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My post below touching on the Star Trek movie I happened to have chosen to watch the evening I unexpectedly met Mrs. Robbo generated a fair bit of “wow, how did you dodge that bullet” commentary with respect to my choice, so I thought I would follow up with a completely gratuitous post summarizing my opinion of the franchise as a whole.
Mind you, I am NOT a “Trekkie”. Yes, along with many others of my age, in my misspent yoot I spent a lot of weekday afternoons watching and loving reruns of the original series. Yes, certain words and phrases from the series have made it into the Robbo lexicon. Yes, I built a model or two of the Enterprise. (For what it’s worth, I also had models of the Galactica, a Colonial Viper, an X-Wing and a TIE-Fighter. I also built 1/48 scale models of most of the Allied fighters and bombers of WWII and hung them from my bedroom ceiling.) Yes, I was excited that the teevee series made it on to the big screen. And yes, I know all about the Kobayashi Maru test.
But that’s it. Totes serially. I never owned a costume. I never sought an autograph. I never went to a convention. I have never owned a “Star Fleet Academy” rear-window decal. I never sought to learn how to speak Klingon. And I never, ever, believed that the United Federation of Planets was any kind of political model for the real world.
I’m normal. NORMAL, I tell you!
Which is all to say that the following rankings are both completely subjective and probably shallow and ill-informed as well. I don’t care.
Anyhoo, here we go:
The Original Series Movies
1st – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A no-brainer, amirite? A perfectly balanced film bringing out all the TOS tropes while also encapsulating the glories of space travel (the scene where the Enterprise leaves space dock always chokes me up) and setting up a classic submarine chess match between Kirk and Khan. I like this film so much that I don’t even snicker at Scotty’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the pipes toward the end. Without looking it up, I believe that even the late Prog New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael described it as “wonderful, dumb fun”.
2nd (tie) – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Two very different films with two very different sets of strengths and weaknesses which balance each other out in my mind. ST4-TVH has a lot of anti-Reagan platitudes and hippy-dippy nature cant, but it holds up in terms of the chemistry among the main characters. ST6-TUC would have been a much better film, but it spends too much time in dry, tedious Sherlock Holmes-like questing for clues surrounding its central mystery. (I say nothing of the fact that its main theme musick was a complete rip-off of “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Gustov Holst’s The Planets.)
4th (tie) – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Two films that, in my mind at least, shared the same fatal flaw in that both were so arch about themselves and the Universe they portrayed as to cross the border into camp. The plot of STIII-SFS was reasonably sound and could have been done quite well, but was squandered in its execution – the whole disabling of the Excelsior, for example. STV-TFF, on the other hand, while also carrying a not-unreasonable plot, was just….well, bad all around.
6th – Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Yep, sucked. By golly, unless you weren’t there yourself, you don’t know the disappointment felt by a 14 y.o. boy of my previous Trek experience when this dog of a film hit the big screen, Bald Babe notwithstanding. Personally, I blame Jimmy Carter.
The Next Generation Movies
Before getting to the films, I will say that I hated the first season or two of ST:TNG on teevee because it bent all over itself to show how politically correct it was: Psychiatric counselor (in homespun body suit) on the bridge; Model U.N. -type captain; nary a shot fired in anger; constant apologies for Mankind’s perceived past transgressions against Mother Universe. However, after a while, the show seemed to calm down and turn its attention to teh stars out there instead of gazing at its own navel. (Well, okay, there was a good bit of the multiple personalities of Data and the, ah, doings of Riker on the holideck, but you know what I mean.)
Anyhoo, I never cared as much about any of the TNG films as I did of teh TOS ones, probably because I never totally accepted the TNG premise. Nonetheless, here we go:
1st – Star Trek TNG: First Contact. I always thought the Borg, the ultimate sci-fi manifestation of Collective Progressivism, was the single greatest idea to come out of the minds of the TNG writers, however ironically. I also liked the film’s easy treatment of the personalities and relationships that had evolved among the TNG Enterprise’s crew over the prior teevee seasons. Instead of having to prove themselves, the characters seemed to be having fun.
