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Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and Happy New Year!
Ol’ Robbo writes this a few hours prematurely because I’m about to sign off and go help prepare Port Swiller Manor for the celebratory shindig we’ll be hosting this year. As per immemorial custom, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family will be joining us, as will my brother and his wife. (Their teenaged kids will not be coming, however, because they already have “other plans”. I shudder at the thought. Not in a jillion years would I travel out of state and leave my own brood free range at home.) Meanwhile, the Gels all seem to have perpetually-evolving schemes to have over some of their own friends (girls and boys), so ol’ Robbo will be on ceaseless patrol tonight to ensure no funny biznay.
Anyhoo, I’m guessing that more than one friend of the decanter is as eager as I am to see the back of 2016. What a year. Not that I can complain on a personal level, you understand, but yeesh. Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember the malaise at the end of the Carter Era. You can take it from me: This is worse. At least Carter stepped down with some modicum of dignity left.
On the other hand, I’ve pretty much been laughing my backside off since November and my shaden-boner continues to be yuge and spectacular. I have absolutely no illusions about 2017 and what is coming for our country. However, I think, I think, that we may be at the point Churchill was talking about when he said it was not the beginning of the end or the middle of the front or the left turn at Albuquerque or whatever it was. (I think Winston had had a few when he said that. Gandalf put it much more crisply when he spoke of meeting at the turning of the tide. “The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned.”) The progressivists, in their greed and arrogance, have overreached and been checked. The coming year will see what kind of counterattack can be mustered. Really, it’s as simple as that. As I say, I have no illusions. But I do know it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
In the meantime, enjoy yourselves tonight, stay safe, have another one on me, and I’ll see you on the other side.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo mentioned the grinding dullness of the drive down I-95 south of DeeCee in the post below. This is due in large part to the fact that there are few natural landmarks or other geographical phenomena to break it up: The landscape simply turns from endless gentle hills to endless low country swamp to endless sandbar. The trees simply turn from endless slash pine to endless palmetto and orange groves.
One of the very few exceptions to this monotony is Lake Marion, which one crosses about midway through South Carolina. (Historickally-minded friends of the decanter will know that it is named after Francis Marion, the Revolutionary War hero known as the “Swamp Fox” for his guerrilla operations in those parts. They will also know that Marion was the basis for about half of Mel Gibson’s character in the ridiculously inaccurate movie “The Patriot”, the other half being filched from the life of Daniel Morgan.)
Anyhoo, as we crossed over said lake, a thought wandered into ol’ Robbo’s braim: With respect to just about* every other kind of body of water, in American English we always put the proper name first: The Atlantic Ocean; San Francisco Bay; Pearl Harbor; the Mississippi River; Walden Pond; Cedar Creek; Bob’s Run, etc.. However, with lakes we do just the opposite: Lake Michigan; Lake Marion; Lake Wazzapamani; Lake O’ The Woods, etc.**
Why is this?
I suppose it probably has something to do with early French exploration in North America, with their convention of naming such bodies of water Lac Such-and-Such. But if this is the case, why didn’t this juxtaposition also carry over to rivers, creaks, and the like?
(No, ol’ Robbo wasn’t going road happy. I really find this sort of thing quite fascinating. Apparently nobody else in the family does, however: When I floated the question in the car it was met with silence.)
* I’ll give you “bayou” (as in Bayou Lafourche). “Gulf” (as in Gulf of Mexico or Gulf of Maine) also seems to be an exception, but it’s curious that the name always seems to include that “of”. And don’t we say “Leyte Gulf”? Okay, maybe “bight” (as in “Bight of Benin”), too, but then again there’s a Bigelow Bight in Maine.
** I specify American English because the Brits seem to name their lakes the other way ’round.
UPDATE: Yes, I should have put in a general caveat about exceptions to the rule. I knew that even as I hit the “post” button. I also knew that some smart guy would come in and call me out if I didn’t. Centuwion! Thwow this man to the gwound! (The welease Wodger…)
Greetings, my fellow Port Swillers!
