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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent this Halloween evening in the costume of Teh Guy Who Wasn’t Home.  It involved skulking in the basement with an adult beverage and a Patrick O’Brian novel.

In the meantime, teh youngest gel and one of her chums went out to hoover the neighborhood.

Every time the gel is out and about, I leave the front door of Port Swiller Manor unlocked for her.   And every time she returns, we go through the same ritual:

Self (dozing/reading/listening to music): Ommmmmm…….


Self (scrambling for the door):  Raggle-fraggle-baggle-graggle-dammit-dammit-dammit-dammit…….

[Self jerks open door)

Self:  Consarn it!  HOW many times  have I told you to try the handle FIRST,  BEFORE you start banging on the knocker?!!

Gel (batting eyes): Oh…sorry.  I forgot.

Self (muttering): Yeah, right. 

I’m just about sure she does this on purpose.


(Oh, and I had left a big bowl of treats sitting on the front steps for anyone who happened to come by.  When I opened the door to teh gel and her chum, she handed me the empty bowl and remarked casually how it had been cleaned out.  I have never in my life seen a more self-satisfied pair of cats with canaries in their mouths.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, somehow or other Halloween has snuck up on ol’ Robbo this year while his attention was turned elsewhere.  The idea more or less came into focus today first when I received this article on teh Facebook feed about a Polish Archbishop fretting over the whole satanic biznay, and second when I saw a  rayther attractive young woman crossing Constitution Avenue this evening rigged out in a short, black dress and orange and black-striped leggings, carrying a witch’s hat, and, no doubt, feeling one hell of a fool.

Eh.  In general, I’ve got no problem with Halloween in its sanitized, kiddy version.   For the record, teh youngest gel is the only one planning to go out this year.  She ginned up a costume of her own design that I can only describe as the love child of a Smurf and one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things.

As to teh evil, well.  Groups of thugs going about and vandalizing?  Adults dressing up as Miley Cyrus, naughty nurses and nuns and the like and indulging in bacchanals?  Yeah, that’s a spiritual problem, and a serious one.  But little Johnny is not setting out on the path to hell just because he puts on a Boba-Fett costume and goes round the neighborhood scooping in candy.   (Especially if he – or in our case she – has ol’ Dad standing by to bloviate about the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, two of his favorite days in the liturgical calendar.)

Indeed, I still recall  a bloggy comment from some years back (now lost somewhere in the Llama Archives):  A bunch of my traddy-Catholic friends were discussing faith-based costume ideas, this being a popular thing in this particular crowd.  Among the suggestions were various angels, saints and martyrs, but I recall in particular that one suggestion  was to dress little Johnny as a Jesuit missionary.

A wag in the comments remarked, “Just add Hurons!”

Between my Convert Derangement Syndrome and my historickal geekery, I laughed and laughed.  I still do.

Anyhoo, the point I really wanted to make in this post is much smaller but plainer:  There is a right way to carve a jack-o-lantern and there is are many wrong ones.

The right way involves the traditional three triangles and jagged mouth:



The wrong ways involve, well, anything that can be labeled “pumpkin sculpture”:

All Wrong

All Wrong


I know there are friends of the decanter who will disagree with me about this, but pray hear out my argument.  The former decoration, primitive as it may be, speaks directly to the, er, spirit of the day.   The notion of a time when the door between the realms of the living and the dead swings open just a bit goes right down to some primary synapse in our psyche, some Jungian racial memory, some religious truth.  Every time I have ever seen ol’ Jack grinning at me from out of the gloom, I have always felt a certain chill run up and down my spine.

The latter?   It’s simply showing away.  It’s “art”.  It’s a mile wide and an inch deep.  It has nothing to do with the real essence and instead brays out, “Hey, y’all, check out what a clever pumpkin sculptor I am!”


Feh.  Look, I grant you the technical impressiveness, but as I say there’s no soul there, no primordial creepifying, no hint of majick, black or otherwise.   As is so typical of this wretched age, it’s simply another manifestation of teh Ego.

So (he said, thumping the table), that is ol’ Robbo’s opinion.   I will end by saying first that this year Mrs. R and teh gels are on their own carving the Port Swiller Pumpkin since I will not have been home in time to assist¹, and second that I plan, as I always do,  to grab the decanter and scurry down to the basement in order to ignore any little imps that come a-knocking at our front door.   Not that they often knock – we’ve taken to putting a bowl of goodies on the step with a “Help yourselves” sign and left it at that.   Teh kiddies get teh swag and I avoid having to deal with them.  Everybody wins.


