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Yesterday afternoon, as we sat in traffic together, the Eldest Gel started contemplating the Fort McHenry commemorative license plate on the car from Murrland in front of us.
“Why doesn’t D.C. have a War of 1812 license plate?” she suddenly asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “What would they put on it? A burning White House?”
“Sure, why not?”
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo took the Eldest Gel down to the County’s Juvenile Court this afternoon – and don’t think I didn’t milk that statement for all it was worth – in order to formally receive her driver’s license at the hands of one of the judges there. (She’s had a temporary license for about three months now since completing her driver’s ed course, but this is the real deal.)
It was a reasonably nice and apropos little ceremony designed to hammer into the little bastids’ collective (there were about fifty kids) braims the fact that driving is both a privilege and a responsibility and that, broadly speaking, they don’t know jack about it yet.
First, we got shown a musick video of some kid consumed in grief because he’d just killed another young driver through his own negligence. “Why did this happen to me?” he kept lamenting through the rain, to which the obvious answers were a) um, because you go drunk and got behind the wheel? and b) you just killed an innocent girl and all you can think of is yourself? The gel informed me that she’d already seen this video about a dozen times, so I’m thinking it had probably reached saturation point with most of the rest of the audience as well. As for myself, I kept half-expecting the singer to suddenly look up and ask, “What does the fox say?”
Next, we had a little lecture from a gruff old Sarge’, in which he imparted a lot of stern words of what amounted to basic common sense. There’s been a lot of ballyhoo recently about militarized thug cops, but this fellah was obviously one of the Good Guys. My impression was that his wisdom was well-received. (I learned a new term from him, by the way – “steaking”. It seems certain kids in our area like to skip school, drive to Philadelphia, eat a cheesesteak for lunch, scootch home before school’s out and show the receipt for the sammich to their little friends to prove their roguishness. The fact that they would voluntarily go anywhere within 100 miles of Philly to me shows their obvious immaturity.)
Then the judge gave us a little anecdote about the niece of a friend of hers who had been killed on the road the night before she was to go off to college. Her point to the Li’l Darlins was that their decisions on the road impacted not just their own precious snowflake selves, but also everyone around them – family, friends, community, etc. She also mentioned the fact that under Virginny law, Mom and Dad have the power to yank the youngling’s license at any point they feel it is necessary, and the Commonwealth will back them to the hilt. I liked that last part especially.
After this, there was a bit of an anticlimax. The judge said ‘bye and vanished, and the clerks started dealing out licenses and, well, that was pretty much it.
So here we are. One down, two to go. The Middle Gel can get her learner’s permit some time this summah, I believe, and seems hell-bent on doing so.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Those friends of the decanter who have some passing familiarity with antiquity and the arts will quickly recognize this sculpture as the Augustus of Prima Porta, a likely posthumous and somewhat artificially-hulkified tribute to the first, and arguably greatest, of the Roman Emperors. The piece is one of the two or three most recognizable bits of sculpture to come down to us from classickal civilization. (In fact, I had a framed poster of it on my walls all through high school and college.)
Recently, it came to ol’ Robbo’s attention that a “street artist” calling himself “Gaia” has incorporated an image of this statue into a big mural that adorns one end of some new Mediterranean restaurant in Dee Cee called Pinea. (You can go here to check the thing out. I won’t try to repaste it here because of copyright, and besides, I’m sure the restaurant people wouldn’t mind the clicks. For those of you who don’t make the jump, suffice to say ol’ Octavian is depicted in vibrant colors with a string of citrus slices around his neck and various items of Italian cuisine in the background. Childish, but ultimately harmless, and at least it ties in with the place.)
