Yesterday afternoon, as we sat in traffic together, the Eldest Gel started contemplating the Fort McHenry commemorative license plate on the car from Murrland in front of us.

“Why doesn’t D.C. have a War of 1812 license plate?” she suddenly asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “What would they put on it? A burning White House?”

“Sure, why not?”

I snorted.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took the Eldest Gel down to the County’s Juvenile Court this afternoon – and don’t think I didn’t milk that statement for all it was worth – in order to formally receive her driver’s license at the hands of one of the judges there.  (She’s had a temporary license for about three months now since completing her driver’s ed course, but this is the real deal.)

It was a reasonably nice and apropos little ceremony designed to hammer into the little bastids’ collective (there were about fifty kids) braims the fact that driving is both a privilege and a responsibility and that, broadly speaking, they don’t know jack about it yet.

First, we got shown a musick video of some kid consumed in grief because he’d just killed another young driver through his  own negligence.  “Why did this happen to me?” he kept lamenting through the rain, to which the obvious answers were a) um, because you go drunk and got behind the wheel? and b) you just killed an innocent girl and all you can think of is yourself?  The gel informed me that she’d already seen this video about a dozen times, so I’m thinking it had probably reached saturation point with most of the rest of the audience as well.  As for myself, I kept half-expecting the singer to suddenly look up and ask, “What does the fox say?”

Next, we had a little lecture from a gruff old Sarge’, in which he imparted a lot of stern words of what amounted to basic common sense.  There’s been a lot of ballyhoo recently about militarized thug cops, but this fellah was obviously one of the Good Guys.  My impression was that his wisdom was well-received.  (I learned a new term from him, by the way – “steaking”.  It seems certain kids in our area like to skip school, drive to Philadelphia, eat a cheesesteak for lunch, scootch home before school’s out and show the receipt for the sammich to their little friends to prove their roguishness.   The fact that they would voluntarily go anywhere within 100 miles of Philly to me shows their obvious immaturity.)

Then the judge gave us a little anecdote about the niece of a friend of hers who had been killed on the road the night before she was to go off to college.  Her point to the Li’l Darlins was that their decisions on the road impacted not just their own precious snowflake selves, but also everyone around them – family, friends, community, etc.   She also mentioned the fact that under Virginny law, Mom and Dad have the power to yank the youngling’s license at any point they feel it is necessary, and the Commonwealth will back them to the hilt.   I liked that last part especially.

After this, there was a bit of an anticlimax.  The judge said ‘bye and vanished, and the clerks started dealing out licenses and, well, that was pretty much it.

So here we are.  One down, two to go.  The Middle Gel can get her learner’s permit some time this summah, I believe, and seems hell-bent on doing so.

 

Sat out on the porch this evening to watch the lightning flicker around the northern horizon and to listen to the frogs.  I hadn’t been there more than a few moments when I spotted my first couple fireflies of the season noodling about against the tree line.  It’ll be another week or two before they’re going all out, but as I say, shiny!

O’ Robbo loves fireflies, especially when associated with summah lightning.  Indeed, one of my fondest memories is of an evening back in the summah of 1989.  It was after my first year of law school and I was working on the Hill and staying with my godparents outside of Fredericksburg, Virginny.  Now, Fred-Vegas (as we insiders call it) gets hammered something fierce by thunderstorms during the warmer months, and is particularly susceptible to lightning ground-strikes.  Somebody once told me this has something to do with the high iron content of the soil in the immediate area.  I don’t know if I believe this, but I do know from years of observation that they catch it pretty hard there.

Anyhoo, one evening in this summah of ’89, we had a typical Fred-Vegas pounding – 45 minutes or so of the Apocalypse followed by a sudden hush as the storm rolled east.  For some reason, I had to go outside just after it had passed.  The air was still very warm and soggy, there was an absolute hush all around, lightning still flickered in the distance….and the hedge that bordered the back driveway was absolutely covered in fireflies.   I’m talking Christmas tree light concentration.

I just stood there for a few moments, taking it all in.  In my fancy, I almost thought I could hear a faint pah! pah! as the fireflies did their stuff.

