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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I don’t know why, since they do it every year, but ol’ Robbo was surprised and shocked this morning at hearing the first bits of Christmas musick being played on the local classickal station.
Indeed, my exact words were, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no!!”
As I say, it’s the same pattern: They start by doing a little “Christmas” fill-in at the top or bottom of the hour the Monday after Thanksgiving. Gradually, they add more and more such musick to the playlist. By the week of Christmas itself, the stuff is wall-to-wall and one is heartily, thoroughly, totally sick of it.
And on December 26? Zilch. Nothing. Nada. Back to regular programming as if nothing had ever happened.
As I grow older and crankier, I resist this whole biznay more and more. As of yesterday, it’s Advent, dammit, ADVENT! (Happy Liturgical New Year, by the way!) Christmas does not start until the evening of December 24th. Furthermore, it doesn’t end until January 6 (or February 2, if you really want to kick it).
As a matter of fact, Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year, combining as it does a certain Lent-like repentance with an excitement over the impending arrival on earth of our Lord. Thus, yesterday ol’ Robbo duly put up wreaths on the front doors of Port Swiller Manor swathed in purple ribbon and also built an appropriate Advent table wreath.
Sigh. I know, I know. The whole modern “Christmas Season” is just a secular, commercial-driven co-opting of the Christian tradition (well, at least of its more surface-y traits). And every year, it’s more about the co-opting and less about the tradition. (See, for example, the gradual displacement of the greeting “Merry Christmas!” with the much more anodyne and meaningless “Happy Holidays!” Try the former at work and you’ll find yourself hauled up in front of HR for hate speech.)
Need I point out that Scrooge did have at least something of a point? Bah, humbug!
The good news is that the Gels get this as well. Indeed, Eldest has taken to spending the period between Thanksgiving and the Real Christmas saying to everyone, “Merry Xmas!”
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Sad news: Middle Gel tipped me off this evening to the the death of Annie Schmidt.
Who, you might ask?
Well, she was the daughter of Jon Schmidt, one of the founders of the Piano Guys. She’d been out on a solo hike in the Oregon wilderness and had gone missing about a month ago. According to the story, her remains were found at the bottom of a cliff and her death attributed to blunt force head injuries. Bottom line: she fell.
I had originally been inclined to say something here about the foolishness of solo hiking, but pace. There is nothing, from what I know, worse than surviving your own child and I’ve no reason to add to that burden.
I bring this up because, again, Who, you might ask? Well, the Piano Guys are the Gel’s favorite musickal group. She’s got several signed CD’s from them and has seen them at least three times in concert the past few years. (I went with her to the last one at Wolf Trap last summah.) The PG’s really aren’t my thing, but on the other hand they’re a heck of a lot better than Miley Cyrus’s “twerking” or your average Boy Band or Gansta Rappa that most of teh kids seem to follow these days.
A sample of their mishmash of classickal and modernsky:
Also, in their stage show, they are unabashedly religious (Mormon, I’ll grant you, but still….). In this day and age, it is quite refreshing.
Anyhoo, as teh Gel herself admits, as sad as the nooz is, at least the family now has closure, which I suppose is something. (As I say, I hope never, ever, to have to go through such a process myself.)
Greetings, my fellow port swiller and Happy Halloween! (Ol’ Robbo is posting this a day early because tomorrow night he plans to ignore the doorbell, hide in the basement, and watch “Young Frankenstein”.
Meet Jack-O. As ol’ Robbo has mentioned here many times before, he is rigidly orthodox when it comes to carving pun’kins. Triangles for eyes and nose. Period. Mouth? Well, the number of teeth Jack-O winds up with is pretty much a function of my patience. The Mothe wanted me to do fangs this year, but I settled on blunts. On the other hand, I put in rayther more than I usually do, so there’s that. (Pro Tip: a flathead screwdriver does very nicely in small areas if you can’t find your Exacto knife.) These fancy-shmancy carving “kits”? Feh.
