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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It probably says something about ol’ Robbo’s time and station in life that today’s excitement was the deposit of a large dumpster on the driveway of Port Swiller Manor.

We’re taking out the old swing set and tree house this weekend, as they are both rotting and the gels have long outgrown them anyway, so we decided to go whole hog and get rid of a large chunk of the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated round ye olde demesne over the years.

I’ve just spent an hour or two in the garage, getting my exercise hurling large chunks of wood, old bags of grout, broken gardening tools and the like into the maw.  We’ll probably spend the better part of the next couple days filling the thing to the Plimsoll Mark.   What is it that makes chucking on this scale so much fun?

It occurs to me, though, after reading about the kybosh the EPA is planning to put on the utilities, that we might be better off hoarding all that wood against the coming winter instead.   I actually heard some flak on NPR this morning arguing that higher electricity costs are good for the economy because people won’t use as much energy.

Figure out the logic behind that one if you can.

I suppose that when fixed-income granny can’t afford to heat her place under the new regime, we can remind her that she’s always got thoughts of Mother Gaia to keep her warm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What a frabjous day (Callooh! Callay!) this has been, my friends!  Why?  Because our Dear Leader, having solved all other domestic and foreign problems, has today taken the opportunity to turn his mighty intellect to the tragic and heartbreaking scandal of  youth sports concussions.

At last! Praise be.

As a matter of fact, this nooz resonates in the very heart of the Port Swiller family.  You see, about two years ago, while teh youngest gel was enrolled in a winter swim training program, she was practicing her backstroke one evening, lost track of her stroke count, and sailed head-first into the wall at the rate of knots.

When ol’ Robbo got to the pool, he found teh gel sitting slumped against the wall, weeping and babbling.  (All fooling aside, the trip to the emergency room was truly an exercise in parental anguish.)  The docs diagnosed mild concussion, but since the treatment seems to have involved nothing more than sitting about in the ER waiting for her to snap out of it, I’m not sure just how valuable that information actually was.

Anyhoo, I’m hoping that this new initiative, in its understandable emphasis on contact sports like football, rugby and boxing, will not leave out consideration of this aquatic peril.  At the least, I expect a Federal mandate for swimmer helmets and/or styrofoam lining in all pools.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening, teh devil’s website delivered to the door of Port Swiller Manor a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s “Love Among The Ruins“, a work new to me despite my increasing fondness for and familiarity with Mr. Woo’s canon.  Although the book is included among the volumes listed in the Back Bay Books editions of Waugh’s works, which comprise most of my collection, it seems it has long been out of print:  I only managed to find a fairly battered old hardback edition.

I read it over dinner.  (It’s really only an extended essay of about 50 pages.)  The story is Waugh’s take (from 1953) on the the Brave New World and Wiki’s summary is pretty durn good:

It is a satire set in a dystopian quasi-egalitarian Britain. The protagonist, Miles Plastic, is an orphan who at the beginning of the story is finishing a prison term for arson. Crime is treated very leniently by the state, and conditions in prison are actually quite superior to those among the population at large, leading to an understandably high recidivism rate. Upon release, Plastic goes to work at a state-run euthanasia center. The centers are not restricted to the terminally ill and are so popular that Plastic’s sole responsibility is to stem “the too eager rush” of perfectly healthy but “welfare weary” citizens.

Plastic soon falls in love with Clara, a bearded woman who is a “priority case” at the center. However, she does not wish to die (she was sent there by her department) and the two begin a romance. One day, however, she suddenly disappears, and when he finds her, she has a rubber jaw replacing her formerly bearded face. Distraught, Plastic sets his former prison on fire, and, unidentified as the perpetrator of the crime, becomes elevated in status as the prison’s only “successfully rehabilitated inmate.” Sent to become a lecturer on the worthiness of the prison system, Plastic is directed to marry an unattractive civil servant. A curtain is drawn on the final conclusion as Plastic reaches into his pocket for his cigarette lighter.

I should add that the reason Clara has a beard is that, as a professional ballet dancer, she was advised to get sterilized so as not to lose her figgah through child-bearing.   (As it turns out, the sterilization was unsuccessful.)  The beard was a side-effect of the particular method involved.