Shiny, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

augustus-pp-statueThose friends of the decanter who have some passing familiarity with antiquity and the arts will quickly recognize this sculpture as the Augustus of Prima Porta, a likely posthumous and somewhat artificially-hulkified tribute to the first, and arguably greatest, of the Roman Emperors.  The piece is one of the two or three most recognizable bits of sculpture to come down to us from classickal civilization.   (In fact, I had a framed poster of it on my walls all through high school and college.)

Recently, it came to ol’ Robbo’s attention that a “street artist” calling himself “Gaia” has incorporated an image of this statue into a big mural that adorns one end of some new Mediterranean restaurant in Dee Cee called Pinea.  (You can go here to check the thing out.  I won’t try to repaste it here because of copyright, and besides, I’m sure the restaurant people wouldn’t mind the clicks.  For those of you who don’t make the jump, suffice to say ol’ Octavian is depicted in vibrant colors with a string of citrus slices around his neck and various items of Italian cuisine in the background.  Childish, but ultimately harmless, and at least it ties in with the place.)

Ol’ Robbo only happens to have learned about this work because of a monthly glossy called “Modern Luxury DC” that shows up, quite un-asked for, in the Port Swiller mailbox.  This mag purports to be the arbiter hipsterium of Your Nation’s Capital, carrying a variety of articles about coo-el new art exhibits, designer clothing, fashionable watering holes, “edgy” architecture, and up-and-coming Bright Young Things and Politicos.  (To give but one example of the latter, the latest issue featured an article on Mother’s Day with a photo of the current First Lady and her children.  The headline reads “Queen Mother”.   Note to Modern Luxury DC: Yeah, about that? No.)

Anyhoo, each issue of said mag goes straight to the basket in the downstairs loo, where Robbo flips through it just to keep up with exactly how awful things are out there in HipsterLand, until he is thoroughly disgusted and tosses it.  Perusing the latest, I came across an “On the Scene” item about the unveiling of “Gaia’s” new mural at a private cocktail party (which see the link above).  And what did “Modern Luxury DC” have to say about this piece of art?  “The new mural features a 14.5 foot tall Roman soldier.”

A “Roman soldier”, eh?  As I say above, the Prima Porta is a famous icon depicting one of the greatest figures of classickal history.  And all this hipster-doofus rag can come up with to describe it is “a Roman soldier“?

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

This got me wondering how they would treat some other giants of the cultural and politickal history on which their Neo-Tinsel Age is built:

An Early SparksNotes Contributor

An Early SparksNotes Contributor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Musician.  His Stare Is Kind Of Micro-Aggressive.

Some Musician. His Stare Is Kind Of Micro-Aggressive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Short, French Dude From History Class

The Short, French Dude From History Class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I over-react, but is there nobody, nobody in the chain from artist to writer to editor who could do any better than “a Roman soldier”?

It’s bad enough that these people don’t know what they’re talking about, but I fear that they also just don’t care, which is much, much worse.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening, teh Middle Gel and her choir-mates are down the Kennedy Center, participating in a production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

I say “participating in” instead of “performing” because the main load is being carried by the Choral Arts Society of Washington.  The Cathedral Choir has only about two minutes’ aggregate singing time, spending the other sixty-eight or so minutes of the thing kicking their heels.   Hey, it’s good publicity.  And it is the Kennedy Center, after all.

To those friends of the decanter who are wondering why ol’ Robbo isn’t there to see the Gel, but instead has fobbed the job off on Mrs. R, I will say that, aside from the O, Fortuna bit,*  which I admit to have a certain rousing energy and the use of which I enjoyed in the movie Excalibur, I really don’t care for the rest of the piece.  As the Middle Gel herself astutely remarked, it sounds like video game musick.  No wonder the Nazis were so fond of the piece.

Interestingly, over the years I have noticed that most other non-singers don’t much like the piece, while many, many singers actually quite enjoy it.  Perhaps it’s more fun to perform then to hear.

Anyhoo, whatever else, I’m sure Teh Gel and her mates will do credit to themselves.

