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Because I’m kind of speechless…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is rereading, as he does every two or three years or so, Anthony Powell’s four-movement novel cycle, A Dance to the Music of Time.

I won’t go into an opinion or analysis of Mr. Pole’s monumental narrative fugue here (except to say that I appreciate it more with each rereading).  Instead, I raise a discrete literary point that touches on a question that has burned at the back of the Robbo braims for a long time.

In The Valley of Bones, which is the first novel of the third “movement” of the quartet, reference is made by one of the characters to a collection of children’s short stories and poems by Rudyard Kipling called Puck of Pook’s Hill.  I had been unaware of this collection heretofore, so on spotting this reference, I immediately dashed over to the devil’s website to order a copy.  (And before you start sneering at Ol’ Robbo ordering children’s stories, I will state that “children’s” literature of the early 20th Century is far more intelligent and grounded than most of what passes for “adult” literature in the early 21st Century.  We live in a Tinsel Age.  So there.)

Anyhoo, while perusing the content of Kipling’s work, Ol’ Robbo started to get excited in particular about a chapter entitled “The Knights of the Joyous Venture” about a Danish long-ship that makes a raid down the coast of Africa.

I got excited about this because I hoped that at last, at last, I’d finally stumbled across the source of a reference in one of the novels of Mr. Evelyn Waugh (A Handful of Dust, I think), to a story of a Viking long-boat that shows up under the walls of Constantinople.

Alas, after reading the synopsis, it seems this isn’t the source.

Garn!  I’m looking forward to expanding my Kipling activities. But  I’m still frustrated that I haven’t found the source for the Norse visit to the seat of the Byzantine Empire.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, you may pelt me with walnut shells and corks if you wish, but Ol’ Non-Essential Robbo finally went back to work today after Uncle’s imposed vacation.

It was genuinely strange to leave at my usual time this evening, six weeks or so after the winter solstice, and see how much lighter out it was.  I always enjoy that point after New Year’s when I first start noticing the lengthening days because it gives me a sense of hope that what I’ve always called “The Time of the Mole People” is almost over.  Usually this is a gradual thing, of course.  Getting it all at once is a bit discombobulating.

But I’m not complaining.

Another advantage is that I now have a 50-50 chance of actually spotting the dumb kids in the crosswalks at George Washington University.  These crosswalks are pretty poorly lit, which is to say basically not at all, and said dumb kids usually don’t even bother to look up before starting across.  [Ed. – Is that an advantage because it makes it easier for you to miss them or because it improves your aim?]  Wouldn’t you just like to know, now?



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is no canonical lawyer, so it’s strictly from a lay perspective that I automatically assumed Gov. Cuomo’s behavior in not only promoting, pushing, and signing New York’s barbarous new abortion law, but also in doing an end zone sack-dance about its passage, would make him eligible for Holy Mother Church’s ban-hammer.

Well, Father Z has a post up this week with thoughts from an actual canon lawyer on the subject that is worth your time if you’re interested in the issue.  As with all things both legal and ecclesiastic, it’s subtler and more complicated than you would think.

My broader question is how people like Cuomo can live with themselves.  But I’m not sure I really want to know the answer.

UPDATE:  In the spirit of lighting a single candle, I’ll mention that I half-expected that we’d get a Mass setting by Mozart today, since today is his birthday.  Instead, though, we got one by Giovanni Battista Casali (1715-1792), of whom I’d never heard before.  It had a definite lyric quality to it, which the Wiki entry says is due to his work in opera.  Wiki also mentions his use of dissonance, but I’m not sure if the examples I heard of this were deliberate or whether somebody in the schola just went off the rails once or twice.  (When there are only eight or ten singers, it’s sometimes hard to tell.)

Also, for what it’s worth, there has definitely been an influx of new faces over the past few weeks, which always heartens me.  Build the Orthodox and they will come.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself trying to decide this morning whether to start in on dealing with the tree that fell down this fall at the edge of the woods behind Port Swiller Manor.

It was the remains of an old maple of some height, and was pretty heavily covered in grapevine.  On the way down, it also took out the upper half of a tulip tree.  So there’s quite a bit of a mess.

The tree fell right across the creek that runs behind my back fence.  My idea is to trim away the clutter and leave the trunk as is.  Not only would it look picturesque, it would also be a handy bridge for the foxes and squirrels in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t possess a chainsaw, and the only tools I have for this job are a handsaw and clippers. So it will take a while to clear things up.

I’m not as young as I used to be, nor, in at least some things, as foolish, so I have no illusions about doing the whole biznay at once, but from the start have contemplated merely chipping away at it over time.  The question is when to begin.

Mrs. Robbo thinks I should wait for the spring, or at least for somewhat warmer weather than we’re currently enjoying.  “Think of your health!” she says.  “Always you’re over-doing it and look where it gets you!” she says. “Oi vey!” she says.

I appreciate her concern, but on the other hand I will have plenty of other outdoor tasks with which to occupy my leisure hours then, while at the moment I am more or less idling.

