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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I’m not talking about that wretched post-WWII generation who currently are raping the Republic of all the wealth on which they can lay their mitts before they die off and who are, also, directly responsible for the rise of a generation of Millennials who are in the process of establishing a reign of Precious Snowflake Fascist Terror that will eventually come to a painful, violent end when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.*

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

Instead, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned, thunderstorms, some of which came a-calling in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this evening.  First time this season.

Ol’ Robbo used to be quite frightened of thunder and lightning.  I recall distinctly an incident in my misspent yoot in San Antonio.  My bedroom window looked out on a hackberry tree in our back yard, maybe 50 yards or so from the house.  One evening during a storm (I think when I was in high school), I walked in and looked out just in time to see the poor tree hit by a lightning bolt.  (You can always tell that you’re close to a strike because you can hear a distinct vzzzzzt!! before you hear the thunder.)  I hit the deck completely by instinct, all my fears of my earlier yoot very much reenforced.  (I believe that same poor tree got knocked down by either a microburst or an F0 tornado a few years later when I was away at college.)

Anyhoo, I gradually overcame said fear, to the point where I now quite enjoy watching a storm in all its fury.  To sit out on the deck this evening and watch the cell scud past us to the east while the bats flitted about overhead was very delightful.

A little game I like to play in this season is Beat The Storm.  My office is about 14 miles southeast of Port Swiller Manor.  When conditions are stormy, I take a good, hard look at the radar just before I leave work.  If there are storms about, the game is to decide whether to slap the sides up on La Wrangler or to see if I can just beat them home bare-sided.  In some cases, I have cut this close enough that the deluge has hit literally between the time I got into my garage and the time I tried to go back out to the mailbox to retrieve the evening bills.   Very gratifying when I get it right.

And lest you think Ol’ Robbo is delusional on this point, let me just note that others play the same game.  A couple years back, I was on a late-afternoon flight from Dee Cee to Cleveland when the captain announced we were going to take off a couple minutes ahead of schedule.  I didn’t think much of it until, during our descent, the sky suddenly got awfully dark (and the plane suddenly got awfully quiet).  We came down smoothly enough, but by the time we were taxiing to the gate, the heavens had opened up and the tempest was crashing down all round us.  That sum’bitch pilot had beat it in with seconds to spare.

Once I retrieved my jangled nerves, I tipped my metaphorical hat to the fellah.

 

*No, but it felt damned good to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Got our tax docs back from the accountant wallahs this evening.  For the past umpteen years, we’ve always expected a modest refund.  This year, it would seem we actually owe a not-inconsiderable wodge of dosh.  Grrrrrrr…….

This is the thing.  It’s not so much the amount of the check itself, it’s the perception of value for money.  I could write a whole damn book on this subject, but in short, I don’t think we’re getting all that much.  Double grrrrrr……

Speaking of owing reminds me of an episode back in the early days of married life, 20-odd years ago.  What with one thing and another, I had been slow about putting together our returns, and the upshot was that Mrs. R and I had to make a run for the closest open Postal Service facility on the evening of April 15th in order to get our return properly post-marked.

There was a blazing thunderstorm and torrential rain that evening.  Nonetheless, the anti-tax protesters were out in force at the mail center and I tooted my horn in solidarity with them most enthusiastically.  (I love the idea, by the way, of scheduling elections round about the same time as taxes are due.  Goes right to the whole value-for-money thing.)

Anyhoo, we got the forms into the mail well before midnight, with much grumbling, and started on our way back to our apartment.  Coming up on an important intersection, we found that there had been an accident and that the cops were on the scene to direct traffic around the mess.

I will never forget this.  Having just had Uncle take a big bite out of my not-very-considerable income, I was sitting in a downpour, lightning all over the place, when I suddenly became aware of a County policeman knocking on my windshield with his flashlight and pointing at my inspection sticker.  It had expired the month before.

Ol’ Robbo is not and has never been an Ayn Rand libertarian type.  But at that moment, I wanted to cold-cock the cop, strip him of his weapons and equipment, and light out for the hills.

appomattox-surrenderGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

For all of Ol’ Robbo’s interest in historickal matters, I readily admit that I have been woefully remiss about tracking the last year and a half or so of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  My apologies.  However, I certainly am not going to allow the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House to go by without some mention here.

