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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, the big nor’easter pounding the East Coast today brought exactly nothing to Your Nation’s Capital.
Not that we aren’t knee-deep in snowflakes here this winter, but they’re of the political rayther than the meteorological variety. Ha, ha, ha.
As a matter if fact, it’s been a relatively benign winter so far this year, and I even noticed yesterday that the forsythia is already starting to bloom. Must be all that glow bull enwarmening that ManBearPig is spreading about. AlGore promises that he’s on the case. Super serial, you guys!
For all that, I can’t remember a year when I so yearned for the return of the warmth as I do this year. Must be getting older or something.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy MLK Day. (Or, as a smart-assed friend of mine used to insist on calling it: SlainCivilRightsLeaderTheReverendDr.MartinLutherKingJunior Day.)
Thankee for your kind wishes viz Ol’ Robbo’s bout with the flu. While I’m still feeling rayther weak and am coughing a bit, I am confident that I’m on the mend. On the other hand, it seems just about everyone else in the family has now picked it up to one degree or another. The knowledge that at least some of them got flu shots gives ol’ Robbo a certain amount of subversive pleasure.
So a few post-plague odds and ends for you:
♦ Ol’ Robbo finally took down the Christmas decorations today, including the tree. As always and despite my vigorous plying of broom and vacuum, I expect to keep finding fir needles about the front room and hall well into July. Eh.
I always chuck the tree onto the brush pile out in the woods past the back gate. In case you’re interested, I have observed that it takes two to three years for these trees to finally crumble into their primordial components: Next year, this one will be a skeleton. The year after, it will be a crumpled skeleton. The year after that, dust. (Thinking of the brush pile and the seventeen years I’ve been contributing to it, I just now remembered a book I read as a child. It had something to do with a tornado hitting a Kansas farm and scooping out and dumping some incredibly fertile soil in such a way that all kinds of strange things began growing on the heap of dirt that the twister left behind.)
♦ Speaking of years, this past week saw the seventeenth and fifteenth birthdays of the two younger Gels. Tempus bloody fugit, indeed. They celebrated said B-days with back-to-back sleepover parties Friday and Saturday nights. You may judge for yourselves what ol’ Robbo thought of having Port Swiller Manor loaded to the gunn’ls with teenaged girls for 48 hours straight. (No, it isn’t anywhere near the thrill you might think.)
♦ Speaking of the Gels, Eldest heads back to school tomorrow. Aside from French, she finished with a solid A-/B+ GPA her first semester, of which I am quite proud. (Don’t tell her I said so, but she did a hell of a lot better her first semester in college than did ol’ Robbo. Also, from what she let fall in conversation, I think she learned some valuable lessons in what college-level studying actually entails.) As of now, the plan is that she’s going to major in history and minor in theatre, and also pick up an Arts Management certificate. And speaking of theatrics, the Gel has been cast as the Wicked Witch in the school’s spring production of Shrek The Musical. She says herself that this is one of the most idiotic and useless musickals ever produced, but that she is nonetheless looking forward to having a good time participating. I know exactly what she means.
♦ Also speaking of theatrics, Ol’ Robbo is now half way through watching the 2012-ish Beeb production of The Hollow Crown (comprising Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.) I think, I think that I like the series. The acting is uniformly great and, at least for the most part, the production plays Will’s history straight down the middle. I guess my main criticisms are that it seems some dialogue has been cut in favor of prolonged visuals (yes, I get that these are movies instead of plays on film), and also that the who thing is saturated with that sort of vaguely Celtish World Musick which I really dislike.
One thing that actually made me laugh: In Richard II, Bolingbroke is well played by Rory Kinnear. I’ve never seen him before, but his old dad, Roy Kinnear, is well-known to ol’ Robbo as a minor comedic actor with bit parts in films such as The Three Musketeers and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Ol’ Robbo loves these Thespian family links. Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when I popped in H-IVp1 to discover that the role of Bolingbroke had been taken over by none other than Jeremy Irons! The man, although talented, whistled his lines over a set of obviously false teeth. Ol’ Robbo enjoyed that yugely.
♦ Finally, speaking of the Bard, Ol’ Robbo has decided that it is high time he reorganized the Port Swiller library. (I’ve never done an actual count, but I reckon we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 volumes, all told.) It’s been a mess for some years but I have been content with that because I at least knew where everything was, more or less. Recently, however, I discovered that Mrs. R was taking things in her own hands. I do not wish to disparage Mrs. R’s learning in any way, but her approach to organization is based on neatness rayther than content. She can’t abide books stacked up on tables or in corners or on top of other books: Those she can’t jam in somewhere on the shelves anyhoo, she simply squirrels away elsewhere in the house. Indeed, I didn’t even realize the gravity of the situation until I discovered a book I had been looking for – along with multiple other missing volumes – packed into an old bookcase in the Eldest Gel’s bedroom closet.
