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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I know this is not exactly in keeping with the ongoing Christmas Octave, but would you permit ol’ Robbo to rant just a little bit?  You would?  Why, thankee!  Please – Top off your glasses and settle in.

You see, for reasons completely beyond ol’ Robbo’s comprehension, one of his Facebook “friends”, a solid, stolid member of RFEC, today posted a video clip from some epic smackdown between two female combatants in the world of “ultimate fighting” or “cage match” or whatever it’s called.   She offered no comment, and I was so astonished that she would repost something like this that I strongly suspect it might be some kind of hack job.

My FB acquaintance and her intentions aside, I really wanted just to say something about the biznay itself:

Have we really reached the point in our slide into teh abyss in which we consider the spectacle of two women thrashing the bejaysus out of each other to be a positive thing?  A legitimate source of wholesome entertainment?  Seriously?  You may call ol’ Robbo a dinosaur or worse, but this just disgusts me.

Not that I approve of male cage-fighing, mind you.  Boxing, I can understand even if it doesn’t especially interest me.  Marquess of Queensberry rules and all that.  There is a certain blend of male aggression and science and art to it.  (However, I still disapprove of female boxing.)  On the other hand, male cage-fighting, which is much looser in its rules (so I gather), is nothing more than a barbaric cousin to said art.  Female cage-fighting, IMHO, is simply gratuitous savagery, which ought to be utterly condemned by any society claiming to call itself civilized.

Yet, from what I can gather, such things are increasingly popular among the many-headed.  (And yes, I know perfectly well what other impulse governs the (I suspect) mostly male audience to watch this sort of thing. Nudge, nudge.  Wink, wink.)  And I know that there are plenty of feministas eager to declaim on the “empowerment” involved in the promotion of female “ultimate fighters” in their never-ending quest to abolish any distinction between the sexes.


You mark my words, my friends, our wretched, decadent, so-called “cultchah” is  not all that far away from blood sports.  As in a return to gladiatorial combat.   Think I’m alarmist?  It’s already a box-office sensation in the world of fantasy films.  How long before it becomes acceptable, ah, in the flesh?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo popped into his DVD player this evening a copy of the Dennis Leary film The Ref.

I recall having tried to watch this movie once before about twenty years ago and dozing off at some point.  More recently, I had read several articles about its supposed Catholic underpinnings, so I decided to try it again.

My reaction? Well….yeah, but I still understand why I dozed off the last time.  It isn’t all that great a flick.   IMHO, Leary’s talents – which I think as a stand-up comic are considerable – are wasted in this format.

What I liked this time around, though, was the misplaced (in calendar terms) but lovely acknowledgement to St. Lucia.  I’m guessing that there is a frontier between those in the audience who watch the protagonist family members placing lighted wreaths on their heads in her honor and say, “Yeesh, what a bunch of freaks!” and those who say, “Cool, how can I convince MY family to do something like that?”

Yes, I’m in the latter camp.


Having the next couple days off, I suppose it’s high time that I sit down and get my Christmas cards into the mail.

For the most part, this is something that Mrs. R takes care of on behalf of the Port Swiller Family (and does so with her usual domestic efficiency), but I still have about half a dozen – mostly to some of my imaginary blog friends – that I handle myself.  (If you’ve sent me one, you know who you are.  And now you know why you haven’t received one back yet.  Yes, I denounce myself.)

As to the inflow, there is as usual the healthy admixture of family “newsletters” (which I never read anymore) and cards from people I’ve never heard of before.   Also, there seems to be an increased competitive show-off element in what we’re getting this year, to the point that even Mrs. R is commenting on it.  (And when Mrs. R starts sounding like me, you know you should start looking over your shoulder.)

However, my favorite card for many years running has been one that we get from a church acquaintance of ours who is also a local real-estate maven.  It isn’t the card itself, however, so much as the address label on the envelope which she obviously prints up off her office contacts list and reads, “Mr. and Mrs. Robbo T. Portswiller or Current Resident”.