Well, it’s still early and the temperature is still below freezing.  I suppose I’ll have another cuppa kawfee and consider the question a bit further.  After all, since I can’t actually see the tree from my comfy chair, how do I even really know it’s actually fallen?

UPDATE:  Well, I went and put in a couple hours after all.  It turns out the tulip tree isn’t actually dead.  It hung on by a thread to the lower part of the trunk and green buds were already coming out on its twigs.  I’m just lopping everything back to the main branches.  Turns out the vines (that’s plural – a grape and something with red berries) aren’t dead yet either, because vines never die.

Of course, I also failed to mention the very salient point that if I wait until warm weather to tackle this job, Heaven alone knows what will be living in or under it by then – snakes, hornets, face-sized spiders.  I used to have to deal with scorpions in the woodpile back in Texas and I don’t care to repeat the experience here.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s Netflix queue has been running on a John Wayne theme this week, so if you’re a snowflake or soiboi triggered by toxic masculinity, I highly advise that you DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST.

The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) – The Duke as Marine Sergeant Stryker, hammering raw recruits into lean, mean, fighting machines.  Forty years later, his character would be written as a sadistic psychopath driving the innocent to insanity, but here his harsh methods pay off and help clear the Japs off Mt. Suribachi.  There’s really not much to the movie except that the actual WWII Pacific combat footage incorporated into it is pretty interesting.  Oh, and John Agar is one of the privates the Duke puts straight.  He married Shirley Temple.  All three of them are in Fort Apache, just about her last movie, and fortunately long past her tap-dancing cutesy-pie stage.  Which see:

The Fighting Seabees (1944) – The Duke as Wedge Donovan, construction company owner, who works with the Navy to forge his crew into a combat unit.  I will say honestly that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the Duke’s WWII movies, since he didn’t actually enlist in the service himself at the time because he didn’t want to disrupt his career.  (Compare this with Juh-Juh-Juh-Jimmy Stewart, who did put his career on hiatus and became a decorated combat bomber pilot.)  Again, there’s not that much to the film, although it does feature Susan Hayward, who looks rather like a grown up Shirley Temple.

The High and the Mighty (1954) – The grand-daddy of air disaster flicks. The Duke is an out-to-pasture co-pilot, who has to take command of a passenger flight from Hawaii to San Francisco after engine trouble develops and pilot Robert Stack flips out.  In the meanwhile, the various passengers’ stories are told.  It’s pure cheese, plus it’s so completely “50’s” in its sensibilities (everyone smokes, the stewardess bemoans her single life, comments which would constitute verbal sexual harassment these days are rampant), that the average SJW snowflake would run shrieking from the room after the first five minutes. I just smile.

I mention Robert Stack because he, of course, was also in Airplane! (1980), the movie that hy-lariously and effectively put the bullet in the back of the head of the air-disaster genre.  I got curious because several of the passengers in THATM looked somewhat familiar, but, alas, none of them (so far as I can tell) were also in Airplane!  I did discover that Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa in the old “Our Gang” series, had a bit part.  And the third officer, William Campbell, was easily recognizable to fans of “Star Trek: TOS” as Trelane from “The Squire of Gothos”.

That’s Ol’ Robbo: Doing the nerd work so you don’t have to.  And don’t call me “Shirley”.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been having a series of his world-famous bizarre dreams of late.  I haven’t mentioned this before because almost all of them, although extremely vivid at the time, have evaporated immediately as I emerged from my slumbers.  Last night’s stuck, however.

In it, I found myself in the Foreign Legion.  Moreover, I found myself a prisoner of the Russians (Tsarist Russians, not the modern variety) along with a number of others, in a large, open-air, sandstone fort.  I didn’t know, but had the sense that we were somewhere in the Crimea, but at any rate very, very far away from anyone else.

Cary Grant was the senior prisoner among us.  He wasn’t dressed as a Legionnaire, but instead was in his British Army rig from the movie “Gunga Din”.  The Russians apparently were holding us until Grant coughed up some crucial piece of intelligence, but were perfectly willing to let us all rot if he didn’t cooperate.  Meanwhile, we all knew that Grant would not crack, but was busy putting together a scheme to break us out, although we didn’t know anything of the plan yet.

At one point, the Russians opened the big gate to let somebody through.  I glanced out on the sly and saw a low, cultivated river valley.  Away beyond it were steep bluffs backed by a tall mountain range in the far distance.  The view reinforced the sense of remoteness and isolation that I’d felt, but at the same time was both beautiful and somehow comforting.  At no point do I recall feeling any kind of fear or hopelessness.

I turned to somebody and said, “Yes, definitely Russia.”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

Feel free to make of this what you will.  If it helps, I had coffee with a priest friend of mine yesterday and a very good perspective-adjusting talk about several things which have been much on my mind of late.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did any of you catch that giant, That’s-No-Moon-It’s-A-Space-Station Super-Dee-Dooper Blood Wolf Moon last evening?  (I know friends of the decanter in New England did not, as I was chatting with Sistah in Maine in the afternoon and she was griping about the blizzard they were dealing with.)

