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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Earlier today, a friend of the decanter (who knows who they are) asked of ol’ Robbo, “Tom, how have the first few weeks of school worked out so far this year?”

Well, I’m happy to say that things are (touch wood) going pretty well.

Teh Eldest, now a high school junior, seems finally to have grasped that whatever her record is, she owns it.  In other words, after all those years of complaining about us nagging her, she’s finally beginning to learn to nag herself.  Laus Deo.

Teh Middle Gel, now a high school frosh, is talking much about leadership (particularly in her choir program) and is running for Class VP.   She’s an awesome kid, about whom we have very little to worry except for her apparent resistance to learning math.  (I say this here because she regularly reads this blog.  Thpppppt!! )

Teh Youngest is taking to middle school like a duck to water, loving every aspect of her new school.  One thing: she originally signed up to play cello in the school orchestra, the course description assuring that no previous experience was necessary.   Well, it turned out that a) she and one other kid were the only ones in teh whole troupe with no experience, and b) the director was not much interested in babysitting newbies.  After a couple days, teh YG decided to chuck it and I can’t say that I blame her.  The good news is that, when she went to her counselor, it turned out that a slot had become open in drama, the course the gel had wanted to take originally but was full up when she applied.  And so she switched.  Apparently, teh gel had them rolling in the aisles during an improv session this week, and her new theatre teacher is quite bananas about her.  I’m not in the least surprised.

And speaking of such things, this week teh Eldest was assigned by her Art teacher the task of snapping a photo of a family member in a “characteristic” situation, and using such photo as the model for a sketch.   In pursuit of said goal, teh gel caught me quite unawares as I was engrossed in Handel:

Attachment-1

 

 

Not the greatest pic, but nice composition.  And, I must admit, substantively quite pleasing, at least to me.

UPDATE:  In response to myriad queries as to what particular piece of Handel I was mutilating when teh gel snapped, this pic, I can tell you that it was Handel’s Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432.  Here’s a genuine performance version of it:

 

Subtract a bunch of technical errors, add a great deal of blasphemy (you can’t see it from this angle, but I’ve got a frieze of St. Cecilia on top of the piano to give me strength), and you’ve got my rendition.  Sort of.

 

 

YeahGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Per the recommendation of one of you friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo popped  Tampopo  into his DVD player this evening.

This was the first time I’d seen this movie.

I got the whole “noodle western/ Seven Samurai” vibe.  Indeed, so far as these things went, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I loved the whole cooking theme.  Fact, it made me downright hungry.

What I didn’t get was the whole voluptuary playboy side story.  Lots of gratuitous salt n’ lemon, and passing back and forth of egg yolks, but where, exactly, was the connection to the main plot?  I kept waiting for some kind of showdown between Voluptuous Boy and Tampopo’s cowboy-hatted backer, but no such dice.  Voluptuous Boy [SPOILER ALERT!!] dies in a hail of bullets which, unless I’ve missed something, are completely irrelevant to the plot.

Also, I missed the relevance of the Rich Old Lady who went about putting her thumb-prints in various delicacies.

Never mind, an enjoyable evening and a glass of wine with whomever of you suggested this flick!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Rain and fog all day today allowed ol’ Robbo to duck his usual Saturday task of laboring in the demesne with a clear conscience, that and the detritus of basement reconstruction scattered over so much of it.  So instead, I spent the day lounging in the hammock and rereading a couple of old favorites.

Uncle FredOne was P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred In The Springtime, which I believe to be the first full-length novel (although he had appeared in at least one earlier short story) concerning the exploits of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham who, although mature in years, continues to maintain the outlook “of a slightly inebriate undergraduate”.  The book was published in 1938 and I have often argued that Plum was at the very top of his form in the 30’s and early 40’s.  Not only is this one from that period, but so are such standouts as Hot Water, Heavy Weather, The Code of teh Woosters (the best Bertie and Jeeves story, IMHO) and Money In The Bank.

