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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo isn’t exactly back to peak efficiency, but I at least have steam up and my helm is answering, so it seems to me that I ought to have a go at tossing out at least a few random thoughts and observations.

♦   The ‘flu is still making a pest of itself at Port Swiller Manor, although everybody managed to get out the door this morning.   The Middle Gel’s sole motivation for doing so was the fact that she got a call-back to a play for which she had auditioned at school, and we made it abundantly clear that missing the school day also meant missing the callback.  Grumble, grumble, but whatever works, right?

♦  As Jay Nordlinger would say, how about a little language?   First, I see the ghost of that rat-bastard Uncle Joe Stalin is raising its frightful head again among the good citizens of Volgagrad.  I would suggest that these people might want to think twice about what spirits they choose to summon up from the pits.  Second, it appears a local advertising campaign has been launched to “take back” the word “Jihad”.   I’ve nothing particular to say about it in itself, but imagine the howls of indignation from the arbiters of correctness were one to substitute the word “Crusade”.   (And speaking of which, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary actually gives the second definition of “jihad” as “a crusade for a principle or belief.”  Tone-deaf, anybody?)

♦  Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1797, of Franz Schubert.  Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate his musick more and more, although I still believe he never really got his orchestral-sized stuff under proper control.  (Yes, yes, I know that he was terrified of Beethoven, he died young and didn’t get the chance, yadda, yadda, yadda.)  However, my email quote-of-the-day guy mentions that this quote has been attributed to the man:  “No one understands another’s grief, no one understands another’s joy…  My music is the product of my talent and my misery.  And that which I have written in my greatest  distress is what the world seems to like the best.”

To quote Tom Magliozzi, “Aw, Jeez.”  We hates that kind of pompous, self-centered romantic clap-trap!  This isn’t a dig at Schubert in particular, but at the whole bloody lot of artístes from that period up to and including Percy “Bysshe” Shelley.  (I got yer unacknowledged legislators right here, pal.)   It seems to me that such bloviating was usually nothing more than cover for some very naughty behavior.  (College kids, of course, still use this technique.)

♦  Speaking of naughty behavior, I don’t yet know what to make of the accusation that Robbo’s beloved Nat pitching ace Gio Gonzales might be mixed up with illegal performance-enhancement drugs.   Especially after my recent comments about the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong, regular friends of the decanter might be tempted to pelt ol’ Robbo with walnut shells if I were to come out and state categorically my belief that Gio is innocent.   However, I am still very much giving him the benefit of the doubt, especially as what little evidence has been brought to light and its source both seem somewhat squirrely.  We shall see, I guess.

♦  Also speaking of naughty behavior, it boggles the mind a bit that we are less than two weeks away from Lent.   This year ol’ Robbo, inspired by Father McA’s recent homily, has decided to get an early jump on things by getting into the observance of Septuagesima and “Pre-Lent”.  To this end, instead of going out with a bang on Mardi Gras, he’s already dialing back on his personal indulgences and starting to read literature suitable to the season.  My big project for Lent, in addition to my stable of regulars, is to tackle St. Francis de Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God.  I’ll let you know what I think.

So there you are.

UPDATE:  Oh, I forgot to mention, Happy Birthday, Milwaukee!  I was just reading up on the great Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845 between the good citizens of Juneautown and Kilbournetown (shades of Springfield and Shelbyville?), the resolution of which lead to the unification of the City on this day in 1846.   Cheers!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies to those two or three of you who gather together here regularly for my absence of the past couple days, but it seems the flu bug has decided to come a’calling at Port Swiller Manor.  Youngest gel has been unusually meek and docile, and while I managed to get through the day on Monday, I woke up Tuesday morning with that feeling you get that all of your bones have been removed and your brain has been switched out for lead ingots.

I’m told that this is a fairly hit-and-run strain, so hopefully I’ll be back on my feet in relatively short order.  As for when my Muse, who has a habit of fleeing in panic at the first onset of trouble, decides to return to her throne, well, who can say.

