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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was flipping idly through the assortment of “holiday” cards that have piled up on the side table by the front door of Port Swiller Manor this evening when he realized that, out of about thirty or so such cards we’ve received so far, only one of them took as its theme the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Most of the rest feature montages of family photos.  My favorite is one that came in the shape of a Christmas tree ornament, complete with ribbon for hanging on a convenient branch  – to honor, I suppose – our closeness.*   Its computer-generated mailing label spelled the Robbo family name wrong.

I throw this out as observation, not condemnation.  Truth of the matter is that, as Port Swiller Communications Director, Mrs. Robbo took the same route with our own cards (although she prided herself on actually hand-addressing the envelopes).   When I raised some mild concern, she replied that I was perfectly at liberty to send “real” Christmas cards to anybody I like, including my imaginary internet friends, and good luck.  Until I stepped up and started writing, however, I could stuff it.

Yes, Dear.

To give you an idea of my “stepping up” is such matters, I’ve still barely made a dent in the set of Madonna and Child cards I bought a couple years ago.

Yes, I denounce myself.

* True story:  The female of this couple was a classmate of Mrs. R in college and she and I went out on a blind date literally the evening before I met Mrs. R.  Said date was a first-class disaster and I believe said classmate actually doesn’t even remember it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo may have mentioned here that the Youngest Gel started middle school this fall?  If I did, I probably also noted that she had tested into the G/T (or as they now call it, the AAP) program in the local public system.

big-broAnyhoo, recently her English class was assigned Orwell’s 1984, and, quite frankly, she’s been floundering a bit with it.

Now,  Robbo certainly has spilled a great many pixels over the years lamenting the sorry state of our so-called public education system and its low, snow-ball standards of indoctrination education.   But even to me it seems that this particular novel probably is not appropriate material for a bunch of 7th graders, however gifted n’ talented they might be.   (Indeed, I don’t recall reading the novel myself until my brief flirtation with libertarianism my senior year of high school.)

Aside from the difficulty of wrapping their tender brains around the prose and the dystopian gub’mint concepts which it seeks to describe, other wags already have pointed out that there are certain, em, “benefits” of the Brave New World decreed by Big Brother therein which would have any modern adolescent boy asking, “Where do I sign up?”  IF you know what I mean and I think you do.

At any rate, the whole biznay just doesn’t sit well with me.

OTOH, I spent a very pleasant time this evening going over the gel’s history homework about the Progressive Movement in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, craftily inserting poison pills into the Accepted Narrative.  Give me another week or two and I hope to have her convinced that Woodrow Wilson was a first class bastard (which he was).  And God help her teacher if the name Margaret Sanger comes up…..

Speaking of such things, what say friends of the decanter to Saira Blair, the 18 y.o. who recently won a seat in the West Virginia legislature on a platform of Pro-Life, Pro-2nd Amendment and Pro-Constitution?  The elder two gels are definitely, nay emphatically, right there with her, and, while they are still badly outnumbered amongst their peers,  I still think this may be the Next Big Wave.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

♦  Well, ol’ Robbo was finally forced to break down and go get the Tree yesterday afternoon, checkmated by the Port Swiller Family schedule for the next two weeks which precludes decorating the thing any other time than this afternoon.  UPDATE: Done and done.  As per usual, Ol’ Robbo strung the lights and the gels put up all the gewgaws.    Made a good job of it, too.

♦   One of my many casual neuroses is a fear that the tree is going to slide off the roof of the ol’ Jeep as I bring it home.  Every year I look dubiously at the thin strands of twine being strung across the thing higgldy-piggldy by mere kids and wish I’d brought along a set of bungee cords.  Every year I creep along the five or six miles from my church to Port Swiller Manor at the pace of a Florida retiree in a Cadillac on I-95.  And every year my fear is proved misplaced except the one year when I forgot and did my usual bootlegger turn into the driveway.  Dang tree practically took off, sliding down the windshield right in front of me and trying to roll overboard.

