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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.

***

Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.

***

Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.

***

Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.

***

Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.

***

Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”

***

Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with no particular place to go and nothing in particular to do today, everything being already teed up for the celebrations. Indeed, I could have spent the whole day loafing in robe and jammies. However, I’ve never been able to stand that: At a certain point I must get showered and dressed. Otherwise, I start to get the heebie-jeebies.

***

The Storm of the Century of the Week blew through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this morning, dropping heavy, non-sticking snow for about twenty minutes. The skies are clearing out now but the wind continues to howl and the temperature plummet. It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that he needs to up the birds’ rations today – they look like they could use them.

Middle Gel remarked that she’s happy she’s not out in Indiana today, as the low in Bloomington was -7. Oh, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience the joys of a Midwest Wintah soon enough. My personal record low was -17, together with a screaming wind, experienced one morning in Cheyenne. That was the first time I ever felt the cold as an entity that would actually kill me if I gave it half the chance.

***

Speaking of which, this is the first vacation in which it feels like the Elder Gels are visiting rayther than coming home. Most interesting. As I recall, I felt the same sort of dynamic from the other side, as it were, my first year of grad school. (The first time I felt that the change was coming was Christmas my junior year in college. It hit me one day while I was sitting and talking with the Mothe. I admit I burst into tears.)

***

Tonight, in the spirit of things, I gather we’re all going to watch “Home Alone” together. Ol’ Robbo confesses he hasn’t actually seen this film since it was in the theatres however many years ago. (Don’t tell me.) Another time maybe I can get them all to watch “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, an inexplicably under-rated movie in my humble opinion. (I mean, it’s got John Houseman, Robert Mitchem, and Bobcat Goldthwaite in it. What more could one ask?)

Also in the spirit, it would seem Mrs. R found a little indoor mini-s’mores making device. Hard pass on that for Ol’ Robbo, who has never liked sweets and grows more and more intolerant of them as the years go by. (Perhaps I’ll break into the Laphroigh instead.)

***

Speaking of the spirit, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to come through without getting thoroughly browned off by premature Christmas musick this year. Don’t ask me how, but there it is. (I thought hearing Willie Nelson sing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” right after Thanksgiving was going to get me, but I managed to weather it.)

***

“I Read the News Today, Oh Boy” Dept. Why has it suddenly become double-plus ungood wrong think to raise questions about Ukrainian President Zelensky, or indeed to treat him as anything other than a Hero?*** Hard pass on that, as well. I know a gal who declared the other day “Zelensky Day” on FacePlant after he spoke to Congress. Of course, this is the same gal who on the day of the January 6th protests felt compelled to inform her FacePlant audience that she and her family were “all safe home and sound”. She lives twenty miles from downtown Dee Cee. Wanker. Do you wonder why Ol’ Robbo grows daily more skeptical of and disgusted with the current state of things?

***Rhetorical question. Ol’ Robbo knows perfectly well why.

***

“And Robbo Wept, For There Were No More Wu’s to Conquer” Dept. Speaking of such things, I’ve just about finished my latest cycle through the complete works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh, having only his collected correspondence with Nancy Mitford left to go. Each time I read him, I become more firmly convinced that he really is my favorite author of all time.

***

Well, that should be enough for those two or three of you who gather together here. (I truly hope you enjoy these musings – just as I went to hit “post” the first time I discovered my wifi had cut out on me and only my first sentence had been saved, so I had to retype the whole dang post from memory. D’oh!) I will duly put up a Christmas Card tomorrow here as I decorate the rest of Port Swiller Manor, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How in Heaven’s name did it get to be just a week before Christmas already? Ol’ Robbo must motivate himself, especially as we’re entertaining friends to Christmas din-dins this year. Fortunately, my vacay starts on Wednesday so I should have ample time to stock up on the necessaries. (Roast beef and Yorkshire pud, as if you couldn’t guess. I’m also doing Lobster Newburg for those veggie heathens among my little flock.) I believe there will be nine of us this year, so logistics are going to be a challenge.

