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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Wednesday!

Just a little something for the Middle Gel.  It’s become something of a (bad) joke between us:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  As noted below, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels.  A few random thoughts, firstly travel-related:

♦   Going through airport security, I was submitted both times to the full TSA Grope Special.  In each instance, they claimed that they needed to check out something on the front of my pants picked up by the body scan.   Hey, Einsteins!  It’s called a “fly” and it’s made of metal!  (Either that or the rosary I always carry in my pocket is radioactive and left some kind of signature after I pulled it out.)  Baysterds didn’t even give me flowers or buy me breakfast afterwards.

♦   Perhaps in my bemusement over getting an unexpected hand in my crotch, or perhaps because I hadn’t yet had any coffee, on my way out Wednesday morning I managed to lose my driver’s license going through security at Reagan National.  Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this loss until I got to the car rental counter at my final destination.   Not being able to get a car proved to be a nuisance, but at least one that I was able to work round via taxis and bumming rides from people.

♦   The good news is that the airport folks not only found my license, they also called about it and then mailed it to me with a very polite cover letter.  I got it back this evening.

♦  By the bye, Ol’ Robbo has resolved that he is never again going to fly on Ash Wednesday with the expectation that he will get to Mass at the other end.  Even when I plan it all out in advance, I’m so frazzled by the time I arrive that I just can’t make myself do it, especially, as noted above, when I don’t have wheels of my own.

♦  Oddly enough, in all my years this was the first time I’ve ever flown Southwest.  I must say that their open-seat boarding policy confused me mightily at first.  On further consideration, it still doesn’t make that much sense to me:  All the early boarders naturally are going to take up the aisle and window seats.  When the tail of the line (the despised “Group C”) comes on board, there’s still going to be a lot of confusion and aisle-crowding as they seek to insert themselves into the middle seats.  I don’t see how this is superior to assigned seating with more controlled boarding groups.   (Oh, and I put Southwest’s policy of offering to put you among the “Group A” borders for an extra fee at the same contemptible level as Disney’s policy of letting you pay more to jump to the head of the ride line.)

♦  Oh, and this trip was to Texas, where regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his misspent yoot.  It’s remarkable how much at ease you can put a Texan of a certain age you’re interviewing by saying, “Oh, sure I remember Cody Carlson from high school!  He was just a year ahead of me!”

And a few non-travel thoughts:

♦  Remember when we were all told that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and that we should “Question Authority”?  Me, too.  Good times, good times.  I certainly prefer it to “Shut your whore mouthes, you rubes!”

♦  Per my previous dose of random below,  teh youngest gel got her braces slapped on today.  I have to admit that I can barely suppress my amusement at the way all her “s’s” have transmogrified into “th’s”.   And the Middle Gel, who got hers off last fall, evidently couldn’t suppress her urge to taunt her younger sister over what’s in store for her the next two years.

♦   Meanwhile, it looks as if Mrs. R and I are headed up to Harrisburg, PA this weekend to check out a used Honda CR-V for the Eldest.  It’s two years old, single owner, 30K miles, clean bill of health, moderate whistles and bells, balance of extended warranty and a pretty reasonable price.

♦  Braces and another car, all in the same week.  Siiiigh.  I suppose I could set up as a cocaine wholesaler.  Or perhaps run guns.

♦  Of course, we’re now in Lent.  I plan to do a considerable amount of new reading, and have already started in on a series of sermons by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, recently recommended to me by a member of a Catholic FB group where I like to hang out.   However, while I am delving into the serious stuff, I am also permitting myself to take breaks with lighter reading fare, so long as it has some Christian-based theme or sensibility.  As a practical matter, this means the fiction of Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.  At the moment, I am running through the former’s Father Brown mysteries.

Guinnes Father BrownI have the ability sometimes when reading to hear in my mind specific voices for specific characters.  In the case of Father Brown, I derive infinite satisfaction from imagining his voice (and his appearance and movements) to be that of Sir Alec Guinness.  I’ve never actually seen his portrayal of the padre, but it is evident, almost obvious to me that he was absolutely perfect for the part.  (Without looking it up, I recall reading somewhere that his work on this project was one of the key factors behind Guinness’s swim across the Tiber.)

