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Easter Monday afternoon found ol’ Robbo ensconced in the hammock on his back porch, reading Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of teh World.  (About which I shall certainly post when I am done.)

Suddenly, a literal cat-fight broke out to my left.  I have posted here before about our two young kittehs Ginger and Fiona, now around  a year old, and their elder cohabiter Bella who hates them both.  Well, old Bella had managed to corner young Ginger under a chair and was going at her with tooth and nail.

Wishing to break things up quam celerrime,  I went to hurl my book (a paperback, rest assured) in the general direction of the melee.  Unfortunately, as I brought my right arm over and across my body, I also managed to upset the equilibrium of the hammock so that the beastly thing pitched me out good and proper.  I landed rayther heavily on my knees.

The book itself hit in the general vicinity in which I’d aimed it, but I think it was the surprise at seeing Robbo flip over and go down hard that actually broke up the fight.

My knees have hurt ever since.  I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the fact that Bella and Ginger had another dust-up this evening and there is much fur to clean up.

Have I mentioned the fact that although I have myself owned cats since shortly after Mrs. R and I got married (21 years ago this June) and grew up with them , I have never really liked them?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was casting an eye over his old school alumni calendar this afternoon for scheduling purposes when he noticed a curious thing.  According to the entry for Saturday, April 26, “Yom Hashanah” begins at sundown that day.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on Jewish holidays, but my reaction on spotting this was an audible, “Say what? Where does that fall in relation to Rosh Kippur?”

I mentioned the thing to a little FB group to which I belong and one of my fellows suggested that the writers probably meant Yom HaShoah.

Now, as I say, I’m not up on Jewish holidays, so I looked up Yom HaShoah for some education, only to discover that a) it is the annual remembrance of the Holocaust (the existence of which I knew but not by its Hebrew name), and b) it actually starts at sundown on April 27 this year.  And never mind that Rosh Hashanah is actually an early fall holiday.

So, if I am reading this aright, not only did the calendar manage to mix up the celebration of the Jewish New Year with a day of utter grimness, it even got the date of the latter wrong.

Just how many levels of editorial review this thing managed to get through without notice, the world wonders.

I flipped through my pile of school calendars from prior years (yes, I keep old calendars – got a problem with that?) and found that there was no equivalent entry in any of them, so this appears to be a new innovation on the part of the dear old Alma Mater.

Given the weapons-grade tackiness of the attempt, easily exposed with about five minutes of research on the innertoobs, it might want to reconsider such innovations.


Greetings, me fellow port swillers, and a happy St. Patty’s Day to ye!

Well, ol’ Ma Nature has delivered yet again, dumping (as reported by the NWS) something like 7 inches of snow in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and, of course, bringing  Your Nation’s Capital to a screeching halt once more.  At the moment, I’m loitering around waiting for her to finish up so that I can go out and get cracking on the driveway, after which I intend to spend the afternoon gently dozing in front of the fire in well-earned sloth.

This is the first big late season storm we’ve had in ages, as I ought to know.  For one thing, the Eldest Gel turns sixteen this week (YIKES!) and  weather has never been an issue round about the time of her birthday before.  Also, I happen to remember the last mid-March blizzard (in 1993) because I was moving from one apartment to another that weekend in anticipation of my June wedding to Mrs. R.  When you have to haul heavy boxes around in the snow, it tends to stick with you, even if you have as porous and fluffy a memory as I do.

So anyway, here we are.

I was musing this morning on the bizarre transmogrification of the Feast of St. Patrick into the modern, secular “holiday” which seems to have no other function than to give  people an excuse to get blotto and to provide a forum for vicious public spats over whether Gay Pride groups should march in parades.   Of course, many of our major modern holidays are similar corruptions of Church originals, but at least with most of the rest of them there is still recognizable some faint image of their religious intent and meaning.   For the vast majority, St. Patty’s seems to me simply an excuse for self-indulgence, no matter how much green one is wearing.