Yes, it can be revealed now that ol’ Robbo is safe and sound back at Port Swiller Manor: We drove to Florida (pronounced “Flahr-duh” by the snowbird transplants) for Christmas this year, chiefly to spend time with Mrs. R’s grandmother, who is confined to a rehab facility with health issues. We arrived there just before lunch time on Christmas Eve and just in time to listen to a gaggle of kids come in and serenade the inmates with appropriate holiday songs. Seeing said grandmother surrounded by great-grand-daughters and listening with evident delight was quite touching.
And yes, ol’ Robbo got himself to Mass on Christmas morning. The padre had such a thick Brooklyn accent, I couldn’t understand him at first. Alas, I was able to pick up on it in time for his homily, which (despite its perfectly orthodox message about God’s presence) was mostly one-liners and Oprah-like Inspirational Stories. The congregation applauded. I glared.
All in all, however, a nice trip.
Except for this driving biznay. Two thousand miles there and back exactly, according to my odometer. And yesterday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of another night mewed up in a hotel room with the gels, we decided to make the return home non-stop. (We had split the down-trip over three days, in part so the gels could have an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios as a present from the grandparents.) Fourteen and a half hours (or near enough) on the road – a personal record for me – nearly all of it on I-95 which, south of Dee Cee, is at once both terrifying and grindingly dull. (And yes, I did all the driving.)
This morning, I still can’t feel my left thumb or forefinger for all that compulsive clutching at the wheel.
This was our third road trip to Flahrduh in about ten years. Mrs. R and I decided that it was also our last: Next time, we fly.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, what with commitments too complicated to get into here, it looks as if Ol’ Robbo will not be able to find the time to get at the Port Swiller keyboard again soon. So let me go ahead and wish you all here and now a very, very Merry Christmas! (And yes, I’ve been saying that instead of “Happy Holidays” all over the place the past couple days. Snooks to them!)
Through prayer and concentration over the last few years, I am happy to say that I believe I have just about battle-proofed myself against the pernicious effects of the modern, secular X-mas spirit, and can instead focus on the True Meaning relatively (albeit not completely) free of such distractions.
And in that vein, let us again savor Luke’s description (and yes, even though I’m now a Catholic, I can’t let go of the beauty of the King James Version):
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
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.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
– Luke 2: 1-20
I don’t know why it is, but every time I read or hear this passage – particular verses 13 and 14 – I get the chills. (Well, I guess I do know why, actually. Alas, I’d love to be able to convey the feeling – in word, paint, or note – but unfortunately haven’t anything like the skill to do so.)
Anyhoo, as I say, have a merry, joyous Christmas for all the right reasons! (And try to behave yourselves.) I’ll see you all on the other side and, having topped off my glass of port and heaved an enormous sigh, may perhaps give you some highlights of my own. (As I say, it’s all going to be very complicated.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent some time this evening overseeing Eldest Gel as she filled out her very first W-4 form. She’s got a gig with a local smoothie shop and will be putting in some hours over Christmas break mostly with an eye to cementing the position for this summah.
On the Stern Old Dad side, I must say that I think this kind of lower-tier service job is absolutely crucial to the development of the young people, especially those, like mine, who have lead relatively comfortable (dare I say spoiled?) lives heretofore. Show ’em a thing or two about the Real World and give ’em some appreciation and respect for those who have to do such dog work. (Ol’ Robbo himself spent time working as a bag boy at a golf club and as a counter guy in a supermarket deli back in the day. My habit of over-tipping in restaurants and hotels is a direct result.)
On the Cynic side, I was amused at the Gel’s reaction to dealing with the paperwork: “They want my address AGAIN? I just wrote it on the other sheet! How many times do I have to repeat it?”
My reply: “At least once more than you think necessary. Because that’s what gubmint does.”
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yesterday or the day before, the Moron Horde over at Ace’s place were grumbling about teh various “holiday” concerts their publick skewls were putting on this week and said concerts’ near total lack of anything approach, you know, Christmas pieces.
