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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Second and final day of ol’ Robbo’s employment “retreat” and it was about what I had expected, maybe even worse.  (I won’t go into details, lest I find myself posted to the happy fun reeducation camps quam celereme.  Let’s just say that, according to several speakers at least, I am a very, very bad person.)

Anyhoo, what else is there to do but come home and flush it all out with some serious sound:

I’ve read various bits and pieces on the Great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the upshot of which is that by the time they got to this song, Benny and the Boys were in the Zone and just going flat out.  Certainly, none of the studio versions of it I’ve heard are quite the same.

By the bye, no offense to drummer Gene Krupa, but I like to imagine Animal on the skins here.  I may have mentioned it here before, but Mrs. R and I got married at Sweet Briar College, the service being in the school chapel and the reception in the campus center.  For the reception, we hired out a 13 piece big band run by one of the Science Department professors of the day, and the place absolutely jumped.   I ardently tried to get them to finish up with “Sing, Sing, Sing”, but they wouldn’t do it.  Possibly this was because they didn’t know the song.  Alternatively, it might have been because I kept requesting it in Animal Voice.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Labor Day!  (Ol’ Robbo celebrated in his traditional manner by spending the day in the ol’ hammock.  Marxist/Collectivist class-warfare “holidays” give me the pip.  Besides, today was the last day of my summah hols.)

Anyhoo, this morning I learned that the Middle Gel had got a gig with a friend of hers today helping out as chaperones/baby-sitters at a 6 y.o.’s birthday party here in our part of the suburbs of Your Imperial City.

She got back four hours later to announce that not only had the family brought in a giant water slide (which caused several injuries, apparently), but that they had also hired out a petting zoo for the celebration.

A petting zoo.  Hired out.  At your own home.

Any friends of the decanter hear of this sort of kiddy birthday entertainment before?

I just googled “petting zoo parties at home” and got something north of 2 million hits so it must be a thing, but such an entertainment option is certainly news to me.  Back in the day we had a few magicians and one-man-bands drop by Port Swiller Manor for various Gel birthdays, but it simply never occurred to me to put a couple cages of rabbits and chickens, plus a staked goat and sheep or two, out on the grounds.

I’m reminded by all this of a friend of my misspent yoot back in South Texas.  His father was a veterinarian and he was big in 4-H.  Their suburban lot was basically a farm yard, with flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and hutches full of rabbits.  (I think he even had a calf at one point.)  My friend would often come to school with long, hideous scratches down his forearms from where the rabbits had got him and big, ugly bruises on his legs from kicks and butts by the goats.   I know he’d been hard at work tending these various beasts since he was a small lad and, although he appreciated them from an animal husbandry standpoint, had no illusions whatsoever about their cuteness or cuddliness.

Wonder what my old friend would make of this kind of entertainment?

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel called to chat with ol’ Robbo yesterday.  She’s taking a medieval history course called something like “Myths and Legends” in which the class compares the popular notions of various historickal figures with what is actually known about them.  Among said figures, I believe the Gel mentioned Charlemagne, St. Joan of Arc, El Cid, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Genghis Khan and Saladin.  The prof, apparently, has already made clear that the last of this group is her favorite, so I warned the Gel to stand by for mischief.  (I also already know exactly what is going to be said about El Cid – that he was nothing more than a blood-thirsty hooligan terrorizing Spain while the Moors studied the higher philosophies and maths in their lovely civilization at Cordoba.  Bank on it.)

 

Anyhoo, they’re apparently starting out with King Arthur and what the Gel wanted to know is if I thought he was a real person.  I told her that I like to believe he did indeed exist.  Not the Grail Quest or the knights-errant-slaying-ogres Arthur, which was obviously a Middle Ages invention, but something more like a 5th or 6th Century warlord, probably Romanized, possibly Christian, who united the Britons and drove back the Saxon invasion for a brief period.  I’ve no idea what the Scholarship says these days, but I’ve always loved this notion of the last brief holdout of Civilization before the Dark Ages set in.  I also have a very hard time believing that with all the myths and legends that were piled on him over the centuries, there wasn’t actually a historickal Arthur underneath.

I’ll be interested to hear the class’s take on this.

sbc sealGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo ran the Eldest Gel down to Sweet Briar College yesterday for an “accepted applicants weekend” fandango.  (Sorry, Mothe, this is why I didn’t have the chance to call you per the usual.)