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention that when the kid was loading the tree on top of La Wrangler, he asked me how I liked driving her.  I replied enthusiastically, after which he said, “I dunno, it just looks so bad-ass.”

Get that?  What have I been saying all this time?  Robbo is a Bad Boy!

 

♦  Speaking of driving at this time of year, when ol’ Robbo is installed as Emperor, putting a wreath on the grill of your car is gonna cost you a hefty fine.  Putting antlers and a red nose on it is going to constitute a flogging offense.  Just so you know.

♦  I have to admit that this made me violate the No Hot Beverages rule, to my loss.  You’ve been warned.

♦   On a more serious note, here it is Gaudete Sunday already and I don’t feel the slightest bit prepared.   I’d had big plans for this Advent in terms of readings and meditations, but work busyness and a series of domestic fires to put out totally threw them out.  Oh, well.  I’d better get going.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I think I might have seen this one before, but it still makes me laugh:

st nick

I love these memes.  Why not use the tools available to wrestle back images co-opted by the popular culture?

And speaking of the holidays, Mrs. Robbo and I are off later today to the Cathedral to hear the Middle Gel and her mates sing Handel’s Messiah.  Watch this space for my review.

UPDATE:  Sigh…..Have I mentioned lately what it is like to live in a house with three teenaged daughters, especially for someone like ol’ Robbo who values peace, calm and order very highly?

Yes, it’s an open question whether my liver is going to last until we can get them all packed off to college.  And after breaking up an apocalyptic cat-fight over a pair of shoes a while ago (shoes, for all love!), my thought on this Feast of St. Nicholas was RELEASE THE KRAMPUS!

krampus and NicholasWho?

In Germanic countries, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Krampus, an evil spirit or little devil, usually dressed in fur or black with a long tail, and carries a rattling chain, birch branches and a big black bag. In Holland Sinterklass or Sinterklaus leaves from Spain on a boat, accompanied by Black Peter (Piet), his Moor servant. Peter wears animal skins or the traditional medieval Moorish colorful clothing. M December 5, St. Nicholas Eve, is known in some rural areas of Austria as “Krampus Day.” Children and adults go to the village square to throw snowballs and try to chase off Krampus. Other Krampuses lie in wait, rattling their chains and threatening to carry off naughty children in their black bags, or to punish them with their birch branches. All this is done in fun; Krampus’ main purpose is remind the children to be good.

Yes, carrot and stick.  But of course, by today’s standards of raising the precious little snowflakes, it’s almost a hate crime to even hint to them that their bad behavior might have, well, bad consequences.

Grrrrr….

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In case you missed it, here is an example of this year’s War on Christmas from our atheist friends, appearing on billboards in several southern cities:

dear santa

 

Says American Atheists, the group sponsoring the campaign, the billboards are aimed at “in-the-closet atheists who are pressured to observe religious traditions during the holidays.”

Uh, huh.  And why shouldn’t they observe said religious traditions?

“Even children know churches spew absurdity, which is why they don’t want to attend services,” American Atheists President David Silverman said in a statement. “Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed. It’s OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it’s definitely OK to tell your children the truth.”

Good! Goooooood! Feel the hate flowing through you!

I don’t think it’s just a product of my imagination that the atheist movement seems to be getting shriller and more punitive over the past few years.  They used to run with the line that, hey, they could be loving and ethical, too, even without all that God stuff.   Now they seem to be ramping up, not just refusing to believe, but calling anybody who does believe a liar and an idiot and downright evil.

In a way, I suppose I can understand them.  As a believer, I am sure and certain in my Faith, but if I am somehow wrong, well, what will happen?  After (hopefully) having led a decent existence in devotion to my Imaginary Friend, I will crumble back into the primordial dust completely ignorant of my error.  So what?

