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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy MLK Day. (Or, as a smart-assed friend of mine used to insist on calling it: SlainCivilRightsLeaderTheReverendDr.MartinLutherKingJunior Day.)
Thankee for your kind wishes viz Ol’ Robbo’s bout with the flu. While I’m still feeling rayther weak and am coughing a bit, I am confident that I’m on the mend. On the other hand, it seems just about everyone else in the family has now picked it up to one degree or another. The knowledge that at least some of them got flu shots gives ol’ Robbo a certain amount of subversive pleasure.
So a few post-plague odds and ends for you:
♦ Ol’ Robbo finally took down the Christmas decorations today, including the tree. As always and despite my vigorous plying of broom and vacuum, I expect to keep finding fir needles about the front room and hall well into July. Eh.
I always chuck the tree onto the brush pile out in the woods past the back gate. In case you’re interested, I have observed that it takes two to three years for these trees to finally crumble into their primordial components: Next year, this one will be a skeleton. The year after, it will be a crumpled skeleton. The year after that, dust. (Thinking of the brush pile and the seventeen years I’ve been contributing to it, I just now remembered a book I read as a child. It had something to do with a tornado hitting a Kansas farm and scooping out and dumping some incredibly fertile soil in such a way that all kinds of strange things began growing on the heap of dirt that the twister left behind.)
♦ Speaking of years, this past week saw the seventeenth and fifteenth birthdays of the two younger Gels. Tempus bloody fugit, indeed. They celebrated said B-days with back-to-back sleepover parties Friday and Saturday nights. You may judge for yourselves what ol’ Robbo thought of having Port Swiller Manor loaded to the gunn’ls with teenaged girls for 48 hours straight. (No, it isn’t anywhere near the thrill you might think.)
♦ Speaking of the Gels, Eldest heads back to school tomorrow. Aside from French, she finished with a solid A-/B+ GPA her first semester, of which I am quite proud. (Don’t tell her I said so, but she did a hell of a lot better her first semester in college than did ol’ Robbo. Also, from what she let fall in conversation, I think she learned some valuable lessons in what college-level studying actually entails.) As of now, the plan is that she’s going to major in history and minor in theatre, and also pick up an Arts Management certificate. And speaking of theatrics, the Gel has been cast as the Wicked Witch in the school’s spring production of Shrek The Musical. She says herself that this is one of the most idiotic and useless musickals ever produced, but that she is nonetheless looking forward to having a good time participating. I know exactly what she means.
♦ Also speaking of theatrics, Ol’ Robbo is now half way through watching the 2012-ish Beeb production of The Hollow Crown (comprising Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.) I think, I think that I like the series. The acting is uniformly great and, at least for the most part, the production plays Will’s history straight down the middle. I guess my main criticisms are that it seems some dialogue has been cut in favor of prolonged visuals (yes, I get that these are movies instead of plays on film), and also that the who thing is saturated with that sort of vaguely Celtish World Musick which I really dislike.
One thing that actually made me laugh: In Richard II, Bolingbroke is well played by Rory Kinnear. I’ve never seen him before, but his old dad, Roy Kinnear, is well-known to ol’ Robbo as a minor comedic actor with bit parts in films such as The Three Musketeers and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Ol’ Robbo loves these Thespian family links. Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when I popped in H-IVp1 to discover that the role of Bolingbroke had been taken over by none other than Jeremy Irons! The man, although talented, whistled his lines over a set of obviously false teeth. Ol’ Robbo enjoyed that yugely.
♦ Finally, speaking of the Bard, Ol’ Robbo has decided that it is high time he reorganized the Port Swiller library. (I’ve never done an actual count, but I reckon we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 volumes, all told.) It’s been a mess for some years but I have been content with that because I at least knew where everything was, more or less. Recently, however, I discovered that Mrs. R was taking things in her own hands. I do not wish to disparage Mrs. R’s learning in any way, but her approach to organization is based on neatness rayther than content. She can’t abide books stacked up on tables or in corners or on top of other books: Those she can’t jam in somewhere on the shelves anyhoo, she simply squirrels away elsewhere in the house. Indeed, I didn’t even realize the gravity of the situation until I discovered a book I had been looking for – along with multiple other missing volumes – packed into an old bookcase in the Eldest Gel’s bedroom closet.