Ol’ Robbo only happens to have learned about this work because of a monthly glossy called “Modern Luxury DC” that shows up, quite un-asked for, in the Port Swiller mailbox. This mag purports to be the arbiter hipsterium of Your Nation’s Capital, carrying a variety of articles about coo-el new art exhibits, designer clothing, fashionable watering holes, “edgy” architecture, and up-and-coming Bright Young Things and Politicos. (To give but one example of the latter, the latest issue featured an article on Mother’s Day with a photo of the current First Lady and her children. The headline reads “Queen Mother”. Note to Modern Luxury DC: Yeah, about that? No.)
Anyhoo, each issue of said mag goes straight to the basket in the downstairs loo, where Robbo flips through it just to keep up with exactly how awful things are out there in HipsterLand, until he is thoroughly disgusted and tosses it. Perusing the latest, I came across an “On the Scene” item about the unveiling of “Gaia’s” new mural at a private cocktail party (which see the link above). And what did “Modern Luxury DC” have to say about this piece of art? “The new mural features a 14.5 foot tall Roman soldier.”
A “Roman soldier”, eh? As I say above, the Prima Porta is a famous icon depicting one of the greatest figures of classickal history. And all this hipster-doofus rag can come up with to describe it is “a Roman soldier“?
Cor lumme, stone the crows.
This got me wondering how they would treat some other giants of the cultural and politickal history on which their Neo-Tinsel Age is built:
Perhaps I over-react, but is there nobody, nobody in the chain from artist to writer to editor who could do any better than “a Roman soldier”?
It’s bad enough that these people don’t know what they’re talking about, but I fear that they also just don’t care, which is much, much worse.
No, per my post below, I have not been absent through the agency of the good folks of CPS. Rayther, ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are on a West Coast road trip this week and, as most of the games start well beyond my bedtime, I have been catching up on my Netflix queue.
Interestingly, I seem to have come across a 30’s/40’s nostalgia patch this week. (One of my little indulgences is to load lots of DVD’s into the queue in one go and then to enjoy the surprise when they show up weeks or months later. And don’t start in about streaming – the DVD library is much bigger, and unlike some people, I’m not a slave to instant gratification.) So far, I’ve been through It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday and Holiday. I believe the next couple to appear in the Port Swiller mailbox will be Talk of the Town and You Can’t Take It With You. Without checking, I’m pretty sure Only Angels Have Wings is not far behind in the queue.
In those six films, you’ve got Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Kate Hepburn, Rita Heyworth, several doses of Cary Grant, a triple shot of Jean Arthur and some Ji-Ji-Jimmy Stewart, to say nothing of supporting casts too numerous and excellent to single out.
Outstanding films, full of witty dialogue, complicated emotions, action, drama and the like, and all done without any scenes involving nekkedness, CGI effects or gratuitous violence. Hollywood drives culture but it also reflects it: You simply couldn’t make movies like these nowadays. (My children, by the bye, are simply astonished that I have no interest in superhero-based movies whatsoever.)
Interestingly (at least to me), several of these films started out as stage plays and keep that feel. Indeed, I don’t actually recall whether I’ve seen the film version of “You Can’t Take It With You” before, but I do recall seeing a stage version of it years ago that I thought very silly but very funny.
“Holiday” was written specifically for Kate Hepburn, first on stage and then on screen. Only she, I think, could pull off the character of Linda Seton in a way that makes her look sympathetic: I saw a stage version of the play a few years ago in which the actress playing the roll made her look like a psychotic bully.
Well, I don’t really have a wrap-up paragraph for this post, but if you’ve been wondering what ol’ Robbo has been up to, this is it.
UPDATE: Oh, speaking of what passes for modern cinema, I see a kerfluffle is brewing over the “Mad Max” reboot. It would seem that Max is only a secondary character in this one and the main story concerns some post-apocalypse über-feminist rising up from slavery and sticking it to the Man. Frankly, I hope it bombs, largely because hijacking a brand seems to me cheating. (You wouldn’t go see a movie like “My Dinner With Captain James T. Kirk” now, would you?) Plus, as a rule, I despise reboots. Write your own damn story!
