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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the Thought Police are at it again: James Bond books scrubbed by “sensitivity experts” ahead of 70th anniversary.

All of Fleming’s thrillers — from “Casino Royale” to “Octopussy” — will be re-released this spring after Ian Fleming Publications, the company that owns the literary rights to Fleming’s work, commissioned a review by “sensitivity readers.”

I need not detail what the “review” entails, but you can guess. (Warning: the link is to a NY Post article. I don’t know about you, but their website and all its pop-up ads give my laptop the fits.)

Of course, the number of actual people who would have read Fleming but for his offending language and who will now dash out and scoop in the politickally correct editions is something in the neighborhood of nil, so it need hardly be said that this is an exercise in pure historickal erasure. But I say it anyway. And I hope the publishers take a serious bath on this stunt.

As a matter of fact, while I’ve read some Fleming, I’m not really much of a fan. But rewriting anything in the name of Presentism is inherently evil. And if it does come to personal interest, regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo is fond of Edwardian adventure stories – everything from Kipling to George MacDonald Fraser – and if this trend continues, he knows perfectly well that those authors won’t be “scrubbed”, they’ll be disappeared altogether.

A glass of wine with Sarah Hoyt, whose Shocked Face I borrow so often that I really ought to be paying rent.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Candlemas!

Not that Ol’ Robbo will be doing anything especially celebratory: The ‘vidz rolls on, and if I’m not really feeling too much worse, I’m certainly not feeling any better yet. (UPDATE: Just spoke to Eldest Gel and she says my voice sounds more roopy than it did the other day.) I did manage to sleep all the way through last night, though, and Shirley that must be worth something.

But never mind. As to the day, the old Medieval formula goes:

“If Candlemas be warm and bright, winter has another fight. If Candlemas brings cloud and rain, winter will not come again.”

Forget the groundhog. The groundhog is an interloper. Plus, the bastards get into my garden and severely limit what I can grow without them razing it to the ground. Ol’ Robbo does not like the groundhog.

I note for the record, looking out the Port Swiller Manor windows, that it is a cloudy, dank day here. I also note that the tips of the maples are starting to show red. Just saying.


Ol’ Robbo finds that although my appetite has not really gone away, I can nonetheless only contemplate the very plainest of meals. Requesting foodstuff purchases by Mrs. R, I discovered a startling fact: She’s never tasted Cream of Wheat! I’d always assumed the C of W to be one of those fundamental bonds that link all of us together no matter what our race, creed, culture, economic status, or anything else. Whatever the merchants of envy and race/class warfare push on us in order to blast this great country asunder and superimpose their own wretched, totalitarian dystopia, I thought, at least we all still have the Wheat in common. Was I mistaken? Are we truly so fractured as that? Or is Mrs. R just an outlier, the exception that proves the rule? The world wonders.


And now, perhaps because Ol’ Robbo has been running a slight fever the past few days, I have the old Maurice Sendack/Carole King musical “Really Rosie” bouncing around in my braims because one of the songs, “Pierre”, makes mention of Cream of Wheat. I never actually saw a production, but we had the album when I was a kid and I listened to it endlessly, but garsh, that’s near 50 years ago, now. Amazing what sticks over time, isn’t it. (“Alligators All Around” was, fact, my favorite track.)


Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, it wasn’t until yesterday that Ol’ Robbo learned that “moggy” is British slang for a cat, especially a feline mutt. All these years I’ve known a character in a book named Cattermole who had the nickname “Moggy” and I never grokked it before. Well, now I know.



I note with gratification that my sitemeter has been spiking a bit the past day or two since I’ve started this sickbed series. I’ve also felt, despite being ill, that I have got back into something of my old bloggy swing. Certainly the posties have come very easily this week. It occurs to me that this is because, with the ‘vidz, I’ve finally got something to write about.

Back in school, Ol’ Robbo hated nothing more than open-ended writing assignments. We’d spend a week or so analyzing this or that piece of liddershur and then the Prof would say “Write a ten page essay on whatever aspect of the work you want.” Mayun, that drove me nuts! Not only did I consider it a lazy cop-out, it left me without any grounding, without any foundation. Like Gandalf, I need something to work on. I cannot burn snow. So I would get into ridiculous arguments which boiled down to “You pick a topic!” “No, YOU pick a topic!” “No, YOOUU pick a topic!” and so on.

Same thing here, sometimes, I think. Ol’ Robbo admits he’s been drifting somewhat lately because he’s found it hard to come up with topics about which to blather. (Topics, that is, that he hasn’t already beat to death or that won’t have Bob from the NSA paying a visit to Port Swiller Manor.) Thus, despite the personal discomfort involved, I am at least pleased that all this has got my Muse off her backside. (But I promise I’ll stop and find something else before this series gets stale.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo still feels about the same as he reported yesterday. The good news is that I finally got some halfway-decent sleep last night, the first really since last Friday. (Dat’ll be dat medicinal dram, so it will now.) A little more genuine rest and I will be able to start beating this thing back.