Now, want to see something really scary, huh kids? Via the College Fix comes the University of Texas’ 29-point checklist on offensive costumes. I know this is a trend in many schools around the country this year, but I picked UT in part because Mrs. Robbo brought this particular article to my attention, and in part because this is Texas fer cryin’ out loud!
You can go read the pamphlet itself, but the CF article summarizes the general idea:
“Have we consulted with ‘experts?’ Is it educational?” the guide advises students in the event they decide to portray a culture. Such “experts” include “community leaders or faculty.”
Students should also be careful to avoid “utilizing generic store-bought costumes” that may not be fully “authentic” if the theme is cultural, the guide says. It suggests hosting a “non-social event” if students want to “educate” each other about a culture.
It lists 11 separate “harmful” themes, including any “generalized representation” of Asian culture or “Indigenous” cultures, such as “Cowboys and Indians,” as well as “tropical” or “fiesta.”
The guide provides mixed messages when it comes to cultures associated with white people. “Harmful” themes include “Golf Pros & Tennis Hoes,” “Trailer Trash” and “Chicks and Hicks,” but the guide approvingly cites “Catalina Yacht Mixer or ‘Preppy’” in a section on suggested themes that also includes “Rep Your Favorite Team” and “Alphabet Theme.”
(Ya know, by any traditional meaning of the term, ol’ Robbo is a “Preppy”. Just who the hell do these people think they are, encouraging my personal subculture to be appropriated?)
By the time you get finished tap-dancing through this minefield, what the hell is the point anymore? And if some Socialist Juicebox Wanker decides they want to come gunning for you anyway, they’ll find some source of outrage, even if you’re just standing there in a bedsheet with a couple eyes cut out of it.
What a stupid, stupid time to be alive.
(Twenty-mumble years ago when I was in law school, I went to three different Halloween parties. The first year, I went as Judge Learned Hand, my costume being a black robe and a cardboard hand cutout on my head. (That’s a 1L geek joke, btw.) Third year, Mrs. Robbo and I went as the Miser Brothers. (Won Best Couples Costume, IIRC.) Second year? I went in a costume that would guarantee me a one-way ticket to the camps if I wore it today. Nobody back then said a single thing other than, “Who is that?”)
UPDATE: As of about 9:30 pm, ol’ Robbo is about to go out and extinguish Jack’s candle and call it an evening. So far as I heard, we only had one trick-or-treater tonight. Geographically speaking, we’re a neighborhood outlier (or, as I like to put it, on the wrong side of the tracks), and nobody has ever bothered to come round here who doesn’t actually live on our street. Over the past couple years, most of the kids in our immediate vicinity have, like our own brood, got too old for door-to-door Halloween, and our sole visitor was a little girl who just moved in a couple months ago. Just as well, as our idiot dog Daisy the Derp, easily the most stupid dog I have ever owned, has become increasingly cranky about unauthorized people, animals, and noises, and it took me about 20 minutes to calm her down after this one encounter.
UPDATE DEUX: I mentioned above my plan to watch “Young Frankenstein” this evening. Didn’t actually happen. Instead, I found myself catching bits of “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horrors” marathon on FFX. Eh. The episodes I watched were from fairly recent seasons. Fact of the matter is that the franchise isn’t nearly as funny as it was, oh, 15 years ago. Nonetheless, it can still produce a quality zinger every now and again.
Anyhoo, I bring this up because one of the skits was a tribute to Hitchcock and used what is easily my favorite theme from all of his movies, the one to “North By Northwest”. Enjoy!
UPDATE TROIS: Okay, as long as I’m at it, a gratuitous foundation to my “Really scary, huh kids?” reference above. Either you know SCTV or you don’t:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I mentioned in a post below the Middle Gel’s upcoming fall concert. Well, that concert was this evening.
The Gel, who is now a HS junior, made it into Madrigals this year – what amounts to Varsity Choir at her school – which, if I may say so, has a reputation for one of the best musick programs in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.
