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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Isn’t it funny how one can get idea associations so firmly locked into one’s head.

Youngest, who doesn’t go back to school for another week or so, went out with a friend to a fondue restaurant last evening.

Ol’ Robbo has never actually been to this place, but in my mind it has orange shag carpet, a hot tub over in the corner, and ABBA playing on the sound system. This image is so firmly stamped on my braim that I believe it wouldn’t change even if I actually went over and eyeballed the premises myself.

I can’t think why the association is so strong. True, the only time I’ve ever actually had fondue myself was at a friend’s house during my misspent yoot in those benighted times (when it first really got popular in the States), but my friend’s parents did not choose to decorate this way. Perhaps something out of pop culture? Despite the title of this post, I never actually watched that series. But perhaps there was a very special episode of the Brady Bunch where Peter and Jan got into a squabble and wound up spilling melty cheese all over Marsha’s dress right before her big date? (If there wasn’t, there ought to have been.)

Anyhoo, there it is. Fondue and the 70’s. Inseparable to me.

UPDATE: There! Since posting this, I’ve had “Take A Chance On Me” running on a loop in my head. (Share and enjoy!) Not only that, it’s the Muppet Show cover featuring the weird, long-legged birds hopping up and down on power lines. I worry me sometimes.

“The Exhibition Stair Case” – Thomas Rowlandson (c. 1810)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s a niche taste these days to be sure, but Ol’ Robbo loves Georgian satirical cartoons and etchings. (One need look no farther than my masthead for proof of this.) Indeed, I have several Rowlandsons (no, not the naughty ones) hanging in the Port Swiller Manor front hall, and additionally love to peruse my volumes of William Hogarth and James Gillray.

I put up this one in particular, however, because a detail from it illustrates the cover of my Penguin Classicks edition of William Makepeace Thackery’s Vanity Fair, which I am currently reading for maybe the third or fourth time and enjoying hugely. The editor states boldly that this work can stake a claim to be the greatest novel ever written in the English language. I dunno how one goes about turning all those other oranges, bananas, strawberries, and kumquats into apples for comparison, and I’ve never yet made myself read his introduction to find out his math, but nonetheless I won’t argue against this assertion.

Nor will I attempt to explain in depth why, because this isn’t that kind of blog. Suffice to summarize: 1.) Regency England is one of my favorite historickal periods; 2.) Satire is my very favorite literary genre;*** 3.) Thackery is marvelously adept at spooling out a very long and intricate story that leaves one constantly eager for more; and 4.) Becky Sharpe is one of the most fascinating villainesses-you-can’t-help-liking, while Amelia Sedley easily wins the crown of heroines-one-wants-to-hit-over-the-back-of-the-head-with-a-sock-full-of-sand. It’s quite the juxtaposition.

A note or two about the title. First, Plum Wodehouse, in his preface to Summer Lightning (the very best of the Blandings Castle cycle, in my humble opinion) writes: “It is related of Thackery that, hitting upon Vanity Fair after retiring to rest one night, he leaped out of bed and ran seven times around the room, shouting at the top of his voice. Oddly enough, I behaved in exactly the same way when I thought of Summer Lightning.” Heh.

Second, by a process of obvious association, the name of Vanity Fair magazine comes to mind. A little innerwebz digging indicates there have been at least five magazines of this title, the first coming out in 1859, ten or a dozen years after Thackery’s novel and no doubt influenced by it. The current iteration surfaced in 1983. Ol’ Robbo is going to go out on a (not very long) limb and wager that nobody now on the staff there has ever heard of John Bunyan or Pilgrim’s Progress, or else otherwise has the slightest knowledge of the name’s Christian allegorical roots. They say it like it’s a good thing.

All is vanity, indeed.

Completely Off-Topic UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo just wanted to raise a congratulatory glass of wine to the Georgia Bulldogs on their college football national championship victory last evening (which I stayed up way too late watching). It was a mighty close game, and I thought Alabama was going to put it away more than once. Well done, indeed. (I have a niece at Georgia this year, so had a personal interest in the game.)

***”He used……sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.  He was vicious!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Here’s one for Our Maximum Leader: American Thinker has an article out on new evidence about the long-standing question of whether Richard III murdered the boys Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York. According to the article, some recently unearthed clues suggest Edward, at least, might not have been killed at all, but instead spirited away to live in a small, isolated village. One theory floated is that Richard might have made a deal with the boys’ mother.

Ol’ Robbo is no expert, but you may color me…..skeptical. The article offers only a few evidentiary hints to back up the theory, plus makes the very unfortunate choice of comparing the new investigation to that contained in Dan Brown’s The Da Vince Code. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for credibility. (Unless, of course, the author is deliberately signaling the same opinion. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)

As I say, I’m no expert, but I’m inclined to believe Richard did, in fact, knock off his young rivals. Medieval realpolitik could be a bear. I can do so, however, without falling into the trap of cartoon villainy set by ol’ Will.

