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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels and is busy catching up with the nooz of the world.  (When one refuses to watch teevee talking heads and is restricted to reading the hotel’s free copy of Useless Today, one is necessarily somewhat cut off from things.)

Anyhoo, today’s NRO article by the superb Victor Davis Hanson on the dangers of the rest of wayward, spendthrift, irresponsible Europe provoking Germany over the crumbling economic state sent a historickal chill right down ol’ Robbo’s spine.  As VDH notes,

There is one general rule about the history of the modern state of Germany since its inception in 1871: Anytime Germany has been both unified and isolated, armed conflict has followed.

I don’t doubt that there are plenty of people who would scoff at the very notion of a European war in general, much less that the Huns could be goaded into bursting forth once more.  But there were plenty of people who said the very same thing before the Franco-Prussian War.  And WWI.  And WWII.  Why should things be any different now?  (And honestly?  My sympathies this time around are pretty pro-German.)

Ol’ Robbo loves to note the patterns and cycles of history, the perennial geopolitical questions and struggles, the repetitions by doomed new generations of the same mistakes made by their forefathers.   (Amongst other things, such patterns refute the horse’s-assed notion that history is somehow “over”.  Take that, you post-modernist scum!)  However, I prefer to read about them, not to live them out.  Of all the new problems that could plague this already hag-ridden age,  I don’t think a fresh eruption by an army of enraged Krauts would be my choice.

Q:  Why are the boulevards of Paris lined with trees on both sides?

A:  So the Germans can march in the shade.

UPDATE: For the Mothe.   (I am just old enough to remember watching Laugh-In in my misspent yoot.)

Ol’ Robbo is off on another of his little biznay trips in the ‘morn, returning mid-week.

As always, feel free to linger over your glasses and to help yourselves to the walnuts.  The Stilton is, of course, over on the sideboard.

See you when I get back.  (And yes, I will be counting the spoons.)  Pip! Pip!

The New Robbo Look?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Mrs. R and I trudged over to Hour Eyes to pick out a new set of frames to sit athwart the port-swiller nose, Mrs. R eager and enthusiastic, Self with that feeling of dread and tedium that comes over him whenever he is forced to go shopping for anything other than wine or books.

Mrs. R, having been blessed with hawk-like eyesight, has never had any experience with the realities of glasses shopping for the legally blind.  (She has taken recently to wearing off-the-shelf naughty librarian glasses when reading, but I strongly suspect this affectation is grounded in motives other than the need to correct her vision.  But that’s a different story.)  Thus, I had to do a goodish bit of spade work to persuade her that, no, with my progressive prescription, I could not wear those narrow, rectangular, hipster-doofus frames, even if I wanted to, because they would give me a vertical field of vision of approximated six inches, tops.

And so we slowly made our way up and down the display cases.  Being a guy, of course all I wanted to do was to find something decent and get out in the minimum possible time.  Mrs. R, however, in typical female shopping mode, had to check every single frame and every single miniscule change in lens shape with the air of a judge at the Westminster Dog Show.   She also kept making me try on different frames and check myself in the mirror.  We had the same conversation at least fifteen times:

Mrs. R:  How do those look to you?

Self:  Um, Dear, I don’t actually have my own glasses on.  I can’t tell how they look.

In the end, we settled on some thin, gun-metal flex half-frames with a sort of mid-sized, rounded-corner rectangular lenses.   As I say, I have no real idea what they will look like on the Robbo face.  My hope is that they will be quiet enough as not to be particularly noticeable one way or the other.   At any rate, they passed the uxorial censor, so if Mrs. R decides later that she doesn’t, in fact, like them, she’s only herself to blame this time.  (Friends of the decanter may be tempted to point out that it doesn’t work that way under spousal law.  Hey, we’re just a few weeks short of our nineteenth anniversary, so tell me about it.  A guy can still dream, though.)

