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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A four day weekend for Ol’ Robbo. WOOT!  As noted below, my primary task, if I can muster the energy for it, will be to clean up cat pee in the basement.  I know exactly which cat does this and exactly why: The eldest of the three, and she does it when she’s mad at me about something.  In this case, recently I’ve broken up a number of squabbles between her and the two younger ones and chased her off, so she went and got even with me.  The result is pretty stinky.

This same cat has been yacking all over everything this summah as well – tables, chairs, rugs, the shelf in my closet where she likes to sleep.

She’s about thirteen or so, now.  It may sound a bit cold, but I don’t think she’s going to be all that terribly missed when she shuffles off.

Speaking of animals, I see that PETA hit the trifecta of silliness this week.  First, it decided to pick a fight with the Murr’land crabbing industry on the grounds that crabs are people, too.  [Narrator’s voice: They’re not.]  I laugh at this one mostly from the sidelines since I rarely eat crab myself – the meat’s a tad too much on the sweet side for my taste.

Then, there’s its campaign to get a memorial put up on Route 1 in Maine where a lobstah truck crashed near Brunswick.  (The MDOT quietly said go pound sand.)  Now with this one PETA strikes closer to home, since Ol’ Robbo truly lurves him some lobstah.  Alas, I didn’t make it up ta Maine this year, and although this is going to sound horridly snobbish, the truth is that when you’re used to buying them straight off the boat, you shudder at the idea of getting them from some supermarket tank hundreds of miles away.

Finally, and perhaps most insanely, there’s PETA’s victory over the Animal Crackers box design. Yes! No more circus cages! The pictures of the animals are now free-range… of animals.  Take that, Nabisco! We shall overcoooome….!!! (In fact, this doesn’t even appear to be enough for some people, but I’ll be damned if I link to Vox.)

Speaking of which, is there anyone on the planet who didn’t think it intensely amusing as a small child to bite the head off the animal cracker first and proudly display the remains?  Seems to me that’s a pretty telling clue about the hard-wired relationship in our braims between Man and the animal kingdom.

Remember with all of these: Somebody gets up in the morning and goes to work to do this.  And somebody else actually pays them to do so.

UPDATE:  Apropos to a post on insanity and virtue-signaling, I was in line at the store a little while ago.  When the old coot in front of me got up to the register, he loudly said, “Paper, please! No plastic for me, heh, heh!”  He then flipped a smug, triumphant smile around to everyone.

Brave man.  Brave man.

That reminded me of the gnus earlier this week that Kroger is going to do away with plastic grocery bags in its stores.

I don’t shop at Kroger’s.  In fact, I don’t even know where the closest one to me would be.  Instead, we usually go to the local Gourmet Giant (pronounced “Ger-may Gee-aun“.  The other choices are a couple of Safeways, both of which are grungy and depressing, or else the new hipster Harris-Teeter (known as “Heinous Ta-Tas” in my misspent yoot).  So far as I know, none of these chains is following Kroger’s lead.

Which is just as well.  I mention the three cats above.  Well, we also have three kitty-litters that seem to need scooping constantly, and all the groc bags we bring home get “repurposed” for holding cat poo.  I just don’t see paper bags working out quite the same way.

Of course, Kroger and PETA would probably argue that the way around that is to not have cats in the first place, to which I would reply, “Oh, go ban yourselves.”




Greetings, my fellow port swillers.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t think it very sporting to speak ill of the deceased, especially when they haven’t even been planted in the ground yet, so I will say nothing here about my opinion of the late Sen. John McCain himself, but I have to admit that I am really pretty appalled by this week’s events.

First, there was the very specific and public snubbing of both the President and Sarah Palin.  This was petty and vindictive and speaks of pure meanness, particularly with respect to Palin, who had stayed loyal to McCain even after he more than once humiliated her.

Then there’s this Progress across the country.  Five different memorial services? Really? Since when did the guy become Caesar?