A TaftOh, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that I was fretting over the horrible possibilities associated with my beloved Nats adding a 5th Racing President?  Well word has just broken that they, in fact, got it absolutely right!!

Enter “The Big Chief.”

Taft, our country’s 27th President, was always the opportunist, rising to the highest post in the land by always having his “plate the right side up when offices were falling,” as he once jokingly put it. He was also the first U.S. President to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, which he did on Opening Day, 1910, right here in The District. Legend also has it that Taft “invented” the seventh-inning stretch, when he stood up to stretch at a game and the crowd around him followed suit.

Once great allies, he and Roosevelt tussled over policy matters following Taft’s ascension to the Presidency in 1912. That led Roosevelt to run as a third-party candidate against the man that had succeeded him as Commander in Chief, ultimately costing both men the chance to return to the Oval Office. Later in life, the two reconciled, leaving the question open as to whether they will work in concert to try to win in 2013, or if their feuding will cost each a chance at victory.

Oh, so very well done!  The perfect fit  And such a pleasant surprise, as so far as I can tell, nobody saw it coming.

One more reason why this season is going to be teh awesome!


(Oh, btw, it’s no “legend” that Taft invented the 7th inning stretch.  That’s true.  Or if not, it ought to be, which is good enough for me.)

48 RobboGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

A glass of wine with you all, as today is ol’ Robbo’s birthday.

Mrs. R had somehow lost track of my age and in her mind was low-balling it a bit.  When I corrected her information, she said, “Forty-EIGHT? Oh, my God! Why, welcome to your late 40’s, old man! Oh, ha ha ha ha!!”

Mrs. R herself is only 42, making her a persnickity young whippersnapper with no proper sense of deference to her elders.  This is what I get for going the child-bride route all those years ago.  On the other hand, it means I get to have the trophy wife without going through all the fuss and bother of trading in a first one.

After she got done laughing, Mrs. R was good enough to say that I don’t look anything like 48 years old.

This, if I may say so, is true.  I do look more like  I’m still in my 30’s.  On the inside, though, I’m beginning to feel the onset of middle age – the failing eyesight, the various plumbing problems, the creaky joints.

And the growing sense of horror and disgust when I read the nooz headlines.   Our so-called “culture” seems to be accelerating in its downward spiral into decadence and barbarism, and it both appalls and alarms me that said culture is becoming increasingly open in its hostility toward….people like me.   I joke about re-education camps and firing squads, but among those who share my world-view, this is becoming more of a half-joke.   What the next few years will hold, I don’t know, but I’m not especially optimistic.

Basta! Enough of all that!  We keep the Faith and do what we can and treat the things of this world with cheerful contempt.  Now if you’ll excuse me,  I’m off to tell them dang kids to git the hell offin’ my lawn!


"Wha, wha, wha, What?"

“Wha, wha, wha, What?”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you who are aficionados of Fawlty Towers (and if you aren’t, then why the hell not?) will be saddened to learn that the P.C. Police recently came knocking at the Major’s door in the middle of the night and lead him away in cuffs:

It is the episode of Fawlty Towers best  remembered for the line ‘Don’t mention the war’ and John Cleese’s silly walk  when impersonating Hitler.

The references have proved controversial  before, but when The Germans was repeated on BBC2 on Sunday evening it wasn’t  our European neighbours that the corporation was worried about  offending.

Instead, the episode was edited to omit  racist language – only for some viewers to then complain that the BBC was ‘airbrushing history’.

In one scene one of the hotel’s permanent  residents, Major Gowen, uses derogatory terms to describe black people. It was  included in the episode’s first airing in October 1975, but this time around the  major’s words were edited out.

Oh, for Heaven’s’ sake.

The creeping infantilization of post-Western Civilization continues apace.

Fortunately, I’ve got the uncut DVD box set, so I am not at the tender mercies of teevee programming executives.  No doubt my possession of such inflammatory material will be included among the charges when the Ogpu eventually come ’round for me, too, and may play a part in the determination of whether I get sent to the re-education gulag or stood up against a wall.