I mean, I say!
UPDATE: To satisfy my own curiosity and to prove to you lot that I’m not completely insane, I did a bit of digging to try and find that children’s book I referred to above: It’s McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman. (I didn’t realize until I did this research that this was one of a whole series of McBroom books, all of which seem to center on Tall Tales.)
Interestingly, another of my very favorite books as a kid was Fleischman’s By The Great Horn Spoon!, the story of a small boy who runs away from well-to-do Boston to the California Gold Rush, and who’s aunt’s butler goes along to keep an eye on him. I probably read that book a hundred times in grade school.
I knew that Disney had made a moovie version of the book called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin“, which I longed to see for what seemed like ages. Eventually, they ran it one Sunday evening on tee vee. I recall being very, very excited. However, despite the very not bad presence of Suzanne Pleshette in it, the movie made such a pig’s breakfast of the novel that I was seriously traumatized. And that is the origin of my life-long hatred of moovie treatments of favorite books.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had no intention of watching the election returns last evening. I have learned through long and bitter experience that such things are both repugnant and stressful to me, repugnant because of the yammering of the Talking Heads, stressful because of the suspense and potential for disaster. So I had planned to watch a movie instead. (“The Hunt For Red October”, in case you were wondering.)
Unfortunately, Mrs. R got at the teevee before I did, and before I knew it, had flipped on the election coverage. Perversely, because I hate it so much, I find that once I’ve clapped eyeballs on said coverage, I cannot tear myself away until the issues presented are resolved. As they say, Keep Calm and Don’t Blink.
So there I was, hopelessly trapped. And I stayed that way from about 8:30 pm all the way through to The Donald’s victory speech at around 3:30 ack emma. And I admit that there was some drink taken.
Up again at six this morning, you can imagine how productive a day I actually had.
Not that I was alone: most of the rest of the people in my office also appear to have held out to the bitter end, and while I was just bleary and jaded, they were in full Gotterdammerung meltdown, crying, cursing, and group-hugging.
(Okay, I have to admit that their tears tasted….delicious.)
Eldest Gel reported that very similar things were going on at her school, and that the administration had designated certain “safe spaces” for any student needing some place in which to work out her feelings. As the Gel so eloquently put it, “What the hell is wrong with these people?”
Anyhoo, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what actually happened. I won’t pretend that the Donald is the second coming of the Gipper, but I will note the old tag attributed to Sam Clemens to the effect that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. And here you have it: Populist revolt against moribund, rudderless, top-heavy, smothering, progressivist regime.
The Gel used to gripe that ol’ Robbo got to grow up during the Reagan years. I’m not so sure that she isn’t about to experience a different version of the same ride. I hope so. I hope so.
For myself, after much consideration I arrived at the conclusion that the most important thing in this election was keeping She Who Must Not Be Named’s claws off the Supreme Court, and so I voted accordingly. You may imagine, then, how I feel about the results.
(Yes, as of yesterday I am not quite so worried about being sent off to the camps or having a bullet put in the back of my head.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo was so discombobulated by the time change last night, he woke up this morning thinking it was Monday. As I rattle around ahead of getting ready for Mass, a few odds and ends:
♦ Did my first leaf-raking pass yesterday. (I also mowed the lawn again. Needless to say, it was a long day.) The foliage this year has turned out to be a complete dud, starting then stoping then starting again, very dull and washed out colors, and most of the remainders now going straight to brown. I’ve heard all kinds of different explanations for why colors are sometimes good and sometimes bad, most of them having to do with some combination of rainfall and temperature. I don’t know what the ideal is supposed to be, but we certainly didn’t get it this year.
In fact, we’ve had very little rain really since about the beginning of July, and certainly of late. The advantage of this? Dry leaves are a heckuva lot easier to deal with than sodden wet ones.
♦ Picked up fresh bags of bird food at the hardware store yesterday. When the clerk rang them up, I rolled my eyes and said, “They damn well better appreciate this!” The clerk laughed and told me somebody else had said the same thing to her earlier in the day. That stuff gets expensive, and at this time of year both of my feeders are cleaned out within less than 48 hours. I have had to harden my heart and resist the temptation to fill them up mid-week.
♦ Speaking of the birds, I hadn’t seen a Carolina wren all year but spotted one under the back deck just this week. Also speaking of birds, I cannot understand the complete absence this year of the Northern juncos. We used to have dozens of them. Globull Warmening, I suppose.
♦ And speaking of Globull Warmening, it has continued quite pleasant enough for ol’ Robbo to travel hither and yon in La Wrangler with the top down. Alas, with the time change I’m going to have to go ahead and put it back up later this afternoon. We are now entering what I call the Time of the Mole People and commuting back and forth in the dark with the top down just isn’t the same thing.
