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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t seem to tape out a fully-formed post on any single subject this evening, so how about a this-n-that fondue?

♦  Start with the fact that I can’t spell “fondue” without looking it up.  And I dislike the whole concept because of some childhood incident, the specifics of which I can no longer recall.

♦  The Local Classickal Station is doing their annual fall pledge drive and I have finally become so sick of hearing the same pitches over and over and over again that I’ve actually turned off my radio until it’s done, a practice I usually reserve for Lent.  (Yes, I do contribute.)

♦  I recently read Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That again for the nth-time.  With each reading, I find I become even more fascinated by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, but also more repelled by his character.

♦  And on the subject of books, I have a very real feeling that it’s time for me to revisit Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which I reread every couple years.  I remember a meme some blog-friend posted years ago:  Pamela Flitton or Brenda Last?

♦  Today was the first day of the season that I was able to do my lunchtime walkies without breaking a sweat, something I’m sure my office mates appreciated.  I also was able to keep up a spanking pace – my habit is to leave my building at the same time each day and to wind up near the Grant Memorial at about 12:45 pm.  There’s a nearby bell tower that strikes quarterly, and where I am when it goes off tells me how good my pace is.

♦  Obsessive-compulsive? Moi? Say rather that my mind is quite scattershot, so I need to build as many routines as possible – walking the same route at the same time, parking in the same space every day, keeping my keys, wallet, etc., in the same spot.  Otherwise, I would become disoriented very quickly.

♦  Speaking of the season, the annual Flu Shot Wars have flared up at Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. R has begun badgering me about getting one and I have already stuck in my heals and balked.  Ol’ Robbo has a deep aversion to needles.  It’s as simple as that.

Whelp, enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is off to revisit the early-80’s tee-vee version of “Ivanhoe” with Anthony Andrews, who was at his peak star power in those days.  I can’t help thinking that Andrews didn’t really have the brawn to play a medieval knight, not like Robert Taylor. But ne’er mind.

 

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!  Did you know that ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize this was a holiday weekend until last Friday?  The relief I felt when I found I had an extra day after all the silly running about behavior I had to do Saturday and Sunday was immense.

So on to this and that:

♦  In the spirit of the day, I recommend to you once again a trilogy of books by Hugh Thomas, sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  They are Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to Magellan, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America, and World Without End: Spain, Phillip II, and the First Global Empire.  What I really like about these books is the way Thomas sets Spain’s American ventures in the context of its home politicks and culture – the Reconquista, the Inquisition, the relations of Castile and Aragon, and the larger Hapsburg connections between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.  It all wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

♦  Speaking of which, Eldest is taking a course this semester on pre-Columbian American empires, specifically the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas.  She’s really enjoying it, in part because her prof refuses to paint them as Rousseauian utopias and is careful to include the uglier aspects as well.  (She recently watched “Apocalypto” in connection with the course.  Her review? “It was weird.”)

♦  And speaking of ugly, is Melania Trump really getting flak for wearing a “colonial” pith helmet on her tour of Africa?  Do these fookin’ people honestly have nothing better to do with themselves?  Or is this just aggression-transfer resulting from last week’s Pickett’s Charge effort to sink Justice Kavanaugh?

♦ On a completely different note, our trip to CNU to visit Middle Gel this weekend was very nice.  We saw her perform in a pan-musick department concert Saturday afternoon, and then went to a BBQ picnic out on the lawn.  While we were eating, the marching band came, well, marching by on their way to the football stadium for the evening’s game.  I understand they are the second largest Division III marching band in the country.  They were really strutting their stuff, too.  I dunno why, but Ol’ Robbo has always been a sucker for school marching bands.  I like both the sound and the razzmatazz.  (And no, I was never a Band Geek myself.)

“Ah, Ha, Ha, Haaa…”

♦  Pulling out of the parking garage at the hotel yesterday morning, Ol’ Robbo was able to make a turn in our Honda Juggernaut that missed a neighboring car’s fender by inches but saved me having to back up again.  As I did so, I laughed in the voice of Snake from “The Simpsons”.  Mrs. R looked at me and said, “You are so strange.”  But I was happy.  Is this just a guy thing?