I’m not sure which was the stranger experience: Seeing teh Eldest taking her first steps into a wider academic universe as a bona fide collegiate newbie, or running into a couple of faculty again who I knew 25 or so years ago when I was a law student at Dubyanell dating Mrs. R in her undergrad days at SBC.

One thing I am sure of: As part of the weekend, we took a campus tour.  The smells (of the dorms, the academic buildings, of the grounds) haven’t changed a single bit.

And this, to me, is a Good Thing.

Holla, Holla, Holla!

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?  

newmarketGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies for the lack of posts the past few days:  Ol’ Robbo has been somewhat under the weather, perhaps due to his recent physical exertions  in re digging out (which see below), perhaps due to subsequent flu-like symptoms which have plagued him because (according to his family’s collective harping) he skipped this year’s flu shot.

Anyhoo, this evening ol’ Robbo finally got around to watching the movie “Field of Lost Shoes“, the story of the Virginia Military Institute cadets who fought in the Confederate victory at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864.

I will tell you here and now (those of you who don’t know) that VMI to this very day is damned proud of those boys.  And so she should be.

Overall, I thought it a reasonably good movie in the tradition of buddies-forged-in-the-fire-of-war films.  It was fairly small in scope, apropos  the relatively small scale of the battle and the units who fought in it.   Also, I would rank it fairly high in the recent spate of Civil War pictures spawned by the success of “Gettysburg” in terms of battlefield depictions and strategic commentary.

I recall that when this pic came out, there was a good deal of po0-pooing from the usual suspects owing to its alleged ambiguous treatment of the overriding moral issues involved.  Frankly, ol’ Robbo didn’t see what the bloviating was about: Slavery was depicted categorically as a Bad Thing throughout, doomed by most (North and South) as ending sooner or later anyway.  Yes, there were a number of other issues – family, honor, duty, tradition – superimposed across this, but I fail to see why this should come in for criticism.  (Of course, ol’ Robbo is the kind of fool who still believes that people in 1864 should be judged by the standards of, oh, 1864, and not by those of 2014.  Hindsight is not only a bitch, she’s a blind one, too.  He’s also the kind of fool who believes that logic should play any role in professional grievance-mongering.  Silly o’ Robbo.)

Now for my own geeky criticisms of the film:

Casting:  I know nothing of the actual Keydets involved, so can say nothing about their characters.  I also know next to nothing about John C. Breckinridge, the Confederate commander, so can offer nothing much about the casting of Jason Isaacs to play him.  Werner Daehn as Union General Franz Sigel? Well, maybe, although from what I have read, Sigel’s actual German accent was much worse than portrayed here, even if his incompetency was not.   But Tom Skerritt as Sam Grant?  I. Don’t. Think. So.

Historick Story:  As I mentioned above, this is a fairly small-scale movie about a relatively small-scale battle.  Nonetheless, the movie itself presents New Market as a “pivotal” battle of the Civil War.  Okay, I understand marketing and all that, but no, New Market was not that pivotal.  Yes, Grant envisioned the Eastern Campaign  in terms of getting Lee into a clinch somewhere along the Washington/Richmond line and then kidney-punching him down the Shenandoah Valley.  Yes, Sigel’s inept failure at New Market was a set back to that plan.  But the thing about the imbalance of forces in the War was that the Union could afford such losses and still come back for more, sticking to its strategy through superiority of manpower and materiel.   After Sigel’s inept handing, Grant tasked “Little” Phil Sheridan with the job of wiping out the Shenandoah, which Sheridan did with ruthless efficiency.  Bottom line: It would have happened one way or another.

Also, the Battle of New Market, including the indisputably gallant charge of the Keydets, occurred in large part during a violent thunderstorm, a thing not at all uncommon in the Valley in May.  Why did not the producers take advantage of this fact in order to emphasize the drama?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past couple weeks, ol’ Robbo has found himself reading several books new to him.  Some brief impressions [Spoiler Alert!] re each:

UnbrokenThe first is Unbroken:  A Word War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, a copy of which was loaned to me at New Year’s by the Former Llama Military Correspondent, which means he probably never will see it again.  (I’m as bad as Hugo Bracegirdle about returning books.)  It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Troubled Yoot Extraodinaire, who discovers a talent and drive for competitive running which leads him to shatter all kinds of scholastic records and lands him a spot in the ’36 Olympics in Berlin.   Before he can make a return appearance, war breaks out.  Zamperini is drafted into the Army Air Corp and finds himself bombardier on a B-24 in the Pacific Theatre.  After some early success, he is one of only three survivors when his plane crashes into the ocean.  These three (one of whom dies) then spend the next 40+ days adrift in a small life raft with no food or water but what the occasional fish, bird and rainstorm can provide, surrounded by hungry sharks, subject to extremes of sun and wind, and once even strafed by a passing Japanese bomber.  Eventually, the two survivors get picked up by the Japanese and sent to POW camps.  Then the real hardship begins:  Beatings, starvation, torture, slave labor, exposure.  Zamperini falls victim to a particularly sadistic Japanese corporal known as The Bird, who beats him senseless daily.  Somehow or other, they manage to endure several years of this until the War ends and they are liberated.  Liberation is pure joy.  Once back in the States, however, Zamperini discovers that the War is not, in fact, over – at least in his own head.  He quickly goes into a power-dive of self-destructive behavior and it is only when his wife drags him to a Billy Graham sermon that he finds redemption and gets himself back together.  The rest of his life is remarkably peaceful, rewarding, and spiritual.

The book is meticulously detailed and clearly, if rayther dryly, written, but I have a few things.  First, the title.  Zamperini wasn’t “unbroken”.  Even according to the text itself, he was most thoroughly broken by his torture within the Japanese camps by The Bird and took that brokenness with him back home.  (He nearly strangles his wife in his sleep, thinking in a dream that she is The Bird.)  As for his redemption, it should be noted that Zamperini, while floating in the life raft, promised God that if He delivered him, Zamperini would devote the rest of his life to Him.  He also reported, during that same period, several times hearing choirs of angels around him.  Well, we hear nothing more of this until the remembrance of that promise seems to come back to him at the Graham sermon, where it’s presented awfully cut and dry:

1.) Graham – “You need to get with God.”

2.)  Zamperini – ” Oh. ‘Kay.”

3.)  ???

4.)  Spiritual Profit!

I’m over-simplifying a bit, of course, but I wish that aspect of things had been unpacked more thoroughly, because it seems to me the key point of the entire narrative.  (I’m reminded of what Mattie Ross says in Charles Portis’s True Grit about how nothing in life is free except the Grace of God and that none of us deserve it.)  Oh, well.  At least it’s better than the recent movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, which, according to my sources, pretty much ignores the whole God thing altogether.

PrincessBrideSecond is The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, “abridged” by William Goldman.  For some years I’d been meaning to read this, fond as I was of the movie version, so recently I bought both the book and the DVD to add to my collection.  (An aside: Robin Wright appears in some of the extra features commentary and is quite RCBfA-worthy, IYKWIMAITYD.)  This particular edition of the book is a special “30th Anniversary” one, containing both a 30th Anniversary and the 25th Anniversary author’s prefaces.  The “abridgment” consists of Goldman (who wrote the movie’s screenplay as well as a bunch of other famous ones such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “All The President’s Men”, “The Stepford Wives”, and “A Bridge Too Far” (aka, “A Movie Too Long”)) putting together all the “good parts”, i.e., the action sequences, and summarizing and commenting upon long, useless, cranky, Melville-like asides by Morgenstern in between.  From the preface, I learned that the whole Fred Savage/Peter Falk reading biznay in the movie was based on Goldman’s recollection of his own father’s reading the book to him when he was a kid sick in bed.  I also learned some of the historick background of both the story and of Morgenstern, and of the apparent ongoing legal squabbles between Goldman, his publishers, and Morgenstern’s estate over the publication of all these materials.

Then I did a little background check and discovered that the whole “Morgenstern” thing – together with what Goldman let fall about his childhood, his marriage, his reading to his own son and his research travels – was a hoax.  Goldman wrote the whole damned thing himself.

Bastard.  Ol’ Robbo hates getting pawned.

I’m sure you remember in the movie when Vizinni says the “Greatest Mistake” is getting involved in a land war in Asia?  I’d always thought of that as a bit of stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam, perhaps gratuitously introduced by the director, Rob “Meathead” Reiner.

When I first came across the line in the book, however, still thinking Morgenstern was For Realz, I thought, “Hmm…Could the original author have been making a cranky reference to Alexander teh Great’s foolish attempt to conquer India?  The various wars between Rome and Persia that went so badly for some Emperors?  Even the ill-fated Song Dynasty resistance to the Mongol invasion of China?”

When I realized what was afoot, however, I went back to my first conclusion:  Stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam.

It’s a helluva fun read, nonetheless.

