davebarry03Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the light posting this week.  The bug that has been wandering around Port Swiller Manor recently finally decided to pay me a personal call.  It’s an odd one this time.  One minute you say to yourself, “Self, I think I’m getting better!”  The next, your head suddenly feels ten pounds too heavy, your entire body aches, you break out in a sweat and your knees threaten to fold the wrong way.

Rinse and repeat.

Anyhoo, I’ve spent most of the past 56 hours, at least the ones in which I’ve been awake, rereading a stack of old Dave Barry books, of which I have 6 or 7.  (Today it was Dave Barry Turns 50 and Dave Barry in Cyberspace.) It’s been a while since I last clapped eyes on any of them and, while it might just be the ‘flu talking, I must say that while I’ve always liked his stuff, ol’ Dave is a hell of a lot funnier than I remember.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

By the way, Wandering Bug would be a pretty good name for a rock band.

 

Nats HatBumpers all round for Robbo’s beloved Nationals, who not only won their final game of the regular season this afternoon, but did so via the mighty arm of Jordan Zimmerman, who threw the first no-hitter of the franchise’s latest permutation.  And the final out was recorded in spectacular fashion by rookie outfielder Steven Souza, Jr.  Click on over to see the clip.  You won’t regret it.

What a finish.

So the Nats won a total of 96 games this year and are spiking as they go forward into the playoffs.  Out of curiosity, ol’ Robbo tracked down his predictions for the team made back in March.  Here you go:

On the basis of nothing but my gut, I will predict this: Robbo’s beloved Nats win something between 90 and 95 games during the season and take teh NL East championship. (Suck it, Atlanta!) We will, by hook and crook, scuff our way through to bagging the NL Championship and will go to the Series. What we do there? I just don’t know. So, there.

As it turns out, I was actually a bit too conservative.  And we didn’t scruff our way in, we steamrolled.

Next stop, October.  What is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!

UPDATE:  Oh, hells, Momma ain’t gonna click through.  Here you go:

http://m.mlb.com/wsh/video/topic/8877508/v36687991/?c_id=was

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo usually spends this time on Sunday afternoons getting in a little tickling of the ivories.  Today, however, Port Swiller Manor is full up with people taking much needed naps, so he finds himself at the Mac instead.

What with all the hubbub over the past few days, ol’ Robbo is only now getting around to commenting on a story several folks forwarded him last week that the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, his old alma mater, is insisting that all on-campus fraternities become coed.  Delicious money quote:

The decision was announced in a letter to the university community from President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger. It requires Greek organizations with houses on campus to have both male and female members and to have each gender “well represented” in their organizational leadership to qualify for housing on campus and the use of university spaces.

“Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That’s why all our students should be eligible to join them,” Roth and Boger wrote. “Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus.”

In other words, Loyalty, Community and Independence are not a matter of individual, localized, choices and values, but instead are what we SAY they are, bitchez!  So get in line!  

Ah, the sweet, sweet, oxymoronic goodiness of authoritarian freedom.  Taste the boot heal-generated tears, Mikey! TASTE them!

As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo was a member of Alpha Delta Phi during his time at Wes, and in those days Alpha Delt already was a coed establishment, at least on that campus.  (I believe we were one of four such coed chapters around the country, the others being at Brown, Reed and Chicago.  I don’t recall what our status was vis a vis the national organization, but somebody told me the chapter lost its charter a couple years after I graduated.)

I remember being torn about the whole biznay at the time.  On the one hand, I held a sympathy for the idea of local autonomy based on campus realities.  On the other, I could understand the need for certain boundaries and principles mandated by the central authority.   (God only knows what I would have done during the Revolution or the Civil War.) In the end, I suppose it was the fact that my then-girlfriend wanted me to join that made me overcome my hesitations, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyhoo, as I say, that was a matter for the fraternity itself to debate, not for the administration to meddle in.

Alpha Delt was known, by the way, as the Wine and Cheese house because we fancied ourselves as artistic.  Beta Theta was the Milk and Cookies house because they were all nice guys.  Psi-U was Psi-Mo because they played a lot of Motown at their parties.  Chi Psi was Neanderthal house because it was mostly hockey players.  DKE?  Well, Deek was just Deek.  Nuff said.

 

Well, my fellow port swillers, it’s been an interesting 24 hours here at Port Swiller Manor, to say the least.

Flipping through the archives, I can’t see that I posted about it at the time (because HIPAA or sumpin), but last fall teh Middle Gel lost a lot of school time due to a malaise that manifested itself in fatigue, frequent intestinal discomfort, acid reflux and general blah.