I mean, I say!
UPDATE: To satisfy my own curiosity and to prove to you lot that I’m not completely insane, I did a bit of digging to try and find that children’s book I referred to above: It’s McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman. (I didn’t realize until I did this research that this was one of a whole series of McBroom books, all of which seem to center on Tall Tales.)
Interestingly, another of my very favorite books as a kid was Fleischman’s By The Great Horn Spoon!, the story of a small boy who runs away from well-to-do Boston to the California Gold Rush, and who’s aunt’s butler goes along to keep an eye on him. I probably read that book a hundred times in grade school.
I knew that Disney had made a moovie version of the book called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin“, which I longed to see for what seemed like ages. Eventually, they ran it one Sunday evening on tee vee. I recall being very, very excited. However, despite the very not bad presence of Suzanne Pleshette in it, the movie made such a pig’s breakfast of the novel that I was seriously traumatized. And that is the origin of my life-long hatred of moovie treatments of favorite books.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo mentioned the grinding dullness of the drive down I-95 south of DeeCee in the post below. This is due in large part to the fact that there are few natural landmarks or other geographical phenomena to break it up: The landscape simply turns from endless gentle hills to endless low country swamp to endless sandbar. The trees simply turn from endless slash pine to endless palmetto and orange groves.
One of the very few exceptions to this monotony is Lake Marion, which one crosses about midway through South Carolina. (Historickally-minded friends of the decanter will know that it is named after Francis Marion, the Revolutionary War hero known as the “Swamp Fox” for his guerrilla operations in those parts. They will also know that Marion was the basis for about half of Mel Gibson’s character in the ridiculously inaccurate movie “The Patriot”, the other half being filched from the life of Daniel Morgan.)
Anyhoo, as we crossed over said lake, a thought wandered into ol’ Robbo’s braim: With respect to just about* every other kind of body of water, in American English we always put the proper name first: The Atlantic Ocean; San Francisco Bay; Pearl Harbor; the Mississippi River; Walden Pond; Cedar Creek; Bob’s Run, etc.. However, with lakes we do just the opposite: Lake Michigan; Lake Marion; Lake Wazzapamani; Lake O’ The Woods, etc.**
Why is this?
I suppose it probably has something to do with early French exploration in North America, with their convention of naming such bodies of water Lac Such-and-Such. But if this is the case, why didn’t this juxtaposition also carry over to rivers, creaks, and the like?
(No, ol’ Robbo wasn’t going road happy. I really find this sort of thing quite fascinating. Apparently nobody else in the family does, however: When I floated the question in the car it was met with silence.)
* I’ll give you “bayou” (as in Bayou Lafourche). “Gulf” (as in Gulf of Mexico or Gulf of Maine) also seems to be an exception, but it’s curious that the name always seems to include that “of”. And don’t we say “Leyte Gulf”? Okay, maybe “bight” (as in “Bight of Benin”), too, but then again there’s a Bigelow Bight in Maine.
** I specify American English because the Brits seem to name their lakes the other way ’round.
UPDATE: Yes, I should have put in a general caveat about exceptions to the rule. I knew that even as I hit the “post” button. I also knew that some smart guy would come in and call me out if I didn’t. Centuwion! Thwow this man to the gwound! (The welease Wodger…)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
On my way home last week, I stopped into a shop in the Denver airport to pick up a bottle of water. I didn’t have any cash left and I couldn’t bring myself to put just two bucks on my credit card, so I also snapped up a paperback copy of Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. I had dimly recalled reading some good reviews of a book they did a few years back about George Washington’s spy ring, so I thought well, why not?
Well, I suppose that the sub-heading on the cover (“The Forgotten War That Changed American History”) should have given me some clue. “Forgotten” war? The Aroostook County War is a “forgotten” war. The Battle of Picacho Pass is a “forgotten” skirmish. Any reasonably-educated American ought to at least have heard of the Barbary Wars, if not remembering their details.
(Of course, my definition of “reasonably-educated” may vary somewhat from other folks’ these days.)