On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that deep within even the most strident of atheists lurks a little, tiny voice that asks what if I’m wrong and God does exist?

That must be terrifying, a tiny yet bitter foretaste of what would be in store for them.  And fear is a huge motivator for lashing out.

Eh, it’s a theory.  (As a matter of fact, many of them probably have felt this way for a long time.  It’s only with the current Progressivist blitz on the culchah that they feel they can come out and actually say so this brazenly.)

As for the billboard itself, two things strike me:

If the little girl is too old for fairy tales, um, why is she writing Santa? (Unless, of course, she’s doing so in edgy, hipster-doofus irony.)

Also, do these folks know that Santa is the “fairy tale” version of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, whose Feast Day is, in fact, tomorrow?  And that not only was St. Nicholas famous for his tremendous generosity, but also a fierce defender of Orthodoxy?  If some smart-assed post-modern kid were to say something like this to the real Nicholas, they’d probably get a worse beat-down than he gave Arius.

Anyhoo, I’ve reached the point in my own development where this sort of thing fills me not so much with anger as with sadness at the pathos.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

And so it begins.  Every year come the day after Thanksgiving,  the local classickal station begins firing up its rotation of Christmas “holiday” musick.

They start mildly enough, slipping the odd carol or tune in just before the top or bottom of the hour nooz blurb from Nihilist Propaganda Radio, but in short order the mix becomes more and more “seasonally” oriented.  By Christmas Eve itself, the theme has taken over completely.  Of course by then, when, you know, Christmas actually starts, one is utterly sick of the stuff.

Along those lines, Ol’ Robbo likes to play a masochistic little game with himself this time of year, seeing just how long he can go on listening to endless repetitions of “Deck the Halls” and “The Holly and The Ivy” plus pure abominations like “If Bach Had Written ‘Jingle Bells'” before he starts frantically clawing through his drawer for a screwdriver with which to puncture his own eardrums.

I usually hold out until about a week before Christmas itself.  At that point, unable to stand any more “I Wonder As I Wander” and “The Dreidel Song”, I start listening exclusively to CDs until it’s all over.

Which it is, with the suddenness of the Last Trump.  Come December 26, again, the second day of the actual twelve day celebration, not a single note of “holiday” musick will you hear on the station.

Which in a way is a relief, but is infuriating because of why it’s such a relief.

Sigh.

Speaking of which, this year I am going to try more than ever to use the word “X-mas” whenever I am discussing the warped, secularized, bowdlerized, hyper-consumerist “holiday” that most people “celebrate” these days and reserve the word “Christmas” for its proper place.  I’m sure lots of folks won’t understand me but I don’t care.

 

Cary-Grant-and-Rosalind-R-001

Stumbled across “His Girl Friday” this evening after I grew bored with the football game.  Rosalind Russell….mmmmmmmm.

And not just because of her looks (which, on the surface, were okay but nothing to write home about, strictly speaking).  No, Russell projected an intelligence and a style and a sense of humor which were every bit as attractive, if not more so, than any of her physical attributes.  (In this, she was much like Jean Arthur, another of ol’ Robbo’s favorites.)

Sigh.  They just don’t make ‘em like that in Hollywood these days.  Yo fazizzle?

Speaking of which, who knew that Bill Murray, one of my very favorite modern actors, is not only Catholic, but is also a proponent of the Traditional Latin Mass and dignified musick?  Money quote:

One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). “I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. I tend to disagree with what they call the new mass. I think we lost something by losing the Latin. Now if you go to a Catholic mass even just in Harlem it can be in Spanish, it can be in Ethiopian, it can be in any number of languages. The shape of it, the pictures, are the same but the words aren’t the same.”

Isn’t it good for people to understand it? “I guess,” he says, shaking his head. “But there’s a vibration to those words. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know what they mean anyway. And I really miss the music – the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.” Instead, he says, we get “folk songs … top 40 stuff … oh, brother….”

