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Over on Facebook, I mentioned that the chest/throat biznay had so altered the port-swiller vocal chords that I thought I could sing the bass part to this song, even hitting the famous low note.  This provoked some surprise among the commenters that somebody so (impliedly) stuffy as Self would even have heard of the thing.

Oh, ye of little faith!  Regular friends of the decanter ought by now to know that ol’ Robbo’s braim is a veritable Sargasso Sea of random useless tidbits.  One should never be surprised at what might float out of it at any given time.

Giddyup, ba-oom-ba, ba-oom-ba, ba-mow-mow, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was mildly surprised to discover this morning that today is May 31.  For some reason, he had gotten it into his head that May only has 30 days, and was expecting to flip his calendar over to June today.  “Wait. How did that old thing go?” he asked himself, “Lessee, thirty days hath September…..April, something and November……I thought it was May.  Oh, but what about June?  Pooh.”

So I suppose May does have thirty-one days after all.  It still doesn’t seem as if it ought to, but I’ve really not enough energy to make waves about it at the moment.   And anyhoo, this doesn’t seem to be of the same flavor as other I-think-it’s-true-whether-it-really-is-or-not causes that I’ve taken up over the years, such as my insistence on keeping Pluto as one of the nine proper planets,  my belief that robins really do listen for worms and my acceptance of the tradition that the Dook of Wellington originally coined the nickname of “Tommy [Adkins]” for the generic British Army soldier.

One can’t nail one’s flag to every mast.  For one thing, it gets awfully expensive in nails.

Regular friends of the decanter may be interested to know that I hauled myself into the doctor’s yesterday, since the ol’ lungs and throat have not really got any better.  She formally diagnosed bronchitis and put me on a course of antibiotics.   Flipping through my chart, we noted that I seem to be on a four year cycle for this ailment.  The last time I went on antibiotics for the thing was in 2008, and the time before was in 2004.  The doc praised me both for my sparse reliance on said meds, as well as for my waiting a week before coming in for them this time.  Ol’ Robbo left the doc’s office feeling just a slight bit smug over his sense of medical economy.

For all that, I hope the anti-b’s knock this bug for six, and that right eftsoons, because this is going to be a monstrously chock-a-block weekend:  In addition to the usual yardwork chores that, contrary to Mrs. R’s apparent belief, won’t take care of themselves, we’ve got a Nats game and Dierks Bentley¹ concert on Saturday; the formal induction of the middle gel into the National Cathedral Choir of Men and Girls on Sunday: and the eldest gel’s graduation from St. Rita of the Misunderstood Adolescence on Tuesday.  I would prefer not to be hacking and retching my way through any of these activities.

¹ To save the Mothe having to ask, Dierks Bentley is a country singer.  He’s playing Nats Park immediately after the ball game.  The gels like him.



Dobroye utro, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo ran off The Hunt For Red October last evening for the umpteenth time and was once more struck by a feeling bordering on, well, nostalgia for the Good Old Days when Job One of foreign policy was stopping Ivan.  Seems so much simpler than the current state of the world, doesn’t it.

One of the things I like about this movie (out of many) is its soundtrack, particularly its heavy reliance on the National Anthem of the Soviet Union.   The musick is of a style that I have come to think of personally as the Heroically Futile.  There’s something about it that combines the drive for the glorious with a certain sense of inevitable failure, provoking a sense of simultaneous uplift and resignation, pride and disappointment, and a curious comfort in that you knew it was all going to come crashing down anyway.   I doubt very seriously if the fellah who composed it had this idea consciously in mind, but I strongly suspect that it is and always has been a large part of the underlying Russia psyche.  If this sounds, well, psychotic, I will only note that Peej O’Rourke once described Russia as “the idiot step-sister of Western Civilization” and I very much think he was on to something.