At any rate, it turns out to be a very superficial account. Not a bad way to waste a rainy afternoon if you actually don’t know anything about the period, but I can’t say that I got anything out of it at all. (I was encouraged by the book’s suggestion that Capt. William Bainbridge probably could and should have stayed with the U.S.S. Philadelphia after she grounded in Tripoli Harbor instead of immediately abandoning her to the enemy.) I also thought that its conclusion that the experience picked up by the young American Navy in its few brushes with the Pirate Fleets stood them in good stead for taking on the Royal Navy in the War of 1812 was probably an overstatement. And I was disappointed that the book only hinted at, rayther than exploring deeper, the obvious historic parallels between that period and the dealings we have with modern potentates in exactly the same region (motivated by exactly the same worldview).
Eh. Maybe I’ll give it to one of the kids.
On the other hand, flipping through the bibliography, I came across two books I also own: Ian Toll’s Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy and Richard Zacks’ The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805. Go read those, instead.
Speaking of books, every now and again regular Friend of the Decanter Old Dominion Tory sends ol’ Robbo a parcel of books on various topics of military history. At the moment, I am about a quarter way through one of ODT’s most recent offerings, Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket by Richard Holmes.
I hadn’t heard of Holmes before. However, when I mentioned him on a FaceBuke page dedicated to the writings of George MacDonald Fraser, I received an overwhelming burst of enthusiastic praise from other GMF sharks.
I can see why. Holmes is all over his subject (i.e., the British Army of the Georgian and Victorian Eras): Organization, weapons and uniform, tactics, support staff, individual personalities – in short, everything that shaped Tommy Atkins – you name it and it’s there. He covers these matters through a combination of numerous citations to source letters (and records) and a kind of rambling series of linked anecdotes. I’d love to go to dinner with this guy and then spend the evening over a bottle of good single malt.
Eldest Gel arrived home this morning from college for winter break toting a draft of a 20 page paper* she needs to hand in by the end of the week for her history class.
The subject? Richard III in fact and legend.
Her conclusion? I’m sorry to have to say this in front of our Maximum Leader, but the Gel came to the conclusion that Richard probably was about as rotten as history made him out to be, and it wasn’t all just pro-Tudor propaganda pushed by Shakespeare and St. Thomas More. She seems especially keyed up about the deaths of the Young Princes.
“Ask yourself,” she said. “Who else had the motive to kill them? Who else had the means? What other logical possibility is there?”
I asked her if she’d checked out the Richard III Society and their efforts to rehabilitate the man.
“Are you kidding me?” she responded, “Go over there are read their arguments! They’re all conjecture! When you have facts and sources, come back and talk to me! In the meantime, shut up!”
I haven’t actually read the paper yet (she’s asked me to proof the next-to-last draft), and frankly, I don’t really even know enough myself to offer an opinion on her conclusions, but I will say that I’ve never known her to put this much effort into research and organization.
(And regardless of your opinion of this controversy, you will note, I hope, that the Gel is expending her energies on it rayther than on femynist underwater basket-weaving. I call that a win.)
* The assignment only called for 10 to 12 pages. The Gel’s opus blossomed because she found herself so engrossed in the subject.
UPDATE: Heh. Read the draft. Her rhetorical style needs some work (she tends to get the bit between her teeth and become rayther….overheated) and I found some silly grammar mistakes, but her organization is pretty solid, and I actually learned a thing or two about the Yorks and Lancasters that I hadn’t known before. Oh, and Maxy, you actually get a passing mention (as “a friend of my father’s”) as an example of someone keenly interested on the pro-Richard side.
Speaking of Shakespeare and posting Larry’s picture above also reminds me that I watched the 1980 Beeb production of “Hamlet” the other day, with Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart (with hair!), Claire Bloom, and Lalla “Romana” Ward as Ophelia. That was the Golden Age of Beeb TeeVee: Simple sets, cheesy effects, throw-away musick, but rock-solid RSC acting. I highly recommend it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo has seen a great many tee-vee commercials recently for the 23 and Me DNA genetic testing outfit. You know, the people who, if you send them some of your spit, can peg your historickal tribal roots. I’ve also seen a running ad for Ancestry.Com in which people are invited to plug their names (and, presumedly, other personal info) into a data port sit up in some random public place, to be regaled by revelations of the existence and achievements of their immediate ancestors.
Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about all this. On the one hand, the history geek within me applauds such research. On the other, the innertoobs Luddite in me warns that, as with things like GPS and EZ-Pass technology, if you know this data, somebody else does, too. Big Brother, anyone?
And that, frankly, makes me jumpy.
Speaking of ancestral research (here, the old-fashioned kind), I mentioned in my post-Thanksgiving post below the fact that my indefatigable elder cousin had established Robbo Family gunnegshuns to what is now western Virginia during colonial times. Whelp, the woman actually did a road trip detour on her way home from the turkey feast and sent me the following on-the-ground report [interpolations in brackets are mine]:
I found several family sites in Rockbridge Co., VA, on 11/25/16.
1) The Kerr’s Creek Massacres are commemorated by a State Highway Historical Marker (title: Kerr’s Creek) about five miles west of the Washington & Lee Law School on Route 60, where there is an entrance to I-64. [Ol Robbo went to Dubyanell for law school and first met Mrs. R in an apartment complex on Route 60 just west of town.]
Kerr’s Creek was the southern border of the 1748 Borden grants of John and James Gilmore. Rt. 60 runs parallel to Kerr’s Creek, on the north side of the creek. I must have been traveling across 18th century Gilmore property. It is pretty creek bottom land.
Our direct ancestors, John and Agnes Gilmore, Sr., were killed there in the First Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1759. Their son Thomas was killed in the Second Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1763, with the family kidnapped. [According to another of my cousin’s emails, Thomas’s wife and son were eventually repatriated by the French, who had bought them from the Shawnees. The two daughters of the family were never heard of again. In 1818, surviving members of the family [led, I recall, by Thomas’s brother James] joined a migration to Ohio, in large part over the question of slavery. Another branch of my family ran a station on the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ohio and, as I’ve mentioned before, my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the 10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War who saw action in the Atlanta Campaign.]
2) The site of the 1746 New Monmouth Presbyterian Church, where the Gilmores attended, is marked at Whistle Creek on Rt. 60. The newer building of New Monmouth, still operating, is three miles further west. [As I have mentioned before, the Old Gentleman’s family were just about pure-bred Scots Presbyterians. Ol’ Robbo’s great-grandfather was a minister, in fact. I chuckle at the idea that they are all turning in their graves over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has gone back to the Old Religion.]
3) High Bridge Presbyterian Church, where our direct ancestors Thomas and Agnes (Leech) Lackey are buried, is still operating on High Bridge Road (county route 693, at an overpass of I-81) off Rt. 11, just south of Natural Bridge, VA. [This is another family branch. Without the chart in front of me, I can’t recall where they fit in, but I think it’s the next generation after the Gilmores mentioned above.]
4) The ruins of our direct ancestor James Gilmore’s 18th century mill can be seen by following Gilmore’s Mill Road off Rt. 130, at Natural Bridge Station. Gilmore’s Mill Road (Rt. 708) descends to and parallels the west bank of the James River. The ruins are where Cedar Creek runs into the James at the intersection of county routes 708 and 608.
5) James Gilmore’s c. 1780 brick two- story house View Mont, now Sydney Vale, is across the James from the Mill but is on private property and inaccessible.
I’ll give her credit: It’s all cool stuff, all the more so because my cousin does these things the old-fashioned way – through pouring over archives and getting out into the field.
On the other hand, her level of energy curiously exhausts me, especially when she hunts me down at family gatherings (armed with maps, genealogy tables and local historickal pamphlets) and proceeds to drill me in her most recent finds. I mean, Ol’ Robbo is a history geek, but not that much of one. (The Gels, by the bye, have learned to flee my cousin’s very presence for fear of getting quizzed on family history.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I hope you all had a joyful and stuff-a-licious Thanksgiving holiday! Certainly the Family Robbo did: As per usual, we went down to visit my brother’s family in North Carolina. (He and his wife have a son and two daughters, all of whom are roughly of age with Robbo’s three gels. The Boy, for example, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, while Brother’s gels are in high school.) Much merriment was had by all. The cousins get on very well among themselves, Bro and I found much reason to stand guard over the outdoor grill while the turkey was cooking (constant monitoring of the thermometer is crucial, you understand, and adult beverages only aid in concentration), the wimmynfolk confab’d to their hearts’ desires up in the kitchen, and all in all, everything was hunky-dory.
