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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.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heh, that’s my gel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Vought F4U Corsair, courtesy of Wiki

Vought F4U Corsair, courtesy of Wiki

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught today by this article concerning the latest museum being run up on the National Mall.

I commute past this site every day and, frankly, my opinion has been that it started out as a bad idea and has only gotten worse.  Started out bad because it’s right on the edge of that part of the Mall right around the Washington Monument and at least partially blocks the view, gotten worse because the design of the new building itself is (is IMHO) butt-ugly.

I leave it to you friends of the decanter to decide whether all this is just a product of modern artistic sensibilities (or lack thereof) or else a deliberate poke in the eye.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo settled down to listen to some musick this evening, only to discover that his 25+ year old set of Sony headphones have gone duff.  (Something within the right lobe has broken loose.  It’s not that I can’t hear from that side, but the component keeps sliding around.  Difficult to appreciate a Haydn Mass when it’s permeated by a set of chunks and bangs not contained in the original score.)

So….Any friends of the decanter have any recommendations re a new set of ‘phones?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It seems that the Gels’ latest “What a Dinosaur ol’ Dad Is” meme is to make fun of the fact that I still carry around a Motorola flip phone which I must have had, oh, at least eight or ten years now.

Until they started this line of ragging, ol’ Robbo hadn’t even known it was a thing, since I hardly ever use my phone.  In fact, the only reason I even have one at all is for use while commuting in case of emergency or change of itinerary sent out from Port Swiller HQ.  Truth be told, I don’t even know my own cell number.

In response to the question of why I don’t upgrade, I also note:

a) that I don’t want to turn into one of the legion of zombies I see walking about with their eyes locked on their iThingies, and

b) even if I wanted to, from what I understand of our Verizon plan, Mrs. R and the gels have been helping themselves to my upgrades all this time, so I have not even been given the opportunity.

Anyhoo, I bring all this up because I had a dream last night that I was supposed to pick up Jon “Horseface” Carry at the Denver airport but, because I didn’t have my phone on, I had missed the instructions.  Somehow, as I scrambled about trying to get ready and wondering why I had to fetch him, I could hear his voice muttering in the background about “incompetence” and “shoddy service” and “I can’t believe this”.  Yeah, John.  You should talk.

I then further discovered that not only was I late to pick up Kerry at the Denver airport, it was also Thanksgiving Day; I had a house full of family, all of them already sitting expectantly at the table; and that I hadn’t even turned on the oven yet.  I found myself feverishly looking at the instructions on the turkey wrapping, trying to find out the correct oven setting.  The only number I could find was 500°F, which, even in my dream, I knew was way too high for a bird.

Finally, I looked up at my guests and said, “Um, this is going to take a while.”

And then I woke up.

UPDATE: Apropos, I saw this somewhere the other day.  Pretty funny because true:

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I’m not talking about that wretched post-WWII generation who currently are raping the Republic of all the wealth on which they can lay their mitts before they die off and who are, also, directly responsible for the rise of a generation of Millennials who are in the process of establishing a reign of Precious Snowflake Fascist Terror that will eventually come to a painful, violent end when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.*

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

Instead, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned, thunderstorms, some of which came a-calling in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this evening.  First time this season.

Ol’ Robbo used to be quite frightened of thunder and lightning.  I recall distinctly an incident in my misspent yoot in San Antonio.  My bedroom window looked out on a hackberry tree in our back yard, maybe 50 yards or so from the house.  One evening during a storm (I think when I was in high school), I walked in and looked out just in time to see the poor tree hit by a lightning bolt.  (You can always tell that you’re close to a strike because you can hear a distinct vzzzzzt!! before you hear the thunder.)  I hit the deck completely by instinct, all my fears of my earlier yoot very much reenforced.  (I believe that same poor tree got knocked down by either a microburst or an F0 tornado a few years later when I was away at college.)

Anyhoo, I gradually overcame said fear, to the point where I now quite enjoy watching a storm in all its fury.  To sit out on the deck this evening and watch the cell scud past us to the east while the bats flitted about overhead was very delightful.

A little game I like to play in this season is Beat The Storm.  My office is about 14 miles southeast of Port Swiller Manor.  When conditions are stormy, I take a good, hard look at the radar just before I leave work.  If there are storms about, the game is to decide whether to slap the sides up on La Wrangler or to see if I can just beat them home bare-sided.  In some cases, I have cut this close enough that the deluge has hit literally between the time I got into my garage and the time I tried to go back out to the mailbox to retrieve the evening bills.   Very gratifying when I get it right.

And lest you think Ol’ Robbo is delusional on this point, let me just note that others play the same game.  A couple years back, I was on a late-afternoon flight from Dee Cee to Cleveland when the captain announced we were going to take off a couple minutes ahead of schedule.  I didn’t think much of it until, during our descent, the sky suddenly got awfully dark (and the plane suddenly got awfully quiet).  We came down smoothly enough, but by the time we were taxiing to the gate, the heavens had opened up and the tempest was crashing down all round us.  That sum’bitch pilot had beat it in with seconds to spare.

Once I retrieved my jangled nerves, I tipped my metaphorical hat to the fellah.

 

*No, but it felt damned good to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Spring!  Season of swings and roundabouts!

On the one hand,  ol’ Robbo learned yesterday that the Port Swiller Manor air-conditioner, which I hadn’t realized was eleven years old, has given up the ghost – rusted coil, leaking freon like a sieve, electrical contacts burning out.  Well, what else can one say except ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching? UPDATE:  The hot water heater decided to get in on the game by leaking while the HVAC guys were putting in the new A/C unit.  This came as no surprise, as I’d been warned two years ago that the thing was nearing the end of its life and had been wondering idly since then when it would go, but still……”When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”

On the other hand, I discovered this morning that both the lawnmower and the weed-whacker are in fine working condition despite my very minimal (which is to say, non-existent) winterization efforts.

On the third hand, I’ve killed about seven wasps on the porch over the past few days.  (Red wasps – fortunately not especially aggressive.)  They must have a nest very near at hand and also must have found a way to get through the screen.  I haven’t found it yet and I’m probably giving myself cancer with all the spray I’ve inhaled while shooting at them.  UPDATE:  A couple yellow-jackets, too.  However, I found the breach – a corner of wood where the roof meets the house that has warped up, leaving a gap.  I think I can block it with a simple can of sealant.

On the fourth hand…….Iced Coffee.  Nectar of the Gods.

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