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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo had one of his patented bizarro dreams last evening, doubtless from a combination of giving up the grape for Lent, thinking about obscure Augustine history references (see below) and being in the midst of reading Chesterton’s Manalive when he dozed off.
Anyhoo, I found myself at a lavish costume party held in some great ball room. There was no particular theme that I remember, but rather a large assortment of historickal figures. I, myself, was made up as Julius Caesar and wore an enormously elaborate tunic and toga. I especially remember how vivid the red and gold were.
As I say, there was no particular theme to the party. Nonetheless, I found myself trying to chat up a young lady dressed as a Roman matron. (I’m inclined to think she was a very young Jessie Royce Landis (which see) because I happened to watch “To Catch A Thief” not long ago and have always liked her style of lazy humor.) Every time I got going, however, some other fellah in Roman attire would try to horn in on us. These weren’t just random people, either, but celebs of the old school. I distinctly recall both Peter O’Toole and Charles Laughton among my rivals.
Somehow or other, it got to the point where we decided that the question of who was going to get the girl would be put to the vote of the Roman Senate. (By this point, the theme obviously had declared itself.) I found myself on the edge of a stage, listening to one of the other suitors arguing his claim and making a hash of it. Remembering Who I Was and determining that I could do a much better job than that, when my turn was called I strode out to center stage and, in a surprisingly clear and deep voice, made the following speech (as near as I can remember):
“Senators of Rome! I am a plain man and therefore will speak plainly to you! I deserve the girl above all these others here! Who among them has brought to Rome so much wealth and honor as have I? Who has been so successful in foreign wars? Who has ensured such domestic peace? None of them, I say! Therefore, as reward to me and as encouragement to others to emulate my efforts, give her to me!”
And then, as they say, I woke up. Dunno who won the vote.
After pausing here to let the feminist heads finish up exploding (All done? Good.), I will simply say I have no idea what any of this means. ’Twas a good dream, though.
UPDATE: Google reminds me that yesterday was the “International Day of the Woman”, whatever that may be. Derp!
Ol’ Robbo had not seen this video before, I think. It made me laugh and laugh:
Way, waaaaaay back in the fierce young days of the Llamas, when every blog pronouncement seemed worth fighting about, I recall getting into a kerfluffle with some camelidophiles over my opinion that German is an ugly language, full of gutturals, rocky with consonants and ridiculous in some of its excessive compounding. I stated something to the effect that it reminded me of nothing but dark fir woods; cold, dismal swamps; and howling hordes of barbarians swarming out to fall on Varus and his Legions in the Teutoburg Forest and cut them to ribbons.
I still feel that way, but here’s a defense by a native-speaker, which I include out of fairness since it was from this article that I lifted the video. Enjoy!
A glass of wine with Arts & Letters Daily.
UPDATE: After pondering whilst shoveling off the patio, it occurs to me that maybe I have seen this video before. Still funny. Also, I’m willing to bet all of those so-called Europeans are actually ‘Muricans. If that Johnny is a genuine Brit, then so am I.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
No, ol’ Robbo has not given up blogging for Lent this year, as it’s simply a much more limited part of my time these days and I don’t feel the need to curtail it. Instead, my silence this week has been due to my having other matters to attend to. My apologies.
♦ I hope those of you practicing had a happy Ash Wednesday. Of course, “happy” is not really the appropriate term, is it? Everyone says it automatically anyway. For myself, I toddled round to the church near my office at lunchtime. The place was packed to the rafters. The Mass was conducted by the priest that I privately think of as Father Shecky, who couldn’t resist making a crack about how happy he was to see the usual weekday crowd. Buh-DUMP-dah! Perhaps I’m a bit of an old fuddy-dud (oh, shut up!) but it didn’t strike me that such a rimshot was particularly appropriate to the day, so I confined myself to a thin smile.
