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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Whelp, today was the kickoff of the annual fall membership marathon pledge drive at the local classickal radio station.
On the one hand, Ol’ Robbo was little surprised to hear the same canned fundraising rhetoric about “community” and “one pledge at a time” and “do your part” that he’s heard for many, many years before. After all, That’s What You Do with fundraisers, right? Blah, blah, blah.
On the other hand, I can’t help noticing that, at least apparently to dweebs like me, this approach has been something of a failure in recent years. Why? Because the station seems gradually to have been throwing things overboard in order to lighten the financial load. Last year, it summarily cancelled its bottom-of-the-hour morning drive-time NPR nooz updates. This year, it also chucked the afternoon drive-time bottom-of-the-hour local nooz updates. Also, it chucked all of its half-hour drive-time traffic updates. (This didn’t bother me so much, as years of bitter experience had already convinced me that there was very little correspondence between what the radio was telling me about teh road and what I could actually see outside my own windscreen.) Finally, I’ve noticed that the usual DJs have been absent a great deal, suggesting to me that they are no longer full-time employees, but have been reduced to part-time status.
Anyhoo, this whole biznay got me thinking about how the station could improve its finances.
One idea I had was to play the pathos card: “Oh, Lordy! If you don’t cough up, we’ll have no choice but to lease the transponder to ISIS and eat the sound engineer!”
But then, I realized that Monty Python (as so often was the case) had the real angle on how it should be done:
And in these pastures? Cor lumme, stone the crows! Croesus ain’t in it. Thank me later.
(And yes, in case you’re wondering, ol’ Robbo actually tosses in his monthly offering, since he listens so much on his commutes back and forth, and down the office.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
One of Ol’ Robbo’s long-term (i.e., post-retirement) goals is to get back into serious keyboard work. You see, I took piano lessons all the way up through the end of high school – indeed, my long-term instructor suggested that I might consider applying to a conservatory – but never did much beyond that other than sight-reading (primarily Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart). I can hack along well enough in this practice to (at times) amuse myself, but increasingly I long for the satisfaction to really nail a piece, working it up to performance calibre. (Part of my motivation, I’ll grant, is the fact that the Middle Gel – an astonishingly lovely soprano – has already sung Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Washington National Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres, and other pro venues, but another part is the pure desire for myself to produce real Art.)
Anyhoo, two works currently on my radar are both by Johann Sebastian “Johnny” Bach. One is his 13th Sinfonia in A-minor:
The other is the rayther nightmarishly chromatic Gigue from his 5th English Suite:
I only have the time to run through these (0r any other pieces) a couple times per week these
days years. Sometimes my efforts are truly gratifying – in the “any landing you can walk away from is a good one” sense. Sometimes, they leave me swearing heavily . (One never knows whether Terpsichore is in the house or not.) But someday I would like to be able to sit down and toss them off for pure pleasure.
UPDATE: First, mea culpa about my description of Middle Gel’s achievements. On re-reading, it sounds a bit too much like Braggy McBragFace who Brags. That was certainly not my intention. I just love the musick so much and am in such awe of the Gel’s achievements. Indeed, just before writing, I had been talking with her about next week’s fall concert, something to which I am much looking forward. She mentioned that her madrigal group would be doing some Renaissance works by Claudio Monteverdi and Thomas Morley, among others, and then she started quoting some German text. I suppose I got a bit overwhelmed by teh awesome.
Second, I forgot to mention the surprising development that the Eldest Gel has suddenly become interested in singing herself. She’s always had musickal talent, but also is a natural alto (voices run fairly deep among the wimmins in Mrs. Robbo’s family), but had always shied away before. However, she signed up for her college choir and has been enjoying it immensely. (We got to see them in action this past weekend.) Indeed, although she’s only in the lowest, all voices welcome, group this year, she is talking of taking voice lessons in order to advance to the upper echelons.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, ol’ Robbo just got back from visiting the Eldest Gel for Parents’ Weekend at SBC. All in all, quite the interesting experience.