BelisariusThe other was Robert Graves’ Count Belisarius, which tells the story of the famous Byzantine general who won back great chunks of the Roman Empire under Justinian the Great, only to be blinded and beggared at the end of his life.  It’s very well written and the campaigns are quite exciting, but the court intrigue gets to be a bit much and Graves also seems to take a grim pleasure in sneering at Christianity as it struggles to sort out orthodoxy from the various heresies that plagued the age, suggesting that most of the True Believers involved were either hypocrites or lunatics or both.  (Graves, in many of his writings, was very keen on the notion that Christianity stole many of its elements and symbols from older and somehow more “authentic” pagan worship, particularly that of an all-encompassing three-in-one White Goddess native to the Eastern Mediterranean.)

So there was that.

On a different note, because our basement is still all ahoo, we still don’t have cable in the house.  This has been causing some consternation on the part of the Middle Gel because this evening is the premiere episode of the newest incarnation of the Doctor and the gel has this year become an almost rabid Whovian.   However, being the resourceful type that she is, she solved this problem by diplomatically getting herself and Mrs. Robbo invited to a friend’s house for pizza and the big screening.  (It was diplomatic because, prior to the gel working her Big Magic, I don’t believe the friend was even aware of being a Dr. Who fan.  On the other hand, teh gel has been showing Mrs. R reruns in an effort to, ah, indoctrinate her.  I don’t know how successful this effort has been.)

Me, since I’ve been being cultured and stuff all day, I think I’m just going to hold the fort here at Port Swiller Manor and probably indulge in some “Arrested Development” reruns.

 

 

 

 

 

sandeman port sherryGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is jumping the gun by a couple hours but to modify a common truism, it’s midnight somewhere.  Therefore, allow me to note that July 30, 2008 was the birthday of this blog and that it turns six today.

Three cheers and a tiger for me!

Of course, things aren’t what they were back then in terms of freedom of expression, and prudence has dictated that I curtail a good deal of what I would like to say concerning our sinking civilization, so discussions over the decanter have centered on the realm of the arcane, the trivial and the unobjectionable, but still, here I am.

And here you are.  Or at least those of you who are still here.  “Not near as many as there where a while ago,” as that song about the Battle of New Orleans would put it, but still very much welcome and appreciated.  (Besides, there’s more port, Stilton and chestnuts for us what’s left, right?)

And so, if I may, I ask that you all charge your glasses, gunn’ls under.  Here’s to TPSAYE with three times three and no heel-taps!  (And don’t forget to tip the dancer!)

UPDATE:  Mayun, I didn’t just jump the gun when I first put this post up, I got a hundred yards downrange and then took a bullet right between the shoulder blades!   Calendars.  What can you do?  Personally, I blame the Patriarchy.

Anyhoo, I’m now reposting to reflect the correct date of our little anniversary.  Any of you still in a more or less upright position should feel free to recharge your glasses and toast it again.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening ol’ Robbo popped in the latest new-to-me Netflix DVD, “In A World“.

The film is a quirky story about the fight to replace Hollywood legend Don Lafontaine as the top dog among movie preview voiceover specialists.  The story pits its protagonist,  a hipster-doofus underachieving voice-coach gal, against her second-fiddle father and his smarmy, disgusting, hot-shot protege.  The secondary plot involves the protagonist’s sister and her husband, in a walking-dead marriage, suddenly having to deal with a terrible misunderstanding.

My opinion?  Meh.

The film seemed somewhat thin.  Well, very thin, actually.  It didn’t go into much detail in terms of character development and left me with a fair number of questions about motives.  Also, the whole business with the surreptitious recordings was pretty contrived and unconvincing, and the near-rape “encounter” between the protagonist and the smarmy rival left me appalled my its amorality.

If you want a meaty story that combines a rich plot-line with the technical arcana of theatrical vocals, stick with “The King’s Speech“.

One out of five bumpers.

Next up, safe bet “The Guns of Navarone“.

