Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

caravelsGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo picked up this story over on FazeByuke and thought he would share it here:  Search for 500-year-old shipwreck could rewrite Australia’s history.

Money graphs:

CAIRNS, Australia – An Australian explorer has begun a search for a Portuguese shipwreck off Australia’s northeast coast that, if found, could rewrite how the continent was discovered.

“I’ve got some very strong clues of a possible Portuguese discovery of Australia,” 78-year-old filmmaker Ben Cropp said.

The discovery would be significant because the first records of non-indigenous mariners to visit the continent credit Dutch explorers for sailing here as early as 1606 to chart the west coast of the continent’s northern Cape York Peninsula. Famed English Captain James Cook charted the continent’s east coast in 1770, which later opened the door to British colonization.

Cropp, a self-described “wreck hunter,” set off Sept. 20 on his two-month expedition to the coast of Cape York from his base in Cairns — the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  Cropp says two Portuguese ships and a Spanish vessel were lost near Cape York in the 16th century, prior to the arrival of the Dutch.

Ol’ Robbo loves this sort of thing.  I knew the Portuguese had been the first round Africa and had reached India and (I believe) China, but the notion that they made it to Australia as well, 80-odd years before the Dutch and over 200 before the Brits, is pretty cool.

Hard to say if this Cropp fellah is working on much more than a hunch, however:

Cropp has searched for evidence of pre-Cook Portuguese exploration of Australia’s east coast before, without success.

“I’m sure the Portuguese were here first, but proving it is very, very difficult,” Cropp said.

But now Cropp says he has new evidence that may indicate the Portuguese made landfall along Australia’s northeast coast as early as 1522. Among the clues: a ship’s cannon, ballast and 16th century European maps that seem to show a detailed outline of Australia.

One European map produced in 1542 shows a large sixth continent located in the position of present-day Australia, called “Java-la-Grande” in many similar charts and navigational aids.

“There’s a whole lot of little finds, but none of them give you a true date — and that’s what I’m searching for,” Cropp said.

Well, good luck, mate!

The article also has this to say about this Cropp fellah:

Among Cropp’s previous discoveries was the remains of HMS Pandora, which is regarded as one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern Hemisphere. The British frigate ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef at the edge of the Coral Sea and sank in 1791, killing many onboard. Cropp and two others discovered the wreck in November 1977.

hms_pandora_stamp2Perhaps it’s outside the scope of the article, or perhaps it’s such common knowledge that the fact was not deemed worthy of mention, but I was surprised the piece failed to note that the Pandora, Captain Edward Edwards, was the ship sent to hunt down the mutineers from HMAV Bounty.¹   She caught 14 of them, too.  Captain Edwards had a steel cage erected on his quarterdeck in which he kept the prisoners, which became known as “Pandora’s Box”.  When the ship struck, the prisoners would all have been drowned had they not been released as the ship was actually going down.  (Patrick O’Brian sharks will know that he puts the story of the wreck of the Pandora in the mouth of Peter Heywood, who had been one of Bligh’s midshipmen and survived capture, the wreck and court-martial, when he comes to dinner with Jack and Stephen in Desolation Island.)

As a matter of fact, until I read this article, I didn’t even know the wreck of the Pandora had been discovered.  Here’s the Queensland Museum’s page on the subject.

¹Yes, HMS Bounty is NOT correct. She was a merchie bought by the Royal Navy specifically for a botanical mission, and was no warship at all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall that ol’ Robbo has developed a new interest in what one might call Ripping Yarns this year and, to this end, has started in on a series of authors he really should have read more when he was a kid – P.C. Wren, Robert Louis Stevenson and Conan-Doyle to name but three.

