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Ol’ Robbo will be away from the keyboard for the next few days, so I will go ahead and start the decanter around a bit early and note that this Saturday marks the third anniversary of The Port Stands At Your Elbow.  Yes, loyal readers, I have been serving up my wine-soaked musings, observations and occasional rants here (1590 posts’ worth, to be exact) for three whole years now.  It is a cliche, but it certainly doesn’t feel like that much time has passed by.  But then drinks will do that to you.

Unfortunately, the port-swiller anniversary happens to fall in the dead of summah, as well as just ahead of my only real vacation of the year.  (Holidays and vacations are two very different things.)  Which means that I am at my least thoughtful and eloquent and, as a result, am incapable of waxing at any great length about Why I Do It or The Future Of Teh Blogsphere.  On second thought, maybe that isn’t quite so unfortunate.

On the other hand, I do want to say a word of thanks to all of you who drop in here for a glass or two.  While it’s true that I blog for my own amusement, at the same time any blogger who says he doesn’t care about readership is lying.  I am always deeply gratified when traffic is on the upswing, and I truly appreciate each and every comment left here.  (Well, except for the spam from viagra-peddlers that says things like “Gret insite! I wooden have tought of that!”) In addition, the real-life friendships that have come out of this little venture have made a significant and positive difference in Robbo’s non-pixel world.  (Which reminds me, Mrs. P, did Father M ever pick up those convert bonus points on his Vatican Mastercard?)  At any rate, I only hope that in my own small way I have managed to return the favor, that sometimes I am able to make you smile, sometimes to give you something to chew on, sometimes to alert you to something you might otherwise have missed, or perhaps even now and again something to give you the urge to throw walnuts at me.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, pray charge your glasses and drink up!  Bumpers all round, and no heel taps!


It is not that Mr Keats, (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt that any man in his sense would put his real name to such a rhapsody,) it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius – he has all these; but he is unhappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney poetry; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language. …

[Mr Keats] is a copyist of Mr Hunt; but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype …

– John Wilson Croker reviewing Keats’ Endymion.

From an interesting article over at Slate on the proper, almost Aristotelian way to write a book review.  And yes, the author states that Croker screwed up big time regarding the poetry of Mr. Keats.

(A glass of wine with AL Daily.)

(As the Puppy-Blender likes to say.)

Mohammed and Charlemagne, by Henri Pirenne.   Originally published in the late 30’s, Pirenne’s thesis is that the rich, cosmopolitan world of the Western Roman Empire didn’t collapse into the misery of the Dark Ages because of the successive waves of Barbarian invasion in the 5th and 6th Centuries, as is commonly believed these days largely thanks to Gibbon.  Indeed, when the Barbarians arrived on Roman territory and discovered the advantages of civilization, they tended to adopt its ways rayther quickly.

No, Mr. Pirenne’s argument is that what actually caused the collapse of the West was the rapid spread of Islam in the 7th Century, a spread that cut off the source of Europe’s wealth and stability – trade with the East and with Africa, and instead forced it to eek out a subsistence within in its own, enclosed economy.

Should be an interesting perspective.

So the Old Gentleman used to say.

Regular port swillers will know that as a rule I don’t post much about politics here.  However, I was reading this superb piece by Victor Davis Hanson (or is the adjective redundant?) about the need to break the Entitlement Mentality in the face of harsh economic realities and it occurred to me:  It may be that the insane fiscal overreach of Certain Persons is just the thing necessary to force the issue and to cause the body politic to finally stand athwart the budget and yell “Stop!”

Wouldn’t that be delicious?

Well, here we are in the middle of the week again.  For once, the summah seems to be flying by, which means that ol’ Robbo’s hols begin in just over a week, but also means that I suppose I’ll be having to rake the damned leaves before I know it.  A few odds and ends for the day:

♦  You recall my effusive praise of the middle gel’s singing at RFEC last Sunday? She actually got a very nice note in the mail from one of the parishioners yesterday thanking her.  I also hear that the choir director is delighted with the impact she and her sistah have had on the summah choir this year and there is even some talk of letting them do a duet by way of reward.  Oh, and the middle gel’s career goal now? Opera star.

♦  These two gels are also signed up to play fall softball this year.  Because of her age, the middle gel will go into the AAA program, even though she hasn’t played before.  (I’ve been teaching her the fundamentals, however, and the kid has a rocket of an arm.)  We just found out that the youngest gel’s manager from last spring’s champion team will be fielding another AA team this fall, and have decided to have her play for this manager again (and no, all you smarty-pants, it has absolutely nothing to do with this manager’s coaching staff).  This relieves me of having to dance through the the minefield that would have been created had both gels played at the same level, since they point-blank refuse to be on the same team.

♦  And the eldest gel?  She’s been occupying her powerful, restless brain in a morning math camp the past two weeks, followed by afternoons of tennis and swimming.  This has had the effect of rendering her exhausted but cheerful by the close of day and easily encouraged to go to bed.  Mens sana in corpore whatnot.

♦  Don’t ever let anybody tell you that personalities are a product of nurture, by the way.  It’s naychuh, baybee!  Nurture may cut and polish, but the underlying stone isn’t going to change.

