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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Not much to say for myself today, so I’ll just serve up a little tot of randomness.

♦  I mentioned recently that I had got carded whilst purchasing my latest ration of the true, the blushful Hippocrene.  This doesn’t bother me a-tall.  What does bother me is that I still get addressed as “young man” from time to time.

♦  Distracted the other morning by the fact that I had to park in a different slot from my customary one at the metro (due to a very slow fellah who was ambling across it when I pulled in), I forgot to hang my “reserved” tag in La Wrangler and was greeted by a $50 ticket upon my return in the gentle e’enfall.  Manic compulsiveness can be expensive.

♦  Speaking of tickets, are cyclists not required to obey traffic lights?  A covey of about fifty of them blew right through a red light in front of me this week.   Next time, I’m gunning it.

♦  The coverage of the convention in Tampa this week reminds me that I was down their in the summah five or six years ago to take some depositions.  Owing to scheduling conflicts, we had to do one of them on a Saturday.  It was held in a conference room about twenty stories up in one of the downtown buildings with a great huge window covering two walls and part of the ceiling.  About noon, because it was the weekend, the building A/C shut down.  As the afternoon progressed and the room warmed up, I noticed the stenographer’s eyelids start to droop and her head to loll.   By the end of the day, she was more or less typing in her sleep.  There’s no real point to this story except that every time I think of Tampa, I think of the somnambulistic stenographer.

♦  Speaking of Florida, it occurs to me that despite my many years’ allegiance to the Miami Dolphins (which started in my misspent yoot in the days of Griese and Czonka), I couldn’t name you a single player on the team this year.  This is a reflection of my gradual loss of interest in professional football as a whole, not a souring on the ‘Fins in particular.

Well, that’s about it for the moment.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself down to the local high school this morning for the Class of 2016 freshman orientation.  Yippers, I’ve got myself a high school kid.

Orientation for the “babies” – as many of the staff seemed to call them half sentimentally and half cynically – consisted of a pep-rally of sorts, coupled with the handing out of schedules, assignment of lockers, P.E. gear and the like.

Orientation for the parents consisted mostly of trying to convince us of the importance of ponying up lots of money and volunteer hours.

I believe that the eldest gel is actually excited, albeit with some understandable trepidation, about the coming year.  She’s taking honors English and history, which pleases me.  She’s also taking Latin, which pleases me more.    She intends to give rowing crew a go, which will especially please me if she sticks with it after she realizes how much work is involved.

And so the pattern of domestick life around Port Swiller Manor is once more being broken apart and shaken up.   Next week, when school starts for all the gels, promises to be a thing of alarum and confusion.  I hope it will all coalesce into its new form quickly and with a minimal amount of fuss and bother.

“Are you a humanist?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “I know too many human beings.”

(From The Confidence Man, by Herman Melville)

The post linkied above was prompted by the resurfacing of faked-moon-landing conspiracy theories following on the recent death of Neil Armstrong, but it seems to me this sentiment applies to virtually any aspect of human existence.  I think so.  I think so.

A glass of wine with Don!

I noticed this little op-ed nugget in the Telegraph yesterday:

The crisis in the eurozone may threaten to wreck our economy; but the EU also has the wherewithal to destroy something far more precious: our gardens. According to a warning issued by the Royal Horticultural Society, many of the home-made remedies intended to counter the plague of slugs that has bedeviled this sodden summer fall foul of European regulations . The use of organic deterrents, such as coffee grounds, may carry a heavy fine, whereas chemical killers such as slug pellets are acceptable because they have been approved by Brussels. Anything that has not been through the regulatory system is illegal to use as a pesticide, however safe the material is perceived to be. Does that include orange peel to deter cats, or jam and water to drown wasps? Who is going to check? The RHS says it all sounds “rather daft”. Barmy, more like.

Three things about it.

First, what is that line often used about utopian pipe dreams to the effect that in the Brave New World everything not forbidden will be compulsory?  This gets at the same notion, albeit backwards.

Second, I notice that some of the commenters refer to the EU as the EUSSR.  Heh.  Hadn’t heard of that before.  I like it.

Third, I did not know that coffee grounds were a slug deterrent.  (I happened to be chatting with a checkout clerk recently who was praising said grounds as a fertilizer for her various herbs, so perhaps this is a double goody.)  As a matter of fact, I have seen very little sign of slug damage in the Port Swiller garden this year, perhaps because they’re not much interested in what I’ve got growing.  If they do make themselves a nuisance, the good Lord knows I go through enough grounds.  It would give me even more pleasure to sprinkle them about while thinking of the EUSSR, perhaps all the while making rude gestures in the direction of Brussels.