That makes me laugh every time I get it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Boxing Day!

Any friends of the decanter care for a little cold roast beef? ‘Cos I’ve got plenty.  And let me tell you that I absolutely nailed that bad boy this year.  About a six pounder from CostCo that I kept in the oven just under two hours and then wrapped up in tinfoil.  THIS was the roast of Plum Wodehouse’s art-fart send-up, “Caliban At Sunset”:

I stood with a man
Watching the sun go down.
The air was full of murmurous summer scents
And a brave breeze sang like a bugle
From a sky that smouldered in the west,
A sky of crimson, amethyst, gold and sepia
And blue as blue were the eyes of Helen
When she sat
Gazing from some high tower in Ilium
Upon the Grecian tents darkling below.

And he,
This man who stood beside me,
Gaped like some dull, half-witted animal
And said,
“I say,
Doesn’t that sunset remind you
Of a slice
Of underdone roast beef?”

Coupled with the sharp cheddar that my Godparents always send down from Vermont, you can guess what my lunches and dinners are going to consist of for the next several days.








Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Merry Christmas!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself marking time a bit this Christmas Eve, having got everything laid out for tomorrow’s festivities at Port Swiller Manor and now just waiting until it’s time to head out to Midnight Mass.  So for your delectation, a few observations:

♦  Last Sunday, Father P used as his text the Epistle of Paul in which Paul cautions his readers not to judge their fellows (saying, in fact, that he wouldn’t even judge himself – yeah, right) because God will take care of all that Himself, thank you very much.  (And as an aside, am I going to hell because Paul sometimes reminds me of Polonius in his micromanaging?)  In any event, one of the examples the padre used to illustrate Paul’s meaning was to caution us regular pew-dwellers against sneering at the Christmas and Easter crowd for their bad manners, ignorance of the form and general disruptiveness.  It was because I remembered this homily that I stopped myself this evening from wheeling around and glaring at the gang of young ladies in the pew behind me at RFEC who spent most of the service gossiping and giggling.   But I certainly felt like it.

♦  Speaking of which, the Family Robbo attended the early, “child-friendly” service at RFEC this evening.  This is the one in which the rector, instead of delivering a sermon, invites all the wee tots up to the sanctuary and reads them a kiddy “Christmas Story”.   Even  Mrs. R, Christianity-and-water as she is, remarked on how lame this was and insisted that, starting next year, we go to one of the more adult offerings.

♦   For all that, while we were at church, a brief snowfall swept over the area.  It was quite lovely, even more so for the fact that teh snow didn’t stick and therefore need not be dealt with.

♦   The Gospel this evening, of course, was Luke 2: 1-14.  My friends, I tell you that every single time I hear or read that passage, I start to tear up.  And I tell you something else, I get a particular frisson from lines 13 and 14:

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

              I have a very distinct vision of that scene in my mind which is, at the same time, untranslatable in any earthly form of  communication.  I suppose that, were I any artist, I would grapple with a way to articulate it, but maybe it’s better that I’m not and  I don’t try.

And while we’re at it, here’s teh classic rendition that has choked me up right proper for almost fifty years:

♦    Lastly, I mentioned tomorrow’s festivities.  It’s just the immediate Family Robbo and a widowed cousin, but it’s Christmas after all and therefore worthy of the old favorites, roast beef, Yorkshire pud and asparagus.  (Regular friends of the decanter will not be surprised that ol’ Robbo is rigidly orthodox in his views about holiday cooking:  Christmas – Roast Beef; Easter – Lamb; Fourth of July – Burgers and Dogs;  Thanksgiving – Turkey.  Period.)  Anyhoo, I pass on a tip from teh Mothe re an easy-peasy way to prepare the asparagus:  Peel it, put it in a microwave-friendly dish full of water, zap it for three minutes, serve with appropriate sauce or dressing and Bob’s your uncle.  (UPDATE:  See clarification in the comments below.  Inadvertent error courtesy of the NSA.)

