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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Just off to do yard work.
As part of the basement repair at Port Swiller Manor, the workmen had to tear out all the foundation plantings along the front of the house. Among the victims were a couple of azaleas, which they dug out whole and left sitting on modestly substantial root balls.
Well, it seems after a week or more that these azaleas are no worse for their experience, but continue happy. So one of the things I’m doing today is wrapping their roots up in trash bags, watering them and moving them around to another location, to be replanted once external construction is over and done with.
Thus, I have learned something about transplanting azaleas.
Labor Day weekend is also the traditional start date for my annual resolve to finally dig up and separate the peonies out back. Every year I tell myself that this is the year I will do it. And every year, I reach a point after a few weeks of thinking, eh, maybe next year. It’s just a thing.
An opera lover beat a cabbie over the head with his ornate walking stick and swore at him because he feared he would miss a performance of Puccini.
Peter Williamson, a retired doctor, swore at the cab driver as he shouted at him and asked where they were going because he feared he would be late for the open air show in Holland Park, west London.
The physicist, who is a fellow with the Royal Institution, was turfed out of the taxi after launching a tirade of abuse at driver Kevin Johnson.
After dropping Williamson at a cash point on Kensington High Street, Mr Johnson saw Williamson walk past the machine, so climbed out of the car to point him in the right direction.
But Williamson raised his stick above his head and struck his head with the handle, leaving him bleeding and needing stiches.
At a hearing at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court Williamson admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The court heard he had been keen to see a performance of one of Puccini’s lesser known works, ‘The Girl of the Golden West.’
Mozart or Monteverdi, I perhaps could understand. But Puccini? Really?
Incidentally, the fellah was trying to get to the open-air opera center in Holland Park. I don’t even know if this place existed when I spent a year in London back in ’87-’88, but I used to go to the open-air theater in Regents Park no great distance away to see performances of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and others, and the shows were more than once disrupted by air traffic going in and out of Heathrow. When it got bad, the actors would simply stop and wait for the roar to subside. How do you do that with an opera?
UPDATE: As long as I’m on bombastic, diva-driven 19th Century opera (of which I am not a fan, in case you haven’t cottoned yet), let me just stick in this extremely short clip from the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera. (It became something of a Thing in the Robbo Family Household in my misspent yoot.) In the immortal words of the New Yorker’s review, “doing to ‘Il Trovatore‘ what ought to be done to ‘Il Trovatore‘”.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The appearance of buses doing dummy runs on the streets round Port Swiller Manor, coupled with the rash of “Let Me Show Off My Kids” posts on Face Book and elsewhere, reminds ol’ Robbo that the balloon is just about to go up for yet another school year. That being the case, kindly indulge me in my own LMSOMK post here.
This year the gels will be in 11th, 9th and 7th grades. Yes, I now O-fficially have two high schoolers and a middle schooler. (Funny, because it seems like just yesterday that I was posting about diapers and Wiggles concerts.) And not just high and middle schoolers, but female high and middle schoolers. As I remarked to Mrs. Robbo the other day after breaking up yet another cat fight, “You know, boys just punch each other and have it done with.”
Anyhoo, the breakdown:
Along about the last quarter of last year, the Eldest Gel decided that for college she’d really like to attend Mrs. Robbo’s alma mater. At the same time, the penny dropped that if she actually wanted to get in, she’d better start doing something about it academically and extra-curricularly.¹ As a result, she started exerting some effort, and her grades began to climb. She goes into this year knowing exactly what she needs to do, and I think having a concrete goal will help her achieve it.
The Middle Gel moves to the Upper School on her campus and also is now a Senior Chorister down the Cathedral. Between the additional school work at the former and the many more practices and performances at the latter than she had in middle school, her life basically won’t be her own until next June. (For example, she’ll be singing “The Messiah” at Christmas. They’re also scheduled to perform during the year at Strathmore and Carnegie Hall.) Perhaps that’s why she’s been cramming in as many reruns of “
Dr. Dok-Tor Who” as possible these last few weeks.
