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(Obligatory.  Incidentally, this is my very favorite album of theirs.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo spent a goodish bit of time today dealing with CPA’s to get the various Port Swiller tax returns filed.  (In addition to the ones for Self and Mrs. R, I also had to deal with both the Eldest Gel’s and the Mothe’s estate this year.)

I won’t go into detail, of course, but what with one thing and another I got reamed pretty hard when all was said and done.  Indeed, this evening I feel rayther like Rob Lowe’s Benjamin Oliver character after his encounter with Officer Koharski at the end of “Wayne’s World”.   How odd it was, then, that after a long, gratuitous tirade about what a horrible, bad, idiotic old meany Trump is, my regular CPA then immediately turned around and said, “Oh, by the way, under the new tax rules, you’ll do a lot better next year.”

Do these people even listen to themselves anymore?  Or is all this venom-spitting totally reflexive?



[Ed. – Sorry?]

‘Ooh, ah like a nice tune, ‘yer forced too!

[Ed. – Then you can go on posting?]

Most certainly.  And now, my fellow port swillers, greetings!

Ol’ Robbo didn’t do all that well this past Lent with heightened prayer, meditation, and reading, but he did do a very good job in sacrifice by giving up all musick for the 40 days, apart from an hour or so on Sundays , and sticking to it.

You have to understand that for me, musick is a near-constant presence in my normal life.  I keep the radio on in the car and in my office all day.  I frequently listen to CD’s in the evenings.  I put in a few hours tickling the ivories on the weekends.  Cutting all that out produces a real, well, silence, and is a …SHUT THAT BLOODY BOUZOUKI UP!

[Ed. – Told you.]

A real but manageable penance.

Now that it’s Easter Week, of course, I’m indulging myself to the fullest and enjoying it all the more so for having abstained these past weeks.

He is risen, indeed, two, three…..


(By the bye, the Python sketch on which I’ve been riffing in this post is an excellent example of one they did better on record (the Matching Tie and Handkerchief Album, if I recall correctly) than on tee-vee.  That’s an endlessly fascinating topic of conversation in and of itself – which sketches worked best in which mediums and why.

Well I’m fascinated by it.  And remember, if you enjoy the topic half as much as I do, then I enjoy it twice as much as you.  Ha, ha!

[Ed. – Cue the 16-ton weight!])

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo mentioned recently that Eldest Gel has decided to minor in musickal theatre.  (She’s been bitten hard by the acting bug and has loved every minute of the four stage productions she’s been involved with so far.  How this has happened with a girl of such Cromwellian sensibilities is quite beyond me.)

To this end, the Gel’s taking a course this semester about the history of musickals, in which the prep work seems to be watching a classick movie version and being ready to come to class and talk about it.  (Rest assured: for her history major she’s taking plenty of traditional classes, including a seminar this semester on various medieval legal codes.  I don’t begrudge her the occasional “fun” class like this one in the least.)

Anyhoo, this evening she called me up:

“Dad!  I’m supposed to watch Jesus Christ Superstar tonight for my class.  Have you seen it?”

“No, but I know what it is.”


“The ‘Long-Haired Hippy Crap’ Gospel.”

“Aw, man!  Is it blasphemous?”

“It’s from about 1970 and it’s hippies.  So yes, very probably.”

“Aw, maaaaan!  Well, I suppose I’d better watch it, if for no other reason than to argue what’s wrong with it to the idiots in my class.”

That’s the spirit! You go get ’em!”

And that’s my Gel!

UPDATE:  Talked to her again post-viewing.

“So…what did you think?”

“Man, I was all set to hate it but the music.  I mean, 70’s rock! That’s my thing!  I really liked it.  Wish the words were different, though.”

She went on to complain about Jesus being a wimp and Judas being too reasonable and sympathetic.

“And what’s the deal with Mary Magdalene?  You’d think she and Jesus were lovers or something.”

The name Dan Brown popped into my head, but I damped it back down.  It would have taken an hour to explain things and I was supposed to be working.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are in February already, and it’s living up to its reputation this year.  (As it happens, the sky is clear today but it’s too damn cold to do much outside.)