The tone and, if you will, vision is somewhere on a line between “A Clockwork Orange” and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”.  There are too many little jabs and details for me to catalogue them all, but the very first paragraph of the piece set me laughing uproariously because of its anticipation of the collective pipe-dream (and predictable failure) of Al “ManBearPig” Gore and his ilk:

Despite their promises at the last Election, the politicians had not yet changed the climate.  The State Meteorological Institute had so far produced only an unseasonable fall of snow and two little thunderbolts no larger than apricots.  The weather varied from day to day and from county to county as it had done of old, most anomalously.

Somehow this reminded me immediately of an old “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode (oh, shut up) in which Captain Picard and staff are trying to delve into the background of a young guest with mysterious psychic powers:

PICARD:   What is it, Mister Data?

DATA:  I have some information regarding Amanda Rogers’ parents.

Picard reaches the Aft Science Station.

DATA:  Records indicate that they died in Topeka, Kansas.  Their home was destroyed during a tornado.

PICARD:   A tornado? Why wasn’t it  dissipated by the Weather Modification Net?

DATA:  Unknown, sir. The bodies were found in the rubble after the storm had passed.

PICARD: (a beat as he ponders) See if you can find out any details. I’d like to know more about that storm.

DATA:  Yes, Captain.

What is it with Utopian Statists and their belief that they can command and control the very ebb and flow of Nature itself?  Dare I suggest a “Non Serviam here?  I think so.  I think so.

Anyhoo, LATR represented a little detour from my current chronological reworking through Mr. Woo’s output.  (I must say that I enjoy this journey more and more each time I undertake it.)  Yesterday I spent a glorious day flopped in teh hammock, the scent of blooming wisteria wafting in from the fence, rereading Brideshead Revisited.   It’s still not my favorite of Waugh’s novels, not so much because of the story itself or its message but because he chose to write it in the first person, thus exposing the reader to more of Charles Ryder’s  (the protagonist) inner maunderings than I really care to see.   Too Much Information, as teh kids say these days.   Mr. Woo was far more effective in the dispassionate third person.

Next, I will be revisiting The Loved One, Mr. Woo’s satire on Hollywood and its environs.  The very name of one of the main characters in this book – Mr. Joyboy – causes me endless amusement, for which crime I will no doubt be one of the first sent to the camps…..

** The original phrase was coined by one Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936), a typical limousine liberal of his time who shilled for that rat-bastard Stalin and his crew.   I’d insert a link, only this post is long enough now that I don’t know how to on a Mac.  Google will get you there if you care for authentication.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening (or, more accurately, early this morning), ol’ Robbo had another one of his interesting dreams.

Regular friends of the decanter who know what that opening line so often leads to here may relax and stop glancing nervously toward the door.  This was not one of Robbo’s apocryphal specials.  Indeed, in terms on content, it was quite plain and even boring.

What I dreamed was this:  I had in front of me a plate of what were either puff potatoes or crab cakes, I’m not sure which.  I took up one of them and noticed it had some odd discoloration on one side.  I took a bite of it and said to somebody in the room – I believe it was the Mothe – “Oh, this is a bad one.”

That was it, so far as I can recall.

What made the dream interesting was the fact that I could taste what I was biting.    I don’t remember now what the taste actually was, but I remember vividly that…..I could taste it and that the taste was wrong.

Is this common?  Unusual?  I just don’t know.

From what I understand,  dreams are the mechanical product of those sensory receptors in the braim that never go to sleep.  While the body is at rest and all the external data-gathering apparati are more or less shut down, said receptors sometimes simply start making things up.   (The source material from which they draw – and this is where we get back into that apocryphal weirdo stuff – is not germane here.)

I assume that everybody’s dreams feature sound and sight.   (One of the Old Gentleman’s pet idiosyncrasies, by the bye, was the belief that nobody dreams in color, a position patently mistaken on its face based on my experience.  Nobody knows why he believed this.)  They also can involve touch.  (This is a family blog, so I won’t go into details about that.)  It stands to reason, I suppose then, that the other senses – taste and smell – might also be incorporated into the mix.  Wracking my memory, I cannot now recall whether I ever had a dream involving smell, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

But, as I say, this one definitely involved taste.

So there you are.


charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

(Who? Go here.)

Teh youngest gel’s softball practices are on Tuesdays this spring.  Ol’ Robbo serves as a kind of utility back-up coach this season, not having any official position but making himself useful where needed, both during practices and in games.