Well, pursuant to that design, I thought I would mention a couple of pairs of books here, offering a substantive observation about the first and a purchaser’s caution on the second.

kidnappedRecently, ol’ Robbo finished both R,L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped, together with its sequel Catriona.  The first is simply an outstanding adventure story, as the hero David Balfour and the hugely entertaining Alan Breck, after escaping kidnapping and shipwreck,  make their dangerous way across the Scottish Highlands of 1751, chased by rival clans and Redcoats.  The second, which RLS wrote many years later and which takes up the story immediately where Kidnapped left off, is not nearly as good, seemingly more plodding and taken up with legal intrigue and David’s mooing over women.  I will say, without giving away any spoilers, that when Alan Breck reappears toward the end, the book brightens right back up and comes near to Kidnapped quality.

The_White_CompanyHaving polished off those, I leapt immediately into Arthur Conan-Doyle’s The White Company, in which sturdy English yeomen of the reign of Edward III take their longbows off to the Continent to beat up on various enemies and load themselves down with plunder.  I’m in the early stages, in which the nucleus of the company is being formed, but I already enjoy it.  People forget that ACD was a writer of tremendous range (I believe he even dabbled in science-fiction) and a very solid story-teller to boot.

Anyhoo, when fooling about at the devil’s website, I found that the book comes in two volumes but that I couldn’t find any complete set put out by the same publisher.  So I simply picked two at random.  This, my friends, was where ol’ Robbo made something of a mistake.  Volume One does not even give a publisher name, simply stating that it was printed at Lexington, KY on August 19, 2014.  In other words, right around the date I ordered it.  I wouldn’t care about this in itself, but what I mind mightily is the fact that the whole thing is printed in about 8-point font, making it basically a 171 page footnote.  My poor old eyes simply can’t take much of it at any one time.  Stupid fly-by-night publishers!  But what are you going to do when you’re looking for rayther obscure works that the big houses simply don’t bother with?

On the other hand, the second volume that I picked up was put out by an outfit called Accessible Publishing Systems.  I didn’t notice, when I ordered it, that the thing is an “EasyRead Large Bold Edition” featuring 16-point font.  I don’t know if this was because I was inattentive or because the devil’s website didn’t choose to mention it.   I offer this as a cautionary tale.

(Oh, and yes, these are both illustrations by the greatly under-rated N.C. Wyeth.)

jollyrogerWell, mateys, I see where today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Arrr, have at it!

Some random pirate-related observations, me buckoes:

♦   A month or two ago, Ol’ Robbo finally got around to reading Treasure Island for the first time and found it a right ripping yarn.

♦   I know the entire score of The Pirates of Penzance by heart.  “We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s story.”***

♦   I’ve never made it all the way through any of the Pirates of teh Caribbean series without dozing off.  (Too much rum, probably.)

♦   You can imagine for whom ol’ Robbo cheered during the semi-final between the Bournemouth Gynaecologists and the Watford Long John Silver Impersonators. (No link, mates.  Them’s what gets it, gets it.)

♦  Historickal Fact:  This be Lancelot Blackburne, Anglican Archbishop of York (1658-1743).  In his misspent yoot, he was a buccaneer.

Lancelot_Blackburne_(1658–1743),_Archbishop_of_York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yo, Ho!

***The last line of that delightful little throw-away chorus, sung offstage, heralding the arrival of the Pirate King and his band for the big climax in the last act.  Full verse:

“A rollicking band of pirates we/who, tired of tossing on the sea/are trying our hands at burglaree/with weapons grim and gory.

We are not coming for plate or gold/A story General Stanley told/We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s sto-ree!”

union jackGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is delighted that the Scots voted to stay within the Union and, frankly, surprised that it really wasn’t even close.  Were I a cynic, I would suspect that Alex Salmond and his fellow “Yessers” probably knew that this was coming and ramped up the pre-vote splitsville hype to eleventy!! over the past few weeks simply in order to squeeze as much out of London in terms of monies and power as they could before the vote was cast.

Were I a cynic, of course.

And now it will be interesting to see if David Cameron actually ponies up.

As I said earlier this week, Scotland is a failed welfare state.  (I know I’m being redundant.)  IMHO, it would have found itself in a much worse condition as an independent one than as it is in its current leech-like status.   Reform is desperately needed, but I believe it can come about more readily via a United Kingdom than otherwise.

