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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I apologize for that last post, which evidently put some of you right off the Stilton if my meager sitemeter stats are anything to go by.

Allow me to right the ship a bit.  This morning was ol’ Robbo’s turn to take teh Middle Gel along to chorister duty down the Cathedral.  I’ll spare you a rant about what it’s like for me to sit through a progressivist Episcopalian service, and instead focus on two musickal points which did much to, if not redeem said experience, at least palliate it.  (I might note that the Cathedral tapes all its 11:15 am services and makes them available on its website,  and that I was sitting right up close.   I hope teh camera caught me rolling my eyes at appropriate points.)

Well, let’s say two and a half.  The Introit was a Locus iste by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).  I’ve only ever heard bits and pieces of Bruckner, and never any of his religious works, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  There was nothing especially outstanding about it, but it was appropriately solemn, competently put together, obviously sincere and all around acceptable.

The first notable item was the Offertory Anthem, “We Would Be Building”.  Although the programme only stated that the arrangement was by the Canon, I immediately recognized it as the serene section from Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia, a piece of which I have always been quite fond even though I always have to fight hard to get images of Bruce Willis kneeling in the snow out of my head when I hear it.  I couldn’t remember off-hand time whether Sibelius actually penned the tune or whether he merely incorporated it from elsewhere.  I see now that it was his own idea.  The hymn (or at least the tune) is in the TEC hymnal, and I recall having sung it once or twice at RFEC.  I’ve always thought it quite lovely, very mellow and contemplative.

The second, more notable item was the Communion Anthem, Factum est silentium by Richard Dering (1580-1630).   The translation of the text (from Revelations 8:1, 12:7, 7:11 and Daniel 7:10) is:  There was silence in heaven while the dragon fought with the Archangel Michael.  Then came the voice of thousands of thousands, crying:  Salvation, honor, and power to Almighty God, Alleluia.

And it goes something like this:

I admit that I had never heard of Richard Dering before.   A  quick Wiki-check says that he was, like your humble host, a Protestant in his misspent yoot who later swam the Tiber, and spent some time in Brussels aiding the Benedictines during the reign of Queen Bess before returning to serve Charles I and Henrietta Maria.

I will leave for another time my opinion about Protestant Unitarian appropriation of Orthodox works, except to say that I would imagine Dering is rolling in his grave right about now.   I will say here only that first, I was quite taken by the narrative expressiveness of this piece and, second, that my joy in hearing teh gel get to sing such lovely Renaissance  polyphony so well completely overcame any lingering regrets that I myself could not produce musick at that level.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening at softball practice, teh eldest gel and her friends were amusink themselves to no end over this:

Damme, if I know what the hell it’s supposed to mean, but teh E.G. informs me that it is undergoing a meteoric rise in innertoob popularity at teh moment.

Eh.  I tasked teh E.G. about it on the drive home.  She argued that it is, in fact,  a good thing compared to the typical trash flooding pop “culture” these days.  The words ( according to her), are essentially meaningless.  The beat is, if boring, constant.  And there are no nekked or even half-nekked gels running about in the vid.

Well…….I suppose teh gel has a point.  And on review, I detect a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek about teh whole biznay.  After all, teh thing seems more eclectic than anything else, and, for all my own musickal snootiness here, my tastes are catholic enough that I can confess a weak spot for similar pop oddities such as They Might Be Giants and Thomas Dolby and teh B-52’s.

Anyhoo, I have to admit that a whole diamond full of gels suddenly erupting in, “Ring-ding-ding-ding-ading-ding!” is kinda amusing.

Update:  Grrr…Wordpress ate my extended comments about teh gel’s nostalgia for the Reagan Years, in which, even though she was born a decade after they ended,  she perceives life back then to have been much more vibrant and worthwhile, yet more personally responsible, than it is in our own wretched times.

A. Men.   And contemplating on this, despite my well-documented musickal snootiness, I couldn’t help thinking of this classic mid-80’s nonsense gem:

UPDATE DEUX:  At Eldest Gel’s softball game today, imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized the entire opponent’s dugout was singing “Ring-ding-ding-ding-ading-ding!”

So I guess it is a thing.   (I’m told, btw, that the people involved are actually comedians, so I was right in my sense of tongue-in-cheek.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo knows that he ought to be flogged round the blogger fleet for using such a post title, but there it is.