In the meantime, Port Swiller Manor finally received its first measurable snowfall of the season overnight, a slightly-more-than-dusting which is enough to look pretty but not so much that Ol’ Robbo has to do anything about it (except that Decanter Dog is mad-keen about snow and will demand to be let out into it multiple times today). I will take it.

Staring out the window at a light coating of snow while under a so-so dose of the ‘vidz struck Ol’ Robbo’s fancy as a faint echo, indeed almost a parody, of his experience of nearly 40 years ago. I had come home to Texas from the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT for Christmas break my sophomore year. Three days later, I was prostrate in bed with Mono. That was easily the sickest I’ve ever been in my life, highly-fevered and wandering in and out of consciousness for three or four weeks.

Some time toward the end, when I was regaining interest in life, San Antonio was hit with the Thousand Year Snow Storm. I don’t use the title ironically here: We got 15 or 16 inches over 48 hours, which is absolutely absurd for that part of the country. And a continued cold snap meant it wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

As I say, I was on the mend and feeling much better, so of course I wanted to go out and romp in it. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the Mono had left my blood about as thin as that of Tsarevich Alexei, and that I was suffering from whatever that secondary condition is that involves inflamed organs (pancreas? gall-bladder, maybe?). A rupture of one of those organs could have led to my bleeding to death internally.

All this was explained to me in rather peremptory language by the Old Gentleman when he spotted me running about in the snow and ordered me back to bed. True, he was a doctor, and true, he’d been monitoring my bloodwork with especial attention, but in my misspent yoot I didn’t really half believe him. And since I was feeling perfectly fine by the time I went back to school, I saw nothing wrong with prepping for spring training for crew. Somehow, he found out about that and man did he blow a gasket! (I can see now he was probably as frightened as he was angry.) He called the coach. He called the school clinic. He insisted on weekly bleed-tests and labwork. I was absolutely forbidden to do anything more vigorous than walk to class, and even that was a stretch in his opinion. It was weeks and weeks before I finally recovered to his satisfaction and was cleared for rigorous physical activity. Of course, by then I’d missed spring training, so had to ride the bench that season.

Good times.

Anyhoo, as I say, the juxtaposition of the then and the now in my mind amuses me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, staring a fresh anno Domini in the face. I hope you all had pleasant times celebrating the turn.

As for Ol’ Robbo’s own fete, which lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall mushroomed at the very last minute, it went quite well, all in all, although from here on out I am never, ever again watching the televised ball-drop from Times Square. I have my reasons.

At some point in the evening, after he had cleared about two thirds of my bottle of Laphroaig, one of my guests started arguing loudly that Union soldiers on Sherman’s March to the Sea and Sheridan’s Valley Campaign systematically raped women and children. Don’t ask me how we got there: the fellah’s an ex-Marine himself and, so far as I can recollect, has never displayed any particular pro-Southern sentiments before. If I recall correctly, we had been debating the wisdom of Pickett’s Charge when he suddenly threw down on this.

I replied that while I was sure there were some instances of such behavior, I have read many, many accounts of these campaigns and did not recall it being flagged as a widespread, much less systematic, issue. What were his sources, please?

Well, he couldn’t really give an answer other than “Well, of course they did.” Scotch mist, I suppose. The argument ended amiably enough in a vague agreement to go tour Gettysburg in April.

So I guess it really was my kind of party after all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sometimes the sight of Ol’ Robbo lounging in his comfy-chair with his nose contentedly stuck in a book seems to give Mrs. R the heebie-jeebies. At any rate, she interrupted me in my worming this morning to make me go drop something off to Youngest Gel at work.

It was very strange. The Gel works at the same animal hospital we took our first three cats to between twenty-five and thirty years ago – their files are still in the system – and yet I have no recollection whatsoever of having set foot in the place before. None.

I mentioned this to Mrs. R when I got home. “Oh,” she said, “They’ve remodeled the building since then.”

That might well be true, but not only did I not recall the building itself, I also did not recall having been in that specific location, either. (And, as I say, we’ve lived in the area and haunted the biznays round there for thirty years.)

I’m one who prides myself on my geographical memory: Once I’ve been to a place, it generally remains tattooed on my brain and I can recall how to get back to it without having to look up the directions again. So it’s a bit disconcerting that I couldn’t pull this one up out of the depths.

Oh, well, one of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

(Back to book-worming….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself watching a teevee program about New Zealand last evening which touched briefly on the Maoris.

Not that the name has any good reason to come up in Ol’ Robbo’s everyday conversation, but I had always thought this name pronounced “May-OR-ee”. The narrator, however, consistently said, “MOW-ree”. A quick scan of the innerwebz seems to confirm that the latter is correct.