UPDATE: As long as I’m on the subject, let us not forget Peter Sellers’ epic send up of Larry Olivier’s Richard. Always larf-worthy.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got taken to lunch today by Middle Gel. Yes, the Gel treated me, not the other way round. Pretty sure this was a first.

It was rayther a strange sensation, particularly as we went to the same family restaurant we always stopped at after little league soccer and softball games back in the day, and especially as she had the same thing she always did back then (hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream and an extra-cheesy omelet). Indeed, thinking on this nostalgically, I almost forgot she’s all grown up now (which I think was part of the reason she wanted to treat), and had to physically stop myself from automatically grabbing the check.

The times, they are a ‘changing.

(Speaking of the times, I noticed that the prices were considerably higher than they had been. I also noticed that seemingly every single store in the strip mall (including the restaurant itself) had a “help wanted” sign in the window. #LGB!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry about the lack of content today. I’ve been here rereading what would have been my victory speech had I won the 2016 Presidential race.

It’s good stuff. Maybe I should publish it. Or give a reading.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

70 degrees on the Port Swiller Manor back porch today, but after a bright start the clouds are rolling in and the temperature will plunge tonight. I’ve a feeling it’ll be a while before we get to enjoy this weather again.

The big oak out front is throwing its first batch of leaves at the moment, just in time for tonight’s rain. Guess who gets to pick them up tomorrow?

Ol’ Robbo finished Brideshead Revisited yesterday. It’s been some years since I read it last but I find my previous opinion that it lays on the melodrama too thick remains entirely valid. Maybe Waugh had no choice but to go this way to get out what he wanted to say, but I’m awfully glad he only did it with this one novel.

I have the BR teevee series with Anthony Andrews and Jeromy Irons in my Netflix queue somewhere. That, as far as I recollect, was an excellent screen adaptation and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

I also have the movie “Harriet” (2019) in the ol’ queue. This on the advice of Eldest, who tells me it’s quite a good film. Speaking of which, something I never understood: Among her other Civil War efforts, Tubman worked with Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts in their ill-fated assault on Battery Wagner outside Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. You would think, then, that she would have got at least a cameo in the movie “Glory” (1989), but such was not the case.

But what does Ol’ Robbo know of the workings of Hollywood.

Well, we’re a week out from Thanksgiving and the logistics of getting the entire Family Robbo to my brother’s house for the holiday are beginning to take on the complexity of the Berlin Airlift. Sigh. But I guess it just wouldn’t be my family if things were otherwise.

UPDATE: Well, now that’s odd. I’ve never noticed ads running here before. Has WordPress looked at my sitemeter lately? Waste of perfectly good pixels.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Flipping through today’s Wiki entry, I see where this is the anniversary of the birth of Sir Oswald Mosley, the British Fascist leader of the 1930’s.

This catches Ol’ Robbo’s notice for the fun reason that Mosley is the only actual person,*** to my knowledge, ever satirized specifically by P.G. Wodehouse, appearing in the form of Sir Roderick Spode, a loud, willful, gorilla of a fellah, first in the novel The Code of the Woosters, and subsequently in two or three other Bertie and Jeeves stories.

Spode, as you may recall, leads a Fascist group knick-named the Black Shorts because by the time he organized it, all the black shirts had been bought up and they were forced to uniform themselves in black rugby shorts. Spode also designs and sells ladies’ undergarments, a secret Bertie Wooster discovers and is able to use to thwart Spode’s bullying. The confrontation between Bertie and Spode in The Code is quite entertaining. A sample:

“It is about time, [Bertie proceeded], that some public-spirited person came along and told you where you got off. The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it it the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is, ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

For gentle, kindly, old Plum Wodehouse, that’s pretty strong stuff. I’ve no earthly idea what, if any, reaction Mosely ever had to it, but I hope he laughed.

***It’s true that Wodehouse mocked A.A. Milne by making fun several times of his Christopher Robin stories, but he didn’t turn Milne into a character. (This was because Milne became jealous of Plum’s success as a writer and got publicly ugly about it. In fact, Milne was one of the chief voices who tried to smear Wodehouse as a Nazi collaborator. Not a nice man at all, at all.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it’s that time of year. The fact that the first of the maples in the rotation has already shed most of its leaves, coupled with some unsubtle muttering about “that mess out front” by Mrs. R, convinced Ol’ Robbo that today would be a good day to get cracking on this annual ritual.

I’m trying a progressive approach this year: The line of maples out front always drop their load from northwest to southeast, so I’m just going to follow along. Today I focused on the first, as I say, and worked just a bit under the next in line, which has only shed about 40% or so. I reckon it usually takes me four to five weekends to finally clear away everything, the back end always being determined by the sole oak in the line, which can take most of the wintah to finally let go its last leaves.

Multiple droning noises around the neighborhood suggested others had the same idea as me.

