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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo does not mean to go poaching in the preserve of one of the more estimable friends of the decanter, but I can’t help noting that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1682, of the Dread Pirate Roberts. Sayeth Wiki:
Bartholomew Roberts was born in 1682 in Casnewydd-Bach, or Little Newcastle, between Fishguard and Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, Wales. His name was originally John Roberts, and his father was most likely George Roberts. It’s not clear why Roberts changed his name from John to Bartholomew, but pirates often adopted aliases, and he may have chosen that name after the well-known buccaneer Bartholomew Sharp. He is thought to have gone to sea when he was 13 in 1695 but there is no further record of him until 1718, when he was mate of a Barbados sloop.
In 1719 he was third mate on the slave ship Princess, under Captain Abraham Plumb. In early June that year the Princess was anchored at Anomabu, then spelled Annamaboa, which is situated along the Gold Coast of West Africa (present-day Ghana), when she was captured by pirates. The pirates were in two vessels, the Royal Rover and the Royal James, and were led by captain Howell Davis. Davis, like Roberts, was a Welshman, originally from Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. Several of the crew of the Princess were forced to join the pirates, including Roberts.
Davis quickly discovered Roberts’ abilities as a navigator and took to consulting him. He was also able to confide to Roberts information in Welsh, thereby keeping it hidden from the rest of the crew. Roberts is said to have been reluctant to become a pirate at first, but soon came to see the advantages of this new lifestyle. Captain Charles Johnson reports him as saying:
“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.”
He was killed by grapeshot in a battle in 1722 and buried at sea before his body could be captured. Or so they say.
At this point I naturally was going to put in the clip of Wesley explaining to Buttercup how he had become TDPR, but YewToob doesn’t seem to carry that scene. Oh, well. In poking about, however, I did come across this bit, which should provide some mild Friday afternoon amusement:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
My name is Robbo and I am the sometime host of this blog.
My apologies for the sporadic posties of late. The fact is that Mrs. R had to go in for some emergency surgery two weeks ago and things have been rayther at sixes and sevens since then. (She’s fine, btw, but just now getting back up to speed.) Also, Mr. Pollen has been putting the hurt on me over the past couple days.
Thus, my Muse, instead of sitting proudly on my shoulder and inspiring me to heights of erudition and eloquence, has instead been cowering in the corner in a fetal ball, whimpering and muttering, “No hablo Ingles, senior…”.
Anyhoo, good God Almighty what a week it’s been, no? As I type, Drudge is suggesting that they
may have nailed have captured the second Marathon bastard bomber bastard. And all the usual suspects are already starting the crimination/recrimination games. I positively swear that I heard a few seconds of somebody on NPR this evening suggestion that the younger brother was a “victim” himself, a troubled yoot that our cold, crass system had allowed to “slip through the cracks”.
And so we navel-gaze while the barbarians undermine the wall.
Remember how in M*A*S*H* Alan Alda often delivered that smug and smarmy line, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, either through idiocy or willfulness (or probably both – see Jonah Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches), he never finished the thought, and thereby skewed it exactly wrong. The line is from a poem called “What If?”, usually attributed to Bertolt Brecht and criticizing pacifism. It runs in full:
What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why then the war will come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid Battle,
since not to fight for your own cause really means
Fighting in behalf of your enemy’s cause.
I am not (yet) of the camp that attributes our confused and self-destructive response to Jihad to a deliberate ploy by Libs to ruin this country. Instead, I still believe it is a matter of naiveté, fecklessness, hubristic posturing and a vague desire that it will all somehow just go away by itself.
Well, it won’t.
Speaking of battles, I ran off the movie Red Tails the other evening, a film that purports to tell the story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. I won’t say much about the film itself, as it turned out to be a horridly cartoonish thing, indulging in cliche and caricature and doing absolutely nothing to actually honor or, more importantly, EXPLAIN these remarkable pilots and their stunning record of success. Instead, I use it as yet another exhibit in support of a policy I intend to implement upon becoming Emperor of the World. Under my wise and benevolent reign, CGI-created machines (in this case, WWII-era fighters and bombers), will not be permitted to act in ways physically impossible for their real-world counterparts.