Finally, there’s the sick-making politicks of this whole spectacle.  McCain was a useful idiot to the Establishment (and the Press, but I repeat myself) in life – “Maverick” when he crossed his own party and constituents, a “Nazi warmonger” when, for example, he dared to run against the Light-bringer in 2008. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember that.)  He’s being used as a tool of the Establishment here again as it launches a Paul Wellstone Memorial-like pep rally at which it is slapping itself on the back while at the same time spitting poison at outsiders and deplorables. The big shindig at the National Cathedral is either tomorrow or Saturday, and I think it’s at this one that the Light-bringer himself is going to deliver a eulogy.  No power in the ‘verse could compel me to watch it.

Instead, I’ll be scrubbing cat-pee stains out of the basement carpet and considering that a more pleasant option.

UPDATE:  Yep, looks like they went full Wellstone.  Never go full Wellstone.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last summah, after the unpleasantness in Charlottesville, the New Jacobins reckoned the time was ripe for the long knives to come out for Washington & Lee University, Ol’ Robbo’s law school alma mater.  How could a modern institution of liberal learning continue to associate itself with such racist haters?  Huh? Huh? The only “correct” approach was obviously to disappear them from campus altogether.

In response, President Dudley set up a Commission on Institutional History and Community. (This slightly Orwellian-sounding committee was chaired, I might add, by Prof. Brian Murchison of the Law School.  I took a couple courses with Murch back in the day, and spent a summah doing legal research for an article he was writing on libel law.  Good guy.)  The Committee looked into various issues surrounding the historickal relationship of both Washington and Lee to the school, and What It All Means in the modern context.

Personally, when I first heard of all this, I reckoned the school was gone, another victim of the Red Tide and soon to be renamed Patrice Lumumba University, West Campus.

Well, the Committee released its findings this week and President Dudley issued his response.  It is a surprisingly sober, balanced, and most of all mature document.  A sample:

We are Washington and Lee University. The explanation of how George Washington, in 1796, and Robert E. Lee, in 1870, came to be the namesakes of our university is straightforward and remains compelling. Washington and Lee were figures of national significance whose direct impact on this institution was pivotal to its survival and success.

I did not ask the Commission to consider the name of the university, or the names of our buildings, but it is understandable that these issues arose in the course of its examination of the ways that the presentation of our history affects the community.

The Commission recommended that we continue to be Washington and Lee University, and that our nickname continue to be the Generals. The Board of Trustees, which has authority with respect to naming, and of which I am a member, agrees.

The legacies of Washington and Lee, along with those of many prominent Americans from the Revolutionary and Civil War eras, are discussed and debated by every generation of citizens and scholars. Attempting to settle these debates was not the Commission’s assignment, nor is it the university’s role.

As an educational institution, W&L is committed to fostering and conducting meticulous scholarship that carefully assesses the individuals and events that have shaped our university and our nation. Intellectually honest consideration of our namesakes cannot separate the generous benefactor from the slaveholder, or the forward-thinking college president from the Civil War commander. Our aim is neither to deify nor to demonize, but to understand on the basis of well-considered evidence, and to render praise and criticism on the basis of well-justified argument. These are the core practices of liberal arts education. Applying them to our own history advances our mission by developing the intellectual capacities of our students, improves our institution by encouraging constructive self-criticism, and serves the public by contributing to conversations of contemporary importance.

Go read the rest, which has to do with preserving Lee Chapel, maintaining historickal names of various halls, respect for institutional history, and the like.  It also pays respectful tribute to modern sensibilities, with which Ol’ Robbo has no problem so long as these are not used pretextually as clubs by the Cultural Marxists to beat all their enemies into submission.  (And you and I are their enemies.)

I guess I can go on writing checks to the annual fund in good conscience now.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo cannot now recall whether some friend of the decanter recommended them to him or not, but I’ve been trying out the Beeb’s recent “Father Brown Mysteries” with Mark Williams in the title role.

I have to confess that after watching the first three episodes, I’m not really all that impressed.  I don’t hate the show, mind you, but I don’t feel much desire to whistle up the next DVD from Netflix, either.