Robbo’s older cousin was there as well. As regular friends of the decanter may recall, said cousin has a passion for genealogy. This time, she trapped ol’ Robbo in an extended monologue on our ancestors of seven or eight generations back – Scots-Irish Presbyterian stock with names such as Gilmore and Paxton – who had settled the upper Shenandoah Valley in the 1730’s. Curiously, given that I went to law school at Dubyanell, several of my ancestors of those generations were killed, kidnapped and/or enslaved in Indian raids in 1759 and 1763 during the French and Indian War not more than a couple miles from where I lived and studied. Small world, ain’t it?
On the one hand, the inner history geek in me loves this sort of thing. On the other? Well, is Thanksgiving Dinner really the time to spread out reproductions of 1734 land-grant maps and superimpose current Rand-McNally counterparts in order to assess streambed shifts in the Maury River and Kerr’s Creek for purposes of locating precise boundary lines?
And speaking of my cousin, it has become her custom to challenge us to bring Virginia wines to each of our regular meet-ups (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter), there to compare and contrast the many labels available (all of which are complete dreck, if you ask me). This year, the Devil whispered into ol’ Robbo’s ear that Trump Wine might be appropriate, both since it is bottled at Monticello and also since said Cousin is a proud Lefty.
I showed my brother said bottle ahead of time and asked his advice. His opinion? Nyet!
On reflection, I concluded he was right and hid the bottle until our cousin left. (We drank it later. Truth be told, it wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t buy it again.)
The only other things to say about the holiday are travel-related:
Downbound, Ol’ Robbo found himself in the lee of the smoke of several forest fires blowing across Nelson and Amherst Counties. It’s corny to say, but it really did feel like twilight at noon as we made our way through, thus seriously messing about with Ol’ Robbo’s internal clock. Coming home, everything seemed to have cleared up to a great extent, thank goodness.
Upbound, just south of Altavista, Virginia on Highway 29, Ol’ Robbo suddenly spotted a dog on the median: It was a young bloodhound (or some sort of hound, anyway) lying curled up in the grass and looking around in a confused way. There was no place to stop just there, the formulation of what I had seen took a couple minutes to congeal in my braims, and what the hell could we have done with another dog anyway? Anyhoo, after a couple minutes, I told Mrs. R what I had seen. Being the far more practical and hands-on of us, she immediately called teh local animal control dispatcher and related to them what I had spotted.
I dunno if there was any follow-up.
One thing Mrs. R and I agree on: People who dump dogs (or other animals) at the side of the road ought to be shot.
UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo completely forgot to relate an aspect of this trip that is sure to add many, many demerits to his Man Card. You see, barring unforeseen complications, it is no more than a 5 1/2 to 5 3/4 hours’ journey from Port Swiller Manor to my brother’s house. Not exactly a short hop, but hardly an all day excursion either.
Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo allowed himself to be cajoled into stopping on this trip no fewer than three times – in each direction! The most infuriating stop was the last one: 45 minutes out from home, the Youngest – who had been sleeping most of the way – woke up and announced that she needed a pit stop. And like the sap that I am, rayther than telling her to cross her legs and suck it up, I shamefully pulled over at the next convenience store/gas station.
What can I say? Mea culpa.
Man Rules, of course, clearly dictate that stops on long drives are determined solely by fuel needs. Everything else – water, snacks, meals, potty breaks – are supposed to key on that determination, and that determination alone. You know you’re not stopping again for another three or four hours? Plan accordingly!
Deviate from this plan and you’ll be stopping every freakin’ 20 minutes for one reason or another.
The Family Robbo may need to take a very considerably longer ride some time in the next few months, and I have already made clear to Mrs. R (and directed that she inform our offspring) that I will not display such weakness again.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, here we are in Thanksgiving Week. What with all the to-do coming over the next few days, Ol’ Robbo probably won’t get back to the blog much before Saturday. I know this is hardly crushing nooz to the three or four of you who actually read this thing, but I thought I at least ought to let you know.
