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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
In teh comments to the post immediately below, Cap’n Ned, long time friend of the decanter, alerts me to a flash-mob prank pulled off by the United States Air Force Band at the Air n’ Space Museum a couple days ago. Starting with a solo cello appearing out of nowhere, the band broke into Bach’s “Jesu, joy of Man’s desiring”, gradually segueing into Handel’s “Joy to the World”, much to the wonder of the tourons wandering around the place. Teh Anchoress has the video, so go on over if you’d like to see it for yourselves.
I suppose I should look on this as a good and joyful thing, but my cynical side jumps in with three observations:
First, experience and observation of teh clip inclines me to believe that 9/10 of the audience hadn’t the faintest notion that the first part of the performance was Bach’s great statement on Man’s hunger for God and hadn’t the faintest idea what this “Jesu” about which some of them were singing actually is. All most of them probably knew was that some people in military uniform suddenly appeared and started playing this holidayish musick and that somebody was probably capturing it on vid. So I’m guessing it was the presentation rayther than the substance that got their attention.
Second, the shift to “Joy To The World”. Even though the musick is attributed originally to Handel, we happens to hate that particular carol because I think it one of the very few instances of a bad setting of one of Isaac Watts’ hymns. The line “While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains” in the second verse always makes me shudder in particular.
Third, I can’t help wondering how far up the chain of command the decision to stage this went and what kind of consequences might be in store for whoever approved it in case somebody makes a stink.
I know, I know. Single candles and cursing darkness and all that…..
Oh, I should add that my use of the term “X-mas” in the title of this post is deliberate. X-mas, as I see it, is that modern, squishy, non-sectarian mid-winter holiday in which we all fight each other tooth-and-nail for the best “deals” in teh stores, assume an artificially heightened level of cheeriness at our office parties and spend Christmas Day tearing open wrapping paper, fighting with family, stuffing ourselves with food and drink and dialing in the most interesting bowl games. I have gone so far as to start slipping the term into my conversation here and there. So far, nobody seems to have gotten it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had been toying with the composition of a long screed on this apparent new fad of posting “selfies”, that is lewd (or at least provocative) photos of oneself, out there for all teh world to see on various electronic gadgets and networks. I first noticed the trend amongst teh Beyootiful Peoplez from reading the Yahoo! “news” headlines from time to time during the day while checking up on the markets and my email account, and it’s become one of those irritants that starts small but gets more and more aggravating each time I see it.
But now that I come to write it, I ask myself: Why bother? Regular friends of the decanter know already what I’m going to say about malignant narcissism and the death of self-respect and the continued drowning of our so-called “culchah” in dehumanized and commodified sexuality. And I’m guessing that said regular friends will already agree with my sentiments.
Anyhoo, I’ll tell you about something else that you are much less likely to have expected. This year, I am knocking off the gargle for Advent. I have noticed in past dry bouts that this practice has quite an impact on my sleep. The cycles get much shallower and I tend to spend most of the night drifting along in a sort of semi-hemi-demi-conscious stage. I also have bizarre and sometimes unrepeatable dreams.
Last evening produced a classic (a bizarre one, I mean, not an unmentionable). In it, I had a pet wombat and was trying to take it to a baseball game. I seemed to be part of some kind of group and somebody handed me a special pass to a VIP section at the park. The pass was in the form of one of those “Hello, my name is _______” labels, but as I tried to peal it off and put it on my shirt with one hand, while cradling the wombat with the other, I managed to drop the label. After rooting around on the floor a bit I found it again, but somehow all the lettering had faded or fallen off. I didn’t think it right to try to get into the VIP section without the correct credentials, even though I was supposed to be there, so I took my wombat and started for home. All this time, by the bye, said wombat seemed to be getting bigger and heavier.
And then, as they say, I woke up.
Damme if I know what that one meant, but it was quite vivid.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent some time this afternoon putting together the first of the Port Swiller Manor Advent wreaths. I’ve used the same donut frame of brass ribs for years now. Fill it with fresh-cut fir and holly from the grounds and one can produce quite a nice effect, especially if the hollies are having a good berry years (which ours, for whatever reason, are not) and if you can find some fir branches with nuts on them. Add candles sitting atop a little mirror and hey, presto!