GreatestKnightFinally, I’ve just started a book picked up for me by Mrs. Robbo as a small token of my upcoming mumbledy-mumble birthday:  The Greatest Knight:  The Remarkable Life of William Marshall, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge.  Marshall, who first rose in the service of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, became a sort of early 13th Century equivalent of the Very Model of a Modern Major General and was deeply involved in the rise of the Knightly Class as well as the history of the English Throne during the reigns of Richard the Lionheart, Wicked King John and those immediately around them, particularly Henry II’s first son, Henry.  The text is based in part on a valedictory biography of Marshall penned shortly after his death, but also supported and damped by other available contemporary references.

I can’t say that much about the book yet except that Asbridge goes to great pains to make sure his readers understand the difference between judging Marshall according to his own time and judging him according to modern sensibilities.  This is increasingly important in our own godawful age, in which it is becoming all the more common to attempt to simply “disappear” people and events which don’t fit in with the current narrative.  Nonetheless, Asbridge slips a bit now and again.  At one point, he remarks that toys given to medieval boys and girls were often “gender-normed”.  In other words, little boys were given toy soldiers and little girls were given dolls.  [P.C. Police:  Get….OUT!!!  Me:  So, what?]  Also, he has the annoying habit of using C.E. (“Common Era”) for dates instead of A.D. (“Anno Domini”).  This may be the academic standard now but it grates on ol’ Robbo’s soul mightily.  Back in the day, the ol’ Jacobins tried to chuck the calendar completely and start with a brand new one.   It seems their modern equivalents have got wise enough to appropriate and assimilate their target rayther than obliterating it.

Anyhoo, so far quite an interesting exploration of an era of which I don’t know much beyond a few facts about the main players.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo is still around, although I confess that I have yet to finish the bottle of port I got in for the Christmas festivities.  (Some reveler I am.)

Anyhoo, I may have missed some regime change, but why will Safari and iMac suddenly not let me copy and paste Innernet links or YooToob videos?  (I was going to do a retrospective on the late David Bowie’s song “Changes” and ol’ Robbo’s varsity crew winter training at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in the day, but the ability to insert links suddenly seems to have disappeared from my screen.)

What gives?

UPDATE: Oh, I think I see.  Whereas previously the link to a specific page at, say, Amazon automatically appeared in the, er, linkie bar, now it just says “amazon.com” and you have to click again to get the specific page address.  Or something.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Father P said in a recent homily that Holy Mother Church deliberately placed a number of saints’ feast days in the period immediately following Christmas Day to cover the dearth of Biblical references to the actual birth and immediate infancy of Jesus.  This, he said, was because newborns – even that who was God Incarnate – are good for little more than feeding, sleeping and producing poopy diapers, and Scripture deems it best to avoid such squalid details about our Lord.

Reasonable enough.

Anyhoo, today is the Feast of St. Thomas a’ Becket, martyred Bishop of Canterbury.  You know, the one at whom Peter O’Toole kept rolling his eyes and crying out in anguish, “Thomaaaaassss!!!!!

Because my mind is what it is, I can’t help associating this day with SCTV’s parody NASA production of T.S. Eliot’s “Murder In The Cathedral”.  Alas, there seems to be some kind of copyright ban on showing the clip, but – and you can trust me on this – it was damned funny stuff.  (SCTV was always better than Saturday Night Live, even in SNL’s original heyday.  **Breaks beer bottle, looks around for challengers to his assertion.**)

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Thanksgiving (or “Friendgiving” as the kids are calling it now, whatever the hell that means)!  I hope you all have a blessed and grateful holiday get-together with your family and friends.

Ol’ Robbo will be out of action for the next few days due to holiday logistics.  Meanwhile, I’d just like to register my glee over the latest moonbat meme to come across the innertoobs.  You see, according to said meme, we ought to embrace the wholesale immigration of Syrian refugees because the Native Americans (™) embraced the arrival of the Puritans back in the day.  Hence the holiday.  If you don’t accept this groupthink, so the reasoning goes, you’re a hypocrite.

M’kay.

Are these not the same moonbats who for some years now have told us that the Pilgrims were genocidal invaders hell-bent on wiping out the Indigenous Nations?

Yes, yes I think they are.

And how has that worked out for the “Natives”?

It isn’t hypocrisy, it’s just plain fool triumph of feeling over reason.  As I’ve said before, these people don’t think, they emote. God help them and us all.

Anyhoo, a very happy Thanksgiving and I’ll see you later.

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