Over the course of a couple months, we made frequent trips to our local GP.  Then we started seeing specialists and counselors.  Finally, she had an endoscopy and a CAT scan done.  Nobody could find any definitive physical cause of these symptoms.

We went through a whole punch list of theories:  Maybe it was Mono.  Maybe it was an ulcer.  Maybe it was stress over her demanding schedule.  Maybe she was just a hypochondriac and there really wasn’t really anything wrong with her.  We tried all kinds of therapies and drugs, but none seemed to make much difference.  Eventually, after about 8 weeks or so, the symptoms seemed to die down on their own.  We finally reached the conclusion that she must have been whanged by an especially bad stomach flu, and that it simply took her a longer time than usual to get back on her feet.

I may say that I was never really satisfied with this explanation – not that I’m a doctor or that I play one on teevee – but I had to accept it because no better ones had been offered by anybody.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon.  In the middle of working out with her teammates at school, teh Gel was suddenly stricken with pain in her lower right abdomen.  The trainer took her in hand, noted that her BP was all a-hooey, and recommended that we get her to the ER, which we did.

Well, I won’t detail all the diagnostic steps taken last evening and this morning, but bottom line:  Acute appendicitis.

The Doc went in and took out teh Gel’s appendix this afternoon.  In doing so, he also noted that there was considerable scarring, as if the thing had enbiggened itself previously and been beaten back by teh Gel’s system.

Conundrum solved.

Now Mrs. R and I had always supposed that once the appendix goes dicky, it commits itself to an automated buildup to detonation like the Genesis Device and it’s only a matter of days or maybe weeks before the thing ruptures.  Not necessarily so, said the Doc this time (who seemed a heck of a lot more competent than the G/E doc we consulted last time around).¹   The body sometimes can, in fact, fight it off.  At a price, of course.

Now naturally we had considered the Gel’s appendix as a possible villain last year and had sonogrammed it then, but had found nothing.  Turns out that it’s a difficult organ at which to get a good dekko, and the Doc’s theory is that last year’s flare up probably was just not quite severe enough to be spotted, even if it was the culprit which spawned all the Gel’s reactions.

So there we are.

The Gel is resting at the moment, worn but in good spirits.  She may come home from teh hospital this evening, but more likely tomorrow morning.  Of course I’m happy that the operation was a success (which, it being routine, I didn’t seriously doubt), but I think I’m even happier that we hopefully seem to have put this whole biznay to bed once and for all.

I hate the word “closure” but, well, you know…..

So speaking of medical mysteries, did I ever tell you about my college roommate my last two years at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT?  We couldn’t have been more different had the matter been designed by a committee.  I was a hidebound conservative from South Texas and, by then, a varsity oarsman.  He was a skinny little pot-smoking, left-wing Jewish kid from New Jersey.   We disagreed with each other in almost everything.  Except perhaps the most important thing:  We had nearly identical senses of humor.

One of the ways in which this sense of humor manifested itself was in our practice of watching Quincy, M.E. reruns on weekday afternoons.  We quickly got into the habit, when finding fault in something around the dorm room, of falling into our best Jack Klugman impersonations and yelling, “What kind of a CRUMMY doctor would let this happen??”  Good times.  Good times.

I mention this memory because it was just about the first thing that flashed across my mind today when considering all the song and dance we went through a year ago while failing to spot the Gel’s problem then.

 

¹  Now no gratuitous swipes at doctors as a class in the comments, please.  The Old Gentleman was one (a pathologist) and my brother is another (an internist), so I know a goodish bit about the profession from the inside, as it were.   Of course they’re not infallible, but, as in all fields, some are better than others.

I posted below about Sir Christopher Hogwood and the rise of the historically-informed performance school.  Well, poking about on U-toob, I came across a splendid example of what I was talking about, members of Cafe Zimmermann (one of my favorite current ensembles) performing Marin Marais’s (1656-1728), “La Sonnerie de Saint Genevieve”:

It’s certainly not the greatest piece of musick in the world, but I’ve always found the play of invention over the endlessly-repeating continuo to induce a nicely meditative frame of mind.

Anyhoo, I post this clip mostly to assert that this kind of performance was simply unpossible to find back in the day and that, if you heard the piece at all, it would likely be at the hands of a twenty-odd piece string section that could only get through it by playing both more slowly and more rigidly.

Enjoy!

(Oh, and speaking of Cafe Zimmermann, if you haven’t got their collection of Charles’ Avison’s Concertos after Scarlatti, I certainly encourage you to snap it up instanter.  I promise you won’t regret it.)

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The passing this week of Debo, Dowager Dutchess of Devonshire and last of the Mitford sisters prompts this article in today’s UK Telegraph:  The Mitfords and the Kardashians: class vs trash.  