Indeed.

Despite the fact that he made his name doing screwball comedy, I have long thought that Murray has incredible depths of subtlety and I simply love most of his more recent, nuanced stuff.  To find out that he shares ol’ Robbo’s views re the Mass is, well, not so much icing on the cake as breaking out in a new dimension of bonding.

(And lest you thing that I’m indulging in sloppy, blanket praise,  I will confess again here that I have never made it all the way through “Groundhog Day” without dozing off, although I think that’s more me than the movie itself.    Also, I think “Caddyshack” is immensely overrated. )

 

Stephen_Hawking_SimpsonsGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whilst watching “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel this evening (okay, while generally decrying teevee I admit that I’m a sucker for this show), ol’ Robbo saw an ad for the upcoming movie The Theory of Everything, which purports to look at “the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.”  The clips shown were from the early days before Hawking was confined to his signature wheelchair and electronic voice-box and seemed to be of the usual infatuation/disillusionment/hate/love cycle variety, with a heavy side of Scientist-Geek thrown in.

“Hmmmm,” I said to myself.  “Without looking it up, didn’t Mr. Hawking, within the past few years, chuck the Missus in favor of his nurse?  That would rayther put a damper on any ‘message’ about his earlier courtship of Mrs. H, wouldn’t it?  Plus, from all that I’ve gleaned, the fellah is something of a first-class shite to deal with.”

Well, I still haven’t looked it up.  Maybe (indeed, hopefully) I’m wrong in my recollection.  If so, apologies all around.

Nonetheless, I am no fan of Mr. Hawking and have no intention of seeing this flick.  Why?  Because he has fallen into the trap of believing that because he has (very real) insights into the physical mechanics of the Universe, he is thereby qualified to make theological pronouncements about it (to wit, essentially, asserting that there is no such thing as an originating God), and has made something of a media whore out of himself doing so.

The publicity game aside, let me put it in simple terms:  Science, meaning the quantifiable observations of the physical world around us, can at best answer questions associated with the What and the How of our Universe.    It cannot answer questions regarding the Why of said Universe, nor can it answer any question regarding either that which is beyond it or the relationship between it and that which is beyond.

One of the many myths about Holy Mother Church is that she hates and condemns Science.  This is wrong.  (Indeed, the oldest functioning astronomical telescope in the world is, I believe, owned by the Vatican.)  What she actually condemns is scientists who use their observations/discoveries of the physical world as a basis for their own amateur theological pronouncements.   And if there is one thing ol’ Robbo has come to despise in his religious pilgrimage over the years, it’s amateur theology.

Anyhoo, as much as I might admire Mr. Hawking for overcoming the tremendous physical hurdles thrown in his path and for his contributions to actual science, I am very, very leery of this latest effort to bolster his pop icon status.

UPDATE:  Okay, I peeked into Mr. H’s bio.  It’s more screwed up than I recalled.   Message stands.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I draw your attention to a very good article by Jonah Goldberg from yesterday on the transformation of the idea of “integrity” from the pursuit of Objective Good to the pursuit of Whatever Floats Yer Boat.  Money graff:

Such saccharine codswallop overturns millennia of moral teaching. It takes the idea that we must apply reason to nature and our consciences in order to discover what is moral and replaces it with the idea that if it feels right, just do it, baby. Which, by the by, is exactly how Lex Luthor sees the world. Übermenschy passion is now everyone’s lodestar. As Reese Witherspoon says in Legally Blonde, “On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life.” Well, that solves that. Nietzsche-Witherspoon 1, Aristotle 0.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

The G-Man talks a lot about Nietzsche, and undoubtedly the latter is one of the main culprits (along with Freud) to provide  ersatz intellectual cover for this attitude, but the Storm Troopers who actually took it out of the faculty lounges and imposed it on the culture at large in practical form were the goddam Baby Boomers, who for the last forty years have held the high ground in academia, politicks and popular media.  As a matter of fact, the “Newseum” in Dee Cee currently is running a self-congradulatory exhibition of portraits entitled “The Boomer List”, consisting of nineteen photos of prominent Boomers, one from each year of the era.  With the exception of 1959’s Ronnie Lott, who so far as I know is a blameless and decent man who was an excellent football player, the lot of them fill me with contempt. (Yes, yes, I know that some of you are of that generation – I only missed it by less than a month myself.  But I’m guessing that most friends of the decanter constitute the exception to the rule.)