On a completely different musickal note, the local classickal station is featuring as its CD Pick O’ The Week a new recording of the complete Handel violin sonatas by one Ariadne Daskalakis and the Ensemble Vintage Cologne.  These people are new to me, but I’m happy to report that the tracks I’ve heard so far have been excellent, combining the crisp and the dramatic in a way representing what I consider to be the very best of period instrument movement practices.  I often thank my stars to be living in a time when I can so easily listen to Baroque musick the way it was intended to be performed, and not under a heavy patina of more modern sensibilities.   (And not just the Baroque:  Some months back I ran off Fantasia for the first time in about 40 years and was appalled by what ol’ Leopold Stokowski did not just to Bach, but to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Ponchielli, as well.  I’d say Schubert, too, but the fact of the matter is that I really can’t stick his “Ave Maria” in any form.)  If you’re into Handel, I strongly recommend checking it out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the recent radio silence, but the illness that ol’ Robbo seems to have picked up at the doc’s office last week really took hold of him over the past couple days, with self being subjected to bouts of hacking and wheezing worthy of a genuine TB lunger, together with a series of teh most exquisite headaches and sore throats.  I seem to be on the road to recovery now, although I’m still short of breath and can’t get more than four or five words out at a time without another fit of coughing and I still feel pretty wiped.   Howsoever, the holiday weekend was pretty well timed and I believe I will be ready to resume the harness tomorrow.  (The lawn can go to hell and will have to wait until next weekend.)

The past few nights, in order to spare Mrs. Robbo from having to listen to my retching, I’ve been sleeping down the basement.   This has reminded me again that there’s an awful lot to be said for separate bedrooms, even for married couples……

In my sick time, I have been reading voraciously (if not always especially comprehensively).   One of the books I tackled for the first time was a little something I recently picked up entitled The Account of Mary Rowlandson and Other Indian Captivity Narratives.  It is exactly what the title suggests, namely four first-person stories of Indian captivity by a quartet of unfortunate Europeans.  Mary Rowlandson herself was captured in 1676, during King Phillip’s War, during a Wamponoag raid that destroyed the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts.  After seeing one of her children killed, she was marched north and subject to numerous brutalities and hardships.  Eventually, she was ransomed by the colony and returned to her family.  Her account, published in 1682, became immensely popular reading.  Another narrative is that of Father Bressani, a Jesuit missionary to the Hurons who was captured by the Iroquois in 1644.  Fr. Bressani only escaped being counted among the North American Martyrs when the old squaw to whom he had been assigned by the Iroquois decided, at the last second, to adopt him instead of cooking him.  Eventually, he was ransomed by the Dutch at Albany and returned to Europe.  I won’t go into the details of the two letters he wrote describing his ordeal, except to say that he apologizes profusely in the first one for the poor penmanship, explaining that he only has one finger left on his right hand.   The third account is of one Mercy Harbison, whose frontier homestead near Pittsburgh was attacked by rampaging Senecas (among others) in 1792, after the disastrous St. Clair expedition of the preceding fall.  During the course of the attack and afterwards, Harbison was forced to witness the killing and scalping of both her young sons.  Eventually, as she was marched away, she saw an opportunity and made a harrowing run for it, eventually fetching up safely in Pittsburgh, where she gave an affidavit of her capture and escape.  The fourth account, by far the most cheerful, is that of Colonel James Smith.  As a boy of 19 in 1755, he was assigned to a road-clearing crew as part of teh ill-fated Braddock Campaign against Fort Duquesne.  He was captured by Delawares and taken to the Fort, where he was made to run the gauntlet.  However, after that ordeal, he was let alone and was on hand to hear the news of poor Braddock’s massacre.  Thereafter, Smith, who had been adopted into a band of Delawares, spent the next three years wandering about the Ohio Valley wilderness with them.  His accounts of day-to-day Indian life are most detailed and most interesting.  Eventually, Smith made his way back to the colonies, later serving with Col. Bouquet during Pontiac’s Rebellion, and afterwards being active in Pennsylvania and Kentucky politics.

I guess you wouldn’t necessarily have to be a colonial history geek to enjoy this short volume, but it probably helps.

The past couple days have seen the reintroduction of the Dog Question into the port-swiller household.  The gels, of course, are all enthusiasm.  Mrs. R, for whatever reason, has come around to the position that she wouldn’t mind a dog if it met certain very specific criteria (e.g., was a rescue, 3 y.o. or older, housebroken, documented good with children and cats, etc.).  It is one of life’s little absurdities that it is ol’ Robbo of all people, who has missed having a dog for 30 years and yearned for one for ages, who is kyboshing the idea now.   My reasoning is simple.  First (as I explain to the gels), a dog is an enormous responsibility and will create an enormous mess.  If I can’t get you (gels) to look after yourselves now, why on earth would I want to put that added burden on myself?  Or, as I so suavely put it, “I won’t consider bringing another animal into the house until you three learn not to act like one.”  Second, there is the Jenny Factor.  Jenny, as regular friends of the decanter might recall, is our elder cat.  She’s knocking 19, is arthritic and is mostly blind.  All she wants here on out is a life of quiet, routine and repose, and it strikes me that introducing such an enormous change into her environment at this point would be pretty hard cheese on her.    So I won’t do it.  Or, as I so artfully put it to teh gels, “Let’s wait until Jenny kicks off.  Then we’ll talk.”