As regular friends of the decanter know, shortly after teh death this summah of our beloved 18 y.o. cat Jennyanydots, Port Swiller Manor acquired two new feline members, Ginger and Fiona.

Well, in accordance with the agreement we signed with the Krazy Kat Peoplez in order to obtain said kittens, a couple weeks ago we took them in to be fixed.  They returned home to Port Swiller Manor lively and in good spirits, but sporting those plastic cone thingies around their necks.  Teh vets gave strict instructions that said cones should remain around their necks for at least seven days in order that they could not lick their scars and cause infection.

Well.  I’ve dealt with a few feline fixin’s in the past, but this was the first time I’d ever seen teh cone treatment.

After five days of watching teh kittehs lumber around with their cones like a couple mini-pachyderms, ol’ Robbo got impatient. As I say,  I’d never heard of this kind of cramping before, and I was distressed that teh kittehs were so hampered in their day to day.  So, reckoning that we were close enough,  I took teh cones off.


Smooth sailing at first.   But a couple days later, Mrs. R took the kittehs back to the vet for their follow-up examinations, and damme if Ginger didn’t have an infected scar, teh infection apparently caused by her licking herself.  The result?  Both kittens must wear their cones another seven days, and strict instructions were sent back to Port Swiller Manor to the effect that idjit pet-owners must pay attention to what doc said to begin with and not mess about….

Sigh.  Whatevs…….

I will say this:  I find it intensely amusing, as a cynical non-cat type person, how much teh kittehs cozen up when I offer to scratch their ears for them (which they can’t reach themselves, of course.)  BFF’s when Robbo brings teh relief, but I’ve still no doubt that they’d rip my lungs out if I were small enough…..

Oh, me-ow.

haydn hardyGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was mulling this evening on the various slings and arrows that outrageous Fortune is wont to send down in our direction, and somehow or other shifted said mullings on to the musickal plane.

And here is what I came down to thinking:  I recognize the artistic superiority in every sense of ol’ Johann Sebastian Bach;  I love the theatricality of Handel;  I see the clean genius of Mozart and the rayther sullied same of Beethoven.  But you know what?  When it comes to everyday cares, when it comes to the true meat and potatoes of getting on prior to shuffling off our mortal coil here on Earth, when we sinful Men must answer the thousand questions associated with said getting on,  again and again I can’t help asking myself:  What would Papa Haydn do?

I can’t quite place my finger on it yet, but there is something about Haydn as a person and as an artist that reminds me of that exchange between Beatrice and Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing:

Beatrice: Good Lord for alliance! Thus goes everyone to the world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a corner and cry ‘heigh-ho!’ for a husband.

Don Pedro: Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

Beatrice: I would rather have one of your father’s getting. Hath your grace not a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.

Don Pedro: Will you have me, lady?

Beatrice: [pauses] No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days. Your Grace is too costly to wear everyday. But I beseech your Grace to pardon me; for I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.

Somehow, I always think of Papa as that working-days “another”.   And the humor and spirituality and humanity that he injected into his music, to say nothing of the technical expertise and wit, does very well indeed for the working day.


On an impulse, ol’ Robbo recently has reread the cycle of novels written by Charles Portis.  This time around, a funny little notion occurred to me.

The heroine of True Grit is named Mattie Ross.

The hero (anti-hero, really) of Portis’ next novel, The Dog of the South, is Ray Midge.

Both books are about journeys of revenge and retribution.  However, Mattie and Ray are near diametric opposites in just about every way imaginable.   She is strong and controlling.  He’s a drifting dweeb.  Her aim is a villain’s death.  He just wants his car and credit cards back.  And so on.

Now here’s the funny notion:  Their initials, respectively, are MR and RM.

Coincidence?  Quite possibly.  On the other hand, Portis is just the kind of meticulous, detail-oriented guy who would do something like that simply to amuse himself.

Okay, I said it was a little notion.  And I’m sure it’s not original.  But this is my blog (which is mine), so I’m a-mentioning it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, the title refers to a particularly squishy Christmas folk hymn that makes my toes curl, but since the stores have had their Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff out for a couple weeks already, I’m rolling with it.

