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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it’s been a while since I last trotted out this meme, but it seems apropos here since the question of the moment is: A donde va Señor Wah-Keem?

A few clicks one way, it heads out to sea.

A few clicks t’other, a major pasting for the Port Swiller Manor neighborhood.

Eh.  From a practical standpoint, the only question is whether ol’ Robbo needs to clear the more airborne-potential items off his porch or not.  We shan’t see until Saturday morning, I guess.  Of course, the standard Port Swiller Manor disaster protocols still apply: Chop up the furniture for firewood as needed.  Eat the cats first.  If required, eat the children in descending order of annoyance.

We could hold out a while, if necessary.

Thinking about all this, I was reminded of my few past hurricane encounters.

Ol’ Robbo sat in the Port Swiller Manor library watching Isabel roll through back in ’03.  The main storm hit in teh evening.  What I recall mostly was the fantastic lightning effects:   The cloudbase was very low and most of the lightning within it gave off a diffuse, copper color.  Every now and then, however, there would be a bolt out of the clouds.  These were all of a fantastic, florescent blue, and of an intensity I’ve never seen in ordinary thunderstorms.  Quite dramatic.

I was also in central Connecticut when Gloria rolled through in ’85.  That storm hit us early in the morning.  Being college kids, our response was to huddle out in the dorm halls and party.  Candles and cheap champaign.  I must say, that was the earliest in the day I’ve ever got drunk and you can keep it.

Stretching further back, I have a very vague memory of Celia from my misspent yoot in San Antonio.  As I recall, this was the first time I saw the circular cloud bands associated with this kind of storm.

Of course, I should acknowledge that my brother holds the family record in these matters:  He was in Charleston when Hugo came ashore.  (He was in med school there at the time and was drafted into work at the local hospital.)  Bro told me that he doesn’t remember much in part because he was so busy and in part because everything was boarded up, but still……

Anyhoo, we shall see if we can haz panick….

UPDATE: Well, so much for that.  I’m not even bothering to take the glass or the magazines off the porch.  Fall is definitely here, however….


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What with His Holiness’s impending descent on Dee Cee and the mayhem it’s going to cause, ol’ Robbo decided that the prudent course would be to eat some leave time and stay out of the way until the whole thing has all blown over.  (I was strolling around the Mall at lunch yesterday and what with all the construction going on along the parade route – fences, marquees, port-o-johns and the grass being boarded over – it looked like a Capital Fourth on steroids.)  This will probably come back to bite me when the weather turns icy and snowy, but so be it.

Anyhoo, I recently made a swoop through the devil’s website and picked up a few items which may be of interest to friends of the decanter.

GBaUBofBFirst, I finally got around to bagging a couple of DVD’s that I’ve been meaning to get, namely the “Band of Brothers” box set and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”  Of the former, I will state once again that Damian Lewis looks like a constipated cat and that David Schwimmer, poor man, is doomed to be Ross from “Friends” no matter where he goes or what he does.  Of the latter, I think I’m only repeating the obvious in that it’s the best of Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy.  I do have one question that has always bugged me, however:  When Tuco shoots the bad guy from the tub, Clint hears the shot and says to the kitten, “Every gun has its own tune”,  meaning that he recognizes the sound and thus knows Tuco is around and can use him to help kybosh Angel Eyes’ gang who are holding Clint.  Well, that wasn’t the same pistol that Tuco had been using the last time Clint was with him, now was it.  So why would he say that?

A small point, but it bugs me.

GabrieliSecond, a couple of CD’s.  The local classickal station keeps a couple of canzons by Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612) in its rotation, so I finally broke down and bought the disc from which they came, “Music of Gabrieli and His Contemporaries“.  Said contemporaries (none of whom I know) include Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634), Gabriel Diaz (1590-1638) and Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517).  The first three produced great, glorious, triumphal antiphone – Spain and Italy in all their Renaissance powerhouse.  The latter – who was obviously earlier – at least here seems much more contemplative and melancholy, traits which I associate with what little Late Medieval musick I have come across.   These pieces are all done by the Empire Brass on modern instruments which, I think, is acceptable, but I should like to hear them on period instruments, too.  The voice here covered by the trumpet would be played on the cornetto, a curved piece of wood that looks rayther like a gazelle’s horn.  I have a DVD of Monteverdi’s opera “Orfeo” in which cornetti are used and they are quite supple.