Do you hear, George Lucas (who was behind this movie)? If you make a P-51 Mustang act like one of your freakin’ X-wings on MY watch, you are going to be subject to a public flogging. You’ve been warned.
Speaking of warnings, the youngest gel, now aged 11 and quite full of herself, has taken to calling me “Dude” lately. Each time she does it, I promptly correct her. She just as promptly apologizes. But that doesn’t seem to prevent her from doing it the next time. Grrrrrr.
One of my resolutions this Easter season is to dip into various authors I’ve not read before. To this end, I recently acquired the collected works of Flannery O’Connor. I also procured Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. Two other authors who have appeared on my radar are Walker Percy and John Buchan (of 39 Steps fame). Any suggestions re these two would be appreciated, although I must warn you that I gather Buchan is mostly a whodunnit kind of fellah and detective stories (even those concerning Sherlock Holmes himself) have never really grasped my interest that much. Oh, and friends of the decanter are always welcomed to suggest other authors and books. Regular readers probably know ol’ Robbo pretty well at this point, so you know what might interest me.
Of course, if you were to ask what I’m reading at this very minute, for all my talk of expanded horizons I would have to confess that I’m working my way through the Waugh cycle for the umpteenth time and thoroughly enjoying myself.
Speaking of expanding, we are in the initial steps of doing away with the weather-beaten and code-violating back porch at Port Swiller Manor and replacing it with a three-season room. The building guy and architect were out this morning to take measurements and discuss ideas. I kept an eye on the architect as he free-handed a sketch of the existing and proposed structures in his notebook. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the virtual blueprint emerging from his squigglings. I suppose it’s routine when you’re in the biz, but as a layman I was deeply impressed.
Well, not much else to say at the moment. This was one of those horrid evenings in which Mrs. R and I were required to transport the gels to and from various activities in a logistical scheme that made Operation Overlord look like a game of pickup football. I loathe such days. To add to the fun, the area has been subject to torrential rains off and on all evening. The poor visibility, coupled with my rotten night vision, had ol’ Robbo tooling about the highways and byways muttering under his breath about “driving by Braille”.
The upside of such an evening’s toil and travail is that when everyone finally returns to base safe and sound, that extra glass of wine tastes especially good. I invite you to join me!
Greetings my fellow port swillers!
Well, I think there can be no doubt that Spring has finally got her act together and begun operations in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. There’s greenage on the trees, the bleeding heart in the front bed is in bloom and the windows are wide open. Also, today was the first day that ol’ Robbo had to pull out his mower and weed-whacker. Always a nice thing when they start right up after sitting idle in the garage all winter. (I would mention that I also put the hammock out today, but since I seem never actually to get the chance to use the durn thing, this is an annual milestone of much less actual importance.)
Of course, this being Spring means that the weather has turned schizophrenic, with temperatures yo-yoing all over the place and extremely fast-changing conditions. Indeed, Friday morning we had our first thunderstorm of the year. The middle gel and self were sitting in the ol’ Wrangler down to school, waiting for it to be time for her to go in for choir practice, when suddenly a bolt of lightning hit one of the towers above us. Scared the bejaysus out of both of us, I assure you.
This morning saw the annual parade and opening ceremonies of our local Little League. The opening pitches were thrown out this year by none other than Robbo’s beloved Nats’ right-fielder, Jayson Werth. (He and 1st baseman Adam LaRoche both have kids in the program.) For all his alleged ball-handling prowess, Werth managed to put two out of the three pitches into the dirt.