When I look about me at the level of rot and debasement to which these people have brought us, all in pursuit of their own selfish, hedonistic ends, I begin to twitch and foam at the mouth.  (It’s everywhere, but Goldberg illustrates his point primarily through cable teevee series.  He mentions “Dexter”, the gratuitous slasher show about a homicidal maniac who’s actually okay because, get this, he only kills other homicidal maniacs, do you see?  Mrs. Robbo started watching that series early on, but after a few episodes I asked her – as a personal favor to me – to stop.  She did.)

See, this is the thing:  If these people acted the way they do in an isolation chamber, I’d be much more inclined simply to dismiss them.  Perhaps sorrowfully, if I thought about it, but still – I’d probably chuckle in the same way that I do while perusing The Darwin Awards.  However, it’s the effect they have had and are having on the world in which my children and their children will have to live that so enrages me.  (I have taken to using the adjective “soul-destroying” recently to describe things and ideas I want them to stay away from.  List seems to be getting longer all the time.)  Furthermore, not only are teh gels finding and having to deal with the fact that the traditional morality they’ve been taught at home all these years doesn’t seem to jibe with what they find on the Outside, where they are considered weirdos or even Haters, there’s also the fact that this Übermenschy worldview, when put in practice, simply is unsustainable as a whole over more than a few years.  Here’s some more from Jonah:

How’s this new morality going to work out for us all? I’m reminded of the time when an entrepreneur announced he was going to release a new line of beer laced with Viagra. Some wag immediately quipped, “What could possibly go wrong?” Which is pretty much where we are today. It’s impossible to predict what Integrity 2.0 will yield — because no society in the history of Western civilization has so energetically and deliberately torn down its classical ideal and replaced it with do-it-yourself morality. But a betting man would probably wager that this won’t end well.

I suspect that before long we’ll be pining for the good old days, when, no matter how often people failed to uphold the standards of integrity, those standards actually meant something.

Yep.   God help us all.

RaceAnd nicely apropos, I just became aware of a new book by one of my favorite authors, John Zmirak (along with Jason Scott Jones) entitled The Race to Save Our Century:  Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of Life.  Sayeth the ad copy:

In The Race to Save Our Century, human rights activist Jason Jones and political/economic scholar John Zmirak, combine to issue a stark warning to the West, and to call on readers to embrace and promote five core principles of a Culture of Life: . The innate dignity of every human person, regardless of race, age, or handicap. . The existence of a transcendent moral order, by which we judge the justice of all laws and policies. The need for a humane economy that embraces freedom in a context of social responsibility. . The crucial importance of decentralized, responsive government that preserves civil society and freedom. . The need for solidarity, for a sense of fellow feeling and common obligation toward each and every member of the human race.

I’ve just now ordered a copy from the devil’s website and will let you know what I think of it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo informed me this morning that I’m not allowed to do yard work today since I’ve been down this week with the stomach bug, so I’m just having a cup o’ joe and noodling around here.

♦   As a matter of fact, I feel considerably better.  Yesterday I had a massive headache all day, which was actually good news because that always seems to be one of the last stages of these things for me.  Indeed, I like to imagine them in terms of  nor’easters that first form off Cape Hatteras (my stomach) and then roll up the East Coast (shoulders, neck, head) before heading on out to sea.

Yes, I’m a weirdo.