As I say, Mrs. R is something of a novice at this biznay, while I am a grizzled veteran.  Once we had the frames sorted, I believe she thought it was all just about over.  Hardly.  The next part, of course, was to sit down and start talking about lens – the material, the thickness, all the whistle-and-bell extras.   In the end, I had to plunk for the really high-end stuff.  Mrs. R balked at the cost, but I explained that anything of a lower grade would require a pair of lenses the thickness of a couple of coke bottle bottoms, which would not only look ridiculous in a thin frame, but would also be a literal pain to wear.   In the end, she came round, taking the opposite tack that if I was going to be wearing the things full time, then yes, it made sense to go with the best quality.

As we walked out,  Mrs. R asked how long my new prescription would last.  I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it would be two or three years if I was very lucky.

Eldest Gel:  What’s the Nats’ record now, Dad?

Self:  Well, with last night’s win, we’re, lessee, 20 and 12.

E.G.:  Wow, we’re doing really well this year, aren’t we.

Self (knocking on kitchen table):  Yes.  So far, at any rate.

E.G.:  Uh, what are you doing?

Self: Touching wood.

E.G.:  Why?

Self:  So as to ward off the Baseball Gods.  They don’t like anything that resembles boasting.

E.G.:  There are no baseball gods!

Self:  Oh, yes there are.  We must be prudent.

E.G.:  Dad! You’re the most religious person in the house! “Thou shalt have no other god but me.”  How can you believe in God and the “baseball gods” at the same time?

Self:  I can’t explain it theologically.  I just know what I know.

E.G.:  I’m telling Father S about you!

Self:  I’m sure he’d back me up.

James Gillray – “Matrimonial Harmonics” (1805). Just as applicable to the office setting.

One of ol’ Robbo’s ironclad rules of office etiquette is never to discuss politics.

Would that everyone in my little professional community felt the same way.  I’ve just had to listen to an excruciatingly enthusiastic and brayingly loud description of the latest presidential candidate kerfluffle report to come out of the pages of Pravda on the Potomac, emanating from a pair of colleagues up the hall.

This time around, I was merely a collateral auditor.  Four years ago, one of these same persons actually tried to rope me into a debate on the comparative worth of the candidates.  I simply fixed her with a frozen stare and a very thin smile.  It shut her up for a while, but I’m not so sure whether the burnt fool’s bandaged finger may not go wabbling back to the fire.

At any rate, I’ve an idea it’s gonna be a looooong summah and fall.

A fascinating story about the recent discovery of a nearly perfectly preserved RAF P-40 Kittyhawk crash-landed in the Sahara 70 years ago.  According to the signs, the poor pilot seems to have struck out to try and walk home.  Of course, the chap was never seen again.

The story reminded me of the novel A Good Clean Fight by Derek Robinson.   It’s a fictional account of the desert war in North Africa, featuring both the RAF Kittyhawk squadrons as well as the SAS long-range patrols and is well worth a read if you’re interested in this sort of thing.  (With all the special ops stuff I’ve been reading of late, I’ve felt the urge to pull this one off the shelf again, too.)

The book certainly has its flaws:  As in his other works that I’ve read, although his descriptions of military matters on both the large and the small scale are exquisite, Robinson tends to get rayther ham-fisted when it comes to depicting personal relationships.  (In this, he’s not half so bad as, say, Tom Clancy.  And anyway, you’re reading the book for the guns and the bombs and stuff, right?)   Also, he brings back from the dead a character who was most unceremoniously killed off in my favorite Robinson novel, Piece of Cake, which I think is literary cheating.    However,  having read AGCF, I had a much better perspective on the story of this long-lost plane and its most unfortunate pilot.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For all of his Luddite proclivities, there are times when ol’ Robbo really loves these Internets.

To wit: A day or two ago I was indulging in a little criticism of the art work of the late Maurice Sendak, comparing his thinly-disguised hippie “monsters” unfavorably with what I remember of fantasy stories from my own misspent yoot.  Well, a quick peak in the port swiller library this morning refreshed my memory as to the particular story and illustration I had in mind, and by virtue of a few keystrokes, I can present same to you.  Here we go:

The story I had in mind is called “The Tale of a Youth Who Set Out To Learn What Fear Was“, collected by the Brothers Grimm and here  published by Andrew Lang  in 1889 in The Blue Fairy Book, one of a set of twelve collections of folk tales and legends .   As you can see from the sample, which is fairly typical of the flavor, there was no Disneyfication going on here, no bubble-wrapping – the stories were often red in tooth and claw and the illustrations could get quite lurid.  I recall that we had at least the Red, Blue and Green books.   I still have the Blue, but I’m not sure what happened to the others.

