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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I may have mentioned before, Ol’ Robbo is a member of a Patrick O’Brian fan group over on FacePlant. (I’m also in a P.G. Wodehouse group and a mostly-dead Anthony Powell one.) One of our members is a graphic designer, and thanks to his efforts I just received my Aubrey/Maturin 2024 (“There is not a moment to be lost”) bumper sticker.

I’m quite pleased. On the one hand, it’s a literary joke highly appreciated by those who understand the reference. (POB fans are an intensely enthusiastic bunch. I often get nods and smiles, and sometimes even a note left on the windshield.) On the other, I like to think it subtly registers my contempt for all real-life politicks and politicians (which seems to grow exponentially with each passing day).

I tried to explain all this to Eldest Gel when she saw the thing on the kitchen counter last evening. (Evidently, she never noticed that I have been sporting the ’16 version on the back of La Wrangler all these years.) Her reaction? “That is the nerdiest thing I’ve ever heard of. You may as well go with Kirk/Spock and get it over with.”

Humph. The lubber. Well, if Ol’ Robbo is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

** Spot the reference

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friend of the decanter Joseph Moore posts on his high school recollections today, and because I’ve really not got much else at the moment, I am shamelessly going to steal his idea. (Who was it who said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? For some reason I thought it was Oscar Wilde but the Innertoobs tell me it was Charles Caleb Colton. On reflection, the correct Wilde quote is, “I wish I had said that!” To which James McNeill Whistler replied, “You will, Oscar. You will.”**)

Actually, I’m not going to that much because Mr. Moore remembers a whole heck of a lot more about those days than I do, which is slightly alarming given that I’m a few years younger than he. (My fortieth reunion is scheduled for this fall. I have no desire whatever to attend it.)

So rayther than trying to put together a cohesive essay like my friend, I instead present you with some haphazard flashbacks:

— It will not surprise friends of the decanter that Ol’ Robbo was a nerd. Not just a nerd, but a nerd so nerdy that even the nerds thought I was a nerd. Socially speaking, finding myself on the far outer fringe of a group that itself was on the far outer fringe of a very cliquish social scene was, well, pretty lonely. (And it didn’t help that I was raised by stolid, transplanted Yankees deep in South Texas.) Do you wonder at my lack of interest in attending the reunion?

— Academically speaking, I was pretty lazy, but could get away with it because the academic standards weren’t exactly rigorous. I excelled in classes for which my natural talent for reading and writing stood me in good stead, although not so much in the classes where I had to work for it, i.e., math and science. Nonetheless, I was still considered to be among the “brains” of the school. (Coasting on my natural talent on its own failed me once I went away to The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT which still had rigorous academic standards in those days. I talked my way out of freshman English comp and straight into sophomore survey, where my first essay came back so covered in red ink that it looked like it had been in the Saturday Night Massacre. I got off my duff after that.)

— I played for no high school sports team whatever, being a 135-pound weakling in those days. (I still marvel that I managed to scramble on to the tail end of the Varsity Crew in college.) The only place where I shined at all was in P.E. softball, because I had the bat-control skills to be able to hit the ball wherever I wanted. I was always toward the tail of the pick line, but a couple of the more savvy jocks knew I was a good bargain-basement acquisition, so at least I wasn’t last.

— Sometimes my instincts for smartassery worked out for the best, sometimes for the worst. As an example of the latter, in junior year Advanced English we had three or four Steinbeck works in a row foisted on us. I point-blank refused to read the last, Travels With Charlie, and failed that unit.*** The zero brought my overall grade down for the term from (I think) an A to an A -, and as a result I missed the GPA cut-off for National Merit Semi-Finalist (and graduating Magna Cum Laude) by some insanely small fraction. Meh. As to the former, in my senior gubmint class I drew a politickal cartoon illustrating the fact that the new Texas Governor, Mark White, had got into office on the promise of giving the teachers’ unions a big pay boost and then subsequently ignored them. Got an A+ for that effort. Heh.

— My favorite class in high school was Latin, which I took for three years. I was on my school’s Certamen team, handling Roman history and literature [Ed. – NERD!!], and I may say with all due modesty that we regularly rocked the local, state, and even national competitions. Our teacher, being a true-blue native, taught us a pronunciation that had a distinct Texas twang about it which makes me smile even now, although with all the other pronunciations I’ve heard in my years in Holy Mother Church, his was not really that unusual.****

So there you have it. I’m a member of my high school class group on FacePlant and there are still those who look back at that time as their Glory Days. Lord knows Ol’ Robbo doesn’t.

** Spot the reference

*** I still haven’t read it and never will. In Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion, Of Mice and Men is Steinbeck’s only real achievement of any lasting interest, not to say that I’ll ever read that again, either.

