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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.”


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.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, bumpers all round, friends of the decanter, as yesterday the Family Robbo went down to the Virginny Tidewater to attend Middle Gel’s college graduation. Huzzay, Huzzah!

(Absurdly enough, this was the first real graduation ceremony we had been to since this same gel finished high school, what with the lockdowns and all.)

The festivities started with a lunch with the Gel, her Young Man, and his family, as well as the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his elder daughter. This was our first meeting with said Young Man’s family, and I’m not sure I made the best of impressions: As I’ve noted here before, I can’t understand much of what is being said when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time and therefore tend not to participate. No doubt I’m already being summed up once again as “cold and aloof”. Eh, I’m used to it.

Due to the threat of rain, it was decided to hold the graduation itself indoors. And because it was unpossible to squash everybody into the same space at the same time, it was further decided to do the thing on a rolling basis: the kidz signed up for specific time-slots and at such times headed over to the gym to walk across the stage and shake hands with the school president (whose ability to maintain a smile all that time left Ol’ Robbo in something like awe) while we parents looked on from the floor. (And because this is the 21st Century, the Gel’s grandparents were able to watch it livestreamed from Flahrudah.) In the meanwhile, the atmosphere was something more like a giant open house, as we strolled about and visited various places and events of interest. I must confess that I much prefer this approach to the traditional litany of boring speeches, endless lines of faceless grads, and being parboiled under the hot, steamy sun.

The day ended with a bit of practical biznay, as Ol’ Robbo was made to load several of the Gel’s trunks, apparently packed with lead ingots, into the back of the Honda Juggernaut to bring home, thus saving her a bit of space in her own car when she comes home next week.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all.

So here we are. Two down and one to go. And speaking of which, the Good Sport of the day was Youngest Gel. She had her last final Friday morning and, being booted out of her dorm the same day, immediately afterwards undertook the ten hour drive home. Despite that, she gamely got up early yesterday morning and joined us for the trip and the festivities, and furthermore did not complain once. Ol’ Robbo would have lost a lot of money had he betted on the likelihood of all that happening.

** The “theme” of my college crew. We happened to have a 35th reunion zoom meeting this past week at which we surprised our old coach, who had an enormous impact on all of us, with the news that we have kicked in to establish an endowment in his name for supplying the program with new shells. The Bowie song, which was a staple of our team winter workouts, has been floating around in the back of my head for days.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

I hope all friends of the decanter will join me this festive day in donning your candy-ass monkey suits, dialing “Quando, Quando, Quando” up to eleven on your 8-tracks, and remembering not to “go changing”.

Ah, me.

Ol’ Robbo floats this joke every year on this day, and even though it invariably lays an egg, I still enjoy it myself.

In part, I love to pay tribute to a truly great movie that is immensely funny, eminently quotable (which see), has a fantastic soundtrack (which resurrected several careers and introduced a whole new generation to R&B), and has, in its themes of charity and redemption, a surprisingly strong Catholic underpinning. (“Boys, you got to learn not to talk to nuns like that.”) (Which see.)

In other part, I also love to spit on the modern “Environmental Movement”. Make no mistake: Ol’ Robbo believes in responsible stewardship as much as anybody else. But what goes on now in the name of “Green” is a cheat and a swindle and (shall I say it?) a blasphemy, a program based on politicks, not science, and designed for no other reason than to empower and enrich those in on it, and to shackle and enslave us peons who aren’t. (That this is also Lenin’s birthday is, to me, no accident. That one of the co-founders of “Earth Day” murdered his girlfriend and composted her body in his apartment closet is, shall we say, par for the course. Green on the outside, red on the inside. And you know who else was a keen environmentalist (and a strict vegetarian, and an ardent dog-lover?)) But don’t you dare question anything: the science, the costs, the liberties surrendered, etc. You just take that filthy, unreliable, dangerous public transportation back to your browned-out, unheated, stack-a-prole hovel and appreciate your soy rations while Your Betters jet off to Davos to discuss Deep Things before disbursing to their seaside mansions to wine and dine their cronies dropping by in fleets of SUVs. PAH!! As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s a crisis, then maybe I’ll start to listen. In the meantime, they can sit the fook down and shut the fook up.

Ah. That felt good.

As regular friends of the decanter will know, Middle Gel is spooling up to go into a career in environmental management, finishing up her undergrad degree on it in a couple weeks and heading off to grad school in the fall for same. Ol’ Robbo has ranted and raved on the above themes to her for years and years and (I hope) instilled in her the necessary sense of balance and skepticism to allow her to do some real good while avoiding both the Scylla of rainbows and unicorn-farts idealism and the Charybdis of graft and corruption-fueled totalitarianism. I will say that if anybody can pull off such a delicate balance, she can. (If not, I hope she goes with the graft and corruption. That way, when I’m reduced to beggary, at least I’ll have a seaside mansion where I can go stay.)

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

This year’s Family Robbo tax return package showed up on the Port Swillor Manor doorstep last evening for signing, processing, and check-cutting.

