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Either ol’ Robbo is getting more efficient in his yard work or else I’ve finally moved the goalposts sufficiently, but I find that I’m getting a heck of a lot done out in the grounds of Port Swiller Manor this year.  Here it is the end of May and I’ve got the garden thoroughly under control weed-wise and the lawn up to date, with time left over to get at some other projects that have hung fire for a while.

One of these is the lone pine tree in a yard otherwise given over to a fringe of maple and oak.  It’s something between fifty and sixty feet tall and has been the source of greens for my Advent and Christmas table wreaths for years.

Two or three years back, however, I noticed that the lower limbs of the thing were starting to look aged and worn out, losing their needles and starting to die off.  I don’t know if this is just a thing with pine trees, whether the ivy that was starting to work its way up the trunk was somehow choking them off, or if some other ailment was involved.

This weekend, deciding that the thing was getting decidedly ratty in the knickers, I determined to go out and do something about cleaning it up.  So I pulled out my trusty little hand saw and, starting low, proceeded to start lopping off dead limbs.  (I also yanked the ivy, just in case.)  For each, I left a short stump protruding from the trunk, in part because the diameters were a bit smaller several inches out and I’m not as young as I used to be, and in part because I recognized that they would make an excellent ladder by which to get myself to the ones higher up.  The top dead branches were maybe twelve to fifteen feet above the ground.

Now I must sidestep here for just a second.  For those of you who don’t know, ol’ Robbo’s chief physical defect is his very bad eyesight.  (We’ve no space to go into his mental defects here, which are Legion, and anyway they’re beside the point.)  I’ve worn corrective lenses since third grade.  My sight is so feeble now that my fingers go blurry five inches from my face.   Things farther than a few feet away are mere colored blobs.  It’s that bad.

Normally, I wear contacts.  But on the weekends, unless I’m corralled into some kind of social event or off to Mass, I usually give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses.  Despite all the sooper-modern lens-thinning technology, these are right coke bottle bottoms.  If they’d have been made the old-fashioned way, they’d probably break the bridge of my nose.

So any road, there I was, about fifteen feet up the tree, busily sawing away at a limb with one hand while clinging to another with the other hand, when my glasses, spotting an opportunity, decided to make a bolt for it and fell off my face.

Whoops.

I’ve had them fall off before, of course, but never in a situation quite like this one.  It’s wonderfully humbling, a gentle reminder of how frail and fragile we really are.

As I slowly made my way down, largely by the Braille method, all sorts of thoughts about Ma Nature’s ways of dealing with the old, the hurt and the sick wandered through my brain.  I had visions of being easy meat for a velociraptor or a sabre-toothed tiger, an Iroquois scalp-hunter or a mugger.  And this was just in a suburban yard.  I can’t imagine what it would have felt like had I been in some inner-city hell hole or on a cliff-face or in the middle of the Serengeti or at sea.

Anyhoo, I eventually got myself down in one piece and, after scrabbling about in the undergrowth for a bit, found the damned things.  Slapping them back on, I quickly looked round to make sure there were no inbound red toothes or claws and then got on with the job.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening ol’ Robbo went down the Cathedral to take part in the annual end-of-year choir pot-luck and concert, an event he has come to thoroughly enjoy.  After the meal, more or less, the boys and girls put on performances of various pieces they’ve worked up (sometimes at the last minute), some serious and some silly.

For one of her entries, teh Middle Gel, along with two of her mates, served up this lovely setting of the Ave Maria by Jaques Arcadelt (1507-1568).  No, I’d never heard of him, either, since my knowledge of Renaissance musick really only centers around the great English composers of the period.  It’s only when you get to Monteverdi that I start picking up on Continentals.  Anyhoo, here’s what Wiki has to say about him:

Jacques Arcadelt (also Jacob Arcadelt; c. 1507 – 14 October 1568) was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, and principally known as a composer of secular vocal music. Although he also wrote sacred vocal music, he was one of the most famous of the early composers of madrigals; his first book of madrigals, published within a decade of the appearance of the earliest examples of the form, was the most widely printed collection of madrigals of the entire era. In addition to his work as a madrigalist, and distinguishing him from the other prominent early composers of madrigals – Philippe Verdelot and Costanzo Festa – he was equally prolific and adept at composing chansons, particularly late in his career when he lived in Paris.