**** Yes, yes, yes, Classical Latin and Church Latin. Tomayto-Tomahto. But even adjusting for this, I’ve heard some truly bizarre dialects. And I may well be going to the hot place myself due to my yootful training because at Mass and in my prayers I still habitually pronounce “v” like “w”. [Ed. – DOUBLE NERD!!]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Professor Mondo wonders about the effect on Ol’ Robbo of the news that the Red Guard is now training its censorious batteries on P.G. Wodehouse, bowdlerizing new editions of the Master’s works to (I gather) expunge a casual racism that pops up once in a while in his writing (probably most notably in the Bertie and Jeeves novel Thank You, Jeeves).

As a matter of fact, I’m in a Wodehouse fan group over on FacePlant and saw this news a few days ago. As for the item itself, I figured there was a certain inevitability about it given the times and given the list of authors already sent off to the Camps. What disturbed me more was that there were actually a few in the group who sought to downplay or justify it. “It’s no big deal and only a few minor changes.” “If they didn’t, libraries might pull Plum’s works from the shelves like To Kill a Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn.” “There’s precedent from the past for modifying texts.” Etc., etc.

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo remains extremely dubious. On principle, of course, the idea is horrifying. But as a practical matter, if I can continue to get my mitts on the genuine article then I suppose if others want trigger warnings slapped on their covers (remember how Tipper Gore got hooted for proposing that with raunchy rap CDs?) or bowdlerized editions, that’s their lookout. However, I’ve a deep suspicion that there really is no such market and that the motive, in fact, is simply elimination of the wrong-think original. Those who seek to erase the past don’t do so from motives of compassion or altruism concerning current sensibilities but from lust for control.

Anyhoo, a good many of my paperback editions are becoming rayther bedraggled by forty-odd years of good service and need retirement and replacement. I guess I had better get hopping.

And, of course, a glass of wine with the good Prof!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo posting the other day about how bizzy he’s been? Well, all this week I’ve been away on my first extended biznay trip since the Plandemic lockdown. It was also the first time I’ve set foot on a plane in about five years.

Gone Away Central this time was Kansas City, MO. From what I saw, the place strikes me as mostly dumpy but with pockets of urban renewal/expansion. (Granted, nowhere looks its best at the tail end of wintah, so perhaps I am underestimating the place. Kansas City, KS, across the river, on the other hand, is a desolation no matter what the season. It just is.) We stayed on the edge of Country Club Plaza, which is supposed to be the up and coming thing in pedestrian walkabouts. I admit that, despite the weather, it was enjoyable.

What constitutes Good BBQ is one of those third-rail issues one hesitates to bring up, especially if one has only a casual acquaintance, for fear of the passions it unleashes among the cognoscenti. That said, one evening we tried Jack Stack Barbeque and Ol’ Robbo thoroughly enjoyed it. Practically everybody we talked to, from cabbies to hotel receptionist to our local colleague, recommended the place. Admittedly, this gave Ol’ Robbo a bit of pause because I’ve seen this sort of thing before with, for example, Winzell’s Oyster House in Mobile or Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island, ME. Lots of hype followed by flatness (and usually high-priced flatness at that). Granted, I know a lot about seafood, both Gulf and New England, while, as I say, I know much less about BBQ. So those friends of the decanter who do take a deeper interest in the matter may consider my satisfaction here as either my first steps into a wider universe or else as a sign of my hopeless Philistinism.

Another afternoon found us stopping for lunch (also on recommendation) at what purported to be a “Palestinian” deli. Again, there are those in the know who likely can parse out the local subtleties and variations, but in Ol’ Robbo’s mind, cuisine involving lamb, pita, yogurt, garlic sauce, and diced cucumber and onion is simply Eastern Med, stretching from Greece all the way round to Lebanon and points south. And it’s all good, as was this. To me, the name (and the decor) was both politickal and superfluous, and I simply ignored it. (Which reminds Ol’ Robbo again, albeit very laterally, that I donated some coin to get pizzas delivered to IDF troops during the Intifada back in ’04 and have been getting pledge appeals from the local Jewish Federation ever since. I admire their persistence.)

Finally, on the food front, I must share with you friends of the decenter proof of a phenomenon which has not occurred, so far as I can remember, ever before:

Yes, Ol’ Robbo actually ate at the airport yesterday before his flight home! As I say, this is completely unprecedented for me because of my usual anxiety before getting on a plane. But I was so crazed by only one meal and three or four hours’ sleep each day this week (litigation is a bear), that I was able to overcome my inhibitions and dig in. (And yes, it was Friday, and yes, that was a chicken sammich. In all fairness, I asked for fish first but they were out. My understanding of the rules of fasting and abstinence is that they are not to be followed to the point of self-incapacitation and I was pretty close to it. In fact, I had a laugh with the fellah at the next table, who was in the same boat.)