Oddly, enough, Middle Gel’s concert happened to be this week. And even more oddly, it was very much chock-a-block with genuine seasonal musick – both religious and secular carols, and a great big Vivaldi setting of the “Gloria” which, thanks to YooToob, I can actually post here:
Middle Gel is second from the left on the top riser. (Go ahead and tell me why a girl no taller than 5’3” gets put back there.) And – starting at around the 8:00 mark – she’s the one on the right for the “Laudamus Te” duet. (The sound quality isn’t the greatest, but I know the Mothe will like to see this.)
Looking over the programme, I also noticed a curious little disclaimer:
The County Public Schools Music Program of Studies requires the performance of literature that is both sacred and secular. A balance of music selected and performed from among historical and contemporary composers, genres, and periods is achieved through the course of a year’s instruction and not within any individual concert.
I believe that’s the system’s polite way of telling potential lawsuit-happy trouble-makers to go pound sand. Good on them, says I!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo’s office “holiday” party was held today. Ol’ Robbo cut it completely dead.
Honestly, I can think of very few things more boring, yet at the same time more dangerous, than one of these office shindigs. Boring because, in my misanthropic opinion, all parties are boring. (Karaoke? Seriously? How old are you?) Dangerous because, well…., let’s just say that Ol’ Robbo’s general world-view is not exactly aligned with the majority sentiment in his place of employment. And one would not want the odd casual observation to cry Hater! and let slip the dogs of politickal correctness against oneself, now, would one?
So I quietly stuck to my desk. Call it a Bartleby-style revolt against the Modern Age and all it stands for.
Of course, this was hardly spontaneous. Not that anyone asked yet, but I was completely teed up with both the “I had some kind of stomach thing the other day and I don’t want to infect anyone” and the “Gosh, I’d love to come, but I’ve got to read through this depo transcript” excuses. (Both true, as a matter of fact.) Then there’s the “quiet, keeps to himself” persona I’ve been nurturing for many years. They want to roll their eyes and shake their heads? Let ’em!
At any event, I think I’m covered.
Bah, humbug indeed.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
On my way home last week, I stopped into a shop in the Denver airport to pick up a bottle of water. I didn’t have any cash left and I couldn’t bring myself to put just two bucks on my credit card, so I also snapped up a paperback copy of Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. I had dimly recalled reading some good reviews of a book they did a few years back about George Washington’s spy ring, so I thought well, why not?
Well, I suppose that the sub-heading on the cover (“The Forgotten War That Changed American History”) should have given me some clue. “Forgotten” war? The Aroostook County War is a “forgotten” war. The Battle of Picacho Pass is a “forgotten” skirmish. Any reasonably-educated American ought to at least have heard of the Barbary Wars, if not remembering their details.
(Of course, my definition of “reasonably-educated” may vary somewhat from other folks’ these days.)
At any rate, it turns out to be a very superficial account. Not a bad way to waste a rainy afternoon if you actually don’t know anything about the period, but I can’t say that I got anything out of it at all. (I was encouraged by the book’s suggestion that Capt. William Bainbridge probably could and should have stayed with the U.S.S. Philadelphia after she grounded in Tripoli Harbor instead of immediately abandoning her to the enemy.) I also thought that its conclusion that the experience picked up by the young American Navy in its few brushes with the Pirate Fleets stood them in good stead for taking on the Royal Navy in the War of 1812 was probably an overstatement. And I was disappointed that the book only hinted at, rayther than exploring deeper, the obvious historic parallels between that period and the dealings we have with modern potentates in exactly the same region (motivated by exactly the same worldview).
Eh. Maybe I’ll give it to one of the kids.
On the other hand, flipping through the bibliography, I came across two books I also own: Ian Toll’s Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy and Richard Zacks’ The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805. Go read those, instead.
Speaking of books, every now and again regular Friend of the Decanter Old Dominion Tory sends ol’ Robbo a parcel of books on various topics of military history. At the moment, I am about a quarter way through one of ODT’s most recent offerings, Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket by Richard Holmes.
I hadn’t heard of Holmes before. However, when I mentioned him on a FaceBuke page dedicated to the writings of George MacDonald Fraser, I received an overwhelming burst of enthusiastic praise from other GMF sharks.