Chiefly, I like to think that the surrender showed the best of both men.  Grant’s relentless pursuit finally won him the complete victory he deserved, and yet with his enemy completely at his mercy he was more than generous and humane in his conquest.  Lee, recognizing check-mate, conceded like a true gentleman.  One wonders what would have happened had Lee been able to make it to Danville or Lynchburg, resupply and slip away down the rail line to join up with Joe Johnson somewhere in North Carolina.  Of course, Grant and Sherman eventually would have caught and crushed their combined force, but it would have meant more time and more blood and one wonders how much patience the North would have had with such an additional price.

Oh, speaking of which, I saw a number of posters on Facebook and elsewhere calling this day the “end of the war”.  Not true.   Lee only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.  Joe Johnson didn’t surrender to Sherman in North Carolina until a couple weeks later.  The last official battle of the war, at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, wasn’t fought until May 12.  Various units of the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi didn’t surrender until late June, at which time the northern naval blockade of southern ports was finally lifted.  President Johnson didn’t declare the complete official end of the “insurrection” until August, 1866.

So I reckon I’ve actually got another year and a half or so of being able to use the word “sesquicentennial” about the Civil War.

Anyhoo, what I really wanted to talk about was this:  Ol’ Robbo began taking daily lunchtime walks last fall because his doc kept yelling at him about his lack of exercise.  Generally, I have been doing a loop on the National Mall from about the height of the Air & Space Museum west to 14th Street (just short of the Washington Monument).  Coupled with the distance from my office to the Mall, it’s two miles and change – a nice little circuit if walked briskly enough.

Well, that section of the Mall is now being dug up as part of a general refurbishing of pipes and drainage and things and is really not that pleasant a jaunt anymore. So last week, I turned the other way and started a loop from 7th Street east down to the Grant Memorial.

300px-Monument_to_GrantAlmost twenty-five years of lurking around Your Nation’s Capital and I’d never even seen said memorial before.  Perhaps this was just as well, because having spent the last ten or fifteen years reading and rereading Grant’s Memoirs and Bruce Catton’s definitive studies of the man’s campaigns, I was all the more delighted with Henry Shrady’s statue of the man.  (All images from here on down stolen from Wiki.)

You can get it somewhat from this pic, that sense of Grant’s solid, stolid, unflappable calm, coupled with his near self-depricating modesty and reserve.  The slouched hat, the lowered chin and the raised collar and cape make him look almost like a turtle snugging down in its shell.  Even from a long way up the Mall, if you know anything about the man, you look at that statue and say, “Yup, that’s Sam Grant all right.”

This is a wintery depiction, what with the bundling up and the wind at his back, so it makes me think of both the Battle of Fort Donelson and the relief of Chattanooga.   The former was Grant’s first really serious taste of big time battle.  The latter was a brilliant (but largely unsung) piece of tactical and logistical generalship which, I would argue, rivaled anything done by Bobby Lee.  In these fights, as in all his others, Grant’s key to success was the same as that popular expression flying about the innertoobs these days:  He kept calm and he carried on.

By the way, some people like to dismiss Grant by arguing that he had the North’s huge advantage in manpower and material at his back, so of course he was going to win.  Yeah, ask George McClellan how that worked out for him.

As you can tell, I am an enormous admirer of Grant, not just for his prowess in battle, but also for his character as a whole.  In addition to the books I mention above, another good one is H.W. Brands’ The Man Who Saved The Union:  Ulysses Grant In War And Peace.   If you read Grant himself and Catton, you probably can skip the first part of this book because it’s just a condensed version of them.  The second part, though, is an informative study of Grant’s presidency and his efforts to impose Reconstruction on the South.  Grant is maligned for the corruption that characterized his administration but this is really unfair.  He did his best to fight it, but he simply wasn’t a politician.  As for Reconstruction,  considering the bad blood and teh forces (cough, Southern Democrats, cough) fighting against it, he really did about as good a job as one could hope for.

Grant_Memorial - cavalrygrant memorial - artilleryOh, back to the Memorial.  As I say, I love the statue of Grant.  I also love the contrasting, highly dramatic statues of the cavalry charge and the artillery team that flank it.   However, I think I don’t especially care for the overall effect.  The flanking groups are done on a smaller scale.  Also, I think they’re spaced too far apart from Grant’s statue.  The overall effect is to make the thing too wide and, in my opinion, disjointed, the whole idea of Grant’s calm above the chaos being lost a bit through distillation.