Then, of course, there’s the whole leprechaun biznay.   If you’re looking for an example of the real Irish attitude toward the Little People and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, may I recommend to you a short story of Patrick O’Brian (yes, of Aubrey/Maturin fame) entitled “The Happy Despatch”?  It’s part of a collection called The Rendevous and Other Stories, all of which I would recommend and, without giving anything away, is really quite terrifying.

Well, it appears looking out the window that Ma is just about done, so I suppose it’s time to get dressed and get busy.

UPDATE:  Well, it was closer to 4 inches than 7 on Robbo’s driveway, so shoveling didn’t take that much time after all.

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.

LandisAnyhoo, 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.

Baby BoomRecently ol’ Robbo got his hands on Peej O’Rourke’s latest book, The Baby Boom:  How It Got That Way, and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again.  As the title suggests, this is O’Rourke’s take on his own generation, its origins, rise and impact on history, which he achieves through a mixture of personal recollection and larger picture analysis.

I’ve been kinda down on Peej’s writing ever since he hit his peak in the 90′s with All The Trouble In The World and Eat the Rich.  To me, his style has gradually gotten somewhat, well, staler and a bit crusty.  With that said, this is a very well-written book.  Even though Peej is an essayist by trade and I believe this is his first attempt at a genuine book-length narrative,  nonetheless it holds up very well throughout.  (One tool he uses that particularly impressed me is a series of descriptive snippets of his own personal history – starting from boyhood – that he gradually weaves together into metaphoric themes as he progresses.)  Also, his observations are as sharp and funny as any others he has made.



Here’s the thing.  Peej spends the majority of the book laying down the character traits of the Boomers – spoiled, selfish, perpetually adolescent, hedonistic.  He also describes what a wild ride it’s been unleashing such traits on the society built up by its stick-in-the-mud predecessors.   All this I expected.  After all, so long as somebody is working hard to keep the pantry and cellar stocked, sure, you can have one hell of a party.   But, going by the book’s title, I also expected a climactic denunciation and something akin to an apology.   After all, Peej has been a Professional Conservative for 40-odd years, specializing in sniping at the foibles of his generation, and I thought the rest of the book was going to be a set up for pulling Peter Pan over his knee and whaling on him with a belt-buckle.  

But in the last chapter, entitled “Big Damn Messy Bundle of Joy”?  Where he should have looked around and noticed just how badly his generation has trashed the place and how hard – if not impossible – it’s going to be for those of us following to clean it up?  He celebrates!  While he rightly lauds the creative energies unleashed by the Boomer revolution,  he conveniently forgets that for every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that it might have made there are legions of my hippy Uncle Dave, who last I heard of him 20-odd years ago was tending bar part-time and crashing on a buddy’s sofa.   He actually praises the “liberation” of the sexual revolution, which, so far as I can see, has only brought about the destruction of the family unit, plummeting birth-rates, the commodification and dehumanization of sexuality and wide-spread misery.   He completely ignores the fact that the Boomers’ looting of the coffers will leave those succeeding them no other use for all those worthless I.O.U.’s  than to wipe their bottoms (which won’t even matter because they’ll have nothing to eat).   And while he is correct that envy of Western prosperity was a major cause of the Soviet Union’s cracking and faltering, his prediction that the spread of Boomer “values” throughout the Third World will lead to the collapse of all those myriad tin-pot dictators and medieval theocracies strikes me as, well, naive.

Maybe I’m reading his conclusion wrong.  Maybe he’s trying to be snarky and sarcastic and it’s simply sailing past me.  Maybe he’s only aping his generation’s zeitgeist while not actually sharing it himself.  Feel free to share your own takes here.  But his conclusion seems to me to come awful close to, “Screw you, Jack! I got mine!”  And that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Damned hippies.

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.

N.C. Wyeth, "Last of the Mohicans" illustration, 1917.