At any event, their portion of the evening’s offerings was as follows:
- A Cantate Domino by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
- “Je ne L’ose Dire” by Pierre Certon (d. 1572)
- “I Love, Alas, I Love Thee” by Thomas Morley (1557-1603)
- “Jungfrau, dein schöne Gestalt“ by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
- “Fair Phyllis I Saw” by John Farmer (1570-1601)
I mean to say, what? Ol’ Robbo does love him some closely-reasoned Renaissance polyphony, especially if it is well done, as was this evening’s selection.
After the Madrigals did their stuff, they were joined on stage for the finale by the rest of the Concert Choir, of which they are the hub. The final three selections were:
- The beginning and concluding sections of the Gloria from a Mass setting by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
- “My Flight For Heaven” by some contemporary fellah named Blake Henson and based on a poem to Musick by the great Cavalier poet Robert Herrick
- “Let Everything That Hath Breath”, a modern setting of Psalm 150:6 by some fellah named Jeffrey Ames.
You will notice in these lists a healthy amount of religious musick. The same was generally true of the selections served up by the junior choirs as well. I swear that I heard an older man sitting behind me exclaim to his wife, “So many Christian pieces? By Allah!”
A close friend of the Port Swiller Family (ex-Catholic, but I’m hoping to turn her back) came to see the Gel sing, and also remarked to me her surprise at the distinctly Christian flavor of the program, given that this is a public school.
“Shh!” I said, “Don’t give anyone any ideas……”
Oh, and here for your enjoyment is a YooToob of the Morley, a distinctly secular piece – apparently with all five parts sung by the same fellah:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Whelp, today was the kickoff of the annual fall membership marathon pledge drive at the local classickal radio station.
On the one hand, Ol’ Robbo was little surprised to hear the same canned fundraising rhetoric about “community” and “one pledge at a time” and “do your part” that he’s heard for many, many years before. After all, That’s What You Do with fundraisers, right? Blah, blah, blah.
On the other hand, I can’t help noticing that, at least apparently to dweebs like me, this approach has been something of a failure in recent years. Why? Because the station seems gradually to have been throwing things overboard in order to lighten the financial load. Last year, it summarily cancelled its bottom-of-the-hour morning drive-time NPR nooz updates. This year, it also chucked the afternoon drive-time bottom-of-the-hour local nooz updates. Also, it chucked all of its half-hour drive-time traffic updates. (This didn’t bother me so much, as years of bitter experience had already convinced me that there was very little correspondence between what the radio was telling me about teh road and what I could actually see outside my own windscreen.) Finally, I’ve noticed that the usual DJs have been absent a great deal, suggesting to me that they are no longer full-time employees, but have been reduced to part-time status.
Anyhoo, this whole biznay got me thinking about how the station could improve its finances.
One idea I had was to play the pathos card: “Oh, Lordy! If you don’t cough up, we’ll have no choice but to lease the transponder to ISIS and eat the sound engineer!”
But then, I realized that Monty Python (as so often was the case) had the real angle on how it should be done:
And in these pastures? Cor lumme, stone the crows! Croesus ain’t in it. Thank me later.
(And yes, in case you’re wondering, ol’ Robbo actually tosses in his monthly offering, since he listens so much on his commutes back and forth, and down the office.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
One of Ol’ Robbo’s long-term (i.e., post-retirement) goals is to get back into serious keyboard work. You see, I took piano lessons all the way up through the end of high school – indeed, my long-term instructor suggested that I might consider applying to a conservatory – but never did much beyond that other than sight-reading (primarily Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart). I can hack along well enough in this practice to (at times) amuse myself, but increasingly I long for the satisfaction to really nail a piece, working it up to performance calibre. (Part of my motivation, I’ll grant, is the fact that the Middle Gel – an astonishingly lovely soprano – has already sung Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Washington National Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres, and other pro venues, but another part is the pure desire for myself to produce real Art.)