At any rate, as the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung at the ballpark, I found myself musing sadly. It seems that every day the headlines become more and more horrible, filled with bread and circuses, bald-faced lies and behind-the-scenes Orwellian power-grabbing. There can be little question that we are and have been on social and economic paths that are simply unsustainable. (Of course, we’ve done this to ourselves through softness and lack of vigilance and our failure to drown all the Baby-Boomers in buckets at birth, and a lot of people still somehow don’t seem to understand how deep the trouble is that we’re in.) But now, I think, we’ve finally reached the point where it’s all coming to a head one way or the other.
Personally, I don’t believe that the country is actually doomed. What I think is going to happen is that those trying to finish up installing the Brave New World are going to overreach in a way that finally makes the citizenry wake up. (No, strike that. I actually think they already have. Now we’re just waiting for the math to catch up.) It’ll make ‘em wake up because it’ll hurt like hell. Collapse of the dollar? Food shortages? Riots a la Cyprus? Persecutions and scape-goatings? Oh, you betcha.
But you see, I also think there is something that sets up apart from late-Republican Rome or Paris in the Terror or early 20th Century Russia or Germany or, for that matter, Modern Europe. I think that although, as I say, we’ve got lazy and complacent, there is still a seed of autonomy and self-reliance in our national character. When push comes to shove, I think, I think, that we will remember what we’re made of. (You see that, for instance, in the public resistance against draconian gun-control. And the Tea Party.) It’ll be ugly, to be sure, but I believe that in the end we will come out intact on the other side, without either Caesar or Big Brother and hopefully wiser and stronger for the experience. (Do you know that I actually had a conversation with the Mothe a week or two ago about what the military would be likely to do in the event they were ordered to turn on trouble-making citizens? And that it was a conversation in earnest? We agree, by the bye, that it is extremely unlikely they ‘d cooperate in any such strong-arm tactics.) At least, that’s my hope and I’m sticking to it.
But as I say, I am saddened by all this. Not so much for myself, but for my children. I’m betting that the Crisis hits in the next five to ten years, right in the midst of their young adulthoods. I figure that I can face whatever comes with a kind of resigned stoicism and a sense that if I get caught in the crossfire, at least I’ve already had my turn. But it pains me to think about what they’ll have to go through when their world is turned upside down.
Ah, well. Better go jump in that hammock while I’ve still got the chance…..
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Perhaps because I’m out of practice, I completely forgot to add an item to yesterday’s randomness that linked many of the other items together. Specifically, I had meant to say that I only recently learned that this summah will see another outbreak of periodical cicadas in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. This time, it seems we will be visited by Brood II.
I well remember the last infestation, which occurred in 2003. The first intimation of what we were in store for manifested itself one hot, hazy Saturday morning when, standing on the back deck having a kahfee, I realized that the sound I was hearing was not a car alarm going off in the neighborhood, but the combined croonings of a whooooole lotta bugs. After the novelty wore off, the constant ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh began to get quite tedious. Oh, how sweet the day was when I was able to do the old Alan Alda gag from MASH whenever the artillery barrage was over: “Do you hear that?” “I don’t hear anything.” “Exactly! They’ve stopped!”
And then there were the damned things themselves, clustering all over trees, smacking into windshields, turning up in unexpected and unwanted places. And once you’ve run over your first batch with a lawnmower, you really don’t care to repeat the process.
Back then, I was still driving a Toyota Camry. I remember one day passing a fellah in an open convertible on the Gee-Dub and wondering idly how he dealt with all the bugs. (He was so tall that his forehead actually protruded over the windscreen. I didn’t half like to think what it would be like to take one of those things between the eyes. They’re big.) I suppose I’m going to find out this year, since the ol’ Wrangler doesn’t have A/C and it is essential to keep the sides off during hot weather.
When I relayed the nooz to the gels, there was a storm of outcry and protest, together with much criticism of God for devising such an annoying and yet apparently pointless form of life. Sleep for seventeen years and then emerge just long enough to mate and die? I duly chided them for questioning the Almighty’s wisdom, but I confess that I can’t really see the math on this one myself.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo turned on the car radio this morning only to catch the tail end of a nooz story about Baroness Thatcher. While I didn’t get the lede, from the insistent use of the past tense and key words like “legacy”, he figured that he knew what had happened. Checking the headlines just now, I see that my surmise was correct.