As I also mentioned in my previous post, this particular illustration always gave me a case of the willies because of a black cat we owned in my childhood by the name of Bathsheba.  Ol’ Bash (as we liked to call her) was of, shall we say, independent temperament.   And while she could be quite friendly when she wanted, she could also turn on one with lightning speed, especially if one happened to be an overly-frisky child of whom Bash had decided that she’d had Just. About. Enough.

The combination of Bash’s quick temper and this illustration generated in the subconscious mind of Young Robbo more than one nightmare about being attacked in my bed by a black cat.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Nothing of sufficient gravitational weight in ol’ Robbo’s brain this morning to cause a coalescing of post-length thoughts.  (I’m not even going to bother addressing the whole “evolution” meme splashing around the headlines today.  Regular friends of the decanter will know already what I think about that unfortunate biznay.  However, I will just point out that the Golden Rule does not mean “Whatever turns you on.”) So instead, a few smaller items:

♦  No movement on the glasses front, yet, as it’s almost impossible during the week for Mrs. R and Self to actually get enough time alone together to go frame-shopping.   I continue to feel a certain oddly comfortable relief in the knowledge that all the symptoms I’ve been suffering of late – dizziness, light-headedness, headaches – come not from some lurking cancer, alcohol poisoning or other sinister sources, but from good, old-fashioned eye-strain.

♦  My second prescription, the one specifically for working at my computer, came over from the doc yesterday.  He said, “Now, you may have trouble getting this filled at Hour Eyes because they’ll tell you it just can’t be done.  However, I happen to be able to do it in my own shop and I can give you a good deal……”  Did I say ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching the other day?  Add a couple more.

♦  They sure play Etienne-Nicolas Mehul’s “Young Henry’s Hunt” Overture an awful lot on the local classickal station.  I suppose the theory is that anything with horns is a natural crowd-pleaser.

♦  The organist at RFEC is after me again, this time tempting me to help the choir sing the Mozart Coronation Mass.  I’ve wrestled with the idea and finally come to the firm conclusion that I’m perfectly comfortable tagging along to services as my family’s “guest” but that I cannot, in good faith, do anything that might be construed as aiding and abetting the service itself, even if it is something as heavenly as singing Mozart.  I’m pretty sure the organist does not know of my RC conversion, and perhaps it’s time to e’splain it to him.

♦  Planning ahead for a family movie night this weekend, I decided it’s time to expose the gels to that great classick, The Blues Brothers.   Said the middle gel when I explained it to her, “1980?? Is it in color?”  Whippersnapper.

♦  I’m off on another biznay trip the first part of next week.  The first leg of my travel takes me down to Atlanta.  The past couple trips I’ve been on, I’ve been forced to fly exclusively in those dinky little regional jets.  This time around, the flights between DeeCee and Atlanta will actually be on large liners – an Airbus A-320 in one direction and a Boeing 757 in the other, to be exact.  I’ve been so cooped up in the sardine tins of late that I actually find myself looking forward to these flights.   I’m never, ever going to enjoy air travel, but I seem to have managed to get my fears under reasonable control.

♦  How do I know that I’ve reached True Fan Status with my beloved Nats?  By the fact that they’ve dropped three straight this week and that each said loss has put me in a thoroughly grumpy mood as I’ve gone to bed.


“Wha happened?” has made its way into the Robbo family lexicon.

If by chance you aren’t yet an afithionado of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, well, here’s a Netflix queue assignment for you because you ought to be.

Have you seen the Hawkcam?  It’s a camera rigged on a nest of three baby redtailed hawks on the ledge of a building at UW-Madison.  Very interesting.  If you’re lucky enough, you can spot Ma and Pa Redtail bringing fresh yum-yums home to the brood.

One wonders how the little balls of down don’t get blown right over the edge.


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May 2012
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