Of course, what the heck do I know about sculpture.  Also, most days when I walk by, I’m busy trying to navigate shoals of high school tourons, so perhaps this causes me to become a tad jaundiced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

primaveraGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s the first full day of Spring 2015, and ol’ Robbo would love to be out in the grounds this morning doing yard work.  However, it’s still awfully soggy out there from yesterday’s snow and it’s still pretty chilly and Robbo isn’t quite the young man he used to be, so instead I am parked in front of the keyboard with a cup of kawfee.  (I am looking out the window, however.)

♦   Speaking of kawfee, the G-Man has an excellent take on Starbucks’ plan to have its baristas hector their customers over race relations.  (I don’t much go to Starbucks anymore because of the cost.)  As Jonah correctly notes, it’s not the subject matter itself but instead the creeping politicization of every corner of public life, something I have been bewailing for years.  (Who was it who talked about the fundamental right just to be left alone?)  Anyhoo, for all the publicity,  I’m guessing that any actual attempts to indoctrinate caffeine-starved customers at seven ack emma will go…..poorly.

♦   And speaking of indoctrination, when She Who Must Not Be Named starts talking about adult camps – even if she’s joking, even if she says “fun” camps, even if she’s just drunk – I get a cold, cold chill down my spine.

♦  Speaking of spring, I should note again that this is a March Madness-Free Blog®.  I’ve no interest in basketball, whatsoever.  And while I can understand the whole school spirit thing, my education was all at Division III institutions (NESCAC and ODAC) and it just isn’t the same thing.

♦   OTOH, I didn’t realize until the other day that this is the 10th season of Robbo’s Beloved Nats in Dee Cee.  Where does the time go?

♦  Oh, speaking of schools, may I trumpet here the fact that my nephew has just been accepted to Virginia Tech?  I don’t know if he’s going, since it’s damned expensive for out-of-staters and he has another program lined up also, but I’m still pretty proud of him.

♦   And speaking of school,  I have managed to convince the Eldest that Woodrow Wilson was personally responsible for the disastrous end of WWI and the rise of both Lenin and the Communists, and Hitler and the Nazis.   I think my work is done here.

♦  Reread GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday this week.  This has to be the single craziest adventure story I know.  And I love it.

♦  Speaking of reading, got a subscription plea in the mail this week from “Teen Vogue”.  Gawd.  It was addressed to “Miss To The Port Swiller Family”, came in a violently pink envelope and even promised a student discount.  Thanks, but no.

♦   Also got a solicitation from the local publick teevee station threatening that if I don’t slip it some coin, it won’t be able to bring All New Episodes of Downton Abbey.  Well, I’ve never watched it, nor do I intend to, so this would be no great loss.   Back in my misspent yoot, I used to love period dramas, but what with all of the rampant politicization going on these days (which see above), I simply don’t trust ’em for historickal accuracy anymore.

♦  OH! Speaking of art and history, do not forget that today is the 330th anniversary of the birth of the Greatest Musickal Genius of all time!  Be sure and listen to some of his output today if you can.  (Teh Middle Gel and her cohort are in the middle of rehearsals for a presentation of his St. John Passion down the Cathedral next weekend.)

Well, I hear the stirring of various gels, so I suppose I ought to leave off here and go reassert my paternalistic hegemony.  Or something.

UPDATE:  Mid-afternoon and sunny.  I went out and discovered new growth buds all over the clematis on the side of the garage. (It faces southwest and is sheltered, and thus is always the first thing to get busy in springtime.)  Happy, happy, happy!

Speaking of signs of spring, I see that Scott’s is starting to run their grass-seed/feed ads.  I don’t mind the Scots fellah they use, but it’s too bad they couldn’t have done a deal with Groundskeeper Willie:

UPDATE DEUX:  Looks like all the foundation plants we put in out front last summah after repairs to teh flooded basement also made it.  And my climbing rose by the front door is about ready to explode.  It’s an improved Blaze, and after it was done blooming last summah I cut it back to about four feet or so.  It seemed to like this and I even got a few second-growth flowers.

UPDATE TROIS:  Wow – We have a knockout rose in a bucket inside a large ceramic pot on the upstairs landing to the back porch that I thought was absolute toast this winter, being in such an exposed position.  It’s taken some battle damage, but the thing’s actually got growth buds on it.