Since this is my blog (which is mine), I will go ahead and tell my own Margaret Thatcher story even though (for once) I am perfectly cognizant that I have told it here before. Those of you who remember are invited to fill your glasses and tune out for a while if you like. I’ll understand.
Anyhoo, I took a year off between college and law school in order to sort things out a bit about just exactly where I wanted to go in life. (I never did answer that question, by the bye. And if you’d told me then where I am now, I’d have been gob-smacked.)
Owing to the rayther generous portion of Fool’s Luck which a benevolent Deity seems to have bestowed on me, I found myself in the position shortly before graduation of knowing a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who had a friend who was trying to set up an internship liaison program between my school and Parliament, and somehow managed to wangle for myself the role of inaugural guinea-pig in said program. The result was that I worked as a research assistant to an MP from June 1987 to June 1988, in the midst of Thatcher’s turn as Prime Minister. (He was a New Labour man from Yorkshire. Therein lie several other tales.)
Among the other treats attached to slouching about Westminster (I’m reasonably sure that using O-fficial Parliamentary stationary for the cover letters to my law school applications is what did the trick for getting me in), every now and again I was able to snag a ticket to the visitors’ gallery for Prime Minister’s Question Time and watch the Iron Lady do her stuff. (Just as an aside, we really ought to have something like that here, forcing the President to come over to Congress every so often to defend himself. It would be most entertaining.) I must say that she was every bit as forceful a character as she’s described. I still recall distinctly one incident in which Neil Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, tried to get snide with her about some policy or other. She took his snark and whipped it right back at him like an assegai, pinning him to his seat. Almost literally. The man’s eyes bulged, his jaw dropped and he was rendered utterly speechless.
On the other hand, she passed me in the hall one time (it’s a very small and collegial community) and received my obviously goofy look of goggly admiration with a warm, modest smile.
Rest in peace.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Thanks to that peculiar elitist quirk of WordPress by which it insists on following Greenwich Mean Time, even though it is still the evening of Monday, March 18 at Port Swiller Manor (the 15th anniversary of the birth of the Eldest Gel, by the bye, and what would have been the Old Gentleman’s 79th or 80th), here in the virtual world of the Stilton and walnuts we are already well over half an hour into Tuesday, March 19.
Regular friends of the decanter will recall that ol’ Robbo often has voiced his opinion that Tuesday is the very worst day of the week. In the past, I usually have laid the blame for this at the feet of what one might sum up as general work-week psychological harmonics. (“Hole in the week” is my general term for this phenomenon, as you will know if you’ve been paying attention.)
Well, thanks to the Mothe, whose apparently inexhaustible and restless intellect has caused her to sign up for a Modern Greek History course up ta the local college, I may have stumbled upon a genuine historickal basis for my disdain.
You see, I have long known that Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. After some painful mental scrambling, sometimes I also can remember that it was, in fact, on May 29th of that year, after a siege of roughly six weeks, that the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, is said to have fallen defending his gates from the barbarian horde as they rushed in to sack the Imperial Capital. (Where the Emperor actually met his end is, technically, not known. However, the tradition that he died defending the gates is one of those of which ol’ Robbo says, “If it isn’t true, it ought to be.”)
Aaaanyhoo, what I didn’t know, and what the Mothe was able to tell me, is that May 29, 1453 was, in fact, a Tuesday. Furthermore, she informs me that, since then, Tuesday traditionally has been viewed as a day of ill-omen among the Greeks, bad luck attending anything associated with it.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, what can I say? What I had thought was just a grumbly dislike of having to slog through the most tedious work day of the cycle turns out to have some kind of Jungian gunnegshun to my much greater fear and loathing concerning the collapse of Western Civilization, after all. Who’d a’thunk it?
