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!

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.

Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

I ain’t HEARD no Fat Lady!” **

The Gels and I caught the last half of the game via the Middle Gel’s laptop while sitting around the kitchen table.  A good time was had by all even though I’m still dubious about this .eu website streaming the feed and half expected the NSA to knock at the front door.

Anyhoo, what a great (and to me surprising) move by Matt Williams to put Drew Storen in to close!  After Saturday night’s blown save, I worried that poor Drew’s confidence might be completely shattered.  Good on Matt to get him right back on the horse.  (I was also impressed  in general that Williams didn’t panic and start tinkering with the line-up.)

So.  We live another day.  Deep breath and on to tomorrow.  What else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!

 

**Spot the quote.

UPDATE:  Maxy got it:

I will confess that I don’t plan to stay up this evening to watch Game 4 but will wait until the morning to find out whether my beloved Nats are bringing the series back home.   Fact of the matter is that during the week I get up at 4:45 ack emma, as I am point man for the whole Port Swiller Family morning routine, and I simply can’t deal with West Coast games and expect to function.

I will say that no matter what happens tonight (and without any intent to cause affront to the baseball gods I will say that I am not entirely un-optimistic), I am damn proud of the boys for not rolling over yesterday as they so easily could have done.   That’s what makes champions.  So, what else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!!

 

Washington-Nationals1Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is extremely disappointed that his beloved Nats dropped their first game against the Giants yesterday.  Frankly, he’s also quite worried.  You see, for the second game later this afternoon the Giants are sending Tim Hudson.  He gave the Giants their only two wins against the Nats during the regular season and he’s also a wily old veteran with lots of post-season experience.

On the other hand, Hudson talked some smack against the Nats earlier this week, something generally frowned upon by the baseball gods.  Perhaps they’ll express their displeasure tonight.

We’ll see.  All I can say is that I think this evening’s game IS the post-season:  If we go out to San Francisco two games in the hole, I simply can’t see us scrapping back to win the next three straight.

UPDATE:  Heartbreaker.  The realist in me says that’s the season right there.  Dayum, do I love/hate October baseball!

Incidentally, teh Eldest Gel and I watched the game (well, until the 12th anyway) on her laptop via a Brit (I think) live-stream of the Fox Sports feed interspersed with a lot of rugby football commercials.  It might have been legitimate, except that the site name was something like “draculanet.eu”.

“How did you ever find this,” I asked her.

DA-AAD!!” she replied, “This is what kids do!”

Whippersnapper.  Get off my lawn.

Well, as to the trip out west, what else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!

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!

 

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.

UPDATE:  Long-time friend of the decanter Cap’n Ned brings up an important (and I suppose apropos, given the pic of Dave I chose) issue,  that of appropriate bathroom reading.

This is a subject to which ol’ Robbo has dedicated some study over the years.  What is it that makes a given book appropriate to the library of the loo, the bibliotheca of the bog, the repository of the depository, the athenaeum of the ass-can?  (I’m so very sorry about that last one but I needed a closer.  If you imagine Robin Leach saying it, it’s not so bad.)

Well, I’ll tell you.  Said book must be both granule and lightweight.  It must be something on which you can nibble at will, taking it and leaving it as suits your biznay.  At the same time, it must be something for which less than full concentration is required, IYKWIMAITYD.   So both War and Peace and Quotations of Chairman Mao are right out.

Of course, the downstairs W/C at Port Swiller Manor has its own basket of reading materials.

As a sort of substratum, said basket always contains the latest alumni magazines from our various schools, together with copies of the local fish-wrapper and of Modern Luxury: DC magazine, which continues to show up in our mailbox despite the fact that we’ve never subscribed, much less shown any interest in it.

The real meat, though, is in the books.

Before sitting down to type out this update, I stepped into the downstairs W/C and rummaged around the reading basked in order to ascertain the current Port Swiller reading list and see if it complies with ol’ Robbo’s criteria.  It includes:

- Two compendia of Calvin & Hobbes cartoons;

- Two compendia of FoxTrot cartoons;

- Several volumes of Down East humor by noted Down East humorist John McDonald, including his Maine Trivia: A Storyteller’s Useful Guid To Useless Information; his A Moose and a Lobster Walk Into A Bar; and his Maine Dictionary (also the Boston Dictionary by John Powers, the success of which caused the publishers to hustle McDonald into producing the Maine version);

- The Devious Book for Cats, which styles itself as a parody but which is actually too close to the truth to be funny and is really rayther depressing;

- An evolution of the Darwin Awards; and

- James Lileks’ Mommy Knows Worst.  

I may admit that the last one is my current favorite, and it surprises me that no one has asked any questions about why Dad is locked in the loo, giggling, snerking and snorting.

Now certainly, as Ned suggests, Dave Barry would qualify for inclusion in a reading list of this sort based on substance.  The problem is that the guy is prolific, having something north of forty titles to his name.   Were I to introduce one or two of his books to the loo basket, pretty soon it would be three or four.  And then six or eight.  And then a round dozen.  At that point,  I’d start talking about a need for more space, perhaps a series of shelves, in which to deposit all of Dave’s words.  And in a bathroom?  That’s too weird for me.

No, at least at Port Swiller Manor, Barry gets confined to what I call the Bookcases of Misfit Authors.   These are the ones down the basement to which ol’ Robbo bans books that he deems not appropriate for his “library proper”.  At the moment they’re all sitting in stacks scattered about the house and awaiting the post-flood restoration of said basement which the contractor promises is less than two weeks out now, but once that’s done, they’re going back downstairs where they belong.

 

 

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.)

 

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