It’s funny: As I’ve probably mentioned here before, when I was a yoot we had no “leaf” season. In my part of Texas, the majority of the deciduous trees were either scrub oak or mesquite. The former has a leaf about the size of your thumb, and while the latter’s is longer, it’s also very thin. No raking or pick-up necessary.

Thus, I never knew what any of this was until I went away to college at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT. There I was introduced to industrial-grade leaf-blowers and vacuum hoses. I was perpetually tired my first semester since I was finally being subjected to a level of academic rigor unknown in my high school, and the drone of the grounds crew working away with them in the background proved to be quite the soporific as I struggled to keep my eyes open in class, especially on sunny, still October afternoons. To this day, hearing them off in the distance can still make me feel very sleepy, indeed.

On another front, I cut back the peonies, which are mostly brown now. It’s funny, but I always get a whiff of something awfully like tobacco when I do this. I don’t know if this is just a function of large, dried leaves, or if there’s a closer connection, but there it is.

Finally, I gave in and took down the hummingbird feeder for the year. If any of the little blighters are still around, the butterfly bushes are still blooming in the garden.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Yes, this is one of those things where my entrenched Anglophilia wins out. Sneaking St. Edmund Campion and other priests in to England to say Mass on the sly is one thing. Blowing up Parliament is another.

First frost of the season last night here at Port Swiller Manor. Ol’ Robbo had better get his ferns off the porch instanter if he wants to keep them. We’ve now also reached the time of year in which Decanter Kitten reproaches me constantly because I won’t keep the porch door open all the time for her.

I’m not sure, but I think we had an election here this week. Heh. I think, I think, that the pendulum may have hit its maximum arc endpoint and is starting to swing back the other way. We shall see.

A public service reminder: Clocks go back this weekend. Why do we do this nonsense, again? Pick a time and stick with it already!

UPDATE: This was supposed to be Ol’ Robbo’s Friday off but at the last minute a filing needed to be made. No problem, I said I’d log in long enough to get ‘er done and then take the shank of the day for myself.


A job I could have handled on my own in an hour or two wound up spinning out all day. I hate writing by committee, even when it’s with people I like professionally. Especially with everyone working from home, even the simplest document takes for ever to go its rounds of edits and sign-offs. Grrrrrrr.

On the other hand, I just pulled in the ferns. One of the drawbacks of the season is that the porch starts to look rayther barren without its summah greenery. Now we’ve got to figure out what to do with them over the wintah. Mrs. R is seeing if she can foster them off in some of the classrooms at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method. I told her she should make it a science project challenge: the class that takes best care of a plant gets a prize.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Middle Gel made mention the other day that she’s planning to “interview” me regarding my opinions on “climate change” for one of her classes. I believe the instructions call for her to seek out a broad range of views, and of course I am tailor-made for the category of “ignorant, paranoid knuckle-dragging old geezer of a science-denier”.

**Grins, cracks knuckles**

Of course, regular friends of teh decanter are already perfectly familiar with Ol’ Robbo’s views. I question the assumptions and premises underlying the entire debate; I question the “science” purporting to support the current fashionable calls for “action”; I question the good faith of the various cadres pushing the alarmism. I’m not actually a “denier”, mind you, I just approach things with deep skepticism, which it seems to me is actually the duty of any independent thinker.

I’m thinking in particular of the COP26 jamboree currently going on in Glasgow, and of the legions of politicos, advocates, and grifters jetting in from all over the worlds to wine, dine, cavort, and confer while telling me that if I don’t immediately give up my car, my meat, my air-conditioning, and every other freedom and comfort, and instead submit to a a strict Spartan regime administered by a cohort of my Betters, the entire planet is gonna diiiiiieeeee no later than Wednesday week.

If nothing else, I’m going to be sure to get in the line that Glenn Reynolds uses all the time: When the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s one, maybe I’ll start to listen. Meanwhile, they can sit the fook down and shut the fook up.

UPDATE: I should, perhaps, make clear that I consider this discrete issue to be a load of flim-flam, but don’t come away with the idea that I’m for wasting resources or running roughshod over the environment in general. Good stewardship of the world around us is, after all, part of our Christian duty.

As a matter of fact, that’s the field Middle Gel is pursuing. She’s got applications in right now for grad school in public administration with a focus on environment and natural resource management. I know she’s got her heart in the right place on this, and I think she’ll be okay because I’ve long preached a few simple rules for dealing with the world around her. To wit:

  1. There’s no such thing as a unicorn (i.e., Utopianism is both useless and evil).
  2. The law of unexpected consequences will never be repealed.
  3. Due to scarcity, everything in life is a trade-off, and both costs and benefits must be weighed fully and honestly, particularly when those costs are to someone else, not to you. (I recall a passage from a novel in which a character is described as “speaking with the freedom of a government official with his own spurs and another man’s horse.”)

Hopefully, she’ll keep these in mind.


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January 2022