Anyhoo, this past Tuesday evening, we had as usual an intra-squad scrimmage.   Because only nine or ten gels showed up for practice, this necessitated some coaches playing in the outfield.  (At teh gel’s AAA level, the teaching emphasis is on infield execution, as the majority of hits among the 9-11 y.o. crowd tend not to travel far into the outfield.)

Playing center field, ol’ Robbo found himself squaring up against teh gel.   She has really blossomed this spring on many different fronts,  and in recent weeks has started to bear down much harder on her softball skills, which heretofore have been held hostage to what one might call the “Look – Squirrel!” frame of mind.

So, on a coach-pitched lob, teh gel smacked a long, hard shot into the left-center gap.

Ol’ Robbo is almost 50.  He’s very much out of shape and is considerably out of practice when it comes to softball.  Plus, he was still dressed in his work clothes.  Nonetheless, because the ball hung up just enough, I managed to get a good jump and executed a nifty back-handed spear at full stretch as it came down.

Lord God forgive me, but I couldn’t help juuuuuust a little bit of taunting after I robbed teh gel of her hit.

I’m paying for it now with a set of lower back pains, but it was worth it. Right?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo and I were sitting over a kaffeh this morning and reviewing the past week, as is our wont, when we suddenly realized:  It’s been pretty durn good.  No crises, no fights, no drama, and everyone seemed to have good news of one sort or another.  (Needless to say, these discussions are dominated largely, almost exclusively, by the topic of teh Gels.)

The klaxons will probably start sounding the alarum again over one damned thing or another as soon as I post this, but it was lovely for both of us just to sit back and savor the moment.  And in that spirit, some gratuitous Dad posting for you:

+Teh Eldest Gel:  Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo hasn’t posted much about teh Eldest here over the last few years.  Suffice to say that she and Adolescence didn’t get on very well with each other and we had an awful lot of stuff to get through, none of which would be suitable for discussion here.  However, now that she’s on the backside of it, and especially this spring, we are seeing what we believe to be a genuine blooming.  She’s paying attention in school, developing her game plan for college and just generally beginning to enjoy life.

Anyhoo, yesterday she was bearding me about politicks, which has become one of her favorite topics.  Specifically, she was lamenting the fact that she didn’t get to grow up in the Reagan Era like I did (although I pointed out that I was only a year younger than her when we got rid of Jimmah and brought in the Gipper), and wondering what is going to happen in ’16.  As she talked, it occurred to me again that this isn’t just academic:  She’ll be old enough to vote then and, buh-lieve me, she has every intention of exercising her franchise.   It also occurred to me that she doesn’t really have a “thing” yet, and that maybe she’d be interested in doing some campaign work – stuffing envelopes and whatnot.   (She’s announced that she’s a Randian, by the bye. (As in Paul, not Ayn.)  I think she looks up his speeches on YouToob.   Apart from giving my stock reservation about apples and trees and the dangers of neo-isolationism, I’m not going to quibble with her at this point.  She absolutely loathes She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and identity politicks in general, so I know that I’ve done my job well enough.)

+Teh Middle Gel:  Last evening, teh Middle Gel attended her 8th Grade class “Morp”.  “Morp” is “Prom” backwards- what used to be called Sadie Hawkins- and is the Big Event of the social year at her school.  I had been a bit uneasy ahead of time because she generally doesn’t like this sort of thing and I didn’t want her to come home feeling flat after all the build-up.

Well, I needn’t have worried.   As teh Gel almost invariably dresses casually, comfortably and modestly for school, nobody there ever really associates here with fashion despite the fact that she is really very pretty.  However, she put on the dog for this dance, and my spies tell me that there were some bulging eyes and dropping jaws, and even a number of the Beautiful People complimented her in surprise about her appearance.  (I didn’t see her myself because she got dressed at a friend’s and I had dozed off by the time she got home, but I got a preview last week so I can imagine what was going through their heads.)   I know she had a lot of fun dancing and chatting and whatnot, but I also suspect she got as much amusement out of spiking these people as anything else.

*Teh Youngest Gel:  Yesterday saw teh Youngest give her final appearance down the Folger Theatre as a member of St. Marie of the Blesséd Educational Method’s troupe of actors.  This year, her class did a stripped-down version of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors,  teh Gel playing the role of Angelo (or in this case, Angela) the Goldsmith.  (Curiously enough, I was cast for this same part in my first venture into theatre – I was a sophomore in high school, I think.  The play never came off for some reason or another, but still.)