They dazzled, outraged and added immeasurably to the gaiety of the nation; only a churl could fail to shed a nostalgic tear for the passing of Debo Mitford. The death, aged 94, of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the glamorously posh, gloriously eccentric Mitford Girls, marks the end of an era. And the beginning of a new one.

Times change, modern mores evolve, and if it is true that every generation gets the celebrity dynasty it deserves, then we must (however reluctantly) pass the baton on to another clan of strong women. Yes, Kardashians, it is your time to shine.

Most of the rest of the article really boils down to comparative trivia.

Apart from the headline (which she probably didn’t write) and the second paragraph quoted above, the author remains fairly ambiguous about whether this change is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.  Needless to say, ol’ Robbo thinks it a perfectly Horrid Thing, even while he believes the author to be spot on.   “Evolve” is misused here, however, because to the average person it implies to get better.  I’d have said metastasized.  Show me the evidence that things – politics, culture, morals, civility et al. – have got better.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Know what this reminds me of?  The evolution (there’s that word again!) of the Official Preppy Handbook.  The original was a (very gently snarky) compendium of rock-solid Old Guard New England Upper and Upper-Middle values and standards.    The new one is an abomination of post-modern nouveau chic (a lot of which, come to think of it, applying to the Kardashians).

I don’t really know what else to say about it other than Gawd help us.

UPDATE:  Apropos musickal riff, inspired by RBJ.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

HogwoodOl’ Robbo is saddened to learn of the death, at age 73, of Sir Christopher Hogwood, founder of the Academy of Ancient Musick.  Requiescat in pace.

As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo despises much of our current so-called culchah, even that part of it allegedly devoted to the higher arts.  However, one aspect of it that makes him very grateful for having been born when he was is the modern proliferation of the so-called “historically -informed” school of Renaissance, Baroque and Classickal  musickal performances, played on either period instruments or modern replicas.  I believe it’s fair to say that Nikolaus Harnoncourt was the original  historically-informed warrior, but Hogwood, along with Sir John Eliot Full Of Himself and Trevor Pinnock, was definitely in the first wave of musicians to exploit the breach made by Harnoncourt in the wall of stuffy, stilted, heavy-handed 20th Century treatments of these periods.  Nowadays, the wall has collapsed completely and there are more crack historically-informed ensembles than ol’ Robbo can even count, much less keep up with.

Indeed, the AAC isn’t even really among ol’ Robbo’s favorite ensembles  these days, but I still feel the need to raise a glass to it and to its founder.  In my misspent yoot, I spent a lot of time listening to the Old Gentleman’s collection of Baroque and Classickal records, almost all of which had been recorded in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Even then I could grasp the stodgy, slow, turgid, over-instrumented feel of these recordings, and in a way understand why the musick they performed was dismissed by some as clockwork, soulless and boring.   In this mode, Bach sounded mechanical, Handel sounded pompous and other composers sounded bizarre.

I can’t remember my first exposure to a genuine period performance but I can remember my reaction, which was something along the lines of, “Whoa”.   It was something equivalent to seeing all the gunk cleaned off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time.  Since then, I haven’t looked back.

Incidentally, teh Middle Gel’s choir director served in Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, and also in The Sixteen, so I am quite happy that she is being trained vocally by a fellah who gets it.

UPDATE:  Now with spelling and grammar and stuff!

 

 

 

Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

caravelsGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo picked up this story over on FazeByuke and thought he would share it here:  Search for 500-year-old shipwreck could rewrite Australia’s history.

Money graphs:

CAIRNS, Australia – An Australian explorer has begun a search for a Portuguese shipwreck off Australia’s northeast coast that, if found, could rewrite how the continent was discovered.

“I’ve got some very strong clues of a possible Portuguese discovery of Australia,” 78-year-old filmmaker Ben Cropp said.

The discovery would be significant because the first records of non-indigenous mariners to visit the continent credit Dutch explorers for sailing here as early as 1606 to chart the west coast of the continent’s northern Cape York Peninsula. Famed English Captain James Cook charted the continent’s east coast in 1770, which later opened the door to British colonization.

Cropp, a self-described “wreck hunter,” set off Sept. 20 on his two-month expedition to the coast of Cape York from his base in Cairns — the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  Cropp says two Portuguese ships and a Spanish vessel were lost near Cape York in the 16th century, prior to the arrival of the Dutch.

Ol’ Robbo loves this sort of thing.  I knew the Portuguese had been the first round Africa and had reached India and (I believe) China, but the notion that they made it to Australia as well, 80-odd years before the Dutch and over 200 before the Brits, is pretty cool.