Of course, I’m not going to go all, all….(Oh, shoot! Who was that insufferable actress of my yoot who claimed to have lived past lives? Shirley-somebody, I think….), well, I’m not going to suggest that I was Constantine XI Palaiologos in a previous life, but, as I say, it would seem that his spirit somehow or other found its way into a corner of my braims.
UPDATE: Alas, ol’ Robbo is starting to show signs of senility, because when hitting the “publish” button, I completely forgot to include the linky to the lovely and talented Sleepy Beth’s compilation of several different versions of the obvious theme song for this post. My apologies….
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
After getting very excited about a rumor floating around the nets yesterday afternoon that Pope Francis had thrown the disgraced Bernard, Cardinal Law out of the Vatican on his monstrous backside, a rumor that now appears to be unfounded, ol’ Robbo came to the realization that it is time to calm down, take a deep breath and just wait to see what happens.
So instead, I give you this: Council bans apostrophes from all street signs to avoid ‘confusion’.
Mid-Devon District Council said its new streets had not contained apostrophes for many years but the policy was now being made official.
Residents and plain English campaigners criticised the move, but the council said apostrophes could only be found in three street names in the district.
It added that Beck’s Square and Blundell’s Avenue both in Tiverton and St George’s Well in Cullompton were all named many years ago.
Andrew Lacey, of Mid-Devon District Council, said there was no national guidance that stops apostrophes being used.
But proofreader Mary de Vere Taylor from Ashburton said the thought of apostrophes being removed made her shudder.
I shudder, too. Indeed, the grammar aside, I find myself mystified at what possible “confusion” could result from the difference between “Beck’s” and “Becks” Square. Would the presence of the apostrophe be enough to distract a lorry driver, causing him to careen straight through the plate-glass window of a nearby china shop?
In my misspent yoot, we lived next door to some people I will call the Smiths. They had a little plaque on their mailbox pillar that read “the Smith’s” which the Mothe routinely mocked to our tender ears. Indeed, these folks became known in the family vocabulary as “the Smith-apostrophe-s”.
I never forgot that. It was, perhaps, a rayther more brutal form of grammatickal education than the Schoolhouse Rock ditties on the teevee, but it was quite effective for all that.
In fact, the rules of apostrophe usage are really quite easy. If the Mid-Devon District Council is so concerned as to feel compelled to take O-fficial action, instead of dumbing down the street signs may I suggest that they stock the local library with copies of Lynne Truss’s The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You CAN’T Manage Without Apostrophes!
UPDATE: Here’s a nifty little article on the historickal development of the possessive apostrophe, a story that has always given me a great deal of geeky pleasure.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Courtesy of the Bovina Bloviator, ol’ Robbo became aware of this neat-o on-line thingy: the Pope Name Predictor. As its moniker suggests, it is a little contest to guess the name taken by the next Pope, whose identity, with any luck, we may find out as early as in the next day or two. I couldn’t resist playing myself.
My prediction? Well, it was really more of a hope than a guess, although not completely outside the bounds of plausibility. In fact, I plonked for the name Pope Martellus I.
Friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo believes it is critical at this time that the Conclave of Cardinals (of course guided by the Holy Ghost) select a new pontiff who carries within him the spirit of Charles Martel (that is, in English, “The Hammer”), a fellah with his back to the wall who nonetheless summoned the courage and strength to beat the holy bejaysus out of Christianity’s enemies, thus turning the tide. What we need is a Champion of Orthodoxy who will smite not only the external enemies of HMC (here I’m thinking not only of rival religions around the world but more specifically of the secularist hedonism that has poisoned the West), but the internal ones as well.
In short, in these dark times we need a strong leader.
“But Tom,” you say, “Isn’t a reference to an 8th Century Frank kinda, you know, obscure?”
