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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Amidst the stories of spreading domestic and international collapse that seem to be saturating the nooz these days, trust ol’ Robbo to come up with some little bits of historickal trivia to go along with the port and Stilton here.  (I didn’t coin my byline for nothing, after all.)  Oddly, two items that caught the Port-Swiller eye today both came from the Smithsonian.

Richard IIIThe first one will be especially appreciated by our Maximum Leader.  According to recent forensic pathology, Richard III drank like a fish and indulged in exotic meals:

After he became king, the scientists found, his diet changed significantly. Now he was eating freshwater fish and wild birds. If Richard III’s banquets were anything like other medieval feasts researchers know about, Phys.org adds, then those festivities most likely included wild birds such as swans, cranes, herons and egrets.

Hey, why not.  “It’s good to be da king!” **

Somewhere or other I recently saw a headline asking why Richard has been so vilified in art and history (not that anybody these days really even knows who the hell he was, of course).  Well, I think Maxy will agree with me that it was all a matter of Renaissance politicks and propaganda.  Our primary picture of Richard – the last of the Plantagenets, the only legitimate English Royal family – comes, of course, from the pen of ol’ Will Shakespeare.  Will was writing during the reign of Elizabeth I, the grand-daughter of the fellah who overthrew Richard, Henry Tudor.  The legal grounds for Henry’s actions were, shall we say, a tad shaky.  So ol’ Will, who was no fool, turned Richard into the literal Embodiment of Eeeeeevil in order to keep on the good side of the Tudors.

Yes, I am gradually coming around to the Richard III Society view of things.

The second was an announcement of a new display about Grant and Lee down the National Portrait Gallery which I very much wish to see.  Among other art and artifacts, the NPS apparently has got hold of Winslow Homer’s painting, “Skirmish in the Wilderness”, which illustrates the confusion and claustrophobia of the first great clash between Grant and Lee in 1864:

Winslow Homer, "Skirmish in the Wilderness", 1864

Winslow Homer, “Skirmish in the Wilderness”, 1864

I’ve only ever seen this reproduced in various books (with varying levels of detail and lighting) and look forward to viewing the real thing.

grantLeeAnyhoo, as a teaser, the article asks the question:  Which General was Better, Grant or Lee?

The more I think about it, the more useless this question strikes me, simply because it’s an apples and oranges comparison.  Yes, Grant beat Lee, so you could go by that, but there are such vast differences in their respective assets, authorities, support, strategic and tactical goals, and, for want of a better way of putting it, their fortunes of war, that I simply can’t come up with an honest head-to-head comparison of their talents and abilities.  After all, it’s not as if they were standing side by side on a free-throw line.

On the other hand, if you judge the question not by its substantive merits but by its goal – to attract attention – it is far from useless.  After all, it’s snagged at least one viewer for the exhibit……

 

** Spot the quote.

GRATUITOUS OFF-DAY UPDATE:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’ve got nothing new tonight, or at least nothing coherent.  So I will instead follow up on the excellent Richard III discussion here by reposting an old favorite which crosses many, many streams.  Enjoy!

 

N.C. Wyeth, "One More Step, Mr. Hands" - Illustration for Treasure Island.

N.C. Wyeth, “One More Step, Mr. Hands” – Illustration for Treasure Island.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently, ol’ Robbo found himself with a hankering for some straight-from-the-shoulder adventure books.  To this end, he absolutely devoured P.C. Wren’s French Foreign Legion trilogy, Beau Geste, Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal (together with numerous short stories relating to the Family Geste), as well as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

I admit that in my nearly fifty years on this earth I had read none of these books before this current summah.  And yes, I denounce myself.

What fun! What absolute fun!  On the other hand, what an almost pathetic sense of nostalgia for a former time, for an era in which Western Civilization – and specifically, Anglo-Saxon Western Civilization – was unapologetically muscular and self-confident.  Ironical, ain’t it, that I’m just now coming to them in the last embers of said civilization.  Rayther like a mid-5th Century Roman stumbling across the works of Virgil and Horace and Livy, I suppose.

Anyhoo,  what can one do but play the hand one is dealt?  I am indulging myself further with Stevenson’s Kidnapped and its sequel, Catriona, and would be delighted with any other suggestions for similar works that any friends of the decanter may care to offer.  (I should note that any recommendations of the works of James Fenimore Cooper will be met with cold but polite silence.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In teh past few weeks, ol’ Robbo can’t help but have noticed seeing a number of videos on the Innertoobs of various people – not just celebs, pols, athletes and whatnot, but real people he actually knows – having buckets of ice water poured on their heads.

Yesterday, teh youngest gel came home from her friend’s house, grinning ear to ear and carrying on her iWhateveritis a film of her friend pouring a bucket of ice water over her head.

“Okay, look,” I said, “Just what the heck is all this about anyway?”

“Um,” she said, “Well, there’s like this guuuy?  And he’s really rich? And he, like, is challenging people to film themselves, like, pouring iced water on their heads?  And, like, if you post the video and he, like, sees it?  He’ll give $100 to study some disease nobody’s ever heard of!”

