Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel was telling me more of the post-election atmosphere on campus last evening.

First, her English prof came to class with his dog yesterday.  “I thought after what happened last night, we could all use some therapy,” he said.  Then he looked over at the Gel and said, “Except you, of course.”

The Gel, to her credit, burst out laughing.  “Figured me out, have you?” she said.

“It wasn’t that difficult,” he replied.

That’s my gel!

Her History prof took a different tack.  “You all know my political views, of course,” she said, “I’m as liberal as you can get.  But know this, too:  I believe in the 1st Amendment more than anything else.  If you voted for Hillary, fine.  If you voted for Trump, fine.  If you voted for somebody else, fine.  What’s important is that none of you, no matter who you voted for, should ever be afraid to say so in my classroom.  Nor should you feel afraid to give your opinion about anything else, no matter what it is.”

Of course, since it’s a private college, there really isn’t any 1st Amendment issue here.  Nonetheless,  I really like this woman’s attitude.  The Gel likes her, too.  When we chatted, I told her that her prof was an example of Principled Liberalism, an increasingly rare specimen these days.  This, as opposed to Leftism, which is nothing more than the Will to Power and has no principles whatsoever.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, now.

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?”

What, indeed.

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.

And, obligatory:

 

(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 swillers!

Eldest Gel called ol’ Robbo this afternoon to crow a bit about the draft staging of “Romeo and Juliet” she’s been working on for her Lit class.

The assignment was to come up with a creative way to re-stage the play in a form that modern audiences (and here, read “ignorant cretans”) could better appreciate.

The Gel really rather despises “R&J”, considering it to be an over-hyped story about a couple of idiot teenagers whose hormones cause them to get tangled in a ridiculous Rube Goldberg-esque  elopement plan concocted by a crackpot friar which only succeeds in getting a lot of people killed.  (She may or may not have formed this opinion from listening to ol’ Robbo, but I deny any and all responsibility.)  Apparently, she’s been sparring with the prof over this for the past week or two because he thinks the play is dreamy.  (He also, apparently, thinks “Shakespeare In Love” is a wonderful film, if that gives you any indication.)

Anyhoo, to express her opinion, the Gel decided to rework the dialogue and add stage directions to put the whole thing in an Evil Clown context.

For example, the encounter between the rival gangs of bully-boys in Act 1, Scene I, in her version, now reads:

GREGORY
‘Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou
hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool! here comes
two of the house of the Montagues.
SAMPSON
My naked weapon is out: quarrel, I will back thee.
GREGORY
How! turn thy back and run?
SAMPSON
Fear me not.
GREGORY
No, marry; I fear thee!
SAMPSON
Let us take the law of our sides; let them begin.
GREGORY
I will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as
they list.
SAMPSON
Nay, as they dare. I will honk my nose at them;
which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.

Enter ABRAHAM and BALTHASAR

ABRAHAM
Do you honk your nose at us, sir?
SAMPSON
I do honk my nose, sir.
ABRAHAM
Do you honk your nose at us, sir?
SAMPSON
[Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say
“Whacka-whacka”?
GREGORY
No.
SAMPSON
No, sir, I do not honk my nose at you, sir, but I
honk my nose, sir. [Honks]
GREGORY
Do you quarrel, sir?
ABRAHAM
Quarrel sir! no, sir. [Honks]
SAMPSON
If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
ABRAHAM
No better.
SAMPSON
Well, sir.
GREGORY
Say ‘better:’ here comes one of my master’s kinsmen.
SAMPSON
Yes, better, sir. [Honks]
ABRAHAM
You lie! [Blows party favor]
SAMPSON
Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.

They fight with balloon swords, beating each other about the head, and with seltzer bottles.

And in the scene in Act 3 where Romeo pinks Tybalt, the Gel envisions, Tybalt wearing one of those flower-squirt contraptions.  As he falls, blood comes streaming out of it.  She also speaks of cream pies, clown-car entrances and Romeo expiring to the sound of a slide-whistle.

I have to confess that when she told me, I laughed out loud.

Part of the assignment was to submit a paragraph or so explaining why the treatment is relevant.  My young smart-ass got round that by citing the recent outbreak of evil clown sightings which seems to be sweeping the country.

Anyhoo, she got her rough draft back from the prof today.  He actually thought it very clever and funny and was good enough, after all the grief she’s given him, to say so in his written comments/suggestions.

Heh.  Apples and trees, I suppose.  Back in high school, ol’ Robbo wrote a short parody of “Macbeth” called “The Drunk of Dunsinane”.  It was a reworking of the porter’s monologue from Act 2.  While the porter is gassing on, Macbeth, himself several fathoms under, is trying to sneak back into the castle after an evening out with the boys.  He finally tears himself away from the porter, only to find Lady M standing on the stairs with a frying pan and a cold glare.   My English teacher thought it pretty damn funny.  (Wish I’d saved a copy.)

 

 

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”.

Jack-O, the semi-inebriated, good-enough-for-gub'mint-work Official Port Swiller Lantern for 2016

Jack-O, the semi-inebriated, good-enough-for-gub’mint-work Official Port Swiller Lantern for 2016

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?”)

"Intruder alert! Intruder alert!"

“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”

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?

Very strange.

(Personally, I think it must be the work of ManBearPig.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel is home from college again this weekend, and I just spent about an hour getting an earful from her over the latest doings in her history class.

I b’lieve I had mentioned here some time before that the gel is taking a class surveying various famous historickal figures and comparing the myths that have grown up around them to the actual facts?  Well, this week they got on to Saladin.  Apparently, the prof – whom the Gel actually likes – started off the section with a brief discussion of the history and beliefs of Islam.  And in that discussion, the prof said something to the effect that Christians and Moslems worship the same god.