The other day, the Gel requested and required, in her straightforward way, that Mrs. R and I try not to make conspicuous fools of ourselves while visiting. Overall? I’d say we were roughly 60% compliant with that
request order. (At least we didn’t bring baby photos to show the Gel’s friends.) Our first fault – which I should have spotted and more forcefully deterred – was that Mrs. R kept forgetting that she was a visiting parent and not a visiting alumna, so she spent large amounts of time glad-handing faculty, administration, and other students, trying to set up networks, offer suggestions, and generally rallying to the flag. All worthy endeavors, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything. When Mrs. R was going at Maximum Shmooze, I could see faint puffs of smoke coming out of the Gel’s ears. (Not just because Mom Wouldn’t Stop Yakking, but also, I believe, because there’s a kind of territorial thing developing here: The Gel has so quickly taken to the place that she now assumes it’s her turf and that Mrs. R is an intruder.)
Also, Mrs. R indulged in her favorite pastime of trying to jam Too Many Events into Too Little Time (something which has driven me absolutely batty the last quarter century). This culminated in an ill-advised late movie date with the Gel after her theatre production was finished last evening, leaving the Gel an extremely irritable zombie this morning. I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been better for all involved if we hadn’t simply slipped off for home after the show instead of staying for brunch today. (The production of “The Trojan Women” was, by the bye, quite well done for all my critique in the linked post. Great leads, well-staged, and pretty gruesome all around.)
A few other things:
The Gel may have been an irritable zombie this morning, but so was Ol’ Robbo. This was because last night was the second night in a row in which I got virtually no rest. Now, long-time friends of the decanter may recall that Ol’ Robbo does not do well sleeping in beds other than his own in the first place (e.g., on travel), but this was somewhat worse. For one thing, there was something going on with the pipes at the inn where we stayed. Do you remember that sound the sabotaged reactor plant made in “The Hunt For Red October” that forced the crew of the October to shut it down? That metallic ka-clang! ka-clang! ka-clang!? We got that, off and on, all night. For another, this weekend happens to have been Homecoming at the Younger Gels’ high school. We had allowed them to stay and go to the game and dance provided that they stayed with approved friends and that we worked out security understandings and arrangements with said friends’ parents ahead of time. So last evening, we couldn’t even think about going to bed until we had received confirmation from home that the Younger Gels were safe, sound, and not in requirement of bail money.
(The above paragraph is, by the bye, an apologetic explanation to long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory for why I didn’t appear at his church for Mass this morning. I had thought to tool over the mountains, in part because ODT’s church was one of the nearer available options, in part because we’ve been blog-friends for years on end but had never met in person. But I was so wiped out that I simply couldn’t get myself up in time. Mea culpa!)
The Gel’s operating procedure during most of our visit was to deal with us until she’d had about enough and then dismiss us until she was ready to reengage. This left some time on our hands, so yesterday Mrs. R and I decided to walk round the campus on the traditional loop known as “The Dairy”. It’s a farm road that, starting behind the performing arts theater, passes over some fields, climbs up the backside of Monument Hill, passes through the stables, and then dips down into the dell where the graphic arts program is housed in the buildings and barn that used to hold the working dairy back in the day – hence the name – before climbing back up toward the main campus. (The Dairy – which supplied fresh milk and ice cream to the dining hall when Mrs. R was there – was forced to close in the early 90’s because of the added costs associated with complying with strict new EPA regulations championed by AlGore. Of course, Big Dairy – cosy with the gubmint – could afford to swallow such regs while all the little operations like SBC’s were run out of the market, so from the point of view of both the Bureaucracy and the Major Players, everybody won. And that, boys and girls, is what we call Crony Capitalism or, to put it more succinctly, Fascism.) The loop is something in the neighborhood of three miles all the way around. (The Gel walks it at least twice a day.)
Anyhoo, as we tramped along outbound across the fields, I suddenly stopped.
“What is it?” said Mrs. Robbo.
“You’re going to think I’m completely mad,” I replied, “But I’d swear I heard the skirl of bagpipes coming down the wind.”
We continued walking. A few moments later, I stopped again.
“Yes?” said Mrs. R.
“I heard it again!” I answered. “Are the Campbells coming?”
A few more yards and there could be no doubt: Somewhere up ahead, a piper was doing his thing.
As we tramped along up the hill and the musick got clearer, I couldn’t help feeling a certain chill, even a romantic urge. (My father’s family is almost purebred Scots, you know. It must be something in the blood.)
Eventually, we tramped up to the top of Monument Hill and there he was, a Lone Piper (albeit in t-shirt and jeans) solemnly striding back and forth and puffing away. At first I had thought it was some kind of honorary tribute to the spirit of the school embodied in the Monument. However, as the fellah kept starting and stopping and repeating certain phrases, I realized he was just practicing, and probably doing so at such a remote location because he couldna’ do it anywheer else fer yon dozy knippits who dinnah unnerstan teh pipes!
