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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Isn’t it funny how one can get idea associations so firmly locked into one’s head.

Youngest, who doesn’t go back to school for another week or so, went out with a friend to a fondue restaurant last evening.

Ol’ Robbo has never actually been to this place, but in my mind it has orange shag carpet, a hot tub over in the corner, and ABBA playing on the sound system. This image is so firmly stamped on my braim that I believe it wouldn’t change even if I actually went over and eyeballed the premises myself.

I can’t think why the association is so strong. True, the only time I’ve ever actually had fondue myself was at a friend’s house during my misspent yoot in those benighted times (when it first really got popular in the States), but my friend’s parents did not choose to decorate this way. Perhaps something out of pop culture? Despite the title of this post, I never actually watched that series. But perhaps there was a very special episode of the Brady Bunch where Peter and Jan got into a squabble and wound up spilling melty cheese all over Marsha’s dress right before her big date? (If there wasn’t, there ought to have been.)

Anyhoo, there it is. Fondue and the 70’s. Inseparable to me.

UPDATE: There! Since posting this, I’ve had “Take A Chance On Me” running on a loop in my head. (Share and enjoy!) Not only that, it’s the Muppet Show cover featuring the weird, long-legged birds hopping up and down on power lines. I worry me sometimes.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was oot and aboot last evening (as our Canadian friends would say) and had himself a pleasant time despite his apprehensions to the contrary.

It all stemmed from an invitation from my cousin way back in October to go see a Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center. Through a game of “telephone” I got it in my head that she was inviting us to see her sing. I also assumed, not unreasonably, that the concert was to be on a weekend. Without bothering to nail down the details, I said of course we would come.

Well, with a little more due diligence, I’m not sure I’d have been so quick to accept. Ol’ Robbo has his little foibles, and one of them is a distinct dislike of going out on a work night, especially downtown, and especially when it means I won’t get to eat dinner until way late. But by the time I realized what I was in for, it was far too late to back out.

As I say, however, things worked out just fine. Without the Before Times rush hour traffic, getting into the Kennedy from Port Swiller Manor is easy-peasy, and we arrived in plenty of time to be screened by the Health Stasi. This was the first time I’ve been anywhere that’s demanded to see my vax papers, and they were dead serious about it. No perfunctory glance here – the flunky gave me, my driver’s license, and my vax card quite the careful look before handing me my yellow star red wristband. (Masks, of course, were also required, but I slid mine down to my chin during the performance. Nobody said anything, and I don’t believe I was alone in this.)

Anyhoo, as I said, it wasn’t my cousin’s group singing, but instead the Choral Arts Society. It was the usual mix of ancient and modern carols, hymns, and whatnot, plus the obligatory “Hallelujah Chorus”. The old standards were the old standards. The more modern stuff, while not actually unharmonious, was (at least to me) not all that terribly interesting. But the selections could have been far, far worse than they actually were. (Fortunately, “O Holy Night” was not included in the program, so I was able to avoid the temptation to, as Mencken put it, spit on my hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.)

That said, there was some John Rutter, because of course there had to be some John Rutter. They gave us “What Sweeter Music”, which happens to be Middle Gel’s favorite, I believe. (Middle Gel and I have long agreed to disagree about Mr. Rutter and his works.) UPDATE: My mistake, the Gel says it’s pretty and she likes it but it’s not one of her favorites. Our disagreement remains, though.

They also gave us, perhaps to make a point, the Gloria from Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (Mass for Troubled Times, aka the Nelson Mass). I don’t know this one very well at all, but I did notice that it contained an awful lot of elements very similar to Papa’s Missa in Tempore Belli (Mass in Time of War) which I do know very well. It isn’t all that often one catches Haydn pinching his own material. For all I know he may have done so intentionally, given the common theme, but I was amused, nonetheless.

Towards the end they trotted out their yoot choir to sing some medleys. We hates medleys. They always put in my mind a vision of Bill Murray doing his lounge singer act. The temptation to go over the top in transitioning from one part to the next always seems irresistible to the arranger. In Ol’ Robbo’s opinion, it’s high time we had common-sense medley control. Sign my petition to Congress today!

But ne’er mind. The yoots did just fine, as did the main group. The conductor was very engaging and the crowd was obviously in a very good humor. I think people are relieved just to be out again and doing things, even if they’re still a bit hesitant. (The concert was sold out. However, there were still some empty seats, most probably because another wave of panic is descending on Dee Cee.) And, as I say, none of my apprehensions about the mechanics of the evening came to pass.