Beethoven EroicaI also picked up a copy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica”, performed by the Orechestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique under the direction of Sir John Elliot Full-of-Himself.  I’ve actually got the box set of Beethoven’s symphonies by this lot, but the CD of the Eroica mysteriously vanished.  Perhaps it was the mice.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I like the story that ol’ Ludwig Van was set on dedicating this piece to Napoleon until he finally realized what a monster That Man actually was and became so enraged that he nearly tore the work up.  Ass.  By the way, Peter Schickele, in the guise of P.D.Q. Bach, did a very funny parody of the 4th movement from this piece in his “Preachers of Crimetheus” which you can find on his album, “1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults“.

Sheed MoLSheed TheologyFinally, although I already have them but because the Pope is in town and a lot of people are saying a lot of very foolish, ignorant things about him and about Catholicism, let me again recommend a couple of books by Frank Sheed:  A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith and Theology For Beginners.  These were recommended to me by a seminarian doing a turn at my church this past summah and I can’t begin to tell you how much I have profited by them.  Straightforward, tightly reasoned and accessible to anyone who has the least talent for comprehension and willingness to make any kind of effort to actually understand what they are talking about.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest gel is taking a political science class this fall and has started coming home regularly fuming over the arguments in which she finds herself.

The latest was a tangle with a classmate who is a big Bernie Sanders fan because she thinks free health care and free education are a good idea.

“Look,” the gel said, “When goods and services have to be provided, there’s no such thing as free! Somebody is going to have to pay for it! Understand? No. Such. Thing. As. Free.

“Oh, yeah,” the classmate apparently responded, “Well you like the “Free Market”, don’t you? What about that?”

The gel was gobsmacked at this level of ignorance.

One of her favorite quotes these days is from George Carlin: “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

UPDATE:  Mrs. Robbo and I went to a school meeting last evening at which a so-called professional educator, a man who spent fifteen minutes gassing on about his own education in a British prep school and his love of history, made the extraordinary claim that Boadicea was a Queen of the Saxons.  It was all ol’ Robbo could do to resist jumping up and yelling, “Didn’t you learn your Tacitus? She was Queen of the Iceni!  A tribe of Britons wiped out 350 years before any Saxon set foot on the island! Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain Day, which ol’ Robbo shamelessly shamefully missed because he was too caught up in watching Star Trek: TOS DVDs to have any energy left to post about it.  Thus, I give you this a day late:

Curiously, I had the movie with which this piece is associated in my Netflix queue, and had thought it would arrive right around the appropriate date for viewing.  However, when I checked said queue this weekend, I discovered that my entire remaining  list had been wiped clean for some reason.  Go figure.  Personally, I blame Chinese Intelligence.

Anyhoo, I can’t let a belated celebration of Battle of Britain Day go by without reposting one of my favorite YooToob vids:

And not to start a fight, but I’m more of a fan of the Hawker Hurricane than I am of the Supermarine Spitfire.


Elizabeth IIGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter hardly can be surprised at ol’ Robbo’s delight over the fact that today Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in the history of Great Britain, surpassing the great Queen Victoria her own self.

Well done, indeed.

Yes, ol’ Robbo is aware of and completely sympathetic to the argument that the “true” English monarchy died with the end of teh Plantagenets at Bosworth Field, and that the Tudors, Stuarts and , er, Windsors have been mere pretenders.

That said, Elizabeth deserves our praise due to her quiet but stalwart defense of the Crown – and all the national dignity which it represents – during Britain’s post WWII collapse.  She didn’t do it via media manipulation, celebrity hype or impromptu outbursts, but just by being who she is: Stolid. Solid. Regal.

As the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo would put it, she’s a good Sheila, Bruce, and not at all stuck up.