♦ Anyhoo, I wore the ashes all afternoon, much to the obvious discomfort of a number of my progressivista colleagues, and made a point of being especially cheerful and courteous. This year, more than any other I can recall, I was really filled with the spirit of silent witness. I’m sure it bumped me up a couple places on the list of those to be sent to the camps, but I like to believe that perhaps I might have got at least somebody to think about things a little.
♦ Speaking of thinking about things a little, the Dalai Llama is speaking down the Cathedral today, which made dropping off the Middle Gel for choir practice a royal pain, what with police cordons and crowds of New Age types wandering about. Personally, I’ve nothing against the Dalai Llama, nor against Buddhism for that matter, which from what I gather is not really a religion but more of a system of ethics. What irks me is the sort of people who buy “Free Tibet” vanity license plates and fawn all over the Llama because he’s cute, nonthreatening and mystical, perfect for the type who likes to say, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.”
♦ And speaking of school runs, getting around the local streets these days makes me feel like Han Solo in the asteroid field, what with all the potholes. Show of hands for all of those wishing Algore’s Globull Warminz would come back? Yeah, me too. I’ve also noticed a great many new cracks between moldings and walls in Port Swiller Manor, no doubt put there by the excessive cold we’ve experienced. (The other possible explanation is that the house is getting ready to collapse on itself due to the collective pounding of the gels’ feet. I don’t care to dwell on that possibility.)
♦ Speaking of the cold, despite the fact that the grounds of PSM are still covered in snow, I nonetheless feel that I must start spring gardening this weekend with the annual cutting back of the butterfly bushes known to regular friends of the decanter as Kong and the Konglings. Perhaps I’ll have a go at the wisteria, too. March is a schizophrenic month in these here parts and despite the fact that it’s only in the 30′s now, there’s no knowing when we might suddenly find ourselves up in the mid-70′s. (Typing this entry reminds me that if I want to but any spring plantings online, I damn well better do it today if it’s not already too late. UPDATE: Found some Confederate Jasmine vines at a nursery down in Georgia that I’m going to try on a trellis fronting the new porch. The innertoobs swear it’s hearty to Zone 7, which is us. We shall see.)
♦ And finally, speaking of local things, I was flipping through the local fish-wrapper this morning when my eye fell on this editorial paragraph:
Ukraine is not the only place where civil war threatened to erupt last week. In Fairfax County, Loudoun County and the City of Falls Church, there are battles raging between School Boards and the elected bodies (Boards of Supervisors and City Council) that hold ultimate responsibility for allocating taxpayer money.
Okay, ol’ Robbo is throwing a flag on that statement. Unsportsmanlike conduct: Unnecessarily hyperbolic metaphor. Fifteen yard penalty and loss of down.
Well, that’s it for now. Ol’ Robbo is off to scan the headlines before getting about his biznay. What fresh hell awaits us today?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers, from the heart of the latest SOTCOTW to strike the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor! If you like, you may imagine me, Jim Cantore-like, grimacing and sticking my chin and chest out in defiance of teh elements. I’ve not yet gone outside, so I can’t tell you anything for sure about totals, but it’s been coming down pretty steadily all day and I’d say we’re well over 6 inches.
As a matter of fact, the Family Robbo is just done with a late brunch of scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns and I’ve toddled down to the study to check the radar and see how long it is before I have to go out and start shoveling. At the moment (about ten till one), it looks as if we’re into an especially heavy band that ought to go on for another hour or two, but that it will all clear out afterwards. Needless to say, a topic of intense speculation at brunch was whether tomorrow is going to be another snow day.
Anyhoo, in the meantime I guess I will go back to my reading, which is what I’ve been about most of the morning. I’m revisiting Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe’s Rifles – the first of the Richard Sharpe series – and shuddering at it again. Cornwall, like Tom Clancy, is capable of excellent descriptions of combat, and indeed, some of his tactical portrayals are truly worthy of praise. But like Clancy, when it comes to character, dialogue and descriptive narrative, he’s bloody awful. Still, it’s dumb fun, which is exactly the sort of no-brainer stuff I want today.