Made my day, however.
The other get-rid-of-parents activity in which Ol’ Robbo participated was the fly-casting clinic held by a couple of profs down by the boat house. Now, the Old Gentleman taught me how to fly-fish when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up a fly-rod in twenty years and wanted to see if I still have the touch. Well, my friends, it seems that I do. However, I also have something that I didn’t have back in the day: A maximum pitch-count.
So there you have it. Mrs. Robbo and I are home again after a reasonably entertaining weekend, the Younger Gels are safe and sound, and the Eldest can breath a sigh of relief and unclench.
UPDATE: For your delectation:
Although I’m mighty-near purebred Scots on my father’s side, my family were not true Highlanders, having held lands primarily slightly south of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so I dinna know where we stood re pacification and relations with the Brits. But I know ye ne kin trust the bludy Campbells!
Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? from the Symphoniae sacrae III by Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672).
(“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
It will become hard for you
to kick against the thorns.” – Acts 9:4-5)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
A cool and rainy Saturday here at Port Swiller Manor means ol’ Robbo really can’t hide in the yard as usual, but instead has been dragooned into getting the house cleaned up for a stay by the Former Llama Military Correspondent, who will be in town this weekend for the Army Ten-Miler. (At the moment, I’m waiting on the sheets in the washing machine.)
Anyhoo, I first heard this piece thirty-mumble years ago in a college musick class and was deeply impressed by it. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t take in the compositional facts of the piece and somehow got it into my head that it was something out of Handel. After that, I lost touch with it completely.
However, I am currently reading Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner and came across a discussion of Schutz’s influence on Bach that contained a detailed description of this piece. I immediately recognized it and happily scurried off to yootoobz to indulge myself. It’s far more moving – and indeed, awe-inspiring – than I remember even from back in the day. (Well, it ought to be, oughten it? Something wrong with me otherwise.)
I haven’t made up my mind about whether or not I like Gardiner’s book yet, by the bye. It is very informative about Bach’s life and influences, but so far the narrative has a somewhat uneven quality about it, with a tendency to go back and forth between dense analysis and flighty by-the-ways. Also, Gardiner’s ego keeps bubbling up – we don’t refer to him ’round here as “John Eliot Full-Of-Himself” for nothing, you know.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo doesn’t get out very much, in part because it gets expensive very quickly and in part because, once I’m done shlepping down to the shop and back every day, I’d really rayther stay home of an evening.
This weekend, therefore, was quite out of the ordinary.
First, as mentioned in the weirdo post immediately below, Friday evening saw the Family Robbo trek down to Nats Park to watch our beloved Nats take on the Fish. We got there around 5:30 pm. The game was supposed to start at 7 pm. It didn’t actually start until 8:50 pm. Here’s what ol’ Robbo had to look at during the wait:
So why stay, you may ask? After all, the Division Title was already locked up, the shakiest starter in the rotation was pitching (he actually lasted about 2 innings), and it was cold and rainy. (Indeed, it never really stopped raining all evening.)
Well, I’ll tell you. For one thing, Eldest Gel was home visiting from school and really wanted to go. For another (related) thing, it’s rare that all of us do anything together as a group now that the gels are growing up. For a third, I hadn’t been to an actual game all year. And fourth? Look again at the pic. We had bought seats in the upper deck, but the Gods of the Ticket Office decided to smile upon us and upgraded us to about 20 rows behind 1st Base.
I couldn’t pass that up.
Last evening, in turn, the Middle Gel and I went down the Kennedy Center to catch their production of Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro.
Curiously enough, while I have heard the piece many, many times, owning 2 CD versions and a pretty good DVD recording of it as well, I’d never seen it performed live before. Go figure. Anyhoo, we had a thoroughly delightful time. It was well staged, most of the singers did very well and were obviously having fun, and the orchestra was good, too.
However, get a load of where we wound up sitting.
Yep, the Bob Uecker Front Row. We’re talking real nose-bleeders here. Indeed, we weren’t even sitting in one of the affixed rows, but in a couple chairs brought in at the very back. (Thus the wages of putting off to the last minute trying to get tickets to a very popular production. On the other hand, I was able to slip off my loafers without anyone noticing.)