For one thing, there is of course the total impossibility of translating GKC’s extremely lush writing style into a screenplay.  (The way he describes a scene is every bit as important as the substance of the scene itself.  Want a perfect example? Read his description of the arrival of Innocent Smith at Beacon House in Manalive.  It’s overwhelming.)  There’s also GKC’s overriding theme that Faith and Reason are not antithetical, but in fact are allies because God Himself is the ultimate Reason.  It’s not that the shows seem disrespectful, exactly, but that they seem to scootch past this as quickly as possible to get on with the sleuthing.  (Perhaps this was just an early hook to pull in viewers and these deeper issues get more treatment in later episodes.  I just don’t know.)

Discounting that, however, I have some other nits as well.  For instance, the show seems to not include M. Hercule Flambeau, a reformed French mastermind of thievery and Father Brown’s usual companion, at all.  In the books, Brown often delivers his piercing observations on human nature and the eternal battle between Good and Evil in his discussions with Flambeau, but here he obviously can’t.   Instead, to the extent he says anything at all, Brown’s conversation seems to be directed toward a regular cast of side characters, including a nosey church secretary, an outrageous village flirt, some kind of Eastern European maid, and a snarky chauffer, none of whom I recall from the original stories.  Then there’s the local inspector, who I’d swear had the same lines in all three episodes I watched: “I’ve got motive and opportunity, and that’s enough,” and, “I’m placing you under arrest for suspicion of the murder of [X]”.

And that’s another thing.  In the GKC stories, Father Brown (and M. Flambeau) find themselves in various locales around GB and the Continent.  All the action in the shows seems to take place in the same small village, which would lead one to think the place must be awash in blood and to wonder just how long it can last with all of its denizens being snuffed out one after another.

All that said, I don’t think Williams is especially bad in the role of Father B, although I think he’s too physically large for the part.  (Brown is supposed to be a little, unnoticeable man.)  No doubt he was cast because of his ability to bug his eyes out and purse his lips in distracted contemplation.

And on that note, I would still love to see Alec Guinness’s turn in the role.  I should think he would have been perfect.  And if I am not mistaken, I believe I read somewhere that the exposure to the Faith that Guinness received through his playing of Father Brown was a big factor in his decision to swim the Tiber himself.  (When I went to the devil’s website to find this film, I saw it was only a couple bucks.  So why not?  Guess I will see it.)

Anyhoo, I think I’d give this series two glasses of port (and maybe an extra sip) out of five.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you keeping up at home, Ol’ Robbo is happy to report that both the elder gels seem to have had successful first weeks in college.  Eldest reports feeling quite at home as a junior at her new school already, and is convinced that transferring was absolutely the right move.  (A solid tell on this is the fact that she’s called home only a few times.)  Middle is fitting in nicely, too: she loves her freshman hall, even though some of them are, apparently, “rather loud”.  (Welcome to dorm life, kiddo.)

So all is well.

I don’t know why, but I’ve been surprised at the difference in feel now that two of them are gone instead of just the one.  Emptier, but at the same time much more experiential information to absorb. It’s a bit saddening, but also quite exciting. (God knows what it will be like when Youngest leaves, too, in a couple years.)




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As many of you are no doubt aware, this weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein.

In tribute, the local classickal station devoted a great deal of air time to Lennie’s, airing massive quantities of both his own compositions and recordings of his conducting of other composers’ works.


Ol’ Robbo is a great fan of classickal musick, but I have to admit I have absolutely no use whatever for Ol’ Lennie.

On a personal level, he was the very model of a Limousine Leftist, a particular type for whom I have nothing but contempt.

On a professional one, he was pretty typical of the mid-20th Century Wagnerian School, the sort of fellah who believed everyone should get the same heavy-handed Romantic treatment (and also that the artiste – that is, the composer and performer – are somehow more important to the “experience” than the art itself).**  Ol’ Robbo has been an acolyte of the historically informed performance movement since he came across it in the mid-80’s and has listened to very little else.  To spend the past couple days listening to Lennie butchering Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven has been, well, grueling.

Oh, and his own compositions? “Pretentious? Moi?” ***

Anyhoo, I refuse to participate in the adulation.