I can admit when I’m wrong, but I wonder if this is one of those examples of past pronunciations being disappeared for politickal reasons like, for example, the current fashion of pronouncing Kiev “Keeeev”. Is my version perhaps an echo of the country’s colonial history? Or am I just a dummy?

You needn’t answer the latter question. As I say, it’s not a word I use very often.

UPDATE: Somewhat related, perhaps, I see increasing numbers of scary monster stories about some new “bivalent” COVID “booster” and how you knuckle-dragging science deniers who refuse to take it are all gonna die and serves you right!!

Which is not the point in and of itself. Rayther, the point is that I consistently misread “bivalent” as “bivalve”.

But since I detest oysters and clams, I suppose it is sort of the point after all!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo learns that his godmother is planning to put her house up for sale. I’ve said many times here that I’ve no desire whatsoever to leave Port Swiller Manor in anything other than a pine box, but if there was one place I’d be tempted to move to…’s that house.

It’s a small, antebellum plantation house on the bluffs south of the Rappahannock River (fortified during the War – the remains of gun pits and trenches can still be seen and the cellar door is supposed to have been used as an operating table). My godparents worked up a lovely formal garden in back and devoted a fair chunk of the rest of the 25 acres that would come with it to raising a small herd of highland cattle. And from what I gather, I could actually turn a pretty good profit selling Port Swiller Manor for it.

Alas, though….Ol’ Robbo just doesn’t see the sustainability of the thing. Taxes and maintenance, I image, would be enormous. I’d have to take a longish train ride when I had to go into the office. And sad to say, the southern fringe of the Dee Cee metro area is metastasizing in that direction and swarms of townhouses will soon appear on the horizons all around. Plus, the isolation of the place – to me one of its greatest charms – would drive Mrs. R bonkers.

So, no dice.

Still…….one is tempted to grab pencil, pad, and calculator. You know, just to see if it might be possible……..


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been chuckling quietly to himself the past few days over the recent announcement that DNA research has uncovered a 2 million-year-old ecosystem in Greenland, complete with ferns, trees, elephants, reindeer, rodents, and what have you.

Evidently, it was quite a bit warmer there back then than it is now.

Just how far into the collective mind of people who have convinced themselves that Earth was a static, stable, perfectly-balanced paradise until Man – and more specifically, European Man – started mucking it about do you suppose a study like this will penetrate? Just how many such deluded souls might pause and say to themselves, “Self, maybe the World is more complicated than I thought and blindly surrendering my autonomy to a cabal of faceless Experts and Leaders in order to ‘Save the Planet’ might not be such a good idea after all.”

My guess is not many. The on-going eco-scam has penetrated too deep into the culture.

But, but, but…..” the Greta Thunbergs of the world will no doubt say, “It musta been the Fred Flintstones of the time with their prehistoric SUVs!”

UPDATE: Oh, I should have said that the story itself is pretty fascinating. Thinking about geological time (and 2 million years is practically nothing on such scale) makes me about as dizzy as thinking about interstellar distances.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Another wet, gloomy day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Such conditions don’t do much to stimulate one’s personal Muse.


Does anybody even still teach about Pearl Harbor nowadays? Other than to say that we brought it on ourselves, I mean.


Speaking of teaching, I discovered the other day that Youngest Gel has an inexplicable knowledge of Blackbeard Teach, of all people. Not the “Arrr, matey!” stuff, but his real predations on the Carolina coast and the nefarious machinations of Virginia Governor Spotswood to catch him. I can only suppose that when it comes to useless knowledge, the apple doesn’t fall very far from Ol’ Robbo’s tree.


Speaking of history, I caught another episode of Kelsey Grammer’s “Pivotal Battles” series on the teevee last evening. This one was about Vicksburg. The series continues to be okay, I guess, but it seems to me that a little more detail and fewer long shots of actors looking dour might be in order – the show wound up summarizing the last two and a half years of the War in about five minutes, which seemed to me pretty lopsided. Also, the episode couldn’t resist taking a jab at Grant’s drinking, the alleged excesses of which I remain convinced are entirely the invention of his enemies.

Anyhoo, the next episode is about Little Big Horn. Once again, Ol’ Robbo insists that this was not a “pivotal” battle in American history. I may wind up watching just to rant, however.


And finally, speaking of ranting, I seem to see a reheating of the Covid “booster” enthusiasm amongst Our Betters. I thought we were long past all that nonsense. I only got the original vaccines because I’d have been fired otherwise. Fortunately, my employer went squishy on the matter of booster enforcement so I’ve been able to ignore it all. I hope this doesn’t change. Smiley-face tyranny is the worst sort. (FWIW, Johns Hopkins has a post up on FacePlant on “How to talk to your family and friends about the new boosters. They’re getting slammed in the comments. Perhaps I am not alone in my opinion here.)


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March 2023