Arcadelt was the most influential member of the early phase of madrigal composition, the “classic” phase; it was through Arcadelt’s publications, more than those of any other composer, that the madrigal became known outside of Italy. Later composers considered Arcadelt’s style to represent an ideal; later reprints of his first madrigal book were often used for teaching, with reprints appearing more than a century after its original publication.

So there you are.  The Gel, by the way, took the top soprano part and sang divinely as per usual.  (She has a cold, poor thing, and was not much satisfied with her performance, but I thought it very good.)

UPDATE:  I see where the video has been blocked. Well, you’ll just have to be on your honor to go over to YooToob and look it up for yourselves.  Remember, this material will be on the final.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are off this evening,  so it looks like I’ll be dipping back into the Netflix queue.  Next up is “Bridge on the River Kwai”.  Heck of a long film, but I find that if you fast-forward through the bits where William Holden is standing around looking moody, the thing is more manageable.

In the meantime, I see that there has been some crowing and gnashing of teeth (depending on your point of view) over a Gallup poll out this week that purports to show that the country is shifting left on many moral issues.  The poll has been being conducted annually since 1999 and claims that this year, for the first time, social liberals and social conservatives are “at parity”.

Frankly, I don’t think I buy this.  On the one hand, I believe there’s no question that what I might call Left-libertinism has become more and more fashionable in recent years thanks to the cheerleading from the gub’mint, the academy, the MSM and Hollywood.  On the other, though, I can’t help wondering if the supposed decline in the number of people holding conservative social values isn’t really a decline in willingness to answer pollster questions about such values.  In an interview this week, Marco Rubio said that mainstream Christianity is on the verge of being tagged as “hate speech”.  Whether this is a correct assessment or not (and, FWIW, I think it is), my observation suggests that a good many people believe it and are simply clamming up.

Personally, I never answer polls or surveys, nor do I discuss moral or politickal issues with anyone outside my family or close, trusted friends.  Long-time friends of the decanter will know that, even in more-or-less bloggy anonymity, I have cut back steadily on commentary about such matters here since 2008, and that this place is nothing like the flesh-flying-out-the-windows-inconveniencing-the-passers-by air of the ol’ Llama Central before that.   That’s no accident.  Prudence, i.e., the protection of my family from harassment, calls for it.   On the other hand, I, of course, strive to keep the candle lit and on a candlestick to give light to all within Port Swiller Manor.  Eh, what can you do?

The punch line, to which I turn for comfort repeatedly, is that Truth is Truth no matter what fashion or the law says, and that it will prevail in the end.  You can’t take the sky from me.

Now, off to the movies….

 

DaisyGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Meet Daisy*.  Daisy is seven years old, purported to be a mix of golden retriever and spaniel.  You can see from this pic why this claim has some merit.  She’s about the size of a spaniel and has the ears.  At the same time, she also plainly has many golden qualities.  What you can’t see is that she has the big, feathery, golden paws and almost no tail to speak of, but both of these elements further affirming the proposition.

Now ol’ Robbo grew up with dogs and loves them, and it has been an ongoing lament of his that he has not had one as a pet since he left home for college some 32 years ago.  Of course, during school the idea was out of the question for fairly obvious reasons.  Post-educational acquisition was long out of the question too, however, in that Mrs. R had no doggie background and was little interested.  After long argument, I at last recently got her to agree, in principle, to maybe have a go at what we came to call a “starter” dog, i.e., one that was older, broken in, disciplined in all the necessities, and not in need of hands-on training.**

Our soft target for said starter dog was when teh Eldest Gel went away to college (or elsewhere), a year and a half from now.  What I did not expect was said starter showing up at Port Swiller Manor this weekend.

Suffice to say, whatever the cause, ol’ Robbo generally hates surprises.