I say the first of the wreaths, because it’s my experience that they last about two weeks before drying out too much.
This year as I stood at the kitchen table cutting and planting, I repeatedly had to shoo away the young kittehs, who took a very lively interest in these strange, new green things. It occurred to me that this will also be their first encounter with a Christmas tree. Given their propensity to get into everything, I must say that I’ve got a baaaaad feeling about this. Indeed, I’m reminded of an old Top Ten list that Letterman did (back when he was nominally funny) of modern Disney movie remakes. One of them, which always makes me chuckle, was entitled “That Effin’ Cat”.
Speaking of such things, regular friends of the decanter may wonder how the relationship is going between the two kittehs (who must be about four or five months old now) and the middle-aged incumbent? Well, the elder still hates the younger two. Early on, we had to spend an awful lot of time and energy keeping them apart. However, now that the younglings have got big enough to defend themselves and clever enough to avoid the matron most of the time, we’re more disposed to let them sort things out for themselves.
I will not dip into the perennial debate over what constituted the “real” first Thanksgiving celebrated in the Americas this year, instead letting the Plymouth dog lie. I can’t help noting my intense amusement, however, in learning that Squanto, savior of the Puritan colonists, was in fact a Catholic.
Anyhoo, no posties for the next few days, as the Family Robbo piles into our Honda Juggernaut® at day-break to go visit my brother and his family (together with the Mothe and my widowed cousin). There will be the usual food and drink, grumbling about the God-forsaken state of the world, perhaps some college fu’ball watching (although watching the Longhorns play Tech will never be the same thing as their rivalry with the Aggies), and maybe even a hike up in the Blue Ridge. Good times, good times.
Oh, by the way, we did indeed get snow at Port Swiller Manor today. Not many flakes and they didn’t stick at all, but it definitely was the white stuff. The last time we got snow at Thanksgiving, I believe we got hammered later on when the right season started. Just saying.
So here’s to a very happy and bounteous Thanksgiving Day to you all, with three times three!
UPDATE: D’OH! A month or two back, Mrs. Robbo (while, I believe, practicing bootlegger turns although she denies it) sideswiped a pole in a parking lot, caving in the rim of the right-rear wheel well. The damage seemed cosmetic only and Mrs. R didn’t report any trouble, so I didn’t give it much thought beyond saying kiss-my-hand to the lease deposit. Well this morning, when all five of us plus our luggage piled in (for the first time since Mrs. R’s ding), I quickly discovered that the extra weight meant every time we went over a bump, the rim would scrape against the tire. I tried redistributing the gels to put less of a load on that corner, but it only helped a little bit.
We started out nonetheless, but by the time we got to Haymarket, my nerves were beginning to frazzle at each new “SCCCRNCHH!!” I pulled off the road and had a dekko. Sure enough, the edge of the tread where the rim had been rubbing it was starting to shred. No way in the world was I going to try taking that on a six hour drive across Virginny and North Carolina, so we turned around and limped home.
I suppose we might have rented something, but the closest place I could even imagine being open would have been Dulles. Maybe. And assuming we could find a suitable substitute, by the time we got there, got it, got home and transferred all our gear, it would be way late to set out. Ol’ Robbo has a very low “Oh, to hell with it!” threshold, and that would have been too much for so short a trip.
My sister-in-law suggested I try banging the rim back out with a hammer. I had actually thought about that and even took a few tentative pokes at it. But I don’t know anything about getting a body panel off a car. And I was afraid that if I tried to lever it in situ, I would only manage to tear it, thus putting a shiv directly over the tire. No, thankee.
So no Port Swiller Family Meet-Up this year.
Fortunately, some friends who found out about it immediately invited us to join them for dins this afternoon. So at least there’s that.
UPDATE DEUX: Yeah, about that. In the midst of our frolic the eldest gel was struck down by sharp abdominal pains and had to be taken to teh ER. Kidney stones, apparently. What a day.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
On his drive home this evening through the Storm of the Century of the Week, ol’ Robbo heard Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” played over the airwaves by the local classkickal station.