It was also just as well that I fueled up because later I found myself standing in front of the most loud-mouthed, pernicious little twerp in the boarding line. I gather he was some young techie in the Defense-contracting line, returning to Your Nation’s Capitol from some conference, and he was busily buttering up another (black) techie he’d befriended at the conference. First, he loudly announced that anybody who dares criticize the Chinese Communist government is, ipso facto, racist. Then he produced a laundry list of all the advocacy groups, politickal action committees, and other covens to which he devotes his spare time, plus the usual litany of causes: Voting rights for illegals; Basic Income; Equity! (Rant On: Let Ol’ Robbo be clear what he thinks of “equity” here. Whatever gimcrack, Utopian veneer its advocates have built over it from time to time since its ugly emergence in the mid-18th Century, the practical effect of all such sells has been to divide populations into two simple groups: Those who are dead, and those who wish they were. Rant Off.) Needless to say, his Concern had nothing to do with individual well-being, but instead with pitting Group against Group. Then the guy started in on all the places in Africa he wished to visit (“to get to really know the people”), including South Africa. Even this was too much for the other guy, who suggested it might be wiser to avoid SA (at present busy descending into chaos) until things cool down a little. Finally, the snerp said he had recently started helping out a new group of immigrants in Dee Cee. “Where are they from? Is it Morocco? No, wait, Cameroon? No, wait, somewhere in the east? Not Ethiopia, but the other one…..Oh, heck, it’s Africa. Whatever!”)

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

As I say, it’s as well I had eaten something. Otherwise, I likely would have whirled round and throat-punched the little bastard. As it was, I briefly fantasied at the idea. (Ol’ Robbo tries to live and let live and to turn the other cheek, but these people want me dead so it’s hard to avoid such daydreams from time to time.)

The flight back, by the way, was beastly, not only very late but also the sort where even the stewardesses have to remain seated most of the time. Oddly enough, turbulence at night doesn’t bother Ol’ Robbo as much as it does during the day, partly because the darkness creates the illusion that I’m not 37,000 feet up, partly because, as I say, I was exhausted. Nonetheless, I didn’t check the wings for gremlins until we were firmly on the ground back home when I was sure they’d gone elsewhere.

So that’s that.

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo was hoping to get a little time to relax and recover today, but even as I typed this, the new blinds for the Gels’ bedrooms turned up at the door, so I guess I have my afternoon’s work cut out for me now.

UPDATE: Done and done, although the job took longer than I expected. Perhaps out of pique that we didn’t order installation but I said I would do it myself, they didn’t include instructions in the package. That’s okay – instructions are for sissies. Meanwhile, Mrs. R has taken umbrage at the fact that the company seems to take its own name of “3-Day” to mean something more like “3-Week”, and plans to hector them accordingly, especially after what they socked us for the things.

However, they look very nice.

UPDATE DEUX: It occurs to Ol’ Robbo after the fact that he often blogs in the short-hand of the day. So to be clear, please do not confuse “equity” with “equality” (although proponents of the former would wish that you did). Equality is the idea that everyone should get a fair shake, that we’re equal before the law and that we are not denied the opportunity to make something of ourselves based on artificial barriers. Equity, despite the similarity of root, is the antithesis. It demands the same outcomes in life for everybody, robbing the individual of all personal responsibility and abolishing all effort, luck, chance, and circumstance, and, of course, confiscating all wealth for “fair distribution”. Granted, this has a certain appeal about it – if you’re six years old. But what its proponents won’t tell you is that a) such a system can only work through a totalitarianism completely at odds with reality, and b) history shows again and again that such a system can’t work. I mentioned this idea to my old pal Kipling one time and he said he thought there might be a poem in it.

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!

Those of you following along may be pleased to know that Ol’ Robbo begins to feel definitely better after his nearly month-long bout of the WuFlu. Yesterday I found myself suddenly lucid with respect to my work. I did a few rounds of pushups. I went for a brisk walk. (It didn’t hurt that it was sunny and near 80 degrees out, either.)

It’s always an interesting and pleasurable feeling to be finally on the mend. Didn’t even Tolkien mention it somewhere in The Lord of the Rings? (I think so, although I can’t remember the passage off the top of my head. UPDATE: It comes to me now that it was to do with Eowyn snapping out of it in the House O’ Healing.)

I intend to take advantage of the weather today (we go back to a chance of snow tomorrow) to go out and clean up my garden, a job that is more tedious than strenuous. I reckon the fresh air, sunshine, and light exertion will be beneficial.