And speaking of which, check out this video – via the Puppy Blender – of a firework display taken from inside by a drone-mounted camera.  My first reaction was to think that watching this would cause any veteran combat pilot to go into conniptions.   My second was to reaffirm my dislike of the hyper-intrusive nature of drone technology.  On the other hand, I must confess that the film is  both beautiful and fascinating.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has a few minutes before getting ready for Mass so I thought I would post one of my favorite paintings in honor of what is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday because of the Gospel passage for the day:

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of St. Thomas

Caravaggio – The Incredulity of St. Thomas

And here’s the text, (John 20:24-29):

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Now, I could be completely mistaken in my interpretation, but it’s always struck me that amidst all the marvel and meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, in this particular passage He’s actually…. teasing poor old Thomas just a bit.    Somehow, that touch of humor makes the whole thing that much more wonderful to me.

entry-into-jerusalem_Giotto

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday!  Yes, today we join the jubilant crowd who thinks the long-awaited Massias has finally returned in triumph to turn the Roman garrison into pumpkins, clean house in the Sanhedrin, restore Israel to her former glory and take the hammer to all her enemies, knowing full well that this same crowd, in just a few days, will come to see Jesus as a complete dud and start howling for his blood.   It’s a complicated moment.

Owing to unexpected circumstances too tedious to relate, ol’ Robbo wound up going to early Mass this morning and so missed the procession of palms at his usual noon Traditional Latin Mass.  In years past this likely would have prompted a fair bit of grumping and grumbling on my part, but I’ve been working hard on improving my patience and charity and find that this kybosh only produces a passing wistfulness in me this year.  Is it possible that ol’ Robbo is actually growing in teh Spirit?

Maybe, but it’s equally possible that something else will reduce me to the gnashing of teeth at some point in the not too distant future, so I’m not going to get cocky.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to note for the two or three who gather here together that I am putting the stopper on the decanter and sticking the Stilton in the fridge for Holy Week but will be breaking  forth again after Easter.  I hope those of you who celebrate will have a truly holy week and I’ll see all of you on the other side.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary!  Over in one of my little FB groups, a friend posted a rendition of this which I can’t recall having seen before, but which I really like:

 

"The Annunciation" - Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

“The Annunciation” – Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

The reason I like it is because it comports with my idea of what encounters between angels and humans must be like (one very heavily influenced, I must admit, by the writings of C.S. Lewis).

Although I can appreciate the more classical renditions as art for art’s sake,  when it comes to the Real Deal I don’t go much for the anthropomorphized  portrayals of the Heavenly Host, neither the Adonis-like fellahs kitted out with a pair of wings nor the twee adowawable babies.   Angels are of a completely different order of existence from humans and it should be noted that in just about every encounter between them in Scripture, the appearance of the former scares the willies out of the latter, so that the first words out of the angel’s mouths are, “Be not afraid.”

Lewis develops this idea of the terrifying alieness of angels a great deal in his Ransom Trilogy and elsewhere, and I think there is much to it.

Anyhoo, let’s go to today’s gospel, Luke 1: 26-38 (KJV because my old Palie English Major prejudices die hard):

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

I may say that in all my former experience, so far as I can remember, the Blessed Virgin got almost no mention outside references in the formulaic prayers such as the Nicene Creed and elsewhere in the Liturgy.   Back in those days, most of the substantive discussion of wymminz in the Gospels seemed to focus on Mary Magdalene in her role as some kind of proro-femininist.  So it’s only since my swim across the Tiber that I’ve really begun to understand the perilous awesomeness of this moment and to ponder the true glory of it:  Mary could have said “No!”  She could have been not “the New Eve” but another Eve.   But she wasn’t.  Amidst all the terror and confusion and incomprehensibility, She trusted God.  And, in a way I can’t begin to explain, I think God trusted her.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen. 

Awe inspiring, when you start to ponder it.  And whenever I think of her crushing the snake under her heal, I get the shivers.

