Better hang on to that bucket, Bob, 'cos denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

Better hang on to that bucket, Bob, ‘cos denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter who have been paying any attention of the past couple weeks will recall ol’ Robbo’s project to lattice up the pillars of the back porch so as to give some lovely jasmine vines a place to grow.

Well, tomorrow was going to be the Big Day.  The lattice panels are here, I’ve got a saw, a new drill and a fistful of wood screws, and we are good to go.

Except.

The forecast now is that Ma Nature is planning to deluge the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor with rain over the weekend.  Back when I was a new, young homeowner some 20 years ago, this probably wouldn’t have mattered to me, and I would have been out there in the downpours industriously idiotically doing the things that I thought needed to be done.  Now? Meh.  I’m going to stay inside, drink lots of coffee and watch, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” which just arrived from Netflix today.

Maybe next weekend……

By the bye, it’s been quite a long time since I had any direct contact with kid’s shows.  Is Bob the Builder still a thing?  And while I’m on the subject, what’s up with the Wiggles these days?  And am I correct in my heartfelt hope that Barney lies dead in some remote gulch, his utterly inedible carcass of no use to the vultures, but instead being used to line birds’ nests?   (Ain’t it odd how something you thought at one time would cause you to puncture your eardrums and gouge out  your eyes with a screwdriver eventually subsides to the point where you can barely even remember it?)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but ol’ Robbo has been dealing with a sinus infection off and on for the past few weeks, something that always seems to happen round about this time of year.  I say “off and on” because the symptoms have waxed and wained, sometimes getting to the point where I think that yes, I probably ought to go see the doc, but then moderating again so as to encourage just toughing the thing out.  (One of ol’ Robbo’s medical maxims is the avoidance of antibiotics unless and until they’re absolutely necessary, lest trivial dosings render them ineffective when they’re truly needed.)

The past couple days, the symptoms seem to be getting worse again.  My sinus cavity feels as if it’s lined with several inches of lead, there’s a constant irritation at the back of my throat and I’ve been feeling generally run down, dizzy and beat.

I report all this not in an attempt to to garner cheap sympathy or to worry teh Mothe, but to lay the foundation so that friends of the decanter will understand the dread with which I faced the prospect of attending teh youngest gel’s recorder and choral concert at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method this evening.   Nineteen 4th, 5th and 6th graders, of (shall we say) varying degrees of talent,  playing about fifteen different tunes, from “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple” through some Mozart, some Stravinsky and a couple of Irish jigs to “Amazing Grace”, all tutti ensemble and maybe 20 feet from where I was sitting would have been a tall order even were I in perfect health.

So, pardon me a second while I close my weary eyes just remembering it.

Anyhoo, I did a bit o’ research this evening to try and discover who had the bright idea of championing the modern, plastic recorder as the grade-school musickal instrument of choice but, after a whole five minutes on the Innertoobs, drew a blank.  The closest relevant information I could find came from the ‘recorder’ entry at “Simple English Wikipedia”, which seems to be a dumbed down version of Wiki prime.  The relevant paragraphs:

Plastic recorders were invented in the 20th century. They are cheap and vary greatly in quality (that is often not related to the price) depending on the manufacturer. They are easy instruments to play simple music. Many elementary schools use plastic recorders to teach music to children.

The head joint of the recorder is used as a noise, rhythm and effect instrument, and as a toy musical instrument with children. Because the recorder head works like a whistle, it can be used as such. With a bit practice, it is easy to play all kind of rhythms. Effects are made by opening and covering the lower end of the head joint with the hand while blowing. Many players blow harder like “normal” recorder playing (like with a pea whistle), to get a very shrill and loud sound. Professor Agnes Dorwarth of the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg argues this is an attractive way to get children to play with part of the instrument, which can make playing the entire instrument more inviting.

Yeah.  Whenever I’m subjected to this particular “shrill and loud sound”, I renew my resolve to track down the originator of the bright idea of mixing school kids with recorders and doing something to him or her with one or more of the latter quite unprintable on a family blog.  If nobody else comes forward, Professor Dorwarth better not let me catch her alone in a dark alley.

At any rate, I survived.  So I got that going for me.