***

All the Gels are safe and sound home from school, now. Middle Gel, the last of them, got in late yesterday although she immediately headed out again this morning to go do a Lessons and Carols service at her old high school choir director’s church out of town. (At least she gets paid for it.) I don’t believe I mentioned it earlier, but the Gel brought her cat home with her as well, which of course immediately caused consternation and uproar among the Port Swiller Manor resident menagerie. Decanter Cat especially is not amused, and has made it plain to Ol’ Robbo that she thinks it’s entirely my fault. So our guest cat is currently enjoying internal exile in Middle Gel’s room. And as far as I’m concerned, she can stay there.

***

Speaking of such things, I may have mentioned Youngest getting a gig as a veterinarian’s assistant over the break. She thought she’d just be working the boarding side but they drafted her right into the hospital side, where she’s already seen some operations and (alas) had to help put down several other animals. It doesn’t seem to phase her. She still talks of becoming a vet herself, so I suppose this is a good sign that she’s amenable to the working conditions.

***

It’s certainly not a good sign when one’s leaf-blower sets the attached extension cord on fire, is it. But that’s what happened this morning as I worked in the yard. Something shorted between one of the prongs and its socket causing the socket to melt and issue a thick pall of smoke. I’ll certainly need a new cord. I hope I don’t also need a new leaf-blower.

***

On a completely different note, yesterday happened to be the anniversary of the birth of Beethoven and the local classickal station went positively bananas over it. Look, Robbo likes Ol’ Ludwig Van well enough, but I don’t worship him. That’s one of the things I despise about Romanticism as a whole, that the artist somehow becomes more important than the art itself. And I just wanted to take the opportunity here, because this is my blog which is mine, of saying that his 9th Symphony – especially the Chorale – is vastly overrated. Again, I think this is a matter of worship: At that point in his career, Beethoven could have written variations on “Chop-Sticks” and it would have brought the house down. And would still do. Hmph.

***

And that’s that. Guest Kitteh is now meowing loudly so I suppose I had ought to go visit with her for a bit. Don’t tell Decanter Cat!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sits comfortably in the Port Swiller Manor library this very rainy Saturday morning, sipping his kawfee and smugly patting himself on the back at having got up the latest batch of leaves yesterday afternoon while it was still dry out. Unlike Sir Winston, I’m now far beyond the beginning of the end of the beginning, or whatever it is, but instead am now within sight of getting the whole bloody biznay over with for the year. Huzzay, huzzah!

***

“Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” as the delightful song from one of my favorite musickals says. We’ve gone back and forth on such service over the years here, alternately indulging it when we can and chopping it when the well begins to run a bit dry. After a long hiatus, we’ve now taken it up again and had a crew in yesterday doing a deep clean for nearly three hours. Just where the heck does all that dust come from?

***

On the literary front, Ol’ Robbo is once again binge-reading his Evelyn Waugh. Currently, I’m about halfway through Brideshead Revisited and will say this: Although I mostly like this novel, I’m awfully glad it’s the only one Mr. Wu wrote in this fashion. Mawkish melodrama has little appeal for me. Plus, I’ve always thought Charles Ryder something of a shite.

***

Speaking of such things, although I don’t blog about it these days (a glass of wine with Bob from NSA!), I am pretty deep into the weeds on current events social, politickal, economic, etc., and I can only pray for one of two things: Either things are not actually as awful as I believe they are, or else they’ve always been this awful without most people realizing it and we’ve managed to stagger through anyway. Otherwise, night is coming. (I mention Waugh above. Love Among the Ruins comes to mind.)

***

Well, who wants to end a post, especially a lazy Saturday one, on a note of doom and gloom? Not Ol’ Robbo. I plan to get the rest of my Advent greenery up today. Yes, I’m a week late but this seems to be a pattern for me over the years, not just in these outer trappings but also on the more theological level. I can only think that the fact we always travel for Thanksgiving and the Sunday after is typically a “crash” day for me is the culprit. I’ve mentioned this a few times in the Box, but Father tends to be understanding, especially given that the reason for my T-Day travels is family. Heigh-ho. (And shoot! I’ve lost the link now but was reading someone’s rant yesterday about the eeeevils of “Christmas” presents. Because yucky Christianist oppression or sumpin’. Without seeming to realize it, Xer was really ranting about “X-mas” and the rampant commercial exploitation of the season, and to that extent Ol’ Robbo found himself agreeing. If, as I fear, the Church is about to be driven back underground, at least it will be a lot purer.