Anyhoo, two works currently on my radar are both by Johann Sebastian “Johnny” Bach. One is his 13th Sinfonia in A-minor:
The other is the rayther nightmarishly chromatic Gigue from his 5th English Suite:
I only have the time to run through these (0r any other pieces) a couple times per week these
days years. Sometimes my efforts are truly gratifying – in the “any landing you can walk away from is a good one” sense. Sometimes, they leave me swearing heavily . (One never knows whether Terpsichore is in the house or not.) But someday I would like to be able to sit down and toss them off for pure pleasure.
UPDATE: First, mea culpa about my description of Middle Gel’s achievements. On re-reading, it sounds a bit too much like Braggy McBragFace who Brags. That was certainly not my intention. I just love the musick so much and am in such awe of the Gel’s achievements. Indeed, just before writing, I had been talking with her about next week’s fall concert, something to which I am much looking forward. She mentioned that her madrigal group would be doing some Renaissance works by Claudio Monteverdi and Thomas Morley, among others, and then she started quoting some German text. I suppose I got a bit overwhelmed by teh awesome.
Second, I forgot to mention the surprising development that the Eldest Gel has suddenly become interested in singing herself. She’s always had musickal talent, but also is a natural alto (voices run fairly deep among the wimmins in Mrs. Robbo’s family), but had always shied away before. However, she signed up for her college choir and has been enjoying it immensely. (We got to see them in action this past weekend.) Indeed, although she’s only in the lowest, all voices welcome, group this year, she is talking of taking voice lessons in order to advance to the upper echelons.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, ol’ Robbo just got back from visiting the Eldest Gel for Parents’ Weekend at SBC. All in all, quite the interesting experience.
The other day, the Gel requested and required, in her straightforward way, that Mrs. R and I try not to make conspicuous fools of ourselves while visiting. Overall? I’d say we were roughly 60% compliant with that
request order. (At least we didn’t bring baby photos to show the Gel’s friends.) Our first fault – which I should have spotted and more forcefully deterred – was that Mrs. R kept forgetting that she was a visiting parent and not a visiting alumna, so she spent large amounts of time glad-handing faculty, administration, and other students, trying to set up networks, offer suggestions, and generally rallying to the flag. All worthy endeavors, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything. When Mrs. R was going at Maximum Shmooze, I could see faint puffs of smoke coming out of the Gel’s ears. (Not just because Mom Wouldn’t Stop Yakking, but also, I believe, because there’s a kind of territorial thing developing here: The Gel has so quickly taken to the place that she now assumes it’s her turf and that Mrs. R is an intruder.)
Also, Mrs. R indulged in her favorite pastime of trying to jam Too Many Events into Too Little Time (something which has driven me absolutely batty the last quarter century). This culminated in an ill-advised late movie date with the Gel after her theatre production was finished last evening, leaving the Gel an extremely irritable zombie this morning. I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been better for all involved if we hadn’t simply slipped off for home after the show instead of staying for brunch today. (The production of “The Trojan Women” was, by the bye, quite well done for all my critique in the linked post. Great leads, well-staged, and pretty gruesome all around.)
A few other things:
The Gel may have been an irritable zombie this morning, but so was Ol’ Robbo. This was because last night was the second night in a row in which I got virtually no rest. Now, long-time friends of the decanter may recall that Ol’ Robbo does not do well sleeping in beds other than his own in the first place (e.g., on travel), but this was somewhat worse. For one thing, there was something going on with the pipes at the inn where we stayed. Do you remember that sound the sabotaged reactor plant made in “The Hunt For Red October” that forced the crew of the October to shut it down? That metallic ka-clang! ka-clang! ka-clang!? We got that, off and on, all night. For another, this weekend happens to have been Homecoming at the Younger Gels’ high school. We had allowed them to stay and go to the game and dance provided that they stayed with approved friends and that we worked out security understandings and arrangements with said friends’ parents ahead of time. So last evening, we couldn’t even think about going to bed until we had received confirmation from home that the Younger Gels were safe, sound, and not in requirement of bail money.
(The above paragraph is, by the bye, an apologetic explanation to long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory for why I didn’t appear at his church for Mass this morning. I had thought to tool over the mountains, in part because ODT’s church was one of the nearer available options, in part because we’ve been blog-friends for years on end but had never met in person. But I was so wiped out that I simply couldn’t get myself up in time. Mea culpa!)