POST-SHOVEL UPDATE: Seven or eight inches, I guess, with a lovely crust of ice underneath. Took me about three hours to clear, but it was light enough so that I got a decent workout without killing myself. We’re nowhere near passing the freezing mark, so for all the scraping and salting, the roads are still kind of meh. One gel’s school system has already bailed for tomorrow. We’ll see about the other two.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy March!
Thanks to global warming (or sumpin’) the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor is enjoying this first day of meteorological spring by bracing itself for yet another snow storm that will hit tomorrow night.
Five Eight to twelve inches is the latest estimate I’ve heard, with a pretty good chance of significant icing. I know that doesn’t sound like much to those of you farther north, but it’s plenty to put us in full-blown panic mode. Once again, Mrs. R and I are making contingency plans to burn the furniture and eat the children if necessary.
Speaking of children and the snow, I’m sure all of you have heard of the custom of wearing jammies inside out in order to encourage snow fall. Well, a fellah told me about another one recently, that of flushing ice down the toilet. Have any of you ever heard of that? I hadn’t.
One of my habits (and ol’ Robbo has habits the way beaches have grains of sand) is to fill the bird feeders on Saturday mornings. They’re generally cleaned out by mid-week so stand empty for a few days, and yet the birds are right back into them within 10 or 15 minutes of my refilling. I got wondering about this today. Is it possible that the locals have some sort of instinctual sense of the timing of my fill ups? Do they spot me at it and know what I’m doing? Do they recognize the visible difference?
Mrs. R and I are going out to dinner with some friends this evening and I’m sure, as is their wont, they’re going to bring up one or more politickal topics. Sigh. The biggest frustration is that these folks get their nooz from the MSM, and to even begin a discussion of the actual merits of a given issue, I have to do all kinds of heavy lifting to disabuse them of the propaganda that has informed their views. So tarsome.
Well, that’s about it for the moment. Ol’ Robbo finally came out and admitted to himself this morning that yes, he has a sinus infection. It’s been a long while since the last one and I forgot how much they hurt. Ouch.
UPDATE: Yay, no politicking at dinner after all. Might have something to do with my saying the last time we got together that I thought “income inequality” was a bogus issue based on false economic premises ginned up for no other reason than to inflame class warfare. Thought the fellah’s head was going to explode.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You will no doubt be asking yourselves about the print posted above? Well, it’s by James Gillray – one of ol’ Robbo’s favorite late 18th Century British politickal cartoonists – and is a 1795 piece titled “The Death of the Great Wolf”. It is a parody of Benjamin West’s famous 1770 painting, “The Death of General Wolfe“, another great favorite of mine, given my (well-known to regular friends of teh decanter) fondness for colonial American history, and has to do with a bit of Gubmint over-reach in re the (then) Tory effort to crack down on seditious speech in the face of the French Revolution.
Anyhoo, I won’t go into all the details of Gillray’s parody – go here for a brief description – but I will point out that the glasses-wearing fellah on the immediate left of the expiring Billy Pitt’s “Wolfe” is a caricature of Edmund Burke.
I bring all this up – well, besides using it as a pretense for posting a Gillray print – because I have started in on Yuval Levin’s latest books, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. Levin’s thesis, very broadly put, is that the differences in the philosophies of the relationship between governors and governed between Burke and Paine, specifically regarding the French Revolution, have framed the same debate between classical liberalism and progressivist radicalism that has haunted American politicks ever since, and which seems, at least IMHO, to be coming to something of a head these days. I don’t often read politickal books simply because I loathe politicks as a whole (what the great Peej O’Rourke once described as the business of achieving status and power without merit), but somehow I thought this one was worth a dekko.
We shall see. As I say, I’ve just started. So long as Levin reaches the conclusion that Burke was an incremental realist who, with a genuine desire for gradual societal improvement, also took into account both empirical historic evidence and an understanding of Man’s inherent fallibility; and also that Paine was a rabble-rousing Utopian moron who believed in a unicorn in every garage and free, rainbow-flavored Skittles for all, and who didn’t care how much blood it took to get to this vision; well, then we’re good.