♦  Finally, my latest Star Trek: TOS comment (which may be the last until after Easter):  The Corbomite Maneuver.   A classic.  First totally space-based episode.  First battle of wits between ship’s commanders.  First gratuitous shirtless Jim Kirk shot.  And to this day my brother and I refer to adult beverages as “tranya”.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is back from his most recent travels safe and sound and has some choice vignettes about them to relay to you friends of the decanter in the near future.  First, however, I must do a bit of gratuitous Proud Papa-ing.*

As regular friends of the decanter know, teh Middle Gel is a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral, now in the middle of her third year and her first as a senior chorister.

Last night saw the debut of the Cathedral Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York.  Today’s NYTimes gives this review.   First, the players:

For these works, Mr. [Julian] Wachner, who is also a composer, assembled some 300 performers: the excellent Choir of Trinity Wall Street; the Trinity Youth Chorus; the Washington Chorus, an award-winning ensemble that Mr. Wachner also directs; the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir; and Novus NY, the Trinity Wall Street’s contemporary music orchestra, its ranks fortified for this demanding concert with extra players.

 The pertinent meat re the choral work goes thusly:

For sheer terror in music, however, not much matches the most intense moments of [Alberto] Ginastera’s passion, which put all the evening’s performers onstage. Like the Bach passions, this one has a solo Evangelist who tells the story, not in recitative, as Bach does, but in Gregorian chant. (Thomas McCargar sang the Evangelist here, along with Geoffrey Silver as Pilate and Judas, and Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus.)

Those who know Ginastera, who died in 1983 at 67, only from his earlier South American nationalist style work may be stunned to hear this passion, essentially a 12-tone score of gnashing dissonance and multilayered complexity. Yet much of the harmonic language sounds lushly chromatic, in an Expressionist vein. The piece’s most audacious element is its shrieking cinematic realism. Sometimes the choirs speak and sputter the lines; sometimes the music breaks into free-for-all bouts of hysteria.

Mr. Wachner led a viscerally dramatic performance. With this concert he signaled that next year, the centennial of Ginastera, Trinity Wall Street will present an extensive survey of the composer’s works. Adventure and ambition go hand in hand at Trinity Wall Street.

For what it’s worth, teh Middle Gel, who is, after all, ol’ Robbo’s child, despised the piece, which they also performed last week at a gala at the OAS for the strategic benefit of exposure to Big Shots at the Kennedy Center and the Washington Performing Arts Society.  Although I would much rayther see her take the Emma Kirkby route, and have long thought that she was born to sing Susanna, all I could do was to remind her that Show-Biz often demands the performing of personally distasteful works and to point out that there are very, very few 15 year olds (or anyone else for that matter) who can boast that they’ve played Carnegie Hall.

Anyhoo, as noted, ol’ Robbo is one seriously proud papa.


* I hope that regular friends of the decanter will know by now that ol’ Robbo does not stick on side and that his enthusiasms for the successes of his progeny are genuinely heart-felt.

UPDATE:  Teh Gel, who reads this blog even before the pixels dry, came in just now to correct me on one point:  Teh Choristers did not perform this Carnegie Hall piece at the OAS last week, but instead served up some Mendelssohn there.   Sounds to me like the OAS johnnies caught themselves a break!

Well, it looks as if Ma Nature finally is going to send some of that sweet, sweet white stuff to Port Swiller Manor.  Current prediction is for 5 to 9 inches overnight.   (UPDATE:  As I look out the window, I see the flakes are starting to come down already.)   Look, if it’s going to be this damned cold anyway, we might as well get something to show for it.