2nd – Star Trek TNG: Generations. Weeeeell, it was okay, and I suppose a reasonably good hand-over, although I always laugh at the scene in which Kirk is cooking an omelet and directing Picard to fetch him various spices. What bothers me is TMW – Too Much Whoopie. (I could never stand her Guinan character.)
3rd (tie) – Star Trek TNG: Insurrection and Star Trek TNG: Nemesis. Whelp, I admit I don’t recall much of either film. One had to do with a planet of Enlightened Vegan, Free-Range Baby-boom Volvo Drivers. The other had to do with some kind of Evil Picard Clone doing Bad Things. Frankly, it was all pretty dull.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As many of you probably know, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth, in 1756, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Last week, as part of its month-long celebration of Mozart’s birth, the local classickal station chose as its CD “pick of the week” a recording that included a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, various movements of which received multiple plays during the course of the week.
This made ol’ Robbo smile because of a certain passage in Patrick O’Brian’s The Letter of Marque. (WARNING: If you are not an aficionado of the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin canon, the rest of this post won’t make much sense to you. I can only suggest that you drop whatever else you’re doing and go start in on these books right now. Right. Now.) In it, Jack and Stephen are talking in the cabin of the Surprise when Jack suddenly breaks his train of thought about other matters and exclaims, “….Surely that is not the “Marseillaise” you are picking out?”
Stephen had his ‘cello between his knees and for some time now he had been very quietly stroking two or three phrases with variations upon them – a half-conscious playing that interrupted neither his talk nor his listening. ‘It is not,’ he said. ‘It is, or rather it is meant to be, the Mozart piece that was no doubt lurking somewhere in the Frenchman’s mind when he wrote it. Yet something eludes me…..”
‘Stephen,’ cried Jack. ‘Not another note, I beg. I have it exactly, if only it don’t fly away.’ He whipped the cloth off his violin-case, tuned roughly, and swept straight into the true line. After a while, Stephen joined him, and when they were thoroughly satisfied they stopped, tuned very exactly, passed the rosin to and fro and so returned to the direct statement, to variations upon it, inversions, embroideries, first one setting out a flight of improvisations while the other filled in and then the other doing the same, playing on and on until a lee-lurch half-flung Stephen from his seat, so that his ‘cello gave a dismal screech.
I smiled because the Mozart to which Stephen referred was, in fact, one of the secondary themes of the first movement of this particular concerto. I give it you here. The orchestra first states it in the minor at about 1:34, then repeats in the major at 1:42 and 1:48. The piano gets in on the act at 6:53 and makes a full, triumphant statement of the theme at 7:32. It never really goes away for the rest of the movement. Enjoy!
You must admit that it is quite engaging, and readily capable of earwig-like lurking once installed in one’s head. (And before anybody starts pointing out the differences between this theme and that of the “Marseillaise”, bear in mind that Stephen specifically states that the former is “lurking” in the Frenchman’s mind. It’s an influence, not a direct match.)
I must confess that there are times, when reading O’Brian’s magnum opus, that I am not altogether sure he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to musick. But this one is a safe and pleasant bet.
*A reference to another literary work. 10 points for spotting it and The Mothe is disqualified from playing because it would be a gimme for her.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, twenty-five years ago this evening, ol’ Robbo met Mrs. R.
You see, at the time I was in my second year of law school at Dubyanell. That evening, I had gone over to a buddy’s apartment to borrow his VCR while he and his girlfriend – a student at Sweet Briar College, 45 minutes across the Blue Ridge – went out on a date.
When I got there, my friend was on the phone with his GF discussing logistics. “Hey,” he said, “GF is hitching a ride over from Future Mrs. R (“FMR”). Want to meet her?”