¹ Because of teh peculiarities of WordPress’s default clock, I’m actually writing this the evening of October 30.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo is something of a Luddite when it comes to all these newfangled electronic gadgets being foisted on the market.  For example, I have often (perhaps too often) opined to Mrs. R that her GPS thingy, to which she is utterly beholden to get from Point A to Point B,  is actually controlled by Skynet and that when Judgement Day comes, Skynet will steer her straight into an ambush and serves her right.   She can’t say that she wasn’t warned.

However, I must admit my own personal delight with Google Maps, both in its overhead capacity and in its street-view function.   I think I have posted often enough here  about geography to explain the former.  The latter has had some real value in my job, since I often must travel to cities and towns unknown to me and scoping them out ahead of time has saved me a lot of bother.

Anyhoo, the point of this post is to draw attention to a particular feature of the street-view function.  I had read (and checked out) an article a few months back describing how said function had been expanded to include not just highways and byways, but also  panoramic views from the summits of some select mountains.   I forget which ones they were, but at the time I thought the ones I visited were, well, o-kay, but not all that special.

This week, however, I found myself checking out Google Maps’ street-view of Mt. Fuji.  I had not known this, but there’s a trail all the way round the lip of the crater, and some enterprising Google employee had hiked all the way up from the base and around said trail.

I have seen some impressive views before.  The Google street-map view of Pike’s Peak is pretty impressive.  Similarly the various views available when one wanders around the Italian and Austrian Alps.  But this one takes the cake.  Mt. Fuji is 12K-plus feet in altitude and there’s nothing immediately around it.  The view is both breath-taking and, if you have a fear of heights like me, palm-sweat inducing.

(Yes, sitting at my computer in the basement of Port Swiller Manor, staring at a computer screen, I can still get scared looking at images depicting great height.  That’s how much of an acrophobe I am.)

Anyhoo, if you haven’t done so, I heartily recommend that you check this thing out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I thought I would stir things up a bit here by doing a little Monday randomness, instead of saving it for Friday.  You know, because I’m such a wild and crazy guy.  (And yes, I know the timestamp says it’s already October 29, but the thing is set on Greenwich Mean Time and I’m too lazy and timid to go messing about with it.)

♦    Today was the first time this year that I got into my place of employment before dawn and didn’t leave until after sunset.  This pattern will continue for the next week or two until daylight savings time sets in.  Because I very often don’t leave my building during the day even for lunch, and therefore don’t see the sun directly, I have taken to calling this the Time of the Mole People.

♦     I forget why DST kicks in late this year except that it has something to do with politicks.  Which means it has virtually nothing to do with plain common sense.

♦     Speaking of politicks, during the course of a ramble about something or other last Sunday, the Rev at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church let fall a comment about “inclusiveness” being one of the core values of the Founding Fathers.  A warm and fuzzy sentiment to many of the RFEC congregation, no doubt, but actually completely at odds with the actual spirit of the Founders, who were in fact devoted to the concept that gubmint (because this is all about gubmint manipulation of teh populace) should just leave people the hell alone to get on as they see fit.  My friends, this is an example of why a solid education and eternal vigilance are so very necessary.

♦   I haven’t declared a World Series favorite here yet.  Allow me to correct this:  I am going with the St. Louis Cardinals.   Et cur? you may ask, especially after the Cards did down Robbo’s beloved Nats in the playoffs last year?  Simple.  Bahston fans do not wear success very well.  Back in the day when the Sawx and the Pats were horrid, I admired the way in which their supporters stuck with them no matter how heavy the emotional and psychological toll.  But now that the teams have become such winners? Well, these same fans have turned into the most arrogant bunch of jerks on the continent.  Massholes, indeed.

♦  Having said that, I can’t say that I am watching teh games very closely.   I know that there is a school of thought that enjoys the champeen struggle for its own sake, but I’m not of it: If I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m not all that much interested.  Indeed, although I still know that the ‘Fins won the ’72 and ’73 Super Bowls because I was such a fan in those days, for the life of me I simply cannot remember who won it last year.   And I don’t think I could tell you any Series winners off the top of my head.   First time the Nats pull it off- that I’ll remember.  (I say nothing about pro basketball because I hold the sport in contempt.  As for hockey, there was none in the South Texas of my misspent yoot, so I never acquired an interest during my formative years.)

♦  And finally, t’other night I was watching Executive Decision.  This is one of those movies that, when I’m channel-surfing and stumble across it, I almost automatically settle back to watch.  (Okay, confess:  You lot have your own favorites and do the same.  Confess, I say.  Confess!)  Anyhoo, it was being shown as  part of the series on whatever that military network is that features Lou Diamond Phillips interviewing guests between sections of the film.  His guest here was Tom Ridge (first Sec of Homeland Security), and there was a lot of jawing about how we view this movie (which was made during the false peace of the mid-90’s) in the aftermath of 9/11 and the current Global War on Terror.    I mention this only because at one point, in a discussion of post-9/11 terror attacks, Ridge actually mentioned the Fort Hood massacre.   “Oh, my stars,” I thought.  “Didn’t Ridge get the memo?  The Fort Hood shooter was a troubled man with psychiatric issues, not a terrorist for the Religion of Peace.  And besides, gun control so shut up!”  Honestly, keep up guys!

mrs krabappleDead at 70.