The Youngest Gel is bouncing off the ceiling with excitement to begin middle school. She tested into the local G/T program and also is planning to take up both the cello and cross-country running (moving on to crew in high school). Recently she’s been consumed with getting herself organized to take it all on. She and the Eldest Gel have a bad case of Sibling J. Rivalry, and her chief motivation to excel seems to be an overwhelming desire to wipe the Eldest’s eye. Hey, whatever works, right?
So, as the late, great Johnny Olson used to say on “The Price Is Right”, “Heeeeeere we goooooooo…….”
¹Legacies ain’t what they used to be. However, it certainly can’t hurt that not only is Mrs. R a Vixen, so are Robbo’s Sistah, Robbo’s Sistah’s Mother-in-Law, the Eldest Gel’s godmother and the Middle Gel’s godmother. And ol’ Robbo himself is an honorary member of the school’s theatrical tap club, Paint & Patches. So we got that going for us.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! Via the Puppy-Blender, ol’ Robbo found himself reading this fascinating article today: The Kennewick Man Finally Freed To Share His Secrets.
Remember Kennewick Man? He was a 9000 year old skeleton that turned up on the banks of the Columbia River during the Bubba Clinton years. When the remains were first discovered, they produced a good deal of consternation among forensic anthropologists because he didn’t seem to look anything like the usual ancestral “Native” American. The Army Corp of Engineers and several local tribes sought to get him put right back in the ground P.D.Q. without further study, but the scientists who got their mitts on him pushed back.
The kerfluffle, about which I read a couple articles in the WSJ at the time, sank beneath the surface after a short while and I had more or less forgot about it myself, but it seems that the scientists actually won. And get this: Kennewick Man looked different because he was different:
As work progressed, a portrait of Kennewick Man emerged. He does not belong to any living human population. Who, then, are his closest living relatives? Judging from the shape of his skull and bones, his closest living relatives appear to be the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands, a remote archipelago 420 miles southeast of New Zealand, as well as the mysterious Ainu people of Japan.
“Just think of Polynesians,” said [anthropologist Douglas] Owsley, [of the Smithsonian Institution].
Not that Kennewick Man himself was Polynesian. This is not Kon-Tiki in reverse; humans had not reached the Pacific Islands in his time period. Rather, he was descended from the same group of people who would later spread out over the Pacific and give rise to modern-day Polynesians. These people were maritime hunter-gatherers of the north Pacific coast; among them were the ancient Jōmon, the original inhabitants of the Japanese Islands. The present-day Ainu people of Japan are thought to be descendants of the Jōmon. Nineteenth-century photographs of the Ainu show individuals with light skin, heavy beards and sometimes light-colored eyes.
Jōmon culture first arose in Japan at least 12,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 16,000 years ago, when the landmasses were still connected to the mainland. These seafarers built boats out of sewn planks of wood. Outstanding mariners and deep-water fishermen, they were among the first people to make fired pottery.
The discovery of Kennewick Man adds a major piece of evidence to an alternative view of the peopling of North America. It, along with other evidence, suggests that the Jōmon or related peoples were the original settlers of the New World. If correct, the conclusion upends the traditional view that the first Americans came through central Asia and walked across the Bering Land Bridge and down through an ice-free corridor into North America.
Sometime around 15,000 years ago, the new theory goes, coastal Asian groups began working their way along the shoreline of ancient Beringia—the sea was much lower then—from Japan and Kamchatka Peninsula to Alaska and beyond. This is not as crazy a journey as it sounds. As long as the voyagers were hugging the coast, they would have plenty of fresh water and food. Cold-climate coasts furnish a variety of animals, from seals and birds to fish and shellfish, as well as driftwood, to make fires. The thousands of islands and their inlets would have provided security and shelter. To show that such a sea journey was possible, in 1999 and 2000 an American named Jon Turk paddled a kayak from Japan to Alaska following the route of the presumed Jōmon migration. Anthropologists have nicknamed this route the “Kelp Highway.”