(On further review, I see she got it about half right.)

“Well,” I said, “If he wants to give a lot of money to some worthy charity, why doesn’t he just do it instead of asking people to make fools of themselves in public?”

“DAAAA-aaad!” she replied, “That’s not the way it works these days!”

Now there she was spot on.  (I couldn’t help thinking of an old Bill Cosby bit in which he said, “Can you BELIEVE ‘Let’s Make A Deal?’  And that the people on that program are AMERICANS?”  Yes, yes I can.)

Iced water on the head is just the latest notch up, but in fact I’ve never been much of a fan of what one might call “public displays of charity” – the ribbons and the t-shirts and the this and that showing one’s concern for some cause or other.  Indeed, I seem to recall that a Certain Somebody didn’t think much of such displays either.

I know my viewpoint is in the minority these days, but I’m certainly not alone:

I Don't Like This Guy

I Don’t Like This Guy

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Please pardon the post-hols silence from your humble host, but we’ve been having another outbreak of the Joys of Home-Ownership here at Port Swiller Manor this week.  Would you like to hear about it?  Super! Thanks for asking!

Whelp, ol’ Robbo had gone down the office Tuesday as per usual, leaving teh gels home to squander some of their last remaining summah vacation time.  (Mrs. R had stayed up in Connecticut for a couple extra days to visit with her parents and grandmother.)

If you will recall, Tuesday was a day of torrential rains throughout much of the South-East and Mid-Atlantic.  The area immediately around the port swiller demesne was no exception.

About midday, I got a call from the Middle Gel.

“Daaaaaad, there’s a puddle in the [basement] study!” she said.

“Well,” I replied, thinking it was just some wet coming through a window frame,”just drop a towel on it for now.”

“Okay,” she said.

A bit later, she called back.

“Um, Dad, the puddle is getting bigger.”

“Well,  put down some more towels.”

This back and forth went on for a while.  Finally, I suggested she call Mrs. X, a friend of ours who was on stand-bye babysitting duty in case the gels needed immediate assistance while I was off at work.

A short while later I learned that what had originally been described to me as a mere “puddle” was, in fact, a couple inches of water spreading rapidly across the entire basement floor.  At this point, I did what any sensible husband would do and called Mrs. Robbo.

“Mooommy!” I said.

Mrs. R then leapt into action from afar, getting hold of our contractor, who in turn immediately sent a crew along to start damage control.

It was only when I got home that evening that I learned of the full scope of the thing:  Carpet ruined.  Pergo in my study ruined.  Baseboards gone.  Bottom of drywall saturated.  In addition, I found that the  Internet servy-routy-thingamajig was dead (as was the printer), which is why I have not had access to the Webz until this evening.

Oh, and a consultation with our soon-to-be-former homeowner’s insurance revealed their attitude that once rain hit the ground, it was our problem, not theirs.  (I picked a hell of a week to quit moonlighting as a drug mule.)

It was also only when I got home that I learned the youngest gel had been trying to unplug things while standing in the flood.  I believe I aged several years right about then.

So what was the cause, you ask?  The rain was coming down so heavily that it overwhelmed all the drainage measures out front and ponded up against the house directly above the basement wall.  It then found its way down between the cinderblocks (which have been showing signs of age, wear and tear for some time) and bled out into the basement at a rate far, far greater than anything I’ve ever seen in 14+ years of residence here.   I blame Manbearpig.

So you lot know what all this means, of course?  That’s right, MOAR RENOVATIONS!

For one thing, they’re going to have to excavate at the side of the house to come at the leaky basement wall and repair it.  They”re also going to put in new floors in the basement (Pergo all the way this time), replace the two feet of drywall they had to cut out all the way around and install a sump pump.  Mrs. R, seeing an opportunity, has also declared that what was once nominally my workshop is going to be converted into another bathroom for the use of houseguests who stay at the Manor.  (The study doubles as a guest room, you see, and to date lodgers have been forced to endure the horrors of the gels’ bathroom upstairs if they wanted to shower up.)

In the meantime, of course, we’ve had to move all the furniture and things out of the basement and are presently working out places in which to stuff them for the duration of the project.  Also, although I got Verizon to run a cable up to a new router in the living room, we won’t have access to the teevee downstairs until it’s all put back together again.

As you can imagine, everything is all ahoo at the moment and probably will be for some time.

At any rate, there you have it.   Seeing as I will not be able to watch my beloved Nationals on the teevee or listen to my stereo in the evening for the foreseeable future, I imagine I may spend rayther more time hanging around here than usual.

UPDATE:  Spent much of the morning moving things out of the basement and trying to jury-rig something close to normalcy.  Not much hope of that, but at the least I managed to set up my stereo and CD player in a corner of the living room so I can listen to musick (with headphones, of course).  I also found a place for the little teevee and DVD player, so I can carry on Netflixing.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Daddy is home from Peru.  (Spot the riff, if you can.  I’m actually back from Maine, of course.)