♦   Ol’ Robbo is off on his biznay travels on Wednesday, so in anticipation of things being shut down tomorrow, he tooled into the office (otherwise closed for the hol) mid-day today in order to retrieve some things he’ll need.  We hates driving downtown during the middle of the day.  Most of the people on the road then are a completely different kettle of fish from your morning/evening commuter types, generally of a much poorer quality.  Indeed, as I left the Port Swiller neighborhood and started in, I got caught behind an old duffer in a late-model Caddy doing about 15 mph.  As I returned, damme if I didn’t get stuck behind the same guy coming back the other way.

♦   Speaking of driving, teh Eldest currently is out doing her mandatory road work in anticipation of getting her license next month.  When she learned that she would be in a car with an instructor and two other students, she became extremely trepidatious, worrying that one of what she delicately described as “those idiots” would wind up wrapping her around a tree on the Beltway.  We assured her that the course would start out on the quieter back streets and that the instructor would be unlikely to let anybody do anything they weren’t capable of handling.  (UPDATE:  She just got home, alive and in one piece and very pleased with herself.)

♦  And yes, it looks like Ol’ Robbo soon will be digging into his jeans and ponying up for a set of wheels for the gel.  Anybody have any suggestions?  I’m thinking smaller SUV.

♦    Not related to anything but as I type, one of teh kittehs is slowly tormenting a stink bug to death behind my chair.  Pew.

♦   Oh, and speaking of Robbo digging into his jeans, the orthodontist said this morning that it’s time to get those braces on teh Youngest’s teeth.  Sigh.  On the way home, she started squabbling with the Middle Gel (who got hers off last fall) about what color rubber bands she ought to get.  Double sigh.

Well, I better go deal with that stink bug.  I’ve flicked it on the head several times, but the thing still seems to be alive.

UPDATE:  Four or five inches of very dry, powdery stuff.  A bummer for those hoping to build snowmen but a real boon for the poor shlub who had to get up at dawn this morning and shovel it off the driveway.  [Raises hand, waives.]  Plus, the power didn’t go out.

220px-Viola_tricolor_LC0041Greetings, my fellow port swillers and a good Quinquagesima Sunday to you!  A balmy six degrees above zero with a howling northwest wind were waiting for ol’ Robbo this morning when he went out to clear off the snow dumped by last evening’s squalls on the Port Swiller driveway.  Although the sky was clear and the sun out, these conditions did not encourage me to dawdle at my work.

Ol’ Robbo had another of his bizarro dream specials last evening.  The story shifted around a lot, but at its climax I found that I was Lt. Worf and I had just discovered irrefutable proof that the proprietress of an English seaside hotel had attempted to poison my friends and me by putting arsenic in our tea.

However, as I swept through the door of her office in a towering wrath and prepared to deliver my devastating J’accuse!, I suddenly realized the absurdity of the situation and burst into laughter.  Indeed, I laughed so hard that I woke myself up, and even kept laughing for a few moments after I was awake.

This happens to me every now and again and is without a doubt one of the most delightful sensations I know.  I like to think of it as an echo of the joy one must experience in Heaven.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I don’t know if this counts as an attack of bad luck or not, but it wasn’t until after ol’ Robbo got to his office this morning that he discovered he was supposed to have today off.  D’oh!  However, now that he’s back home at Port Swiller Manor, a few odds and ends for you:

♦   Idly flipping through an alumni magazine, I came across this opening paragraph:  “When I was growing up and a student at [Skool], the word “disruptive” would have had negative connotations.  Disruptive people were troublemakers: they acted in unruly and disorderly ways.  Now its meaning in business and technology has taken a 360-degree turn.  Being disruptive signifies creating innovations that improve the existing order, typically in unexpected ways.”


Growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes.  One of my favorites (well, among those suitable to a family-friendly blog) was about the two Aggies who get caught in a violent thunderstorm while flying a small plane to College Station.  As the plane gets tossed about, one of the Aggies turns to the other and yells, “Let’s do a 360 and get the hell out of here!”

