You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Literary Musings’ category.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! As noted below, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels. A few random thoughts, firstly travel-related:
♦ Going through airport security, I was submitted both times to the full TSA Grope Special. In each instance, they claimed that they needed to check out something on the front of my pants picked up by the body scan. Hey, Einsteins! It’s called a “fly” and it’s made of metal! (Either that or the rosary I always carry in my pocket is radioactive and left some kind of signature after I pulled it out.) Baysterds didn’t even give me flowers or buy me breakfast afterwards.
♦ Perhaps in my bemusement over getting an unexpected hand in my crotch, or perhaps because I hadn’t yet had any coffee, on my way out Wednesday morning I managed to lose my driver’s license going through security at Reagan National. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this loss until I got to the car rental counter at my final destination. Not being able to get a car proved to be a nuisance, but at least one that I was able to work round via taxis and bumming rides from people.
♦ The good news is that the airport folks not only found my license, they also called about it and then mailed it to me with a very polite cover letter. I got it back this evening.
♦ By the bye, Ol’ Robbo has resolved that he is never again going to fly on Ash Wednesday with the expectation that he will get to Mass at the other end. Even when I plan it all out in advance, I’m so frazzled by the time I arrive that I just can’t make myself do it, especially, as noted above, when I don’t have wheels of my own.
♦ Oddly enough, in all my years this was the first time I’ve ever flown Southwest. I must say that their open-seat boarding policy confused me mightily at first. On further consideration, it still doesn’t make that much sense to me: All the early boarders naturally are going to take up the aisle and window seats. When the tail of the line (the despised “Group C”) comes on board, there’s still going to be a lot of confusion and aisle-crowding as they seek to insert themselves into the middle seats. I don’t see how this is superior to assigned seating with more controlled boarding groups. (Oh, and I put Southwest’s policy of offering to put you among the “Group A” borders for an extra fee at the same contemptible level as Disney’s policy of letting you pay more to jump to the head of the ride line.)
♦ Oh, and this trip was to Texas, where regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his misspent yoot. It’s remarkable how much at ease you can put a Texan of a certain age you’re interviewing by saying, “Oh, sure I remember Cody Carlson from high school! He was just a year ahead of me!”
And a few non-travel thoughts:
♦ Remember when we were all told that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and that we should “Question Authority”? Me, too. Good times, good times. I certainly prefer it to “Shut your whore mouthes, you rubes!”
♦ Per my previous dose of random below, teh youngest gel got her braces slapped on today. I have to admit that I can barely suppress my amusement at the way all her “s’s” have transmogrified into “th’s”. And the Middle Gel, who got hers off last fall, evidently couldn’t suppress her urge to taunt her younger sister over what’s in store for her the next two years.
♦ Meanwhile, it looks as if Mrs. R and I are headed up to Harrisburg, PA this weekend to check out a used Honda CR-V for the Eldest. It’s two years old, single owner, 30K miles, clean bill of health, moderate whistles and bells, balance of extended warranty and a pretty reasonable price.
♦ Braces and another car, all in the same week. Siiiigh. I suppose I could set up as a cocaine wholesaler. Or perhaps run guns.
♦ Of course, we’re now in Lent. I plan to do a considerable amount of new reading, and have already started in on a series of sermons by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, recently recommended to me by a member of a Catholic FB group where I like to hang out. However, while I am delving into the serious stuff, I am also permitting myself to take breaks with lighter reading fare, so long as it has some Christian-based theme or sensibility. As a practical matter, this means the fiction of Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. At the moment, I am running through the former’s Father Brown mysteries.
I have the ability sometimes when reading to hear in my mind specific voices for specific characters. In the case of Father Brown, I derive infinite satisfaction from imagining his voice (and his appearance and movements) to be that of Sir Alec Guinness. I’ve never actually seen his portrayal of the padre, but it is evident, almost obvious to me that he was absolutely perfect for the part. (Without looking it up, I recall reading somewhere that his work on this project was one of the key factors behind Guinness’s swim across the Tiber.)