I note that today is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the first day of the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Manassas to the more southern-minded among my fellow port swillers).  I invite you to nip over to the Civil War Daily Gazette for a detailed description of this fight, which I have remarked here more than once does not seem to get the same kind of attention as, say, Antietam or Gettysburg or Fredericksburg.   Odd, that, considering that it was Lee’s first major offensive battle and, in my humble opinion, perhaps his most solid tactical victory.

I also invite you again, if you’re interested in these things, to read John J. Hennessy’s Return To Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas, a very thorough but eminently readable account of the matter.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

His beloved Nats being off last evening, ol’ Robbo dipped into his stack of Netflix releases and pulled up a movie he’s never seen before, a 1959 Brit film titled Northwest Frontier.  And he was very pleasantly surprised by it.

The story is set in 1905 in northwestern colonial India.  [Ed. – Go figure.] Moslem rebels seek to strengthen their insurgence and dishearten Hindu resistance by murdering the local prince and his five year old son.  The rebels storm the palace, kill the prince and burn the place to the ground, but the boy is spirited away at the last instant by his governess and a British army captain and escort.  The rebels pursue this party to the closest British administrative post and lay siege.  The Brits realize the critical importance of getting the boy to safety, but the only way to get him down to the lowlands is via a dilapidated old railway engine and a single carriage.  The party that eventually bursts out of the besieged city aboard this train includes the boy, his governess, the Brit captain, the colonial administrator’s wife and his elderly aide-de-camp,  a slightly hysterical arms merchant, a cynical newspaper man, a couple of guards and an affable engineer wallah.  The bulk of the movie concerns the chase across hostile territory, complicated by the fact that one of the party aboard the train is both a Moslem and involved in (or at least sympathetic to) the plot to kill the princeling.   (I won’t give away any spoilers, but I can safely tell you it’s not the colonial administrator’s wife.)

As I say, the movie was quite enjoyable.  For one thing, it was simply a solid action film in the frontier tradition:  The hordes constantly coming down from the skyline and sabotaging the tracks could just as easily have been Apaches, Dervishes or Visigoths (assuming the Visigoths were able to time-travel and arm themselves with Lee-Enfield rifles, that is), and John Wayne could have been captaining the train rigged out in a cavalry uniform.  For another, I think it was meant to be something of a dig at Pakistan, which in 1959 had recently thrown off the last of Britain’s influence and quickly gone from Islamic republic to military dictatorship.  While many rhetorical questions were asked by various characters about Empire and Freedom and other Capitalized Words, the overall suggestion (graphically illustrated when the party come across a Hindu refugee train that had been ambushed) was that the rebels were a lot of bloody minded bastards who’d cut everyone’s throat if the Brits so much as blinked.  (One certainly couldn’t make a film like this in what’s left of modern G.B.  Indeed, I expect the publick showing of Northwest Frontier nowadays would constitute some kind of hate-crime in that wretched shell of a nation.)

But my favorite bit in the movie was when somebody or other tried to bait the Brit captain into opining on the terrible odds he was facing in trying to spirit away the princeling.  The captain simply shrugged and quoted the end of that most moving stanza from Kipling’s “The Young British Soldier“:

When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,
Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck
         And march to your front like a soldier.

I’ve not much of an ear for poetry, but even I can appreciate the gold here.  That closer always gives me chills.

As to the cast, the Brit captain was played by a fellah named Kenneth More, of whom I know nothing but apparently was something of a heart-throb back in the day.  He actually struck me as the least interesting of the lot.  The governess was played by Lauren Bacall of all people, who I usually don’t care for (too flinty) but was somewhat more sympathetic here.  The cynical newspaper man was Herbert Lom, who I only wish I hadn’t first seen as Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies because I always think he’s about to start twitching and giggling.   And the aide-de-camp was played by dear old Wilfrid Hyde-White, one of the most delightful old buffers I know of in film.