So let us fill our glasses – bumpers all round and no heel taps – and salute our monarch in three times three:

God bless Her Majesty! Hip, hip, hoorah! Hip, hip, hoorah! Hip, hip, hoooooraaaah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo apologizes again for the dearth of meaningful posting here.  I’ve been spending a lot of time away from teh computer lately, either soaking in the first hints of approaching autumn (my favorite season of the year) or else glued to the teevee (in fact, frequently yelling at it much to the annoyance of my family) in anguished suspense, hoping my beloved Nats can catch the Mets.  (We’re only down by four now, having swept the Braves this weekend, and open a home stand against the Mets this afternoon.  It’s gonna be yuuuge.)

In the meanwhile, Robbo is enjoying this Labor Day by pointedly refusing to mow the lawn and also by reveling in de lamentations of de vimmin, as it’s Back to School tomorrow morning for the Gels: Senior, sophomore and 8th grader.  Where does the time get to?

In the meanwhile, a few idle observations:

♦   At long, long last, I have actually started some preliminary work on the idea I have long nourished of trying to compose another entry in the Flashman Papers that covers Flashy’s involvement in the American Civil War.  Granted, so far it’s nothing more than taking notes on references to his adventures there as I read the other novels, but hey, it’s a start, no?  I reckon to be poking at this off and on for the rest of my sentient life.

♦   My big plan for today is to wash La Wrangler.  If you knew how infrequently I actually do this, you would be impressed:  It must be a good three or four years since the last time.  I’ve always felt there was something wrong with the sort of people who are compulsive about keeping their wheels shiny.

♦   Watched “Annie Hall” last evening for the first time in years.  Eh, I can see that it’s well done but, apart from “Sleeper” Allen’s stuff doesn’t age well with me.  (BTW, I hadn’t noticed before that Christopher Walken played Diane Keaton’s little brother.  I had to stifle a comment about more cowbell.)

♦  My poor brother has to have back surgery this week – blew a disc through too much running.  I’m glad that my own shot knees give me the excuse not to have to indulge in such an unhealthy pastime.

♦  Message to GOPe:  Calling conservatives dupes and morons is not going to attract us back into the fold.  Just saying.

Whelp, off to give the car her bath and then settle in for the game.  What else can one say except


ba475a518dc890f443adffe0a9606972Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This afternoon came nooz that the campaign to save Sweet Briar College has achieved final victory with flying colors (pink and green, of course):

Supporters of Sweet Briar College will make their third and final payment — the result of a settlement deal to keep the private school open — on Wednesday, with a little extra thrown in for good measure.

When the then-president of the women’s college announced in March that the school would shut down forever this summer because of financial problems, shocked alumnae and others quickly began a fight to stop the closure. Saving Sweet Briar raised millions in pledged donations, and this summer a judge approved a settlement to keep the Virginia college operating.

According to the terms of the deal, a final $3.5 million payment, the last of $12 million agreed upon, was due Wednesday. But with the school year just beginning, with a new president and board in place and students in classrooms, the group was able to turn pledges into real cash.

The final tally of donations will not be known until Wednesday, but a spokesman for the group said it has already exceeded $3.5 million.

“We made the first two payments ahead of schedule and will exceed the amount due for the third and final payment,” said Mary Pope Hutson, Chair of the Major Donor Task Force for Saving Sweet Briar, Inc, in a statement. “The fight to take back Sweet Briar College will be complete at Noon tomorrow.”

She called on Sweet Briar supporters to celebrate Wednesday. “At 12 Noon EST, ring a bell if you have one, and let’s show the world our colors—a sea of pink and green! And please share our story of tenacity and determination.”

I am still in awe at the Vixen Power (including that exerted by Mrs. Robbo, a dedicated alumna) which caused all this to happen and confess that when the Resistance first formed immediately after nooz of the proposed closure broke, I really thought it was a long-shot at best.

Well done, indeed.

Eldest Gel will be applying early decision this fall.  Her grades are okay and she did pretty well on the ACTs.  Plus she is a legacy a couple times over and it’s definitely going to be a seller’s market, what with the school’s immediate goal of dramatically boosting its student body.  In her interviews, they’ve basically told her that unless she does something spectacularly awful this first quarter of her senior year, she’s in.

RAFGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where today was commemorated over in Blighty as the 75th anniversary of the “hardest day” of the Battle of Britain via a nice fly-by of Spitfires and Hurricanes.  While September 15 (I believe) is the o-fficial Battle of Britain Day, August 18, 1940 saw a massed attack of the Luftwaffe against Biggin Hill and other RAF fighter bases as part of the then-German strategy to wipe out Fighter Command on the ground.  Almost worked, too, and had Hitler kept it up instead of switching targets to London and other big cities, the skies over south-east Britain and the Channel could well have been wide open for any German invasion.

(Of course, there are those who argue that as long as the Royal Navy held command of the sea – and they never really lost it – such invasion would have been impossible regardless of air superiority.  But that’s a different sack of cats.)

All of this is very well depicted in Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson (his best book, IMHO) and also in the movie “Battle of Britain”.

Back in the day when I had a real P.C. instead of this stupid disk drive-less Apple product, I used to play Microsoft’s WWII: Air War in Europe a good bit.  Even had a joystick.  My very favorite scenario when going through the RAF series was the one depicting the “hardest day”.  It was a predawn attack by swarms of Dorniers and Heinkels with a few 109’s thrown in for luck and you had to scramble off the runway as bombs fell all around you.  I would always lose my squadron because they would bank off to chase a flight of bombers moving across from right to left while I kept my sites on another one coming dead straight at me.  If you crammed your throttle wide open and held your nose just right, you could gain both enough speed and enough altitude to take a crack at the lead planes from below.  I would shoot up that flight, then go help my mates and then (if I was playing with unlimited ammo and hadn’t taken too much damage) would go hunting stragglers.

Good times.

Oh, and as we observe the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, it appears that 40% of young Brits don’t even know what it is.  I used to think this kind of historickal ignorance was the product of incompetence in the school systems (both there and here).  Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that it is, in fact, quite deliberate:  It’s much easier to brainwash kids with social justice pablum and rainbow-skittles utopianism when they don’t possess any real factual knowledge.


N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Many, many years ago, ol’ Robbo picked up the collected works of Charles Kingsley at a library sale somewhere in (if I’m not mistaken) the Hamptons.  At the time, I knew he was a Victorian writer of schoolboy adventure stories, but not much more.  However, since the books were very cheap, I bought them anyway with the intention of eventually getting around to reading them.

Whelp, 20-odd years later, prompted by a reference I’ve seen repeatedly somewhere else,*  I finally cracked the cover of what may well be Kingsley’s most remembered novel, Westward Ho!

Good God, Almighty.

The book is a massive, sprawling story of the loyal sons of Devon and Cornwall during the glory days of Good Queen Bess who, under the leadership of such stout figgahs as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, repeatedly biff the Dons along the Spanish Main and in Ireland while, at the same time, foiling the plots of nefarious Jesuits prowling around Merry Old England like the Hosts of Midian, trying to topple the Golden Age of Elizabeth and bring said enlightened paradise back under the foul claw of teh Whore of Babylon, sometimes referred to as the Pope in Rome.   In this, Kingsley drifts mighty close to outright libel.  For example, so far as I know, there is absolutely no credible evidence that St. Edmund Campion was in any way involved in any plot to dethrone Elizabeth, but Kingsley does not seem to concern himself with actual facts in pursuit of his theme.

If you’re sensing my bias here, you’re not wrong.  The book was published in the early 1850’s** and here and there Kingsley breaks out of the past tense to take jabs at those then-current Papists who wished for the reconversion of Britain to Holy Mother Church.   As I remarked to the Mothe this past Sunday in our weekly telephone chat, it sounded to me like Kingsley was taking a whack at the Oxford Movement.  And damme if I wasn’t right.  Upon a bit of further research, I found that Kingsley, who was himself an Anglican clergyman, was virulently anti-Catholic and got into a printed dispute with the Blessed John Henry, Cardinal Newman, in which the former accused the latter of being a liar and a fraud.  It was as a result of this spat that Newman penned his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

Since several of ol’ Robbo’s guiding figgahs for his own swim across the Tiber came from the Oxford Movement (including not only Cardinal Newman but also Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson and Msgr. Ronald Knox), you can understand why I might be a wee bit touchy about this.  I wonder what I would have thought about it when I first bought the books twenty-odd years ago.