♦  Michael Strain has a note on Dee Cee bike lanes and the law of unintended consequences.  All that he says is very true, but I still prefer having the damned cyclists off to one side instead of clogging up the travel lanes, which they do constantly and, IMHO, deliberately.  Arrogant wankers, the lot of ‘em.

♦   It would seem that I’m a real man.  Good to know. Which reminds me:  When I went in for my physical last week and was chatting with my doc, I mentioned that all the gels are teenagers now.  She immediately said, “Wow, do you need a man cave!”  So the next time Mrs. Robbo gives me any grief about hiding out here, I’ve got my “Doctor’s orders” defense nicely teed up.

♦  Because it’s gotten to be a thing here, two more Star Trek:TOS episodes -

Miri” – An adult-killing plague caused by scientists trying to prevent aging.  First use of the Alt-Earth scheme, although the crew seems surprisingly unsurprised to find an exact duplicate of early 60’s Earth at the other end of the Galaxy.  Also the first use of the gang of feral kids and their special words (“grups and onlies”) theme.  And I believe the first instance of Bones saying something snide about Spock’s green blood. The title character was played by Kim Darby, who was also Mattie Ross in the John Wayne version of “True Grit” where she was, unfortunately, rayther a weak link with her gosh-darn perkiness.  (Hailee Stenfield, OTOH, gets Mattie absolutely bang right in the remake, a movie I would love if the Coen brothers hadn’t felt compelled to muck about with the plot.)

hillDagger of the Mind” – Supposedly enlightened warden of a penal colony turns out to be a maniac playing God with his prisoners’ minds.  James Gregory, the warden, will always be Inspector Luger to me, no matter what movie or show he’s in.  And Marianna Hill, as a member of the Enterprise’s medical staff, is quite the cupcake.  (Which see.)

I’m finding these shows to be pretty well-written, each setting up a discrete dilemma and then deftly solving it, although the assumptions and values displayed therein seem almost archaic 50 years on and are proving to be a stark and sobering reminder of how far we’ve slid into the pit as a culture.

♦  Oh, speaking of which, I suppose tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Feh.

♦   Finally, I’m having entirely too much fun being enigmatic about whether or not eldest gel gets a car for her upcoming 17th birthday.  MWAAAA-HAHAHA!!!!! 

Whelp, that’s it for the moment.  Here’s hoping it’s going to be warmer this weekend wherever you are than it will be here!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took advantage of a bit of warmer air in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor to get a jump on the spring preparation out in the yard this morning.  (Actually, cutting back the peonies was something I should have done last fall, so I suppose I’m in part technically playing catch up instead of getting a jump, but we’re going to go with “jobs created or saved” accounting here.)  We really haven’t had much snow so far this winter, but it’s been quite cold and I’ve been feeling a touch of cabin fever.  Any excuse to get outside is nice.

And speaking of this time of the year, friends of the decanter may have seen this Valentine’s Day gift suggestion from the Vermont Teddy Bear people:  The “Fifty Shades of Grey” Teddy Bear.

90 bucks.  And I’ll bet they sell like hotcakes.  Because nothing says “I love you” like a tribute to bondage and a good flogging, amirite?

VTB is just going where the market it, of course, but the popularity of this whole “FSoG” thing (especially among women) continues to baffle me.  So far as I can tell without having read the book myself, it’s nothing more than pretty straight-forward S&M with a thin top dressing of psycho-babble through which the heroine convinces herself (and her audience) that her degradation is somehow a good thing.  Now ol’ Robbo is no prude, but really?

The other thing that puzzles me is that I haven’t heard or seen much Feminazi pushback against the franchise.  It may be there, but I’ve missed it.  One would think they’d be shrieking from the rooftops.  Unless, of course, calling out this sort of  perversity is now considered a form of slut-shaming and is therefore taboo.  I can’t keep up.

I gather the movie version opens either on or right around Valentine’s Day itself.  I shudder to think how many people are going to go see it in order to celebrate.

