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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because Ol’ Robbo always strives to make sure you friends of the decanter get what you pay for, he thought he’d slap up just a few pre-weekend thoughts:

♦  After three-plus months of working from home and no end of it in the foreseeable future, I’m thinking of investing in a real home office chair.  Surprisingly, Mrs. R agrees.  One of her friends suggested a bungee chair, of which I’d never heard.  I dunno, it seems to me such a chair might stretch out prematurely.  Any thoughts?

♦  Glancing at the latest Brave Stroke Against Amerikkka headlines, I hadn’t even realized the Dixie Chicks were still together.

♦   On the local wildlife front, Ol’ Robbo was delighted to see what I believe to be two fairly mature fox kits horsing around near the vixen’s den yesterday morning.  (I now keep a pair of binoculars at my back porch work station.)

♦   Ol’ Robbo has been on a George MacDonald Fraser jag (again) as of late, to the extent that I even watched “Octopussy” last evening. GMF wrote the screenplay.  Once one knows that and knows his work, one can see GMF’s fingerprints all over it.  (He relates that when he first pitched putting Bond in a gorilla costume to Cubby Broccoli, Broccoli almost died from conniptions.)  Oh, and that airplane fight at the end always makes me queasy.

♦   On a more serious artistic note, Ol’ Robbo was introduced this week to a new-to-me period-instrument orchestra, Ensemble Resonanz, under the direction of Riccardo Minasi.  The local classickal station has been showcasing their recording of Mozart’s final three symphonies, and I must say that the performances are brilliant.  Go check ’em out.

♦   Third time around, I am deliberately staying off the parents’ FacePlant page for Youngest’s college class.  From what Mrs. R relates, the place is a fever-swamp of paranoia about whether and how the school is going to operate this fall.  We’ve come round to a simple philosophy:  We’re paying the full out-of-state ride.  If we don’t get full service in return, we’re gone.

So there you have it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is very happy to report this evening his first sighting this year of fireflies on the grounds of Port Swiller Manor. As regular friends of the decanter may recall from previous mid-June posts here, I dearly love fireflies.*

There only seem to be one or two at the moment but I look forward to seeing the tree-line full of them shortly.

As I’m sure I’ve noted here frequently in the past, one of my fondest relevant memories is of the summah I spent at my godparents’ house outside Fred-Vegas** after my first year of law school.  (I was interning in the Senate.)  After a particularly violent thunderstorm in the early evening, I happened to go outside.  The hedge across the way was so full of fireflies, I swear I could almost hear the sound of their collective illumination.  Pah! Pah! Pah! And to this day, I still think of a lyric from the Ten Thousand Maniacs song “The Painted Desert”:  “The stars were so many there they seemed to overlap.”***

As I say, shiny.

Also this evening I spotted my first bats of the year flittering above the demesne.

This also made me very happy, as I love bats, too, but I recognize I have to be somewhat more circumspect about that.  Fireflies, so far as I know, are completely uncontroversial, while bats can be terribly polarizing.  Indeed, Mrs. R hates them with a passion, which is why I’ve resisted the temptation to tack a bat-house to the foundations of Port Swiller Manor all these years.

It’s also why later I shall break the joyous news of the former to her while keeping mum about the latter.

However, since this is my blog, which is mine, and which so far as I know Mrs. R still doesn’t read,**** I will offer here a toast to both.


* In Ol’ Robbo’s yoot in South Texas, I first learned to call them lightning bugs.  However, I don’t know if this was a result of my parents’ Yankee antecedents or the local usage.  (On this front, ask me some time about the grief I got among my peers over my family-taught use of the term “sand-burrs” for what they called “stickers”.)

** Fredericksburg, Virginny.  It’s a family joke.

*** Shut up.

**** And may it stay that way.

UPDATE: Damme if I know why that first asterisk-point is formatted differently.  WordPress evidently hates cut n’ paste and I’m too tired to go back and fiddle with it manually.  Just ignore it, thankee.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of the casualties of COVID-1984** is Youngest’s “Reveal Day” at school.  This was the day on which seniors were supposed to go to school dressed in tees, sweatshirts, and whatnot of the colleges and universities they’ll be attending this fall.

To work around this, the administrators are encouraging teh kidz to put together little five-to-fifteen second videos of themselves announcing their choices.  I gather the plan is to fadge them all together in a sort of electronic class collage.

Ol’ Robbo actually thinks it’s kind of a sweet idea.  If they can make it work, that is.  Our school district has not exactly covered itself with electronic glory since the lockdown began. (Rumor has it the head IT guy was sacked because the transition to Blackboard turned out to be such a pig’s breakfast.)

Anyhoo, I saw Youngest’s entry last evening. It’s pretty representative of the way her mind works.

In the first part, holding up a Hurricanes logo, she says, “Hi! I’m Youngest Port Swiller and this fall I’m going to Miami…..”

Suddenly the shot cuts and she reappears dressed head to toe in Redhawks gear, continuing, “of OHIOOOO!!!!” and laughing like a loon.