“I believe these Asian coastal migrations were the first,” said Owsley. “Then you’ve got a later wave of the people who give rise to Indians as we know them today.”
He goes on to theorize that these early migrants, never large in number, were possibly swamped by the later, larger waves of immigrants coming over the Bering Land Bridge.
How cool is that?
We have no problem with theorizing about waves of emigration into Europe and Asia out of Africa, or even with speculation about the relations between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal. Why should early human migration into the Americas be any less mosaic?
Read the whole thing for a discussion of teh research and a history of the attempts of the Powers That Be to repress it. As you might imagine, it’s a story of politicks poisoning science.
Per the recommendation of one of you friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo popped Tampopo into his DVD player this evening.
This was the first time I’d seen this movie.
I got the whole “noodle western/ Seven Samurai” vibe. Indeed, so far as these things went, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And I loved the whole cooking theme. Fact, it made me downright hungry.
What I didn’t get was the whole voluptuary playboy side story. Lots of gratuitous salt n’ lemon, and passing back and forth of egg yolks, but where, exactly, was the connection to the main plot? I kept waiting for some kind of showdown between Voluptuous Boy and Tampopo’s cowboy-hatted backer, but no such dice. Voluptuous Boy [SPOILER ALERT!!] dies in a hail of bullets which, unless I’ve missed something, are completely irrelevant to the plot.
Also, I missed the relevance of the Rich Old Lady who went about putting her thumb-prints in various delicacies.
Never mind, an enjoyable evening and a glass of wine with whomever of you suggested this flick!
Earlier today ol’ Robbo found himself hobnobbing with the youngest gel (who starts middle school in a week) about seasonal preferences. It turns out that we agree, ranking them from best to worst thusly: Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer.
We seem to have arrived at several of our preferences based on very different criteria (for instance, questions of wardrobe possibilities heavily influence teh gel’s thinking while mine not so much), but we agree about summer. It’s too darn hot.
Now long time friends of the decanter will recall that one of Robbo’s stock summah memes involves bitching about the iron fist of Heat Miser and all the misery it causes round here. However, as I reminded the gel, you certainly couldn’t level such criticism at the Summah of 2014, at least as experienced in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Indeed, it’s been almost ridiculously pleasant, with relatively few 90+ degree days and, so far as I can recollect, absolutely no triple-digit heat. And at the moment, we are experiencing weather more typical of the second half of September than August.
Indeed, if summah were always so pleasant round here, I would have no cause to complain whatsoever.
Of course, I know that hasn’t been and isn’t going to be the case, and that my tradition of griping posts will resume at some point in the future. Indeed, we are being told these days by Top Men that all that Global Warming hasn’t gone away, but instead is just hiding at the moment – somewhere in the Marianas Trench or under Mt. Everest or in Birnam Wood or the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51 or something, I don’t quite recall – and is only waiting the psychological moment to burst forth again, shouting, “Boo! Ha, ha,ha! Should have listened to Al Gore and Michael Mann, you selfish, ignorant wing-nuts! You are so toast now!”
Eh, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying the moment.
Speaking of which, here’s a question for you Tolkien sharks out there. There are several instances in the Lord of the Rings (I refer to the books, of course) in which it is suggested that Sauron at least influences, if not specifically directs, the weather. The snow storm at the Red Horn Gate comes to mind, as does the big thunderstorm at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. But I’ve always wondered about the extremely pleasant summer in the Shire in the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring that contributes to Frodo’s stalling around before he finally sets out on his initial journey. Just coincidence? Or is some malevolent force at work? And if so, why? Keep Frodo at home long enough for the Nazgul to get there? Is the Ring doing it? Can Sauron influence the weather that far away and does he have sufficient information (from Gollum’s torture) to make such specific arrangements? And can he create conditions that seem fair without feeling foul? There’s no hint of anything evil about that summer in the Shire. Then again, perhaps nobody was looking for it.