Frankly, I’m a bit mystified why the Annunciation is not, at least in my Diocese, a Holy Day of Obligation, requiring attendance at Mass.  (I went, anyway.)  After all, it’s a key waypoint in the journey of the second part of the Trinity in his human manifestation.   Surely, it’s at least as important as teh celebration of the Assumption of The Virgin, which is a HDoO.

But what do I know.

Update:  Oh, speaking of what I don’t know, it was only in the past couple years that I suddenly understood why J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout Catholic), in his Lord of teh Rings trilogy,  chose March 25 as the date  of the downfall of Sauron and the end of the Third Age.  Snake? Meet crushing heel!

Update Deux:  Okay, I think I managed to delete all the repetitions.   My apologies.  Me no likey Apple…..

My Lenten fast this year (at least the one that stuck) is to refrain from listening to musick.

I am not yet at that level of religious purity that I can compel myself, by not listening to musick, to stop thinking about it.   The past week, a particular piece has fastened itself on my brain, so this evening I am indulging in it.   And so, my fellow friends of the decanter, I give you Georg Frideric Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Opus 3, No. 1 in B-flat major:

The first movement, and ol’ George’s use of those arpeggios in particular, has been on my mind all week.  I don’t especially know why, but there is a good-natured air to the movement that somehow gives me strength and vitality.

 

Ancient Roman Fresco Painting of Flora Picking FlowersGreetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Spring!

Regular friends of the decanter and former camelidophiles will know that ol’ Robbo is in the habit of regularly posting this ancient Roman fresco of Flora picking flowers on the first official day of Spring.   I have always found it to be a particularly delightful work of art, the Goddess lovingly portrayed in a graceful, dignified and yet uplifting manner, and a source of hope and inspiration.

Well, I wish that this year ol’ Flora would drop the bouquet and devote her divine powers to putting her knee to Snow Miser’s groin, as he’s  really outstayed his welcome.  We already had a mid-March snowstorm this week and now the weather-wallahs are making noise about the possibility of another one next week.  This week’s seems to have been dubbed Snow Patrick’s.  Will next Tuesday’s predicted event be dubbed the Snownunciation?   (Somehow, I doubt it, but a Catholic geek can always hope.)

Anyhoo, I know that friends of the decanter in more northerly climbs than mine will only chuckle at my frustration, but of course these things are all a matter of scale and expectation.   (Remember, I grew up in South Texas.  By this time of year down there, I’d already be sweating.)  And frankly, the mid-Atlantic in mid-March should not be experiencing the same kind of weather as teh Mothe normally gets at this time of year in Mid-Coast Maine.    It just ain’t right!

Damn you, Algore! Damn you to heeeelllll!!!!!!

-Pause-

On a somewhat related note, teh Middle Gel has bagged herself a ticket to go see a concert next week by an outfit I’d never heard of called  The Piano Guys.  This evening, as an example of their output, she showed me their mash-up of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with “Let It Go” from the recent Disney movie “Frozen”:

Weyeell,  I frankly think that the crossover from the one work to the other is a bit, erm, jarring.  And I, personally, would  have preferred  to take the Vivaldi neat.  On the other hand, who am I to criticize at 14 year old these days whose tastes aren’t of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo-dawgz n’ beyotches variety?

However, while watching the video together, I was reminded suddenly of a yootoob I had seen several times of the third movement of ol’ Antonio’s flute concerto “The Goldfinch”, RV 428*.  I could not immediately find it but promised teh gel that I would do so this evening and post it here for her pleasure.  And here it is:

I hope teh gel takes me up on this and actually watches the durn thing.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo is something  of a purist himself when it comes to art musick, disdaining “multi-media” stunts to get people interested in it, but I can’t deny that this is an excellent performance.

* There’s an old joke about Vivaldi in musick geek circles.  We have a catalogue of approximately 500 concerti credited to him.  The joke goes that he really only wrote two but that he wrote each one 250 times.  N’yuk, n’yuk.n’yuk.

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