So there you have it.  Not the greatest film in the world but certainly Netflix-worthy, especially if you’re Kipling-minded.  [Ed. – I wouldn’t know, I’ve never kipled.  Ba-BUMP-dah!]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Here we are at the Monday before Labor Day.  I’m going to miss school bus-free commuting.  (In the great Commonwealth of Virginny, school doesn’t start until after Labor Day thanks to a statute popularly known as the King’s Dominion Law in honor of the desire to keep the theme park open one more weekend.   I’ve always found this amusing.)

Speaking of commuting, may I just raise my glass here to the Murrland State Police?  Their speed-trap cameras seem to tag Mrs. R’s Honda Juggernaut® whenever she goes up to Conneckticut, and every time we get an automated ticket in the mail (complete with photo) it induces wild hylarity around Port Swiller Manor.

Speaking of school, the eldest has her high school freshman orientation this week.  Her school mascot is “the Saxons”.  “What the heck is a Saxon?” she asked the other day.  “A Germanic barbarian,” I replied.  (Hey, I’m a Celt.  I’ve got my prejudices.  Sue me.)  I’m not sure what she was expecting, but she looked a bit squiggle-eyed at the idea.   Such is life.  At least there’s no confusion about a blonde guy in a horned helmet.  My high school mascot was “the  Chargers”, but nobody at the school seemed to have a clue as to what a charger actually is.  Because the school was named after Winston Churchill, they had the idea that the mascot, instead of being a warhorse, ought to be some kind of vaguely heraldic dragon.  (They also persistently referred to Winnie as “Sir Churchill” but that’s a different rant.)

I hated my school.  I really did.

The middle gel is off in the wilds of Virginny on a chorister retreat this week.  (I learn that among other things they are working on Haydn’s “Creation” for a September concert.  Can you beat it?)  Flipping through the itinerary, I noticed that one of the breaks is going to feature laser-tag, a sport of which the gel is passionately fond.  “How on earth are you going to play laser-tag if you’re on crutches?” I asked her.  “Oh,” she replied, “I’ll just stay in ambush at our team’s base and shoot the bad guys down as they come in.”


I mentioned that I’m a Celt.  I think the youngest gel has even more of that ancestry than I do – a perfectly bowling-ball shaped head, lashings of freckles, enormous blue-grey eyes and a habit of addressing anyone, no matter how close they are to her, as if they were cows she was calling home across the sands of the Dee.

Speaking of sistahs, my own has discovered that free range chickens and a local bald eagle population do not make a good combination.

So I got carded the other evening.  Not too shabby for a fellah in the bottom half of his forty-seventh year, although I’m inclined to put it down more to the clerk’s myopia than my yootful appearance.  On the other hand, last evening I proved to myself yet again that I simply cannot eat pizza anymore.  Urg.  When will I learn?

Speaking of the Dee, here’s an interesting (to me at any rate) if utterly useless little historickal musick nugget.  During the American Revolution, a song called “The Banks of the Dee” (written in 1775 by a John Tait) was a very popular song both in G.B. and in the colonies.  Its goes thusly:

‘TWAS summer, and softly the breezes were blowing, And sweetly the nightingale sang from the tree.
At the foot of a hill, where the river was flowing,
I sat myself down on the banks of the Dee.

Flow on, lovely Dee, flow on thou sweet river,
Thy banks, purest stream, shall be dear to me ever,
For there I first gain’d the affection and favor
Of Jamie, the glory and pride of the Dee.

But now he’s gone from me, and left me thus mourning, To quell the proud rebels, for valiant is he;
But ah! there’s no hope of his speedy returning,
To wander again on the banks of the Dee:
He’s gone, hapless youth, o’er the rude roaring billows, The kindest, the sweetest, of all his brave fellows;
And left me to stray ‘mongst these once lovèd willows, The loneliest lass on the banks of the Dee.

But time and my prayers may perhaps yet restore him,
Blest peace may restore my dear lover to me,
And when he returns, with such care I’ll watch o’er him,
He never shall leave the sweet banks of the Dee.
The Dee then will flow, all its beauty displaying,
The lambs on its banks will again be seen playing,
Whilst I, with my Jamie, am carelessly straying,
And tasting again all the sweets of the Dee.

It’s really quite lovely, especially when you here it set to an old Irish ballad tune.

Now,  it just so happens that I learned a contemporary parody of this song in my misspent yoot, one that has never left my head.  It goes:

‘TWAS winter, and blue Tory noses were freezing, as they marched o’er the plain where they ought not to be.

The valiants complained of the fifer’s cursed wheezing,

And wished they’d remained by the banks of the Dee.