(I seriously doubt if Oprah or Dr. Phil are going to have me on their shows anytime soon to discuss parent-child communication.)

Speaking of teh gels, the county recently added a critical new bit of sidewalk in the neighborhood of the port-swiller mansion that now allows them to safely bike over to the pool themselves instead of being ferried.   Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats swept the Braves this weekend.  And life is good.

I see via Andrew Stuttaford that Paul Fussell has died.

Ol’ Robbo has several of Fussell’s books on the shelf in the port swiller library, and I may just say here that I cannot think of an author with whom I agree and disagree more vehemently at the same time.

I suppose that what has always bothered me about Fussell’s writing has been his trick of setting up a stage across which he parades a motley collection of fools, and then making abundantly clear that he (and, by implication, his gentle readers) was not part of the parade.  This comes to mind most clearly regarding his book Class, in which he skewers the follies and foibles of just about every section of the American socio-economic scale, but at the end invents a “Class X” for himself and his boho friends outside of this scale and, presumably, above any such criticism.

I would also suggest that his Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic, which recounts his experiences as a line officer in WWII in Europe and their aftermath, was a far, far too blatant attempt to paint himself as the Second War’s Robert Graves.  Although it’s been a while, I recall that Fussell even quoted large chunks of Goodbye To All That just to make sure his readers got the point.

In short, it’s always been my impression of Fussell’s writing that a very large and cantankerous ego lurked behind it, and it is perhaps at those points where that ego bubbles up to the surface that I dislike his analysis the most.  I’ve an idea I wouldn’t have liked him much in person.

However, having said all that, it has been a while since I last visited him, and perhaps it is time to dip into the collection again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo cannot recall ever before getting sick as a result of a visit to the doctors, but it certainly seems to have played out that way this time.

Went to consult on lab results from my physical on Monday feeling perfectly okay.

Tuesday, started developing a prickly cough, which has since then mushroomed into a full-blown (so to speak) bronchial event.  My lungs feel like they’re full of asbestos, my throat like it’s coated with sandpaper and my ears like they’re corked.

One is faced with a dilemma: Do I go back to the doc for this?  Will she be able to cure it?  Or will I simply upgrade to something more exotic – Beriberi? Dengue fever? The plague?  On the other hand, am I better off taking my usual self-cure, which involves crawling under a rock until it all blows over?

I’m sure there’s a Fahrenheit 451 firemen joke in all this somewhere, but the truth is that I’m too worn to sink that shot.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Have I mentioned before how much I dislike Tuesdays?  I have? Well, let me just top up that cup o’ gripe for you.

I couldn’t help noticing that Pravda on the Potomac, apparently with nothing better to occupy itself, decided to run a front page, over-the-fold sympathy article on a transgendered five year old this past Sunday.  I’ve nothing much to say about this biznay (well, nothing much printable at any rate)  except this:  Always remember that “sex” is a matter of biology, while “gender” is a creature of politics.   That’s pretty much all you need to know to navigate these things.

And, as Peej O’Rourke famously noted, politics is the business of gaining power and status without merit.

Why do they call it a “Fun Fair”?  I never have any fun, and I think it unfair that I have to go.  (I repeat this observation here because my doc laughed when I mentioned it to her yesterday.  It’s gold, Jerry! Gold!)

The Mothe recently alerted me to the fact that Jeep is recalling some of its 2010 Wranglers because of the risk of fire caused by some flaw in the automatic transmission system.  This caused me to fetch the soft cushions and the comfy chair:  The very notion of a Wrangler with automatic transmission is downright heretical, IMHO.  I mean, half the fun of driving one is the stick-shift, right?  Confess! CONFESS!!

I completely agree with Mr. FLG’s latest pet peeve.

Henry Rodriguez causes a cold, cold feeling in the pit of my stomach every time he comes in to close a game for my beloved Nats.  Help me, Drew Storen! You’re my only hope!

I saw a soon-to-be middle aged woman with the words “Live, Laugh, Love” tattooed prominently across her back.  Why?  Why on earth?