UPDATE DEUX: Sat down to watch “You Can’t Take It With You” this evening only to discover that the disk was cracked. Heigh, ho. I took this as a sign and instead sat out on the porch watching the night draw in. I win, I think.
Nonetheless, the comment to this post of the lovely and talented Diane reminded me of a funny Hitchcock story. I’m no real aficionado of teh Hitch, although I greatly appreciate his work in a casual way, if that makes any sense. Probably my favorite of his movies is North By Northwest because of a) Cary Grant, b) Eva Marie Saint and c) a terrific musickal theme.
Anyhoo, the memory dredged up by Diane’s comment was that of my first viewing of Rear Window, which was during my first year of college. The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown had a dedicated cinema, but it also ran Friday night movies in the big science center amphitheater in which I spent two years languishing fruitlessly in pre-med before chucking it. The advantage of the latter venue was that you could bring in food and drink, so my friends and I would scoop up a couple bottles of rot-gut and a stack of plastic cups and make an evening of it.
***SPOILER ALERT*** – If what I have to say about the movie is going to harsh your heretofore-preserved innocence, read no further!
I got the impression as I settled in that I was not the only one there who hadn’t seen “Rear Window” before. During the early part of the story’s set up, there was a good deal of quiet chatter and laughter amongst the audience. Gradually, however, as the plot built, such chatter started to ebb, eventually drying up completely. By the time we were into the meat of the thing, the audience was riveted, eventually reaching a collective agony of uncertainty you could cut with a knife.
And then, I will never forget it: At the climactic point when Raymond Burr, after seeing Grace flapping her finger behind her back, looks up directly into the camera, spots Ji-Ji-Jimmy spying on him, and swells perceptibly, the entire audience let out a completely spontaneous and utterly genuine gasp. And when the camera cuts to Ji-Ji-Jimmy hastily trying to back himself into the shadows, we all felt exactly the same way.
Woosh! There’s a good deal of teh hokey in this particular film, but as far as the actual suspense goes, that, my friends, is how you do it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent a very pleasant Friday lunch hour today by strolling down to the National Mall to watch the Arsenal of Democracy Capitol Flyover marking the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day.
It was a very nice event. The weather was warm and a bit sultry but not too oppressive. There were considerably more people on hand than I had anticipated, many of them putting on dog about their expertise in WWII history and aircraft specifications, as well as making jokes about taking the opportunity of so many warbirds over Your Nation’s Capitol to maybe take out some of its more obnoxious institutions and residents.
In carefully-organized groups designed to plot the aerial history of the War, the nineteen-odd different types of planes came down the Potomac, swung east just past the Jefferson Memorial, cruised down the south side of the Mall at about 600 ft or so to roughly the height of the Capitol and then split off to return to their fields. (A friend of mine was among a group of watchers who assembled at Great Falls Park upstream to see them pass over. Another friend reported that the George Washington Parkway – which runs down the river – was at a standstill as people got out of their cars to watch.)
You can say what you like about the benefits of modern jet-propulsion, but there’s nothing really to match the aesthetic beauty of the meaty growl of a high-HP prop engine pulling its bird along.
Many of the folks around me seemed to be very intent on their iThingies or printed programs, scrambling to keep up with the data therein as the parade went by. Me, I just reveled in the here and the now. When I was a kid, I was a bit of a nerd (shut up) and spent most of my time either reading about WWII or building 1/48 scale models of the Allied aircraft involved. Before I left home for college, I had models of most of the American Army Air Corp and Air Force involved, aside from scouts, trainers, the Catalina flying-boat, and, for some reason, the B-24 Liberator. As an aside, if I may say so, I got quite good at detailing them – salt stains on the carrier-based planes, appropriate paint jobs, battle damage, exhaust and gun streaks. (Yeah, I didn’t date much in high school. Again, shut up.)