I throw all this out just by way of musing. And speaking of which, if you are both a Tolkien Geek and a Weather Nerd like ol’ Robbo, you’ll probably want to read this article.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Rain and fog all day today allowed ol’ Robbo to duck his usual Saturday task of laboring in the demesne with a clear conscience, that and the detritus of basement reconstruction scattered over so much of it. So instead, I spent the day lounging in the hammock and rereading a couple of old favorites.
One was P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred In The Springtime, which I believe to be the first full-length novel (although he had appeared in at least one earlier short story) concerning the exploits of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham who, although mature in years, continues to maintain the outlook “of a slightly inebriate undergraduate”. The book was published in 1938 and I have often argued that Plum was at the very top of his form in the 30’s and early 40’s. Not only is this one from that period, but so are such standouts as Hot Water, Heavy Weather, The Code of teh Woosters (the best Bertie and Jeeves story, IMHO) and Money In The Bank.
The other was Robert Graves’ Count Belisarius, which tells the story of the famous Byzantine general who won back great chunks of the Roman Empire under Justinian the Great, only to be blinded and beggared at the end of his life. It’s very well written and the campaigns are quite exciting, but the court intrigue gets to be a bit much and Graves also seems to take a grim pleasure in sneering at Christianity as it struggles to sort out orthodoxy from the various heresies that plagued the age, suggesting that most of the True Believers involved were either hypocrites or lunatics or both. (Graves, in many of his writings, was very keen on the notion that Christianity stole many of its elements and symbols from older and somehow more “authentic” pagan worship, particularly that of an all-encompassing three-in-one White Goddess native to the Eastern Mediterranean.)
So there was that.
On a different note, because our basement is still all ahoo, we still don’t have cable in the house. This has been causing some consternation on the part of the Middle Gel because this evening is the premiere episode of the newest incarnation of the Doctor and the gel has this year become an almost rabid Whovian. However, being the resourceful type that she is, she solved this problem by diplomatically getting herself and Mrs. Robbo invited to a friend’s house for pizza and the big screening. (It was diplomatic because, prior to the gel working her Big Magic, I don’t believe the friend was even aware of being a Dr. Who fan. On the other hand, teh gel has been showing Mrs. R reruns in an effort to, ah, indoctrinate her. I don’t know how successful this effort has been.)
Me, since I’ve been being cultured and stuff all day, I think I’m just going to hold the fort here at Port Swiller Manor and probably indulge in some “Arrested Development” reruns.
Well, well! It looks like there’s a new meme in this little corner of the innertoobz, as both Zoopraxiscopean Don and GorT have alighted on a Popular Mechanics article about the 50 “greatest” Sci-Fi teevee shows. As they did, I will offer my two cents on those shows about which I have any thoughts and or memories:
49. “Land of the Lost” – Of course I watched this as a kid. Grumpy the T-Rex gave me the willies. After a while I lost interest because the story arc about the Sleestax just kept getting weirder and weirder and to have less and less to do with, you know, dinosaurs. (I seem to recall an animated series about a family that gets swept into a dinosaur-infested valley that ran about the same time as well. Can’t recall its name.)
48. “Space: 1999” – I recall watching it only because it was on locally before “Star Trek: TOS”. I didn’t think it bad, but it never took root in the Robbo braim.
47. “The Six-Million Dollar Man” – Classic stuff. When one goes into slow motion and starts saying, “NUH,nuh,nuh,nuh, nuh…..”, everybody of teh right age will know exactly why. I also had the Steve Austin
doll action figure, complete with bionic eye.
45. “Knight Rider” – Ooh, watch out for that mean-looking truck, Michael!
36. “Buck Rodgers In The 25th Century” – Col. Deering. Mmmmm…..Col. Deering. (One of my first blog experiences was a bitter debate over the relative merits of Wilma Deering and Princess Ardala.)
32. “Star Trek: Voyager” – A lot of Trekkies claim this was the worst of all the series. I’m not really sure why, as it was usually entertaining/exciting enough when I dropped in. Plus, three words: Seven Of Nine.
31. “Lost In Space” – I think it was from this series that I first learned what “camp” means in the entertainment context. And to this day, I still sometimes flail my arms about chanting, “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” Oh, and young “Johnny” Williams stole quotes straight out of Mussorsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for some of the incidental musick.
