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ceciliaGreetings (again), my fellow port swillers!  Although it’s been a tumultuous day or two here, I just wanted to wish you all a very happy Feast of St. Cecilia!

St. Cecilia is, for obscure reasons, the patron saint of musick, so I’m sure you can understand why she is very special to Ol’ Robbo.  Indeed, she is more or less an unofficial patron for me and I have a frieze of her by Botticelli perched atop my piano.  I’m little more than a sight-reading hack these days, and while I do very much enjoy making musick, I am also keenly aware of my shortcomings in that respect, and also of my tendency to employ rayther a lot of bad language when banging on the keys.  I look to her to aid me in fighting these shortcomings and making my efforts more pleasing to God.

A great task, I admit, but a worthy one.

St. Cecilia, ora pro nobis.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Veterans’ Day!  A glass of wine, well a cup of coffee anyway (sun/yardarm and all that), with all of you who serve or have served or who have family or loved ones who do or did.  Looking back, I regret that I never did.

Anyhoo, now that the Gifting Season (that is what I’m going to call it with respect to commercial matters) has set in, the catalogs have started to fill up the Port Swiller mailbox.  One of the ones that came yesterday was from the National Geographic, and I must say that it surprised me:  Since when has Nat Geo gone all Smithsonian in the stuff it flogs?  Books and maps and whatnot, I take for granted.  But fashion? Jewelry? Have I just not noticed this before or is it a new thing?  (Toys, too.  The Little Boy that still lurks within Robbo looked mighty wistfully at the working drone, the magnetic levitating globe and the laser Khet game.)

About that fashion and jewelry:  Almost all of it is “themed” – Irish, Far Eastern, African, etc.  Is this not cultural appropriation at its basest?  Is this not an outrage to our sensibilities?  Is this not a micro-aggression?

Pardon me while I assume the fetal position and let loose a cry-bully primal scream.

/logs off

/logs back on

Ah, that’s better.  I hope you learn a little lesson from this, Nat Geo.

My old grandmother used to give me a yearly subscription to National Geographic magazine when I was a kid and I must say that I really appreciated it.  No, not for the pictures of half-naked African women (at least not mostly), but because I’ve always been a nut for maps and exploration.  (For example, I’m the one driver in ten thousand who appreciates the elevation sign at the top of the pass or the announcement that one is entering or leaving the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  And I confess that Google-maps and all its little functions are like catnip to me.)

We used to get the “bonus gift” that came with the renewed subscription, too – books on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (I’ve still got them) and several record albums.  (Anyone who doesn’t know what a “record album” is can get off my lawn right now.)  One of the albums was of Revolutionary War era songs, many of which I still sing to myself.  Another was of Mississippi steamboat songs, the only one of which I can recall being Stephen Foster’s “The Glendy Burk“.  (I still sing the first verse and teh chorus.)

I remember that latter album mostly because it had a painting of a big paddle-wheeler on the cover that I used as a model to draw a cover for a 7th grade book report I did on Tom Sawyer.  When Mr. Richter looked at my report – clear plastic binder, elaborate cover art, neat handwriting – I recall him saying, “Now this is a typical Robbo the Swiller effort.”  I’m sure it was part of the reason that he recommended I move up to advanced English in 8th grade.  (Why I had been placed in regular English for 7th, I never learned.)  From there, the rest was history – English major and law school.

Funny how life works out.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. R reminds me that today marks the 15th anniversary of the day the Family Robbo moved into Port Swiller Manor.

This increases the record for length of time ol’ Robbo has lived in any one place.  (The second slot belongs to his boyhood home in San Antonio into which he moved in 1974 and resided until he went away to college in the fall of 1983.)  Barring some unforeseen circumstances, I can’t think of any particular reason why I should not live here for another fifteen or twenty years, unless I’m either nuked at my downtown office or carried out of here in a box, whichever comes sooner.

I gripe here from time to time about various money pit crises such as the flooding basement saga, but overall I take much satisfaction and even comfort in learning and knowing the quirks of the place (which was originally built in the early 70’s and had only one family owners before us).