Still, it’s slowly sinking in that after fourteen years (if my math is right) of having one or more of the gels at St. Marie, we are down to our final semester of student participation there (although Mrs. R will continue to teach and I’ve a feeling they won’t let me resign from the Board no matter how much I want to).  Somehow, that makes these little events – however teeth-gritting they may be in themselves – all the more important in a symbolic sense, the back markers (as it were) of a particular stage of the life of the Family Robbo.  Next year, teh youngest will go off to middle school, while her elder sisters will both be in high school with the eldest eyeing her collegiate options (prayers, please).    This nostalgic reflection provides at least a bit of  armor and is allowing ol’ Robbo to treat these things with something approaching good will.  Why, I might even go so far as to attend the annual spring fair without becoming enraged by the inevitable clown’s refusal to confess, confess!, that wearing thick face paint, a heavy wig and a polyester suit while making balloon animals under a bright sun and in humid, 90 degree heat makes her happy-go-lucky air a complete put-on.

Lousy, rotten clowns…..

But that’s a topic for another post.  In the meantime, as I say, as much discomfort as this evening’s concert caused on one level, on another I’m glad I went.

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, for those of you keeping score, Mrs. R and the younger gels arrived home earlier this evening safe and sound – and looking indecently tanned – from their Spring Break jaunt down to Flahrduh with no casualties suffered either among them or, it should be noted, between those of us left here to man the fort.  Indeed, it seems a pretty good time was had all round.

Of course, regularly-scheduled mayhem will recommence tomorrow morning at 6 ack emma, sharp.

Oh, and what the hey, enjoy!

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…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, even as I type, teh eldest gel is upstairs, glued to her school district website and hitting the “refresh” key with the same fervor as a crack-addicted lab rat in anticipation of tomorrow being called as yet another snow day.

At this point, I’d say she’s got about a 50/50 shot.  The latest forecast suggests Snow-nunciation is’t going to produce all that much white stuff in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor (1 to 3 inches, maybe), but it’s going to be flying most of the day, which might make both morning and afternoon bus service a bit dodgy.

As for myself, I must say that the prospect of another snowstorm on March 25 just seems absurd.  Granted, I was  in Cleveland  on biznay a few years ago and watching the white stuff come down on opening day of baseball season, but that’s teh norm in more northerly climbs.  Snow Miser has no biznay in the mid-Atlantic at this time of year.

Indeed, I was looking out the window this afternoon, which was absolutely crystal-clear and brilliantly sunny, and noticing the change in the light and shadows heralding spring.  Nonetheless, the thermometer was only in the mid-30′s.  That ain’t right.

Ah, well.

UPDATE:  Better news.  Even as I was posting this, I heard the rumble of a truck out front and went to find out that my lattice for the porch pillars had arrived.  It was scheduled for delivery today, but as it was already knocking 8:00 pm, I figured they were going to be no-shows.  I bustled out to throw a tarp over the package against whatever snow hits us.   Take a wild guess at what ol’ Robbo will be doing with his time this coming weekend.

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.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had another of his trademark bizzaro dreams last night.  I record these here not only for your amusement but also a) as source material in case I ever decide to start writing fantasy fiction, and b) as diagnostic aides when the nice men in white coats come to put me in a padded cell.

Anyhoo, in this one I found myself serving as an acolyte to a royal coronation/wedding.  The first thing I remember is bustling about a cathedral making sure things were in their proper places.  Among other people doing the same thing, I spotted the rector from my old Palie church.  Somehow I knew that I was attached to his “squad”, which was one among several.

However, as I acolyted about, the place began filling up with guests and on-lookers.  The former were what you would expect at such an event and were dressed to the nines in various uniforms and formal kit.  The latter, however, were ordinary busloads of tourons.   It got so crowded that I could barely move, and I became increasingly worried that the proceedings were going to start before I could get in my proper place.

Eventually, I managed to push my way out a side door.  By this time I had gathered that my job in the doings was to attend to the queen-consort/bride, along with the rest of my squad.  However, I could see no sign of any of them.   I began running about the grounds, looking high and low.  At one point, a jogger passed me.  I yelled, “Have you seen the Queen?”  He laughed as he ran by and answered something I couldn’t understand.

I was pushing through a thick belt of trees and brush when I found myself at the top of a long slope.  Looking down, I spotted a procession coming along a road which I recognized as the queen and my squad.  (And to anyone who claims people can’t dream in color, I say bosh.  Our uniform was a green vestment with a blue and red device on it.)   Brushing off all the pine needles and leaves that had collected on my person, I scuttled down the slope and went to meet them.  I recall that the bride herself was a middle-aged woman with a rather hard look about her riding in an open carriage.  There didn’t seem to be anything in particular for me to do, so I slid in at the back of the line and tried to look pious.  One of the other acolytes winked at me.