30. “Battlestar Galactica” (1978-1979) – I loved this show and everything about it (except Boxy and the Daggitt). Required viewing for me. I bought and built models of a Colonial Viper and a Cylon ship. I even bought the soundtrack album and played it over and over again. That’s how into it I was.
29. “Futurama” – Another favorite. My eldest gel in particular cannot understand how something so well done can continue to get cancelled for lack of audience ratings. In this, she is getting her first lesson in the difference between what is good quality and what is merely popular.
13. “V” (1983-1985) – Like “Battlestar Galactica”, another Humanity Overcoming Attempts At Oppression story, only this time set on Earth. I don’t remember much anymore, but liked it a lot at the time, perhaps in part because of the cat-fighting alien leader chicks. (Robbo is really a pretty simple fellah when it comes down to it.)
11. “Firefly” – I came to this late (long after it had been cancelled), but liked it enough to buy the DVD box set and run through it every couple of months or so. I thought the series superior to the movie (“Serenity”).
6. “Star Trek: TOS” – One of the major influences on my misspent yoot. I’d say that a lot of the “messaging” in TOS probably went rocketing right over my young head, as I was more in love just with the concept of the Enterprise traveling across the heavens. Oh, and let me be clear about something here: There is only one James Tiberius Kirk. When I become emperor of the world, “reboots” will constitute a flogging offense.
3. “Star Trek: NG” – I will give the series credit. After its first few seasons going over the top trying to establish its liberal creds, it eventually calmed down and got somewhat better. (It remained rooted in progressivist utopian fantasy, of course, but stopped beating teh drum so damned hard.) You can follow Troi’s costume as a kind of barometer of this transformation. In the early shows, she sported that home-spun hippy looking body suit. Eventually, they put her back in a regulation uniform (and focused less on what she was “sensing” of everybody’s “feelings”). Of the movies, I think “First Contact” was probably the best.
1. “Dr. Who” – Well, yes. I was a pretty big Tom Baker fan back in the day, but haven’t paid any attention in years. Meanwhile, teh Middle Gel has become an outright fanatic.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, the renovation of the flooded basement at Port Swiller Manor has now achieved official “Port-o-John on the Driveway” status, which in an odd way makes ol’ Robbo feel like a grown-up.
They’ve taken out all the flooring and drywall now, plus clipped off the bottom part of the framing (which, we found, was built with non-pressure treated wood by our old handyman) and dug a hole in teh floor for the sump pump. They’ve also dug a trench outside parts of the house to come at the non-exposed exterior walls in order to repair them. With a certain amount of imagination, it looks something like a moat. At least it would work as a serviceable defense against the Underpants Gnomes.
Hopefully, they’ll be ready to start actually building things shortly.
And speaking of medieval military practices, I note that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, fought this day in 1485. I must say that for all I know of the battle’s political importance, I am almost completely ignorant of its actual tactical unfolding. If memory serves, the recent exhumation and autopsy of Richard III revealed that he had died of blunt trauma to the skull and also suffered several other wounds, suggesting that he was in the thick of the fighting as a good king ought to have been in those days. (C.S. Lewis, in The Horse and His Boy, has one of his characters remark that the King should be first in the charge and last in the retreat.) Anybody know any good sources on this battle in particular and/or on 15th Century warfare in general?
By the way, the word “medieval” nowadays of course has negative connotations, suggesting that which is ignorant, crude, superstitious and cruel. I’m increasingly of the opinion championed by Lewis and others that the High Middle Ages were far, far better times than now commonly supposed in terms of sophistication of thought, richness of life and spiritual balance and health, and that the negative slur comes from those Enlightenment Humanists and their modern spawn who thought and think they could build an earthly Paradise based on Reason only.
Take a good, hard, honest look at the state of Western Civilization and tell me there’s not something to this.
Ol’ Robbo snuck out of work a bit early this afternoon to go see his beloved Nationals take on the Diamondbacks of Arizona in the fourth and last game of this week’s series.