N.C. Wyeth, “Last of the Mohicans” illustration, 1917.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Prompted by catching AMC’s umpteenth re-showing of Braveheart t’other evening, ol’ Robbo started to write a post on the predictability of Mel Gibson movie characters, but after re-reading the draft, I decided that my insights were so bloody obvious that they would insult the collective intelligence of my fellow port swillers.  So consider yourselves spared.

In keeping with the theme of big-budget 90′s historickal beefcake films, however, I will note instead that, following up on my recent re-enjoyment of Francis Parkman’s history of French and British colonial history in North America, I’ve chucked Last of the Mohicans into the ol’ Netflix queue again.

Friends of the decanter might be puzzled by this.  After all,  said movie makes a complete hash of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel – the wrong couples get together, the wrong characters live and die and the movie’s Major Hayward is teleported in from the Bearded-Spock Universe – and we all know what Robbo thinks of movie bowderlizations of cherished books.   (Peter Jackson, for example, is going straight to hell.)

So how can I watch this one?  The key word here is “cherished”.   I’ve never understood why Cooper enjoys the literary status that he does, or anyway did back in the day when more young people still knew how to read.  His books, at least to me, are long-winded, pompous, condescending and heavy-handed.  And, as Mark Twain famously noted, as a limousine liberal of his day, Cooper not only was a poor writer, he also didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to stories of the wild.  Frankly, I struggled through LOTM and I positively gave up on his Wing and Wing after a couple chapters despite the fact that it was a sea-story.  So it simply doesn’t bother me much that his tale of Natty Bumppo is so thoroughly mangled by the film.

Well, there is one part that bothers me:  Col. Munro, the real one, was not killed in the massacre at Fort William-Henry by Magwa or anyone else.  He actually died some months later, apparently from exhaustion.   And I recall that the movie downplays the fact that many of those murdered and carried away by Montcalm’s Indian allies were women and children.

Nonetheless, the movie is gorgeously filmed (although I believe at least some of the scenes were shot in the Blue Ridge near Roanoke instead of the Adirondacks ), there’s plenty of action and a lot of the period (circa 1757) detail is pretty good.   And for some reason, Robbo’s beloved Nationals have adopted its score as the “theme” musick at the beginning of their home games.  Kinda gets to you after  a while.

Oh, may I also note here in reference to the pic above that I absolutely love N.C. Wyeth’s work?  Sure, the man was but an illustrator, but he carried illustration to a sublime level.  I’d take ol’ N.C. over a legion of “abstract” artistes any day.


**Spot the reference.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Driving along this evening, ol’ Robbo found himself behind a truck belonging to some kind of office furniture store.  The ad copy on its backside read, “ABC (or whatever it was) Furniture – Where the Customer Becomes Family”.

Similarly, I have noticed from time to time the use of the word “family” in various notes, announcements and invitations down the office:  “Come join the Department of Silly Walks’ Happy Feet Section Family for a Holiday Celebration” and the like.

Frankly, this irks me.

As far as being a customer goes, XYZ Company provides me goods or services and I supply it monies.  It’s a business relationship.  I might very well get to be quite chummy with the owners or their staff, but unless this goes so far that I or one of my kin actually marries one of them….we’re not family. 

Again, as far as office relations go, I always endeavor to be professional and courteous, and am on various levels of friendship with colleagues there, but….we’re still not family.

Now , I doubt very seriously whether the people who use the word “family” in these contexts actually mean any harm.  I don’t see this as deliberately Orwellian double-speak.  Nonetheless, I find it to be an unwarranted assumption of familiarity, an intrusion into what the kids call my “personal space”, a co-opting of a term that properly describes the fundamental unit of human life established by God the Father Himself,  a get off my lawn moment.

Perhaps I’m being hypersensitive,  but these things matter.  We already live in a day and age in which the traditional definition of family – people united by blood and marriage – has been completely tossed aside in favor of whatevs, dude. This is a Very Bad Thing, and I can’t help feeling that the sloppy transposition of the term to the market and the workplace does nothing to help.

Oh, and bonus points for spotting the quote in the title.

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