♦  The subject of kittens has begun to bubble up in the port-swiller household, due to the fact that the older of our two current cats, Jenny, is now north of 17 and beginning to show her age.  Now although Mrs. R thinks it’s pretentious (pretentious? Moi?) to do so, I come out of a tradition of giving pets classickal or literary names.  My family has had dogs names Antigone and Augusta, cats named Bathsheba and Circe and even a raccoon named Nuncio.  I got away with naming our own first pair of cats Bertie and Jeeves.  Now  I have begun to stake out a claim to the naming rights of any new additions as the price for my tolerance of them in the house to begin with.  The trick with Mrs. R will be to sell not the name itself, but the nickname to which it can be reduced.  (Jenny, for example, is short for Jennyanydots.  Or, as Sistah likes to call her, Jennyanybody.)  Of late, I had the idea that Antiope and Hippolyte, those Amazon sistahs, might make a nice pair.  Surely I could persuade Mrs. R that “Ante” and “Hippie” are good day-to-day handles?

♦  The Nats have been slumping since the all-star break in a way that is beginning to give ol’ Robbo painful flashbacks of past seasons.  Did somebody drink Jobu’s rum?

♦  I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the port-swiller garden at all this year?  After seasons of fretting and fuming and trying to coax various flowers into growing, only to see them eaten by woodchucks, deer and rabbits, I decided just to let Nature sort things out for herself.  The result is that Kong the Buddleia, the Konglings, the Joe-Pye and the foxgloves are running riot, and, apart from some periodic weeding, ol’ Robbo is saved a considerable amount of time, trouble and grief.   Oh, and lots of butterflies, too.

♦  Now all I have to fret about is the lawn, which has gone completely to hell and is nothing but a mixture of dirt and weed.  Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to call the pros in to deal with that mess, as it’s well beyond my poor skills.

♦  Finally, I notice WordPress has a new feature in its posting tools whereby it offers “topics for your next post” in case you can’t think of anything to write yourself.  This strikes me as odd.  Surely, if you haven’t anything to say, it would be better simply not to say anything?  (Not that that’s ever stopped your humble host, of course.)

Born this day in 1870.  I confess that I don’t read anywhere near as much Belloc as I do his friend the great GKC, but I thought it fitting, in honor of the day, to reprint here a short poem sent along this morning by my email quote-of-the-day source.  Enjoy!

                     Now the faith is old and the Devil bold

                     Exceedingly bold indeed.

                     And the masses of doubt that are floating about

                     Would smother a mortal creed.

                     But we that sit in a sturdy youth

                     And still can drink strong ale

                     Let us put it away to infallible truth

                     That always will prevail.

                     And thank the Lord

                     For the temporal sword

                     And howling heretics too,

                     And all good things

                     Our Christendom brings

                     But especially barley brew!

                     With my row-ti-tow


                     Especially barley brew!

– The “Pelagian Drinking Song” from The Four Men.

Never let it be said that ol’ Robbo is a Luddite absolutist.  He knows a good technological advance when he sees one and here’s an example: the rise of an academic field called spacial humanities that employs highly detailed digital maps to recreate landscapes from the past and examine their impact on historickal events.

By way of example, the article discusses the effort to determine just exactly what Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet could and could not see of the Union positions from their vantage points at Gettysburg, and how this factor determined their tactical decisions.  (The conclusion seems to be that they did the best they could with what information they had.)

Very interesting.

The Robbo Standard

The Current Robbo Reality

As ol’ Robbo made his way round the corner for his lunchtime sammich, I was accosted by a pair of Greenpeace petition-bots seeking my John Hancock on some screed about nuking the whales.  Or maybe it was about free-range global warming.  I did not attend too closely.

At any event, I have noticed time and again that these people shamelessly profile their potential sigvictims.   When I am at what one might call my optimal grooming standard, they look right through me.  It is when they start to pester that I know it’s past time to go and get a haircut.

Mrs. R often says that I should not wait so long in between cuttings.  I only do so a) because I try to avoid the mall like the plague as much as I can, and b) because I happen to go to a place that ain’t cheap.

One of the pleasures of finally getting around to a trim is that it produces a sort of reverse-Samson effect in me.  Going in, I feel run-down and disheveled.  Upon emerging at the other end with locks shorn, I find my strength and vitality have returned.


The Beeb reports that the Boultbee Flight Academy of Kidlington will be offering flight lessons in a restored Mark IV Spitfire. The training apparently will be the same as pre-war training actually received by RAF pilots.

Were ol’ Robbo not so terrified of flying, this would be just the sort of thing he would like to do.  On the other hand, they say the best way to overcome one’s phobias is to confront them head-on, so perhaps I ought to sign up after all.  That way, perhaps I could join in the fun that this particular pilot had (language NSFW):

On this day in 1861, in the aftermath of the disaster at First Bull Run (or First Manassas if you insist), command of the Army of the Potomac was assumed by Gen. George B. “Little Mac” McClellan.

I will say nothing against McClellan in terms of his skills as an organizer and morale-builder.  His painstaking care for the troops serving under him was both well-known and justly praised.  All the more pity, then, that the man was a total boob when it came to actual battlefield skills, being pokey, hesitant and devoid of the killer instinct necessary to achieve victory.   Whether it was fear for his personal safety or of potential political fallout in Washington or some other reason entirely, McClellan managed to thoroughly botch two opportunities – the Peninsular Campaign and the Battle of Antietam – to seriously shorten the war.   Then he went and put himself at the head of the ticket running against Lincoln in 1864, fronting a party full of copperheads who sought to negotiate a peace with the South.  Contemptible.

Just thinking about it gives ol’ Robbo the urge to reach for his collection of Stephen W. Sears books and refresh his memory of the details of this blot.


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July 2011