As they say, a good time was had by all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(You may thank Ol’ Robbo for the earworm later.)

Even if I hadn’t read about the big storm making its way across the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, it was perfectly obvious to me as I pottered about the yard this morning that Something is on its way in. The sky is coming in full sail from the southwest, it’s absurdly warm for this time of year (I’m in shorts), and there is that indefinable feel of dropping air pressure that one can develop if one pays attention.

While we’re not supposed to catch it half as badly as others have, the thing may prove problematic. It’s supposed to hit us early this evening, which just so happens to be the first time Ol’ Robbo has been set to go out and be social in I don’t know how long. (A fundraiser for one of Mrs. R’s ladies’ groups. I said I’d go only if I didn’t have to wear a mask.) Also, after all the trouble I went to last weekend getting the basement ready for Middle Gel’s young man to stay in tomorrow night, there’s now a substantial risk that the place will get flooded again, meaning we’d have to put the boy someplace else. Grrr.

Well, we shall see what happens.

Tis The Season UPDATE: The bang that jerked Ol’ Robbo out of his meditations over Peej O’Rourke’s*** Republican Party Animal this afternoon turned out to be Mrs. R trying to pull into the garage having forgotten she had a Christmas tree lashed to the roof of her Honda Juggernaut. D’oh!

Said tree is now duly enstanded and draped with lights, ready to be decorated tomorrow by the Young Persons.

Turns out we were lucky even to get it. Mrs. R had swung by my church first, but they were all out. She went over to Meadow Farms and just managed to grab the last 7 to 8-footer. The fellah told her they were 400 trees short this year. And what cost 80 bucks last year is now a cool 125. The fellah blamed the scarcity and price increase on chain-of-supply issues and inflation.

Lima Golf Bravo!

(Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)

***Yes, I know he’s gone completely off the deep end recently, but I still like to reread his old stuff.

UPDATE DEUX: Nowhere near enough rain to cause flooding and the basement remains dry as a bone. Also, Ol’ Robbo almost enjoyed himself at the party. So a good evening overall.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo saw the announcement of the death of Stephen Sondheim the other day. (In fact, a fair number of people seem to have gone out of their way to mention it to me.) Truth be told, I didn’t even know he was still alive.

Never really been much of a fan of musicals. I recognize this is a generalization almost to the point of absurdity, but the fact is that the genre as a whole just doesn’t appeal to me. I suppose the best way I can describe it is that the format allows such an easy slide into the overblown, overwrought, over-sticky emotionalism that I generally loathe, that to me listening to it is the aural equivalent of eating endless spoonsful of sugar. (This is why my taste in opera is so limited, too.)

That said, Sondheim did the musick and lyrics for what is far and away Ol’ Robbo’s very favorite musickal, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, the movie version of which I have watched approximately 11,713 times, and for that I thank him.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(Ol’ Robbo may need to listen to some Purcell this evening. It’s been a while.)

What with one thing and another, I’ve spent very little time recently tickling the ivories, with the result that what little finger-memory I have has gone out the window again. This is what I get for being such a dilettante.

Whenever I hit this point, I always regroup by returning to two sets of works, the Bach Two-Part Inventions and a little album of sonatinas by composers such as Kuhlau, Clementi, Dussek, and the like. Banging around on these for a while always seems to limber up the fingers, the eyes, and the braims.

Of course doing so just gets me back to where I was before, an undisciplined, sight-reading hack. I’ve enough native talent that when I’m going well I can thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing, but part of me also feels somewhat ashamed at squandering my abilities this way. I used to tell myself that when I retire one of the things I will do is take up the study of musicke – both in theory and performance – more seriously, but now I begin to wonder whether my hands will be up to the task then.

We shall see.

In the meanwhile, St, Cecilia, ora pro nobis.

Thanksgiving Watch UPDATE: Youngest Gel just got home from school. She was in the Cincinnati airport at 5 ack emma and reports it was absolutely mobbed. A good sign that people are returning to travel, in my humble opinion.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel was grumbling on her way out the door this morning about some Rube Goldberg scheduling scheme the “academic coordinator” is imposing on the teachers at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method today.

“Bureaucrats!” she said. “It’s like they invent problems just to make themselves look important!”

Ain’t it the truth.

