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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Teh Middle Gel mentioned this evening the fun she and her choir mates have in singing an 8-voice setting of the “Ave Maria” by Gustav Holst.   Ol’ Robbo had had no idea that Holst, who is a bit out of his normal musickal grazing grounds, had ever done such a setting.  Indeed, beyond “The Planets”, I’m not sure I would know a work by Holst if I tripped over it.   So I of course had to dial the thing up and listen.   Here you go.  It certainly will never replace my favorite Renaissance and Baroque settings, but it is pleasant.  And I can understand why a bevy of young singers would enjoy it:

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.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Late last Saturday afternoon, as ol’ Robbo drove teh Middle Gel to a friend’s house downtown for a birthday party sleepover, he found himself listening to an excruciatingly beautiful performance of one of Vivaldi’s Opus I trio sonatas on teh local classickal station.   (The fact that Robbo drives a Wrangler while listening to classickal musick, by the bye, will tell you much about what a weirdo he really is.)

vivaldi trio sonatas opus 1Anyhoo, so moved was I – Baroque trio sonatas are perhaps my very favorite form of art musick – that this evening I hunted up the playlist from that afternoon and tracked down the CD from which the election came.  It’s Vivaldi’s Sonate Da Camera a Tre Opus 1, performed by L’Estravagante, a fairly new group which, it would seem, has not yet recorded very much.  (Yes, the cover art on the CD is somewhat cheesy, but I’m afraid that’s a reality of modern marketing, even for high art.)  Of course I nipped over to the devil’s website and bought a copy for myself.

This is a perfect example of what I was on about the other day regarding the glorious Golden Age of historically-informed performances in which we are fortunate to live.   It may not seem like much when one considers all the signs of the intellectual, spiritual and moral collapse of Western Civilisation that  dominate the headlines these days, but it is at least something.

You can insert a “fiddling while Rome burns” joke here if you like, but I prefer to think of it as lighting a single candle instead of cursing the Darkness.

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!

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!

 

 

 

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.)

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.

 

 

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