All I can say is that even though we eventually started to succumb to altitude sickness, we could hear and see well enough. I also found myself musing that this was just about the position we would have been in the night before if our ballpark seats hadn’t been changed.
Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo didn’t make it to bed until past one ack emma on either night, so I am in something pretty close to zombie mode now. Which is another reason why I don’t much care for the night life.
In these cases, tho’, I think it was worth it.
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.
I know the bloggy follies of double-posting on the same day, especially with such feeble traffic as I enjoy, but I spoke with the Eldest Gel earlier this evening and in the course of our conversation she remarked that today is the birthday of Freddy Mercury, whom the Gel thinks is the greatest musickal genius in the history of the world.
(Lest friends of the decanter get the wrong idea, the Gel also thinks that Freddy’s personal life was tragically confused and idiotic. Go figure. It’s sort of like Oliver Cromwell saying that Nell Gwynn was a fine actress despite her off-stage activities. Personally, I can’t quite do the math but I let it roll.)
Anyhoo, I asked what I should listen to in order to mark the occasion. The result should have been obvious:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
A day late, I know, but R.I.P. Gene Wilder, dead at 83. Wilder was a superb comic actor and, from every account I’ve ever read, a thoroughly good man.
“Young Frankenstein” is one of my very favorite movies and certainly my most favorite Mel Brooks movie. This is primarily due to the writing, in which I believe Wilder had a significant hand. (Well, okay, the outstanding cast, too.) The trouble with most Brooks comedies is that they tend to start wandering, devolving into sledge-hammer slapstick or getting too cutesy. (The latter is my main problem with “Blazing Saddles”. Of course, it has a lot of good material in it, but it can’t stay in character, and by the end has gone completely haywire.) Not so with Y.F. – even with all the silly little asides, it holds true to the genre it parodies right the way through. As I say, I believe Wilder should be given credit for this.
It also occurred to me that I haven’t seen “Willie Wonka” in quite a long time, so I tossed that into the ol’ Netflix queue just now. I’ve often wondered how that film compares to the Roald Dahl book. (On principle, I’ve never seen the Johnny Depp remake bye the by.) Certainly it is old-fashioned in its rayther strict morality and quite out of date. The kidz are all Mike TeeVees and Veruca Salts now, and any suggestion that parents are responsible for such spoiled rotten brats would probably get one sent to the Camps.
(Mention of Wonka reminds me of a little throwaway bit in the movie of interest to musick-lovers. At one point, Wonka plays a little tune on a “musical lock” in order to open a door (into the fizzy-lifting water room, I believe). Mrs. TeeVee leans over to Grampa Joe and smugly mutters “Rachmaninoff”. Of course, the tune is nothing of the sort but is instead the opening couple of bars from the overture to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”. Wonka gives Mrs. TeeVee the smallest part of a condescending glance before moving on. I’ve often wondered what percentage of the audience the writers expected to get that bit. Significantly higher back when the movie came out than now, I’d bet.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo was saddened this week by the news of the death of Nikolaus Harnoncourt at age 86.
Who, you may ask?
Well, said Nick was the godfather or, if you prefer, teh grand daddy of the “period instrument” or the “historickally informed” performance movement, the idea that (especially) 17th and 18th Century musick ought to be performed the way the composers of said times intended, in terms of instrumentation, phrasing, tone and all the rest, and not in conformity with 20th Century values.
My old father had a great number of recordings of baroque musick from the 50’s and 60’s that intrigued me in my misspent yoot, but never moved me because they seemed so mechanical and over-instrumented. When I first heard the Harnoncourt-inspired revisions of said pieces? It was like looking at the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel after all teh gunk had been removed.
Despite a great deal of blowback from the Establishment, Harnoncourt persisted. As I recall, he began to make waves in teh 60’s and 70’s but really hit his stride in the 80’s. His first three followers were Christopher Hogwood (who died fairly recently), John Eliot Gardiner, and Trevor Pinnock, all of whom came to prominence (and to Robbo’s attention) at about the same time. Since this most excellent trio, the movement has expanded exponentially, to the point that I cannot keep up with all of them.
Bully, says I. As I say, the movement gave new and justly-deserved life to a collection of musick far and away better, IMHO, than anything that has been produced since.