* Fun fact:  I was discussing O, Fortuna with teh Gel this afternoon and mentioned that I was pretty sure John Williams ripped off those clashing opening chords for the climactic fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith.  Her response? “Well, what hasn’t John Williams ripped off?”

Heh, that’s my gel.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because I motivated myself to mow and trim the lawn of Port Swiller Manor yesterday evening, I had the time today to really get a twist on trying to clean up the garden.

The main villain I have to contend with at this time of year is the jewelweed, a kind of impatiens that, if left to itself, would blanket the entire area in stalks five or six feet high.   It’s easy enough to pluck out when small because it has shallow roots, but there are just so damn many of them that I confess to spraying large chunks of them in otherwise open patches and only pulling the ones immediately around other plants that I wish to preserve.

Hey, there’s only one of me.

When the butterfly bush is in full swing at high summah and surrounded with various nectar-loving bugs and birds, my garden has what I have seen written somewhere as “a certain dryad loveliness”.  Otherwise, I admit that it is semi-cultivated at best.   As I say, there’s just one of me and I don’t have the time, energy or dosh to really do the thing justice.

Some day when if I retire, if I don’t get sent to the camps first, my plan is to bring in a pro, clean the place out, build proper beds, critter-proof them, and then start again with some serious horticulture.

In the meantime, I’ll just muddle on.

UPDATE:  Mrs. R and the gels went to the local community festival this afternoon, something I’ve been able to avoid successfully for fifteen years.  Having finished my chores, I climbed into the hammock with my book.  It was mid-80’s, very humid and sunny.  Soon, I was lost in La La Land.  Woke up a while ago to find a darkening sky and thunder in the distance.  Must now go check out the radar to see what I’m having for dins – steak on the BBQ or a burger grilled inside.  All will depend on how fast the system goes through.

UPDATE DEUX:  Burger it was.  I went out after the deluge had eased off and looked around.  Remember that scene in “The Perfect Storm” when Clooney looks out the porthole and sees a dim gleam of dawn after getting battered all night?  And how just as you’re thinking he’s got a shot to get out the sky suddenly goes all dark again?  It was something like that.  Ultimately, it didn’t actually rain during the window in which I would have been grilling, but this is a thick-cut steak from the deli at 13 bucks per pound and I’m not going to play silly buggers with something that pricey.

We’ll try again tomorrow.  Forecast says it’s another crap-shoot.

it-happened-one-nightGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, per my post below, I have not been absent through the agency of the good folks of CPS.  Rayther, ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are on a West Coast road trip this week and, as most of the games start well beyond my bedtime, I have been catching up on my Netflix queue.

Interestingly, I seem to have come across a 30’s/40’s nostalgia patch this week.  (One of my little indulgences is to load lots of DVD’s into the queue in one go and then to enjoy the surprise when they show up weeks or months later.  And don’t start in about streaming – the DVD library is much bigger, and unlike some people, I’m not a slave to instant gratification.)  So far, I’ve been through It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday and Holiday.  I believe the next couple to appear in the Port Swiller mailbox will be Talk of the Town and You Can’t Take It With You.  Without checking, I’m pretty sure Only Angels Have Wings is not far behind in the queue.

In those six films, you’ve got Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Kate Hepburn, Rita Heyworth, several doses of Cary Grant, a triple shot of Jean Arthur and some Ji-Ji-Jimmy Stewart, to say nothing of supporting casts too numerous and excellent to single out.

Outstanding films, full of witty dialogue, complicated emotions, action, drama and the like, and all done without any scenes involving nekkedness, CGI effects or gratuitous violence.   Hollywood drives culture but it also reflects it:  You simply couldn’t make movies like these nowadays.  (My children, by the bye, are simply astonished that I have no interest in superhero-based movies whatsoever.)

Interestingly (at least to me), several of these films started out as stage plays and keep that feel.  Indeed, I don’t actually recall whether I’ve seen the film version of “You Can’t Take It With You” before, but I do recall seeing a stage version of it years ago that I thought very silly but very funny.