Because the mind of Ol’ Robbo works the way it does, whenever I come to contemplate the fact of February, I always think of the scene in Act 2 of the Pirates of Penzance where the Pirate King explains to young Frederick the paradox of his (Frederick) having been born on February 29 in a Leap Year:

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight

days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine-and-twenty.
Through some singular coincidence — I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing

to the agency of an ill-natured fairy —
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,

on the twenty-ninth of February.
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re
only five and a little bit over !

(Is this a leap year, by the bye? I haven’t looked it up.)

Anyhoo, I find myself in the Port Swiller library, laptop on lap, cat on arm of chair, thinking of this and that.

♦  I’m sure by now you’ve all heard about FISA-gate.  I won’t say anything about it here even though I’ve been following the whole biznay quite intently.  What’s that lyric from the Sting song? “At the stillpoint of destruction/ At the center of the fury/ All the angels, all the devils/  (Something, something) can’t you see?” A leetle too close for comfort.  I will just reiterate in general my philosophy that, even though I work in it, I consider government to be a necessary evil, not a religion.  This sort of thing is what happens when others feel differently.

♦   Speaking of religion, as Candlemas was yesterday, I took down and put away the last of the Christmas decorations this morning – specifically the crèche in the front hall and the wreaths on the front doors.  Mrs. Robbo managed to restrain herself from making cracks about how tired she was of looking at them until just the other day.  I think this is a compromise I can live with.

♦   In the Absurdity Department, I learn that Daisy, the Port Swiller Special Needs Dog, has been banned from the groomers.  They say she shakes and gibbers so much that it takes them far too long to finish with her.  So we’re investing in an electric trimmer and will have a go at doing it ourselves.  Anybody know anything about how to cut a dog’s hair?

♦   I am slowly – very slowly – working up the energy to finally getting around to reorganizing my library, which is presently quite a-jumble. Ol’ Robbo simply can’t bear the idea of actually getting rid of books – even those he has no intention of ever reading again – but it recently occurred to me that there is room in the basement where I can, as it were, circular-file them, leaving the library shelves upstairs free for repacking (and adding to).  So, once I summon enough energy, downstairs will go such volumes as the histories of commie-bastard Eric Hobsbawm (left over from college) and fellow-travelers Will and Ariel Durant (picked up at a garage sale when I was young and didn’t know any better); the novels of Hemingway and Steinbeck; the Dee Cee “Insider” books by people like Ken Starr and David Bois that the Old Gentleman continually sent me but I never read, and the like.  The choice of what to retire will be delicious.

♦   Oh, there is one book I’m throwing away:  Lisa Birnbach’s True Prep. Her original Preppy Handbook from back in the early 80’s was amusing (I still have it), but this updated version, capturing as it does the depth of narcissism into which the current so-called “Elite” have slid since then, is horrifying.

♦   And finally, speaking of narcissism, Ol’ Robbo has no intention of watching the Sooper Bowl this year.  Not that I’ve paid very much attention to pro ball since Marino retired, but I usually still tune into the SB for the sheer spectacle.  Not this time.  (Besides, I think a Pats win is pretty much a foregone conclusion.)  No matter:  Only eleven more days until pitchers and catchers report!

Happy Birthday, Franz Schubert, born this day in 1797.

Schubert will never be my favorite composer, but I do nonetheless still like listening to him, especially his chamber works and keyboard pieces.  (I’ve never heard them, but I’m told his lieder are outstanding, too.)

I’ve never tried to play any Schubert myself.  Someday, however, perhaps when I’m retired, I’d like to take a whack at this, which I really do enjoy:

And because it’s his birthday, I can’t resist repeating here the Mothe’s longstanding joke about Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C-major, known as “the Great”.  She’d take on a mock-Irish accent and say, “Da Great, is it now?  Weel, I dunno about dat.  But it saretently is Da Large!”

Cracks me up still.