The gel has a perfectly round head, enormous blue eyes and a small nose, the result being that her facial expressions are clearly visible when she’s up on stage.  Couple that with a lively personality, seemingly infinite lung capacity and a voice that can penetrate like a steam-whistle, and you’ve got acting gold.  (Gold, Jerry!)  I can very much see her pursuing an interest in theatre as she moves up to middle school and beyond.  Indeed, again looking back to my own high school days, she would have fit right in with the Drama Geek crowd at my old school, around the periphery of which I used to loiter.

Musing on her performance, it occurred to me to wonder about the origin of the expression “to ham it up” on stage.  This site gives the following explanation:  “1880–85; short for hamfatter, after The Hamfat Man, a black minstrel song celebrating an awkward man.”  Anybody know if this is true?  And are we even allowed to say such things anymore?  (I also looked up the lyrics to that song.  I sure as hell am not reposting them!)

Well, that’s it for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you unaware, today is the sesquicentennial (I love using that word whenever I can) of the Battle of New Market, Virginny, fought on this day in 1864.

As regular friends of the decanter may recall, ol’ Robbo has posted about this battle here before, once after a visit to the field itself (hit the linky to see a healthy, happy, stress-free Robbo before teenaged gels), and a second time to promote Mr. Charles Knight’s excellent book about the fight, Valley Thunder.

Over on FB recently, I have been tracking the fortunes of a new movie about the Virginia Military Institute Keydets who participated in the battle, called “The Field of Lost Shoes”.  I was going to plug in the trailer here, but it seems to have been yanked from teh innerwebz.  Oh, well.  I understand it has had a very limited initial theatrical release, but I don’t know anything about its future availability.

Ol’ Robbo would very much like to see this movie, it at all possible.

Not that I condone the Confederacy, of course  (I consider VMI to be rightly proud of the courage and self-sacrifice of her Keydets, not the cause in which they served), but I can’t help noticing that this film reminds me of several other independent, under-the-radar movie productions emphasizing themes of sacrifice to a higher cause not necessarily in favor in this day and age that have popped up in the past couple years.  (Specifically, I’m thinking of “The War of the Vendee” and “For Greater Glory”.)

Is it that such stories are being driven underground by our modern so-called cultchah?  Or that an Underground is beginning to emerge?




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Back in the day when he metro’d into work, ol’ Robbo was guaranteed at least some exercise every day by the fact that his office is about three quarters of a mile away from the stop where he got out.  Indeed, regular friends of the decanter may recall that I used to post random commuter observations here with some frequency.

However, this little routine went the way of the dodo almost two years ago when I started driving into town in connection with dropping off and picking up various gels at school.

I have felt its absence rayther keenly, both because I feel generally flabbier and also because my cholesterol has spiked somewhat and I don’t enjoy being yelled at by my doc.

Anyhoo, recently I have tried to rectify this situation by starting in on walks at lunchtime.  Indeed, I’ve developed a nice little loop slightly expanding on my previous path that is probably good for a solid mile and three quarters.  It ain’t exactly triathlete training, but I do feel the effects afterward and, after all, it’s better than nothing.

As I swing along, I sometimes listen to the conversation of the various office drones and touron groups I pass.  This often brings to mind that country song from a few years back with the punch line that goes, “God is great.  Beer is good.  And people are crazy.”

But more often than not, I give my thoughts free rein to wander where they will, leaving only a skeleton crew in the here and now to keep me from walking straight into lamp posts, oncoming traffic or fellow pedestrians.

As I was wool-gathering my way through an intersection this afternoon,  I heard a singsongy voice say, “Excuse me, Mr. Potentially Friendly Person….”  I registered a brief vision of a hippie with a clipboard, too.  It was only a second or two later that I realized the guy had actually been addressing me.  On this coming back to the present, I also became aware that the dude was yucking up the incident with one of his cohorts as well as, apparently, a group of people who had been directly behind me.   It would seem my blow-by was intensely amusing to all of them.

Not wishing to break my stride, I simply kept going.

Eh, it’s probably just as well he didn’t actually engage my attention at first, because I probably would have been pretty short with him.  We’ve reached a point in our wretched, festering culchah where politicks have become so poisonous that the only safe response to a stranger (or indeed, anyone other than one’s immediate family or closest personal friends) asking for one’s opinion on the hot-button topics of the day is, “That’s none of your business.”