And on that front (sorry for the choppy YouTube – it was the best compilation I could find):


** This is why I am deeply suspicious of Romanticism, even more skeptical of post-Romanticism, and absolutely cynical about Abstractionism in all its manifestations.  You want to wank off and call it art? Fine, but get a room and leave me out of it.

*** Spot the quote.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Wow.  I didn’t think the “Uncle Teddy” scandal rocking Holy Mother Church could get much worse.  It just did:

In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, said that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Read the whole thing.  The Archbishop calls for Frankie and everyone else mixed up in this filth to resign.  I’d second that heartily.**

(You’ll notice again, by the bye, that this story has virtually vanished from the mainstream media.)

UPDATE:  **If what Vigano says is true, of course.  People on whose judgements I rely say that he is solidly reliable.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A delightful Saturday morning here in the vicinity of Port Swiller Manor with a hint of the cool and crisp, the kind of day where you start looking for excuses to stay out working in the yard a bit longer instead of fleeing for the house as quickly as possible.  I also notice that the light is starting to look different on the trees as the sun’s angle changes.  I know it’s supposed to hot up again next week, but it definitely feels as if summah is starting to think about winding itself down.  Grilling out this evening and having din-dins on the porch with Mrs. Robbo and the Remaining Gel will be a real pleasure.

Actually, as far as summahs go, we haven’t had a bad one here at all.  No triple-digit highs and only a handful at best in the mid or upper 90’s, and lots and lots of rain.  I’m sure someone could produce charts and figures to show me that Glowbull Enwarmening has once again made this the worstest, awfullest, most meteorologically catastrophic summah on record and furthermore that it’s all my fault, but I’m going to stick with what my lying eyes tell me.

We shall see how autumn works out this year.  The first genuine norther comes through here typically a week to ten days into September (recall 9/11), always a high point for Ol’ Robbo as it tends to shake him out of his summah torpor and gets him excited for what, after all, has always been his favorite season.  Alas, the last couple of falls have been duds – downright dry, not very cool, and with disappointing foliage to boot.  Perhaps we’re due.  (I distinctly remember a Halloween years ago when the Gels were small when there was frost on the ground.)  As for tropical activity, we haven’t really had a major storm come anywhere near here (although a couple have teased) since Isabel back in 2003, so again, we may be due.  Well, we’ve got our generator now (which of course has sat idle since we installed it), so all I can say is Bring It On.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo must be feeling better about life these days, because I find that my zeal for acquiring new books is returned with a vengeance.

Following up on my remarks below about The Prisoner of Zenda, which I continue to enjoy, I was prompted by a discussion in an Aubrey/Maturin FacePlant group to which I belong to finally check out the works of Raphael Sabatini, to which end this evening I picked up copies of his Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk.  I chose these two title largely because I am a fan of the Errol Flynn movie versions of both.  Curiously, for all my usual crankiness about book/movie crossovers, I feel it really won’t bother me much if the novels are different from the films here. (I’ve never claimed to be consistent in my prejudices.)

While I was at it, I also picked up a copy of my first John Buchan work, The Leithen Stories: The Power-House; John Macnab; The Dancing Floor; Sick Heart River. I did this largely because every time I write a post like this one about classic adventure stories, some friend of the decanter invariably comments, “Tom, you really need to try some John Buchan.”  Whelp, here I go….

Finally, I circled back round to H. Rider Haggard and discovered that the devil’s website offers his complete Allan Quartermain series.  I picked up Volume 1 (King Solomon’s Mines – which I own in a stand-alone already – and Allan Quartermain) and Volume 2 (Allan’s Wife, Maiwa’s Revenge, and Marie).  There are something like seven volumes in all, and I plan to work my way through all of them.

This was enough impulse-buying for one go, but I also plan this fall to start expanding my collections of the works of both Kipling and Conan-Doyle, as well.

(Yes, when the Terror descends and the Antifa thugs break down the door of Port Swiller Manor and haul me away in the middle of the night, there will be ample evidence at my Anti-Revolutionary Justice and Reconciliation Tribunal to warrant a swift bullet to the back of my head.  Eh, so be it.)

