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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As is still his wont sometimes these days, ol’ Robbo tagged along with the family this past Sunday morning to his former Episcopal Church pour encourager les autres, where he was chagrined to observe that the youngest gel had discovered one can put one’s head in one’s arms across the back of the pew in front and look deep in prayer while, in reality, grabbing a quick snooze.
Anyhoo, after the service, I found myself sitting in on the adult ed hour downstairs in the parish hall. The topic this week was the Sabbath – what it means and how to observe it, the presentation being made by some visiting cleric.
Well, as it turns out, the woman giving teh presentation – despite claiming to be a priest – quickly asserted that she had no intention whatever of discussing the theological aspects of the Sabbath, i.e., its place in the relationship between God and Man. Instead, she spent the better part of the hour serving up a combination of common sense time management and New Age spiritual gibberish about aligning the circles of one’s inner being in order to release the Seventh Chackra, or something like that. In other words, the lecture was really about self-worship. (On reflection, I’m rayther glad she didn’t tackle real theology. I probably would have got quite upset. This was a lot easier simply to ignore.)
Eventually, in order to emphasize her theme about self-alignment, she served up a story about a South American tribe that, when it traveled, would walk for four days and then, no matter where it was, simply stop for a day before continuing. When asked why they did this, they replied, “We stop in order to give our spirits the chance to catch up.”
The audience, or at least certain parts of it, ate it up. I heard any number of those little mmm‘s and ahh‘s of wonder and affirmation from around the room, a virtue-signalling technique that I hate almost as much as the knowing, ironic chuckle the same sort of people let out whenever some oddity of their own church’s tradition is discussed. (Such vocalizations, in my observation, are two parts preening and three parts sheer, gut-wrenching ignorance.)
But ah, the South American Tribe! Jolly Jean Jacque Rousseau’s Noble Savage is alive and well in the Amazon Basin, imparting wisdom to anyone willing to take the time to listen. I started musing about what other stories of South American Tribes could be served up and swallowed without question:
- There was the South American Tribe who were so attuned to Nature that they could hold conversations with not only the animals but also with the trees. The trees being Really Old could pass on all sorts of accumulated observation and wisdom.
- There was the other South American Tribe who worked out Pi to its final decimal place using nothing but a complex series of finger movements. Even their children could do it, although it would take a Westerner three whole lifetimes to become sophisticated enough to understand their technique.
- There was the other, other South American Tribe who became such experts at peyote-fueled meditation that they could actually alter the atomic structures of their bodies and pass straight through rocks.
- Finally, there was the South American Tribe who, through eons of studying the stars, were able to accurately predict the winning number in every single Power Ball drawing.
Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.
The whole thing reminded me once again of the line attributed by some to Chesterton (although I’ve never actually been able to locate it) to the effect that when people stop believing in God, the trouble is not that they believe nothing but that they’ll believe anything.
(Speaking of GKC, I am currently rereading his Everlasting Man. Unfortunately, I bought my edition from one of those fly-by-night publishers and the font can’t be much larger than about 8 or 9 points. Very headache-inducing.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Because my post on Netflix loading seemed to be such a hit the other day, I thought I’d fire off another one this evening. (Remind me to write an essay soon on the frustration of having so many meatier current events on which I could comment but for the fact that I might lose my job for doing so, thus my self-sensoring confinement to this kind of personal trivia. Not that Bob and the boys from NSA aren’t building up some useful data for my appearance before the Committee for Public Safety even from posts like this one.)
Are you ready? Well here is the next wave of additions:
My Cousin Vinny – I have actually been at more than one legal clinic in which the prosecutor’s opening statement at the trial (even though Vinny called it total BS) was shown as an example of how such a presentation is supposed to be done. I love the resurrection of Fred Gwynne’s career that came from this flick.
Lethal Weapon 4 – The best of the bunch, IMHO, mostly because I think they finally got the balance of humor and action right.
The Gods Must Be Crazy – Because of what was said in the comments on the previous thread. We’ll see what happens.