The irony of Caesar’s goons coming around to collect his denarii during Holy Week this year has not been lost on Ol’ Robbo, and has provided me an interesting point of meditation vis a vis what gets rendered to him and what gets rendered to God and, perhaps more importantly, why.

On the one hand, it’s quite comforting, when reading of the latest madness of the world around one, to know that in the end it really doesn’t make that much difference when compared to Eternity.

On the other, I still live here, so I will ask a question I may have asked already: It’s been a long time now since Uncle paid any attention to the notion that you only buy what you can pay for and that there should at least be some rational relationship between federal outlays and federal revenues. He simply prints the stuff now. (Inflation? Never heard of it!) That being the case, why am I still paying any income tax at all?

The world wonders.

Okay, Ol’ Robbo is really signing off for now. Bless you all and have a very Happy Easter, and I’ll see you on the other side.

** I don’t care what the young whipper-snappers say, they’re still relevant. And Revolver is still my favorite album.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Well, here we are at Palm Sunday, and a very curious thing happened at Mass today. While my church is almost impeccable in its musickal selections, today’s setting of the Mass was really rayther awful. It was a Missa Syllabica by one Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). It was clanky and dissonant, and also had a real Phillip Glass neener-neener-neener minimalist vibe to it. Very distracting and unsettling.

I got wondering later on if Father was maybe being subtly sneaky about this. Palm Sunday itself is always unsettling when you stop to consider that the mob which cheered Christ into Jerusalem with boughs and cloaks strewn on the ground was the same mob howling for his blood five days later. Alas, I think a lot of people – especially the Christmas & Easter crowd – get distracted fiddling with their fronds and don’t pay that much attention to the second part. (I kid you not, I was at a dinner-party Friday evening where some of the other guests were comparing worship times and lengths with an eye to “getting it over with” so as not to ruin the rest of their Sunday.) Anyway, as to the awful musick, maybe that was the idea, maybe not. I still disliked it intensely. (And no, Ol’ Robbo is not being a crank or a snob about modern musick. There’s a fellah named Richard Rice, only a year or two older than me, who puts out very respectful Mass settings and other liturgical musick. If he can do it, so can Arvo.)

At any rate, Holy Week is upon us. As I mentioned previously, I doubt if I’ll post again until after Easter. This isn’t a fast in itself, but I am going to be fasting and abstaining every day this week (Father recommended finishing Lent at a sprint, and I’m taking up his challenge), I plan to do the full Triduum worship schedule, I still have to make a living, and I doubt I’ll have any energy left with which to think up content. I’ll still hang around, however.)

Oh, but before I go, let me just follow up on two items from yesterday and the day before.

First (from Friday), no, Ol’ Robbo is not getting to watch the final round of the Masters today. Mrs. R may not be here, but her honey-do list still is. (I just finished tacking up some ivy, a job which involved crawling out Youngest Gel’s window onto the roof of the garage. Gah.)

Second (from yesterday), I finally did, in fact, spot the bird with the nest in the ivy over our garage door. My initial guesses were all wrong: It’s a goldfinch. Neat!

See you on the other side!

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

Poking about on the innerwebz, Ol’ Robbo sees that today is the anniversary of the “Battle on the Ice” in 1242 between Russians under Prince Alexander Nevsky and an invading band of Teutonic knights. It’s famous now in popular imagination due to the film rendition by Sergei Eisenstein in which the band of plucky Russian peasants is saved when the ice breaks under the Krauts’ heavy armor and causes a lot of them to drown (which apparently did not actually happen).

Ol’ Robbo has never actually seen the Eisenstein movie, although I’ve heard about it. (As an aside, I’ve heard Prokofiev’s musickal treatment for it. Like almost all the rest of Prokofiev, it is, in my humble opinion, one-note rubbish.) Nonetheless, I recall being dumbfounded the first time I saw the 2004 film “King Arthur“, because it literally stole this scene, lock, stock, and barrel, simply replacing the band of plucky Russians with a mixed band of plucky Britons and Celts. (The Germans, of course, remained more or less the same, differences between 5th Century Saxons and 13th Century Teutons being a matter of hair-splitting.) I could only suppose the writers thought their audience would simply be too ignorant to notice the appropriation.

You may ask, “Tom, what were you doing watching that anyway?” Well, I was initially intrigued by the film’s attempt to put Arthur in the historickal context of Romanized Britain shortly after the Legions left. The notion of the last defense of the light of civilization against the oncoming night of barbarism has always appealed to me much more than magickal tales of Arthur’s knights slaying dragons and tricking witches, primarily because the evidence is that there is some historical truth to it (although I get the basis behind the legends, too). But between this kind of naked cinematic theft and a bunch of overblown special-effects, I found myself put off. (I also realized some years after first seeing it that the movie also quietly pushes the Pelasgian heresy, but that’s a rant for another time.)

Yes, this is a small point, but I’m also a small blog. If I don’t call it out, who will?


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September 2022