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(Image filched from the National Park Service.)

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the bombardment of the federal government’s Fort Sumter by South Carolina artillery in 1861, thereby turning the rapidly-deteriorating standoff between the Union and a half-dozen secessionist states that had existed since the election of Lincoln in 1860 into an actual shooting war.

I don’t think there’s really that much question that the Civil War – or something akin to it – was pretty much fore-ordained by the early history of the nation.  The need for the former colonies to unite in order to successfully throw off Crown rule and organize a new nation that had any chance of survival was sufficient at the time to require downplaying the very real differences among them on the issues of federalism in general and slavery in particular.  Had they not temporarily compromised on these issues, I doubt the Revolution would have been successful.  I also believe it was pretty well understood even then that the problem was only kicked down the road for a few years.  Final reckoning was more a question of when than of if.

Robbo gets very tired of having to explain this to slacker doofuses who like to say things like, “The Founding Fathers were just, like, a bunch of hypocrites about freedom because they didn’t outlaw slavery to begin with.  So we can, like, ignore their ‘values,’ you know.”  Idjits.

2009, that is.  In Bordeaux:

Returning from the battlefront in Bordeaux last weekend, grey-toothed and purple-tongued, I felt like a combatant suffering from tannin shock. It had been a week of solid charm offensive from Bordeaux’s most seasoned troops, assaulting tasters with wave after wave of red-purple liquids that left us longing for an ordinary cup of tea.

It was “en primeur week”, when Bordeaux shows its new wines to the world. Experts had predicted a truly exceptional year. And yes, there are great wines. It’s not solid pleasure all the way, but the weather gods were very kind to Bordeaux 2009, delivering a most promising infant vintage.

I tasted hundreds of wines, mostly red, with sporadic relief from dry and sweet whites, and the very occasional rosé. Almost all the samples of red in this annual spring parade are drawn from oak barrels, where they are completing their maturation. The top 2009 reds will have to wait until summer 2011 to be bottled, and if you buy, they will be delivered to you that autumn.

By which time, I might have won the lottery or been left a fortune by a long-lost uncle.

Bordeaux happens to be Robbo’s favorite.  The trouble is that I have never found what one might call a good budget-Bordeaux:  The cheap stuff is pretty bad and the good stuff requires a hefty wodge of dosh.  And so, owing to the fiscal constraints of the port-swiller exchequer and my unwillingness to drink swill whatever its name, it has been quite a long time since Robbo last was able to indulge this taste.

Pity.

UPDATE: As long as we’re at it, how about un po’ di Mozartino?

The adult forum after services at RFEC yesterday was a presentation by a representative of the church’s Faith & Science group, an informal gathering of parishioners who meet every now and again to discuss, well, topics of faith and science.

Going into it, I figured we would get a discussion of something like ethics and medical research.  Embryonic stem-cells or cloning or the like.

Oh my, was I mistaken.

Instead, we got a talk about the history of scientific observation that approvingly embraced Gnosticism, Buddhism,  Berkeleyism and the Kabbalah, along with the “Gospels” of St. Thomas and Mary Magdalene.  By the time the speaker got done, one was left with the conclusion that either God is Us, God is dead, God is irrelevant or God screwed up the Universe.  Whatever the case may be, divine omnipotence and omniscience are right out, as is the concept “I believe”.  (Somebody tell Oolon Colluphid to get ready to write another book.¹)

No mention whatever was made of Man’s own flawed state or the limits such flaws might place on Man’s ability to know God’s nature or plan despite our advances in scientific observation and measurement.  No, Humility was not on offer, I’m afraid.  Instead, the implication seemed clear that eventually Man is either going to be able to disprove the existence of God altogether, or else find his telephone number.  One way or another, We will know better.

The fellah joked that his views might be seen as heretical, to which I thought to myself, “Don’t laugh.”  I also wondered vaguely about why he would even bother showing up at church at all, except that next week’s talk is going to be about “responsible stewardship” which, if I’m any judge of these things, will actually be something closer to a discussion of how science can bring about a Humanist paradise.

From what people told me afterward, most of this went rocketing over the room’s collective heads.  However, the woman next to me at least kept making those little mmm’s of affirmation to the point where I seriously wanted to drive my elbow into her ribs.

Sigh.

Regular port-swillers may recall that a few weeks ago I was fuming about another adult forum at RFEC that featured an artist of  unapologetically Unitarian Universalist bent.  It begins to occur to me that there is a pattern emerging here.  For some years now, the rector, although a confirmed liberal himself, has been generally content not to stir up passions with his sermons or forum topics.  However, he now seems to have let one of the assistant rectors off the leash.  She’s a radical, although you wouldn’t know it from her “aw, shucks” shtick.  Not only is she in charge of the forum now, but she also gave the sermon yesterday, a back-handed swipe at the RC’s and a big ol’ Universalist embrace of, why, everybody who wasn’t judgmental or anything like that.

In fact, I hope this is not a trend. Despite my own swimming of the Tiber two years ago, I’ve continued to totter along to RFEC with Mrs. Robbo and the gels on the grounds of familial unity and the desire to see the gels develop at least some kind of  religious habits in their youth.   And so long as it has remained more or less traditional in at least its outward face I have been, if not content, then at least of the philosophy that it is better than nothing.  But if the place is now, in fact, radicalizing, I’m afraid I may have to rethink this arrangement.

¹According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the author of the blockbuster philosophical trilogy Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who Is This God Person, Anyway? His most recent work is Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

UPDATE: Oh, by the bye, thankee to all of you who sent me the link to Episcopal Church Barbie.   I first saw the story last week over at Christopher Johnson’s blog and thought about doing some apropos snarking myself, but I noticed so many scary copyright restrictions associated with the accompanying pics that I thought it best not to.

Brian B writes in response to my robot-mower post below:

[I]t is probably equipped with pretty sensitive collision-avoidance sensors and programming, sensitive enough to stop it within a fraction of a second. The Roomba already has that — heck, my son’s $20 Zhu Zhu Pet has that. Modern safety features can be quite impressive — I’ve seen a table saw with a safety brake so sensitive that you can hit it with a hot dog and it stops without puncturing the casing on the dog.

You fool.  You misguided fool.

Sure, these gadgets have all kinds of sensors and quick-stop programming and whatnot built into them.  Sure, modern safety features can be quite impressive.  But that’s just what they WANT you to think!

They want you to believe that technology is your friend, even your servant, forever obedient to your commands, forever catering to your wants and needs safely, efficiently and without care.  They want you to ignore any potential dangers, complacent in your belief that their protocols will protect you from harm.  They want to lull you into a false sense of peace.

Thus, when they do rise up, the coordinated bushwhacking of Mankind will be all the more easier.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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