And now, to tie in the title of this post and at the same time violently chang the subject, I give you a little Chicago.  I’ve always liked Chicago.  Forget the lyrics, which are the usual early 70’s hippie crap – to this day, I still don’t know what “25 or 6 to 4” is supposed to mean:  I’ve always  just thought they had a nice, fat sound, especially with that horn section, and some sweet harmonies.


Yes, I suppose I must denounce myself now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that ol’ Robbo’s eldest gel got her learner’s permit t’other day and spent a little time that afternoon poking about one of the local high school parking lots. 

Well, sir, that was Saturday and I naively thought said pokings would be the order of biznay for at least a week or two.

Riiiight.  As Diane Keaton, sending up Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski in Sleeper put it, “Ha!  You got that? Ha! HA!”

Little did I realize then how thoroughly bitten by teh driving bug teh gel actually was.

Sunday afternoon she spent several hours driving Mrs. R hither and yon across the greater part of Northern Virginia.  (And gas is only $3.85 a gallon now. Huzzay!)

Yesterday teh gel was in command of the Honda Juggernaut® v.2 as she and Mrs. R went to pick up teh youngest gel at St. Marie of the Blesséd Educational Method.

This evening, she piloted said beast – the car, not the youngest gel – home in the midst of a thunderstorm.  As she came in, she said, “Dad! I parked in the garage and everything! And I didn’t even hit your car!”

Wearily, I closed my eyes and quietly poured myself another glass of teh blushful Hippocrene.  What else can one do?

Anyhoo, Mrs. Robbo reports that in the few days she’s actually been on the road, teh gel’s driving has been superb- careful, conscientious, but not hesitant.  In fact, the reports indicate that teh gel is a natural.

Frankly, I’m not really surprised, come to think of it.   Like certain other members of the Family Robbo, she often baulks at others’ authority, but when she feels she’s in command she can do wonders.

Her next goal?  Driving to school.  Which, because of scheduling constraints, involves not teh Juggernaut, but ol’ Dad’s Wrangler…..

Permit me to reach over for just one more glass of that ol’ blushful H.

Although she sees no good reason why we shouldn’t begin the new regime immediately, I’ve explained to her several times over the past couple days that a stick is considerably different from an automatic, as is a little ol’ fly-weight 4X4 from a full-sized SUV, and that she can’t just jump into the pilot’s seat and take off.

Nonetheless, ol’ Robbo sees the writing on the wall:  If we’re not out at the HS parking lot some time this weekend popping the clutch and grinding the gears, then I’m a Dutchman.

Wish me luck, my fellow port swillers:   When something interests her, teh gel is a great student.  I, on the other hand, am a lousy teacher.  We shall see what happens…..

In the meantime, Robbo is listening to:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of teh decanter will recall that yesterday I put up a post ranting about the Catholic-baiting “black mass” that was set to come off up at Harvard this evening?  Well I was quite pleasantly surprised this morning by a statement released by the (deliciously named) President of Harvard, Drew Faust, no doubt in response to the furor that has blossomed up in response to this blasphemy.  Money quote:

But even as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree. The ‘black mass’ had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.

She goes on to state that she plans to attended Eucharistic worship and Benediction to show her sympathies to Holy Mother Church in this affair.

I am willing to giver President Faust two cheers for taking this stance in such a public manner.  I’m withholding the third because of her refusal to follow through on the logic of her statement and ban the damned thing altogether, a move I’m sure she would have had no moral or intellectual problem making had the offending expression been, say, a cross- burning or the desecration of a pile of Korans.  In other words, I think she’s probably acting pursuant to tactical political calculus, not conviction.

Still, this is Hahvahd, so we should be grateful to take what we can get.

UPDATE:  A bit confusing, but it would seem that late this afternoon, owing to the general backlash, the organizers of the “black mass” decided to move it off campus.  It seems now that, unable to find a friendly venue, they’ve cancelled the thing altogether, at least for the moment.   Suck it, Screwtape!

UPDATE DEUX:  Well, there’s still some confusion as to what actually happened in re some kind of “rump” black mass – it seems to have dwindled down to nothing more than a few D&D types sitting in some bar – but check out this story and teh awesome pics with it regarding the Eucharistic Procession and Holy Hour got up to combat the sacrilege.  I think this is exactly the right response.  Indeed, looking at those photos left me walking on air all day today.  Laus Deo.


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May 2014