Breaker Morant – One of my all-time favorites, although I gather that the “real” Morant, so far as anyone knows anything about him, wasn’t quite the Renaissance Gentleman portrayed by Edward Woodward.
The Simpsons Movie – Oh, I dunno. Why not?
The Alamo – The one made a few years ago with Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. The film was came up among the Moron Horde over at Ace’s place the other day and got a surprisingly sympathetic hearing. Personally, I’ve never seen it before and was intrigued.
The Lion In Winter – Because classic. I once wrote a skit in high school in which the family were ordered to attend therapy together. My English teacher described it as “very dry and witty”.
Hamlet – the 1990 version starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close, among others. Mostly to get the nasty taste of Ken Branagh’s try out of my mouth. I’ve a vague memory that it really isn’t all that bad, although I have a hard time understanding why Mel didn’t simply head-butt Claudius and take him out without all that needless moping and sulking around. I mean, it’s Mel Gibson, for Pete’s sake!
Noises Off – Backstage pandemonium as a theatre production gradually goes to pieces. Mrs. R and I saw a fantastic stage version of this show many years ago. IIRC, the movie sort of runs out of steam toward the end, but it still has some good laughs.
Quark – The Series – Short-lived late 70’s spoof of Star Trek starring Richard Benjamin as the captain of a galactic garbage scow. I re-watched this within the last 10 years and found it held up really surprisingly well. And oh, those twins……
Love At First Bite – Haven’t seen this in quite a long time. “Children of the Night! Shut up!”
Thank You For Smoking – I simply cannot recall whether I have seen this movie. I’ve certainly read the book, along with most of Chris Buckley’s other satires.
30 Seconds Over Tokyo – With Spencer Tracy. I have an informal rule of thumb that I always toss at least one WWII movie in when loading up the queue.
M*A*S*H – The movie, which I find hysterically funny for the most part. The only dud is Robert Duvall’s Frank Burns (who is actually an amalgam of two separate characters from the memoir on which the movie was based). Liberals trying to make fun of conservatives never get it right and always slip into Clang! Clang! Clang! caricature mode by default. (God damned Army…..) I also tossed in the disk featuring bonus materials this time.
So, all told, I now have about 40 films in my queue, together with another 23 in the dreaded “saved” category, which basically translates into “hell if we know when we’ll get it to you or even if we actually have it, but feel free to go on hoping). I said below that these would keep me occupied until Opening Day, but I’m now thinking that they may well last me until the all-star break.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Usually it’s another month or so before ol’ Robbo has to deal with thunderstorms on his drive home in the evening but today’s possibly-tornado-packing big boomer caught him just as he was crossing the Potomac. Wicked pissah of a storm. It was as I crawled along the bridge in the midst of the tempest that the thought came back to me that a rag top on a car is absolutely no protection whatsoever against lightning strikes.
Road closures all over the neighborhood forced me to tack widely around before I could finally get back to Port Swiller Manor, there only to discover that the power was out and the driveway was an inland sea due to the drains all being plugged by debris.
Ah, well. Just like Helen Hunt back in the day, tt’s the wonder of nature, baybee!
Yeah, I think I’ll toss that movie into the Netflix queue now that I’m thinking about it.
(By the bye, did anyone else get that creepy National Alert System announcement earlier in the afternoon? I heard it on the radio, but I gather it was simultaneously flashed out over other broadcast systems as well.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, spring training 2016 is now officially underway and ol’ Robbo is starting to get seriously excited about Opening Day, which, for his beloved Nationals, is set for April 4 on the road in Atlanta.
While in past years I have made fearless predictions regarding the Nats’ prospects for the season, this time I find myself shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head in ambivalent silence. There are so many unknown and unknowable variables in the mix – new manager, some new position players, new starter rotation, new bullpen combinations – that I simply haven’t the faintest idea what’s going to happen over the summah.
Most of the prognostications I’ve read so far predict that the Mets are going to take the division again, with the Nats hovering somewhere just behind them. I’m not so sure about that because I think the Mets’ reputation is somewhat overblown. Yes, they made the Series last fall. But they played well above themselves last year, especially at the end of the season, in what I still think was something of an adrenaline-fueled fluke. I’m not a’tall sure they can repeat that. Also, the Nats beat themselves last season, what with injuries, bad managing and general malaise, playing below themselves. If the team gets itself together, it’ll roll all over the Mets. (And the rest of the div. Get outa here, Miami!)