♦ Finally, my latest Star Trek: TOS comment (which may be the last until after Easter): The Corbomite Maneuver. A classic. First totally space-based episode. First battle of wits between ship’s commanders. First gratuitous shirtless Jim Kirk shot. And to this day my brother and I refer to adult beverages as “tranya”.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, I don’t know if this counts as an attack of bad luck or not, but it wasn’t until after ol’ Robbo got to his office this morning that he discovered he was supposed to have today off. D’oh! However, now that he’s back home at Port Swiller Manor, a few odds and ends for you:
♦ Idly flipping through an alumni magazine, I came across this opening paragraph: “When I was growing up and a student at [Skool], the word “disruptive” would have had negative connotations. Disruptive people were troublemakers: they acted in unruly and disorderly ways. Now its meaning in business and technology has taken a 360-degree turn. Being disruptive signifies creating innovations that improve the existing order, typically in unexpected ways.”
Growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes. One of my favorites (well, among those suitable to a family-friendly blog) was about the two Aggies who get caught in a violent thunderstorm while flying a small plane to College Station. As the plane gets tossed about, one of the Aggies turns to the other and yells, “Let’s do a 360 and get the hell out of here!”
♦ Michael Strain has a note on Dee Cee bike lanes and the law of unintended consequences. All that he says is very true, but I still prefer having the damned cyclists off to one side instead of clogging up the travel lanes, which they do constantly and, IMHO, deliberately. Arrogant wankers, the lot of ‘em.
♦ It would seem that I’m a real man. Good to know. Which reminds me: When I went in for my physical last week and was chatting with my doc, I mentioned that all the gels are teenagers now. She immediately said, “Wow, do you need a man cave!” So the next time Mrs. Robbo gives me any grief about hiding out here, I’ve got my “Doctor’s orders” defense nicely teed up.
♦ Because it’s gotten to be a thing here, two more Star Trek:TOS episodes -
“Miri” – An adult-killing plague caused by scientists trying to prevent aging. First use of the Alt-Earth scheme, although the crew seems surprisingly unsurprised to find an exact duplicate of early 60’s Earth at the other end of the Galaxy. Also the first use of the gang of feral kids and their special words (“grups and onlies”) theme. And I believe the first instance of Bones saying something snide about Spock’s green blood. The title character was played by Kim Darby, who was also Mattie Ross in the John Wayne version of “True Grit” where she was, unfortunately, rayther a weak link with her gosh-darn perkiness. (Hailee Stenfield, OTOH, gets Mattie absolutely bang right in the remake, a movie I would love if the Coen brothers hadn’t felt compelled to muck about with the plot.)
“Dagger of the Mind” – Supposedly enlightened warden of a penal colony turns out to be a maniac playing God with his prisoners’ minds. James Gregory, the warden, will always be Inspector Luger to me, no matter what movie or show he’s in. And Marianna Hill, as a member of the Enterprise’s medical staff, is quite the cupcake. (Which see.)
I’m finding these shows to be pretty well-written, each setting up a discrete dilemma and then deftly solving it, although the assumptions and values displayed therein seem almost archaic 50 years on and are proving to be a stark and sobering reminder of how far we’ve slid into the pit as a culture.
♦ Oh, speaking of which, I suppose tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Feh.
♦ Finally, I’m having entirely too much fun being enigmatic about whether or not eldest gel gets a car for her upcoming 17th birthday. MWAAAA-HAHAHA!!!!!
Whelp, that’s it for the moment. Here’s hoping it’s going to be warmer this weekend wherever you are than it will be here!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Sorry for the dearth of posts the last couple days. Mrs. Robbo recently has discovered the supposed* joys of Downton Abbey and is furiously catching up with things via computer streaming, thus tossing ol’ Robbo out of his recently-won man cave and forcing him to be content for his evening entertainment down in the basement with DVD’s of old Star Trek: TOS episodes.**
Aaaanyhoo, in case any of you missed it, I present what is easily the best “Hitler Rants” take on the Brian Williams Chopper Whopper story that I’ve seen so far. (And believe me, I’ve seen a few.) Enjoy:
Heh. Ol’ Robbo admits to being rayther a fan of the whole “Hitler Rants” meme. There are zillions of low-quality efforts, it’s true. On the other hand, there are some that are damned clever, both in paying attention to the language and movement of the original “Downfall” scenes and in coming up with clever and pointed substitute subtitles capturing a genuine, informed point. This one, in my opinion, is of the latter set. (UPDATE: I should say that, if you haven’t seen the original “Downfall” from which the parody arose, you really ought to. A very, very good movie, superbly acted. Probably a big part of why the parodies are so funny.)