After I had finished heaving the crockery, however, I began to see our acquisition of Daisy as an act of mercy.  It seems that Mrs. R picked her up from the pound.  She had been the pet of another family who were switching apartments, and, apparently, the new digs did not accept pets.  Hence, the heave-ho.  How anyone can do that to a dog is beyond me, but of course I know nothing of all the circs.  Suffice to say, it was not a good thing for Daisy.

Anyhoo, I’m happy to report that Daisy seems to be fitting in just fine.  She’s a gentle, genial thing and, discounting the trauma of landing in a completely new environment,  pretty laid back.  Indeed, she has glommed on hard to teh younger gels, especially teh middle one, going so far as to sneak the latter’s dinner this evening when unobserved.  Better yet to me, she and the kittehs have no problem with each other.  My only regret so far is that she seems to be afraid of me.  I’m guessing this has something to do with her former environment and reckon it won’t take very long for her to come around.

So, welcome aboard, Daisy!  A glass of, er, water with you!

I would only point out one thing:  As of now,  Port Swiller Manor contains Self, Mrs. R, three teenaged daughters, three female cats and one female dog.  That’s 8 to 1.  Anybody who thinks they can somehow make a profit on ol’ Robbo’s liver once he shuffles off this mortal coil can forget it.  It simply ain’t happening.

 

* Apparently, her original name was “Precious”.  Ain’t no way I would have a pet of that name.  We haaaates it!  Also, so I gather, her prior owners were Spanish-speaking only.  Thus, we’ve got a whole lot of re-edumacation on our hands here.  UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that Mrs. R chose “Daisy” in honor of Daisy Williams.  Who? Why, the guiding spirit of Sweet Briar College.  (Literally – her ghost still walks the campus.)  Yes, we’re still in the thick of that fight.

**  One of my ultimate life goals is that, if and when I retire (Oh, hohohohoh!!!!), I can have a man’s dog of my own.  I don’t mind a golden or a lab, but I’ve nothing against the terriers, particularly Scotties and fox terriers, either.  Indeed, I want something that challenges me, making a few bloody knuckles worth it.

UPDATE:  A glass of wine with all of you for your kind comments!  I walked out on to the porch this evening and teh place smelled…..doggeh.  Mmmmmmm.  A good, good smell.   So far as Daisy goes, all remains well.  She’s got into the family routine very quickly, has not made any messes, continues to get along perfectly well with teh kittehs and is firmly attached to teh younger gels, especially the Middle Gel, with whom she sacks out.  She’s still a bit skittish around me, which makes me wonder what things were like in her former family, but I am enough of an old hand with dogs to know that, with patience, she will come around.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo had been gassing all winter about some jasmine he put in last summah and whether it would survive AlGore’s Global Freezing.  Said friends will further recall that ol’ Robbo pronounced said jasmine dead and, a couple weeks ago, pulled it out and replaced it with wisteria (which is now sprouting like weeds, BTB).

Well, friends, I must here own up that I was not completely forthright about all this.  You see,  although it was quite clear that from the ground up said jasmine were completely dead, when I actually went to pull up the first of them I was disturbed to see that its roots, which were longer and deeper than I’d imagined, didn’t really seem so.  They weren’t dried.  They weren’t withered.  In fact, they seemed rayther supple.

Truth be told, I was strongly tempted to put the thing back where I had found it.

However, the wisteria had already been bought.  Further, I didn’t want to spend another month agonizing over probably-dead plants.  So gritting my teeth, I yanked out the jasmine.

All except one, that is, because I wanted to see what would happen and whether I was right or wrong in my initial diagnosis.

Well, you can see where this is going.  Yesterday, I noticed a pair of new leaves on the thing.  D’OH!

I generally dislike the idiot savant character in book and film, but Chauncey Gardner is right.  “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

I was clever in one respect, however.  The plant that I saved was one of two on a double-wide section of lattice.  So it will grow up next to (and perhaps tangled with) one of the wisteria.  I’ve no problem with that.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posts, but ol’ Robbo’s been on his back the last couple days with that bug that starts in your stomach and then debones you completely.  Bloggy creativity simply was beyond my feeble powers (not that I have much to go on to begin with).