Of course, as I mention above, that’s a mighty big “if”.
I shrug my shoulders once again. What else can one say except
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As friends of the decanter may know, ol’ Robbo remains a devotee of Netflix’s DVD service. I have long found it very satisfying to load up the ol’ queue, forget about what I put in it, and then be pleasantly surprised by the stream of envelopes coming through the mailbox. I tend to do this loading in bursts of between 20 and 30 titles at a go and then letting them run out before recharging the list.
While I usually do my loading just off the cuff, today I decided to try a slightly different experiment by keeping a small notepad with me all day and jotting down films that occurred to me from time to time. Here’s what I came up with:
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension – Because wherever you go, there you are.
Impromptu – A, well, highly romanticized version of the meeting and falling in love of Frederic Chopin and the poetess George Sand. It’s one of those Merchant/Ivory-inspired period pieces and really pretty good, especially as it shows what a lot of shites Franz Liszt and his pals were.
Flash Gordon – Because sometimes you just have to go for the worst. Also because Queen did the soundtrack.
Dodgeball – Because sometimes you just have to go for teh stoopid.
The Ref – I meant to watch this around Christmas but didn’t get the chance. Always enjoyed Dennis Leary’s brand of brutal Irish humor.
Lost In La Mancha – Documentary about the collapse of Terry Gilliam’s effort to film a Don Quixote movie (which I believe he’s still trying to do). Fascinating behind-the-scenes look at movie-making in general and Gilliam-style movie-making in particular.
Topsy-Turvy – Gilbert and Sullivan attempting to save their partnership. This is one of the Mothe’s favorites.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – I don’t know why I don’t own this. Best of the series IMHO. “You call this archeology?”
The Freshman – Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando, who is damned funny lampooning himself. Plus Bert Parkes singing “Tequila”. What’s not to love?
Eric the Viking – One of the smaller Python offshoots, but it has its moments.
Jabberwocky – Ditto.
Sharknado 3: O, Hell No – See Dodgeball above.
Lost in Translation – Bill Murray really is a superb actor, all the goofball stuff aside. You watch this movie just to see the subtle changes in his expressions.
The Dam Busters – Because Lancasters with bouncing bombs vs. Nazis, that’s why!
Casablanca – I don’t know why I don’t own this, either.
Battleship – Well, because Liam Neeson action movie, I guess.
Analyze This – Robert De Niro is even funnier lampooning himself than is Brando. And scarier.
Star Trek: First Contact – Best of the TNG movies, as far as I’m concerned.
The Last Valley – One of those very long Omar Sharif movies from the late 60’s/70’s. In this one, he’s a student fleeing the ravages of the 30 Years’ War and winds up running into Michael Caine and a band of soldiers in an as yet unplundered remote village. There they bond and wind up holding the place in defense against other marauding bands. It has a sort of Seven Samurai feel about it in this.
I also attempted to watch Ed Wood, the movie about the guy who made Plan 9 From Outer Space, but the DVD was cracked. I sent it back, of course, but is it worth asking for a new copy? Unlike all of the movies listed above, I’ve never seen this one. (I’m like that, preferring to watch films over and over again and only now and again introducing a new one to the rotation.)
Between these and what I’ve already got in my queue, I reckon I’m good to go until Opening Day of baseball season at least.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo was sitting quietly last evening and reading Anthony Powell’s autobiography To Keep The Ball Rolling (amazing how small and interconnected the Brit art world was back in the day) when the Eldest Gel came into the library, mischief written all over her face.
“Hey, Dad!” she said, “What do you think of what Pope Francis said about The Donald and immigration today?”
“I wish he hadn’t,” I replied. “He tends to shoot his mouth off without considering the likely results. Nothing good can come of this kind of high-profile spat, especially once the media get their claws into it.”