So here are some things about which I’m wondering:

♦   It is the long-standing custom of our eldest cat, as soon as she senses I’m awake in the morning, to plant her considerably weight on my chest, purring loudly and trying to hypnotize me into getting up and feeding her.  Although my body is under the covers, does she have some sort of sense that she’s sitting on me, or is she just instinctively going for the high ground?  Personally, I think it’s the former because, well, because that’s just the sort of thing a cat would do.   If the latter, why wouldn’t she aim for the pillow instead?

♦   The construction code issued by our benevolent and paternalistic local gub’mint decrees that external staircases must include small lights in the faces of every other step, lest we rubes trip in the dark and break our necks.   The system on our new one leading down from the porch is supposed to work on a photo-electric sensor, flipping itself on automatically at dusk.  So far, this has not been the case.  Sometimes the lights come on in the middle of the afternoon.  Sometimes they don’t come on at all.  For some reason, this reminds me of the intercom systems that were a popular home innovation back in the day.  Never once did I ever come across such a system that actually worked.   To me, this was an early lesson in the importance of not being seduced by the “wonders” of technology.

♦   NPR nooz is carrying an item this morning about some gang-related mass shooting in a park on the south side of Chicago late last night that injured a large number of people, including a 3 y.o. boy, a fact highlighted by the announcer.  I assume NPR is leaning on this from the martyr angle (because gunz, you guys!!!11!!111!), but the question that came to my mind was:  What the hell is a toddler doing in a park in the middle of the night, anyway?  

I know, I know.  I denounce myself.

♦   And speaking of such things, they held a memorial service for the victims of the Navy Yard shootings down the Cathedral earlier this week.  A local nooz crew took some footage of the choristers rehearsing, and it made its way to YooToob.  Teh Middle Gel is on the right.  Enjoy!

Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is posting this evening right on the heals of a glorious double-header sweep today by his beloved Nationals of the cursed and politically incorrect Atlanta Braves.

As of this moment, although the numbers are not likely to hold, the Nats are only four games behind the Reds for the second NL wild card spot, with  (I believe) eleven games to go.   Eh, although I have no doubts whatsoever that these last two weeks are going to be about as impossible as hitting a small, ray-shielded exhaust port right above the main port,  I’m still all in for the attack run, repeatedly chanting to myself, “Use the Force, Davy! Use the Force!”  (I decline to provide the allusion-explaining link here.  Some of you will get it.  Others will not. I. Am not. A Geek.)

I will say this:  Robbo’s beloved Nats, although sputtering through much of the first two thirds of the season, have come on some kind of strong lately.  And even if the Imperial post-season race math defeats them in the end, so far as I’m concerned, they have nothing to be ashamed of this season.  Well, except starting out so slowly.

Anyhoo, whatever happens, happens.  I didn’t mean this to be a Nats booster post per se  (although it certainly can count for that).

No, what I really wanted to do was to restate one of Robbo’s Iron Rules:  Anyone who thinks baseball is a boring game is, to quote Jimmy Rabbitte, a fookin’ eedjit.

Thus and no farther.  It’s too late in the evening to elaborate in any way that will do justice.   All I know is that every single pitch by both teams in these games, plus the 3-D chess offensive and defensive strategies of both clubs associated with them, causes ol’ Robbo’s stomach ulcer to get just a leetle bit bigger.

It’s painful, but it’s deliciously painful.

Oh, and while I’m baseball blogging, what other way can I round things off than by saying,

GO, NATS!!!! 

Well, my fellow port swillers, an unexpected afternoon at Port Swiller Manor with a brace of tummy-troubled young ladies gives ol’ Robbo the opportunity to get away from his burrito-and-Taylor’s-fueled musings (which see below) and on to a different topic, namely some new-to-me reading.

In fact, I have finished three NTM books within the past couple days,  mini-reviews of which I am happy to share over the decanter.  (I apologize for not putting in the links.  Technical difficulties.)

The first book is George MacDonald Fraser’s Mr. American.   In it, a rich American westerner comes to England in 1909 in search of the village from which his family had emigrated originally in 1642, there to attempt to re-establish his name.  The plot follows his gradual introduction to the quirks of the various social strata of late-Edwardian Britain while at the same time gradually revealing his own past as a reformed outlaw and successful silver-miner.