I’m feeling better today, thanks, and can see myself slipping back into the ol’ routine in the very near future.

In the meantime, whilst flopped on my back, I managed to get through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (the abridged version, anyway*) for the very first time and am about half way through F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom, again for the first time.  Given the news these days, I find both of these books to be very timely, if depressing, reading.

I mentioned not long ago that I had recently read A.S.’s Ivan Denisovitch for the first time and was simply blown away by the raw power and dignity of his writing.  I get the same sensation reading Gulag.  Even when he’s being sarcastic, even when he loses his literary temper, or perhaps especially when in such mood, A.S. has about him a moral weight which simply flattens everything in its path.  An amazing experience.

As for the facts and figures, what on earth can one say? The Middle Gel happens to have just finished a research paper on the Holocaust.  As awful as that was, the fact is that Stalin made Hitler look like Mr. Rogers in comparison.  And yet people in the West covered up, prevaricated, lied about “Uncle Joe” and his hellish system (which, in fact, went right on back to Lenin and his crew.  And so far as I know, ol’ Vlad may very well be using the same system to this day in order to get rid of his own particular set of enemies.).  How sick is that?  It’s no wonder A.S. saves his most acidic comments for them.  (I still remember an argument back in the mid 80’s at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown over Dr. Seuss’s Butter-Battle Book, my antagonist insisting that, like the question of which side of teh bread to butter, there was no real difference between the Western tradition and the Soviet system.  That was about as close as I ever came to abandoning logic and reason and belting someone in the mouth for being such an idiot.)

As far as Hayek goes, somebody said that one’s reaction to his writing is a pretty good indicator of one’s own ingrained mindset.  Well, to me the man is arguing nothing more than Common Sense.  Those who think central (i.e., government) “planning” is the answer to all of Society’s ills overlook one tiny problem with it:  It doesn’t work.**  It can’t work, simply because there are too many variables floating about for any one person or group of persons to take in all at once.  In all of history, only the Market has proven capable of handling such a flood of ever-changing data.  Of course, one can greatly decrease those variables if one…..simply turns the population into a uniform group of robot slaves, although it still doesn’t work and a lot of people wind up dead, starving or in prison.  Hayek gives the benefit of the doubt to good-hearted collectivists who genuinely seek the betterment of everyone, but history suggests to me that there really are not so many of such ilk, and that the vast majority of said collectivists are enamored more of the centralized power in and of itself than any benefits it might produce.

Could all of that – Institution of a Collectivist State with an appended gulag system – ever happen here?  Eight years ago, I’d have said absolutely not.  But the Progressives have had control of much societal high ground – the Academy, the Media, Hollywood and the Bureaucracy – for some time now and with their capture of the Executive I think they’ve had a very hard try at establishing the foundation for one.  A lot of people simply don’t notice because they’re happy with their Starbucks and Kardashians.  In the end, however, because of elements of our national nature and condition too complicated to go into here, I still don’t think the collectivists are going to succeed, but as the Iron Dook said, it’ll be a damned near-run thing.

*Abridged by permission and in cooperation with the author.  The full version of Gulag is divided into three volumes and it was noticed that although sales of the first one continued very strong, sales of the second and third tailed off, suggesting people weren’t being exposed to them at the same rate.  This was a bad thing, since many of A.S.’s most powerful statements about the dignity of the individual and the power of the human (and Divine) spirit come in the last volume.  So the thing was cut back somewhat and presented in one volume.  Having read it, I think I need to go back and get the full three-volume monty.

**Hayek is not the laissez-faire libertarian his critics paint him to be, however.  He never said there is no situation where state planning is important.  That’s just a straw man.  What he said was that the market and other private arrangements should have pride of place and that the state should only step in when these didn’t work.  (Thus, prevention of monopolies or oligarchies, for example.)  He also warned against the corrosive effect of a general welfare state.  You need not read far into the headlines to see the wisdom of that warning.

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.

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