On a brighter note, I pick up the new glasses this evening.  Perhaps this will put me in a less churlish frame of mind.  Perhaps not.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo collected his first official sunburn of the season this gergous day.  (Robbo’s doctor has been fussing at him recently about Vitamin D deficiency.  A few more outings per month like today’s and that problem ought to rectify itself.)

First, he spent the morning bench coaching the younger Misses Port Swillers’ softball team to a 12-7 victory. (They now stand at 8-1 on the season).  Among other things, he was delighted to discover that the youngest gel has the apparent super power ability to become two-dimensional at will, this being the only explanation of how she managed to slide under a tag at home plate.  I’d swear when she pancaked, she went absolutely flat.

Next, he spent the afternoon puttering about in the yard, mowing, trimming, weeding and (just to mix things up a bit), giving the front door portico its yearly scrubbing.

We are paying the wages for our sinful slothiness in not having got round to cleaning out the gutters last fall, insofar as one of the ones on the front of the port swiller mansion, chock full of dead leaves, mulch and new maple saplings, recently wrenched itself away from the fascia board and started bowing out ominously.  Yesterday, we finally got them cleaned.  Today, we had a local handyman out to re-attach the bowmeister.  As I stood about jawing with him, I discovered that he is a licensed bow-hunter and helps the county with keeping the local deer population within something approaching reasonable limits.  When I mentioned that I used to hunt deer myself in my  misspent yoot and that venison sausage was amongst my very favorite foods, he replied that he makes his own (among other products) all the time and would I like to have some of it?

This looks like the beginning of a bee-u-tiful friendship.

So now it’s just a matter of waiting for five o’clock to roll around.  As a treat for a productive day’s work, I hied me to the butcher’s counter at the local Gourmet Giant (pronounced “GER-may GEEE-aunt”) and nabbed one of their extra thick ribeyes.  Yum.  After dins, it’ll probably be Buckaroo Banzai.  The Nats are playing tonight, but I feel I need a break from watching them strand so many base-runners.  Not good for ol’ Robbo’s ulcer.

The Wiggles have announced a wiggly, wiggly changing of the guard, as three of the four original members plan to hang it up at the end of this season, leaving only Anthony to stay behind and chaperone a new batch of singers. (Keep in mind that Anthony is the Redshirt.  Doesn’t say much for his chances of continued success, I’m thinking.)¹

Now that the gels have got older, we are of course well out of the demographic at whom the Wiggles aim, but I must say that I always rayther enjoyed them while we were in it.  For one thing, their musick was perfectly pleasant.  For another, they very rarely preached (at least from what I saw), confining themselves mostly to wholesome silliness.   And for a third, it was the Wiggles who distracted the young gels away from that insufferable slab of purple damnation, Barney.

Actually, my favorite Wiggly moment was an outtake from one of their DVD’s – Wiggly Safari, I think.  It was simply an extended shot of Greg sitting at the wheel of the Big Red Car waiting to do a take.  While he was almost inevitably all smiles when the cameras were rolling, here he looked distinctly peeved about something, drumming his fingers and glaring.  The contrast produced the same wonderful effect of being wrong-footed as did Henry Fonda playing the stone-cold killer in Once Upon A Time In The West, or Fred MacMurray the husband-killing/wife-stealing insurance fraudster in Double Indemnity.

¹  I am informed by a certain smarty-pants young lady that Anthony is, in fact, the Blueshirt, and that it’s Murray who sports the horrid alien death-magnet red.   Dang kids, a’spoilin’ my jokes!  This is the same one who challenged my assertion that Owen Wilson’s character in Armageddon didn’t get killed.

Regular friends of the decanter know that ol’ Robbo is fond of gassing on about his progeny here.  (Well, why shouldn’t he?)

Anyhoo, although I don’t usually do so, I thought I’d post this pic because it so perfectly captures the word portraits that I have been building up over the years of the two younger gels. They are off today with their classmates from St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method for their annual performance down at the Folger Shakespeare Theater.  This year, the class is doing Twelfth Night (or, more accurately, an extremely stripped down selection of scenes therefrom), with the Middle Gel starring as Viola (whose quiet Machiavellian scheming drives the action of the play) and the Youngest, Gawd help us, serving up Feste the Clown  (her rendition for me the other night of “O, Mistress Mine” still has plaster falling from the ceiling of the port swiller mansion.

Type casting?  Just a bit!


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May 2012