Archive for the ‘Ruark’ Category

Late night thoughts.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and she said something that triggered a mental connection. And then some other stuff happened that triggered some more connections. This is another one of these posts where I was thinking out loud when I wrote this, please forgive me if it goes astray.

I didn’t live back in the old days – 30s – 60s – but my impression (based on what I’ve read) is that, as a child, you were valued somewhat based on physical skills. That is, you were expected to be able to run, hit, and catch reasonably well. (Ruark talks about this a little in The Old Man and the Boy.) If you couldn’t, you were looked down upon by your peers. If you were actually physically incapable (lost a leg or an arm) you may have been looked upon with some pity rather than condescension, but there was still a feeling that the non-physically skilled were somehow inferior. It seems like that lasted well into the 1970s and possibly even into the late 80s.

(Question: what were the expectations for girls? I don’t have a good answer, not ever having been a girl.)

At some point, this changed. Physical skill, while still valued, began to be supplanted by other skills, specifically video games. If you couldn’t run, hit, or field well, being good at rescuing the princess from another castle or whatever the frack Sonic did could still gain you some level of respect. I don’t know exactly when this change started: I feel like it was after I went off to college, but before things changed again.

I still see parents getting their kids into sports, but soccer seems to be the thing now. And that seems to me to be less about the sport – there’s not that much talent required, just run and kick ball – and more about tiring the little s–ts out for a while so Mommy and Daddy can get stuff done. (There are other exceptions, such as Little League and youth football, but I have the impression that those sports are driven by parental nostalgia. “I loved Little League when I was a kid! Surely my kid will love it, too!”)

The third change was the growth of the Internet. Once that became commonplace and everywhere, it didn’t matter if you could run, hit, field, or what you were good at. If you had some kind of specific area of interest – something you were good at, something you were obsessed with – the Internet enabled you to find people just like you. Nobody knew you were a dog, or an awkward teenage boy. We accept you, one of us, one of us.

I used to think that was a good thing. I still do: I think it’s great that those awkward teenagers can find people who are just like them. I think the Internet has done a wonderful job helping people who are shut-in or disabled or just socially awkward interact with others. I think it’s incredibly empowering, and a good antidote to bullying and ostracism.

But recent events have me wondering: have we also built a bunch of individual echo chambers? Now that everyone can find people just like them, have we devalued social interaction and the ability to get along with other, different people? Are we raising generations of otaku?

I don’t want to seem like a cranky old man longing for a return to the good old days. There were bullies and thugs and cheaters and generally not nice people back then, there are now, and there always will be. “There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation.”

But could this be part of the reason why we have LARP Nazis?

Random notes: June 24, 2016.

Friday, June 24th, 2016

The Baltimore Sun recalls a time when terrapin was “the signature delicacy of Maryland cuisine”.

(Linked here because: my favorite chapter in The Old Man and the Boy is towards the end, where the Old Man takes The Boy up to his friend’s in Maryland. They stop off along the way and have a proper meal of canvasback duck, terrapin stew, and various kinds of “iced tea” – this being at the height of Prohibition. So, yeah, I have a vague desire to try terrapin stew sometime.)

I intended to link this earlier in the week, but forgot until the On Taking Pictures podcast reminded me: 20×24 Studio is closing down “by the end of next year”.

The significance of this is that 20×24 is the home of the largest Polaroid camera ever made:

The camera, the 20-inch-by-24-inch Polaroid, was born as a kind of industrial stunt. Five of the wooden behemoths, weighing more than 200 pounds each and sitting atop a quartet of gurney wheels, were made in the late 1970s at the request of Edwin H. Land, the company’s founder, to demonstrate the quality of his large-format film. But the cameras found their true home in the art world, taken up by painters like Chuck Close and Robert Rauschenberg and photographers like William Wegman, David Levinthal and Mary Ellen Mark to make instant images that had the size and presence of sculpture.

But Polaroid no longer produces instant film: the company bought “hundreds of cases” of the 20×24 film, and hoped to reverse engineer it:

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years now, and I understand the importance of the history maybe better than anyone else,” said Mr. Reuter, who is also a photographer and filmmaker. “But there is a time when things have to come to an end. These are not materials that were designed to last indefinitely, and the investment to keep making them would be huge, multimillions.”

20×24 Studio.

Pavel Dmitrichenko is hoping to rebuild his ballet career, after being out of the dance scene for about two and a half years.

Why was he out? Injury? No, actually, he was in prison.

And why was he in prison? He was convicted of plotting the acid attack against Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin.

