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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?
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:
The 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.”
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.
Second 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.
Finally, 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.)
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.
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.**)
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.
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.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Veterans’ Day! A glass of wine, well a cup of coffee anyway (sun/yardarm and all that), with all of you who serve or have served or who have family or loved ones who do or did. Looking back, I regret that I never did.
Anyhoo, now that the Gifting Season (that is what I’m going to call it with respect to commercial matters) has set in, the catalogs have started to fill up the Port Swiller mailbox. One of the ones that came yesterday was from the National Geographic, and I must say that it surprised me: Since when has Nat Geo gone all Smithsonian in the stuff it flogs? Books and maps and whatnot, I take for granted. But fashion? Jewelry? Have I just not noticed this before or is it a new thing? (Toys, too. The Little Boy that still lurks within Robbo looked mighty wistfully at the working drone, the magnetic levitating globe and the laser Khet game.)
About that fashion and jewelry: Almost all of it is “themed” – Irish, Far Eastern, African, etc. Is this not cultural appropriation at its basest? Is this not an outrage to our sensibilities? Is this not a micro-aggression?
Pardon me while I assume the fetal position and let loose a cry-bully primal scream.
/logs back on
Ah, that’s better. I hope you learn a little lesson from this, Nat Geo.
My old grandmother used to give me a yearly subscription to National Geographic magazine when I was a kid and I must say that I really appreciated it. No, not for the pictures of half-naked African women (at least not mostly), but because I’ve always been a nut for maps and exploration. (For example, I’m the one driver in ten thousand who appreciates the elevation sign at the top of the pass or the announcement that one is entering or leaving the Chesapeake Bay watershed. And I confess that Google-maps and all its little functions are like catnip to me.)
We used to get the “bonus gift” that came with the renewed subscription, too – books on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (I’ve still got them) and several record albums. (Anyone who doesn’t know what a “record album” is can get off my lawn right now.) One of the albums was of Revolutionary War era songs, many of which I still sing to myself. Another was of Mississippi steamboat songs, the only one of which I can recall being Stephen Foster’s “The Glendy Burk“. (I still sing the first verse and teh chorus.)
I remember that latter album mostly because it had a painting of a big paddle-wheeler on the cover that I used as a model to draw a cover for a 7th grade book report I did on Tom Sawyer. When Mr. Richter looked at my report – clear plastic binder, elaborate cover art, neat handwriting – I recall him saying, “Now this is a typical Robbo the Swiller effort.” I’m sure it was part of the reason that he recommended I move up to advanced English in 8th grade. (Why I had been placed in regular English for 7th, I never learned.) From there, the rest was history – English major and law school.
Funny how life works out.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The Cap’n caught ol’ Robbo out in the post below in identifying Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook as a major influence on my then-15 y.o. life.
Well, what can I say? I wasn’t born an Eastern Blue-blood myself, but I was raised with aspirations to Eastern Blue-blood values and style, so the book was a natural fit for me. Still have a lot of said values and stylistic goals, although 35 years of experience has, of course, modified my outlook summat. Isn’t that pretty much what life is about?
Anyhoo, I bring this up because I’m reminded of a curious little scandal associated with this book which came back to me because of teh Cap’n’s remark. You see, the section of said book dealing with “preppy” colleges makes reference to a number of Virginia private schools – Sweet Briar, Hampden-Sydney, Hollins, etc., – but there is absolutely no mention of Washington & Lee University (or “Dubyuhnell” as we like to call it). This puzzled ol’ Robbo, once he became acclimated to the Dubyuhnell ethos as a law student, because he thought the place was exactly what Birnbach ought to have had in mind when putting together her list.
Well. A couple years later, I heard an explanation for what was going on. You see, according to my source (a college administration employee in the area), while she was writing the OPH, Birnbach apparently was engaged in a relationship with somebody in the Dubyuhnell administration (in the admissions office, IIRC). The story goes that they had a very messy break-up, and that Birnbach black-listed Dubyuhnell in her book out of pure spite.
So there you are. The politickal sometimes can be the personal. Or the other way round. Whichever.
Incidentally, I can’t help citing this book without noting Birnbach’s “updated” version which came out a few years ago, True Prep. I cannot decide whether she is satirizing the New Order or licking its collective boots with this book, but either way, the thing is appalling. Gone are the old values of tradition, restraint, refinement, and decorum. In their place are conspicuous consumerism, garish display, rampant narcissism, embracement of “pop culture” and the jettison of traditional morality. Put it this way, the Obamas are mentioned more than once as role-models.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo noticed this article yesterday morning over at the Telegraph: Bacon, ham and sausages ‘as big a cancer threat as smoking’, WHO to warn.
I joked on FaceBuke that the article had no effect on me except to make me hungry (which was true, by the way) and dismissed it from my mind. However, I noticed today that the WHO release was “trending”, as the kidz say, and also that NPR was running it breathlessly in their top o’ the hour nooz updates, asserting quite nakedly that the science is now settled (SETTLED you knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers!) and that any points Big Meat makes about the health benefits of meat consumption are completely false and anyway, so what.
This push prompts ol’ Robbo to borrow a line from Bender and invite the WHO to bite his shiny metal ass.
For one thing, I’m a complete carnivore. Even assuming the “data” underlying this pronouncement is legitimate and I risk knocking some years off my life because of it, I simply don’t care: I’d rather have fewer quality years in this world than more bland, dismal ones. (This, by the bye, is one of the benefits of a solid belief in the Life Hereafter – you don’t need to worry yourself so much about stretching out your time on Earth.) Also, mind your own damned business!
For another, I don’t for an instant believe that said data is legitimate. (The Telegraph article at least hints that there are correlations with other obviously bad lifestyle choices such as failure to eat any veg and lack of exercise.) The WHO is another of these One World Gub’mint entities, whose first priority is the preservation and expansion of its power through the subjugation of us peons to its will, and whose second priority is to bring about the Earthly Utopia under the guidance of its expertise and wisdom. As I often tell the gels these days, science plus politicks equals politicks (of course, we see exactly the same thing going on in the whole Glo-bull Worming kerfluffle), and history shows us that whenever such forces are combined (i.e., whenever Communism rears its ugly head), objectivity goes out the window, ideology triumphs, a very large number of people wind up dead, and a very large number of the survivors wish they were so.
Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo ordered bacon on his lunchtime turkey sammich today (which, I might ad, I only picked up after finishing my 3.5 mile walk). I would have done so anyway, but the thought that I was figuratively snapping my fingers under the WHO’s collective nose made it all the more enjoyable.