Hard to say if this Cropp fellah is working on much more than a hunch, however:

Cropp has searched for evidence of pre-Cook Portuguese exploration of Australia’s east coast before, without success.

“I’m sure the Portuguese were here first, but proving it is very, very difficult,” Cropp said.

But now Cropp says he has new evidence that may indicate the Portuguese made landfall along Australia’s northeast coast as early as 1522. Among the clues: a ship’s cannon, ballast and 16th century European maps that seem to show a detailed outline of Australia.

One European map produced in 1542 shows a large sixth continent located in the position of present-day Australia, called “Java-la-Grande” in many similar charts and navigational aids.

“There’s a whole lot of little finds, but none of them give you a true date — and that’s what I’m searching for,” Cropp said.

Well, good luck, mate!

The article also has this to say about this Cropp fellah:

Among Cropp’s previous discoveries was the remains of HMS Pandora, which is regarded as one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern Hemisphere. The British frigate ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef at the edge of the Coral Sea and sank in 1791, killing many onboard. Cropp and two others discovered the wreck in November 1977.

hms_pandora_stamp2Perhaps it’s outside the scope of the article, or perhaps it’s such common knowledge that the fact was not deemed worthy of mention, but I was surprised the piece failed to note that the Pandora, Captain Edward Edwards, was the ship sent to hunt down the mutineers from HMAV Bounty.¹   She caught 14 of them, too.  Captain Edwards had a steel cage erected on his quarterdeck in which he kept the prisoners, which became known as “Pandora’s Box”.  When the ship struck, the prisoners would all have been drowned had they not been released as the ship was actually going down.  (Patrick O’Brian sharks will know that he puts the story of the wreck of the Pandora in the mouth of Peter Heywood, who had been one of Bligh’s midshipmen and survived capture, the wreck and court-martial, when he comes to dinner with Jack and Stephen in Desolation Island.)

As a matter of fact, until I read this article, I didn’t even know the wreck of the Pandora had been discovered.  Here’s the Queensland Museum’s page on the subject.

¹Yes, HMS Bounty is NOT correct. She was a merchie bought by the Royal Navy specifically for a botanical mission, and was no warship at all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall that ol’ Robbo has developed a new interest in what one might call Ripping Yarns this year and, to this end, has started in on a series of authors he really should have read more when he was a kid – P.C. Wren, Robert Louis Stevenson and Conan-Doyle to name but three.

Well, pursuant to that design, I thought I would mention a couple of pairs of books here, offering a substantive observation about the first and a purchaser’s caution on the second.

kidnappedRecently, ol’ Robbo finished both R,L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped, together with its sequel Catriona.  The first is simply an outstanding adventure story, as the hero David Balfour and the hugely entertaining Alan Breck, after escaping kidnapping and shipwreck,  make their dangerous way across the Scottish Highlands of 1751, chased by rival clans and Redcoats.  The second, which RLS wrote many years later and which takes up the story immediately where Kidnapped left off, is not nearly as good, seemingly more plodding and taken up with legal intrigue and David’s mooing over women.  I will say, without giving away any spoilers, that when Alan Breck reappears toward the end, the book brightens right back up and comes near to Kidnapped quality.

The_White_CompanyHaving polished off those, I leapt immediately into Arthur Conan-Doyle’s The White Company, in which sturdy English yeomen of the reign of Edward III take their longbows off to the Continent to beat up on various enemies and load themselves down with plunder.  I’m in the early stages, in which the nucleus of the company is being formed, but I already enjoy it.  People forget that ACD was a writer of tremendous range (I believe he even dabbled in science-fiction) and a very solid story-teller to boot.

Anyhoo, when fooling about at the devil’s website, I found that the book comes in two volumes but that I couldn’t find any complete set put out by the same publisher.  So I simply picked two at random.  This, my friends, was where ol’ Robbo made something of a mistake.  Volume One does not even give a publisher name, simply stating that it was printed at Lexington, KY on August 19, 2014.  In other words, right around the date I ordered it.  I wouldn’t care about this in itself, but what I mind mightily is the fact that the whole thing is printed in about 8-point font, making it basically a 171 page footnote.  My poor old eyes simply can’t take much of it at any one time.  Stupid fly-by-night publishers!  But what are you going to do when you’re looking for rayther obscure works that the big houses simply don’t bother with?

On the other hand, the second volume that I picked up was put out by an outfit called Accessible Publishing Systems.  I didn’t notice, when I ordered it, that the thing is an “EasyRead Large Bold Edition” featuring 16-point font.  I don’t know if this was because I was inattentive or because the devil’s website didn’t choose to mention it.   I offer this as a cautionary tale.

(Oh, and yes, these are both illustrations by the greatly under-rated N.C. Wyeth.)

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