“And about what he said about condoms and disease prevention?”
“Again, he’d have been better off not speaking off the cuff like that.”
“Not a good day for the Pope, eh?”
“No, probably not.”
“And on top of all those abuse scandals, too, no?”
“Look, was their something in particular you wanted?” I said sharply, “Or are you just here to mess about with me?”
“Oh, my, aren’t WE grumpy tonight! I guess you miss your glass of wine during Lent, don’t you. Too bad you have to wait so long to get back to drinking again.”
And with that, having given the dog an extra pat in order to show her unconcern, she strolled off.
There’s a line from the breviary hymn of St. Ambrose “Jam lucis ordo sidere” (which I recite as part of my morning prayers) that the 1962 Missal translates as, “And by spare use of meat and drink/our rebel passions to control.” I can’t help wondering if this might not be an error. In my normal state, I would have laughed down from lazy eyelids at the gel’s obvious attempt to bait me. However, on my tenth day of giving up the grape? It was all I could do to prevent myself from laying hands on her neck.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo was able to get out for his accustomed lunch time walk today after being denied such pleasure earlier this week due to snow and rain. As I hoofed along, it seemed to me that there was a faint but real hint that spring might not be all that far off. You know how round about the second half of August you suddenly realize that the light has changed and that how ever awful summah still is, it is definitely coming to an end? Well, I think I saw the same thing in reverse today. Also, I noticed that people seemed to be moving about with a bit more jauntiness in their step.
Of course, ol’ Robbo is in the Mid-Atlantic. Your mileage may vary depending on where you are, but sooner or later the same sort of thing happens even way up tah Maine. (Mid-June, in fact, according to the Mothe.)
Anyhoo, it was a good feeling. Snowzilla apart, we really haven’t had anything like a nasty winter round here this year, but I can’t remember one I’ve been more eager to get behind me.
Probably a sign of age.
Nonetheless, bring it on.
Oh, and pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. How sweet is that?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo awoke this morning to find moderate to heavy snow coming down around Port Swiller Manor. Although “they” have been predicting this storm for some time now, there had been little consensus on what we’d actually get out of it. Now that it’s here, we seem to be looking at 3 to 5 inches, turning to ice and sleet later on this afternoon and evening. (There is some wailing and gnashing of teeth among the chillrens that a perfectly good snow is being thrown away on what’s already a school holiday, but I’m thinking they may at least get a delay out of it tomorrow. Lazy swine.)
In other words, a perfect Pajama Day, you might say. Except that ol’ Robbo can’t stand the idea of staying in his jammies all day long. Gives me a distinct case of the heebie-jeebies. Even if I do nothing more the rest of today than frowst in front of the fire with a good book and a bottomless cup o’ joe – a distinct possibility – I still feel the need to get cleaned up and get dressed first. Always been like that. Don’t know why, but there it is.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As mentioned in the post below, ol’ Robbo decided to give up the grape for Lent this year. We’re now in the middle of the fourth day, and although so far I’ve been able to avoid the temptation (said by H.L. Mencken to be felt by all normal men) to spit on my hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats, it hasn’t been easy.
I know, I know: Offer it up.
In order to avoid overloading myself with abstinences to teh point of bringing down the whole programme, I decided that it would be a bad idea to try also, as I usually do, to cut out (secular) books, musick and teevee/film (and, I guess, the innertoobs), at least at first. We’ll see how things go. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m not pursuing my Lenten reading. (As usual, I’m starting out with St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis de Sales.) Instead, it means that I’ll probably fiddle around with the mixture, gradually thinning out the pleasure part as the season progresses. My goal is to be able to devote Holy Week to pure contemplation of Faith.
Anyhoo, I thought I’d offer up a few random observations on what I’m reading, listening to, and watching at the moment.