All in all, while I enjoyed the book, I don’t think it is in the first rank of GMF’s output like the Flashman and McAuslan stories.   For one thing, it’s too damned long – nearly 600 pages in my copy – largely as a result of needless and annoying repetition, especially in the dialogue, and a veeeeery long set-up.  For another,  GMF’s strong suite is action/adventure of a lighter, swashbuckling style.  And while there certainly is some of that here, far more of the novel is devoted to the hero’s working out of his relations with the various people he meets in the Old Country, including the daughter of a somewhat down-at-heals country gentleman whom he eventually marries.    This leads to a good bit of the needless repetition mentioned.  It also leads to a lot of staring-into-the-distance-with-grey-gunslinger-eyes.   As a painter of complex personal and social relations among the upper classes, GMF ain’t no Thackeray.

Still, as I say, I enjoyed it.  For one thing, it’s full of lots of on-the-ground facts about the ordinary life of Britain on the cusp of WWI, as well as about the Old West.  (The hero had spent some of his yoot riding with the Wild Bunch, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)  The big political issues of the day – Irish Home Rule and the Suffragette Movement – both play a significant part in the plot, as does the death of the Edwardian Age and the birth of the (shudder) Modern Era.  And we are introduced to a number of famous persons of the times:  Edward VII (portrayed much more sympathetically than in the Flashy novels); a young Winston Churchill; G.B. Shaw; and, as a special guest, old General Flashman himself, to name but a few.   Finally, I don’t think I’ve come across a better portrayal of the horribly idiotic way Britain, indeed all of Europe, positively sleepwalked into the Great War.

All in all, I’d recommend it.

The second book is Tom Wolfe’s latest, Back to Blood.  I don’t know what to say about this one except that if you like Wolfe’s work, you’ll like it.  This time, our modern Petronius takes us on a tour of that 21st Century Gomorrah known as Miami, where he indulges himself in stark, lurid descriptions of racial tensions, “High Society” and its hangers-on, seamy low-end nightlife, Russian mafia machinations and ugly municipal politickal battles.   (The idea of old Tom – who must be pushing 80 – researching a strip club in order to gather atmosphere filled me with amusement.)   Somehow, I didn’t think it proper to read this book on Sundays.

Of note here is Wolfe’s characteristic use of language not only to tell the story, but to color it as well.  For example, early on we read a dialogue among three maritime patrol cops traveling at speed across Biscayne Bay.  The back and forth is punctured by frequent WHAMS! as their boat crashes across the wave-tops.  Very effective.  I think he’s getting better at this sort of thing.   And yes, he uses the word “Bango!” frequently, as he always has done.  So far as I know, he’s the sole proprietor of this particular interjection.

Finally, there’s Patton’s Drive:  The Making of America’s Greatest General by Alan Axelrod, a book lent to me by the Mothe when I visited her last month.    The book is pretty much what the title suggests:  A study of those qualities of Patton’s that made him such a successful and deadly warrior on the battlefield, but which also made him a first-class bastard to everyone around him, especially when he didn’t have Germans or Mexican bandits to kill.   Axelrod dabbles now and again in trying to find the root causes of these qualities, thereby causing me to brace up involuntarily.  I am not fond of psycho-analysis, especially of historickal psycho-analysis.   (I once read a book about Napoleon and Wellington that suggested the latter had some sort of suppressed sexual yearnings regarding the former.  Don’t ask.)   But overall, he doesn’t really stray too much into the realm of  such speculation.  Suffice to say, Patton was a real shite.  Just thank God that he was our real shite.

Oh, one thing about this book:  There is a fairly detailed description of Patton’s Third Army’s breakout from Normandy and subsequent sweep to the Rhine (with, of course, a sidestep for the relief of Bastogne).   Nicely done, but some maps would have been helpful.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not eternally damned.  Well (rolls eyes), not yet anyway.  But I did have rayther a terrifying dream on the topic Sunday night.

The first and shadier part of the dream seemed to be all about temptation.  I recall that I was in what I recognized as Port Swiller Manor and I could somehow feel or see a Presence around me.  This Presence was urging me to do bad things, suggesting that if I did what it wanted, I would get all kinds of power and pleasure as a reward.   And I also recall an answering voice inside of me that at once spurned the Presence, but at the same time…..well, liked being courted.   For a while, these two sensations – the spurning and the enjoyment – were oh-so-delicately balanced against each other that with my mind I could push one way and the other, back and forth across a kind of mental knife-point.  Part of me knew perfectly well what the stakes were and that I was  playing with fire, but part of me, well, didn’t mind so much.