***

Oops, that one got a bit dark, too. Let’s see…….Speaking of presents, my gift from my family arrived early. It’s a new power-washer. I suppose it says something about my age and station in life that I’m really happy about this, even if I can’t actually use it on the porch and patio for another five or six months.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo unexpectedly finds himself at the front end of a four day weekend, having forgot all about Columbus Day until late yesterday afternoon. I do not complain.

***

It’s just as well because in the “slowly then all at once” category we’re now informed that all the permits have been granted and the engineers can start in on our basement next week. This will involve Ol’ Robbo moving a bunch of furniture out of the way and also disconnecting the sink and potty in the downstairs loo. (And me with my back still hurting from hauling Eldest’s dresser down the stairs earlier this week.)

***

Did you see where the USDA is launching a “People’s Garden” initiative? At present, participation is voluntary. At the next stage, it doubtless will be mandatory. Know what the term “People’s” always reminds Ol’ Robbo of? I’ve only sat all the way through “Dr. Zhivago” the one time because after the seven hundredth reprise of “Lara’s Theme”, my ears started to bleed. But I still recall the scene where the Doctor finds his house has been commandeered by the Bolshies in the name of the “People”. “But I am the People, too!” he exclaims.

Pro-tip: Wherever Collectivism rears its head, no you’re not.

***

And speaking of the Russians, they told me that if I voted for the Bad Orange Man we would find ourselves on the brink of nuclear war – and they were right!

***

Well, on a much more mundane note, Ol’ Robbo strung a new set of bistro lights around the Port Swiller Manor back porch this week, replacing the old strings of Christmas tree mini-lights which were aging and darkening in batches. With this move I am much pleased – not only are they neater looking, they throw just enough light for me to read by when it’s dark out. And as the days draw ever more in, this becomes all the more important. (And by the bye, yes, we are still “falling back” to Standard Time this year – on November 6. Bleh. I tried to do a bit of research on where the move to finally kill clock-changing stands, but as with most things gubmint-related, it seems to have become something of a muddle.)

***

And just what is Ol’ Robbo reading at the moment, you ask? Well, he’s deep into his Francis Parkman. It’s 1689, the Iroquois are posed to wipe New France off the map, and Count Frontenac is on his way back to Quebec to save its bacon. Exciting “skin of their teeth” stuff. Ol’ Robbo is reminded again of an old blog post somewhere touting Catholic halloween costumes, one of which was a Jesuit Missionary. “Just add Hurons!” read the caption. I larfed and larfed (and still do).

***

Well, with that I suppose I should be about things. Although, as I say, I have a long weekend, that’s only from my paying job.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s finally getting to the optometrist a couple weeks back after a four year hiatus? And how I felt I for once really nailed the eye-exam?

Well, I picked up my new glasses Saturday** and am very pleased to relate that the doc nailed the prescription, too. They’re just terrific – I haven’t seen this clearly through specs in a very long time.

As to side effects, the only one I’m experiencing is the same as I always do when getting a new prescription – they make me feel taller than I actually am. As for the wooblies that some friends here report from progressive lenses, I’m happy to say that’s not the case with me. (But then my previous pair were also progressives, so I’m used to it.)

The lenses are bigger this time, too, so I feel less like I’m looking through a very tiny window and have actually regained significant peripheral vision. One manifestation of this was that I was able to sit down Saturday afternoon and dash off some Haydn keyboard sonatas that I haven’t touched in better than a year with relative ease (at least within my standard of hackery) – the notation was much clearer and I could just see the keyboard out the bottom of my eyes.

Finally, I went whole-hog and got the anti-computer screen blue light (or whatever it is) protection. I dunno whether it’s just a placebo effect, but Ol’ Robbo has been working at his computer all day*** with relative comfort and ease. Usually by this time of day my eyes are already achy and streaming.

