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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on  biznay for Vegas.  (Vegas, beyotches!)

Actually, there’s a certain irony in this.  Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance.  Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.

Tricky thing, Christian morality.  If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.

Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first.  That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster:  I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport.  He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times.  (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet.  So there’s that.)

I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command.  To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.

So.  Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months.  Two things to note off the bat:  First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do.  Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet.  So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.

So, with that, first I give you the “main”  room:

Basement 1

This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio.  The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right.  I don’t  have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.

Second, I give you  the “addition”:

Basement 2

This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder.  All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams.  (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom.  The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty.  The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.

Third, I give you the “study”:

Basement 3

In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave.  It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left.  The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic.  The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.

Oh, you will note the funky ceiling.  Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it.  Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above.   When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could.  The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.

Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:

Basement 4

Main room from the doors to the study.  That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.

So there you are.

I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween.  In the meantime, help yourselves to the port.  The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.

 

*  Spot the reference.  And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.

 

Did Bach’s wife write his finest works?

Well, how do I put this subtly?  No.

I vaguely recall reading something about this theory a couple years ago.  Although it got laughed at, it seems to have raised its head once again.

At least according to the article, the only “proof” that Anna Magdalena Bach, a known copiest and musically intelligent herself, is that (get this) some of Bach’s manuscripts appear in her hand and at certain points she seems to have fiddled with them a bit. 

Iron. Clad. Case.

Not.

But of course, in the world of modern academics, which thrives on adolescent-level emotion, sensationalism and identity-driven politicks, inconveniences such as the need for objectivity and lack of proof simply get tossed aside.

Then there is the “impact” of this supposed revelation:

[Sally] Beamish [a British composer who will be presenting a documentary on this "discovery" in the near future] said the theory raised important questions about female composers, and had huge implications that could “transform” the confidence of young women hoping to make it today.

“What I found fascinating is the questions it raises about the assumptions we make: that music is always written by one person and all the great masters were male by definition,” she said.

I simply cannot conceive how wretched it must be to have a mind that occupies itself with such hobgoblins.  Is Mizz Beamish really so insecure that she can’t contemplate the transcendence of musick by, for example, Bach and Mozart without worrying about such “assumptions”?  Can she not appreciate said musick for what it is in itself without raising such questions?

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

And as for “huge implications”, as regular friends of the decanter will know, teh Middle Gel is a young woman who has very real aspirations to “make it” in the musick business some day.  I can promise Mizz Beamish that teh gel has no need of such half-penny sociological twaddle in order to achieve the confidence that she has.  Instead, she’s got to where she is through talent, dedication and hard work.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has duly noted all day that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, one of the most decisive engagements of the Napoleonic Wars.  Obligatory  illustration:

J.M.W Turner, "The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory"

J.M.W Turner, “The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory”

 

I’ve not much to say this year except to urge my fellow port swillers to raise your glasses to Lord Nelson and the stout British Tars who believed in him.  Three times three and no heel taps, Ladies and Gentlemen!

And for those of you of a somewhat more pious bent, I give you Papa Haydn’s “Nelson Mass“:

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Surrender_of_General_BurgoynePray allow ol’ Robbo to draw the attention of all you Revolutionary War geeks out there to the fact that on this date in 1777, British General Burgoyne surrendered to American General Gates after the Battle of Saratoga, and on this same date in 1781 Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at teh Siege of YorktownSurrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

I don’t have much specifically to say about either fight, really.  I just like the coincidence.  Plus, I’m a fan of the works of John Trumbull and like having an excuse for putting up a couple of them.

Oh, and just to add a bit more, it is said that at Yorktown the Brit fifers played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down” to show what they thought of the biznay.  Here’s a rendition snapped up more or less at random:

 

When ol’ Robbo was a lad, his grandmother gave him a collection of Revolutionary War songs put out by, I think, National Geographic.  (I still sing a few of them in the shower.)  One was a more folksy version of TWTUD (in point of fact, it was a different tune altogether from this) and had lyrics that went, IIRC:

“If buttercups buzzed after the bees/If boats were on land and churches on seas/If ponies road men and the grass ate the cows/If cats should be chased into holes by the mouz/If mammas sold their babies to gypsies for half a crown/If summer were spring, t’other way round/Then all the world would be upside down.”

I know nothing about these lyrics except they were what the man sang on the record.

*Verified by the CDC.

older-columbusGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!

I noted this morning the Puppy-Blender’s recommendation of Samuel Eliot Morrison’s outstanding Admiral of the Ocean Sea:  A Life of Christopher Columbus.  Indeed, I believe it was his recommendation of this book a year or two ago that prompted me to buy and read it.  You should, too.

This afternoon, while she was driving me up to the store, teh Eldest Gel asked me why so many people seem to treat Columbus Day as a Bad Thing.  “Because they’re uneducated, preening morons,” I cheerfully replied.

What else is there to say?  Ol’ Robbo is sick and tired of the idiocy.

(Actually, I did say a bit more, explaining to her the myth of the Noble Savage and the corrosive effect its false sentimentalization has on historickal clarity.  I think she got it.)