She then starts cranking Jason Aldean’s “Big Green Tractor” and the screen is filled with shots of cornfields with Youngest’s head photoshopped into them and the Ohio flag in one corner.

Yes, that’s my gel.

No final word on what the gel’s school is doing about graduation yet, by the bye.  Evidently they’re mulling over some kind of virtual ceremony, they may hold it live some time in the summah, or they may just cancel it altogether.  Eldest’s college graduation ceremony has been rescheduled to the long weekend in October, but I don’t think that’s a practical option for a high school.


** I saw somebody use this label the other day and immediately decided to steal it.  Fits the situation to a tee, I’m thinking.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How about a few odds and ends not related to The End Of The World As You Know It?

♦  Happy Birthday to HRH Queen Elizabeth II!  She’s a good Sheila, Bruce, and not a’tall stuck up.

♦  Today is the traditional anniversary of the founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 B.C.

♦  Somebody on a comment thread somewhere yesterday made mention of the fact that “Ctrl +” will enbiggen your computer screen.  I had not known that.  My tired old  eyes have been thankful ever since.

♦  Speaking of computers, I become increasingly convinced that my work Skype is spying on me.  Sure, I’ve got a piece of duct tape over the camera lens, but how do you shut off the mic?

♦  Of course, the only thing it would hear, mostly, is my streaming of the local classickal musick station.  The past day or two, I’ve had Schubert’s Symphony No. 6 (the “Little C-major”) running through my braims.  I’m reasonably positive that the “Da-Da-Da-Dum” motif he uses in the 3rd movement Presto (especially at the section closes) is a direct nod to Ol’ Ludwig Van.

♦  I must confess that I’ve been indulging in Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series of late.  This is a sort of masochistic exercise for me, as I consider his characters to be cardboard and his style sensationalist.  But he’s so very, very good at describing Napoleonic battle maneuvers…..

So I’ve got that going for me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to give you friends of the decanter something happy to think about as you gaze out into the silent, body-strewn streets, I would point out that today is the “anniversary” of the birth, in 1732, of Franz Joseph Haydn.  (It’s generally argued that he was probably born March 31, but I believe it was Haydn’s own joke that April 1 was the more appropriate date.)

Ol’ Papa is one of Robbo’s very favorite musickal personalities:  Self-made, hard working, modest, a shrewd businessman, yet at the same time loyal, kind-hearted, and extremely witty.  And the man had nothing of that narcissistic wankery about him which was invading Western Art via the romantic movement by the time of his death in 1809.  Papa was an artisan, not an artiste, and never forgot that his musick was meant first for the glory of God and second for the enjoyment of his audiences.

He was a Good Man.

I won’t post any yootoob performance samples here since I abstain from musick during Lent, but if you want a definitive biography I cannot recommend highly enough Haydn: His Life and Music by H.C. Robbins Landon.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo worked at home today, and glancing out the window I saw a couple of goldfinches with their summah yellow plumage definitely starting to come out around their heads and throats.

This makes me very, very happy.

Just thought I would share that.

(I keep a feeder full of thistle-seed, which the goldfinches muchly appreciate.  It’s not uncommon to see eight or ten of them around it at once.)

UPDATE: Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1678, of Antonio Vivaldi, so in keeping with the subject matter of this post, here’s his “Goldfinch Concerto”.  Enjoy!

That’s a European Goldfinch, by the bye, which I don’t think anywhere near as handsome as his American cousin.  (To tell the truth, I think he’s rather a hot mess.)  As to whether the flute solo in Vivaldi’s piece bears any resemblance to his song, I have no earthly idea.  I do know that the American bird doesn’t sing anything remotely like that.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Birthday to Young Frederick!

When Ol’ Robbo actually does remember Leap Day, he almost invariably thinks back to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and specifically to the Pirate King’s Chant explaining the paradox of Frederick’s birthday:

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!

That right there is some very clever writing and makes me smile whenever it wanders across my braims, especially in the somber, ecclesiastic intonations of the King in the old Doyle-Carte Company production which is Ol’ Robbo’s gold standard.

It is, of course, very shortly after they’ve had a laugh over this that the Pirate King points out to Frederick he had been apprenticed to the pirate band until he reached not his twenty-first year but in fact his twenty-first birthday and that rather than being released from his bond that day as they’d all at first thought, he actually had rather a lot of time left to go.

Later, Frederick tells his grief-stricken Mabel that he won’t reach his twenty-first birthday until the year 1940.  If my math is right, that would make today his forty-first.  Salute!


And while I’m on the subject of G&S in general and Pirates in particular, just about every production I’ve ever seen of it couldn’t resist the urge to camp things up.  Further, since the advent of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, every Pirate King seems to mimic Johnny Depp.  When Ol’ Robbo becomes Emperor of the World, these practices will cease.  For wit and humor, res ipsa loquitur and there is no need for either rubber chickens, slurred delivery, or drunken choreography.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noticed this week that the days are definitely beginning to get a bit longer as it is now not quite dusk when I get home in the evening.  That we are finally emerging from what I have long called the Time of the Mole-People is a Good Thing.