All in all, I am most pleased.

**The contacts aren’t in yet, alas. (Gas-permeable hard lenses RULE!)

*** Yes, I’m working on Labor Day. And getting tons done. It’s amazing how productive one can be when one isn’t subjected to an endless series of meetings to schedule meetings to talk about meetings.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It would seem that ever since Ol’ Robbo brought up the topic of lightning strikes last week, Ma Nature has been out to hocus me. Yesterday afternoon saw a series of strong thunderstorms roll through Your Nation’s Capitol, in the midst of which I had to make my way home to Port Swiller Manor. Standing on the above-ground Metro platform and waiting for the inevitably-delayed train, dashing out to the parking garage at the other end of the line, rushing in and out of Total Bev on the way home to pick up necessary medicines; At no point did I not see lightning flashing all over and have thunder continuously rumbling and crashing in my ears.

And all the time I kept saying to myself, “Self, this is stupid! If you get struck down now, you’re going to feel like a complete moron for all eternity.”

Yeesh.

Oddly enough, although it bucketed at Port Swiller Manor, too, there is no fresh flooding in the basement. This inconsistency is one of the pieces of the puzzle Ol’ Robbo has yet to fit into place. (We’re having a pro out next week, by the bye, to assess the situation and give us a no-doubt ruinously expensive estimate for fixing it.)

On a related note, my little electronic porch thermometer chose to pack up and die the other day, so I took the opportunity to upgrade a bit. The old one merely provided indoor and outdoor temperatures. The new one gives “weather forecast, outdoor temperature and humidity, indoor temperature and humidity, moon phase, date and time, alarm and slumber, barometer.” La. DEE. Da! I won’t bother with a model that also includes a wind vane function because I don’t believe there’s any place immediately around the house where I could get an accurate reading, what with all the swirling about, unless I stuck the thing on a hundred foot pole, which I’m sure would draw the ire of Mrs. R.

And of Ma Nature. Target, anybody?

**  A reference to the patter-song of Mabel’s sisters in “The Pirates of Penzance” of course. On that subject, not that it will ever happen but Ol’ Robbo would love the opportunity to sing the part of Major-General Stanley some time, and not just because of his famous send-up of Sir Garnet Wolseley. Ah, well.

UPDATE: The relevant chorus:

How beautifully blue the sky,
The glass is rising very high,
Continue fine I hope it may,
And yet it rained but yesterday.
Tomorrow it may pour again
(I hear the country wants some rain),
Yet people say, I know not why,
That we shall have a warm July.
Tomorrow it may pour again
(I hear the country wants some rain),
Yet people say, I know not why,
That we shall have a warm July.
Tomorrow it may pour again….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, a nasty, steamy Monday here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, kicking off a solid week of the same, but since we’re already more than halfway through July, I suppose I can’t complain much.

Anyhoo, a friend of mine from church, posting over on FacePlant, mentioned in passing that he greatly likes Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”. This got Ol’ Robbo noodling. Myself, I can’t stand the piece. So what do others see in it?

I’m old enough to remember when the thing first hit pop culture with the 1979 movie “10”, but surely by now nobody thinks praising it is going to get them a shot at Bo Derek.

My understanding is that Ravel originally wrote it as a ballet score. I suppose that as background accompaniment to a person or persons prancing about on stage (Ol’ Robbo is not a fan of ballet) it might work, but as a stand-alone thing? It’s boring! It’s downright tedious! It’s the same damme phrase repeated over and over and over again without even a key modulation until the very end.*** What, I ask, is there to like in any of this?

And yet, there it is. My friend is by no means alone.

De gustibus non est disputandem, I suppose.

*** Much the same thing may be said of the Pachelbel “Canon”, of course.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the storms were actually last evening, as a matter of fact. Ol’ Robbo watched them forming up on radar all afternoon and then watched the sky as they came in. I happened to be down the office yesterday. The leading edge rolled in just as I was getting on the Metro to head home. By the time I got to my stop, the first line had run completely over and past, so at least I had that going for me. Some limbs and branches were down around Port Swiller Manor when I got home, plus the power was out for about six hours. At least our generator finally had something to do.