Speaking of which, I was rayther saddened that nobody (at least so far as I could tell) has come up with a good Hitler Rant about Left Shark. Oh, well. On the other hand, the eldest gel forwarded me a funny Left Shark snark:
Heh, again, although not quite as funny as my favorite entry into the canon:
(The Mothe won’t get this one. Mom, go here.)
I love it when somebody crosses the meme streams.
* I say “supposed” because, although I know the series is very popular and I confess I’ve not watched a single episode, I am deeply, deeply suspicious of its Edwardian bona fides. Thirty or forty years ago, one could trust period dramas to be more or less historically accurate. These days? Not so much.
** Let’s go ahead and continue the Robbo non-geek geekery here. In the past few days, I’ve re-watched for the first time in many years the following episodes of Star Trek: TOS:
“The Naked Time” – A virus picked up on an alien planet has the effect of rendering crew members of the Enterprise drunk, thereby revealing their inner selves via the principle of “In vino veritas” and at the same time almost plowing the ship straight into the planet around which she was orbiting. Eh, even when I first saw this as a young boy, I began to have questions about Mr. Sulu. IYKWIMAITYD.
“The Enemy Within” – The first “transporter malfunction” plot and the first split-personality Kirk story. Also, there’s a meme floating about that Bones McCoy never actually says his iconic line, “He’s dead, Jim” in the series. Yes, yes he did. Here. When the split-personality horned dog doesn’t survive the rebeam through the transporter.
“Mudd’s Women” – The first appearance of Falstaff-knock off, Harry Mudd. Eh, some good stuff about inner beauty, I suppose.
“What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – Now we’re getting somewhere. A cautionary tale about progressivist dystopias, it also features the first Red-Shirt deaths and the first seriously skimpily-clad alien babe. It was also the second split-Kirk story, albeit the fake one being an android. Ol’ Robbo would have been around seven or eight when he first was this episode, but even then I recall thinking that Majel Barrett was a piece of all right.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As many of you probably know, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth, in 1756, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Last week, as part of its month-long celebration of Mozart’s birth, the local classickal station chose as its CD “pick of the week” a recording that included a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, various movements of which received multiple plays during the course of the week.
This made ol’ Robbo smile because of a certain passage in Patrick O’Brian’s The Letter of Marque. (WARNING: If you are not an aficionado of the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin canon, the rest of this post won’t make much sense to you. I can only suggest that you drop whatever else you’re doing and go start in on these books right now. Right. Now.) In it, Jack and Stephen are talking in the cabin of the Surprise when Jack suddenly breaks his train of thought about other matters and exclaims, “….Surely that is not the “Marseillaise” you are picking out?”
Stephen had his ‘cello between his knees and for some time now he had been very quietly stroking two or three phrases with variations upon them – a half-conscious playing that interrupted neither his talk nor his listening. ‘It is not,’ he said. ‘It is, or rather it is meant to be, the Mozart piece that was no doubt lurking somewhere in the Frenchman’s mind when he wrote it. Yet something eludes me…..”
‘Stephen,’ cried Jack. ‘Not another note, I beg. I have it exactly, if only it don’t fly away.’ He whipped the cloth off his violin-case, tuned roughly, and swept straight into the true line. After a while, Stephen joined him, and when they were thoroughly satisfied they stopped, tuned very exactly, passed the rosin to and fro and so returned to the direct statement, to variations upon it, inversions, embroideries, first one setting out a flight of improvisations while the other filled in and then the other doing the same, playing on and on until a lee-lurch half-flung Stephen from his seat, so that his ‘cello gave a dismal screech.
I smiled because the Mozart to which Stephen referred was, in fact, one of the secondary themes of the first movement of this particular concerto. I give it you here. The orchestra first states it in the minor at about 1:34, then repeats in the major at 1:42 and 1:48. The piano gets in on the act at 6:53 and makes a full, triumphant statement of the theme at 7:32. It never really goes away for the rest of the movement. Enjoy!
You must admit that it is quite engaging, and readily capable of earwig-like lurking once installed in one’s head. (And before anybody starts pointing out the differences between this theme and that of the “Marseillaise”, bear in mind that Stephen specifically states that the former is “lurking” in the Frenchman’s mind. It’s an influence, not a direct match.)