Although the original plan was for the entire Port Swiller Family to meet at Nats Park to enjoy the game together, circumstances too complicated to go into here caused the party to be whittled down to the Middle Gel and Self (together with friends we had planned to meet there). Never mind, a good time was had by all, despite the fact that it rained periodically throughout the game.
Now permit me to offer up some statistics for your consideration:
The Nats won 1-0, thus sweeping the series. This is the third series in a row we’ve swept and we are on a 10-game winning streak. Without looking it up, I believe this ties a franchise record.
The win was a walk-off, making five walk-off wins in the last six games.¹ I read yesterday that the Nats were only one of three teams in the past 20 years to win 4 out of 5 by walk-offs. I’ve got to guess that this latest lifts us even higher in the realm of statistical achievements. (UPDATE: Apparently, it hasn’t happened since 1986.)
The Nats now have the best record in the National League and, if I count correctly, the fourth best record in MLB.
We are, as of this writing at least, 7 1/2 games up on Atlanta.
I say all this NOT to boast, brag, draw conclusions about the rest of the season, or in any other way to offend the Baseball Gods.² Rayther, I do so to make a simple point: For Nats fans, life is pretty durn good at the moment.³ (And anyway, those who stayed loyal to the team through those awful years of the mid-2000’s – among whom I think I am perfectly justified including the Family Robbo – have earned this, dammit.)
Anyhoo, this afternoon was Ian Desmond Bobblehead giveaway day at Nats Park. “Desi”, for those of you who don’t know, is the Nats’ shortstop, one of the best glove men in the league and a solid hitter to boot. As he has matured, he has become an anchor for the team and is one of the most beloved players on the roster.
So you can imagine that Desi’s bobble head would be a big draw, even for a Thursday afternoon game. And you would be correct – paid attendances was somewhere around 32,500. Ol’ Robbo was certainly keen to get his mitts on one.
Now. About these promotions, I was always under the impression that the rule was supposed to be one item per one person coming through the gate, period. Nonetheless, and perhaps it’s because Desi is such a big part of the team, I couldn’t help noticing that a great many fans seemed to be in possession of multiple bobble head boxes. Several times I saw people coming up the stairs with five, six or seven of them stuffed under their arms or in bags. Of course, there might be some perfectly innocent reason for this, but the general trend seemed to suggest that these folks were bagging duplicates for…..people who didn’t bother to show up for the game.
I’m not talking about the E-Bay sharks here, nor about the folks who sell or trade their gifts to the hawkers out on Half Street as they head up to the metro. That sort of thing is always going to happen. No, I’m talking about what are supposed to be upstanding, law-abiding Family Folk who seem to be storing the things up like chipmunks for future distribution to sisters, cousins and aunts and others.
This rankes ol’ Robbo. There’s a limited supply of these things each time, and it seems only fair that they should be rewarded first and foremost to those who make the effort to attend the game. As I say, there was a paid attendance of something north of 32k. There were only 25k bobble heads available. Simple math says that some folks who made it to the game did not get their treats.
That’s pretty hard cheese for some fans. And so far as I’m concerned, it isn’t right.
¹ I’m aware that, originally, the term “walk off” only applied to game-winning home runs, that it recently has come to mean any offensive play that wins the game for the home team in the bottom of the 9th, and that this has sparked controversy between purists and revisionists. I can’t say that I’ve formulated a position on this myself. The Nats won the last game we attended (last Saturday) on a “walk-off” ground rule double that scored a runner from 2nd. They won this evening on a “walk-off” errant throw from 3rd to 1st that scored a runner from 2nd. FWIW, the term “walk-off error” just doesn’t seem right to ol’ Robbo.
² Did I ever mention the time a couple years ago when the eldest gel was in parochial school and tried to get ol’ Robbo in trouble with Father Scalia (yes, those Scalias) by ratting me out for “believing” in Baseball Gods? Without missing a beat, Father S said to her, “Of COURSE there are Baseball Gods.” Bless you, Padre.
³ What else is there to say but