Mr. Dmitrichenko now labels the whole affair pure fiction. It was all a plot, he said, by Mr. Filin and his allies in the Bolshoi to remove him from the scene because he was vocal about their corrupt practices and would not be intimidated.
The revisions spill out in dizzying, not to say implausible, succession: He never spoke to Mr. Zarutsky about Mr. Filin. He denied that he admitted as much in court. Ms. Vorontsova was not his girlfriend. He even raises doubts that there was any acid attack since Mr. Filin has little noticeable scaring and can drive, despite the seeming lack of an iris in one eye that he keeps hidden behind sunglasses.

100 years ago today…

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

…on December 29, 1915, Robert Chester Ruark, Jr. was born.

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Christmas thoughts.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Before I went to sleep last night, I spent some time with an old friend: Robert Ruark.

He wrote memorably and well about Christmas. I like something he said, in one of the “Old Man and the Boy” essays, about the smell of Christmas:

The old-fashioned Christmas smell was predominantly that of crushed evergreens against the constant resiny scent of a snapping fire. One was a cool, smell, the other hot, but both joined forces in delightful companionship. This aromatic back drop was overlaid by the heady odors that drifted from the kitchen, the sage which went into the turkey stuffing predominating.
The whole was tinctured with spices and by alcohol, because brandies and wines were lavishly used in the preparation of sauces and in building the fruit cakes. There was, as well, an infusion of tropical scent, as the infrequent Christmas citrus fruits the opulent golden oranges added an oily sharpness to the mixture. This was counterbalanced by the clean, cidery bite of the hard, white-fleshed, scarlet apples. Bright Christmas candies the clover-shaped and heart-shaped sugary ones you never saw at any other time of the year and the striped hard ones with the soft centers helped the greasy Brazil nuts along, as did the winy aroma of the great clusters of raisins, sugary-sticky to the touch. The spices that went into the eggnog or the hot Tom and Jerrys stood off the warm friendship of the rum that gave character to the cream.

It’s almost like being there. Ruark had been dead for several years when I was a boy, but I remember similar Christmas smells; maybe not as many, or as strong, but I do remember them from my childhood. I never really got the taste for raisins, but we always had the Christmas Hershey’s Kisses; somehow, I remember them tasting better than they do now.

These days, people buy chemicals in a bottle and call that the smell of Christmas.

Maybe it isn’t all bad: today, the Old Man probably would have lived another ten or twenty years. I wonder if the Old Man would have thought it was worth the trade, though.

(The quote above is from a not-terribly-well OCRed version of The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older at archive.org. Here’s another one for you, if you’ll hold still for it, though it doesn’t have much to do with Christmas:

Perhaps I am not very clear here, but what I am getting at is that my teen-age group possessed, legally, all the death-dealing, injury-wielding weapons that are now owned clandestinely by the “bad” kids. There was a certain pride in being trusted. My cousins and friends and I used to go off on a Saturday picnic into the local wilds with enough armament to conquer the county rifles, shotguns, knives, scout axes and were not regarded as a serious menace to the community. Or to each other.

)

You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Like Robert Ruark, I have a certain sentimental attachment to the Coast Guard. (Unlike Ruark, I didn’t grow up around the water, and nobody ever let me chase a rum-runner on a Coast Guard cutter.)

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I have some more pictures of the Cleveland Fallen Firefighters Memorial in the tubes, but not all of them came out as well as I would have liked. I was trying to get some closeups of the memorial that would allow folks to actually read the names on it.

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Quote of the day.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

“I am a martini man, myself. Over six weeks we used up forty-six bottles of gin and a little less than half a bottle of vermouth. I like martinis dry.”
—Robert Ruark, Horn of the Hunter

(In case you were wondering, 46 bottles over six weeks works out to seven and 2/3rds bottles a week, or a little over a bottle of gin a day. That’s split three ways, though: Ruark, his wife, and their guide. Figuring 750 ml bottles, that’s close to 9.2 ounces of gin a day each. Ruark mentions at one point that they kill the bottle with three drinks each, so that’s something like three ounces of gin per drink. Plus unknown amounts of beer and brandy.)

(I enjoy reading Ruark. I wish more of his work were still in print; I found Horn at one of those used bookstores in Vegas, and spent downtime during the trip reading it.

But I get a funny feeling whenever Ruark talks about drinking, like in the last two chapters of The Old Man and the Boy, or as he does a few paragraphs later in Horn: “I can drink two bottles of wine at lunch in Rome or Paris or Madrid, top it off with three brandies, and feel marvelous all day. A glass of wine at lunch, two glasses at dinner, in New York, would keep me in bed with the miseries for half a week.”)

(This is, of course, a man who would die at 49 of “complications of cirrhosis of the liver”.)