My one regret was that I didn’t think to bring along my bird-watching binocs. Even with corrective lenses, I have rotten eyesight. The heavies and the more distinctive single-props were very easy to identify, but I’m afraid I didn’t quite I.D. all of the fighters the way I should have, despite my intense, ah, squinting.
Nonetheless, I was able to simply stand and admire as the successive waves of birds made their way down the parade route. And while many of the folks around me seemed to lose interest in each wave as soon as it passed our station (I was standing on 7th street on the north side of the Mall), I made a point of watching all of them finish their runs. (The organizers, either out of safety concerns or for the benefit of the onlookers, spaced the flights to make this completely possible.) Why should a vintage aircraft be any less beautiful because it’s flying away from one rayther than towards one?
One thing I saw: Just after a flight of three Navy Helldivers swung around to start their run up the Mall, one of them suddenly broke formation and headed off to the southwest. I wondered about this greatly, but nobody around me seemed to notice. Turns out the bird was suffering some kind of mechanical problem and had to put down at Reagan Airport (which, fortunately, was less than two minutes away). Everything turned out fine in the end.
Even in these miserably dark days, the whole affair was most encouraging.
Of course, these guys were all stooging along in their Sunday-go-to-meetings. How about a little pron?
Curious thing. I love everything about flying except, you know, actually flying, of which regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo is quite frightened. Go figure.
Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught today by this article concerning the latest museum being run up on the National Mall.
I commute past this site every day and, frankly, my opinion has been that it started out as a bad idea and has only gotten worse. Started out bad because it’s right on the edge of that part of the Mall right around the Washington Monument and at least partially blocks the view, gotten worse because the design of the new building itself is (is IMHO) butt-ugly.
I leave it to you friends of the decanter to decide whether all this is just a product of modern artistic sensibilities (or lack thereof) or else a deliberate poke in the eye.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
This evening, teh Eldest Gel informed me that her latest English assignment is to read Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.
Gel: What’s it about?
Self: No offense, but it’s all about a teenaged hipster-doofus whining over his disillusioning encounters with the so-called Real World, which he discovers to be largely fake. Your classmates are going to love it.
Self: Yes, really.
Gel: But…. we go through this all the time ourselves and I hate it! I already know we’re self-absorbed and ignorant! I already know that eventually I’ll grow up and get a better perspective! I already know that Christianity says all these earthly things are irrelevant! Why would I want to read some guy’s self-absorbed ranting about it?
Self: Because that’s the assignment.
Gel: Yeah. But what a loser.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the vast majority of those friends of the decanter who have had or cared for small children have spent numerous hours reading to the little “blessings” at bed-time. I know I have, starting out with “‘C’ is for Clown” and “There’s A Monster at the End of this Book” (I can do a kick-ass Grover voice) and working up through Seuss and the Berenstain Bears (gack!) to Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia Chronicles.
Well, guess what? Apparently, this makes you and me Haters. Because Social Justice or something:
“Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?” asks a story on the ABC’s website.
“Should parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring?”
The story was followed by a broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National that also tackled the apparently divisive issue of bedtime reading.
“Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi.
Gelonesi responded online: “This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”
Let that one sink in for a few moments. Go on, I’ll wait. Imagine getting fined or thrown into the hoosegow for spending a cozy half hour reading “Madeline” to your daughter because it might give her a leg up in the world.
I mentioned the article to Mrs. Robbo this evening and she simply couldn’t believe it. But this is yet another marker of where dying Western Civilisation stands at the moment, even if most of us are still too fat and happy to see it. Granted, the piece comes from Australia and the “academic” involved is a Brit, but I’ll bet you it wouldn’t take me long to find some Progressivista here in teh States nodding at the “wisdom” of such a proposal.
They’d say, of course, that it’s “for the children” and the promotion of “fairness”, but that, if I may say so, would be a God-damned lie. The real motivation, as is always the case with statists, has nothing to do with empowerment or equal chances, and is instead the beating down of all individualism, self-improvement, personal responsibility, and reward for hard work and merit, and the replacement of a free association of autonomous citizens with an army of mindless
drones slaves serving the collective.