To which I would reply, “No, not if you had paid attention in your Medieval History class like you were supposed to. Besides, the interconnectedness of the Present with the Past is a feature in my world view, not a bug.”
Besides, I want at least a plausible shot at winning the iThingy the meme is promising to whoever choses wisely, and “Chucknorristus I” and “Jackbaurius I” just didn’t seem like plausible options to me.
As the snow continues to come down around Port Swiller Manor, the Robbo braim turns to the question: When is the best time to go out and shovel the driveway?
Regular friends of the decanter may recall that I grew up in South Texas. A yoot spent in that clime left me with very, very little experience regarding what one might call proper snow management. (Indeed, I can think of only one time we ever got more than an inch or two in San Antonio. That was the winter of ’84-’85, when I was home on Christmas break from my sophomore year in college. In a once-in-a-thousand year freak, we got something like 15 inches, utterly shutting the place down. You should have seen our old Scottie trying to deal with it! But I was robbed of even this opportunity to gain some knowledge owing to the fact that I was down with a very severe case of Mono and under strict medical orders to not so much as sneeze the wrong way for fear of rupturing something and bleeding to death.)
Nonetheless, I have been a householder in the great Commonwealth of Virginny for some twenty-odd years now, and of necessity have picked up a certain amount of practical experience in that time. I suppose the rule of thumb is that it depends on how much you think you’re going to get altogether, and the quality of the stuff. Less than, say, six or eight inches, let it all play itself out first. More than that, you might want to think about doing an initial clearing, coming back to mop up later on. Especially if, like today, it’s the heavy, wet kind.
I’ve an idea that at the rate it’s coming down, schools et cetera are going to be closed tomorrow, so there probably won’t be any child transport to worry about. However, I will likely need to get down to the shop myself, at least for a while. I don’t relish having to tackle 12 to 14 inches in the early morning, so I suppose I will go out later on this afternoon to take an initial whack at it.
But the upside? Why, in Robbo’s calculus, an hour or two with the ol’ shovel (and yes, a certain surly obstinacy compels me to do it the old-fashioned way)* not only counts as exercise for the day, it also earns him some bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and a big glass of sherry in front of a cheery fire afterwards. (If the power goes out and the broiler is not available, I can live with just the sherry and the fire.)
That’s carrot enough to make me beat myself with a stick.**
* I’ve nothing against snowblowers per se, except that I’m still young enough and they’re still expensive enough that the math doesn’t yet work out. (It’s sort of the same with the riding mower question.) I don’t doubt that at some point I will go ahead and make the switch. But not yet. What I really loathe, frankly, are those people who pay a service to clear out their drives or, even worse, those who have heated driveways. Heated driveways, forsooth!! That’s how Rome fell, y’know.)
** For those of you asking, “Tom, why don’t you get the gels to help?” I can only answer: Yeah, right.
UPDATE: Well, at least as of about 1:00 PM, Snowquester is becoming D’oh!-quester. There’s plenty coming down, but it’s too warm for any appreciable sticking. So perhaps, as Jesse Jackson famously said, “The question is moot!”
So I see where ol’ Hugo Chavez is on his way to the hot place. Not to be uncharitable, but good, bloody riddance.
I recall that one of the great eye-openers of Robbo’s misspent yoot was the discovery of that type of Lefty who not only apologized for communist and socialist strong men, but actually praised and even worshiped them: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, the North Vietnamese, Tito, Che…..The list goes on. Protestations about the brutality of this or that Utopian regime inevitably provoked either outright denial or else blustery and indignant justification amounting to little more than an eggs and omelettes defense.
It was at that point that I recognized the deadly and fundamental clash in this type’s mind between “the People” and the people, and just how cheaply they held the latter in their professed “love” of the former. (Perhaps not unrelated, it gave me a certain amount of cynical pleasure to note that the kids who identified themselves as “People Persons” in my freshman class new student guide at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown usually turned out to be the biggest, most untrustworthy shites.)