Understand that I had been out on another blind date the night before (my birthday), set up by this same friend. It had been an utter flop. Not ugly, you understand, just completely without chemistry. (Indeed, the young person involved, and her family, are now members of Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church and I speak with her from time to time. I’m pretty sure she has no recollection that we went out on said date. That’s how complete the lack of chemistry was.)
Anyhoo, I was pretty disgruntled re the whole dating/relationship thing that night. I said, “Look, I’m going to watch my movie. If she wants to join me, fine. If she doesn’t, also fine. Doesn’t matter.”
My friend conveyed this to his GF, who replied that FMR had no problem with that.
A short while later, there was a knock at my friend’s door. GF walked in, followed by FMR. Curiously, because I forget so many other things, I still remember the look on her face as she crossed the threshold.
Ironically, it was because I didn’t really care that I didn’t try to put on a face. And because I didn’t try to put on a face, we hit it off immediately.
What keeps this from being a totes aaaawwww story? My choice of movies that evening. Yes, long before I had any idea there might be any social interaction involved, I had settled on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, one of the more unfortunate entries in the canon. (In my defense, I had not seen it before, so did not know how rotten it was.)
Whelp, to her credit, Mrs. R stuck it out with a smile on her face. And the rest, as they say, is history, although so far as I know, she has never since clapped eyes on anything Star Trek related.
In a perfect world, each signal year I would honor the anniversary of our meeting by, say, a bottle of champaign and an airing of the same movie. However, I’m sure fellow friends of the decanter will understand why we, um, don’t.
Related, here is the one (almost) redeeming scene in that whole wretched movie:
What does God need with a starship, or with a centralized bureaucracy, indeed?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, not to be self-congratulatory, but today ol’ Robbo turned the big 5-0.
Because this is a school night and some of the family are down with a bug, plus the fact that I’ve never really been one much of one for Robbo-centric hype, celebration this evening was fairly muted, just some take-out Chinese followed by a chocolate mousse-y cake.
I try to think what it means to hit this particular mark, but to tell you the truth I really can’t. On the one hand, I just don’t feel old. [Mothe – “That’s because you’re not!”] In fact, apart from the fact of a gray hair or two, a bit of arthritis in my fingers and my ever-worsening eye-sight, I feel pretty much the same as I have since I first got out of school. On the other, I don’t feel any memento mori-based anxiety at hitting the milestone because, honestly, at least at this point the thought of my own mortality simply doesn’t frighten me. (This does not appear to be universally the case among old high school classmates over on FB.)
In fact, I’m rayther looking forward to the next few years. As I joked to Sistah today, various people have been accusing me of having a 50 year old mentality ever since I was a teenager. (Indeed, one college flame, shortly before she became an ex-flame, said that I must have been born sixty.) I guess my body is just finally catching up age-wise with my mindset and people will stop having attacks of cognitive dissonance trying to put them together.
Actually, no. No they won’t. This is because our wretched so-called “culture” has largely abandoned St. Paul:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
– 1 Corinthians 13:11
Instead, it has adopted the Peter Pan quest for perpetual adolescence, a frame of mind which I utterly detest. So the bafflement will continue. Too bad. Damned Boomers.
On a better note, this morning teh Middle Gel asked me what I would like as a birthday present. Well, I told her, what I always wanted more than anything else growing up was some day to have a family and a comfortable home of my own. Thanks largely to a healthy portion of fool’s luck (or the overtime work of my guardian angel, if you like), plus at least some effort of my own, I seem to have wound up with exactly that, and for this birthday present, I am profoundly grateful.
(Not being satisfied with this answer and looking for something more material, she pressed me a bit further, so I had to admit that I would also like to have a harpsichord and a horse, but I don’t think either of those is likely any time soon.)
Anyhoo, a glass of wine all round!