As long as I’m on the subject, allow me to throw out this: While I have a great many Whig sympathies about societal improvements, I utterly reject what is called the Whig theory of history. Per Wiki:
Whig history (or Whig historiography) is the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasize the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms, and scientific progress. The term is often applied generally (and pejoratively) to histories that present the past as the inexorable march of progress towards enlightenment. The term is also used extensively in the history of science for historiography which focuses on the successful chain of theories and experiments that led to present-day science, while ignoring failed theories and dead ends. It is claimed that Whig history has many similarities with the Marxist-Leninist theory of history, which presupposes that humanity is moving through historical stages to the classless, egalitarian society to which communism aspires.
Whig history is a form of liberalism, putting its faith in the power of human reason to reshape society for the better, regardless of past history and tradition. It proposes the inevitable progress of mankind. Its opposite is conservative history or “Toryism.” The English historian A. J. P. Taylor commented, “Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, prefers the past to the future.”
A.J.P. Taylor was a Commie bastard. Suff on his “interpretation”. More generally, however, I take this whole “inevitable progression” reasoning as a variation on the Unicorns n’ Skittles thing I mention above and condemned as a load of crap. You’re damned right, Mister A.J.P. Taylor, that I have doubts in human nature. History bears me out, I think. And as I repeatedly tell anyone who will listen (an increasingly shrinking audience, I’ll allow), there is nothing, nothing that guarantees our current level of prosperity and order. See, e.g., Fourth Century Rome.
So I suppose that I am either a conservative Burkean or else an enlightened Tory. Which is why I use a portrait of Billy Pitt as my, how do you kids say it, avaterz when commenting on teh toobs.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Regular friends of the decanter may recall that some time in the last couple months, in one of my gloomier moods about the fate of our current Civilization, I mentioned a rayther vague idea about taking some handgun lessons, accompanied by those of the gels who I thought could handle it, and arming Port Swiller Manor.
Connectedly, from time to time in the past few years, I have related to said gels anecdotes about my own firearms experience. When I was a lad of six or seven, I was allowed to fire off a shotgun into a stock tank. Round about the same time, I began shooting a .22 rifle at tin cans set up on fenceposts. A year or two later, I was hunting deer and turkey with a Remington .222 and a few years after that, I was also bird shooting with first a 20-guage, and later both 16 and 12-guage shotguns (depending on whether we were after dove and quail or duck). I also got to be, in my mid-teens, a passible skeet shot, albeit not as good as my brother.
Of course, I haven’t actually picked up a gun in, lessee, 23 years? So I’m more than a bit rusty. And I’ve never fired a handgun.
Anyhoo, most of this a la recherche du arms perdu stuff seems to have sailed right over the heads of the eldest and youngest gels. Just as well, perhaps. The middle one, however, remembers All.
So this evening as we were driving home, she accosted me out of the blue.
“Hey, Dad! When are we going to take that shooting course you talked about?”
“Erm, what? I dunno. I guess I really ought to look into it and do some research.”
“Well, do it! I want to know how to shoot before I’m 15!” (She just turned 14.)
She’s right, of course. But where to start?
A quick and dirty google search revealed to me what an idiot I am: The NRA-Freakin’-HQ-Its-Own-Bad-Self shooting range is within 25 minutes or so of Port Swiller Manor. As Gob Bluth would say, “C’mon!!”
(Of course, any of you friend of the decanter with other NoVA insider knowledge are welcome to submit your own suggestions.)
Either way, I suppose it’s time for ol’ Robbo to get busy. Heck, if this does pan out, I’ve got one Christmas present locked down for sure!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
It is said that English is a Living Language, always ready to bend, fold, mutilate, mutate or transmogrify in order to meet the needs of the occasion. Back in school, I recall being taught that this is a Very Good Thing.
So I suppose that I am pleased, in once sense at least, with the addition to the vocabulary by members of the Port Swiller family of what I believe to be a brand new word or family of words.