I must confess that there are times, when reading O’Brian’s magnum opus, that I am not altogether sure he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to musick. But this one is a safe and pleasant bet.
*A reference to another literary work. 10 points for spotting it and The Mothe is disqualified from playing because it would be a gimme for her.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo may have mentioned here that the Youngest Gel started middle school this fall? If I did, I probably also noted that she had tested into the G/T (or as they now call it, the AAP) program in the local public system.
Now, Robbo certainly has spilled a great many pixels over the years lamenting the sorry state of our so-called public education system and its low, snow-ball standards of
indoctrination education. But even to me it seems that this particular novel probably is not appropriate material for a bunch of 7th graders, however gifted n’ talented they might be. (Indeed, I don’t recall reading the novel myself until my brief flirtation with libertarianism my senior year of high school.)
Aside from the difficulty of wrapping their tender brains around the prose and the dystopian gub’mint concepts which it seeks to describe, other wags already have pointed out that there are certain, em, “benefits” of the Brave New World decreed by Big Brother therein which would have any modern adolescent boy asking, “Where do I sign up?” IF you know what I mean and I think you do.
At any rate, the whole biznay just doesn’t sit well with me.
OTOH, I spent a very pleasant time this evening going over the gel’s history homework about the Progressive Movement in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, craftily inserting poison pills into the Accepted Narrative. Give me another week or two and I hope to have her convinced that Woodrow Wilson was a first class bastard (which he was). And God help her teacher if the name Margaret Sanger comes up…..
Speaking of such things, what say friends of the decanter to Saira Blair, the 18 y.o. who recently won a seat in the West Virginia legislature on a platform of Pro-Life, Pro-2nd Amendment and Pro-Constitution? The elder two gels are definitely, nay emphatically, right there with her, and, while they are still badly outnumbered amongst their peers, I still think this may be the Next Big Wave.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I draw your attention to a very good article by Jonah Goldberg from yesterday on the transformation of the idea of “integrity” from the pursuit of Objective Good to the pursuit of Whatever Floats Yer Boat. Money graff:
Such saccharine codswallop overturns millennia of moral teaching. It takes the idea that we must apply reason to nature and our consciences in order to discover what is moral and replaces it with the idea that if it feels right, just do it, baby. Which, by the by, is exactly how Lex Luthor sees the world. Übermenschy passion is now everyone’s lodestar. As Reese Witherspoon says in Legally Blonde, “On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life.” Well, that solves that. Nietzsche-Witherspoon 1, Aristotle 0.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
The G-Man talks a lot about Nietzsche, and undoubtedly the latter is one of the main culprits (along with Freud) to provide ersatz intellectual cover for this attitude, but the Storm Troopers who actually took it out of the faculty lounges and imposed it on the culture at large in practical form were the goddam Baby Boomers, who for the last forty years have held the high ground in academia, politicks and popular media. As a matter of fact, the “Newseum” in Dee Cee currently is running a self-congradulatory exhibition of portraits entitled “The Boomer List”, consisting of nineteen photos of prominent Boomers, one from each year of the era. With the exception of 1959’s Ronnie Lott, who so far as I know is a blameless and decent man who was an excellent football player, the lot of them fill me with contempt. (Yes, yes, I know that some of you are of that generation – I only missed it by less than a month myself. But I’m guessing that most friends of the decanter constitute the exception to the rule.)
When I look about me at the level of rot and debasement to which these people have brought us, all in pursuit of their own selfish, hedonistic ends, I begin to twitch and foam at the mouth. (It’s everywhere, but Goldberg illustrates his point primarily through cable teevee series. He mentions “Dexter”, the gratuitous slasher show about a homicidal maniac who’s actually okay because, get this, he only kills other homicidal maniacs, do you see? Mrs. Robbo started watching that series early on, but after a few episodes I asked her – as a personal favor to me – to stop. She did.)