Swift said parents should be mindful of the advantage provided by bedtime reading.
“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,” he said.
Yeah, right. By this reasoning, it could be argued that I also “unfairly disadvantage” other people’s children by staying faithful to my wife, working hard at my job, providing the gels with a roof over their heads, food, clothing, religious grounding, and the best education we can manage, and trying to instill in them the same set of values and skill sets that my parents hammered into me and which have allowed me to do these other things for them.
Maybe I ought to knock off all of that, too?
Gelonesi is absolutely right in one thing: “Devilish” is exactly the right word. God help us all.
UPDATE: Fun fact for you that I have long cherished. Baltimore, the city that has been so much in the nooz lately, poster child for 50 years of Big State gub’mint, is tagged routinely as having the highest illiteracy rate of any major U.S. city. In the late 80’s, the then-mayor decided to adopt a new motto for the place – “Baltimore – the City that Reads”. Did so with a completely straight face, too. By the bye, that little campaign is now dead, Jim.
UPDATE DEUX: In response to some of the comments, yes, a few years ago I would have thought this article to be Onion-bait. Not now. Instead, I believe the forces of darkness, like the King of the Nazgul before the crumpled defenses of Minas Tirith, are launching a full frontal assault all along the line.
This evening found ol’ Robbo helping out teh youngest gel in her 7th grade science homework of filling out Punnett squares of genetic variations among the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom. The questions involved issues of square versus round and pink versus yellow bodies, and whether Mrs. Crab had been stuck with the wrong baby in hospital because it had short eyes instead of the more genetically-probable long ones.
On the one hand, teh Gel definitely took a greater interest in the subject matter due to the way it was served up. On the other, anything to do with Spongebob tends to send ol’ Robbo’s eyes twitching and his heart palpitating. From what I’ve seen of the series, it’s pretty clever but it’s waaaaaay too frenetic for me. Also, when I tried to give a brief bio of Gregor Mendel and a summation of his work, she said, “Oh, yeah, we learned about him. Whatevs…..” Head, meet desk.
On a different note, assisting teh gel reminded me of my ill-thought college foray into the pre-med curriculum. Sophomore year, I took both genetics and organic chem. The genetics lab work concerned fruit flies, both red and white-eyed and (I think) full versus stubbled wings. Somehow or other, ol’ Robbo absolutely fubar’d the lab. Indeed, I have a vague recollection of looking at one or more of my samples and wondering what the hell is THAT?
Yes, it was ugly. However, I recognize now that my failure was due to my own immaturity and that, were I presented the same premise now, I’d thoroughly enjoy it. As they say, education is wasted on yoot. Those of us who have been around the block a few times would make much more of it.
So long as it wasn’t laid out in Spongebob terms, that is.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yesterday afternoon found ol’ Robbo taking a break from his yard work duties to run the Middle Gel and a friend into town.
It turns out that this weekend is the 2015 AVON 39 mile “”Walk to End Breast Cancer”, and part of our route ran parallel to a long string of marchers on the sidewalk. Most of them had pink hats or ribbons or some such, but a fairly large number seem to have gone all out: tutus, bikinis, (pink) dyed hair, boots, lavish jewelry, etc. I even saw one fellah inexplicably dressed in a dog costume.
Now this is going to sound churlish, but here it is: The cause is, of course, perfectly worthy, but it strikes me that there is a line somewhere between supporting it and making a spectacle of oneself. (I had the same reaction to that whole “Ice-water Challenge” thing.) Money is money, true. But considered as a spiritual matter, charity is displaced by vanity, and this is not a Good Thing.
And, I might point out, Somebody Else doesn’t approve either:
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
– Matthew 6:1-4
It’s the age in which we live, unfortunately.
Oh, and one other thing. When I become Emperor of the World, spandex tights will be worn by license only. Yeesh!