So, exit question: Which was really the “First” Thanksgiving?
Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Fall, 1621, which some argue was arbitrarily imposed on the Country because the Yankees won the Civil War and got to re-write the history books;
Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, December 4, 1619, which doesn’t look so good a) because of the above-referenced Yankee bias, and b) because the colony got wiped out three years later by the Powhatans;
St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565, which..I mean….Spanish and Catholic? Can’t have that as the standard; or
Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and his expedition, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, April 30, 1598. (See immediately above.)
(And, of course, there may be other claimants.)
Have at it, if you like. But I also will leave you with something on which I’m sure we all can agree:
Happy Thanksgiving, friends of the decanter, and I’ll see you on the other side!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had no intention of watching the election returns last evening. I have learned through long and bitter experience that such things are both repugnant and stressful to me, repugnant because of the yammering of the Talking Heads, stressful because of the suspense and potential for disaster. So I had planned to watch a movie instead. (“The Hunt For Red October”, in case you were wondering.)
Unfortunately, Mrs. R got at the teevee before I did, and before I knew it, had flipped on the election coverage. Perversely, because I hate it so much, I find that once I’ve clapped eyeballs on said coverage, I cannot tear myself away until the issues presented are resolved. As they say, Keep Calm and Don’t Blink.
So there I was, hopelessly trapped. And I stayed that way from about 8:30 pm all the way through to The Donald’s victory speech at around 3:30 ack emma. And I admit that there was some drink taken.
Up again at six this morning, you can imagine how productive a day I actually had.
Not that I was alone: most of the rest of the people in my office also appear to have held out to the bitter end, and while I was just bleary and jaded, they were in full Gotterdammerung meltdown, crying, cursing, and group-hugging.
(Okay, I have to admit that their tears tasted….delicious.)
Eldest Gel reported that very similar things were going on at her school, and that the administration had designated certain “safe spaces” for any student needing some place in which to work out her feelings. As the Gel so eloquently put it, “What the hell is wrong with these people?”
Anyhoo, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what actually happened. I won’t pretend that the Donald is the second coming of the Gipper, but I will note the old tag attributed to Sam Clemens to the effect that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. And here you have it: Populist revolt against moribund, rudderless, top-heavy, smothering, progressivist regime.
The Gel used to gripe that ol’ Robbo got to grow up during the Reagan years. I’m not so sure that she isn’t about to experience a different version of the same ride. I hope so. I hope so.
For myself, after much consideration I arrived at the conclusion that the most important thing in this election was keeping She Who Must Not Be Named’s claws off the Supreme Court, and so I voted accordingly. You may imagine, then, how I feel about the results.
(Yes, as of yesterday I am not quite so worried about being sent off to the camps or having a bullet put in the back of my head.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Eldest Gel is home from college again this weekend, and I just spent about an hour getting an earful from her over the latest doings in her history class.
I b’lieve I had mentioned here some time before that the gel is taking a class surveying various famous historickal figures and comparing the myths that have grown up around them to the actual facts? Well, this week they got on to Saladin. Apparently, the prof – whom the Gel actually likes – started off the section with a brief discussion of the history and beliefs of Islam. And in that discussion, the prof said something to the effect that Christians and Moslems worship the same god.
And that, as they say, is when the fight broke out.
The Gel, from what she tells me, started laying into the prof, beginning with arguments about the mystery of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the utterly antithetical nature of Allah (which arguments actually echoed those of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, even though I know she hasn’t read either one), and then proceeded to a detailed, unvarnished description of the position of Christians (and Jews) as set out in the Koran. I gather the prof pushed back somewhat, although she didn’t try to shut the Gel down. As for the rest of the class, the Gel tells me that a few of them looked uncomfortable about the prof’s position, while some of the noisier ones tried to back the prof up with arguments the Gel found utterly contemptuous. (One example: The girl sitting next to the Gel, who professed to be Catholic herself, pointed out that there are some Christian sects that don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity. The Gel’s response? ” Well, they’re not really Christians then, are they?”)