(Because the piece is so very long and repetitive, d’you see.  Well, I think it’s funny…)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening Ol’ Robbo caught most of Chimes at Midnight over on TCM, which I’ve never seen before.  Orson Welles basically lifts all the Prince Hal/Sir John Falstaff bits out of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2.  It’s actually a pretty good film, even though the sound quality was such that half the lines were less than intelligible.  Welles makes quite the credible Falstaff, although since he’s playing a drunken old letch, it really wasn’t much of a stretch for him.  John Gielgud, who I’d watch in anything, was satisfying as Henry IV.  And there were plenty of familiar faces among the secondary characters.  Perhaps my very favorite geek moment was realizing that Andrew Faulds, who played Westmorland, was the Roman officer who brought back the runaway Pseudolus to the house of Senex early on in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.  “Citizens! We caught your runaway slave, and now he dares challenge our right to execute him!”  (When I watch movies, I like to point these sorts of things out.  Mrs. R cannot stand this practice. We don’t watch many movies together anymore.)

I may have to toss this one in the Nexflix queue and take another look.

And speaking of said queue, up this evening is The Return of the Pink Panther, which I haven’t seen in years.  Another of those movies that couldn’t possibly be made today. (“CATO!”)  Be back later……

UPDATE: What fun! I don’t think I’d seen it since I was a teenager, but somehow I remembered all the sight-gags and prat-falls perfectly.  And Herbert Lom really should have been arrested for being that slyly funny.

You know one thing I dislike about The Pink Panther? The theme musick.  And I’ll tell you why: That theme is a favorite of piano teachers to use on beginner students, especially the youngest.  I suppose the reasoning is that it is an easily-recognizable and popular tune, and that this will encourage the little darlin’s to practice.  In any event, I’ve been forced to endure it many, many times at recitals.  And every time, the kiddies make the same damned mistake – they go blazing through the first line of the melody and then crash and burn on the first chord progression in the left hand.

Every. Damn. Time.

After awhile, it’s enough to make you start twitching like Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got detoured by the po-po as he made his way home this evening and had to navigate through several neighborhoods to get back to a main artery.

I may be completely delusional in this, but it seems to me that many more people are keeping their outdoor Christmas (excuse me, Holiday) light displays out later this year.  I’d like to think it has something to do with a heightened spirit of the season, but the skeptic in me suggests that it probably has more to do with the deep freeze that blanketed the area for the past couple weeks keeping folks indoors.

Heigh ho.

Speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo took down the Port Swiller Christmas tree last weekend after Epiphany.  I’m happy to report that there were no successful ornament suicides this year, although I caught several of them lurking deep within the bows round back, just waiting for the opportunity to hurl themselves to the floor.

As is my wont, once I had stripped it, I hauled the tree round back and tossed it on the brush heap within the verges of the wood outside my back gate.  Interesting observation: It seems to take a fir about two years to fully decompose.  I tossed this one next to the brown and needleless hulk from last year.  The one from the year prior to that has completely vanished.

So long as it doesn’t go up too early, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t really care that much when the Christmas tree comes down.  On the other hand, I am delighted that this year Mrs. Robbo has agreed to let me keep my wreaths (front door and dining room table) and my new crèche out until Candlemas, (February 2nd).

(Also, although she doesn’t know it, I chalked the front door of Port Swiller Manor with Epiphany chalk this year.  20 + C + M + B + 18.  One of Ol’ Robbo’s goals this year is to quietly insert more and more of these little sacramentals into the daily routine of Port Swiller Manor.  I figure it will soften the blow when I eventually pull down on Mrs. R and start advocating for a Crucifix in the front hall.)

Oh, and continuing with this general line of thought, a glass of wine with staunch friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, who recently sent Ol’ Robbo a couple of CD’s of Medieval Christmas Musick.  Since I’m going hard-core this year, they’re still perfectly seasonal and appropriate for the next few weeks!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that Ol’ Robbo has written numerous times here regarding his beloved 2003 Jeep Wrangler rag-top.

La Wrangler and I have been through a few things together.  Some years ago, on New Year’s Day, perhaps still suffering the effects of New Year’s Eve, I backed her straight into the front end of the Former Llama Military Correspondent’s ride, thereby putting an almighty ding in her rear bumper.