Speaking of the Metro, I came out to discover La Wrangler had been broken into again: Somebody had ripped off the glovebox cover and riffled around in the well under the armrest. Now not only do I not lock her doors, in warmer weather I don’t even put any of the side panels on. You would think that even to the mind of a petty crook, this would be a pretty broad hint that there’s nothing in her worth stealing (and there isn’t). Apparently not, however.

So what did Ol’ Robbo do? Shrugged my shoulders. Calling the police would, of course, have been useless. The only thing the police do at Metro parking garages is cruise around looking for expired tags or inspection stickers so they can pop the owners with ridiculous fines. Ask me how I know.

Speaking of crime, Middle Gel, who is home on leave from her summah job for a few days, went with a friend up to Baltimore last evening (braving the weather) to see Big Time Rush in concert. Yes, they were at the Inner Harbor, which is still relatively safe, but still, Mrs. R and I were not overly pleased by the prospect of her visiting such a wretched hive of scum and villainy. And just to see an aging Boy-Band? (She caught the Jonas Brothers a couple months ago, too.) The Gel has more musickal knowledge and sophistication in her little finger than I have in my entire person, yet she indulges in this? More shoulder-shrugging. (Yes, she got home perfectly safe and sound.)

UPDATE: You may be wondering to yourselves, “Self, how’s the work going on the new McMansion across the street about which Ol’ Robbo was posting a while back?” Well, they’re still at it. But I’ve noticed that the place sits vacant for long stretches and then suddenly the various crews seem to show up at once. It’s tricky to get in and out with big rigs and machines and there seems to be a lot of bad temper and jostling whenever this happens. Today, tractor guy and lumber delivery guy seemed to be especially athwart each other’s hosses. I’m no construction foreman nor do I play one on teevee, but it doesn’t seem to me the smoothest of organization.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Would it surprise friends of the decanter to learn that Sean Connery, of all people, was once in a Western? And not only that, but that his co-stars included Brigitte Bardot and veteran Brit character-actor Jack Hawkins? It did Ol’ Robbo. (Although, upon reflection and given “Zardoz”, I’m not really sure why.)

The film is called “Shalako” (1968). A hunting party of 1880’s European aristos inadvertently wanders into Apache territory with predictable results. Connery, a loner scout, stumbles across them and attempts to save their bacon. Considering that the whole genre was pretty much petering out by then, it’s really not all that bad a film, although Ol’ Robbo feels no need to see it again.

The film starts with a long written prologue cataloging examples of real-life Euros who visited the West in the earlies, I suppose by way of explaining why a bunch of thnobs would be wandering around the New Mexican desert. Ol’ Robbo was disappointed to see that Flash Harry was not included in this list, and can only assume that the relevant volume of the Flashman Papers was not yet available at the time the film was made. (One’s mind boggles at the thought of Flashy coming across Bardot.)

And speaking of which, did you know that Audrey Hepburn, of all people, was also in a Western? Yes, with Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, and Lillian Gish! It’s called “The Unforgiven” (1960). A frontier community under attack by the local Kiowas begins to turn ugly when rumor surfaces that Hepburn, one family’s adopted daughter, might actually be an Indian herself. It’s been a bit of time since Ol’ Robbo watched it, but my impression again was that it wasn’t bad. That one I might have to review to confirm my opinion. (I really want to like Lancaster more than I do because I think “The Train” (1964) is one of the Truly Great Films. Alas, I’ve been disappointed with him in pretty much everything else.)

** A glass of wine with Alan Jackson.

Non-Sequitur UPDATE: Not that it has anything to do with movies, but Ol’ Robbo just wanted to mention here that he’s almost positive he spotted a bald eagle yesterday afternoon. High and far off, but too big to be a hawk and definitely not a vulture, and I think I could just make out its head. They’re in the river valley but we’re about a mile off so they almost never get this far out. I think I’ve seen one maybe twice in all our years here. Neat.

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