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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Well, here we are on Christmas Eve.  I think, I think,  that aside from the actual cooking of tomorrow’s roast beef dins, our holiday preparations are complete.  It’s off to the “family service” at RFEC this afternoon, followed by Midnight Mass for Self later on, in between which I will no doubt be dropping suitable Christmas thoughts here as part of my effort to stay awake.

At any rate, perusing the public safety notes in the local fishwrapper, I came across the following item of interest:

A resident living in the 1400 block of C—— Street told Vienna police that on Dec. 7 he heard a loud noise near the front door to his residence.  When he went to investigate the noise, the resident discovered the front storm door glass had been shattered, police said.  The resident  told police he had found what appeared to be BB gun pellets mixed in with the broken glass.  Police responded and determined that several inflatable Christmas decorations in the house’s front yard also appear to have been struck with BB gun pellets, authorities said.

I wish to assure those friends of the decanter who may find themselves entertaining suspicions to the contrary that ol’ Robbo had absolutely nothing to do with this attack, despite his deeply-held opinion that inflatable lawn Christmas decorations are among the most abominable indicia of the season.  Robbo does not wantonly destroy other people’s property.

Which isn’t to say that this item didn’t cause ol’ Robbo to daydream of purchasing, say, half a dozen of these giant snow-globes, snowmen and the like himself, just for the pleasure of setting them up and shooting them.  I even got so far as to image rigging up a trebuchet so as to loft them in the air, wing shooting of course being far more sporting.

Do you suppose it’s too late to ask Santa to bring the doings?

beefGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s always been Robbo’s impression that those two or three friends of the decanter who gather here from time to time tend to be of about my age (I’ll be 48 in about a month) and older¹, so I assume most of you get the quote in the title to this post.  (Those younglings among you might like to go here for the reference.²)

Anyhoo, as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling this morning, muddling over this and that (my invariable practice before arising), it occurred to me that if the Port Swiller oven isn’t fixed by Tuesday, we’re going to have some serious trouble because Christmas Dinner without roast beef and Yorkshire pud’ is mighty near sacrilege as far as I’m concerned.

So what to do if the electrician wallah doesn’t get back to us before then?  (He was vague and non-committal about this yesterday.  UPDATE:  Special order part – of course – seven to fourteen days to get.  And mucho expensive.  Grrr.)

Then I suddenly had a flash.  (Yes, it happens every now and again.)  “Hey, wait a minute, Self,” I said to myself, “Brother has been roasting his Thanksgiving turkey on his trusty Weber grill the past couple years to admirable effect.  Is there any good reason you couldn’t do the same with a rib roast?”

Flying to the innertoobs, I found via a quick google search that no, there isn’t any good reason why I couldn’t do this.  Indeed, the more I ponder it, the more attractive the idea is to me regardless of the status of the oven.³  (Robbo like fire.)

The directions I’ve seen look pretty straight forward.  (Most of the recipes suggest searing by direct heat first and then separating the coals and roasting covered indirectly.)  My question to my fellow port swillers is whether any of you have tried this before and, if so, what tips you might be able to pass along?

And of course, I will relate my own experience after the fact.


¹ I’ve always got on with older people better than younger ones for some reason.  Did I ever tell you about the college girlfriend who, in a moment of frustration over something or other, accused me of being born 60 years old?

² The rest of you are invited to nip over as well and answer me this:  Is that the voice of Roscoe Lee Browne?

³  Without the broiler, however, I’m afraid that bacon and water chesnuts just won’t work out.  The fallback for that is prosciutto and melon.

Flurries are coming down outside the windows of Port Swiller Manor this afternoon, our first white stuff of the season.

Some consolation, then, for the fact that the plumber is here now dealing with yet another pinprick leak in the upstairs pipes and the fact that the control board on the oven conked out and needs to be replaced unless we want our Christmas roast beef tartare-style this year.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I woke up at my usual 5 ack emma this morning wishing that it was the start of my winter hols, only to remember a few minutes later that it is the start of my winter hols.   So after driving the eldest gel to school, I went back to bed, only to dream that all my hair fell out.

It must be that Mayan thing.

Anyhoo, I am determined to get everything set for Christmas this weekend – polished, swept, dusted, ironed, stocked up, etc., etc. – so that by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, all I have to do is switch the ribbons and candles from purple to red.   (It is satisfying to my tidy mind that Christmas Eve falls immediately after the final Sunday of Advent this year.)  Posting will be light, although not non-existent between now and then, and I certainly mean to put up my traditional Christmas Card here.

In the meantime, how about a little musick to get energized, possibly the single greatest non-Christmas Christmas tune evah, and one that I have never got tired of hearing over the past 45-odd years:

Just received a season’s greeting email that included nods to what seemed to be thousands of mid-winter holidays of various sorts.  No mention of Saturnalia, tho’.  As an amateur classicist, I’m offended!