Lead on, thou payed captain! Tramp on, thou hired minions!

Thy ranks made of men shall be strung like ripe onions!

For here thou hast found the heads with war-like opinion

On the shoulders of nobles who ne’er saw the Dee!

Just thought I’d share.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s a quiet weekend around Port Swiller Manor, the veritable calm before the storm as Hurricane Academia looms offshore.   In the meanwhile,  Ol’ Robbo finds himself in the comfortable position of having got the grass cut, the garden weeded and the bird feeders topped up, and is now sitting back and complacently watching the (literal, not metaphorical this time) rain clouds gather.

The middle gel managed to crock her ACL, which means crutches, a brace, no sports and an estimated four to eight weeks of therapy.  On the other hand, from what she’s let fall it also means the possibility of being fawned over by all the new seventh grade boys she’s about to meet.   I believe she considers this a win.

Watching the hummingbirds at the feeder outside the breakfast room wherein I am typing.  This is the first year I’ve ever actually seen them sitting on the perches instead of just hovering about in front of the plastick flowers.  Laziness.

I don’t recall if I’ve made any political predictions here but I’ve certainly been opining to the Mothe for some months and believe more and more the following:   It’s not even going to be all that close this fall.  I won’t use the “L” word yet, but that sound you hear is of the wheels coming off a certain bus and it’s only going to get noisier.

I’ve started reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset, her take on the Arthur legend.  Unlike her Eagle of the Ninth trilogy, which young persons’ reading, this is an adult novel.  (Well, if Artos is going to be drugged and raped by his own sister, it more or less has to be.)   So far, it is quite good and ol’ Robbo is wallowing in the romance of the noble Romano-British effort to keep the flame of civilisation burning just a little bit longer against the on-coming night of barbarism.  On the other hand, every time I read of the ruthless Hengest and his Saxon hordes, a little voice in my mind starts chanting the Roi-tanners drinking song from Bored of the Ring: “Peace is vot we want und DO have/ und a piece of anything dot YOU have!”

It isn’t always easy living with my braims.  It really isn’t.

Speaking of which, I managed to set off something of a firestorm this morning with a casual remark about Kate Middleton’s less-than-aristocratic antecedents, awaking the wrath of Mrs. R for some reason.  “What if one of our girls were to meet a royal?  Then what would you say, Mr. Snobby-pants?”

I smiled Sphinx-like and replied, “In those circumstances, I think all I could say would be ‘God save the Queen’.”

And as Basil Fawlty would say, “Just trying to enjoy myself.”

Sorry for the grumpy tone of most of my posts today.  On a more light-hearted note, how about some vid of squirrels getting tossed, courtesy of Yankee Flipper?



If you want a perfect example of the moral confusion and unreality of our so-called modern culchah, just feast your eyes on this article from today’s WaPo police blotter which caught my attention because I pass the location mentioned in it every day.   See if you can spot the idiots.

It would seem that two 14 year old girls were walking down the street at 3:30 AM when they were sexually assaulted by an unidentified man.  (Fortunately, it appears nobody got hurt.)

Now, as an initial matter, what’s wrong with this statement of the basic facts of the incident?  Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Yes, that’s right:  What in the name of Godfrey Daniel were a pair of 14 y.o. girls doing wandering the streets at 3 ack emma in the first place?

(As an aside, this is a residential area,  so I’d probably bet on a near-by party.  On the other hand, there’s a 24-hour Giant grocery a couple blocks down the street, so maybe they’d been on some kind of munchies raid.)

So, who are the idiots here to which the title of this post refers?

The girls themselves?  Well, no.  They are idiots, but they’re adolescents so are almost idiotic by definition.  (But hopefully, after this incident, perhaps ex-idiots.)

Their parents?  Not enough information here to say.  For all the article tells, the girls could have been A.W.O.L.

Give up?  I’ll tell you.  Go read the comment thread.  A reasonably healthy proportion of the commenters ask the same question that I (and, I hope, you) did.  But take a look at the large minority of other commenters who savage the first set, who work themselves up into spasms of moral outrage that anyone would challenge some kid’s “right” to walk wherever she wants whenever she wants to and somehow not have to run the risk of suffering the consequences.   “What?” they say, “How dare anybody suggest that notions such as common sense or prudence or self-restraint should be allowed to infringe her law-given freedoms?”

Those, my friends, are your genuine Grade A Prime Morons


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August 2012