UPDATE: Oh, the one thing I did want to mention was the curious acceleration of temporal perception I’ve started to feel over the past couple years. Time seems to be running faster the older I get. Well, it occurs to me that this is simply a matter of math. When I was ten, a year constituted one tenth of my life, amirate? So parse it out accordingly: when I was 20, a year was 1/20th of my life; when I was thirty, 1/30th. And so on.
Well, fellow port swillers, as I type this post teh Middle Gel is off at her school’s Winter Formal (or “WinFo” as teh kids seem to call it), hopefully having a grand time. I only got to see her for a second earlier this evening – Mrs. R had her out getting her hair and face done and she only had, literally, five minutes to dash back into Port Swiller Manor, throw on her dress and dash out again – but she looked grand.
Fortunately, through a horse-trade too complicated to explain here, Mrs. R is tasked with tonight’s chauffeuring duties, so ol’ Robbo finds himself sitting in front of his Mac, a glass of the Laphroaig 10 y.o. at his side and a set of trio sonatas by Johann Baptist Georg Neruda (1707-1780) on the ol’ CD player.
If this isn’t Blog Nirvana for a traditionally-minded fellah on the eve of hitting the big 5-0, I’ll be damned if I know what is.
Anyhoo, some observations:
♦ We’ve had the Mac on which I’m typing this post for a couple years now and I say again: I. Hate. Apple. For reasons completely incomprehensible to me, whenever I touch the mouse I enter into a zone of random chances that the screen is going to enlarge or shrink or shift left or right or vanish altogether, usually with absolutely no hope of getting back to where I started without losing what it was I was doing. Damn that. Technology should be absolutely clear and deliberate, not vague and anticipatory. This is how SkyNet is going to kill us all.
♦ Yet another story today on a familiar theme: Multi-billionaire who gave a lecture about American’s ‘needing to have less things and live a smaller existence’ owns a staggering FIVE mansions… including the nation’s most expensive home. Of course. As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who tell us there’s a crisis start acing like there’s a crisis, I will, perhaps, start to listen.
♦ Yes, it’s properly “fewer things” instead of “less things”. However, pointing out such sloppy errors these days probably constitutes “grammarian micro-aggression” and therefor constitutes a hate crime.
♦ Speaking of which (the GloBull Warming bullet, not the grammar-Nazi one), go check out this link at Ace’s. Yes, indeed.
♦ Ol’ Robbo made himself get on the elliptical this afternoon for the first time in quite a while. 45 minutes, 3.25 miles, 400+ calories. I’m afraid that I’ve got rayther flabby in the last year or two – both physically and mentally – and have decided to use my impending milestone birthday as a reason to get back in the game. I must say that the endorphin rush, first acquired back in my college varsity days, feels mighty good.
♦ Good friend of the decanter Diane mentions that she recently has cleaned up her own blogroll. This reminds me that, really, I ought to do the same here, as many entries on the port swiller lists have gone dark or moved. It’s hard, though. In part, Robbo hates change and will cling to old clothes, old shoes, old books and old blog friends long after they have fallen apart, and doesn’t like to accept the fact that they’ve done so. Indeed, there’s a specific, individual reason why I linked to most of these blogs in the first place, and I am frankly saddened to see each of them end. In part, also, I’m also too damn lazy to fiddle with the workings.
♦ On the other side, I again remind those two or three of you who gather here that if you think there are other blogs out there that might tickle the port swiller fancy, you are invited to send them along. Always more room on the ol’ blogroll for them, and we welcome as many voices as care to chime in.
♦ Maybe it’s just an age thing, but despite the fact that we have not had all that bad a winter so far in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, ol’ Robbo pines for spring this year much more than he can remember doing so in the past. On the other hand, another Alberta Clipper is set to hit the area tomorrow night and into Monday. Ol’ Robbo is not so trenchant in his desire for warmer weather that he wouldn’t mind a delay or closing on his birthday….
Yes, I am kinda shallow.