(As an aside, I saw another round of articles about Betelgeuse possibly getting ready to go supernova recently, so I stopped last evening to have a good look at Orion.  His left shoulder is definitely smaller and more indistinct.  I found myself thinking “What if it actually did blow 600 years ago and the light from that explosion gets here right now?  Say, is that a faint halo I see expanding around it?”  It was only through sheer willpower that I pulled myself away from gawping.  I could easily have stood there staring into the sky until a passing rainstorm drowned me, as is said to happen to domestic turkeys.)

Alas, with the increasing light comes the increasing occurrence of people neglecting to turn on their headlights, no doubt because they figure they can see just fine and it never occurs to them that the other purpose of such illumination is so that other drivers can see them.  And it has often occurred to me that this seems to happen far more often with cars of a color difficult to spot in the twilight than mere chance would explain.  Why, I don’t know.  I do know that it is a Bad Thing.

As for Ugly.  You want ugly?  I’ll give you ugly.  I found out just yesterday that Metro is going to spend the next nine months playing merry hell with both my parking lot and my trains.  My parking lot capacity will be cut in half, meaning I’m going to have to start getting up before 5 ack emma if I hope to get a spot.  Further, the trains are going to be spun out at much longer intervals, which will mean long waits and much crowding.   They’re refurbishing all four above-ground stations on my end of the line and for some insane reason they feel compelled to do most of it at the same time, thereby causing massive disruptions and displacements in commuter flow.  But that’s just public transportation for you, isn’t it:  Use us, so that we may kick you in the teeth.  Ol’ Robbo is mighty crabby about this, and no doubt will spend many pixels here over the course of spring, summer, and fall griping.  Grrrr….

Well, to finish out the theme and also to snap me from brooding on that last item, let’s pull out an oldie-but-goodie YooToob, which I myself haven’t pulled up in years.  Enjoy!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Robert Burns Day!

As my mother used to say, “Ah, Rabbie Burns, the National Poet of Scotland…..The only Poet of Scotland.”

(The Mothe’s people were from Bohemia and the Sudetenland.  The Old Gentleman’s family were pure Scots-Irish.  They clashed from time to time about comparative tribal contributions to Western Civilization.  Life was colorful growing up.)

I turned out more Austro-Hungarian than Scots in outlook, I think, but one thing definitely stamped into my genes is a liking for Pipe Musick.***  Let’s have a little to celebrate the day:

On the other hands, this blog remains a No Haggis Zone.

Hoots!  Toots!

**Here’s the full poem.

***The story goes that the Irish invented the bagpipes in the 11th Century and gave them to the Scots.  And the Scots still haven’t caught on to the joke!


**Sam Kinison voice**


Youngest Gel turned 18 a few days ago.  She wanted to have a sleepover party last weekend, but since she and I were home alone, I scotched the idea.

Turns out the party is tonight, instead!

Basement full of teenagers….the dog going ballistic…..Ol’ Robbo’s entrenched routine shot to hell…..



UPDATE DEUX:  They’re in the basement, blasting Kanye.  Ol’ Robbo is on station in the library directly above, since several of the Gel’s young men are here.  I feel obligated to stay at my post until they go away.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A four-day weekend for Ol’ Robbo, and a mostly-bachelor one at that:   Mrs. R went down to Flahrdah yesterday to visit her parents; the Elder Gels are both back at school; and Youngest spends most of her time at home asleep these days.

So after waiting on Decanter Dog to finish up her biznay out in the yard early this morning I simply went back to bed….because I could.

Ha, ha, ha.

My plan, apart from attending to a few chores about Port Swiller Manor, is simply to take my mind off the hook for a few days.  I’ve started my umpteenth circumnavigation of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels.  I’ve got “It Happened One Night” and “The Dirty Dozen” from Netflix.  My sight-reading at the keyboard is on one of its periodic upticks.  I am largely set for food and drink.  And I’ve got puppeh and kitteh to loaf with me.

So let the Impeachment Circus churn on.  Let my villainous Governor try to provoke a shoot-out in Richmond in order to justify even more draconian anti-2nd Amendment measures.  Let the line between the insanity of current events and the Babylon Bee’s satire grow ever hazier.  It’ll all still be there next Tuesday.  For now, I don’t care.


For you musick-loving friends of the decanter, this short video (I assume it’s an excerpt from a longer program) turned up in my yootoob feed a day or two ago:

Right at the end of the clip Johann Sebastian is hugged by a younger man who I’m pretty sure is meant to be his son, C.P.E. Bach, who was one of Frederick’s court composers.  It has long been my understanding that the theme which Frederick gives Old Bach in this bit, a pretty fiendish one, was most likely concocted by C.P.E., and that the whole thing was meant to be an elaborate practical joke to put the Old Man on the spot and spike him.  This is one of those little pieces of trivia which Ol’ Robbo chooses to believe whether it has any actual basis in fact or not.

(Old Bach, of course, eventually turned it into The Musical Offering, which frankly interests me more from an intellectual standpoint than an aesthetic one.)


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July 2020