♦  And speaking of happy and driving, friend of the decanter Tubbs remarks in a comment below on the slog that is I-95 and the Dee Cee Beltway.  In fact, we didn’t do too badly coming up I-64 from the Tidewater and then I-95 from Richmond yesterday.  And I have to confess that ever since they’ve completed the EZ-Pass express lanes on the Beltway and dropped them down to around Stafford on I-95, the last 45 minutes or so of my trips home from south of The Swamp have become downright pleasant.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Ol’ Robbo needs to go mow the lawn now and feel appropriately guilty about historickal European destruction of Indigenous Peoples, but mostly go mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Yardwork status? Done.  I forgot to mention earlier that we took Youngest with us on our visit this weekend.  She got very mad at Ol’ Robbo because I point-blank refused to let her practice driving on the interstates.  I did, in fact, let her drive when we were in Newport News, but even then she almost ran a red light because she got distracted by something.  No way is she ready for bumper-to-bumper at 80 MPH.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The swirl of half-baked allegations these past couple weeks surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s high school and college years puts Ol’ Robbo in mind of this:

Things never really change, do they?  (At least Ol’ Rossini put it to a good tune, though.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This week Youngest Gel started evening swim practices in anticipation of her high school team getting under way in about a month or so.  (This will be her third year on the varsity, he mentioned gratuitously.)

As we drove home after I picked her up, she began talking about how lovely the moon was up in the sky in front of us.  This led to a discussion about sunlight and starlight, and eventually about how light travels.  (What was it Douglas Adams said? It travels so fast that it takes most civilizations thousands of years to realize that it travels at all?)

Eventually, I got round to reeling off what I remember of the speed of light: 12 million miles a minute; it takes about six minutes or so to travel from the Sun to Earth; measuring distances in space by light-years; etc.

“What is a light-year, anyway?” the Gel asked.

“Well,” I said, “It’s the distance light travels in one year.  Remember how I said 12 million miles a minute?  So multiply that by sixty to get miles per hour, then multiply that by twenty-four to get miles per day, and multiply that by three hundred sixty-five to get an approximation of the distance of a light year.  I don’t know the exact number, but I do know it’s awfully big.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her lips moving as she did a quick and dirty calculation in her head, her eyes steadily widening.

“Well, okay.  How far away are the stars, then?” she asked.

“That varies, of course, ” I replied.  “Alpha Centauri is our nearest neighbor at about two light-years’ distance.  On the other hand, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation of Orion, is 500 light years off.  Others are at different distances, some very much farther than that.”

“Five hundred!” she exclaimed.  “Are you telling me that the light I see on Orion’s shoulder left it 500 years ago? Like when Columbus had just arrived in the Americas?”

“Yippers,” I said. “And for all we know, it could have gone supernova or even disappeared altogether any time between then and now and we wouldn’t even know it until the effects got here.”

The Gel huddled herself together, an awe-struck look on her face.

“This is seriously freaking me out,” she said.

Ol’ Robbo, for one, is glad that the Gel had this reaction.  Not only am I pleased at her grasp of the physical concepts (and math) involved, I also believe it demonstrates a proper sense of humility.

It’s also one that I happen to share.  When looking about God’s Creation, I can’t think of anything more humbling than contemplating interstellar distances (unless it’s geological time, another of my favorite things to noodle).

Oh, and obligatory (not because I like the movie – I don’t much – but because I often sing it in the shower and it’s also my chief reference for quick and dirty facts of this sort):

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

More specifically, a stormy night here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  The miserable 90+ degree blazing weather of the past ten days or so is over, the high tomorrow will be in the mid 80’s and in the 70’s over the weekend, and we’re slated for lots of rain on into next week.

Woo Hoo! Autumn is coming, baybee!

Meanwhile, by this time next week we may be dealing with Hurricane Florence, which apparently some models are now predicting will bull’s-eye the Virginny Tidewater, right where Middle Gel is in school.  The parent board over at FacePlant is already starting to freak out a bit, but as far as I’m concerned there’s really nothing to worry about even if the storm hits there.  The kids will be fine.

Back in the day, Hurricane Gloria came right up the Connecticut River valley and over the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  They actually advised us to tape up our windows in advance, which we all did with gusto and glee. The thing hit early in the morning, and when it got bad, we all moved out into the hall and had an impromptu hurricane party.  I’ve never been that shnockered that early in the day either before or since (and pray now I never will be).