Eventually we came to a footbridge over a small stream.  On the other side of it were boxes of presents laid out in a line, which I understood to be thank you gifts from the queen to our squad.   I found mine, addressed to both Mrs. R and me but with both names dreadfully misspelled.   (I actually felt relieved by this gift, as it dispelled a sneaking doubt about whether I was really supposed to be there at all.)  Inside the box were a large check and several novelties including, so far as I remember, a bizarrely-shaped pair of sunglasses, a joke book titled, “How To Insult Every Virginia Hometown” and a jack-ass alarm clock that was supposed to bray when it went off.   I gathered that the gifts to the other members of her train were of a similar nature.

The next thing I knew, we were all in a house, apparently waiting for the first part of the ceremony to finish before moving on to teh cathedral.  As we waited and waited, vague reports of cock-ups and missteps kept floating in.  I also got the feeling that the prospective queen/bride was not especially popular and that her family were somehow involved in manufacturing.  As the time spun out, I put on my weird sunglasses and tried to get the jack-ass alarm clock to work.  It didn’t.  Eventually, I found myself wandering into the kitchen looking for something to drink and feeling that the whole thing had been a gigantic letdown.

And then, as they say, I woke up.

I must say that I really don’t give a wet slap about “March Madness” and bracket mania.

I went to very small Division III schools so never developed the almost pro sports allegiance that the bigger ones tend to foster (not that there weren’t some pretty intense rivalries in the NESCAC and ODAC, but it was on a much different scale with almost no bells and whistles compared to the top-tier programs).

Then again, I also find basketball boring.   The only time I found the faintest interest in the sport was when the eldest gel played CYO in middle school.

Of course, people often argue that college ball is a lot different from the NBA and I understand their point, but it’s just not enough to stir my enthusiasm.

Anyhoo, don’t expect anything else from me on the subject.

* * * *

NNats Hatow, baseball, that’s a different story.  Less than ten days until opening day and ol’ Robbo is READY!

I’ve managed to catch a couple spring training games recently on teevee and things look pretty good for my beloved Nationals.  I am, however, somewhat concerned that in the games I’ve seen they’ve stranded an awful lot of runners on the bags and not scored very much.  This awakes a nameless fear in Robbo’s heart, because it was lack of offense that held us back last season as much as anything else.  I saw one stat where whenever we scored 4-plus runs we were virtually unstoppable, but whenever we scored three or fewer, we usually got beat.   (Nonetheless, I’m sticking with my season prediction, especially as Atlanta’s rotation has had a terrible series of injuries this preseason.)

Well, we shall see.  I’m sure better baseball eyes than mine have noticed this and are taking it in hand.  In the meantime, what else is there to say than,

 

GO, NATS!!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo and the younger gels flew down to Flahr’duh to visit grandparents this morning, leaving Self and the eldest to bach it for a few days here at Port Swiller Manor.  So eldest and I headed over to the local diner to grab some breakfast.

I recall that whenever I used to take one of the gels out to eat when they were younger, I would often intercept looks from people that in effect said, “Oh, must be his visiting weekend.  Mmmm, hmmm.  Wonder where he’s stashed the home-wrecker honey while seeing his kids, the sum’bitch.”

For some reason, I didn’t get that vibe this morning.  Is there less of a psychological instinct to pigeonhole ol’ Dad when he’s out with an older kid?  Have we become that much more permissive in the last ten years that nobody gives a damn anymore?  Is it possible some people might have thought the gel was the home-wrecker honey?  I don’t know.

Anyhoo, we talked mostly about politicks and current events, in which the gel is starting to take more and more interest.  (She’ll be able to vote in the next Presidential, which is a scary thought.)  Suffice to say, I don’t think the gel is going to join the Army of Julias any time soon.  Her summary comment was, “Gee, Dad, I wish I had grown up in the 80′s like you.”

Yeah, so do I.

UPDATE:  Despite the fact that there’s still talk of snow next Tuesday, it’s a very nice day here today and I was able to get out and continue with some of my early-early-spring cleanup, this time pruning the climbing rose by the front door.   Over the years, the thing has got to be very tall, now reaching up two stories and overtopping the gutters.  I really ought to whack it back by about a third or so but decided to let it go one more season, just lopping off the visibly dead canes (of which there were surprisingly few).

This rose, which is on a southwest-facing wall, always does spectacularly well in the spring, erupting in mounds and mounds of dark red flowers.  Alas, by mid-summah, it almost always gets sulky because of the heat and starts shedding leaves.  By Halloween, it invariably provokes snarky comments from the gels about haunted house decorations.

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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