Eventually, I found myself standing next to a very fat man and holding a scalpel to his neck.  All I had to do, said the Presence, was slice some bits of flab off the fellah.  By so doing, not only would I, well, acknowledge the Presence’s authority, but it promised that I also would get a lot of pleasure  in the process.  This’ll be fuuuuun, it said.

It was at that point that another, much clearer voice, said, “Good God, no it wouldn’t!  Why on earth am I even thinking about this?”

At that, the dream switched to a second, much clearer part.  Here, I found myself in the Mawster Bawthroom looking down at a grate in the floor.   Peering up from under teh grate was the head of a man which gradually (I swear I’m not making this up) took on the shape of Keanu Reeves.   I was given to understand that here was another man who actually had accepted the bargain offered by the Presence (or, as I now plainly started to think of him, the devil), and having enjoyed some years of cruelty and high living, had just discovered that the devil was calling in his tab.

The man wasn’t frightened, however, he was furious.   He seemed to think that the devil had somehow cheated him over some part of their agreement and kept yelling, “You’re a liar!  You’re a liar!” over and over.

As I stared down at him, water started swirling up, gradually rising from his chest to his neck and then creeping up toward his upturned face.  At the same time, I was aware of a kind of low, omnipresent rumble that gradually got louder and louder, signifying an approaching doom.

“Good God, man,” I thought to myself, “Repent! Repent!  It’s so easy! All you have to do is say you’re sorry!”

But the man was so consumed with his anger, so blind to anything other than his grievance that he had been cheated, that he had no room in his brain for anything else and he kept on bawling his accusations.  The last thing I remember was the water swirling over his face as he continued to rage and then the whole picture becoming a blur.

And then, as they say, I woke up.  Somewhat alarmed, as you might imagine.

Cor lumme if I know what brought that one on.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Teh middle gel tasked me this morning with the fact that I haven’t posted much recently and also tried to tag me with guilt over the supposed disappointment that said lack of content is causing to the dozen or so friends of the decanter who “follower” your humble host here.

Well,  who am I to deny me publick, even if it consists largely of one manipulative 13 y.o. daughter?

Actually, as far as substantive content goes, I’ve got a couple book reviews in mind plus some commentary on various pressing politickal issues.  However,  since it’s pretty late and also since they seem to be a pretty big draw here, I will instead relay yet another one of my bizarro dreams, which I had in the last couple days.

In this one, I was somewhere in the Holy Land.  A complaint was going around that the waters which were supposed to flow into various pools were not coming down from their source because somebody had forgotten to open a stopcock at the base of the source from which all these pools were supplied.   The multiple voices in my dream (straight out of the extra casting in The Ten Commandments)  clamored for somebody to hike up the valley and attend to the matter.

Finally, a tall Scotswoman volunteered that she would undertake the task.   I think that she was a nun.  At any rate, I recall that she wore a wimple.   (As an aside, I know where the tall Scotswoman came from:  Peej O’Rourke wrote in his Holidays in Hell of encountering such a person in the early 80’s at the border crossing between Lebanon and Israel.  I had reread that book within the past couple weeks.  The nunnage seems to have been of my own devising.)

Anyhoo, I next recall following said Scotswoman up a long series of rocky valleys.  Finally, we reached the source lake.   I had an idea that I knew where the stopcock was and started poking around at the base of a rock wall, looking for a particular stone I knew needed to be turned.  The Scotswoman, on the other hand, claiming she knew what she was doing, directed my attention to a set of PVC pipes projecting out of a different outcrop.   I looked at the plumbing and thought to myself, “Naaaw, that’s just a potty!  That’s not what we’re looking for…it’s too artificial!”

With that, I turned around and started walking back down the valley we’d come up.  I remember looking at various ridges, rocks, ponds and marshes and thinking how lovely they all were.  All of them were framed in that late-day bright light that one sometimes sees and which seems to pick out every detail.  Dunno what happened to the Scotswoman or to her quest to open the stopcock.  All I remember thinking was that somehow in the end it really didn’t matter that much.

And then, as they say, I woke up.

So there you have it.    Armchair Freudians may forge ahead.  Other readers who would rather see some pics of the new Port Swiller Manor porch or our two cute new kittehs can leave comments urging teh middle gel to forward said pics to ol’ Robbo so that I can post them here.  B’lieve me – your voices make a difference.




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September 2013