At some other point, just after I had replaced her original canvas covering with a new set, somebody knifed through the driver’s-side window panel when I left her parked at the metro and looted what little I had left in her glove compartment. (Which is to say, practically nothing.  Ol’ Robbo is no fool, and my only actual mistake there was locking the door in the first place.)   That gash is still covered with duct-tape inside and out, by the bye, which I have to change about every six months or so, and which I believe gives her a rayther attractive raffish air.

More recently, she developed a case of the dreaded Jeep Death-Wobble which I had to have fixed, and almost immediately thereafter shredded her own rear-differential, which I had to have completely rebuilt.

Nonetheless, although I am hardly the orthodox off-road type, I love my Wrangler.  She’s intensely fun to drive, she’s only got about 90K on her, and she’s long-since paid for.  Plus, if I get rid of her now, I’ll have a very, very difficult time convincing Mrs. R to consent to my buying another such Wrangler (perhaps a four-door?) as a replacement.  (Mrs. R despises La Wrangler.  To her, a car should block out the surrounding environment, while anybody who drives a Jeep knows that it’s purpose is to bring one in closer contact with same.  Even in the harsh, bomb-cyclone conditions we’re currently experiencing, I’ve still got the rear window panel rolled up and intend to keep it that way.)

I mention all this by way of prologue to my latest small adventure: Earlier this week, whilst driving along in the dark of my evening commute, I suddenly noticed that I couldn’t see my speedometer because the light had gone out behind it.  Lord knows how long this had been going on, since I’m so used to the route I drive that I rarely bother to look at it, but there it was.

I’ve replaced numerous brake lights and both headlights over the years, but I’ve never had to tackle the interior components before.

Whelp, as friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo is, as a general matter, deeply suspicious of searching for information on the Innertoobs, and also thinks that Jeff Bezos is preparing to take over the World.  Nonetheless, a quick Google search of “replace instrument cluster lightbulb 2003 Jeep Wrangler” coupled with an appropriate stop over to the devil’s website has set Ol’ Robbo up to rectify this dashboard deficiency his own self with every confidence.  (How did our former, disastrous President put it? “Yes we can!”)  Indeed, I even went so far as to order some fancy-shmancy blue LED replacement bulbs, just to give the thing a kind of updated look.

Yes, this is pretty small cheese, I suppose.  But Ol’ Robbo has never made claim to box above his weight, and I’m looking forward to doing the switch-out.

Aaaaaand, maybe apropos of all of this, maybe just because I served up a dose of Henry Purcell in the post below, and maybe because I’m a hopeless weirdo, Ol’ Robbo’s musickal thoughts are now swirling around one of his favorite country songs.  Enjoy:

Oh, one more thing:  The elder gels used to pester me to teach them how to drive a stick.  Dreading the burning out of La Wrangler’s clutch, I fobbed them off, saying I thought it more important that they get a couple years experience on the roads under their belts on an automatic before they started trying to deal with the additional distractions of shift and clutch.  I knew all along that this was, at least in part, something of a dodge to protect La Wrangler.

Well, that was then, and this is now.  Recently it has come to me that my own conditions have been met, both gels being excellent drivers, and that I now need to man up and let them have a go.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was under the impression that a January nor’easter was on its way up the coast, and that after clipping Port Swiller Manor tonight and tomorrow morning, is going to move on and cause the usual mid-winter headaches in New York and New England.

Apparently, thought, this is no ordinary storm, but is instead a dreaded BOMB CYCLONE!!!

(CNN)A massive “bombogenesis” — an area of rapidly declining low pressure — will wreak havoc on the Northeast this week, threatening hurricane-force winter wind gusts in a region already crippled by deadly cold.

The bombogenesis will result in what’s known as a “bomb cyclone.” And the bomb cyclone, expected to strike Thursday, will likely dump 6 to 12 inches of snow in New England.

By the end of this week, parts of the Northeast will be colder than Mars.

Six inches to a foot of snow?  Gusty winds?  And a really scary name to go with it all?  Mother of God, we’re doooooooomed!!!

Even the nice deejay at the local classickal station this evening was gently mocking the, er, bombast of calling the storm a “bomb cyclone”.  And “colder than Mars”? What part of Mars are we talking about? The polar caps? The equator?  Summertime? Winter?