Oh, and speaking of easy, regular friends of teh decanter may recall that last year I decided to try doing the roast outside on my Webber grill?  Well, it worked out okay in the end, but it was a heck of a battle fussing about with the coals and vents to try and stabilize the temperature.  I felt like a rookie pilot totally losing control of the yaw of his aircraft and wildly over-compensating.  In retrospect, I don’t think it was worth the bother, so this year the beast goes straight into the oven.

Aaaanyhoo, I posted this nonsense mostly so that I could say this:  A very merry Christmas to you all!  When I get home in the wee hours tonight, I will pour myself a glass of port before staggering up to bed and toast (among others) those of you who drop by here to share in Robbo’s ramblings.  God bless you, every one!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies for the dearth of posties of late.  Somehow, as usual, ol’ Robbo let Christmas sneak up on him and, as a result, has suddenly found himself in the usual all-hands-on-deck mad scramble to get everything washed, ironed, planned, cooked, festooned, written, wrapped and post-paid before The Day.  (Because God help us if we fail to achieve a Martha Stewart X-mas!)

Anyhoo, a brief observation:  Every time I see a car this time of year with a red felt “nose” on the grill and a pair of “antlers” displayed above the side doors, I find myself wishing that I had a twin-mount dorsal phaser array aboard my beloved Wrangler with which I could blast said car to Kingdom Come.

Just saying.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In the next day or two, ol’ Robbo faces ye annual doome that is ycomme true known as teh Office “Holiday” Party.

Back when I was in private practice, these functions were, if not innocuous, at least fairly manageable.  One simply avoided saying anything obviously obnoxious to one of the partners, as well as having anything to do with the drunk paralegal looking for a fellah to take her home.  Aside from that, the spread usually was pretty lavish and a good time was had by all.

Well, I’ve spent nearly a decade now working for Uncle and I’m here to tell you that the atmosphere at his parties is completely different.  The best way I can describe it is to suggest the resemblance to being asked to tango across a minefield.

In my earlier years, I used to go to these parties and put on my best face.  Recently though, perhaps because I’m older and don’t give much of a damme anymore, perhaps because teh climate has become more, well, mine-strewn, I’ve taken to simply ducking them.  When asked if I plan to attend, I usually respond, “Oh, I hope so, but I’m waiting on this call from Mr. Art Vandelay that I simply must take.  See you there, hopefully!”

Getting close to 50 has its advantages.  As does the reputation for being that guy who’s quiet….keeps to himself…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t believe that we’re rolling into the third Sunday of Advent already.  But then the whole year has blown by in a blur, so why should this time be any different?

♦   Regular friends of the decanter may recall that Robbo was thinking of knocking off the sauce for Advent this year.  This was as much for health reasons as spiritual ones, because my cholesterol level seems to have spiked,  causing my doc to scold me about it at my recent physical.  Well, that didn’t work out especially well, but I have hit on a modified version that does:  I only allow myself wine in the evening on days when I exercise – which is something else I’ve been meaning to get back into.   I must say that for the past couple weeks, it’s been going great.

♦   My quest to postpone decorating the tree until Christmas Eve comes to nothing today, as I have to go pick one up after retrieving teh Middle Gel from school.  Mrs. R’s mother is in town this weekend for an “early” Christmas, so we’ve just got to have the tree up.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because shut up!” was the answer, more or less.

♦    Speaking of decorations, said Middle Gel has been after me this year to put lights up on the outside of Port Swiller Manor.  As I explained to her, this is something that Robbo Just. Doesn’t. Do.  Two wreaths on the front door:  Dyce and no further.  That’s my policy.  When she proceeded to pull a long face about this, I also explained that when she grows up and has her own house, she can do whatever she wants with it and good luck.   She said something about putting me in an old-folks home, buying this place and lighting it up just to show me.  Whipper-snapper.

♦   Oh, speaking of such things, as much as I loathe the annual airing on teh radio of a Baroque “arrangement” of “Jingle-Bells”, I heard an even more awful Baroque arrangement of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” today.  I was on the elliptical and the radio was out of reach, so I had to suffer through it.  My ears are still bleeding.