♦ Yes, I am avoiding all mention of the elections.
♦ In Gel News, it looks as if the Eldest is now heading in the direction of a History Major/Theatre Minor. She had a nice chat with her current History prof this week. The prof is a lefty but not a rigidly dogmatic one and said that she appreciates the Eldest’s skepticism and willingness to challenge things in class. The Gel is taking another course with this prof next semester on Tudor and Stuart England. She’s also taking a class on Hitler and Stalin with another prof who has a reputation for eccentric conservatism. (One of his assignments for this class is for the students to plan their own genocides.) She’s already laughing at the thought of the contrast. (The two profs are good friends, btw.)
♦ Meanwhile, we’ve entered the hunt to try and figure out where on earth to send Middle Gel. She’s off to a college fair downtown this afternoon with Mrs. Robbo, who will be working the Sweet Briar booth. (No, Middle Gel has absolutely no interest in SBC, saying that she’s already had plenty of single-sex education, thank you very much.) We shall see.
♦ Finally, Youngest Gel is trying out for the high school swim team this week. She hadn’t swum competitively for a year or two, but has been training reasonably hard for the past couple months and really pulled her best times down considerably. Fingers crossed!
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!
A couple of weeks ago, following our first cool snap, the leaves duly began to change around Port Swiller Manor.
Then, we had a sudden heat wave which took us right back up to late summah conditions.
We’ve gone cool again, but looking about it seems that the leaves had started…changing back. The ones that had got past a certain point had fallen off the trees, but I would swear that others re-greened themselves.
Is this even possible?
(Personally, I think it must be the work of ManBearPig.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, with last week’s unseasonable heat round here, ol’ Robbo found himself out this morning mowing the Port Swiller Manor lawn, hopefully for the last time this year. (In what may be a little bit of wishful thinking, I let the mower run down to empty the gas tank at any rate.) The grass, in addition to being fairly high, also had a layer of early leaves covering part of it. Why is there so much pleasure in running a mower over leaves? Is it the smell (especially when the fragments start to singe on the inside of the blade chamber)? Is it the visual pleasure of cutting a nice, sharp, green path through the sea of yellows and oranges? Maybe it’s both. In any event, I most definitely enjoy it.
Yes, the leaves are starting to fall, and I had to haul one load down from the end of the driveway today, but we really haven’t got started yet. As regular friends of the decanter may recall, my main autumnal task is dealing with a row of three silver maples and an oak (all about 40 ft tall) that overshadow the sidewalk fronting P.S.M. The row runs from northwest to southeast and the maples never drop all their leaves at the same time, but rather in order from NW to SE. I think it has something to do with exposure – as one tree denudes, the next in line is subject to more wind. The oak spreads out the cleanup job even longer, because it won’t drop all at once, but instead takes its sweet, sweet, time, often several weeks longer than the maples. Generally, it takes me about four Saturdays through November and early December to finally get things squared away.
Anyhoo, this year we did a goodish bit of landscaping out front which is going to
have an impact on make more laborious the way I go about moving all those leaves (a process that involves rake, blower, wheelbarrow and tarp). I find the technical questions of the most efficient way to compensate to be interesting and challenging, but nobody else around here seems to have much sympathy: Yard work (and things like trash removal) is strictly Ol’ Dad’s problem because Ol’ Dad is a man, and only men should have to do it. (Yes, Mrs. R taught the gels that. It was the same thing in my own misspent yoot: My brother and I were out slaving away for the Old Gentleman every weekend, while Sistah spent all her time in her room listening to Adam Ant records. It was (and is) infuriating.)
Speaking of technical questions, I went ahead and ordered rolls of burlap and bubble wrap from the devil’s website pursuant to the plan to winterize the boxwood urns I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Between the random items and the eccentric assortment of books and musick I get from those people, I’m hoping one day to cause their marketing algorithms to suffer a complete nervous breakdown. (I don’t doubt, though, that when I go check my Facebook feed, ads for wrapping materials will already be there. This, I don’t like.)
I mentioned the heat up above. It was 85 degrees here on Thursday. Today we’ll top out in the mid-50’s with a strong NW wind. I love this sort of thing. Curiously, it’s autumn days like these that always make me want to reread Tolkien, especially the Fellowship of the Ring, since Frodo and his party set out on their adventure about this time of year and Tolkien pays such close attention to the shifting weather as they travel from the Shire to Rivendell. Years ago I read a paper somewhere on the innertoobs that presented a meteorological analysis of Tolkien’s weather pattern descriptions for this trip and found that they were absolutely sound for the time of year and the part of England with which Tolkien was most familiar.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo decided to spare you his usual Columbus Day rant about the absurdity of virtue-signalling to which this day has become increasingly subject in recent years.