By the bye, I have a map of the United States in my office (on which I mark cities to which I’ve travelled for biznay with pins). Way down in the lower right corner sits the island of San Salvador, where Columbus first landed.  I always feel a little bit of an historickal shiver when I look at it and contemplate his fleet coming in from off the edge of the map.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Nats HatWell, on further reflection ol’ Robbo doesn’t have much to say about his beloved Nats’ elimination in teh first round of the playoffs.   He could point out that each of our three losses to the Giants was by a single run and that two of them arguably were the direct result of rookie manager pitching decision mistakes (the first one questionable, the second one insane).  He also could point out that the Nats had the best National League record during the regular season, and could argue that a team’s results over 162 games are far more demonstrative of its quality than said team’s results over any four games.   But nobody would listen.   All anybody cares about post-season (and, arguably, for any given season) is who advances and who goes home.   At this point?  I really don’t even care anymore, but am thinking ahead to what is likely to happen over the off-season and into next spring.  (My prediction?  Not much.  LaRoche is likely done at 1st so that we can bring Ryan Zimmerman back into the starting lineup, Soriano is gone, but most of the rest of the team stays, I think, pretty much as it is.  Oh, and I’m calling it Right Now:  We win next year.)

Regular friends of the decanter will tolerate ol’ Robbo going through the math here because they understand that this is only the second post-season venture in his nearly 50 years in which he’s had a genuine vested interest.  (I grew up in a non-baseball town and could never consider myself more than an interested sympathizer for any team until the Nats came to Dee Cee in ’05.  How lucky are the Gels, by the bye, that they get to experience all of this in their yoot.)   I must say that I find the experience…….bittersweet.

Anyhoo, it’s over and done and I now can turn my attention to other things, such as the fact that the Great Post-Flood Port Swiller Manor Basement Renovation of 2014 is almost complete! (A mere two months after the original disaster, but who’s counting?) Flooring (Pergo or its equivalent) went in yesterday, baseboards were tacked on today and now pretty much all that’s left is the bathroom fixtures and some wiring.   In fact, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his lovely family are coming in this weekend for an overnight stay and I had been fretting the past week or so about where on earth we were going to put them all.  Thanks to this week’s work, the basement is now at least habitable.  This gives ol’ Robbo a happy.

If you’d like me to post pics of the finished product, let me know.   (I’ve never been able to decide whether that sort of thing is looked on favorably by readers or is considered showing away.)

Final observation:  Last evening I watched Enemy at the Gates, the 2001 dramatization of the duel between a Russian and a German sniper (based  somewhat, I believe, on “actual events”) during the Battle of Stalingrad, that I almost automatically think of as Saving Private Ivan.  I’ve seen this movie maybe three or four times and still cannot quite put my finger on what makes it an okay flick but not really a good one (even though it features the lovely and talented Rachel Weisz, which fact alone ought to carry it).

hoskins krushchevOne positive thing I forget each time and am delighted to rediscover is Bob Hoskins as Khrushchev.  I love how he continually refers to Stalin as “duh Boss”.  This is exactly right.  Uncle Joe was as much as or even more of a thug than was Hitler.  Appallingly, the typical Modern, to the extent they have even heard of WWII, thinks the Soviets and the Nazis were diametric opposites.  The truth, of course, is the reverse.  Fascism and Communism (and, I may add, Progressivism and, for that matter, the Mafia) are close cousins, all of which argue for the sacrifice of individual freedoms to the alter of collective, centralized authority and for the elimination of said individuals who either can’t or won’t comport with the Plan.

 

10420This reminds me that I’ve never read Solzhenitsyn but have been meaning to the past few years.  Any friends of the decanter have any suggestions on the best place to start?  Ol’ Robbo would appreciate such tips greatly.  From what I gather, it’s not so much of a stretch to call the man a Saint.   And yet, after all he’d been through under the Soviet regime and all the effort he had put forth to speak (if I may) Truth to Power, he is these days a hissing and a byword among those who claim to champion liberalism.   (This is just one of the million and one reasons, or perhaps more accurately one of the million and one pieces of evidence of the general reason, why ol’ Robbo detests Leftists.)

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Waiting around for the dew to dry up a bit before mowing the lawn this morning, ol’ Robbo finds himself sampling a track recommended by the Middle Gel, who is a huge fan of the Piano Guys.

“Evolution”  – There’s that word again.  Just the other day I believe I was ranting here about the whiggish implication in its use that Newer means Better.  When teh Gel told me about this video,  which (if you aren’t going to click it) is a mash up of the principle Batman themes going back to the old 60’s teevee series, I could not resist pointing out that the only real Batman among them all was, of course, the legendary Adam West.  (Okay, I’ll also give you Olan Soule, who voiced Batman on the old Super Friends cartoons.  BTW, did you know that Ted Knight was the narrator for those shows?)  In my opinion, once an actor and a role have reached a certain level of association, it becomes downright heretical to let somebody else play the part.  See Kirk, James Tiberius.

Not that I’ve really paid any attention to Batman’s later manifestations – I never saw any of the Dark Knight movies, for instance.  All of this fantasy/sooperhero stuff that seems so en vogue these days strikes me as extremely juvenile.  (Ducks.)

As for the musick?  Eh, it’s a nice sound and I can see why teh Gel likes these guys.  At her age, I probably would have, too.  But you know what Paul says about thinking as a child.**  These days, the stuff is really too fluffy for my taste.  (Ducks again.)

 

** [Ed. - Um, you put up a picture of a guy sitting on a potty in the post just below this one.]

UPDATE:  Aaaaand, in before the rain!

 

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.

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!

 

 

 

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