Books: I think I mentioned somewhere below that I had started in on Anthony Powell’s magnum opus, A Dance to the Music of Time. Arranged in a quartet of books of three smaller novels each, it tells (from his point of view) the story of Nicholas Jenkins, a young man of respectable family, from his school days in the 1920’s up through the 60’s. It begins with the interactions at school among Nick and his friends Charles Stringham and Peter Templar, as well as those with the awful Kenneth Widmerpool, and gradually expands outward, taking in family, friends, professional and chance acquaintances, spinning a complex web of repeated personal encounters and relationships as the characters leave school and pursue their various lives, loves, and careers. All of this is set against the backdrop of the (arguably terminal) change in British society across the 20th Century: Post-WWI; Roaring 20’s; 30’s crash; WWII; post-War hardship; rise of the Left; goddam 60’s hippies. And of course, not only do the characters interact with each other, they are all enmeshed in these larger social movements as well.
On Ash Wednesday, ol’ Robbo found himself in the middle of Temporary Kings, the next to last of the twelve books, and decided that, since I am so close, I would push on through to the end. Ol’ Robbo has never been what one might call a “quick” study. I usually have to read a book repeatedly to really start getting into the meat of the thing. This is, I believe, my third time through ADTTMOT, and I must say that I am enjoying it exponentially more than my last go. As I say, Powell weaves an immensely complicated web of personal interactions in a quite satisfying manner, but what I appreciate more and more is his rayther droll wit. While Nick (whom I suppose to be the author’s alter ego) is caught up in the immense personal and social upheavals going on all around him, he never really gives away much about what he thinks of it all. From Powell’s deliciously dry observation, however, I’m guessing the answer is not that much. (UPDATE: I noticed that the last book in the series, Hearing Secret Harmonies, published in 1975, was dedicated to Robert Conquest, the great anti-Stalinist and social conservative. So there you go.)
Musick: Recently, long time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, in the process of cleaning out his collection, sent ol’ Robbo a big box of CD’s of Renaissance Musick, figuring they would find a good home at Port Swiller Manor. Of course, he was right: Ol’ Robbo loves teh vitality of this era, from the dolorous introspection to the toe-tapping exuberance, all of it pleasantly free of the self-centered navel-gazing of the Romantics. On the whole, ol’ Robbo likes his musick a bit more formalized (the Baroque period being my favorite), but this gives him plenty of delight as well.
Anyhoo, I’ve started working my way through the stack. A few observations:
Dansereye 1551, Tielman Susato (c. 1500-1561): When thanking ODT for his gift, I mentioned that very few of the composers (apart from some of the English ones) were at all familiar to me. I put this CD on thinking I was in for something new, as Susato’s name did not immediately ring any bells, but soon started laughing: The first few tracks happen to be included (in different arrangements) on a compilation of Renaissance dance musick I own and love entitled Terpsichore. Small world after all. By the bye, the performance here is by the New London Consort under Philip Pickett, a very good group. The CD is copyrighted 1993 – I hadn’t realized they had been around that long.
Los Ministriles – Spanish Renaissance Wind Music: Composers such as Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Manuel de Tavares and Manuel Cardoso. Good stuff, but I couldn’t tell you what makes it particularly Spanish in character. (I suspect some of this musick is also, in fact, Portuguese.) This is not due to the album, but to my own ignorance. Of course, the “Renaissance” took different forms in different parts of Europe. I also believe that, given Spain’s particular history, it took different forms in the different kingdoms united under Ferdinand and Isabella. Naturally, then, so would the arts within those kingdoms.
On that front, let me also recommend a CD in my own collection: 1492: Music From The Age of Discovery – The Waverly Consort. Mrs. Robbo and I saw them perform this album in concert eons ago and bought the CD on the spot. It blends Spanish, Italian, Jewish and Moorish musick from the time in a most satisfactory combination that really gives you the flavor. (There are some similar Old/New World crossover CD’s in ODT’s stack that I haven’t reached yet, but will mention when I get to them.)
Fortune My Foe: Music of Shakespeare’s Time – Les Witches: So far as Renaissance artists go, this is closer to ol’ Robbo’s own home turf, featuring composers such as John Dowland, Thomas Morley and Michael Praetorius. (It also includes the weird -and aptly-named – Nicholas Le Strange. However despite what the Amazon description at the link may say, William Byrd is not included.) Ironically, despite the album’s subtitle, most of these composers were, in fact, chased out of England by Queen Bess in the early 1570’s on (among other things) anti-Catholic grounds, and set up shop in Sweden and Northern Germany. The local publick radio station used to run a track from Les Witches some years ago that must have been from this album – they’ve only put out a few, and most of them very recently – but I can’t recall which one it was.