See, this is the thing: If these people acted the way they do in an isolation chamber, I’d be much more inclined simply to dismiss them. Perhaps sorrowfully, if I thought about it, but still – I’d probably chuckle in the same way that I do while perusing The Darwin Awards. However, it’s the effect they have had and are having on the world in which my children and their children will have to live that so enrages me. (I have taken to using the adjective “soul-destroying” recently to describe things and ideas I want them to stay away from. List seems to be getting longer all the time.) Furthermore, not only are teh gels finding and having to deal with the fact that the traditional morality they’ve been taught at home all these years doesn’t seem to jibe with what they find on the Outside, where they are considered weirdos or even Haters, there’s also the fact that this Übermenschy worldview, when put in practice, simply is unsustainable as a whole over more than a few years. Here’s some more from Jonah:
How’s this new morality going to work out for us all? I’m reminded of the time when an entrepreneur announced he was going to release a new line of beer laced with Viagra. Some wag immediately quipped, “What could possibly go wrong?” Which is pretty much where we are today. It’s impossible to predict what Integrity 2.0 will yield — because no society in the history of Western civilization has so energetically and deliberately torn down its classical ideal and replaced it with do-it-yourself morality. But a betting man would probably wager that this won’t end well.
I suspect that before long we’ll be pining for the good old days, when, no matter how often people failed to uphold the standards of integrity, those standards actually meant something.
Yep. God help us all.
And nicely apropos, I just became aware of a new book by one of my favorite authors, John Zmirak (along with Jason Scott Jones) entitled The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of Life. Sayeth the ad copy:
In The Race to Save Our Century, human rights activist Jason Jones and political/economic scholar John Zmirak, combine to issue a stark warning to the West, and to call on readers to embrace and promote five core principles of a Culture of Life: . The innate dignity of every human person, regardless of race, age, or handicap. . The existence of a transcendent moral order, by which we judge the justice of all laws and policies. The need for a humane economy that embraces freedom in a context of social responsibility. . The crucial importance of decentralized, responsive government that preserves civil society and freedom. . The need for solidarity, for a sense of fellow feeling and common obligation toward each and every member of the human race.
I’ve just now ordered a copy from the devil’s website and will let you know what I think of it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Mrs. Robbo informed me this morning that I’m not allowed to do yard work today since I’ve been down this week with the stomach bug, so I’m just having a cup o’ joe and noodling around here.
♦ As a matter of fact, I feel considerably better. Yesterday I had a massive headache all day, which was actually good news because that always seems to be one of the last stages of these things for me. Indeed, I like to imagine them in terms of nor’easters that first form off Cape Hatteras (my stomach) and then roll up the East Coast (shoulders, neck, head) before heading on out to sea.
Yes, I’m a weirdo.
♦ Speaking of nor’easters, hello Polar Vortex! (The Port Swiller thermometer hit 32 degrees for the first time this morning, but the kerpow is scheduled for later next week here.) AlGore could not be reached for comment – I understand he has a hot new lead on the whereabouts of ManBearPig.
♦ Speaking of seasonal changes, we got all the ferns and potted palms moved in off the porch last week. They look so nice inside I think we’re going to keep them here and just get new ones for outdoors next spring.
♦ RIP Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s “Car Talk”. I used to listen to him and his brother Ray every Saturday morning, especially back in school, and regularly found myself rolling on the floor in laughter. Indeed, his stock “Aww, Jeez” has become a staple of the Port Swiller lexicon. (As a matter of fact, I stopped listening to Click and Clack out of protest when they got on the “SUV’s are Global Warminz!! Eleventy!!!” bandwagon, but I still remember the old days fondly.)
♦ Speaking of people in the nooz, just who the hell is this Lena Dunham person? (I’ll take pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists for a thousand, Alex.) As the father of three daughters, I simply cannot conceive how any one of them would wish to grow up emulating that.
♦ Speaking of pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists, it may just be my imagination coupled with wishful thinking, but I’m beginning to get the impression that people have had just about enough of that sort of thing and that the tide may be beginning to turn. I hope so. I hope so.
♦ Somewhat related, Scott Hahn, the popular Catholic convert and apologist, writes very insightfully and I’ve learned a great deal from him, but the fact of the matter is that his over-use of exclamation points and catch-phrases puts me off his books.
♦ Finally, speaking of books, I’ve started through the Charles Portis cycle for the umpteenth time. (If you don’t read Portis, you’re really, really missing out.) Allow me to quote a small piece from the beginning of his first novel, Norwood:
Norwood and Vernell did not live right in Ralph but just the other side of Ralph. Mr. Pratt had always enjoyed living on the edge of places or between places, even when he had a choice. He was an alcoholic auto mechanic. Before his death they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas. There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved about that section of interstate concrete. They clung to its banks like river rats. Once, near Stamps, they lived in a house between a Tastee-Freez stand and a cinder-block holiness church. There had been a colorful poster on one side of the house that said ROYAL AMERICAN SHOWS OCT. 6-12 ARKANSAS LIVESTOCK EXPOSITION LITTLE ROCK. On the other side of the house somebody with a big brush and a can of Sherwin-Williams flat white had painted ACTS 2:38.