Of course, we’ve done a great deal of customizing, tinkering and repairing since we moved in.  I remember an incident about three years after the fact when one of the daughters of teh former owners appeared on the doorstep with what I believe to have been her fiancee.  They were passing through the area and she wanted to show him the house in which she had grown up.  Of course, I was quite willing to let her have the run of the place, but I can never forget the look on her face as she clapped eyes on the front hall and took in what we had already done to it, realizing that her home as she remembered it was gone forever.  She declined to come in, and after a very brief stroll around the yard, cleared off.  I felt a bit sad for her but not apologetic.

I suppose it’s true that you really can’t go home again and I sometimes wonder what it will be like if and when my own children come back to see the place once they’ve gone out into the world.  Given current trends around here, once Mrs. R and I are out the place most likely will be bulldozed and a McMansion constructed in it’s stead.   Eh.

Well, given the subject of my musing, what else can I do except to post the obvious musick video:


Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_ColumbusGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!

Ol’ Robbo can never think of this holiday without recalling to mind a song that the musick teacher at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method used to teach the younglings.  The chorus ran as follows:

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

It was a courageous thing to do,

But someone was already there.

The verses were made up of the names of various indian tribes, most if not all of them North American and none of them having had any actual contact with Columbus.  This used to bother me – historickally speaking – as much as the song’s implication that the Americas were a pristine Eden where the lion lay down with the lamb and all was peace and fellowship among the natives before those nasty Europeans came across and spoiled it all.

Lord knows that ol’ Robbo holds no brief for the way the Spanish treated their conquests in the New World, but that doesn’t excuse pushing a false narrative of the noble savage.

Anyhoo, we mark the day as a historickal milestone, not a matter of triumphalism.  Had it not been Columbus, it would have been somebody else.  Had it not been October, 1492, it would have been some other time.  And we, of course, honor the man himself for his bravery and skill as a navigator, not for his miserable attempts at administering his new-found colonies.

I have written here before that one of the best, most balanced biographies of Columbus is still Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus.

UPDATE: Well, I see that I already wrote about all of this somewhat more expansively a few years ago.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

AlbrechtsbergerThe setting of the Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form today at ol’ Robbo’s church was by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809).  I’d never heard any of his musick before, but I found myself smiling in recognition of the name because Albrechtsberger was one of three of Beethoven’s teachers with whom Lucy attempts to spike Schroeder in a “Peanuts” strip I remember from my misspent yoot.  (Salieri was another.  I can’t recall the third for certain but it might have been Franz Anton Hoffmeister.)

This just goes to show that there’s no such thing as “useless” trivia and that one never knows when some obscure factoid lodged in one’s braims at random might not come back to serve a purpose some day.

The setting itself (in D Major) was perfectly fine, by the bye, although I do not recall a Gloria in which the text was run through so very quickly.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What with His Holiness’s impending descent on Dee Cee and the mayhem it’s going to cause, ol’ Robbo decided that the prudent course would be to eat some leave time and stay out of the way until the whole thing has all blown over.  (I was strolling around the Mall at lunch yesterday and what with all the construction going on along the parade route – fences, marquees, port-o-johns and the grass being boarded over – it looked like a Capital Fourth on steroids.)  This will probably come back to bite me when the weather turns icy and snowy, but so be it.

Anyhoo, I recently made a swoop through the devil’s website and picked up a few items which may be of interest to friends of the decanter.

GBaUBofBFirst, I finally got around to bagging a couple of DVD’s that I’ve been meaning to get, namely the “Band of Brothers” box set and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”  Of the former, I will state once again that Damian Lewis looks like a constipated cat and that David Schwimmer, poor man, is doomed to be Ross from “Friends” no matter where he goes or what he does.  Of the latter, I think I’m only repeating the obvious in that it’s the best of Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy.  I do have one question that has always bugged me, however:  When Tuco shoots the bad guy from the tub, Clint hears the shot and says to the kitten, “Every gun has its own tune”,  meaning that he recognizes the sound and thus knows Tuco is around and can use him to help kybosh Angel Eyes’ gang who are holding Clint.  Well, that wasn’t the same pistol that Tuco had been using the last time Clint was with him, now was it.  So why would he say that?