Screen: The other day, because she had been watching it in her English class and wanted my opinion, Eldest Gel and ol’ Robbo sat down to watch Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet. I lasted about 45 minutes of the scheduled four hours of screen time. In a word? Bombastically unwatchable. Nobody tops ol’ Robbo in his admiration of Branagh’s obviously outstanding talent as a Shakespearean actor, but I’ve been saying the same damn thing ever since his Henry V first came out: What Branagh needed more than anything else in his efforts to bring the Bard to the big screen was an iron-fisted director with the ability to say, “Ken? NO!!” Alas, he didn’t have one and went to seed as a result.
Similarly, I’ve been picking my way, act by act, through the old BBC production of Othello starring Anthony Hopkins and Bob Hoskins. Hoskins is great as the scheming Iago, but as fine an actor as he otherwise is, I just don’t get Hopkins’ treatment of Shakespeare. He hesitates, blanks out, inflects oddly, sometimes doesn’t quite seem to grasp the psychology of his character. It was the same thing when I saw him on stage in 1987 doing Lear. Strange.
I am also working my way through Christopher Guest’s cycle of “mockumentaries”, just having polished off Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Made in the early 2000’s, part of me wonders whether these films could even be offered these days, given the number of triggers in them that would send the Social Justice Movement cry-bullies into catatonic fits. Indeed, the inclusion of the fact that I’ve watched them on my Permanent Electronic Record is probably more than enough on its own to get me sent to the Happy Fun Reeducation Camps when the revolution comes, if not simply shot out of hand. On the other hand, they’re all wicked funny, so it would be worth it. (Anyhoo, there’s plenty other anti-revolutionary material on my PER already, so the question is largely moot.)
Finally, I just finished the 1st season of Star Trek: The Original Series, with “The City on the Edge of Forever” (with a young Joan Collins) and “Operation – Annihilate!” (the one with the flying killer washcloths, one of which hits Spock in the back: I once saw an outtakes clip where it hit him in the fanny). I don’t have much to say about Star Trek:TOS except that the show has held up surprisingly well all these years and is just as entertaining to me now in my 50’s as it was in my misspent yoot (obviously for a different combination of reasons, although skimpily-clad alien space babes still enter into the calculus). Of note: Netflix offers up the revised versions of the old shows, with modern computer graphics cleaning up and enhancing the more painfully primitive special effects of 50 years ago. While I abhor the kind of retro-tinkering George Lucas indulged himself with in the Star Wars franchise, I have no problem with what has been done here: The alterations are seamless, in line with the original spirit, and not designed to draw attention to themselves. It’s amazing what can be done when Ego is taken out of the equation.
At any rate, there you have it.
UPDATE: R.I.P. Justice Antonin Scalia. As I may have mentioned here before, his family are fellow parishioners of mine and I’ve seen him many times at Mass although I never got up the nerve to try and start a conversation. I’m sure he would have been gracious about it, but I’m equally sure he would have been annoyed at having to deal with a groupie on Sunday.
I must say that I was flatly repulsed by the amount of pure bile and venom that erupted across the innertoobs when news of Scalia’s death broke yesterday. Disgusting.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Mardi Gras!
Ol’ Robbo celebrated the evening by killing off his current box o’ wine (I’m giving up the grape for Lent – prayers appreciated) and watching some Monty Python.
I must say that, although said Python was a definite influence on my misspent yoot, the older I get, the more apparent becomes the distinction between the gold and the dross. At times, the Team still seem to me to be absolutely transcendent in terms of their humor, but the hackery of some of their other bits also becomes more apparent.
How lovely to possess the DVD technology to bleep right through the tedious bits and get on to the keepers.
Which are your favorite Python items? And, relatedly, which are your favorite presentations of them: TeeVee, film or record?