Actually, I think there’s room for expansion of this kind of hyperbole, the better to scare the bejabbers out of us rubes who remained skeptical even during the full brunt of the whole Global Enwarmening scam.  The Weather Channel and its cohorts could make great play with such expressions as “military-style assault hail”, “thunderstorms of mass destruction”, “shock and awe storm surge”, “humanitarian catastrophe heat-index”, and, of course, “Trumpnado!”


Anyhoo, as for the immediate local impact, I gather that the storm will stay largely east of us and that we’ll get less than an inch of snow tonight and tomorrow morning, which will probably be just enough to make my morning commute tomorrow really rotten.  As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once observed, getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.  On the other hand, it is going to get fairly cold for the next couple days for these parts, and rumor (or perhaps wish-casting) says the schools will be closed Friday so the liddle widdums don’t get all uncomfortable.

For the Children, how about a little musickal tribute to the next couple days?


What Power art thou,
Who from below,
Hast made me rise,
Unwillingly and slow,
From beds of everlasting snow!
See’st thou not how stiff,
And wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold.

I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath,
I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath.

Let me, let me,
Let me, let me,
Freeze again…
Let me, let me,
Freeze again to death!

This aria used to creep the hell out of a girlfriend of mine in college (this and the flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz”).  Of course, I had another girlfriend in college who used to burst into tears when reading the final scene in King Lear where Lear is standing there with the body of Cordelia in his arms and ruminating on what a pig’s breakfast he’s made of everything.

(Yep – Ol’ Robbo seems to have a talent for attracting crazy people.  And cats.  Dunno why.)

UPDATE:  All is proceeding as I have foreseen.  We got about an inch this morning – dry stuff easily pushed off the driveway.  The roads proved remarkably dry and firm.  (Whatever the stuff the Virginny DOT lays down to prep them is really very, very good.)  Nonetheless, schools were closed today.  And will be so tomorrow because of the low temperatures and high winds expected.  Meanwhile, up the coast it appears that this is turning out to be a typical January nor’easter, yet the MSM is still in full “Omigod, you guyz, BOMB Cyclone!” mode.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy new year!

In what was perhaps a fitting tribute to 2017, New Year’s Eve at Port Swiller Manor proved completely and utterly random this year.  First, Mrs. Robbo had to catch a red-eye flight to Flarduh Saturday night because her grandmother has taken a turn for the worst, thereby breaking up our planned festivities.  (UPDATE:  Good nooz – things seem to have stabled up for now. )  Subsequently, both the younger gels got invited to New Year’s Eve parties at friends’ houses, where they slept over.  That left Eldest and me.  Eldest, who has a nasty cold, went to bed around 8:00 pm, so I simply read some Charles Portis,* listened to some Dvorak,** and went to bed myself a couple hours later.

Oh, and it was 8 degrees above this morning.

Anyhoo, thank Heaven 2017 is over and done with.  What a year.  I am, of course, speaking on a personal level, what with losing the Mothe and the impending loss of Mrs. R’s grandmother (which, for psychological accounting purposes, I’m including in the 2017 column).  In terms of the broader state of things, frankly Ol’ Robbo has been stuffing his face with popcorn and laughing his posterior off.  (If you haven’t read it yet, by the bye, I heartily recommend Dave Barry’s Year In Review column.)  The joke I’ve heard from at least three or four different people, responding to the insanity of the year that just was, is “2018: Hold My Beer And Watch This!

Back on the personal side, 2018 is going to be a Milestone Year at Port Swiller Manor:  My marriage to Mrs. Robbo will turn 25 in June.  The Gels will turn, respectively, 20, 18, and 16 in the next few weeks and months.  Middle Gel will start college this fall.  That’s all pretty impressive, if I may say so without sounding the braggart, and worthy of celebration.

So, let’s all take a deep breath and get on with it……

* His Masters of Atlantis.  It’s always been my least-favorite of his five novels but it grows on me with each re-reading.

** His Slavonic Dances cycle.  Just for fun.

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