Smoke was still coming out of her ears as she relayed all this to me this evening, and even as I blog, she’s upstairs studying up on talking points to argue that the Crusades were defensive wars, rather than offensive ones, in anticipation of the narrative that is going to be served up.
About all I could do was to point out that people who believe the Christian God and Allah are the same thing (and I’ve seen this elsewhere, including among members of my Former Episcopal Church), don’t really believe in either one.
Yeesh. At least teh Gel goes to a school where she can still take a stand against P.C.ism in relative safety. Also, from what I gather, she is fast developing a reputation for her plain-spokenness, and not a bad one by any means.
By the bye, she’s already signed up for another course with the same prof next semester. It’s a study of Tudor and Stuart England but begins with Richard III and the end of the Plantagenets. From what the Gel tells me, the prof is very interested in the modern movement to reestablish Richard’s reputation. That ought to make our Maximum Leader very happy.
UPDATE: Since the comments seem to have steered in the direction of my last tack-on thought above, an obligatory oldie but goody:
Ol’ Robbo may or may not have mentioned it here already, but Eldest Gel is participating in her school’s fall theatre production (which we will be going to see in the near future). They’re doing “The Trojan Women” by Euripides. The Gel is one of the Chorus, so she spends the entire production on stage.
It so happens that Ol’ Robbo read this particular play many years ago, and that it stuck somewhat to his braims because it was Euripides’s commentary on Athens’ savage treatment of the little colony of Melos in the run up to the Peloponnesian War. (The Melian Dialogue, as set out by ol’ Thick-Sides, was a study of mine several times during the course of my undergrad and graduate education. The last time was in a rhetoric class I took my third year of law school. For the final, I argued that the episode illustrated the limitations of persuasive argument insofar as it didn’t matter buppkiss how well the Melians stated their case for being excused service in the War since the Athenians were holding a metaphorical gun to their heads. Realpolitik, so to speak. My prof was not amused.)
Anyhoo, in the course of a chat this afternoon, I asked the Gel something or other about the dialogue between Poseidon and Athena that opens the play.
“The what?” she said.
“Poseidon and Athena. You know, where they discuss the appropriate punishment of the Greek army because, during the sack of Troy, Cassandra is dragged away from a statue of Athena and raped by one of the Greek commanders.”
“Huh? That’s not in the play. It’s all about Queen Hecuba of Troy and her family and what happens to them when they’re prisoners. What are you talking about?”
“Yes, that’s the main body, but Poseidon and Athena come first. She’s outraged over the violation of her sanctuary by the Greeks and is seeking appropriate vengeance.”
“Well, it’s not in the version we’re doing…..”
“Crimminy, it must have been cut from your script. But that’s the whole point! The Ancient Greeks, actually (I believe) stumbling across the Seven Deadly Sins without realizing it, were keenly aware that violation of taboos (like sanctuary) tended to bring about Divine Retribution. Euripides was using the Greeks’ beastliness to the Trojans as a warning to his contemporaries not to let the war against Sparta get out of hand. And later on, Thucydides and others ascribed the eventual crushing of Athens by Sparta as the Divine result of Athens’ exceeding the proper bounds of civilized warfare, specifically including its treatment of Melos.”
“Well, how was the play a warning?”
“Because a number of the Greek leaders at Troy eventually came to very nasty ends because of their behavior there, specifically including their treatment of Queen Hecuba and her surviving family. For example, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra when he returned to Mycene because he brought along Cassandra as a slave-concubine.”
“Well, there’s nothing about that in the play.”
“No, but any member of Euripides’ audience would be perfectly acquainted with Homeric tradition and would know that already. Didn’t anyone explain any of this?”
“No. All we know is that we’re a group of “refugees” being maltreated by the Patriarchy or someone because they’re mean. Your explanation is a lot more interesting.”
Yeah, it is. Sigh. But why get into all this yucky objective Eternal Verities and God-talk in a 2500+ year old historickal context when you can reduce the point to one about non-sectarian feelz over Hatey McHate-Hates who Hate? And wymmyn?
Incidentally, they’re doing the show in modern dress. The Gel also told me that her costume makes her look so much like Little Orphan Annie that she went around rehearsal this afternoon singing “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” until she was summarily told to shut it.
** Spot the quote