It also didn’t include this:



missleI know the Mayans didn’t predict the end of the world to occur on December 21, 2012, but I must say that I’m just a tiny bit un-nerved by the announcement today that the NYSE is selling itself to some outfit called Intercontinental Exchange.

“Intercontinental Exchange”?

That brings to mind not world trade so much as, well, things that go boom.

It’s probably just a harmless coincidence.   On the other hand, what if Skynet is indulging in a little pre-kickoff taunting?

Leave it to the Canadians to make headlines with a several million pound maple syrup heist:

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers believe several million cans of stolen maple syrup may be sitting on U.S. grocery shelves.

Quebec police arrested four men in connection with the robbery of 6 million pounds of maple syrup stolen from a Canadian warehouse in a heist spanning just under a year.

The thieves managed to steal the sticky substance from a warehouse in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford between August 2011 and July of this year. The stolen syrup tops out at $18 million in total market value.

“It’s one of the most important robberies in Quebec because of the quantity stolen and the value of the syrup,” said Sgt. Gregory Gomez Del Prado of Quebec police.

[Doug Mackenzie accent/on]

Take off, eh? Hosers.

[Doug Mackenzie accent/off]

“We know there are probably more people involved. It’s a complex case,” said Simon Trépanier, director of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “At the beginning we knew it had been done by a very organized group because it’s impossible to steal that amount of maple syrup without being organized.”

Trépanier said his organization stored the overproduction supply of their 2011 harvest in roughly 10 million barrels located within a rented facility. The organization did not know of the heist until the warehouse workers called to report empty syrup barrels.

“At first people were laughing saying, ‘Oh, this is just food; it’s not like stealing cars or jewelry,'” said Trépanier. “You realize now, one barrel holds 45 gallons of maple syrup with a worth of $1,800. It’s more difficult to put in your bag than jewelry. It’s still a high value item.”

Okay, it’s a “high value item”.  I’m still laughing.  The mental imagine is like something out of a Peter Sellars movie.  “Zot ist not mein pincake.”

And what say the good people of New England, where the coppers think all this hot syrup is, uh, dripping?

Matt Gordon, executive director of Vermont Maple Sugar Makers, works to market and educate retailers on new production techniques. He says he had not heard about the case in Quebec, nor has he heard of “anything on this magnitude in the past.”

Even if the stolen maple syrup is found in the states, Gordon doesn’t see an issue with producers.

“My instinct is to say it wouldn’t impact maple syrup producers [in the U.S.] because syrup would have had to have been bought through regular channels,” said Gordon.

I believe that’s a diplomatic way of saying, “Meh.”

(Sorry, but I enjoy a gratuitous dig at the Canadians every now and again.)

UPDATE:  The Corner has more.  Apparently, the stuff was filched from Quebec’s Strategic Maple Reserve, a storage system used to hold excess production in good years so that the Quebecois Syrup Syndicate can keep prices high.   Protectionist hosers, serves ’em right.

And while we’re about it, how about a little Great White North holiday cheer?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Father Z reposts a discussion of St. Thomas More by Archbish Chaput which is well worth reading.  Part of the discussion centers on current scholarly and popular perceptions of the man.  An excerpt:

So which is it: More the saint or More the sinner? Was he the ruthless, sexually repressed rage addict suggested by historians like G.R. Elton, fearful of change and driven by helpless fury? Or was he the humble and generous “man for all seasons” praised by his friend Robert Whittinton and so many others among his contemporaries? Were there really two Thomas Mores: the young, open-minded humanist, and the older royal courtier, gripped by religious fanaticism?

The moral integrity of More’s life has been argued with persuasive skill in the various works of Gerard Wegemer, among many others. And Peter Ackroyd’s fine biography, The Life of Thomas More, vividly captures the whole extraordinary man–his virtues, his flaws, and the decisive nature of his moment in history.  Travis Curtright has now added to the luster of the real More’s legacy with his excellent new book The One Thomas More.

As the title suggests, Curtright sees Thomas More’s life as a consistent, organic record of Christian witness, start to finish; a thoroughly logical integration of humanism, piety, politics and polemical theology. There is only “one” Thomas More–a man of tender nobility, subtle intellect, and forceful conviction, all rooted in profound fidelity to the larger commonwealth of Christendom outside and above Tudor England. For Curtright, More embodied “the Erasmian ideal of wedding learning with virtue,” lived through a vigorous engagement with temporal affairs. He treats More’s scholarly critics with proper respect while methodically dismantling their arguments; and he does it by carefully unpacking and applying three of More’s most important written works: The Life of Pico Mirandola, The History of Richard III, and Utopia.