I just love that. Love the style, love the substance, love the little quirks. Portis is from the Ark-La-Tex area and captures its details lovingly, not snarkily.
There really is a Hooks, Texas and a Stamps, Arkansas – they’re a few miles the opposite sides of Texarkana. And U.S. 82 really does run through them. Alas, I cannot find a Ralph, Texas. I think it must be a stand-in for either Leary or Nash, both of which are between Hooks and Texarkana. (If you’re into this sort of geekery, you can read Portis’s True Grit with google-map open at your side and very easily trace Mattie Ross’s journey from Yell County, Arkansas into the Eastern Oklahoma badlands, and in fact to the mountain hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, which I believe is a state park now.)
Acts 2:38, by the way, reads: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Good advice for anyone.
UPDATE: Well, I got one home-improvement project done anyway, namely running the cables behind the basement wall between the teevee and the Verizon box. I used a fish tape to bull up through the insulation between the two holes, then ran a loop of line through, splicing the heads of the various cables to it and pulling them through more or less on the capstan principle. Turned out to be rayther more difficult than I had anticipated, at least so far as getting at the tape head the first time. Luckily, I have small hands so was eventually able to grapple it and get it out. I even had the sense to leave the line in place (the end discretely coiled behind the teevee) in case the gels need another one of their infernal video contraptions hooked up.
A small matter, but nonetheless something from which I can draw satisfaction.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on biznay for Vegas. (Vegas, beyotches!)
Actually, there’s a certain irony in this. Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance. Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.
Tricky thing, Christian morality. If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.
Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first. That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster: I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport. He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times. (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet. So there’s that.)
I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command. To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.
So. Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months. Two things to note off the bat: First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do. Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet. So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.
So, with that, first I give you the “main” room:
This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio. The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right. I don’t have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.
Second, I give you the “addition”:
This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder. All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams. (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom. The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty. The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.
Third, I give you the “study”:
In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave. It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left. The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic. The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.
Oh, you will note the funky ceiling. Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it. Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above. When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could. The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.
Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:
Main room from the doors to the study. That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.
So there you are.
I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween. In the meantime, help yourselves to the port. The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.
* Spot the reference. And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.
While he was flipping through the local fish wrapper this afternoon, ol’ Robbo’s eye fell on this item from the public safety notes:
A resident living in the 600th block of Oak Street told Portville police on October 6 at 4:45 pm that he had received a telephone message from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service.
The resident, knowing this to be a scam, returned the telephone call in an attempt to gain information from the caller. However, he only was able to obtain the caller’s name and return telephone number. The resident did not provide any money to the caller, police said.
Police remind local residents to be on the alert if they receive a call from someone who claims to be employed by the IRS and states that they have committed tax fraud or filed improper tax returns. Such callers usually imply that the victims will be arrested unless they send a Western Union payment or provide money using a prepaid debit card, police said.
This type of call is a scam and residents never should send a payment unless they have verified the caller’s validity, police said.
I pass this on because just this week we received such a message at Port Swiller Manor. The caller, who had a vaguely Subcontinental accent but used a very vanilla American name, said he was calling regarding action against us by the U.S. Treasury. He also said that if we ignored the message, we would be subject to a contempt ruling by a magistrate judge and possible grand jury indictment. He finished with some line about us calling as soon as possible so he could help us to help ourselves.
We ignored the threat.
Curiously, a day or two later somebody reported a similar incident in a FB group to which I belong, so it seems to be trending.
Thinking about it, I found myself chuckling because the message reminded me of that passage in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe when the waiter at Milliways informs Zaphod Beeblebrox that he has a phone call:
“Maybe somebody here tipped off the Galactic Police,” said Trillian. “Everyone saw you come in here.”
“You mean they want to arrest me over the phone?” said Zaphod. “Could be. I’m a pretty dangerous dude when I’m cornered.”