I can see why. Holmes is all over his subject (i.e., the British Army of the Georgian and Victorian Eras): Organization, weapons and uniform, tactics, support staff, individual personalities – in short, everything that shaped Tommy Atkins – you name it and it’s there. He covers these matters through a combination of numerous citations to source letters (and records) and a kind of rambling series of linked anecdotes. I’d love to go to dinner with this guy and then spend the evening over a bottle of good single malt.
Eldest Gel arrived home this morning from college for winter break toting a draft of a 20 page paper* she needs to hand in by the end of the week for her history class.
The subject? Richard III in fact and legend.
Her conclusion? I’m sorry to have to say this in front of our Maximum Leader, but the Gel came to the conclusion that Richard probably was about as rotten as history made him out to be, and it wasn’t all just pro-Tudor propaganda pushed by Shakespeare and St. Thomas More. She seems especially keyed up about the deaths of the Young Princes.
“Ask yourself,” she said. “Who else had the motive to kill them? Who else had the means? What other logical possibility is there?”
I asked her if she’d checked out the Richard III Society and their efforts to rehabilitate the man.
“Are you kidding me?” she responded, “Go over there are read their arguments! They’re all conjecture! When you have facts and sources, come back and talk to me! In the meantime, shut up!”
I haven’t actually read the paper yet (she’s asked me to proof the next-to-last draft), and frankly, I don’t really even know enough myself to offer an opinion on her conclusions, but I will say that I’ve never known her to put this much effort into research and organization.
(And regardless of your opinion of this controversy, you will note, I hope, that the Gel is expending her energies on it rayther than on femynist underwater basket-weaving. I call that a win.)
* The assignment only called for 10 to 12 pages. The Gel’s opus blossomed because she found herself so engrossed in the subject.
UPDATE: Heh. Read the draft. Her rhetorical style needs some work (she tends to get the bit between her teeth and become rayther….overheated) and I found some silly grammar mistakes, but her organization is pretty solid, and I actually learned a thing or two about the Yorks and Lancasters that I hadn’t known before. Oh, and Maxy, you actually get a passing mention (as “a friend of my father’s”) as an example of someone keenly interested on the pro-Richard side.
Speaking of Shakespeare and posting Larry’s picture above also reminds me that I watched the 1980 Beeb production of “Hamlet” the other day, with Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart (with hair!), Claire Bloom, and Lalla “Romana” Ward as Ophelia. That was the Golden Age of Beeb TeeVee: Simple sets, cheesy effects, throw-away musick, but rock-solid RSC acting. I highly recommend it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Sorry for the lack of heads up before hand, but Ol’ Robbo has been away from Port Swiller Manor on biznay since last Sunday afternoon. I’m writing out a draft of this post in longhand as I wing my way home Thursday morning, and (God willing) will have got back safe and sound and able to read my own scrawlings by the time it appears in pixel form here. (UPDATE: I did, as you probably have figured out already.)
A beastly-rotten flight to Denver last Sunday – very late, over-booked, and horrid headwinds and cross-currents the entire way as that Arctic storm came sweeping into the west. My two colleagues – seasoned fliers and not white-knuckled cowards like Ol’ Robbo – both said it was the worst flight they’d ever been on. I came through surprisingly well, however, in part because I had reached a point of nervous exhaustion where I simply didn’t give a damn anymore, in part because I was highly amused by the early-middle-aged gal in the seat in front of me who got quite flown in drink and spent most of the flight hitting on the hunky young guy next to her. (I noticed other people around us also rolling their eyes at each other and smiling.)
In contrast, this flight is shaping up to be fast, smooth, and uneventful. So far, the only entertainment has been the big, snoring fellah next to me getting knee-capped by the hipster-doofus steward with the drinks cart. The H-D didn’t even apologize. (UPDATE: Later on, the older woman sitting next to me invited me to look out the window at something or other on the ground as we came across the Appalachians. I shamefully had to decline because of my fear of hights. She seemed quite surprised.) Read the rest of this entry »