Welp, it’s getting latish, so I should wrap this up and go check my, ah, firepower. Just in case Middle Gel’s date did not adhere to the standards one would expect of a young gentleman. You know:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo was idling around the innertoobs this soggy Saturday morning when his eye fell on this article over at the Telegraph: Warriors Suffered From Post-Traumatic Stress ‘3,000 Years Ago’. The lead:
Warriors in ancient Iraq more than 3,000 years ago could have been the first people to suffer from post-traumatic stress, researchers have found.
It has long been believed that the first account of PTSD was in 490 BC following the Marathon Wars between the Greeks and the Persians.
The understanding was based on Herodotus’ account of the Athenian spear carrier Epizelus who began to suffer from mutism after the conflict.
But researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have now discovered texts that suggest PTSD could have existed as far back as 1300 BC.
Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, director of Anglia Ruskin’s Veterans and Families Institute, said the texts references conflicts in the same region as the current Gulf Wars.
He said: “This paper, and the research on which it is based, demonstrates that post traumatic psychological symptoms of battle were evident in ancient Mesopotamia.
“Well before the Greek and Roman eras, before the time of Abraham and the biblical Kings, David and Solomon, and contemporarily with the time of the Pharaohs.”
“Especially significant is that this evidence comes from the area known as the cradle of civilisation and, of course, the site of much recent conflict including the recent Gulf and Iraq Wars in which many British service personnel were involved.”
Now, I’ve never served in uniform, much less combat, but I have studied history and human nature. My first reaction to the story was, “Well, duh.” But that last little bit got me wondering. Why, exactly, is it “especially significant” that this evidence comes from the “cradle of civilization”? Is the suggestion that such stress is a by-product of psychological developments associated with such civilization and, by implication, that it has not been experienced by, say, hunter-gatherer savages populating other parts of the world? Because that would be an interesting idea, if rayther daringly politically incorrect. UPDATE: Or, now that I think about it more, what about civilizations parallel to the one which rose in Mesopotamia? Is there any evidence of PTSD in warriors among, say, the Aztecs or the Incas?
On the other hand, is it just an excuse to adopt an arched eyebrow and an ironic smirk while saying “cradle of civilization” when discussing Iraq?
I don’t know.
UPDATE: Oh, why not? Like I say, soggy Saturday. Enjoy!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Whenever the Middle Gel starts griping about how tired she is, which is fairly often, I recommend that she take up drinking coffee (as I did when I got to high school myself). She replies that she never will, and then goes on to start throwing facts and figures about caffeine addiction and misallocation of take-home income at me, arguing that I, in fact, ought to stop drinking it.
Riiiiiiiight……[Insert Bill Bixby, “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” line here.]
I usually end the debate by adopting a James Earl Jones voice and saying, “Come to the Dark Side. It is your destiny!”
We went through all this again this morning while waiting for school to open, so I decided that it was high time to dig out “Die Katze läßt das Mausen nicht” from J.S. Bach’s “Coffee Cantata”, BWV 211. What I say is, if it was good enough for ol’ Johann Sebastian, it’s good enough for a young whippersnapper who ought to be doing her homework instead of cruising Dad’s blog.
Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht,
Cats do not leave mice alone,
die Jungfern bleiben Coffeeschwestern.
and maidens remain coffee addicts.
Die Mutter liebt den Coffeebrauch,
The mother loves this coffee custom,
die Großmama trank solchen auch,
the grandmother did the same,
wer will nun auf die Töchter lästern!
who can then blame the daughter!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
By now, most friends of the decanter (by which I mean everyone except teh Mothe) will know that the New England Patriots professional football team seems to have been caught out illegally deflating footballs during the course of last weekend’s rout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game, thereby ensuring the Pats’ advancement to the Sooper Bowel a week from Sunday. (For teh Mothe, a softer ball is easier to catch, especially in the cold.)
For my part, I totally believe the Pats used such subterfuge in order to give themselves any and every advantage they could get. Why?