Anyhoo, despite all these defects, Westward Ho! is a right ripping yarn in parts, with some terrific descriptive imagery and an action-packed plot.  Also, I’ve got little problem with his bashing of the Dons over their treatment of their New World conquests, which amounted to not much more than rape in the classical meaning of stealing anything and everything that wasn’t positively nailed down.

Besides, I’m almost 400 pages into it and am not going to quit now.  So, there.


* I simply can’t remember where, now.  However, I also know that Evelyn Waugh, himself a Catholic convert, has his title character in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold attempt to slog through Westward Ho! in order to drown out the possibly psychotic voices in his head.  Heh.

** Of interest, the book was dedicated to the “White Rajah” Sir James Brooke, for no other reason than that Kingsley thought Brooke a hell of a fellah.  George MacDonald Fraser sharks will, of course, recall Brooke from Flashman’s Lady.

See? Hang around long enough and it all ties together…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening found ol’ Robbo attending a concert of the Piano Guys over at Wolf Trap, in company with Mrs. R and the Middle Gel, who is a certified hyper-fan of the group.  Because the gel is such a nut, we splurged to let her sit right down in the pit about three rows back from the stage.  Meanwhile, Mrs. R and I found ourselves a spot out on the lawn and, amidst intermittent showers and drizzle, hunkered down to wait out the gel’s little self-indulgence.

This lawn-seating biznay is rayther interesting.  Over the years, I don’t think I’ve done it more than five or six times, but you can easily spot the regulars by all their paraphernalia – blankets, coolers, wet-weather gear, folding seats and so-forth.  What I like about it is that, if you find the time weighing a bit heavy on your hands during the performance, you can simply wander off and buy yourself a glass of wine.  (Ask the Beautiful People down in the amphitheater if they can do that! I don’t think so!)

The last time we were there was to see Huey Lewis a few years ago.  We found ourselves seated immediately in front of a bunch of very drunk college kids who kept cat-calling all evening.  I reckoned that the crown for the Piano Guys would be somewhat different, and for the most part they were:  Lots of younger kids (which was great), families and older couples.  I didn’t see a single member of the rowdier element in attendance.

Nonetheless, there was a couple behind us who were probably in their late 30’s or early 40’s.  They had the complete lawn encampment going, right down to china plates, silverware, real wine glasses and corkscrew.  Throughout the entire performance, though, they never stopped talking.  Two more candidates for teh Special Hell, I found myself thinking.

The funniest thing to happen was that as I sat there I suddenly noticed a woman a few spaces over who looked exactly like the gal I’d grown up across the street from back in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to her since leaving high school over 30 years ago, although I’d had a vague report that she lived somewhere in our neck of the woods.

When I mentioned all this to Mrs. R, she said, “Well, why don’t you go over and talk to her?”

“What?” I replied in horror.  “I couldn’t! If I turned out to be wrong, she’d think I was some kind of psychopath and I’d have no choice but to take my own life in shame!”

“What stuff,” Mrs. R said, and went over to find out for herself.  Turns out I had been right after all and that this was my old neighbor.  We chatted with her and her husband for a couple minutes and then went back to our spot much gratified.

Small world, ain’t it.

Oh, as to the actual musick.  If you aren’t familiar with them, the Piano Guys’ (they’re actually a piano/cello duo) basic shtick is to take classical themes and interweave them with pop favorites, then doll it all up with a lot of fancy electronic effects and dramatic audio/visual presentation.  As I say, teh Gel is mad about them.  For myself, I will certainly acknowledge that they’re a hell of a lot better to listen to than some of the stuff that could have seized her imagination, and for that I am grateful.

One thing that struck me as amusing:  The cellist, in talking about their musickal influences, mentioned Victor Borge a couple of times.  Only he kept pronouncing the name “Borg” instead of “Borzha“.  I couldn’t help thinking that if ol’ Victor were still around, he could have incorporated this into his “Phonetic Punctuation” routine.  “You vill be azzimilated! Shwoop! POP!”

All in all, a good time was had by all.


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