Allow me to explain.
In my capacity as paper paterfamilias, I often find myself issuing instructions to the gels of the following variety:
“It’s almost time for dinner. Come downstairs and set the table, please.”
“You were supposed to clean out the kitty litter. Get TO it, please.”
“That laundry of yours is still sitting on our bed, waiting to be folded and put away. Get it done.”
“You’ve played enough Mine-Craft for one day. Turn off the computer and come upstairs.”
“Dammit, we’re going to be late, AGAIN. Get. In. To. The. Car.”
Well, you get the general theme.
At any rate, almost invariably in response to these and similar directions, the younger gels answer with the delaying-tactic imperative, “Hold on.”
This is where the liquidity of the Mother Tongue kicks in because they don’t, in fact, answer me with these two words but rayther have taken to serving up what I believe to be a unique hybrid.
So far, there seem to be several different permutations, all of which they utter in a kind of dismissive mumble. A phonetic sampling:
I’m not sure yet if there is any connection between choice of variant and context, whether for example one might be formal while another is more familiar, or whether this is just a bit of linguistic chaos common to the birth of a new form of expression. No doubt inevitable further exposure will give me some more refined insight.
At any rate, as I say, I try to derive whatever etymological pleasure I can from these utterances, because otherwise they drive me absolutely crazy.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You may call ol’ Robbo “old school” – I’m sure you already call me much worse – but I for one prefer the celebration of Washington’s birthday to this generic chief executive tribute stuff. Old George surely merits his country’s eternal memory and thanks. Fellahs like Buchanan, Johnson, Wilson, Carter and, ah, others we need not name? Not so much. So for me, today really isn’t much other than a day off work.
♦ Robbo spent most of yesterday afternoon in his favorite chair overlooking the bird feeders, reading his Parkman and staring out the window from time to time. In the course of a couple hours, two different hawks blitzed the feeders. The youngest gel and I identified one of them as a Cooper’s Hawk. The other was immature. As I discovered from my Peterson’s Field Guide (always at hand), almost all immature hawks look exactly like each other. The only way to even guess at the subspecies is by the bird’s size. This one was pretty durn big.
Neither one was successful, by the way. The immature bird in particular spent several minutes perched on the roof of the porch looking extremely indignant.
♦ Speaking of which, I may have mentioned before the youngest’s interest in ornithology? She loves to show off her knowledge about comparative features – crests and caps, rounded vs. squared tails and the like. She recently asked me what schools had good ornithology programs.
“Well, there’s Cornell,” I said.
“Where’s that?” she asked.
“Upstate New York. It gets very, very cold.”
“Ummmm, I don’t think I’d like that. Anywhere else?”
Beats me. I suppose I ought to look into it.
♦ Another dose of snow/sleet is on the way tonight and tomorrow morning, although it looks like it’s just going to be a nuisance this time around. Then the temperatures are supposed to get up into the 60′s by the end of the week. I may say that I’ve had plenty of wintah, thank you very much. Moar warm, please!
I say this now so that, when I am being slowly parboiled over the summah and complaining bitterly about it, I can dig up this post and remind myself of what I will be missing.
Georg Phillip Telemann’s violin concerto in A Major “Die Reline” (“The Frogs”).
Ol’ Robbo spent several hours this morning hacking away at the layer of ice that Storm Snochi left on his driveway as a parting gift before heading on up the seaboard. I’m not sure which is worse, the strained back and calves from shoveling off her initial foot+ deposit or the blisters from clearing away her follow-up present.
However, it was really rayther a nice day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with an absolutely brilliant blue sky and temperatures in teh 40′s. And as I chipped away, the smell of the sun on the melting ice gave me renewed hope to believe that spring is not that far away.
Which brought me further to think about the fact that during the spring and summah around here, after a rainfall the woods behind Port Swiller Manor are often full of the sound of frogs singing away, a sound that I always love to hear.
Which made me think of Telemann’s little exercise in tone-painting.