In the mean time, I’m going to go enjoy the show.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As many of you are no doubt aware, this weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein.

In tribute, the local classickal station devoted a great deal of air time to Lennie’s, airing massive quantities of both his own compositions and recordings of his conducting of other composers’ works.

Feh.

Ol’ Robbo is a great fan of classickal musick, but I have to admit I have absolutely no use whatever for Ol’ Lennie.

On a personal level, he was the very model of a Limousine Leftist, a particular type for whom I have nothing but contempt.

On a professional one, he was pretty typical of the mid-20th Century Wagnerian School, the sort of fellah who believed everyone should get the same heavy-handed Romantic treatment (and also that the artiste – that is, the composer and performer – are somehow more important to the “experience” than the art itself).**  Ol’ Robbo has been an acolyte of the historically informed performance movement since he came across it in the mid-80’s and has listened to very little else.  To spend the past couple days listening to Lennie butchering Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven has been, well, grueling.

Oh, and his own compositions? “Pretentious? Moi?” ***

Anyhoo, I refuse to participate in the adulation.

And on that front (sorry for the choppy YouTube – it was the best compilation I could find):

 

** This is why I am deeply suspicious of Romanticism, even more skeptical of post-Romanticism, and absolutely cynical about Abstractionism in all its manifestations.  You want to wank off and call it art? Fine, but get a room and leave me out of it.

*** Spot the quote.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Through the delightful randomness of the way I toss DVD’s into my Netflix queue and things get mixed up through delays and whatnot, I had an interesting pairing of new-to-me films this week.

First up was “Joan of Arc” (1948).  I am reasonably certain that the historickal St. Joan looked absolutely nothing like Ingrid Bergman.  But as the Pirate King from “Penzance” says of his band’s objection to having major generals as fathers-in-law, “We waive this point; we do not press it; we look over it.”  Heh. And Jose Ferrer was delightfully weak and weasel-like as the Dauphin.  The politickal machinations were well spelled out, and the battle scenes were quite exciting.  Altogether a pretty good film.

Next was “Wonder Woman” (2017).  I’m sorry, but this one left me absolutely cold. (I had tossed it in the queue simply out of curiosity.)  Gal Gadot, although no Lynda Carter, is certainly lovely and talented, but about the story I found myself giving not a single toss.  I also disliked extremely the feeling that I was being manipulated in advance to buy into the inevitable sequels.  Some people, including members of my family, like the modern era of comic book movies.  I guess I just don’t.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This past Sunday marked the first anniversary of the death of my mother.

As regular friends of the decanter might have noticed, losing the Mothe hit Ol’ Robbo very hard indeed, as we were extremely close.  (It was nothing like this when the Old Gentleman shuffled off eleven years ago, as we were more distant.)  Also, the circumstances were such that I didn’t get a chance to have that last talk with her that I’d been counting on.  As a result, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last year in a state of grief bordering, I suppose, on clinical depression – withdrawn, disinterested, physically exhausted, all that sort of thing.  It was more or less constant at first, and although by this spring it became a more occasional thing, when the blue devils hit, they still hit hard.

Mrs. R suggested a few times that I ought to go “see somebody”, but I always resisted.  In the first place, I already knew perfectly well what the trouble was.  In the second, I knew that any trick-cyclist I consulted would probably try to put me on happy pills, and Ol’ Robbo wants none of that, thank you very much.  (I prefer to deal with my sorrows the old-fashioned way – by drowning them.)

No, instead I relied on what both my godfather (who deals with geriatric issues in his medical practice) and my priest (who lost his mother two or three years ago) said: Grief is perfectly natural, the first year is the hardest, and things will get better. “Time, the Great Healer” and all that.

Nonetheless, I felt a distinct dread as the anniversary approached that I’d be wracked by a fresh outburst.

But you know what?  As the day progressed, I instead started getting the unexpected feeling that a corner had finally been turned. I hate the expression “move on”, but I could really feel something inside saying that I had mourned long enough and that it was now okay to allow myself to get back into the swing of things.  And I did just that: I prayed harder at Mass than I have in a long time; I spent the afternoon terrifying myself by reading Karl Keating; I had a really good workout on the treadmill; and then in the evening I watched an opera on DVD (Mozart’s “Abduction” – a Covent Gardens performance with Solti conducting and Kurt Moll thoroughly chewing up the part of Osmin) for the first time in I don’t know how long.