And while we’re on the topic, here are a couple bonus quotes which ought to be stapled to the foreheads of many people on both sides of the Pond:

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Mags Thatcher

“Socialism only works in two places: Heaven where they don’t need it and hell where they already have it.” – The Gipper

UPDATE:  Well, that didn’t take very long.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Earlier today, a friend of the decanter (who knows who they are) asked of ol’ Robbo, “Tom, how have the first few weeks of school worked out so far this year?”

Well, I’m happy to say that things are (touch wood) going pretty well.

Teh Eldest, now a high school junior, seems finally to have grasped that whatever her record is, she owns it.  In other words, after all those years of complaining about us nagging her, she’s finally beginning to learn to nag herself.  Laus Deo.

Teh Middle Gel, now a high school frosh, is talking much about leadership (particularly in her choir program) and is running for Class VP.   She’s an awesome kid, about whom we have very little to worry except for her apparent resistance to learning math.  (I say this here because she regularly reads this blog.  Thpppppt!! )

Teh Youngest is taking to middle school like a duck to water, loving every aspect of her new school.  One thing: she originally signed up to play cello in the school orchestra, the course description assuring that no previous experience was necessary.   Well, it turned out that a) she and one other kid were the only ones in teh whole troupe with no experience, and b) the director was not much interested in babysitting newbies.  After a couple days, teh YG decided to chuck it and I can’t say that I blame her.  The good news is that, when she went to her counselor, it turned out that a slot had become open in drama, the course the gel had wanted to take originally but was full up when she applied.  And so she switched.  Apparently, teh gel had them rolling in the aisles during an improv session this week, and her new theatre teacher is quite bananas about her.  I’m not in the least surprised.

And speaking of such things, this week teh Eldest was assigned by her Art teacher the task of snapping a photo of a family member in a “characteristic” situation, and using such photo as the model for a sketch.   In pursuit of said goal, teh gel caught me quite unawares as I was engrossed in Handel:

Attachment-1

 

 

Not the greatest pic, but nice composition.  And, I must admit, substantively quite pleasing, at least to me.

UPDATE:  In response to myriad queries as to what particular piece of Handel I was mutilating when teh gel snapped, this pic, I can tell you that it was Handel’s Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432.  Here’s a genuine performance version of it:

 

Subtract a bunch of technical errors, add a great deal of blasphemy (you can’t see it from this angle, but I’ve got a frieze of St. Cecilia on top of the piano to give me strength), and you’ve got my rendition.  Sort of.

 

 

Friends of the decanter, your humble host is slipping.  Why? Because yesterday was Battle of Britain Day and ol’ Robbo failed to post about it.

Mea culpa.

By way of making it up to the history boffins amongst you, I will offer two things.

First this:  In Derek Robinson’s Piece of Cake, a novel about the RAF’s first year of WWII, he puts in one of his character’s mouth the argument that Hitler simply could not have invaded Britain because, despite the Luftwaffe’s air superiority over the Channel in 1940, the Royal Navy still would have blown an invasion armada to flinders.  Therefore, Goering went to a terror campaign (the Blitz) to bomb the Brits into submission and Churchill responded by, well, putting on a brave face regarding the RAF’s ability to fight it off (not that this in any way cheapened the heroism of teh RAF pilots and crew who took part in the defense).  And in switching from bombing the bejayzus out of the RAF’s forward infrastructure to hitting London, the Nazis made the mistake of allowing the RAF to regroup and to fulfill the part given them in Winnie’s propaganda narrative.

Second this:  I give you a long time port-swiller favorite yootoob clip:

 

Washington-Nationals1Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter will know, Port Swiller Manor has been without cable teevee for about a month now due to the Great Basement Flood.