We live in depraved times.  We really do.  This sort of thing has always existed on the margins.  What’s horrifying is how mainstreamed it’s suddenly become. Ol’ Robbo’s going back out into the garden.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I see the innertoobs have gone wall to wall with the story of NBC Anchor Brian Williams being called out for fibbing about coming under fire in Iraq (and apparently about some other claims as well).

I suppose that if I were a member of the military I would feel some ire over this biznay, as I understand falsely claiming this sort of thing is hugely frowned upon in the Service (and justly so).

Otherwise? Meh.  The guy’s a member of the Boomer Establishment.  Do you really, truly, expect integrity?

If so,  you haven’t been paying attention.

Indeed, I suppose the only thing that angers me is that the rest of said Establishment is shocked, shocked, that one of its members is a liar.

Whelp, ol’ Robbo is off for his annual physical.  Anybody care to lay odds on whether, now that he’s 50, the dreaded “C-word” is going to come up for discussion?

* A glass of wine with Ace, who was the first I saw to coin the expression.

UPDATE:  Back from the doc.  Yes, indeed, ol’ Robbo officially has been requested and required to take one up the tailpipe.  Almost the first thing out of the doc’s mouth when I got there.  (She then spent a lot of time bitching about how the practice of internal medicine is going to hell in a hand basket, sounding remarkably like my brother who is also in the trade.  Talk about morale problems.)  All I can say is, given that this will be my first time, I hope somebody at least buys me breakfast or sends me flowers afterwards.

Oh, and another point about the Chopper Whopper is that it’s simply a matter of Williams being caught trying to macho himself up, and is therefore really nothing more than a squirrel.  Meanwhile,  the NPR nooz blurb on the radio was gushing over all the new jobs “created” last month and claiming that the economy is getting stronger all the time.  You want a big lie?  That’s a big lie.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, twenty-five years ago this evening, ol’ Robbo met Mrs. R.

You see, at the time I was in my second year of law school at Dubyanell.  That evening, I had gone over to a buddy’s apartment to borrow his VCR while he and his girlfriend – a student at Sweet Briar College, 45 minutes across the Blue Ridge – went out on a date.

When I got there, my friend was on the phone with his GF discussing logistics.  “Hey,” he said, “GF is hitching a ride over from Future Mrs. R (“FMR”). Want to meet her?”

Understand that I had been out on another blind date the night before (my birthday), set up by this same friend.  It had been an utter flop.  Not ugly, you understand, just completely without chemistry.  (Indeed, the young person involved, and her family, are now members of Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church and I speak with her from time to time.  I’m pretty sure she has no recollection that we went out on said date.  That’s how complete the lack of chemistry was.)

Anyhoo, I was pretty disgruntled re the whole dating/relationship thing that night.  I said, “Look, I’m going to watch my movie.  If she wants to join me, fine.  If she doesn’t, also fine.  Doesn’t matter.”

My friend conveyed this to his GF, who replied that FMR had no problem with that.

A short while later, there was a knock at my friend’s door.  GF walked in, followed by FMR.  Curiously, because I forget so many other things, I still remember the look on her face as she crossed the threshold.

Ironically, it was because I didn’t really care that I didn’t try to put on a face.  And because I didn’t try to put on a face, we hit it off immediately.

Go figure.

What keeps this from being a totes aaaawwww story? My choice of movies that evening.  Yes, long before I had any idea there might be any social interaction involved, I had settled on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, one of the more unfortunate entries in the canon.  (In my defense, I had not seen it before, so did not know how rotten it was.)

Whelp, to her credit, Mrs. R stuck it out with a smile on her face.  And the rest, as they say, is history, although so far as I know, she has never since clapped eyes on anything Star Trek related.

In a perfect world, each signal year I would honor the anniversary of our meeting  by, say, a bottle of champaign and an airing of the same movie.  However, I’m sure fellow friends of the decanter will understand why we, um, don’t.

Related, here is the one (almost) redeeming scene in that whole wretched movie:

What does God need with a starship, or with a centralized bureaucracy, indeed?



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