I always thought that Mrs. Krabappel, long-suffering teacher of Bart, was one of the funnier side characters on The Simpsons.  (I also always wondered how many younger viewers got the riff her name was of the teacher Mrs. Crabtree in the old Our Gang series.)

I also always new that she was voiced by an actress named Marcia Wallace.

What I didn’t realize until I googled up this article just now was that this was the same Marcia Wallace who played secretary Carol on the old Bob Newhart show that I watched in my misspent yoot and which is currently in reruns on one of the cable nets.

Now that I think about it, though, the same voice is immediately recognizable.


Very sad.

By the bye, we have a crab-apple tree behind the back fence of Port Swiller Manor.  For years now I have referred to it as the cr’bopple tree in tribute.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently, the local classickal musick station has been running ads for some kind of wimmins health issues seminar up to Johns Hopkins featuring teh key-note speaking talent of Katie Couric.  The title of this  gab-fest is  A Woman’s Journey.

There is something about the use of the word “journey” in what, for lack of a better term, I will call such an Oprahaic manner that sets ol’ Robbo’s teeth right on edge.

Look, as far as I’m concerned, Xenophon and the Ten Thousand went on a journey.  Marco Polo went on a journey.  Bilbo Baggins went on a journey.  Katie Couric standing at a podium yapping about her medical conditions?  Not so much.

When I become Emperor, the use of this word (and others on a list I intend to publish later) in anything other than its literal sense as illustrated by the examples above will constitute a flogging offense.

Thank you.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I believe I mentioned it before, but I will do so again:  The Beeb put out a series in teh early ’60’s called An Age of Kings, the  cycle of Shakespeare’s plays running from Richard II up through Richard III.

Let me emphasize again that, if you have any interest in teh historickal plays of teh Bard, you should go get this set (available from Netflix).  It represents teh Beeb at its zenith, back in the day when it was concerned with broadcasting the best and the brightest of Brit culture, rayther than either  denying  or destroying it.

Let me also emphasize again to those of you perhaps more interested in teh…um….acting quality of teh talent:  Teh series features Sean Connery as Hotspur and Robert Hardy as Prince Hal.

Must I spell it out for you?  Beefcake!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

T’other morning on our drive to school, teh eldest gel mentioned that her history class had been made to watch a “history” film showing what a rat-bastard, xenophobic, genocidal, racist shite Columbus really was, and then to debate about whether we really ought to celebrate “Columbus Day” or instead take up the burgeoning “Native Americans Day” anti-masque celebration instead.

Aw, Jeez….It was only the desire to avoid carrying crenelation across my forehead all day that kept me from pounding it against the steering wheel.  That and an understandable with to avoid getting into an accident.

Taking a very deep breath, I proceeded to spell out some historickal points:

– That, yes, there were charges laid against Columbus that, as governor of Hispanola, he abused the natives.  And yes, some of them might have been true.  But those charges were made by politickal enemies specifically intent on getting rid of him so that they and their friends could set themselves up for their own plunder.  So the cum grano salis rule is in effect here.

 – That yes, the Spanish influx into the New World was, mostly, pretty damned cruel and exploitative.   (One must exempt the heroic efforts of the Jesuits in South America.)  Indeed, of all the European interactions with the Americas, the French, by modern standards, were perhaps the most consistently humane.  (Of course, that is an argument for another time.) Pleas to show me an influx of one human population into another, anywhere in historickal time or place, that wasn’t.

– That yes, although we find the whole interaction of the Old and New Worlds repellant by 21st Century standards, it is only because of said interaction and its developments that we precious snowflakes  are able to waste a powerful lot of energy (at least for the moment) twisting our post-modern panties into knots trying to force our current sensibilities on to the actions of peoples living in the late 15th Century.

Aaaaaand, the fact that the whole Euro-angst line is built on the false, Rousseauian Noble Savage flim-flam line that the New World was some kind of Paradise full of blissful Adams and Eves who had, collectively, never experienced the Fall, but instead lived in natural peace, love and brotherhood…..

“But, Dad,” she said, “How can you say these things when this film we saw said what it did?”

“Because,” I replied, “I pay attention.”

As to the last Edenic point, the gel also mentioned Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs.