And that, as they say, is when the fight broke out.

The Gel, from what she tells me, started laying into the prof, beginning with arguments about the mystery of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the utterly antithetical nature of Allah (which arguments actually echoed those of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, even though I know she hasn’t read either one), and then proceeded to a detailed, unvarnished  description of the position of Christians (and Jews) as set out in the Koran.  I gather the prof pushed back somewhat, although she didn’t try to shut the Gel down.  As for the rest of the class, the Gel tells me that a few of them looked uncomfortable about the prof’s position, while some of the noisier ones tried to back the prof up with arguments the Gel found utterly contemptuous. (One example: The girl sitting next to the Gel, who professed to be Catholic herself, pointed out that there are some Christian sects that don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity.  The Gel’s response?            ” Well, they’re not really Christians then, are they?”)

Smoke was still coming out of her ears as she relayed all this to me this evening, and even as I blog, she’s upstairs studying up on talking points to argue that the Crusades were defensive wars, rather than offensive ones, in anticipation of the narrative that is going to be served up.

Yikes.

About all I could do was to point out that people who believe the Christian God and Allah are the same thing (and I’ve seen this elsewhere, including among members of my Former Episcopal Church), don’t really believe in either one.

Yeesh.  At least teh Gel goes to a school where she can still take a stand against P.C.ism in relative safety.  Also, from what I gather, she is fast developing a reputation for her plain-spokenness, and not a bad one by any means.

By the bye, she’s already signed up for another course with the same prof next semester.  It’s a study of Tudor and Stuart England but begins with Richard III and the end of the Plantagenets.   From what the Gel tells me, the prof is very interested in the modern movement to reestablish Richard’s reputation.  That ought to make our Maximum Leader very happy.

UPDATE: Since the comments seem to have steered in the direction of my last tack-on thought above, an obligatory oldie but goody:

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I mentioned in a post below the Middle Gel’s upcoming fall concert.  Well, that concert was this evening.

The Gel, who is now a HS junior, made it into Madrigals this year – what amounts to Varsity Choir at her school – which, if I may say so, has a reputation for one of the best musick programs in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.

At any event, their portion of the evening’s offerings was as follows:

  • A Cantate Domino by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
  • Je ne L’ose Dire” by Pierre Certon (d. 1572)
  • “I Love, Alas, I Love Thee” by Thomas Morley (1557-1603)
  • “Jungfrau, dein schöne Gestalt  by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
  • “Fair Phyllis I Saw” by John Farmer (1570-1601)

I mean to say, what?  Ol’ Robbo does love him some closely-reasoned Renaissance polyphony, especially if it is well done, as was this evening’s selection.

After the Madrigals did their stuff, they were joined on stage for the finale by the rest of the Concert Choir, of which they are the hub.  The final three selections were:

  • The beginning and concluding sections of the Gloria from a Mass setting by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
  • “My Flight For Heaven” by some contemporary fellah named Blake Henson and based on a poem to Musick by the great Cavalier poet Robert Herrick
  • “Let Everything That Hath Breath”, a modern setting of Psalm 150:6 by some fellah named Jeffrey Ames.

You will notice in these lists a healthy amount of religious musick.  The same was generally true of the selections served up by the junior choirs as well.  I swear that I heard an older man sitting behind me exclaim to his wife, “So many Christian pieces? By Allah!”

A close friend of the Port Swiller Family (ex-Catholic, but I’m hoping to turn her back) came to see the Gel sing, and also remarked to me her surprise at the distinctly Christian flavor of the program, given that this is a public school.

Shh!” I said, “Don’t give anyone any ideas……”

Heh.

Oh, and here for your enjoyment is a YooToob of the Morley, a distinctly secular piece – apparently with all five parts sung by the same fellah:

 

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!

Whelp, today was the kickoff of the annual fall membership marathon pledge drive at the local classickal radio station.

On the one hand, Ol’ Robbo was little surprised to hear the same canned fundraising rhetoric about “community” and “one pledge at a time” and “do your part” that he’s heard for many, many years before.  After all, That’s What You Do with fundraisers, right? Blah, blah, blah.

On the other hand,  I can’t help noticing that, at least apparently to dweebs like me, this approach has been something of a  failure in recent years.   Why? Because the station seems gradually to have been throwing things overboard in order to lighten the financial load.  Last year, it summarily cancelled its bottom-of-the-hour morning drive-time NPR nooz updates.  This year, it also chucked the afternoon drive-time bottom-of-the-hour local nooz updates.  Also, it chucked all of its half-hour drive-time traffic updates.  (This didn’t bother me so much, as years of bitter experience had already convinced me that there was very little correspondence between what the radio was telling me about teh road and what I could actually see outside my own windscreen.)  Finally, I’ve noticed that the usual DJs have been absent a great deal, suggesting to me that they are no longer full-time employees, but have been reduced to part-time status.

Anyhoo, this whole biznay got me thinking about how the station could improve its finances.

One idea I had was to play the pathos card:  “Oh, Lordy!   If you don’t cough up, we’ll have no choice but to lease the transponder to ISIS and eat the sound engineer!”

But then, I realized that Monty Python (as so often was the case) had the real angle on how it should be done:

 

And in these pastures? Cor lumme, stone the crows! Croesus ain’t in it.  Thank me later.

(And yes, in case you’re wondering, ol’ Robbo actually tosses in his monthly offering, since he listens so much on his commutes back and forth, and down the office.)

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