“Holiday” was written specifically for Kate Hepburn, first on stage and then on screen.  Only she, I think, could pull off the character of Linda Seton in a way that makes her look sympathetic:  I saw a stage version of the play a few years ago in which the actress playing the roll made her look like a psychotic bully.

Well, I don’t really have a wrap-up paragraph for this post, but if you’ve been wondering what ol’ Robbo has been up to, this is it.

UPDATE: Oh, speaking of what passes for modern cinema, I see a kerfluffle is brewing over the “Mad Max” reboot.  It would seem that Max is only a secondary character in this one and the main story concerns some post-apocalypse über-feminist rising up from slavery and sticking it to the Man.   Frankly, I hope it bombs, largely because hijacking a brand seems to me cheating.  (You wouldn’t go see a movie like “My Dinner With Captain James T. Kirk” now, would you?) Plus, as a rule, I despise reboots.  Write your own damn story!

UPDATE DEUX:  Sat down to watch “You Can’t Take It With You” this evening only to discover that the disk was cracked.  Heigh, ho.  I took this as a sign and instead sat out on the porch watching the night draw in.  I win, I think.

Nonetheless, the comment to this post of the lovely and talented Diane reminded me of a funny Hitchcock story.  I’m no real aficionado of teh Hitch, although I greatly appreciate his work in a casual way, if that makes any sense.  Probably my favorite of his movies is North By Northwest because of a) Cary Grant, b) Eva Marie Saint and c) a terrific musickal theme.

Rear Window - James Stewart and Grace KellyAnyhoo, the memory dredged up by Diane’s comment was that of my first viewing of Rear Window, which was during my first year of college.  The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown had a dedicated cinema, but it also ran Friday night movies in the big science center amphitheater in which I spent two years languishing fruitlessly in pre-med before chucking it.  The advantage of the latter venue was that you could bring in food and drink, so my friends and I would scoop up a couple bottles of rot-gut and a stack of plastic cups and make an evening of it.

***SPOILER ALERT*** – If what I have to say about the movie is going to harsh your heretofore-preserved innocence, read no further!

I got the impression as I settled in that I was not the only one there who hadn’t seen “Rear Window” before.  During the early part of the story’s set up, there was a good deal of quiet chatter and laughter amongst the audience.  Gradually, however, as the plot built, such chatter started to ebb, eventually drying up completely.  By the time we were into the meat of the thing, the audience was riveted, eventually reaching a collective agony of uncertainty you could cut with a knife.

And then, I will never forget it:  At the climactic point when Raymond Burr, after seeing Grace flapping her finger behind her back, looks up directly into the camera, spots Ji-Ji-Jimmy spying on him, and swells perceptibly, the entire audience let out a completely spontaneous and utterly genuine gasp.  And when the camera cuts to Ji-Ji-Jimmy hastily trying to back himself into the shadows, we all felt exactly the same way.

Woosh!  There’s a good deal of teh hokey in this particular film, but as far as the actual suspense goes, that, my friends, is how you do it.

 

 

Teh Youngest upon arriving home today.

Teh Youngest upon arriving home today.

This afternoon, ol’ Robbo went to pick up teh Youngest Gel from school.  It’s a lovely day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, so I put the top down on La Wrangler to enjoy the drive over.

Teh Gel has very long and thick hair and had neglected to bring anything with which to tie it back today.  As a result, a few minutes into the home leg, her tressed had blown all over her face.

“You look like Cousin It,” I said.

“Who?” she replied.

“You know – Cousin It.  Addams Family.”

“Oh,” she responded.  “Wait, was he the one with the bald head?”

“No, that’s Uncle Fester.”

“Um, wait.  Was he the really tall, Frankenstein-y one?”

“No, that’s Lurch.  Cousin It was the short one who was nothing but hair.  Now do you see?”

“Oooh, ha, ha, ha!  Um, wait, no.  I don’t remember him.”

It’s like I can’t even talk to these people anymore.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Late this afternoon, teh Youngest (now 13) decided to amuse herself by tie-dying a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, she “forgot” to don gloves before getting down to biznay.  The result, even after multiple washings with various soaps and alcohol-based cleansers, is that her hands look like they were worked over with a crowbar.