UPDATE QUATRE:  Juuust warm enough to have dinner on the porch in celebration of the day.   Very nice.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

vixensIn case you haven’t been keeping up with the on-going struggle to save Sweet Briar College,  I must say that I am finding recent developments to be quite impressive.  The Resistance, having lawyered up, has established its own Board and filed for 501(c)(3) status.  Rumor says that even though we’ve already hit $2.6 million in pledges, a considerably larger sum of alumnae money out there is just waiting for the grant of non-profit status before it starts rolling in.  Assuming the group hasn’t somehow wound up on the President’s IRS enemies list, I hope this will happen fairly soon.  Meanwhile, current professors are starting to speak out, pols are starting to ask questions and enthusiastic alumnae foot-soldiers continue to make waves in the press.

Well done, Vixens! Holla! Holla! Holla!

hampden-sydney-college_200x200Meanwhile, in another development the gentlemen of Hamster-Squidney Hampden-Sydney College, realizing that the loss of SBC would negatively impact them, are also rallying to the flag.   (Somebody today said that the two schools ought to merge, keeping their separate identities under one management structure.  Conceptually, I think this is an intriguing idea.)

Even though I’m an alum of Dubyanell, HSC’s traditional rival, I can’t rag too much on the Squidneys here because I was only a law student there and really not much mixed up in undergrad squabbles.  However, I can relate an amusing anecdote:

Mrs. Robbo was born on Lawn-Guyland and grew up in Connect-Ti-Cutt (State motto: “Left Lane Closed Next 30 Miles”).  Prior to coming down to Sweet Briar, she had absolutely no knowledge of Southern sensibilities whatsoever.

Anyhoo, in her early undergrad days before she met ol’ Robbo and was thereby made an honest woman (I keed!), Mrs. R ventured over to HSC a few times with some of her fellow Vixens in order to frolic with teh Squids.  Apparently,  one evening she found herself at a party in some good ol’ boys’ dorm room, one with Confederate battle flags draped all over the place.  As the beer flowed and the night grew older, talk apparently circled ’round to the War (which in those parts is always short for “The War of Northern Aggression”).   Although I wasn’t a witness, I can guess well enough the major themes:  Popular misunderstanding of the real Southern cause, history books written by the damned Yankees, strategic and/or tactical decisions that could have Turned the Tide, etc., etc.….

Anyhoo, the story goes that after these themes had been hashed out for a not inconsiderable time, Mrs. R in all her sheltered, New England innocence, suddenly blurted out, “I don’t understand why you all talk about the war so much.  I mean, you lost.”

Dead. Silence.

Looking back, Mrs. R still wonders how she made it out of that room in one piece.

UPDATE:  The Roanoke Time runs a pretty good editorial pointing out the eerie parallels between the current situation and the attempted closure of Wilson College back in 1979 and suggesting that teh Vixens adopt a battle plan similar to that which eventually saved Wilson.  I’ve heard a good bit of chatter along these lines and don’t doubt that something of the same nature is probably in the works.  What I worry about, however, is whether there’s enough time and up-front money to implement it.

 

 

major_gowan_rat_basilGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As is her habit from time to time, teh Eldest Gel approached me this evening with a piece of trivia she had picked up somewhere, namely, that there’s  a new theory floating about that Asian gerbils were responsible for the bubonic plague that ravaged Medieval Europe, not rats.

This was intriguing enough to ol’ Robbo’s scattershot brain that I had to look it up.  Turns out she’s right:

“What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe,” Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team’s results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, rats are still disgusting creatures.  (The jury is still out on Siberian hamsters.)

This reminds me of something:  The Left attaches all sorts of moral opprobrium to the introduction of small-pox and other diseases by Europeans to the Americas, where said diseases devastated indigenous populations who had no immunity to them.  The tone, if not the explicit argument, is that the Europeans did it on purpose as part of their eeeeevil genocidal strategy.  Have you ever, ever, heard a single similar argument made with respect to the introduction of the plague to European populations from the East and the Middle East?

No, neither have I.

But then again, consistency is hardz.

KingcakeGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Mardi Gras!  (I hope you all behave yourselves.)

Ol’ Robbo will be flying out on biznay tomorrow.  This will be the second time I’ve done so on Ash Wednesday.  The first time was back in 2006, the spring after Hurricane Katrina had flattened Noo Orleans, and my destination was Mobile, Alabama.