The Gel’s operating procedure during most of our visit was to deal with us until she’d had about enough and then dismiss us until she was ready to reengage. This left some time on our hands, so yesterday Mrs. R and I decided to walk round the campus on the traditional loop known as “The Dairy”. It’s a farm road that, starting behind the performing arts theater, passes over some fields, climbs up the backside of Monument Hill, passes through the stables, and then dips down into the dell where the graphic arts program is housed in the buildings and barn that used to hold the working dairy back in the day – hence the name – before climbing back up toward the main campus. (The Dairy – which supplied fresh milk and ice cream to the dining hall when Mrs. R was there – was forced to close in the early 90’s because of the added costs associated with complying with strict new EPA regulations championed by AlGore. Of course, Big Dairy – cosy with the gubmint – could afford to swallow such regs while all the little operations like SBC’s were run out of the market, so from the point of view of both the Bureaucracy and the Major Players, everybody won. And that, boys and girls, is what we call Crony Capitalism or, to put it more succinctly, Fascism.) The loop is something in the neighborhood of three miles all the way around. (The Gel walks it at least twice a day.)
Anyhoo, as we tramped along outbound across the fields, I suddenly stopped.
“What is it?” said Mrs. Robbo.
“You’re going to think I’m completely mad,” I replied, “But I’d swear I heard the skirl of bagpipes coming down the wind.”
We continued walking. A few moments later, I stopped again.
“Yes?” said Mrs. R.
“I heard it again!” I answered. “Are the Campbells coming?”
A few more yards and there could be no doubt: Somewhere up ahead, a piper was doing his thing.
As we tramped along up the hill and the musick got clearer, I couldn’t help feeling a certain chill, even a romantic urge. (My father’s family is almost purebred Scots, you know. It must be something in the blood.)
Eventually, we tramped up to the top of Monument Hill and there he was, a Lone Piper (albeit in t-shirt and jeans) solemnly striding back and forth and puffing away. At first I had thought it was some kind of honorary tribute to the spirit of the school embodied in the Monument. However, as the fellah kept starting and stopping and repeating certain phrases, I realized he was just practicing, and probably doing so at such a remote location because he couldna’ do it anywheer else fer yon dozy knippits who dinnah unnerstan teh pipes!
Made my day, however.
The other get-rid-of-parents activity in which Ol’ Robbo participated was the fly-casting clinic held by a couple of profs down by the boat house. Now, the Old Gentleman taught me how to fly-fish when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up a fly-rod in twenty years and wanted to see if I still have the touch. Well, my friends, it seems that I do. However, I also have something that I didn’t have back in the day: A maximum pitch-count.
So there you have it. Mrs. Robbo and I are home again after a reasonably entertaining weekend, the Younger Gels are safe and sound, and the Eldest can breath a sigh of relief and unclench.
UPDATE: For your delectation:
Although I’m mighty-near purebred Scots on my father’s side, my family were not true Highlanders, having held lands primarily slightly south of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so I dinna know where we stood re pacification and relations with the Brits. But I know ye ne kin trust the bludy Campbells!
Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? from the Symphoniae sacrae III by Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672).
(“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
It will become hard for you
to kick against the thorns.” – Acts 9:4-5)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
A cool and rainy Saturday here at Port Swiller Manor means ol’ Robbo really can’t hide in the yard as usual, but instead has been dragooned into getting the house cleaned up for a stay by the Former Llama Military Correspondent, who will be in town this weekend for the Army Ten-Miler. (At the moment, I’m waiting on the sheets in the washing machine.)
Anyhoo, I first heard this piece thirty-mumble years ago in a college musick class and was deeply impressed by it. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t take in the compositional facts of the piece and somehow got it into my head that it was something out of Handel. After that, I lost touch with it completely.