This aspect¹ of the disaster has bothered ol’ Robbo very little, for the most part, because he hardly ever watches much teevee outside of old movies anyway.  However, with respect to that one small part, it is absolutely driving him to drink² batty because he has been unable to watch his beloved Nationals working their way toward the NL East Division title.  Indeed, even as I type this post I have MLBcom’s Gameday open in another window as the team tries to put the season away against the dastardly Braves of Atlanta and it is a very, very poor substitute.³

As far as repairs go, I believe the contractor will be ready to paint downstairs before the end of this week, which means that we are making some progress.  If and when the Nats make it into the playoffs, I hope they stay alive long enough for the project to be finished and for ol’ Robbo to get in some more actual MASN viewing.

In the meantime, what else is there to do but surf the Innertoobs as best I can and say,

GO, NATS!!!

 

¹  On the other hand, the other aspects – the reduced living space, the cramming of furniture and things into half the main floor, the general grunginess and the constant stream of workmen in the house – are over time making me somewhat frantic.

²  Heck, that ship sailed a loooong time ago.

³   I suppose I could dial up the radio coverage, which I understand is very good.  I’ll certainly do that if we get to the playoffs before Verizon comes back on line.

UPDATE:  NATS WIN!  N.L. EAST, BAYBEE!!!!!

Second title in three years!  Not. Bad.

Friends of the decanter will forgive me my enthusiasm, especially as they will know that ol’ Robbo is no summer soldier, no sunshine patriot, but has stuck with his beloved Nats from the very beginning, through both the Bad Years and the Good.   So, ladies and gentlemen, pray charge your glasses, gun’ls down, and allow ol’ Robbo to propose once again:

GO, NATS!!!

In a prefatory note to her husband’s novel Kidnapped, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson copies out some samples of records from a murder trial used by him as background in constructing the story.  One of these passages says, in part,

“Duncan Campbell, change-keeper at Annat, aged thirty-five years, married, witness cited, sworn, purged and examined ut supra, depones, That in the month of April last, the deponent met with Alan Breck Stewart….”

I’ve been familiar with legal terms since I started studying them in 1988, but I have never in all that time come across the verb “to depone”.  But when you think about it, what else would a deponent be doing?

And is there a linguistic relationship between depone and depose?  A sort of yin and yang capturing the interrelation between witness and advocate as the latter seeks to draw evidence from the former?  Merriam-Webster on-line gives the history of depone thusly:  Middle English, from Medieval Latin deponere, from Latin, to put down, from de- + ponere to put.  It also says that “depose” comes from the same root, so this seems likely.

I must say that the word tickles my fancy.  Perhaps I’ll figure out a way to start working it into my vocabulary.  As it happens, I’m prepping for some depositions coming up in a couple weeks, so I ought to have some opportunities.

Scottish-flagGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Being mighty near pure Scots himself on his father’s side, Ol’ Robbo has been watching the build up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence from Great Britain with some interest.

Frankly, I’ve thought it a bad idea from the beginning simply based on what I believe to be unsurmountable economic realities.  (Very broadly speaking, these boil down to the fact that some enormously large portion of Scotland’s population is now pure economic deadweight – on the dole, in state housing, deadbeat.  GB as a whole has enough resources to carry them, at least for the moment.  Scotland, on her own, wouldn’t.)

Now, having read this article in the Telegraph profiling a group of “Yes” voters,  I’m convinced that it’s a bad idea.  Why?  Because it’s obvious that there is no one vision of what an Independent Scotland will actually mean, but instead a jumbled collection of alternate ideas, many of them extremely contradictory to each other and some quite separated from reality.  Frankly, the thing smells like a cult movement to me.  And by now I think we all know how political cults work out.

Friends of teh decanter might argue that this is something for teh Scots to sort out for themselves and that an independent, localized debate is surely the best way to do it.  Well, if the biznay were merely an academic exercise devoid of real world consequences, I might agree.   The trouble is that it wouldn’t be, and my fear is that when people realize that they’re not, in fact, getting William Wallace riding in at the head of  a herd of rainbow-colored unicorns, things will get ugly.

The West is crumbling already.  Why speed up?

UPDATE:  Over at NRO, Andrew Stuttaford has a round up of the doings of what might be called the MacJacobins of the “Yes” side.  This is a what I mean about things getting ugly.

 

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