A small point, but it bugs me.

GabrieliSecond, a couple of CD’s.  The local classickal station keeps a couple of canzons by Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612) in its rotation, so I finally broke down and bought the disc from which they came, “Music of Gabrieli and His Contemporaries“.  Said contemporaries (none of whom I know) include Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634), Gabriel Diaz (1590-1638) and Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517).  The first three produced great, glorious, triumphal antiphone – Spain and Italy in all their Renaissance powerhouse.  The latter – who was obviously earlier – at least here seems much more contemplative and melancholy, traits which I associate with what little Late Medieval musick I have come across.   These pieces are all done by the Empire Brass on modern instruments which, I think, is acceptable, but I should like to hear them on period instruments, too.  The voice here covered by the trumpet would be played on the cornetto, a curved piece of wood that looks rayther like a gazelle’s horn.  I have a DVD of Monteverdi’s opera “Orfeo” in which cornetti are used and they are quite supple.

Beethoven EroicaI also picked up a copy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica”, performed by the Orechestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique under the direction of Sir John Elliot Full-of-Himself.  I’ve actually got the box set of Beethoven’s symphonies by this lot, but the CD of the Eroica mysteriously vanished.  Perhaps it was the mice.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I like the story that ol’ Ludwig Van was set on dedicating this piece to Napoleon until he finally realized what a monster That Man actually was and became so enraged that he nearly tore the work up.  Ass.  By the way, Peter Schickele, in the guise of P.D.Q. Bach, did a very funny parody of the 4th movement from this piece in his “Preachers of Crimetheus” which you can find on his album, “1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults“.

Sheed MoLSheed TheologyFinally, although I already have them but because the Pope is in town and a lot of people are saying a lot of very foolish, ignorant things about him and about Catholicism, let me again recommend a couple of books by Frank Sheed:  A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith and Theology For Beginners.  These were recommended to me by a seminarian doing a turn at my church this past summah and I can’t begin to tell you how much I have profited by them.  Straightforward, tightly reasoned and accessible to anyone who has the least talent for comprehension and willingness to make any kind of effort to actually understand what they are talking about.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain Day, which ol’ Robbo shamelessly shamefully missed because he was too caught up in watching Star Trek: TOS DVDs to have any energy left to post about it.  Thus, I give you this a day late:

Curiously, I had the movie with which this piece is associated in my Netflix queue, and had thought it would arrive right around the appropriate date for viewing.  However, when I checked said queue this weekend, I discovered that my entire remaining  list had been wiped clean for some reason.  Go figure.  Personally, I blame Chinese Intelligence.

Anyhoo, I can’t let a belated celebration of Battle of Britain Day go by without reposting one of my favorite YooToob vids:

And not to start a fight, but I’m more of a fan of the Hawker Hurricane than I am of the Supermarine Spitfire.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter may recall, ol’ Robbo has sometimes mentioned here that teh Eldest Gel is of the opinion that Freddy Mercury is teh greatest musickal talent ever to have lived. No, I really don’t know why, but I won’t argue about that here.

Instead, I will post a crossing of teh streams that very recently has come to my attention: Teh Shat and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.


Teh Gel might find this blasphemous.  Myself, I think it’s wunnerful.


schumannOl’ Robbo, having seen the Nats pull back up to within 5 1/2 of the Mets this evening, spent the shank of it on a whim listening to some of the orchestral works of Robert Schumann – the 1st (“Spring”) and 3rd (Rhenish”) symphonies, to be exact.

Oh, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.  I admire your keyboard talent, but wish heartily that when you applied yourself to the symphonic oeuvre, you had had a good editor at your side armed with a large bat.

“No, Robert, we do not do it this way.  No, Robert! We! Do! Not! Do! It! This! Way!