Does this mean the blue devils are gone for good? Probably not.  But I really do feel that the worst of it is finally over.

It’s a good thing, too, not just for me but for the Family Robbo as well.  It certainly hasn’t been easy for Mrs. R and the Gels to have me moping about all this time, and they’ve certainly had their work cut out for them by trying to be supportive while keeping their distance (I am a querulous patient when ill and generally wish to be left alone).  Hopefully, they can now put aside their worrying about me.

Anyhoo, here we are.  (Sorry to spout.  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t generally like to use this place to spill his guts but I just felt I had to get this one out there.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The household inventory of Port Swiller Manor, at least on paper, contains about a dozen bath towels.  A spot audit this evening, however, produced no more than one of them present and accounted for, and that one already damp when Robbo jumped in the shower.

Of course I questioned the Gels afterwards as to whether they were possibly taking multiple towels and squirreling them away in obscure corners of their closets rather than hanging them up and reusing them until they needed to be washed.  And of course I was met with stout denials and even incredulity that the question should have been posed in the first place.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of our towels remain MIA.  So, where are they?

I have a couple of working theories:

♦  A wormhole in space.  Somewhere in our galaxy, there is a planet devoted totally to the comfort and maintenance of towels, reachable via tiny and secret interstellar portals.  From time to time, towels from our world and others simply slip quietly away to enjoy this happy Towel Eden. (A glass of wine with Douglas Adams.)

♦  The Underpants Gnomes have decided to diversify. (Step 1: Take towels. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit!)

♦  Big Cotton has finally come up with a biochemical agent that causes their fibers to disintegrate after a short period of time, reducing a towel to nothing more than a small pile of dust and forcing their customers to buy more.  (I believe Big Cutlery has made a similar breakthrough since our forks and spoons disappear on a regular basis as well.)

Well, if the Gels profess their innocence in the matter, it has to be one of these alternatives, right?  What was it Sherlock Holmes said?  Once you eliminate the impossible, the improbable, however unlikely, must be the answer.

Grrrrr……

**  Yes, I’ll bet that was an easy one.

 

Vought F4U Corsair, courtesy of Wiki

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Quite some time ago, perhaps a year or more, Ol’ Robbo tossed the teevee series “Black Sheep Squadron” (1976-78) into his Netflix queue.  My request immediately went to the “Oh, we can’t find that right now” bin, and I reckoned I’d never actually ever see it.

Whelp, surprise surprise, “BSS” suddenly rose to the surface this week, so instead of watching the All Star Game last evening, about which I cared little or nothing per my post below, I instead checked out the, er, pilot episode.

I loved this show when I was a kid (I was 16 when it first aired) and was curious to see if it still had any of the old appeal now that I am so much older and (debatably) wiser.

Well, I think it does based on what I’ve seen so far.  For one thing, I enjoyed hearing the theme musick again, ( I remembered it perfectly even after forty years or so.  This is not a brag, just a thing with me.) For another, I again enjoyed Robert Conrad as the no-nonsense tough-guy Pappy Boyington character. (Show of hands for those who remember Conrad’s later I-dare-you-to-knock-this-battery-off-my-shoulder commercials.) I was further delighted to discover that John Larroquette was one of the squadron regulars. (Back in the day, how was I or anyone else to know who he was?) And while the dynamics and tensions among the flyboys, and between the squadron and the brass, were pretty predictable, even formulaic, the writing seems pretty good, too.

Also, in the past few years Ol’ Robbo has read Pappy Boyington’s autobiography on which the series is based, and I now see (as I couldn’t have back then) how the writers evidently have tried to incorporate his style and tone (which, frankly, are quite rough) into the screenplay.  I appreciate that effort.

But for me, the real enjoyment now is still what it was back then: Watching a bunch of Vought F4U Corsairs being put through their paces.  What a handsome aircraft!  That extra-long cowling and those gull wings just radiate power and force.  I’d argue that the P-51 Mustang was probably the best all-around American fighter plane of WWII, but I still put the Corsair in a class by itself.

Even though I tossed the whole series into my queue, I’m non-committal about sitting through all of it.  But I’ll at least check out the next few episodes that I have in hand, and I’m very glad I was able to circle back and confirm one of the good memories of my misspent yoot.

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