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo did.  Not the eclipse itself, but the moon-rise at sunset, which was so huge and beautiful that it even tore Youngest’s attention away from her iPhone long enough for us to have a discussion about why the moon looks so much larger at the horizon than it does overhead.  (By the time of the actual eclipse, Ol’ Robbo was comatose for reasons which ought to become apparent as you read on.)

We were watching it -fortunately heading in the right direction -as I drove the Gel home from a softball camp for teens being held at one of the local universities.  After swimming varsity her first two years of high school, the Gel has got tired of the water (although she’s still acting as a manager) and decided she wants to go out for JV softball this spring.  As she hasn’t picked up a glove since little league, she figured she’d better do a camp prior to tryouts in order to brush up her skills.

The camp, open to teenaged girls, runs for three Sundays, four hours each time.  Mrs. R dropped the Gel off and I went over after Mass to watch for a while and bring her home.  I found myself pretty impressed:  While the camp is advertised as being open to all skills levels, it seemed to me that almost all of the participants were pretty advanced, the types who played travel and all stars in little league and then “A” team in middle school, and were now gunning for varsity and college scholarships.  (Youngest told me one of the gels was 14 and had travelled for it from Upstate New York.)  Nonetheless, from what I could tell the Gel looked perfectly respectable among them.  I watched her do some batting drills: While her eye was naturally somewhat out, her swings looked quite good.  Afterward, she told me she felt like the old moves really came back to her naturally, and didn’t feel the least awkward about being outclassed.  We shall see how things go.  (The JV program at her school is pretty inclusive, not cut-throat.  Indeed, one of the friends who encouraged her to try out is this year’s varsity captain.)

I was doubly impressed because I was only about fifty-fifty sure the Gel would even go in the first place.  Not only was it going to be a strange, new environment, she’d also been up all hours the night before hosting a birthday party for herself and a mixed group of about ten of her friends.  Needless to say, Mrs. R and I were up all hours as well.  Not only was there incessant “thumpah-thumpah” echoing up from the basement, we also had to take turns attempting (largely unsuccessfully) to calm the outraged outbursts of our highly neurotic dog.  Plus, there were a couple boys at the party and we weren’t going to send them home in the middle of the night in a pouring rain (our part of the Northeastern storm), so we had to do sentry duty as well.  Once everyone called it a night, the boys slept in the basement.  The girls slept upstairs.  We stayed in between them.  (One of the dads had asked – only half-jokingly – when dropping off his kid if we were some of those “cool parents”, the kind who encourage drinking and turn a blind eye to other goings on.  No, we’re not cool parents.)

My godmother says we should “cherish” these events because once we’re empty-nesters, the silence will seem uncanny and disturbing.  She may be right, but as far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned, no more parties at Port Swiller Manor.  From now on, a few friends is just about my limit.  Mrs. R concurs.  As she put it, “If Youngest wants to take a big group out for her 18th next year, fine.  If she wants a graduation party, she’ll need to find a friend who has a pool and throw it there.  We’re done.”


UPDATE:  Took the gel to have her choppers cleaned this morning.  Guess who gets to have their wisdom teeth yanked this summah? (Not me, heh-heh).  When they told me, I made a little joke about how much I had enjoyed the Demerol when they yanked my own set back in the day.  It was as if I’d farted in church.  The dentist gave me a very thin smile and said they were “really trying to keep the kids off that sort of thing”, like I was some kind of dope-peddler.  Is it any wonder I simply avoid talking to people these days?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you who were following the Great Robbo Furlough Beard project, I’m afraid I must report that I hacked the thing off yesterday.

Truth be told, it was turning into the chin furniture of Prince Harry.  Ol’ Robbo does not wish to do anything that might associate himself – physically or otherwise – with that unfortunate young man  wrong ‘un.

Also, the sides seemed to fizzle out about an inch short of my sideburns.  Unless I was willing to go the goatee route in some form or another (which I was not), this feature would have added to the lameness.

Additionally, had I left it longer, I’d have had to invest in God knows what sort of grooming technology.  As it was, I blew out two fresh razors just getting rid of what was there already.

So I decided to go back to the clean-shaven-given-to-occasional-stubble-when-I-neglect-it regime.

Try to console yourselves.  I’m really doing all of us a favor.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where former Marine Gunny Sergeant and actor R. Lee Ermey has been buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  Evidently, he died last April of pneumonia, but I seem to have missed that.

I bring this up because by sheer coincidence the recent all-out assault on masculinity by the SJW shrills has had a certain commercial featuring Gunny running through the Robbo braims that past day or two, a commercial which now probably qualifies as a hate crime.  Let’s go to the videotape:



I still laugh and laugh at this.

Rest in Peace.


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January 2019