The Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico

The  Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico
The Model for the Maitre d'Armes

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Purview" Has Been Ruined for Me

The other day, I was having a perfectly pleasant discussion with someone, and the question of whose "purview" a certain task fell within was mooted. I immediately flashed on "In the Loop" and had to restrain giggles:

(Have you noticed that this is an epic battle between Doctor Who and Irene Forsyte (Gina McKee)?)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Assurance of Age...

Look above, and watch John Houseman receiving the Oscar for best Supporting Actor in The Paper Chase (1973) Catch how nervous he is, under the patrician demeanor--he stumbles in his words, he stammers just a bit. This, from one of the most superbly self-confident men I've ever seen on screen or met (and by great good fortune, I did both).

When I was in my teens, and watched Houseman in the TV adaptation, I used to think--look at bloody him. So at one with himself, so poised. Awful, sometimes, of course, but still--not anxious, not busting a gut trying to impress/please people. When I'm old--maybe when I'm middle-aged, even--I can be like that--not giving a damn. And so I looked forward to the serenity of growing older.

It doesn't happen, though, at least not on its own. Look at how nervous Professor Kingsfield is at the acme of his career right there above.

As I am now solidly middle-aged, I don't hanker for my youth. I'm pretty content now, by and by. But that unearned serenity I thought would be dropped off with the gray hair? Hasn't come yet, worse luck. Or maybe not. Maybe serenity only comes when we train ourselves to it. Or maybe it never comes at all, if we haven't made it a part of who we really are. Because I doubt that our professional personae hold up that well as we age; I suspect that Robertson Davies had it right when he wrote that "As we neared our sixties the cloaks we had wrapped about our essential selves were wearing thin."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clearing the Decks, Back to the Mines

Well, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but the next few months should be interesting. In my writing life, I have an idea for a second novel. Which is not to give up on the first--later this year, there will be a long-standing Trollope-19th Century book group online (founded and led by by the redoubtable Ellen Moody, whose excellent book Trollope on the Net discusses the group's early days) reading Phineas at Bay, and there should be some very exciting news for May 2015.

--which promises to be a very large month for me, because, independent of the very exciting news (to be shared later), there is, barring unforeseen circumstances, also, on the morning of May 16, my ordination to the vocational diaconate. It's been 7 years in the making, and the goal is in sight.

Of course, the goal is a way station--ordination begins a different phase of life, not an endpoint. It is extraordinary to be nearing that moment of transition.

So as summer is now most decidedly over, and I am settled into the new gig, it's time for me to begin my winter project--beginning the next novel. Working title: Taffy Was a Welshman. Back to Pontnewydd, and the mines.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Dear Old Sheep of the Lake District...

When I was a boy, about 13 or so, I found at a tag sale two lovely Oxford poets works edition, Milton and Wordsworth. Handsome maroon volumes, from the 1920s (I still have them). And I remember lying on the floor and reading, falling in love with the sound as much as the sense:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.
I still have an affection for them both, especially Wordsworth, whom Horace Rumpole famously termed "the dear old sheep of the Lake District. And yet his reading of the poem showed his true feelings.

Look outside tonight. It is a beauteous evening--calm and free, with a slight, invigorating bite in the air. Pause for a moment, and relish it.

Good night, until tomorrow.

{Edited to remove the awesome typo depicting Wordsworth as the "dear Ood sheep of the Lake District." That's a Doctor Who ep I'll pass on, thanks!}

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Democracy (If You Can Keep It)

I've been on sabbatical from political commentary, now, for much of 2014. I occasionally comment on legal matters, and in that respect have touched on the evisceration of both the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the 15th Amendment by the Roberts Court.

And I'm leaving it there; I am trying to break myself of being a political animal. That said, this is epic:

Good God, Rick Scott's an imbecile. That is all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Both Sides Now

Read those lines for yourself:
Adelaide:But you said we die. For the future. For the human race!
The Doctor: Yes, because there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It's taken me all these years to realize that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me!
That's it. The moment when the Doctor unconsciously (?) echoes the catchphrase of his long-term nemesis, the Master.

I wrote about this parallel back in June; but I think it's worthwhile to reaffirm that the best villains often have more in common with of their adversaries than meets the eye. That's certainly true in Phineas Redux, and, by extension, Phineas at Bay, in which I brought back the Rev. Joseph Emilius.

When you have a character like Emilius, who contains stereotype and rote villainy, but also--something more, what else can you do but explore the something more? In Emilius's case it's his coolness under fire, his nerve, and his surprising ability to survive adversity. There's a real grit to the man, beneath all the playacting; he never cracks, displays fear, or loses his head. And so, in Trollope's novels, he escapes conviction of murder, only to get caught up in bigamy.

He's also a rather distorted mirror image of our hero--name games on Trollope's part: Phineas, Emilius. He's an outsider, like the Irish Roman Catholic, who makes his way by charisma and charm--especially charming women. You could say that Emilius is Phineas as seen through Kennedy's or Bonteen's eyes. In the television adaptation, as I have pointed out, Anthony Ainley goes with that, works the charm and charisma of the inferior copy as much as he can, and hints at a very different man belief, whose nature we don't see--because neither Trollope nor Simon Raven in scripting the adaptation have gone so far as to provide it. But this left me with the task of trying to intuit what lay beneath.

How well did I succeed? Ah, that judgment is for you to make, not me.

By the bye, within a week, the Kindle edition of Phineas at Bay will reflect the changes currently made to the paperback; the Rare Misprint Edition will only exist in the hands of the lucky few who have purchased it, and all new copies will reflect the corrected text.

Parody and Purity

A song came up on my iPod that was used in the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Myster, which reminded me of how much fun that first film was and how unrepeatable the utter triumph of the original parody has proven to be. I think that's because that first movie was built on Mike Myers's genuine love of the late 1960s movies he so marvelously takes off--the Connery Bond movies, The Avengers, Beatlemania--even Blow-up gets a shout out, and that's all during the opening credits. In fact, the credits reinforce the gag--seeing Michael York's and Robert Wagner's names in the credits adds to the period flavor while reinforcing the joke--the actors become references to their own earlier work, and establishing the appropriate feel for the early scenes.

The later two credit sequences feel progressively more forced, lacking the spontaneity, the fun, the sheer wealth of things to do in the movie that Myers can scatter some of his best gags in the first two minutes. But in that first movie, his comic invention is boundless, and his zest is contagious.

Similarly, while Mel Brooks did many enjoyable parodies, none has measured up to Young Frankenstein:

Note the details of the laboratory, the Monster's awakening, the drawing room comedy and then Gene Wilder going the full Colin Clive. Seriously; here's the original:

Brooks immerses himself in the world of the 1930s Frenkenstein movies at the sam time he mocks it--the love for the movies shows through in a coherent, berserk plot that is both hilarious, and yet gets you rooting for the characters:

Like that first Austin Powers movie, it's willing to throw references around carelessly, do burlesque, comedy high and low, all in the name of good fun, and honoring the movies the young Brooks loved.

Classic parody can only exist where the object of the parody is loved.