The late Warren Zevon was born this day in 1947.  I confess I never knew any of his musick outside of the Excitable Boy album, but I liked that one…..

The youngest gel and I occasionally sing this one together, especially around Halloween.  She thinks my howling is pretty funny.

Citizens of Natstown and regular friends of the decanter who pay any kind of attention to what ol’ Robbo writes will be familiar with the famed Presidents’ Race that takes place at every home game of my beloved Washington Nationals.  To date, the race has been among the four Mt. Rushmore Presidents- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.  The Teddy Saga, an integral part of the drama, is detailed here.

Well, now word comes that a fifth Racing President is being added to the crew:

Even before Teddy Roosevelt won the final regular season Presidents’ race last fall, there was speculation that a fifth president would join the four Rushmores in 2013. The team would not confirm any of this, other than admitting that they were already working on plans to keep the race fresh and interesting moving forward.


Well, welcome to reality. The Nats set the stage on Wednesday by announcing on Twitter “a major Presidential announcement” at NatsFest this Saturday. And in case there were any doubt about what the news would be, the team made it official on Thursday with this Tweet: “The rumors are true – there will be a #5thPresident racing in 2013! But who will it be? Find out at #NatsFest!”

NatsFest is this coming Saturday, so we will need to wait and see.  Some of the speculation over at the linkied post is amusing, but as I say, I’ve got a baaaad feeling.  They wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly pick……..

President Blutarsky

President Blutarsky

UPDATE:  Chewing on things, it occurs to me that, with the possible exception of Ike or Andy Jackson, there’s not a POTUS left on the list who isn’t either intensely polarizing or an absolute non-entity.  It also occurs to me that there’s no especial reason the Nats would need to confine themselves either to a) past or b) real Presidents, so why not widen the field?  It finally occurs to me that somewhere in the lore of  of Animal House, it is noted that not only did Bluto later become a Senator, he eventually became President.

Ladies and Gentlemen, so far as I’m concerned, we have a winner!  Bluto romping around the field would be gold, Jerry.  Gold!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A conversation at the grocery story last evening between the Middle Gel and Self:

Self:  Oh, and we need to get some ranch dressing.  And since your mother isn’t around, we can get the kind that isn’t “fat-free”!

M.G.:  Wow, Dad, you’re a real Bad Boy, aren’t you?

I tell ya.

UPDATE:  Just because….

Taking programmatic musick to a new, um, level:

A piece of music that was composed by waiting for bird droppings to fall onto giant sheets of manuscript paper has received its premiere.

Artist Kerry Morrison laid manuscript sheets on the ground in Liverpool parks and let birds deposit their droppings.

Composer Jon Hering has transformed the bum notes into a full musical score.

Why?  Why on earth?  Well, it’s a message, you see:

Morrison said the 20-minute Bird Sheet Music, which was performed at the Tate Liverpool art gallery, represented the role birds play in the environment.

“They play a massive part in the ecosystem of the city through their droppings – they disperse seeds, also their droppings help the enrichment of the soil, so we get fertiliser,” she said.

 “It’s something people don’t often think about.  The whole thing about looking at detritus and waste tends to be quite negative.  People think it’s mucky or horrible, but of course it’s critical to life on earth.”

And people actually sat through twenty minutes of this?  It reminds me of a joke the Old Gentleman used to tell about Johnny and the magic rabbit pellets.

In case you’re wondering what Bird Sheet Music actually, you know, sounds like, you’re welcome to follow the linky over to the Beeb.  Personally, I couldn’t get the recorder thingie to work on two tries and I’m not going to bother  anymore.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A while back, Mrs. R asked me to order up from Netflix a movie entitled Disney’s African Cats.

For some reason, these film requests of hers always get lost in the sawdust of my cranial cavity, usually never to be seen again.   This one, originally made some time last fall, recently came back to the surface, however, prompting me to act.

Last evening, the flick appearing in the Port Swiller mailbox, I proudly brought it in to Mrs. R.