*Wham! Wham! Wham!*

Might have helped.  While there are lots of good ideas there, they really are, structurally speaking, a hot mess.

Actually, my favorite Schumann symphony is his 4th (the revised, 1851 version – I’ve heard the earlier go and it’s an even hotter mess).  I was first introduced to it by the Old Gentleman in my misspent yoot, when he would play his 8-track tape of it in our old Ford Country Squire station wagon on our hunting and fishing road-trips, and it just stuck.

But it’s good to know his others, even if I’m not crazy about them.

Speaking of Romantic Era symphonies, I am in the market for the complete sets of both Mendelssohn and Dvorak.  Anyone have any recommendations?  (With regard to the latter, I know his 7th, 8th and 9th very well but almost nothing about the first six.  In re the former, my favorites are teh “Scottish” and the “Reformation”.)  References to historickally informed performances, especially with regard to ol’ Felix, are especially appreciated.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening found ol’ Robbo attending a concert of the Piano Guys over at Wolf Trap, in company with Mrs. R and the Middle Gel, who is a certified hyper-fan of the group.  Because the gel is such a nut, we splurged to let her sit right down in the pit about three rows back from the stage.  Meanwhile, Mrs. R and I found ourselves a spot out on the lawn and, amidst intermittent showers and drizzle, hunkered down to wait out the gel’s little self-indulgence.

This lawn-seating biznay is rayther interesting.  Over the years, I don’t think I’ve done it more than five or six times, but you can easily spot the regulars by all their paraphernalia – blankets, coolers, wet-weather gear, folding seats and so-forth.  What I like about it is that, if you find the time weighing a bit heavy on your hands during the performance, you can simply wander off and buy yourself a glass of wine.  (Ask the Beautiful People down in the amphitheater if they can do that! I don’t think so!)

The last time we were there was to see Huey Lewis a few years ago.  We found ourselves seated immediately in front of a bunch of very drunk college kids who kept cat-calling all evening.  I reckoned that the crown for the Piano Guys would be somewhat different, and for the most part they were:  Lots of younger kids (which was great), families and older couples.  I didn’t see a single member of the rowdier element in attendance.

Nonetheless, there was a couple behind us who were probably in their late 30’s or early 40’s.  They had the complete lawn encampment going, right down to china plates, silverware, real wine glasses and corkscrew.  Throughout the entire performance, though, they never stopped talking.  Two more candidates for teh Special Hell, I found myself thinking.

The funniest thing to happen was that as I sat there I suddenly noticed a woman a few spaces over who looked exactly like the gal I’d grown up across the street from back in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to her since leaving high school over 30 years ago, although I’d had a vague report that she lived somewhere in our neck of the woods.

When I mentioned all this to Mrs. R, she said, “Well, why don’t you go over and talk to her?”

“What?” I replied in horror.  “I couldn’t! If I turned out to be wrong, she’d think I was some kind of psychopath and I’d have no choice but to take my own life in shame!”

“What stuff,” Mrs. R said, and went over to find out for herself.  Turns out I had been right after all and that this was my old neighbor.  We chatted with her and her husband for a couple minutes and then went back to our spot much gratified.

Small world, ain’t it.

Oh, as to the actual musick.  If you aren’t familiar with them, the Piano Guys’ (they’re actually a piano/cello duo) basic shtick is to take classical themes and interweave them with pop favorites, then doll it all up with a lot of fancy electronic effects and dramatic audio/visual presentation.  As I say, teh Gel is mad about them.  For myself, I will certainly acknowledge that they’re a hell of a lot better to listen to than some of the stuff that could have seized her imagination, and for that I am grateful.

One thing that struck me as amusing:  The cellist, in talking about their musickal influences, mentioned Victor Borge a couple of times.  Only he kept pronouncing the name “Borg” instead of “Borzha“.  I couldn’t help thinking that if ol’ Victor were still around, he could have incorporated this into his “Phonetic Punctuation” routine.  “You vill be azzimilated! Shwoop! POP!”

All in all, a good time was had by all.


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