UPDATE: My apologies for such a sloppy, disjointed post. (I’ve tried to clean it up a bit.) Pollen has become a thing again in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and my, ah, self-medication for my sinus headaches, while effective, sometimes hamper my compositional style.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As mentioned in the post below, ol’ Robbo decided to give up the grape for Lent this year. We’re now in the middle of the fourth day, and although so far I’ve been able to avoid the temptation (said by H.L. Mencken to be felt by all normal men) to spit on my hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats, it hasn’t been easy.
I know, I know: Offer it up.
In order to avoid overloading myself with abstinences to teh point of bringing down the whole programme, I decided that it would be a bad idea to try also, as I usually do, to cut out (secular) books, musick and teevee/film (and, I guess, the innertoobs), at least at first. We’ll see how things go. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m not pursuing my Lenten reading. (As usual, I’m starting out with St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis de Sales.) Instead, it means that I’ll probably fiddle around with the mixture, gradually thinning out the pleasure part as the season progresses. My goal is to be able to devote Holy Week to pure contemplation of Faith.
Anyhoo, I thought I’d offer up a few random observations on what I’m reading, listening to, and watching at the moment.
Books: I think I mentioned somewhere below that I had started in on Anthony Powell’s magnum opus, A Dance to the Music of Time. Arranged in a quartet of books of three smaller novels each, it tells (from his point of view) the story of Nicholas Jenkins, a young man of respectable family, from his school days in the 1920’s up through the 60’s. It begins with the interactions at school among Nick and his friends Charles Stringham and Peter Templar, as well as those with the awful Kenneth Widmerpool, and gradually expands outward, taking in family, friends, professional and chance acquaintances, spinning a complex web of repeated personal encounters and relationships as the characters leave school and pursue their various lives, loves, and careers. All of this is set against the backdrop of the (arguably terminal) change in British society across the 20th Century: Post-WWI; Roaring 20’s; 30’s crash; WWII; post-War hardship; rise of the Left; goddam 60’s hippies. And of course, not only do the characters interact with each other, they are all enmeshed in these larger social movements as well.
On Ash Wednesday, ol’ Robbo found himself in the middle of Temporary Kings, the next to last of the twelve books, and decided that, since I am so close, I would push on through to the end. Ol’ Robbo has never been what one might call a “quick” study. I usually have to read a book repeatedly to really start getting into the meat of the thing. This is, I believe, my third time through ADTTMOT, and I must say that I am enjoying it exponentially more than my last go. As I say, Powell weaves an immensely complicated web of personal interactions in a quite satisfying manner, but what I appreciate more and more is his rayther droll wit. While Nick (whom I suppose to be the author’s alter ego) is caught up in the immense personal and social upheavals going on all around him, he never really gives away much about what he thinks of it all. From Powell’s deliciously dry observation, however, I’m guessing the answer is not that much. (UPDATE: I noticed that the last book in the series, Hearing Secret Harmonies, published in 1975, was dedicated to Robert Conquest, the great anti-Stalinist and social conservative. So there you go.)
Musick: Recently, long time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, in the process of cleaning out his collection, sent ol’ Robbo a big box of CD’s of Renaissance Musick, figuring they would find a good home at Port Swiller Manor. Of course, he was right: Ol’ Robbo loves teh vitality of this era, from the dolorous introspection to the toe-tapping exuberance, all of it pleasantly free of the self-centered navel-gazing of the Romantics. On the whole, ol’ Robbo likes his musick a bit more formalized (the Baroque period being my favorite), but this gives him plenty of delight as well.
Anyhoo, I’ve started working my way through the stack. A few observations:
Dansereye 1551, Tielman Susato (c. 1500-1561): When thanking ODT for his gift, I mentioned that very few of the composers (apart from some of the English ones) were at all familiar to me. I put this CD on thinking I was in for something new, as Susato’s name did not immediately ring any bells, but soon started laughing: The first few tracks happen to be included (in different arrangements) on a compilation of Renaissance dance musick I own and love entitled Terpsichore. Small world after all. By the bye, the performance here is by the New London Consort under Philip Pickett, a very good group. The CD is copyrighted 1993 – I hadn’t realized they had been around that long.
Los Ministriles – Spanish Renaissance Wind Music: Composers such as Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Manuel de Tavares and Manuel Cardoso. Good stuff, but I couldn’t tell you what makes it particularly Spanish in character. (I suspect some of this musick is also, in fact, Portuguese.) This is not due to the album, but to my own ignorance. Of course, the “Renaissance” took different forms in different parts of Europe. I also believe that, given Spain’s particular history, it took different forms in the different kingdoms united under Ferdinand and Isabella. Naturally, then, so would the arts within those kingdoms.