First, because ol’ Robbo has been a fan of the Miami Dolphins – who share membership in the AFC East with the Pats – since his misspent yoot¹, and has felt nothing but fury in recent years as the Pats have taken up their dominant position in that division (and been complete A**-holes about it²) and the ‘Fins have hovered somewhere between mediocrity and pathos since Marino retired.
Second, because Bill Belichick, the Pats’ coach, is a fellow alum of Robbo’s of the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT, a radical prog institution on which I spit these days³ and whose alums, with very limited exceptions (i.e., some of those with whom I rowed crew), I would not trust any farther than I can throw.
Anyhoo, there’s been much debate about all this – and what ought to be the fallout – over the past few days, but I was particularly intrigued by The Head Ewok’s take on it this evening:
I’m not a huge moralist when it comes to cheating. I accept that many athletes cheat, such that a dark bit of wisdom has become popular: If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.
But here’s the thing: If cheating is a part of sports, so is not getting caught.
By getting caught, the Patriots have failed at cheating — even if you want to credit cheating as “clever play” or “aggressive competitiveness.” Even if you want to cynically count cheating as the Winner’s Edge, The Patriots still failed at it, and should therefore suffer the consequences of failure.
Which is disqualification.
See, ol’ Robbo, being the stuffy moralist that he is, thinks the Pats ought to get the ban hammer because they cheated. Ace, on the other hand, thinks they ought to get it because they got caught. In other words, I think he’s applying a Darwin Awards analysis to the situation.
I can’t say that I agree with him completely, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
New England delenda est.
¹ When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I bought and read the book Griese/Csonka: The Miami Dolphins’ One-Two Punch. Good times.
² What the hell is it about Boston sports teams? Back in the day when the Sawx struggled, I had nothing but admiration for the franchise and their die-hard fans. And I cheered heartily when they came back from the brink of destruction to win the ’04 Series. Since then, however, they and their fans have been complete jerks.
³ Even though I stuck it out myself and a) through careful course selection earned a very good English major and, b) seriously honed my debating skills and personal values through my immersion in the moon bat left, I completely refuse to subject teh Gels to the same treatment, especially as the price tag these days is north of $60K per year, all of which would come out of my pocket.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that apparently Tom Brady, the Pats’ QB, held a press conference over the whole biznay yesterday afternoon (I didn’t see it) and managed to suggest that, what with the world going up in flames (and, I myself might add, the collapse of Judeo-Christian morality and Constitutional republicanism here at home), the MSM really ought to find something better to do than worry about deflated balls. Yes, but this is deliberate. Bread, circuses. Some assembly required.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
After the trials and tribulations of double birthday sleepover parties last week, Mrs. Robbo and Self yesterday took off for Richmond, Virginny, there to meet up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and Mrs. LMC, who were coming from the opposite direction.
All on our own. No kids. Woo Hoo!!
In the afternoon, while the Missuses (or is the Missii?) went shopping, the LMC and I hung about in the hotel bar dissecting the world’s woes and making the barkeep a happy fellah. (We stayed in a Marriott that caters to the biznay crowd, so is usually mostly dead on Sundays. We had the place to ourselves.) When our wives were done bankrupting us for the moment, we sauntered over to a steakhouse where Robbo was treated to the best durn ribeye he’s had in a long time. (Hondo’s, in Glen Allen, if you want to know.)
sauntered staggered back to the hotel bar and made the barkeep even happier.
Apart from getting far from the madding crowd, this was all by way of celebrating ol’ Robbo’s upcoming 50th. I was reluctant to go at first, mostly because I detest the drive down I-95, but in the end I’m glad I was cajoled into it. A very good time was had by all.
The added bonus was that when we returned to Port Swiller Manor this morning, we found it still standing without yellow police tape all over the place, and all personnel present and accounted for. (Yes, we had a friend stay over just to keep an eye on the place. While I generally trust teh gels not to do damn-fool things, I don’t trust them quite that much. And I don’t trust the big bad world out there at all.)
And now? Back to the salt mines……