UPDATE: Speaking of funnies, I see where William Hogarth’s satirical art is now being displayed with trigger warnings. It’s sad enough that modern society has become so infantile. It’s even worse when you realize it’s been made so deliberately.

By the bye, the article implies, at least, that the top print is “Beer Street” (in that it is contrasted with “Gin Lane” featured below). But it isn’t. Instead, it’s “The Enraged Musician”, one of my favorite prints. I’ve often wondered if Hogarth had any particular violinist in mind when he made it. (For some reason, I always had it in my mind that it might have been Francesco Geminiani.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening was Middle Gel’s fall choral concert. Because she’s a senior, because we’re not likely going to get many more chances to hear her perform, and because she had a small solo part; in a high, wide, and handsome moment a couple weeks ago Ol’ Robbo said of course we would come down to see it. This despite the fact that owing to Mrs. R’s and my work schedules, we wouldn’t be able to get away until latish in the afternoon, and we couldn’t stay over but had to get back to Port Swiller Manor after the concert was over.

The happy idiot in me stuck that little logistical issue into a back pocket of my braim, only to pull it out yesterday morning, whereupon I spent the shank of the day fretting.

I need not have worried.

We had planned to meet dear friends of ours for dinner prior to the concert. I calculated for a three hour drive down, which calculation promptly flew out the window when we had to crawl around three different accident scenes in NoVA, leaving me muttering to myself. However, once south of Fredericksburg, I managed to make up the time so that I hit the ETA bang on the nose and our friends and we literally met at the door of the restaurant. (A nice place in the City Center where we managed to bag outdoor seating over a firepit.)

We got to the concert in due time, there to be joined by the Gel’s Young Man and a couple of other friends who had turned out for it. (This is not the same Young Man who she brought home last Easter but a different one and, I’m happy to say from what I’ve seen and heard, a considerable upgrade.)

The concert itself was just fine, despite the choir director’s insistence on starting off with a little screed about the ongoing covid nonsense better suited to the Black Death. As for the musick, some of it was forgettable, but the main piece was an early Bach Cantata, BWV 131, “Aus der Tiefen rufe, ich, Herr, su dir.” The second chorus contains some small soprano solos and the Gel took one of these, singing quite divinely despite the fact that she had to wear a face diaper.

All in all, it was very much worth the effort to go see.

But of course, there’s always something.

Happy and relieved that things had worked out so well, I started the three hour drive back in complacent mood. However, we hadn’t been on the highway long before I began to fancy something was wrong: my headlights didn’t seem to be projecting very far in front of the car. At first I thought maybe my night-vision, already pretty poor, had got worse since the last time I drove after dark. Then I asked Mrs. R if she noticed it, too, which she did. Her first thought was that I hadn’t set the control knob correctly, but I went through the paces of flipping it to all positions and got no better results. I tried the high-beams, which worked just fine, but of course I could only use them when suitably spaced apart from other traffic.

Fortunately, it was a dry and relatively clear night. So by a combination of hanging close to other cars in order to see what they saw, and using the high-beams where possible, I got us home. It was only after we pulled into the Port Swiller Manor garage and I got out to have a dekko that I realized the truth: the headlights on Mrs. R’s Honda Juggernaut were both out. We’d run all the way up on her fog lamps. D’Oh!

We didn’t make it home until a bit past midnight, and then due to the unusual disruption in my normally clock-like evening routine I wasn’t able to sleep at all. Today is definitely going to be kawfee-intensive.

But as I say, well worth it.

UPDATE: Well, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to keep his eyelids open today. Middle Gel called to express her gratitude that we had made the effort, and also to find out what I thought of her Young Man. (I told her my impressions, though preliminary, were certainly favorable.)

In the meanwhile, Mrs. R took the Juggernaut into the Honda dealership where, by a magic she has always possessed, she managed to get them to switch out the dead headlights at no charge. So now I don’t have to worry about her blundering around in the dark, driving by Braille.

All in all, a satisfactory day. Now, I’m going to bed…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s getting on to that time of year now where I can foresee the end of mowing season so I’m only buying gas for the lawnmower a gallon at a time lest I get saddled with leftovers all winter. Just once I’d like to finish the last cut of the season just as the mower runs out of the last of the gas I have left in the can in the garage. “Nail the landing” as it were.