If you don’t hear from ol’ Robbo for a while, it’ll be because the gel’s school will have flipped out tomorrow morning when she shows up, and sicced Child Protective Services on me.

Honest, officer, I didn’t do nufkink.

Sigh……

(Actually, this tune is not quite apropos, because she’s really quite smart.  Indeed, I’m reasonably sure she pulls this sort of stunt just for the attention.  But it’s close enough and I happen to like it.)

 

Vought F4U Corsair, courtesy of Wiki

Vought F4U Corsair, courtesy of Wiki

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent a very pleasant Friday lunch hour today by strolling down to the National Mall to watch the Arsenal of Democracy Capitol Flyover marking the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day.

It was a very nice event.  The weather was warm and a bit sultry but not too oppressive.  There were considerably more people on hand than I had anticipated, many of them putting on dog about their expertise in WWII history and aircraft specifications, as well as making jokes about taking the opportunity of so many warbirds over Your Nation’s Capitol to maybe take out some of its more obnoxious institutions and residents.

In carefully-organized groups designed to plot the aerial history of the War, the nineteen-odd different types of planes came down the Potomac, swung east just past the Jefferson Memorial, cruised down the south side of the Mall at about 600 ft or so to roughly the height of the Capitol and then split off to return to their fields.  (A friend of mine was among a group of watchers who assembled at Great Falls Park upstream to see them pass over.  Another friend reported that the George Washington Parkway – which runs down the river – was at a standstill as people got out of their cars to watch.)

You can say what you like about the benefits of modern jet-propulsion, but there’s nothing really to match the aesthetic beauty of the meaty growl of a high-HP prop engine pulling its bird along.

Many of the folks around me seemed to be very intent on their iThingies or printed programs, scrambling to keep up with the data therein as the parade went by.  Me, I just reveled in the here and the now.  When I was a kid, I was a bit of a nerd (shut up) and spent most of my time either reading about WWII or building 1/48 scale models of the Allied aircraft involved.  Before I left home for college, I had models of most of the American Army Air Corp and Air Force involved, aside from scouts, trainers, the Catalina flying-boat, and, for some reason, the B-24 Liberator.  As an aside, if I may say so, I got quite good at detailing them – salt stains on the carrier-based planes, appropriate paint jobs, battle damage, exhaust and gun streaks.  (Yeah, I didn’t date much in high school.  Again, shut up.)

My one regret was that I didn’t think to bring along my bird-watching binocs.  Even with corrective lenses, I have rotten eyesight.  The heavies and the more distinctive single-props were very easy to identify, but I’m afraid I didn’t quite I.D. all of the fighters the way I should have, despite my intense, ah, squinting.

Nonetheless, I was able to simply stand and admire as the successive waves of birds made their way down the parade route.   And while many of the folks around me seemed to lose interest in each wave as soon as it passed our station (I was standing on 7th street on the north side of the Mall),  I made a point of watching all of them finish their runs.  (The organizers, either out of safety concerns or for the benefit of the onlookers, spaced the flights to make this completely possible.) Why should a vintage aircraft be any less beautiful because it’s flying away from one rayther than towards one?

One thing I saw:  Just after a flight of three Navy Helldivers swung around to start their run up the Mall, one of them suddenly broke formation and headed off to the southwest.  I wondered about this greatly, but nobody around me seemed to notice.  Turns out the bird was suffering some kind of mechanical problem and had to put down at Reagan Airport (which, fortunately, was less than two minutes away).  Everything turned out fine in the end.

The thing concluded with a fly-by of Fifi, the only extant B-29 Superfortress, followed by a Missing-Man display.  At least where I was, the crowd applauded.

Even in these miserably dark days, the whole affair was most encouraging.

Of course, these guys were all stooging along in their Sunday-go-to-meetings.  How about a little pron?

Curious thing.  I love everything about flying except, you know, actually flying, of which regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo is quite frightened.  Go figure.

 

 

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