In all fairness, the spinning of said CD was actually a function of the station’s annual classickal countdown, a survey of listeners’ 100 faves that runs this week and finishes up on Thanksgiving night. Nonetheless, the reminder that, so far as the current so-called cultchah is concerned, we are now entering into the “Xmas” season was enough to cause ol’ Robbo to sprout fangs and hair all over his face and start baying at the moon, wherever she might have been behind the fog, rain and cloud.
You see, I know what’s going to happen. I listen to said station both during my commute and during my regular work day down the shop. Starting on Friday, teh station is going to start slipping a few Xmas toons into its rotation. Gradually, over what is supposed to be the season of Advent, they’re going to increase the flow, until round about December 23 or so, when it’s going to be wall-to-wall Xmas musick, most of the tracks having been played some tens if not hundreds of times already. And at that point, should I choose to listen, I’m going to be Absolutely. Sick. To. Death. Of. All. Of. It.
And the punch line? at 12:01 ack emma on December 26, the second day of the actual twelve days of the Feast of Christmas when, you know, such musick is actually appropriate? ”We now resume our regular programming.”
People don’t get it. They just damn don’t get it.
Well this year, I am not going to succumb. I won’t go so far as to cut out all musick from my work day (as I do during Lent), but I am going to forgo the radio and instead rely on a rotation of my own CD’s brought in from home. I know this is a very small and perhaps futile gesture, but it’s what I’ve got.
Amidst all the lamentation over the 50th anniversary of the death of St. Jack of the Blessed Bay of Pigs FUBAR, I feel it important to note that another man who died, albeit under very different circumstances, on the same day was Clive Staples (“Jack”) Lewis.
Regular friends of the decanter used to ol’ Robbo’s religious pretensions may be surprised to know that, until I was a first year law student way back in the winter of 1988, I’d never even heard of C.S. Lewis. But that Christmas, my then-girlfriend (from a solidly conservative South Texas Catholic family) gave me a copy of The Essential C.S. Lewis.
Well. Flipping through this book, I came across, for the first time, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, after which I immediately had to gobble up the rest of the Narnia series, reading them over and over again because I loved each and every new story. I also read Perelandra, the middle book of Lewis’s sic-fi trilogy, which I thought pretty cool but rather weird. (I still do after many readings of the entire trilogy.) But beyond that? Eh, at first, I didn’t really explore much.
A few years later, even perhaps after Mrs. R and I had tied the knot, something compelled me to fish out this volume and peruse it more deeply. To that end, I found myself sampling some of Lewis’s apologetics. At that point in my misspent young adulthood, I seem to remember a general dissatisfaction with the world as I found it. So shallow, so empty. So upon revisiting Lewis, my reaction (to quote Ted “Theodore” Logan) was an emphatic, “Whoa.”
Here was a fellah for whom Christianity emphatically was not just a matter of being nice to people and going to church on Sundays when one felt like it. This was real meat. This was real Christian substance. This was not the proverbial counting of angels dancing on the head of a pin (which for some reason always especially irritated the Old Gentleman any time the subject of organized religion came up), but instead bloody dispatches from the Front in the perpetual war between Good and Evil. I especially grew to love Lewis’s obvious WWII analogy of Jesus as an agent parachuted into occupied territory in order to prepare and organize the Resistance in advance of the main Allied invasion landing.
I’d had none of that kind of teaching up to this point in my life. What with one thing and another, I grew up with a vague (and sad) sense of Church history as battles fought long ago and far away, but of no real relevance to the here and now, what I have long called the Uncle Owen attitude (“It’s all such a long way from here.”). To me, Lewis said, “No! Not true! The battle goes on, and you’re in it whether you like it or not! To arms! To arms!”
Over the following years, I tried to apply Lewis’s call to arms in the context of my cradle Episcopalianism. Once Mrs. R and I found a Palie church we both liked, I tried to set about fighting the good fight under its banner in the way that Lewis had outlined. It took a few years of denial, apology and explanation, but eventually I could not resist acknowledging the fact that, carrying on the WWII metaphor, the army I had thought myself fighting for on the side of Goodness was, in fact, Vichy.