However, I am currently reading Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner and came across a discussion of Schutz’s influence on Bach that contained a detailed description of this piece. I immediately recognized it and happily scurried off to yootoobz to indulge myself. It’s far more moving – and indeed, awe-inspiring – than I remember even from back in the day. (Well, it ought to be, oughten it? Something wrong with me otherwise.)
I haven’t made up my mind about whether or not I like Gardiner’s book yet, by the bye. It is very informative about Bach’s life and influences, but so far the narrative has a somewhat uneven quality about it, with a tendency to go back and forth between dense analysis and flighty by-the-ways. Also, Gardiner’s ego keeps bubbling up – we don’t refer to him ’round here as “John Eliot Full-Of-Himself” for nothing, you know.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo doesn’t get out very much, in part because it gets expensive very quickly and in part because, once I’m done shlepping down to the shop and back every day, I’d really rayther stay home of an evening.
This weekend, therefore, was quite out of the ordinary.
First, as mentioned in the weirdo post immediately below, Friday evening saw the Family Robbo trek down to Nats Park to watch our beloved Nats take on the Fish. We got there around 5:30 pm. The game was supposed to start at 7 pm. It didn’t actually start until 8:50 pm. Here’s what ol’ Robbo had to look at during the wait:
So why stay, you may ask? After all, the Division Title was already locked up, the shakiest starter in the rotation was pitching (he actually lasted about 2 innings), and it was cold and rainy. (Indeed, it never really stopped raining all evening.)
Well, I’ll tell you. For one thing, Eldest Gel was home visiting from school and really wanted to go. For another (related) thing, it’s rare that all of us do anything together as a group now that the gels are growing up. For a third, I hadn’t been to an actual game all year. And fourth? Look again at the pic. We had bought seats in the upper deck, but the Gods of the Ticket Office decided to smile upon us and upgraded us to about 20 rows behind 1st Base.
I couldn’t pass that up.
Last evening, in turn, the Middle Gel and I went down the Kennedy Center to catch their production of Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro.
Curiously enough, while I have heard the piece many, many times, owning 2 CD versions and a pretty good DVD recording of it as well, I’d never seen it performed live before. Go figure. Anyhoo, we had a thoroughly delightful time. It was well staged, most of the singers did very well and were obviously having fun, and the orchestra was good, too.
However, get a load of where we wound up sitting.
Yep, the Bob Uecker Front Row. We’re talking real nose-bleeders here. Indeed, we weren’t even sitting in one of the affixed rows, but in a couple chairs brought in at the very back. (Thus the wages of putting off to the last minute trying to get tickets to a very popular production. On the other hand, I was able to slip off my loafers without anyone noticing.)
All I can say is that even though we eventually started to succumb to altitude sickness, we could hear and see well enough. I also found myself musing that this was just about the position we would have been in the night before if our ballpark seats hadn’t been changed.
Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo didn’t make it to bed until past one ack emma on either night, so I am in something pretty close to zombie mode now. Which is another reason why I don’t much care for the night life.
In these cases, tho’, I think it was worth it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Second and final day of ol’ Robbo’s employment “retreat” and it was about what I had expected, maybe even worse. (I won’t go into details, lest I find myself posted to the happy fun reeducation camps quam celereme. Let’s just say that, according to several speakers at least, I am a very, very bad person.)
Anyhoo, what else is there to do but come home and flush it all out with some serious sound:
I’ve read various bits and pieces on the Great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the upshot of which is that by the time they got to this song, Benny and the Boys were in the Zone and just going flat out. Certainly, none of the studio versions of it I’ve heard are quite the same.
By the bye, no offense to drummer Gene Krupa, but I like to imagine Animal on the skins here. I may have mentioned it here before, but Mrs. R and I got married at Sweet Briar College, the service being in the school chapel and the reception in the campus center. For the reception, we hired out a 13 piece big band run by one of the Science Department professors of the day, and the place absolutely jumped. I ardently tried to get them to finish up with “Sing, Sing, Sing”, but they wouldn’t do it. Possibly this was because they didn’t know the song. Alternatively, it might have been because I kept requesting it in Animal Voice.