On that front, let me also recommend a CD in my own collection: 1492: Music From The Age of Discovery – The Waverly Consort. Mrs. Robbo and I saw them perform this album in concert eons ago and bought the CD on the spot. It blends Spanish, Italian, Jewish and Moorish musick from the time in a most satisfactory combination that really gives you the flavor. (There are some similar Old/New World crossover CD’s in ODT’s stack that I haven’t reached yet, but will mention when I get to them.)
Fortune My Foe: Music of Shakespeare’s Time – Les Witches: So far as Renaissance artists go, this is closer to ol’ Robbo’s own home turf, featuring composers such as John Dowland, Thomas Morley and Michael Praetorius. (It also includes the weird -and aptly-named – Nicholas Le Strange. However despite what the Amazon description at the link may say, William Byrd is not included.) Ironically, despite the album’s subtitle, most of these composers were, in fact, chased out of England by Queen Bess in the early 1570’s on (among other things) anti-Catholic grounds, and set up shop in Sweden and Northern Germany. The local publick radio station used to run a track from Les Witches some years ago that must have been from this album – they’ve only put out a few, and most of them very recently – but I can’t recall which one it was.
Screen: The other day, because she had been watching it in her English class and wanted my opinion, Eldest Gel and ol’ Robbo sat down to watch Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet. I lasted about 45 minutes of the scheduled four hours of screen time. In a word? Bombastically unwatchable. Nobody tops ol’ Robbo in his admiration of Branagh’s obviously outstanding talent as a Shakespearean actor, but I’ve been saying the same damn thing ever since his Henry V first came out: What Branagh needed more than anything else in his efforts to bring the Bard to the big screen was an iron-fisted director with the ability to say, “Ken? NO!!” Alas, he didn’t have one and went to seed as a result.
Similarly, I’ve been picking my way, act by act, through the old BBC production of Othello starring Anthony Hopkins and Bob Hoskins. Hoskins is great as the scheming Iago, but as fine an actor as he otherwise is, I just don’t get Hopkins’ treatment of Shakespeare. He hesitates, blanks out, inflects oddly, sometimes doesn’t quite seem to grasp the psychology of his character. It was the same thing when I saw him on stage in 1987 doing Lear. Strange.
I am also working my way through Christopher Guest’s cycle of “mockumentaries”, just having polished off Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Made in the early 2000’s, part of me wonders whether these films could even be offered these days, given the number of triggers in them that would send the Social Justice Movement cry-bullies into catatonic fits. Indeed, the inclusion of the fact that I’ve watched them on my Permanent Electronic Record is probably more than enough on its own to get me sent to the Happy Fun Reeducation Camps when the revolution comes, if not simply shot out of hand. On the other hand, they’re all wicked funny, so it would be worth it. (Anyhoo, there’s plenty other anti-revolutionary material on my PER already, so the question is largely moot.)
Finally, I just finished the 1st season of Star Trek: The Original Series, with “The City on the Edge of Forever” (with a young Joan Collins) and “Operation – Annihilate!” (the one with the flying killer washcloths, one of which hits Spock in the back: I once saw an outtakes clip where it hit him in the fanny). I don’t have much to say about Star Trek:TOS except that the show has held up surprisingly well all these years and is just as entertaining to me now in my 50’s as it was in my misspent yoot (obviously for a different combination of reasons, although skimpily-clad alien space babes still enter into the calculus). Of note: Netflix offers up the revised versions of the old shows, with modern computer graphics cleaning up and enhancing the more painfully primitive special effects of 50 years ago. While I abhor the kind of retro-tinkering George Lucas indulged himself with in the Star Wars franchise, I have no problem with what has been done here: The alterations are seamless, in line with the original spirit, and not designed to draw attention to themselves. It’s amazing what can be done when Ego is taken out of the equation.
At any rate, there you have it.
UPDATE: R.I.P. Justice Antonin Scalia. As I may have mentioned here before, his family are fellow parishioners of mine and I’ve seen him many times at Mass although I never got up the nerve to try and start a conversation. I’m sure he would have been gracious about it, but I’m equally sure he would have been annoyed at having to deal with a groupie on Sunday.
I must say that I was flatly repulsed by the amount of pure bile and venom that erupted across the innertoobs when news of Scalia’s death broke yesterday. Disgusting.