburg in early 1863 when I suddenly remembered that I had actually dreamed once (perhaps in conjunction with one of my prior readings of the episode) about being in that campaign.  I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that I was leading an infantry force to rescue Admiral Porter’s gunboats from Confederate sniper fire.   I seem to recall actually running up alongside a gunboat and looking feverishly into the surrounding brush for any signs of rebs.

Why this particular piece of history should have penetrated into the subconscious strata of what pass for Robbo’s braims, I really couldn’t say, but there it is.  While I have from time to time had other historickally-based dreams, they’ve all tended to be highly stylized and vague.  I do not believe I have ever had another one involving this much specificity of time, place and incident.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Oh, the sweet, sweet nerve-shattering, liver destroying, ulcer-inducing flavor of October baseball!  Let’s go to the videotape:


For those of you who don’t click over and haven’t heard the news yet, Jayson Werth fought a 13-pitch bottom of the 9th battle against the Cards’ Lance Lynn and launched a screaming walk-off homer into the bullpen, thus winning the game 2-1 and pulling Robbo’s beloved Nats back to a 2-2 tie in the series, the final game of which will be played this evening.


Actually, I didn’t watch the end of the game live because of the very inconvenient 4:00 o’clock start time.  When I left my computer, it was still tied 1-1 at the end of 4.  Last evening happened to be softball practice for the youngest gel’s team.   At some point toward the end of practice, it occurred to us to check up on the Nats’ score, so we asked the brother of one of the gel’s teammates who was loitering about the field, to look it up on his iWhatever.  A few seconds later, he said, “Oh, it’s 3-2 Cardinals in the 9th.”  This cast a definite gloom over all and sundry.  What we didn’t realize at the time was that the kid was mistaken –  reading  the hits column instead of the run column.

As practice finished and we walked up to the parking lot muttering to ourselves that it had been a good run and the Nats should hold their collective head high, one of the team dads had his car radio on.  Just as we got there, he suddenly cranked up the volume and I heard the crowd exploding, the submarine horn a-oooo-ghaing and the announcers screaming Werth’s name.

Sweet, sweet flavor!

The softball team, as you might imagine, went collectively bananas.

Game 5, 8:30 tonight with our ace Gio Gonzales pitching.  Will the port swiller family be parked in front of the teevee with nachos, snacks and beverages (adult and otherwise) ready to go?  Oh, you betcha!



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October 2012