Meanwhile, the proportion of my time spent raking up leaves is gradually increasing. At this point it’s mostly just trying to keep the driveway relatively clear, especially as there’s a front moving through today with a chance of thunderstorms and a layer of wet leaves on an asphalt incline is almost as slippery as ice. A bad biznay when you’re trying to get out into my busy street.

I’ve not seen the hummingbirds for several weeks now so it seems likely they’ve all split for the coast. I’m leaving the feeder up, however, Just In Case.

Ol’ Robbo’s bonus task today was to have to climb out Youngest’s bedroom window onto the garage roof to clip back some ivy that has got a bit too frisky. Let us just say that I have a hobbit-like bad head for heights.

Finally, speaking of Youngest, I added “sundry” to the post title because she’s off sailing in a regatta today at Western Michigan University. Thus, I can truly say today that “I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo“!

(Oh, I slay me.)

UPDATE: The Gel messages “Won one of the races!” Yo, ho!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still on summuh hols this week. I can’t remember the second Monday of vacation in a row in, oh, I dunno how many years.

An interesting setting of the Mass yesterday by a composer I’d never heard of, the Messa in onore di San Luigi Gonzaga by Oreste Ravanello (1871-1938). It was scored for only two voices and continuo. Very intimate and also very melodious, and had that quality wherewith it contributed to the worship without drawing undue attention to itself (which quality I couldn’t possibly put into words). Ol’ Robbo is no great fan of the romantic style in musick (which is what this was), but I liked it.

Speaking of which, despite the fact that the sheeple are all masking up again at the stores, hardly anybody had one on at my church. But then we TLM sharks are already bad, no good people. So I’ve been told by my Betters.

I read the nooz today, oh boy. Did anybody really expect anything else out of a John Gill administration?

On a different note, I believe both the Younger Gels start their kollej classes today. Meanwhile, Eldest and Mrs. R go back to their teaching jobs next week. So the cycle begins again.

Speaking of such things, I’ve recently noticed that change in the sunlight on the trees which signals summah is beginning to wind down. (It’s the shift in the angle at which the light hits them in the middle of the day. Once you know what to look for, you can’t miss it.) I suppose I’ll be getting to my annual griping here about raking up leaves before I know it.

And on that note, the yard isn’t going to mow itself, so I suppose I’d better get off my backside and get to it. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I spent the first week of my hols just loafing. But I promised myself I’d get back to doing things this week. Time to start.

UPDATE: Done! While I was at it, all kinds of bloggy material floated through my braims, material which would have made you laugh, made you cry, made you think, made you pray.

Alas, despite the fact that I slathered myself with Deep Woods Off, the gnats ate me alive and I was so distracted by the Itchy & Scratchy show by the time I was done that I clean forgot about everything else. Durn it!

UPDATE DEUX: After several glasses of water and a long shower, I now recall that I was ranting to myself about smiley-face collectivist totalitarianism. Aren’t you glad the gnats got to me now?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo stumbled across Kiss Me, Kate (1953) on TCM last evening. I’m kind of surprised they ran it (because muh sexism) but I came in a bit late, so perhaps missed any trigger-warning language at the beginning.

I’ve long liked this film, although I couldn’t really tell you why. The acting is generally clunky and over the top, and the whole thing has a brash, glaring 50’s feel that rubs me the wrong way. On the other hand, it’s Cole Porter for gosh sakes. Also, even though Ol’ Robbo knows exactly zilch about dancing, I find the choreography to be amazing.

Plus, I like shows about doing shows. Granted, the only other one I can think of off the top of the old bean is “Noises Off” (1992). That was a disappointing movie to me, despite its blockbuster cast. But then, I had been privileged to see an extremely clever stage production once that literally had people falling out of their seats laughing, so perhaps I am somewhat biased.

Oh, and since I’ve brought up the subject, allow me again to recommend here that you hunt down the old Beeb production of “The Taming of the Shrew” (1980) starring John Cleese as Petruchio. (Netflix still has the DVD, I think.)*** He’s really quite good and very well cast for the part. And even though he plays it pretty straight, he also manages to sneak in a Basil Fawlty mannerism or two, which I find hugely enjoyable.

***UPDATE: No, they don’t., not anymore. Sigh…. I realize that I’m probably one of only about half a dozen people left who still use Netflix’s DVD service, but really, their library has gone completely to the hot place in recent years, and I daily expect to hear that they’re planning to cancel the thing altogether. All part of the Great Leap Forward v.2, no doubt.


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January 2022