♦   Speaking of nor’easters, hello Polar Vortex!  (The Port Swiller thermometer hit 32 degrees for the first time this morning, but the kerpow is scheduled for later next week here.)  AlGore could not be reached for comment – I understand he has a hot new lead on the whereabouts of ManBearPig.

♦   Speaking of seasonal changes, we got all the ferns and potted palms moved in off the porch last week.  They look so nice inside I think we’re going to keep them here and just get new ones for outdoors next spring.

♦   RIP Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s “Car Talk”.  I used to listen to him and his brother Ray every Saturday morning, especially back in school, and regularly found myself rolling on the floor in laughter.   Indeed, his stock “Aww, Jeez” has become a staple of the Port Swiller lexicon.   (As a matter of fact, I stopped listening to Click and Clack out of protest when they got on the “SUV’s are Global Warminz!! Eleventy!!!” bandwagon, but I still remember the old days fondly.)

♦   Speaking of people in the nooz, just who the hell is this Lena Dunham person?  (I’ll take pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists for a thousand, Alex.)  As the father of three daughters, I simply cannot conceive how any one of them would wish to grow up emulating that.

♦  Speaking of pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists, it may just be my imagination coupled with wishful thinking, but I’m beginning to get the impression that people have had just about enough of that sort of thing and that the tide may be beginning to turn.  I hope so.  I hope so.

♦   Somewhat related, Scott Hahn, the popular Catholic convert and apologist, writes very insightfully and I’ve learned a great deal from him, but the fact of the matter is that his over-use of exclamation points and catch-phrases puts me off his books.

♦   Finally, speaking of books, I’ve started through the Charles Portis cycle for the umpteenth time.  (If you don’t read Portis, you’re really, really missing out.)  Allow me to quote a small piece from the beginning of his first novel, Norwood:

Norwood and Vernell did not live right in Ralph but just the other side of Ralph.  Mr. Pratt had always enjoyed living on the edge of places or between places, even when he had a choice.  He was an alcoholic auto mechanic.  Before his death they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas.  There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved about that section of interstate concrete.  They clung to its banks like river rats.  Once, near Stamps, they lived in a house between a Tastee-Freez stand and a cinder-block holiness church.  There had been a colorful poster on one side of the house that said ROYAL AMERICAN SHOWS OCT. 6-12 ARKANSAS LIVESTOCK EXPOSITION LITTLE ROCK.  On the other side of the house somebody with a big brush and a can of Sherwin-Williams flat white had painted ACTS 2:38.

I just love that.  Love the style, love the substance, love the little quirks.  Portis is from the Ark-La-Tex area and captures its details lovingly, not snarkily.

There really is a Hooks, Texas and a Stamps, Arkansas – they’re a few miles the opposite sides of Texarkana.  And U.S. 82 really does run through them.  Alas, I cannot find a Ralph, Texas.  I think it must be a stand-in for either Leary or Nash, both of which are between Hooks and Texarkana.  (If you’re into this sort of geekery, you can read Portis’s True Grit with google-map open at your side and very easily trace Mattie Ross’s journey from Yell County, Arkansas into the Eastern Oklahoma badlands, and in fact to the mountain hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, which I believe is a state park now.)

Acts 2:38, by the way, reads: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Good advice for anyone.

UPDATE:  Well, I got one home-improvement project done anyway, namely running the cables behind the basement wall between the teevee and the Verizon box.  I used a fish tape to bull up through the insulation between the two holes, then ran a loop of line through, splicing the heads of the various cables to it and pulling them through more or less on the capstan principle.  Turned out to be rayther more difficult than I had anticipated, at least so far as getting at the tape head the first time.  Luckily, I have small hands so was eventually able to grapple it and get it out.  I even had the sense to leave the line in place (the end discretely coiled behind the teevee) in case the gels need another one of their infernal video contraptions hooked up.

A small matter, but nonetheless something from which I can draw satisfaction.

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