“Oh, we got it somewhere else and watched it weeks ago,” she said.

So much for good intentions.

Since I had it in hand, I watched the film myself.   As I say, it’s Disney, which means that even if it wasn’t deliberately aimed at a kiddie audience, it assumes that anybody watching it would have the intelligence of one.  The photography is fabulous but the story, mostly about a three-way turf battle between two prides of lions and a cheetah and her cubs, is long on anthropomorphism and thin on actual zoology.  And while Nature may be red in tooth and claw, here She discretely keeps most of her mess off screen.  Also, although I may have started dozing and missed it, we were not treated to the usual obligatory hectoring about poachers and developers driving the subject animals to the brink of extinction.   The narration is by Samuel L. Jackson.  He’s no Marlin “I’ll stand downstream while Jim wrestles the tiger to the ground” Perkins, but then again, who is?

All in all, though, not a bad way to blow an hour and a half.

The film got me wondering:  Has anyone come up with an explanation of why lions buck the feline trend by being such social animals (social in a nasty, feline, back-stabbing way, but social nonetheless)?   Every other cat, from tigers and cheetahs down to our own Fat Bella, is essentially a loner.   Where did the lion deviate from this and start clubbing up?  I’m sure somebody has figured this out, but I don’t recall reading up on it myself.

But then again, cats as a whole are mysterious creatures, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t much like them.  I’ve read all sorts of fascinating accounts of the history of their relationship with humans, none of which endear them to me any more.  They were never “domesticated” in the same sense as dogs or, say, horses.  They simply found that hanging about people was beneficial to their own self interest.  And that’s pretty much all they still do.  Dogs and horses provide all sorts of vital services in return for our protection, affection and care.  On the other hand, there’s no such thing as a working cat.  (And don’t argue about mousing: They do that on their own time for their own amusement.)  We are, indeed, simply their staff.

I also recently saw an article claiming that the whole meowing biznay is not natural cat language, but instead was developed specifically to communicate with human beings.  “Meow” translates into English as, “Feed me, damn you.”  Of course, the vocabulary has expanded somewhat over time:

cat3-1Anyhoo, I assume this air of mystery, coupled with their general superciliousness, is why the Ancient Egyptians thought it best to go ahead and worship them as gods.  “Better safe than sorry,” they no doubt thought to themselves.  “No point in getting on their bad side, just in case they really can call down thunderbolts or suck spirits out of people’s bodies.”   I’m sure this is the same sense that long prompted people to associate cats with witchcraft and the occult.   Of course, we like to poo-poo ye olde superstitions nowadays, but in this case modern science and technology have only gone on to prove that cats are, indeed, capable of all kinds of things when they think nobody is looking that they don’t generally let on about when under scrutiny:

In fact, although I’m well aware that cats possess hidden talents and capabilities, I don’t personally believe they have any magical or supernatural powers for one simple reason:  I haven’t been targeted.   Fat Bella has been getting more and more impatient for me to open up her daily can of food in the morning and the looks she has been giving me while I finish my morning routine before sauntering down to the kitchen have been becoming increasingly dirty.  I don’t doubt that if she had the ability to possess or hypnotize me, or simply turn me into a can of food, she’d have done it by now.

Speaking of dirty looks, I had to laugh at this article I spotted on Drudge this morning about some New Zealand enviroweenie proposing to de-cat the entire country:

Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of pet cats that threaten native birds. But the environmental advocate has triggered a claws-out backlash with his new anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his countrymen Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation’s unique bird species. He set up a website, called Cats To Go, depicting a tiny kitten with red devil’s horns. The opening line: “That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer.”

He doesn’t recommended people euthanize their current cats — “Not necessarily but that is an option” are the site’s exact words — but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. Morgan, an economist and well-known businessman, also suggests people keep cats indoors and that local governments make registration mandatory.

The backlash is very amusing, too:

“I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives,” Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs television show Campbell Live. “Don’t deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.”

When the RSPCA tells you to stuff your eco-idea where the sun don’t shine, it’s time to move on.


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January 2013