Incidentally, and at least apropos of the Sabatini books, I am slightly over half-way through the trilogy of works by Hugh Thomas on the Spanish Empire:  Rivers of Gold, The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to MagellanThe Golden Empire – Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America; and, World Without End – Spain, Phillip II, and The First Global Empire.  These books were very kindly sent to Ol’ Robbo by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  I must say that they are fascinating but exhausting.  Thomas is a fanatic for details, one quickly gets lost in a sea of names, and sometimes the prose goes a bit squint.  But I’m loving them and learning a great deal, since most of my prior reading regarding Colonial America focuses on the French and British, with the Spanish only making an appearance on the fringes, as it were.

One thing Thomas notes:  It seems that there is no evidence available that either the Mexica or the Inca peoples – even prior to their contacts with Europeans – had any sense of humor.  I don’t know why this struck me, except that it makes me rather sad.  It’s what happens when the individual means nothing, I suppose.  Eldest is taking a pre-Columbian Mexico/South America history course this semester as part of her major requirement.  I must remember to bring this point up with her and see if she has any insights into it.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Ol’ Robbo happened to catch “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1952), with Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason, on TCM.  It was, like every other Granger movie I’ve seen, okay, if not exactly overwhelming. (Further, Kerr has never done much for me, either.  Mason, on the other hand, is one of those actors you enjoy watching no matter how good or bad the film is.)

I mention this because it immediately brought to mind the novel Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser.**  Not that I dislike it, but this is probably one of my least favorite of the Flashman Papers largely because it is so derivative of the novel The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, on which the movie is based.  (GMF gets around this by claiming Flashy told Hope about his adventure, thus inspiring Hope to write his novel.  Clever, but still…...)

Anyhoo, this convergence prompted Ol’ Robbo to nip over to the devil’s website and buy a copy of Hope’s novel, which I have been meaning to read for some years now because of the GMF connection.  I’ll let you know what I think.

**Yes, there’s a movie version of this, too, with Malcolm McDowell.  GMF did the screenplay himself, but I can’t recommend the film.

UPDATE: The lovely and talented Sleepy Beth has a post up about an unexpectedly good experience with a screen version of one of her favorite books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  Unfortunately, Blogsplat’s anti-bot comment guard is fritzing again so I couldn’t respond over at her place.  This is what I tried to say:

I’m happy for you [Beth] that you found a good crossover. (I’m unfamiliar with this particular book.) You’ve hung around my blog long enough to know my general opinion of that sort of thing! ; )

On that front, I still maintain that the single best screen adaptation of a novel I’m aware of is the Merchant/Ivory treatment of A Room With A View. (Granted, I only read Forster’s novel once or twice, so am not exactly a “fan”, but he has a pretty straight-forward descriptive style which seems to lend itself to screenplay adaptation.)

The Coen Brothers would have beat that in my estimation with their adaptation of Charles Portis’s True Grit (of which I AM a fan) IF they had stuck to the novel. They got the tone, the characters, the language, and the overall feel absolutely bang-right. But for reasons beyond me, they felt compelled to add some frivolous bits and pieces of their own (Mattie cutting down a hanged man; the weird fellah with the bear head hat), and to gratuitously re-do one of the show-down scenes. I can accept (grudgingly) that concessions must be made when changing media, but I don’t accept non-necessary ones.  Grrrrrr.

And circling back round to the initial topic of this post, the devil’s website promptly delivered a copy of The Prisoner of Zenda to Port Swiller Manor this afternoon.  Ol’ Robbo read the first chapter over his din-dins this evening (Mrs. R being absent) and I can definitely say that somebody like David Niven would have been far better than Granger in the movie adaptation: the hero is immediately established as a polished, blasé, smart-ass.

Oh, and as long as I’m on this subject, let me recommend to you (perhaps again) the Beeb’s 1978 teevee production of “Much Ado About Nothing” with Cherie Lunghi and Robert Lindsay as Beatrice and Benedict.  I’m not saying Thompson and Branagh ripped it off and then put it over the top to boost ticket sales but, well, yes I am…..


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August 2018