♦  Somewhat off topic, I have finally got round to doing a lot of little chores around Port Swiller Manor that I’ve been putting off for a while.  Hanging pictures and that sort of thing.  And I now remember why:  Offering to do one chore for Mrs. Robbo is rayther like offering an alcoholic a single drink.  Next thing you know, she’s face down in the honey-do jar, chugging for all she’s worth.

♦ Aaaand, speaking of chores, a pro-tip if you’ve got to patch a burglar’s slash in your Jeep’s gray rag top:  black duct tape is much more inconspicuous than silver.



admiral-ocean-sea-life-christopher-columbus-samuel-eliot-morison-paperback-cover-artOl’ Robbo is currently reading Samuel Eliot Morison’s Pulitzer-winning book, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus.  (I picked it up based on a tip from the Puppy-Blender back in October, but am only now getting around to it.)

I won’t get into a detailed discussion of the substance, as I am currently only about halfway through.  So far, I would say that while Morison obviously admires Columbus tremendously, he recognizes the man’s flaws, too.  Morison also tackles the issues raised by the European discovery of the Americas (specifically, the treatment of the Indians), firmly but fairly and in the context of the times as they actually were, not as we would have liked them to be.  While he certainly condemns the general Spanish colonial policy of stripping everything of value and enslaving the natives, the book was written in the early 40’s, so there is none of that wretched post hoc self-flagellation that is bringing Western Civilization to its knees these days.  Further, Morison has absolutely no use for the myth of the Noble Savage.

The style reminds me very much of the great Francis Parkman (one of ol’ Robbo’s favorites).  For one thing, it is a combination of learned analysis of available data, intelligent opinion and personal anecdote, all deliberately keyed for a non-specialist readership.  (I will say, however, that I am glad I’ve spent so many years sailing with Jack Aubrey or I might have got lost among some of the nautical jargon.)  For another, Morison, like Parkman, was a doer.  The latter, in order to get a feel for frontier history, actually hiked the Oregon Trail and spent time living with the Sioux.  The former and his mates obtained a sailboat of approximately the same tonnage as a Spanish caravel of the late 15th Century and sailed Columbus’ routes across the Atlantic and round the Caribbean to better understand what he found himself facing.  The application of personal experience to historickal analysis certainly raises both writers’ works above the level of armchair punditry.

Curiously, as I read of the great Age of Discovery, of bold adventurers setting out from Portugal and Spain, England and France to go see what was over the horizon, I find myself grumbling in frustration that we moderns don’t seem to be able to show the same spirit when it comes to our own exploration of Space.   In those days, the monarchies recognized and exploited the tremendous motivating power of self-interest and private enterprise.   Now?  Top-heavy, sluggish bureaucracy producing useless programs like the Shuttle.  I’d say that NASA ought to abandon the mechanics of space travel altogether,  transform itself into a charter agency  and then get the hell out of the way.  You’d see Moon and Martian colonies, asteroid mining and God knows what else pretty damn quick, I’ll bet.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As ol’ Robbo stares out the study window at Port Swiller Manor, teh white stuff is coming down at a tolerably moderate clip.  On my side of the metro area, they’re estimating anything between three and five inches altogether.   No doubt my afternoon exercise today will consist of shoveling the driveway.

Not to raise the ire of Snow Miser by naming calls, but today’s dump, following the snow/ice storm we had Sunday night and the flurries back on Thanksgiving, reminds me of the snowier wintah patterns we haven’t seen around this area for a few years now.   Indeed, after the great Snowmaggedon of 2010, it has sometimes seemed as if there was a vast invisible dome in place here blocking all the storms out and the disappointments – Nomageddon, Snowquester and the like – have been bitter.  (And since I am the father of several children who have shared in that disappointment, somehow it has all vaguely been my fault, too.)

Anyway, we’re still in the novelty-enjoyment phase at the moment.



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December 2013