“Yeah,” said a voice from under the table, “you go to pieces so fast people get hit by the shrapnel.”
“Hey, what is this, Judgement Day?” snapped Zaphod.
“Do we get to see that as well?” asked Arthur nervously.
Anyhoo, if you get a call like this, either ignore it or let the police know. We’re not at the point where Uncle reaches out and touches someone over the phone like that. Not yet, anyway.
*Verified by Chip “Remain calm! All is WELL!!” Diller.
Long time friends of the decanter may recall in the past ol’ Robbo going on from time to time about his fondness for the three volumes of short stories by E.O. Somerville and Martin Ross, Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899), Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1908) and In Mr. Knox’s Country (1915), now known collectively as The Irish R.M. They tell the story of Major Sinclair Yeats, ex-British Army, who takes up a position as a Resident Magistrate in the wilds of Southwestern Ireland around the turn of the 20th Century and finds himself dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the locals. Much hilarity ensues. Indeed, Somerville and Ross, members of the Anglo-Irish gentry themselves, delighted in noting the contrasts between their class and the native culture, often with much sympathy towards the latter.
I’ve read these stories dozens of times and never get tired of them. In preparation for tackling the gloom and doom of Solzhenitsyn, I thought I would run through them again just by way of cleaning my palate. This time around, though, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I find myself not only enjoying the stories but also doing a bit of what one might call geographical detective work, too, trying to figure out specifically where some of them might have taken place.
Well, okay, I’ve simply been messing around with Google Earth. But I think I’ve figured out a thing or two.
For instance, I’m almost positive that the principle town in the stories, called Skebawn, is actually a place called Skibbereen, the farthest southwest town of any size in County Cork. (I’m not the first to draw this conclusion, by the way.)
Major Yeats and his family live in Shreelane, a country house which we know is within bicycling distance of Skebawn. We also know that the shimmer of the sea can be seen behind the hills when one stands on the roof of Shreelane. We further know that one can hear the Fastnet gun away to the southwest warning off shipping during foggy weather. So I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere to the south of Skebawn, perhaps in the Curravally district. (There is a Curranhilty district which plays a part in some of the stories which may be a play on this name, by the bye.) Another clue is that it is within walking distance of what is called Corran Lake in the stories and what I think is really Lough Hyne. Not only is said lough connected with the sea like Corran Lake, it also holds a small island (two, in fact) that would account for said lake’s Holy Island in the story of that name.
Speaking of the story “Holy Island”, it tells of a shipwreck on what is called Yokahn Point and of the anarchy that breaks out as the result of barrels of rum being washed ashore on Tralalough Strand. I believe these places are modeled on the real-life Gokane Point and Tragumna Strand. They’re both immediately to the east of Lough Hyne and within carriage-driving distance of where Shreelane would stand.
Speaking of Shreelane, there actually is a Shreelane district to the east-northeast of Skibbereen, from which I’m sure Somerville and Ross borrowed the name for the house, but which is too far away from the sea to fit with the narrative description. On the other hand, it might be the location of Temple Braney House, seat of the horrible McRory family. I say this because there is a series of small, interconnected lakes associated with Temple Braney in one of the stories and this district sports just such an aquatic feature, the Shreelane Lakes.
I haven’t placed other important points so far. Tory Lodge, home of Mr. Florence McCarthy “Flurry” Knox, is said to be an hour or two’s walk over teh hills from Shreelane and the sea is visible from its terrace. Aussolas Castle, home of Flurry’s grandmother Mrs. Knox, is some little distance away, but it’s unclear which direction. Castle Knox, home of Flurry’s distant cousins the Sir Valentine Knoxes, is near enough to Aussolas that a fox can be chased from one to the other in a morning’s hunt. I also can’t place Drumcurran, a secondary town in the Curranhilty country in which some scenes are played.
Later, if I’m able to get a reliable map in my head, I may strike out further afield and try to track down the secluded lair of Lord and Lady Derryclare, the chicken-farm of Meg Longmuir and Dr. Cathy Fraser and the Lug-Na-Coppal copper-mines formerly presided over by the late Mr. Harrington.
Anyhoo, I know that Somerville and Ross were just liberally borrowing rayther than trying to give accurate if disguised portrayals. Still, it’s lots of fun to try and figure out what they were thinking when they put together the geographical boundaries of Major Yeats’ stage.