Curtright correctly sees that More’s real source of annoyance for many modern revisionist critics is his faith. If revisionists like Elton implicitly define “humanism” as excluding religious faith, then a man like Thomas More and the whole vast Christian tradition of integrating faith and reason become serious irritants. As Curtright observes:

The entire structures of the two Mores and real More theories congeal around [critics’] notions of a “true” humanism that excludes the possibility of faith and reason working together, a position transparently stated by [G.R.] Elton and one that influences contemporary condemnations of More as a “fanatic.”

Bickering over the “real” Thomas More has importance beyond the scholarly community. Why? Because just as the nutty premises of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code confused millions by reinventing the backstory of Christian belief, so too the novel Wolf Hall offers a revisionist Thomas More wrapped in popular melodrama. The author, Hilary Mantel, a lapsed Catholic whose disgust for the Church is a matter of public record, drew her portrait of More in part from the work of Elton. The “hero” of her novel is Thomas Cromwell–More’s tormentor, and in reality, a man widely loathed by his contemporaries as an administratively gifted but scheming and vindictive bully. Unlike the widespread European shock that greeted More’s judicial murder, few wept for Cromwell when he finally followed More to the scaffold.

I quote all this at length because the Mothe has been pestering me for some time to read Wolf Hall.   I might, too, just by way of exposure, but I think I’ll try Curtright’s book, too.   Indeed, I believe I’m ready to go right back and tackle More’s own works cited above.  Like many modern liberal arts students, my sole exposure to date has been to bits and pieces of Utopia, and that was a good 25 years ago.

I was chatting with a fellow believer last evening, stating only half in jest my belief that given my…attitudes (I, too, see faith and reason as complimentary, not exclusive of each other),  at some point I am likely to be hauled off and either put in a reeducation camp or else stood up against the wall.   I don’t know whether I’d be able to crack jokes with my executioners like More, but I’d at least keep him in mind.

UPDATE:  Lawks!  I checked over at the devil’s website and found that Curtright’s tome is going for about sixty bucks, which is somewhat beyond what the Port Swiller CFO is likely to approve.  Guess I’ll have to save my pennies and wait a bit…..

Too good not to swipe:


Thanks to Groovy Vic!

On a related note, Adam West will always be the real “Batman” to me.  On the other hand, Casey Kasem is the True Voice of “Robin”.

UPDATE:  This post got me noodling more on the whole Casey Kasem voice acting phenomenon, which you might say was an integral part of my misspent yoot, since he seemed to be in damn near every cartoon I watched.  This had an effect later in life.   Back in the day when I was Super Dad instead of That Crotchety Old Stupid Who Never Lets Us Do Anything, my impersonation of Kasem’s Shaggy was treated with wonder and delight at Port Swiller Manor.  (And just as an aside to this aside,  I laugh out loud every time I think of Lisa Simpson’s line, “If Scooby Doo has taught me anything, it’s that there’s nothing to be afraid of except crooked real estate developers.”)

Another tidbit is the fact that Kasem was the voice of Merry Brandybuck in an appalling 1980 Rankin & Bass cartoon version of The Return of the King (which also featured, among others, a thoroughly miscast Roddy McDowell as Sam).   It was such a rotter that I think I’d actually prefer watching Peter Jackson’s version if I had to choose, and regular friends of the decanter will know that that means a lot.   I only throw this out because Kasem had such an immediately recognizable voice that I recall half-expecting him to suddenly say, “Like, Scoob! Frodo’ll never get to Mt. Doom without a snack, right?  Let’s go make one!”

Oh, and as long as we’re visiting the Hall of Justice:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Some friends of the decanter – and hangers-on from the Llama Days – may recall ol’ Robbo on occasion devoting some Random Commuter Observation posts to a little Korean guy who shows up each Christmas season on the Dee Cee Metro and sings carols to the passengers?  If so, you have waaaaay too much time on your hands.

I bring this up now because, as several people have flagged for me, the WaPo profiles the guy in this story.  He’s Fisher Yang, pastor of something called the Puritan Church out in the Shenandoah Valley, and he’s been at his ad hoc singing gig since 1998.   (I know I’ve been seeing him for a long time, but I didn’t realize it was that long.)

Now that I’m driving the gels to school, there are very, very few things I miss about taking the metro, but I’d certainly number Yang’s little concerts among them.   He’s got a pleasant, resonant baritone voice, he’s always polite and cheerful, and, well, I find his efforts to be uplifting.

It’s also been my observation that, of those who pay any attention at all, the majority fall somewhere on a scale between benign tolerance and appreciation.   Not everyone agrees, of course.  I’ve seen the man bodily hustled off the train by at least one lout.  Another time, some eedjit (a well-dressed, educated-looking fellah who ought to have known better), started yelling, “You have no Constitutional right to do that! You have no Constitutional right to do that!”

Anyway, it’s evident that Yang’s heart is in the right place.  More power to him, says I.


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December 2012