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I suppose, given what kind of blog this is, that I ought not let the day end without noting that this is the bicentennial of the formal declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain in 1812.

The fact of the matter is that I’m not all that fond of Mr. Madison’s War.  Oh sure, there are some goodly historickal titbits involved: the great single-ship sea battles, the burning of Washington and attempted burning of Baltimore, various American attacks aimed at bagging Canada, a fresh outburst of frontier atrocities between Indians and settlers, “Don’t Give Up The Ship!” and the like.  And it unquestionably altered the careers of some later big guns in history such as Andy Jackson and Sam Houston.

But to me, the war has always seemed so….unnecessary, the result of a punch-drunk, hyper-sensitive young United States being suckered into hostilities both by perceived British high-handedness and by Napoleonic machinations.   And in the end, even after a fair number of people died, were injured or displaced, things went….pretty much back to the way they had been previously.

Among the many, many quotes attributed to G.K. Chesterton is the one that runs, “It is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.”

I’ve never actually been able to track this quote down myself.  The closest I’ve come is a rayther more roundabout expression of the sentiment offered up by a character in one of GKC’s Father Brown stories (I forget which character and which story), so I suspect the quote to be summat apocryphal.

Which isn’t to say that the sentiment behind it isn’t bang on.  Indeed, it was the first thing that came to mind when I read of Sally Quinn’s latest column in which she states her belief that “many women have found God in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey, for those of you unfamiliar, is a book that evidently has been flying off the shelves of late.  From what I gather, it purports to be the story of the relationship between a rich, sadomasochistic man and the submissive woman he physically brutalizes repeatedly, gratuitously, inventively and with every sign of keen enjoyment.  (This, my friends, apparently is the postmodern definition of True Love, because this brutalization is served up as a feature of their relationship, not a bug.)  The graphic descriptions of their, ah, physical encounters has caused the book to be dubbed “mommy pron”.

The book was written by a guy, by the way, a guy who is now raking in the moolah hand over fist from it because multitudes of 30-, 40- and 50-something women, having been stripped of their moral compasses and sense of human dignity by a half century of “progressive” feminist twaddle, seem happy, even hungry to enable him to do so.  (UPDATE: Not true about the author, who is in fact a gal.  My bad.  But is it in fact worse that she should be fleecing her “sisters” this way?)

“God,” Sally?  You keep using that word.  I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Our Maximum Leader notes that he will shortly be off on a cruise.   Not that I think he won’t enjoy himself padding about the Lido deck, discoing the night away, sipping adult beverages with little umbrellas in them and hitting on Julie the Cruise Director, but I’ve got to say – this is a real cruise!

I was having an out-of-body experience. There I was, 100ft in the air, clinging like a rat to the rigging of a tall ship. “What are you doing?” I asked myself.

The rigging I was climbing – or, to use the proper term, the shrouds – was on the mast of the Stavros S Niarchos, a handsome tall ship docked in the port of Southampton. The Stavros is a brig, a type of double-masted vessel that was popular during the Age of Sail, the 16th century to mid 19th century, because of its manoeuvrability. She is one of just 200 functioning tall ships in the world, which are used for racing, education and pleasure, and are still operated almost exactly as they were 300 years ago. Which includes climbing the shrouds to release the sails.

From time to time Mrs. R and I discuss the possibility of a cruise ourselves.  I almost inevitably say that, were I to go out on the water, I’d much prefer to do so as a hand on a sailing ship than as a guest of one of those floating hotel-cum-casinos.   (Although how I’d get up the shrouds with my fear of heights is a problem I’ve not untangled yet.)  And if I could find a berth on a ship that carried, say, a row of 12 or 18 pounders?  So much the better!

Mrs. R thinks I’m daft.  (Well, she thinks that anyway, but this is one more prosecutor’s exhibit.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I am not here to report that my family took me on a surprise fly-fishing or trail-riding excursion for Father’s Day, or that we otherwise especially bonded.  In fact, I spent virtually the entire weekend flat on my back, still trying to kick this lunger thing.  I seem to be at the point now where, if I stay reasonably inert, I am only periodically racked by those ab-pulling, throat-blocking hacks.  (They’re still regularly jerking me awake at about five ack emma, however.)  Still have the tight lungs and the jagged throat, tho’.  I also find that life is easier if I don’t try to talk.   So, as I say, I didn’t go anywhere or do anything (Mrs. R was astounded that I even skipped Mass) except watch my Nats get swept by the Yanks and the odd moovie or two, plow on through my Flashy novels and other improving literature, and stare out the window.

That’s me, Mr. Life-Of-The-Party.

A few things came to mind, however:

One of the moovies I had pitched into the ol’ Netflix queue just for the hell of it some time ago was Flying Leathernecks, starring John Wayne as a hard as nails Marine fighter pilot in the South Pacific.  I’m reasonably sure that I hadn’t seen this film before, because it features some actual combat footage from WWII that was new to me.  (It also contained some of the same half dozen or so clips that seemed to appear in every. single. episode of “G.I. Diary”, the old Lloyd Bridges-narrated teevee show that used to serve as early Saturday evening filler in my misspent yoot.  Seeing those clips, even now, causes me to imagine I’m smelling Spaghettios. )   I wouldn’t have anything to say about the film, since as an action flick or as an historickal piece it was neither here nor there, except that I was surprised  at the bad taste it left in my mouth.  And what was the cause of said taste? The fact that the one real stain on the Dook’s character was his deliberate ducking of service in the actual WWII because he thought it would damage his acting career.   Knowing that fact made his performance here seem to me so much humbug.

Of course, it might just have been the antibiotics talking.

Speaking of Dooks, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  Confusion to Boney and snooks on you!  One book I have on the battle, the name and authorship of which escape me at the moment – suggests that Wellington had what amounted to a man-crush on Napoleon.  Supposedly, Wellington decorated his home with large amounts of Napoleonic booty from a desire to constantly remember his conquest, and this desire had a latent sexual undertone.  My friends, I tell you truly that a main reason I decided against Academe was the realization that if one expected to prosper in it, one would be forced to print bilge like this.

Regular friends of the decanter are aware that ol’ Robbo is no fan of summah here in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.  However, the advent of the beastly weather does have its little compensations, several of which I noted for the first time this season while staring out the window as mentioned above.  For one, I’ve started seeing bats twittering about in the gloaming.  Mrs. R is disgusted by the things, but I’ve always had a fondness for them, and look forward to their appearance every year. (Provided, of course, that they keep to the skies.  We had an episode a few years back where a couple of them got inside the port swiller mansion and had to be shooed through an open window by means of tennis racquet.)  Also, the fireflies are back.   Now here is an example of the wonders of Creation the delightfulness of which simply cannot be questioned.  I most like watching them on those still, muggy nights after a thunderstorm has rolled through, when the trees are positively bejeweled with them and you can almost hear a gentle ripple of “pah’s” as they light up.   Finally, although it was getting a bit dark, I’m pretty sure I saw my first tiger swallowtail butterfly messing about one of the Konglings next the grill last evening.  I will say this about butterflies:  To the casual observer, they may seem to flit about in a random, scatterbrained way.  Don’t let that fool you.  If you pay close attention, you’ll see that they know exactly what they’re about and have pinpoint aeronautical control.   Earlier in the day, I watched a bluebird going after one of those little white round-winged kind – it made a fool out of the bird before quietly drifting off.

I suppose that the fact I was watching butterfly flight patterns tells you something about how useful I was to anyone this weekend.


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June 2012