All in all, a fairly relaxing week staring at the bay, marred only by the fact that ol’ Robbo neglected to pack his tummy medicine before setting out, in part out of 4 ack emma sloth, in part because he figured that the absence of the usual workaday stresses would render said meds unnecessary.

Well, I was wrong about that.  After the last dosage had cleared the ol’ system, the Port-Swiller tummy began to do a thoroughly unpleasant buck-and-wing, in turn rendering your host somewhat, shall we say, dyspeptic to those around him.  After a few days, Mrs. R got so tired of it that she went into town herself, found some more meds, returned to teh cottage and shoved them at me with a curt, “Take them, dammit!”

Ah, middle age……

Anyhoo, a few odds and ends:

♦   Made the run from Westport, CT to Port Swiller Manor in the wilds of NoVA in 4 1/2 hours yesterday morning, including two Indy-like pit stops.  Not that I’ve ever kept a log or anything, but I believe this to be a personal medal run.   I’m not a reckless driver, but I’ve always been somewhat lead-footed, especially when traffic is relatively light, as it was Sunday morning.  (Note, however, to that red van with Indiana plates:  If you insist on doing 65 mph on the south end of the Jersey Turnpike, do it in the right-hand lane, for Heaven’s sake!  You’ve no idea how many near-accidents I saw involving hot-heads trying to get around you.)

♦   We had a friend come in and house-sit for us while we were away.  I was delighted to see that all the porch plants survived and thrived in our absence and that none of the cats was killed by the others.  Oddly, it seemed to me that the two kittens (a little over a year old now) appear to have grown in our absence.  I always thought cats reached full stature in about a year, but teh gels insist that their growth cycle is longer than that.  Any of you know?

♦  Speaking of growth, I also was delighted to note that the jasmine I planted earlier this year – about which  friends of the decanter may recall my blathering at length – all have new leaves on them, a sign that they like where they have been put.  And while we’re on the subject of gardening, I would also note that I have a climbing rose out front, an Improved Blaze.  For some years I have not touched the thing, and it gradually got so tall as to start getting tangled in the second-story gutter.  This would be fine, except that every year after its glorious bloom and when the weather started hotting up, it would promptly shed all its leaves, rendering me open to snide remarks from teh Middle Gel about putting out the Halloween decorations too early.  Well, this year I decided on radical action:  After it was done blooming, I cut the thing way, way back (to about four feet high, in fact).  For a number of weeks I had nothing but a handful of canes left and thought I might have killed it, but this morning I noticed new shoots on each and every one of them.   Yay.

♦   I read four books while loafing about the Port-Swiller summah cottage:

–   Hercules, My Shipmate by Robert Graves, a rendering of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts in the form of an historickal novel.  I’ve read this book many times before.  Once you get past Graves’ paganism (I think he really believed his carryings-on about an ancient, all-encompassing Mother Goddess usurped by the followers of more recent fraudulent religions – including Christianity), it’s a jolly fun and rayther lusty adventure story.

–  Haydn’s Visits to England by Christopher Hogwood, a delightful little book (an extended essay, really) giving a day-to-day overview of Papa’s doings in Blighty.  One thing I learned (this was my first time reading it) was that the Prince Regent was very, very attentive to Haydn during his visits.  Good.  I think very little of George IV in the main, but credit where it is due.

Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.  Just to keep my ire up against that rat-bastard Jean-Jacques Rousseau and all of his ideological spawn who have dedicated themselves to establishing Heaven on Earth, even at the need of putting millions of said Earth’s inhabitants to fire and sword for their own good.   The book came out in January 2008 but seems all the more timely now.  (Incidentally, I’ve decided to devote a deal of time this fall to rereading Locke, Smith and Burke and to finally introducing myself directly to Hayek.)

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle.  I’ve long been a fan of the movie (which I’ll probably pop in when I’m done with this post), but this was my first time reading the novel, which Mrs. R picked up for me somewhere for a dollar.  What a lot of fun!  And how refreshing to find a young author (he was about 29 when he wrote it) who isn’t a first-class, self-absorbed, whiney wanker.  I’m curious about how those more Doyle-conscious than me think about the differences between book and movie:  The latter, while, I think, adhering nicely to the tone of the book, did turn Joey The Lips inside out as a character, and its soundtrack had very, very little overlap with that of the former, but most of the differences strike me as de minims.   Was Doyle involved in teh movie?

♦  Didn’t look at the Innertoobs a single time while on hols, so I’ve much on which to catch up.  What did I miss?  (I see this evening that Robin Williams killed himself.  Depression, apparently.  I despised much about him during his career, but you hate to see something like this happen to anybody.)

♦  To be honest, however, I did ask teh gels to keep me posted on my beloved Nats’ doings while we were away.   From what I see at this point, I am (touching wood) pretty confident that we are going to win the NL East.  On the other hand, I also think the Dodgers are going to win the NL pennant and that the A’s will beat them in the Series.

♦  Whelp, now that the summah hols are over and ol’ Robbo turns his attention to the impending start of school and other fall activities, I have to ask:  Just where the hell did this year get to?

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