I will also say up front that I most emphatically did not watch the debate last night. Nope, nope, and nope. Instead, I got about half way through “The Longest Day” before dozing off. (I think I may have a cold coming on.) And as a general matter of policy, I’m not going to say a single word here about the elections until after they’re done. (Well, okay, just one: Yeesh!)
Instead, I’ll just toss out a couple comments on things near and dear to me at the moment.
First, I may have mentioned it here before a week or two ago, but I sat down this morning to try and puzzle out what to do about winterizing the two boxwood urns out on the Port Swiller patio. (This is a picture of the one. And the other is like unto it.) It would seem that my idea of wrapping them in some kind of insulation has some merit to it. So my plan is, in the next couple weeks, to drag them into a corner out of the wind and surround them with a double layer of bubblewrap and burlap.
Second, how about ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats? Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a series now! The Family Robbo will be glued to Game 3 later on this afternoon, praying that Gio can keep it together and that Jayson Werth is right about the monkey.
What else is there to say except:
UPDATE: FWAAAAAH!! A hellevah good game! Two shots to go to make it to the NLS. What possibly else is there to say but:
LET’S GO NATS!!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and, although I’m a day or two late about it, Happy Autumn!
As ol’ Robbo has said probably every year since he first started blogging (well, and before that, too), this is truly my very favorite season. (Spring is a close but distinct second. While I like the start of winter, the novelty seems to wear off earlier every year. I have always despised summah, a loathing picked up during my misspent yoot in South Texas.)
Ma Nature, getting into the swing of things, has seen fit to dish up a series of highs in the low 70’s in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the next week or so, allowing ol’ Robbo to spend about four hours this morning giving the grounds a good Monty without suffering from heat stroke. (What is a “Monty” you ask? In this context it means mowing and trimming the entire yard, plus the ditch between the sidewalk and street and the little meadow between the back gate and the creek. I also sprayed weeds, watered whiskey barrels, and cleaned the accumulated ashes out of the grill.)
While this is pleasant enough, ol’ Robbo’s ideal fall weather conditions – which won’t arrive for at least another four weeks or so – involve a temperature of about 45 degrees with a steady rain and fog. There’s something about tramping around in it, smelling the mixture of dank, rotting leaves and chimney smoke, hearing the crows cawing off in the distance, that gives ol’ Robbo a delicious feeling of memento mori. I’m not being morbid in this, because it also seems to focus and increase my sense of (or at least desire for) piety. I sometimes wonder if the Church Fathers had this psychological phenomenon in mind when they set the liturgical calendar to restart in late fall. (Of course, there’s also something delicious about coming in out of it, pouring a large glass of Lafroaig, and flopping down in front of the fire which is also highly satisfying, if perhaps for not such high-falootin’ reasons.)
Anyhoo, working around the house today brought two other things to mind. First, this year ol’ Robbo put a couple of large urns on the patio out back, in which he planted dwarf boxwoods and surrounded them with trailing annuals. (They really look quite nice.) I have begun to wonder what I ought to do about them over the winter. Boxwood is really too pricey to be treated as an annual and, for practical purposes, I really can’t move them. It occurs to me that maybe I can somehow insulate them – you know, wrapping some kind of material around them to keep the shrubs’ roots from freezing. Anyone have any ideas or experiences along these lines?
Second, I am resolved this year to finally start using the fire pit that also sits on the patio. I bought it about three years ago, and for some reason have never done much more with it than use it to burn empty charcoal bags. Why this is, I just don’t know.
(Speaking of fall, a colleague of mine at work was telling me all about the trip she and her new fiancee plan to take up to Maine in about three weeks. She’s never been before and one of the things she said she was looking forward to was seeing all the foliage. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the leaves will be more or less down already by the time she gets up there.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo loves to play a little game with Ma Nature: On stormy spring and summah afternoons, he has a look at the radar just before leaving the office and decides whether or not to risk trying to make it home with all the side panels off La Wrangler. The go/no go decision is based on an average commute time of about 45 minutes or so and the track and speed of the various cells in the neighborhood.
If I win, I get satisfaction. If I lose, I get rayther wet.
Today, with storms rolling in from the southwest, I timed it to near-perfection, as the rain started within about ten minutes after I got home. (TRUE perfection is when I park in the garage and am able to scamper out to the mailbox and back just before the deluge.) But this time I also got an added bonus: As I took my usual pre-dinner shower, I started to hear a series of loud THWACKS! At first, I thought it was just one of the cats fooling with a toy, but I soon realized the sound was coming from the roof and skylights. Jumping out, I glanced out the window and saw that we were, in fact, being treated to a hailstorm of some intensity.
It’s been years since we last got any hail round about Port Swiller Manor, so this was a real treat. (Fortunately, it was mostly somewhere between pea and marble sized, so did little more than knock down a lot of leaves.) It was also very cool to sit out on the back porch eating dinner and watching the fog rise all around as the hail melted.