I was unaware of it until I visited Mobile the first time, but the city maintains the claim that it was the first to organize a Mardi Gras celebration and that Noo Orleans was a mere usurper of the tradition.  (Rayther like the ongoing squabble over who held the first Thanksgiving.  The local lawyer with whom I was working was quite sniffy about it.)  And since Noo Orleans was still a mess that year, many people who would have gone there went to Mobile, instead.  

By the time I got there on the Wednesday, downtown was an absolute cesspool, covered in trash and smelling to high heaven of beer, vomit and pee despite a very strong and blustery wind. 

I don’t think there’s any danger of the same sort of thing happening this time, as I am headed to a completely different kind of place. 

Peale-Washington_1772Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Washington’s Birthday!

I take the opportunity to repost what has long been my very favorite portrait of ol’ George, painted by Charles Wilson Peale in 1772 and showing Washington in uniform as Colonel of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War.

Ol’ George wasn’t a brilliant man, either on the battlefield or off it, but he had two outstanding qualities:  He never gave up* and he was absolutely incorruptible.

*Yes, yes.  Fort Necessity and all that.  But you know what I mean.

UPDATE: Diane’s comment reminds me that I meant to point out that calling today “Presidents’ Day” is not acceptable usage according to the Port Swiller stylebook because I don’t see why any of the others, especially the more miserable ones, ought to be allowed to ride ol’ George’s coattails.  (I leave it up to you friends of the decanter to decide for yourselves who should be considered the more miserable ones.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posts the last couple days.  Mrs. Robbo recently has discovered the supposed* joys of Downton Abbey and is furiously catching up with things via computer streaming, thus tossing ol’ Robbo out of his recently-won man cave and forcing him to be content for his evening entertainment down in the basement with DVD’s of old Star Trek: TOS episodes.**

Aaaanyhoo, in case any of you missed it, I present what is easily the best “Hitler Rants” take on the Brian Williams Chopper Whopper story that I’ve seen so far.  (And believe me, I’ve seen a few.)  Enjoy:

Heh.  Ol’ Robbo admits to being rayther a fan of the whole “Hitler Rants” meme.  There are zillions of low-quality efforts, it’s true.  On the other hand, there are some that are damned clever, both in paying attention to the language and movement of the original “Downfall” scenes and in coming up with clever and pointed substitute subtitles capturing a genuine, informed point.  This one, in my opinion, is of the latter set.  (UPDATE:  I should say that, if you haven’t seen the original “Downfall” from which the parody arose, you really ought to.  A very, very good movie, superbly acted.  Probably a big part of why the parodies are so funny.)

Speaking of which, I was rayther saddened that nobody (at least so far as I could tell) has come up with a good Hitler Rant about Left Shark.  Oh, well.  On the other hand, the eldest gel forwarded me a funny Left Shark snark:

Left Sharknado

Heh, again, although not quite as funny as my favorite entry into the canon:

are you not (The Mothe won’t get this one.  Mom, go here.)

I love it when somebody crosses the meme streams.

* I say “supposed” because, although I know the series is very popular and I confess I’ve not watched a single episode, I am deeply, deeply suspicious of its Edwardian bona fides.   Thirty or forty years ago, one could trust period dramas to be more or less historically accurate.  These days? Not so much.

** Let’s go ahead and continue the Robbo non-geek geekery here.  In the past few days, I’ve re-watched for the first time in many years the following episodes of Star Trek: TOS:

The Naked Time” – A virus picked up on an alien planet has the effect of rendering crew members of the Enterprise drunk, thereby revealing their inner selves via the principle of “In vino veritas” and at the same time almost plowing the ship straight into the planet around which she was orbiting.    Eh, even when I first saw this as a young boy, I began to have questions about Mr. Sulu. IYKWIMAITYD.

The Enemy Within” – The first “transporter malfunction” plot and the first split-personality Kirk story.  Also, there’s a meme floating about that Bones McCoy never actually says his iconic line, “He’s dead, Jim” in the series.  Yes, yes he did.  Here.  When the split-personality horned dog doesn’t survive the rebeam through the transporter.

Mudd’s Women” – The first appearance of Falstaff-knock off, Harry Mudd.  Eh, some good stuff about inner beauty, I suppose.

What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – Now we’re getting somewhere.  A cautionary tale about progressivist dystopias, it also features the first Red-Shirt deaths and the first seriously  skimpily-clad alien babe.  It was also the second split-Kirk story, albeit the fake one being an android.  Ol’ Robbo would have been around seven or eight when he first was this episode, but even then I recall thinking that Majel Barrett was a piece of all right.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.

 

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