It was this realization, more than anything else, that prompted me to jump into the Tiber and swim across to the true Resistance.
So I was amused today to read this article over at Aleteia about Lewis being a “gateway drug” to Catholicism. I think the piece makes the same point I do, but I also think
my Lewis’s own imagery is preferable.
So God bless you, Jack, and may you rest in peace.
Before it ends, I just wanted to note that today is the Feast of St. Cecilia, patron of musick and one of ol’ Robbo’s very favorite for what ought to be obvious reasons to long-time friends of the decanter.
I don’t recall whether I have mentioned it here before, but in fact I have long kept a copy of the famous Donatello bas-relief of St. Cecilia on top of the Port Swiller Manor piano. I do this primarily because when I start to swear at myself over my feeble attempts at making musick, an ancient bad habit of mine, a quick glance at her will often shame me into regaining control of my tongue. I then ask her intercession for the forgiving of my potty-mouth.
On the other hand, on those occasions (not surprisingly rare for someone whose maximum practice time consists of maybe an hour or two of sight-reading per week) when my fingers actually start working on their own and I find myself caught up in the soul of the musick, I try to make a point of thanking her for her aid when I’m done.
From The Telegraph, we have a report of the usurpation of the chocky Advent calendar:
The chocolate advent calendar is falling out of fashion as shoppers buy up Lego calenders and make-your-own sets.
John Lewis today said its customers “seemed keen” to purchase alternatives with the Lego Friends advent calender one of the best-sellers over the past week.
Andrew Murphy, retail director, told The Daily Telegraph: “I wouldn’t say it’s the death of the chocolate advent calender but they have certainly passed their peak.
“Speaking as a Dad, there’s just chocolate at every turn now, and I think parents are feeling there’s going to be chocolate everywhere, they don’t really need it in a calender before breakfast.”
“Lego Friends” Advent calendar? Apparently, yes.
The Lego calendar costs £14.39 and contains tiny Lego gifts, allowing children to “build the holiday story” of Stephanie, a Lego Friends character, on her journey to a Christmas market.
Wait, the “holiday story” is all about “journeying” to a “Christmas market“? Oh, dear. Evidently, I’ve been reading the wrong books, because my understanding of Advent doesn’t really include anything having to do with commerce or consumerism.
Ol’ Robbo is not necessarily opposed to Advent calendars per se. But he adamantly objects to such calendars when they serve no function other than as treat-laden count-downs to the Christmas morning deluge. Advent, as I understand it, is something rayther resembling Lent, a time of abstinence and reflection. In my experience, candy and treat-stocked calendars do nothing more than heighten the spirit of gimme-gimme-gimme.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo has been
quietly chuckling to himself snorting with amused contempt ever since he spotted this article: California Lawmakers Want Pron Stars to Wear Safety Goggles.
I ask you, friends of the decanter, to ponder this: Have you ever in your lives come across a more perfect crossing of the streams of Nanny-Statism and moral rot? The pure absurdity, the utter forest and trees cluelessness, the awfulness of the logic here is, in the scope of eeeeevile masquerading as good public policy, teh awesome.
Well played, Mr. Screwtape, well played indeed.
I tried to parse this out further, wondering what other health hazards the good Solons of the WC might want to combat while at the same time continuing to promote the debasement of human sexuality in general and of “workers” in the pron industry (and their cash-paying audience) in particular. I came up with a mental image involving elbow and knee pads, mouth-guards, crash helmets and latex bubble-wrap that I hesitate even to mention, lest some producer with a taste for the kinkier side of things reads this post and thinks, “Hmmmm….Ya know? There might be something in that…..”
Dear friends of the decanter, I know that there are only about half a dozen of you out there and that my humble influence is extremely limited, but may I direct your attention to this site created on behalf of the Karl Bock Cancer Fund?
So anything you can do to help will earn you a raising of the glass from Self.