“You know how he managed that?” I asked.  “Because the Aztecs were in the habit of scooping up their neighbors in their thousands in order to supply a constant stream of human sacrifices to the sun.  Cut their victims’ living hearts out, they did, on top of their pyramids.  Then ate the tasty bits.   When Cortez came along and suggested that he could squash the Aztecs, all sorts of neighboring tribes said, ‘Hell, yeah!'”

So much for rapacious dead white males stumbling into Eden on Earth and forever staining it.

Aye, me.  To quote The Professor, “What do they teach them at these schools?”




charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening at teh eldest gel’s softball practice, owing to distractions and miscommunications one of our better players got hit in the eye with a pretty hard thrown ball.  Almost instantly it was plain that she will be sporting a rayther severe shiner for the days to come.

After the initial alarum and excursion surrounding the poor girl’s evident pain, which featured various and sundry coaches, players and parents scrambling for cloths, water and ice, I eventually found the victim sitting on the bench with a compress held against her inflamed cheek.

“So,” I said, “You know what you need to say when anyone comments on that bruise, don’t you?”

“No,” she answered, still in pain,”What?”

Hey,” I said, “You shoulda seen what I did to the other guy!”

Teh girl was game enough to giggle.

Nice to feel that I helped a bit.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, as the title implies, ol’ Robbo took the weed-whacker to Da Beard this morning.  I didn’t do so because it looked bad or because Mrs. R made me.  (Indeed, when I finally got her to comment, she actually gave it her  qualified approval.)  In the end I suppose I decided that I just wasn’t really that guy looking back at me in the mirror.  Regular friends of the decanter will be well aware of Robbo’s aversion to change and his utter lack of interest in novelty for its own sake.   Some people might be apt to label this “boring”.  I prefer the term “constant”.

Anyhoo, I got a few compliments and had a bit o’ fun, but it was time to come home.

Speaking of change, our Maximum Leader, commenting t’other day on the upcoming statewide elections here in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny, noted his general dissatisfaction with all the candidates on offer this time around.   I must say that I’m getting that same vibe from many, many people including Mrs. R, who I always turn to as my non-politickal weathervane.   I won’t go into endorsements here except to remark that, as I’m something more of a cultchah warrior than Maxy, the choices are easier for me.   I will say that there is at least one state-wide candidate who, in a healthy republic, wouldn’t even be on the ballot but instead would be in jail.

Also speaking of change, may I remark here how much I hate this bloody Apple i-Whateveritis on which I am currently typing, particularly this goddam wireless mouse?  In its apparent quest to anticipate what I want it to do, it’s forever suddenly magnifying the page or flipping it into the trash if I even go so far as to sneeze at the wrong moment.  Grrrrr…..

Speaking of manipulative technology, the devil’s website got me again yesterday.  On a Columbus Day tip from the Puppy-blender, I had sauntered over to pick up Samuel Eliot Morrisson’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea:  A Life of Christopher Columbus.   While on the page, I heard a small voice whisper, “Psst! Hey! Look down a little….You know you can get a copy of Columbus’s own logs and dispatches from his voyages while you’re at it, don’t you?  You know you want to, right?  It’s sooooo easy.  Go ahead!”

My friends, there are some temptations which I am able to avoid quite easily.  There are others to which I fall equally easily.   (And lest you think this particular one fairly petty, let me assure you that reading books of this sort will be more than enough justification to send me to the reeducation camps, if not the wall, in the upcoming purges.)

One temptation that I wrestle with more or less constantly is to try living the gels’ lives for them.  This is a trap the Old Gentleman fell into in my own misspent yoot, and one that I swore scrupulously to avoid when it became my turn to deal with teenagers.  My friends, it’s a whole heck of a lot harder than I ever imagined to stop myself from dashing in and trying to micro-manage, and then losing my temper when my efforts are either ignored or resisted.  Saint Joseph, ora pro nobis.

Oh, speaking of age….I saw Lee Majors, of all people, on the teevee last evening hawking a “bionic” hearing-aid.   For some reason, this made me feel very old.  The Six-Million Dollar Man was a fixture of my misspent yoot – I can’t recall whether I actually had a Col. Steve Austin action figure, but I rayther think I did – and to see him badly reading a cue-card in a mumbly voice really hit me.

Well, enough of that.  It’s a beautiful mid-October day and I do believe that this will be the last lawn-mowing of the season.   Here’s a question for you:  The back yard of Port Swiller Manor is enclosed in a white rail fence that, after twelve years or so, could really do with a new coat of paint.   Somebody told Mrs. R that we really ought to power-wash it before painting, given that some of the rails are a bit grungy, but I’m inclined not to a) because of the additional work and expense, and b) because I worry that directing a jet of water at some of the boards will cause them to disintegrate.   Is this a short-cut to nowhere?


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October 2013