Of course, I plan to keep my eyes open lest Eric Idle sneak up behind me and whack me on the back of my head. (And now that I reread this post, I probably should watch out for Bob from the NSA, too, since I’m sure my favorable mention of Tolkien will set off the anti-Right Wing Extremist klaxons at HQ.) We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it would appear that, according to the British Government, Frodo Baggins and Aslan are now right-wing extremist triggers:

“There is also a reading list of historical texts which produce red flags to [the Research Information and Communications Unit.].These include Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as works by Thomas Carlyle and Adam Smith. Elsewhere RICU warns that radicalisation could occur from books by authors including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley and Joseph Conrad. I kid you not, though it seems that all satire is dead, but the list of suspect books also includes 1984 by George Orwell.”

Because why not. I would throw in Waugh, Belloc, Chesterton, and Wodehouse, too. (After all, reading about Bertie Wooster trying to steal the cow-creamer for Aunt Dahlia always turns me into a crazy man.)

Now, just where did I leave my old “Read Banned Books” button?

A glass of wine with Prof. Puppy-Blender.

UPDATE: Ah, go ahead and add Roald Dahl’s original works to that list. Ol’ Robbo admits that he never actually has read any Dahl himself except for his autobiography of his early life as an African Oil agent and a World War II fighter pilot, but I’m strongly tempted to dash out and scoop up copies before his writing is completely sanitized for present-day sensibilities. As is often said, Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you wondering where was Ol’ Robbo, I had a bit of a relapse with the ‘vidz earlier this week which knocked me out somewhat. The good nooz is that I am testing “negative” today so hopefully the symptoms will go away shortly and I can return to my usual routine.

In the meanwhile, whilst re-confined to bed, I galloped through all my Douglas Adams collection, none of which I’d read in quite a while. Some observations:

Life, the Universe, and Everything is by far the best of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide series, probably because it was written as a book from the ground up and not manufactured out of radio scripts like the first two.

I do not count So Long and Thanks for All the Fish or Mostly Harmless as part of the canon because Adams’ publishers made him write them. The first feels forced and the second is too dark for me.

I must be an idiot because I’ve read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency many times and still don’t really get the ending. How did they stop the ghost?

The Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul is flat. That’s all.

I don’t think I’ve read The Salmon of Doubt (a collection of Adams’ drafts, letters, and speeches found on his computer after his death) in twenty years. (I was shocked when I realized that’s how long ago he died,) I’d forgotten how slavishly adherent Adams was to the hyper-atheism of Richard Dawkins. Probably not the best person to have as one’s “spiritual” advisor. Also, Adams was starting to turn into a nutter: There’s a piece in there where he goes on an all-out rant over a lame joke a comic made about constructing airplanes out of Black Box material since the Black Boxes always survive crashes. (Ha-ha.) After frothing about the differences between titanium and aluminium, he concludes the comic was an idiot, the audience were idiots for laughing, comedy itself is now fatally flawed, and the only people left on Earth who can be trusted with the Truth are the Experts. He’d fit right in nowadays.

Anyhoo, there it is.

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 continues shut down by the ‘vidz, and if I don’t feel much worse than I did when it descended over the weekend, I don’t really feel any better, either. Nothing to do but rest, rest, and rest some more.

In whiling away the time, I naturally fall back on my favorite habit (or vice, if you like) of binge-reading, although for the moment I can only last about twenty or thirty minutes at a go before I need to take off my glasses and close my eyes for a while. Recognizing this, I decided to choose some light stuff, about which I need not think very hard. And since I recently have been working my way through my collection of historickal military fiction, I decided it might be time to revisit Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series.

Boy, did that prove to be a mistake.

Ol’ Robbo has written here before that he believes Mr. Cornwell has a real gift for putting military matters to paper in a manner which brings them alive to the reader, indeed at times rising to genuine heights in his tactical and strategic descriptions. But, like so many other authors who go in for this particular genre (Tom Clancy, Derek Robinson, and the Shaaras, pers et fils, come to mind), he simply cannot write a story around such things. The characters are cardboard, the dialogue is cliched, and the sensationalism is of the clang-clang-clang variety.

Now Ol’ Robbo doesn’t mind this so much in the proper time and place, say when I’m lazing on summah hols with an adult beverage on a porch overlooking Casco Bay, Maine. But when I feel, as an old secretary of mine used to put it, this “hinky”, I just don’t have the patience. Aches and pains are exacerbated, not soothed.

Thus, after running through the first two Sharpe novels and getting increasingly irritated, I’ve now switched over to Something Completely Different in the form of Douglas Adams, who I have not read in a while.

It’s proved a hoopy choice (plus the towel is very handy for wiping the sweat from my fevered brow).


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June 2023