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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Veterans’ Day!

A glass of wine with all those who have served (which I suspect includes a few friends of the decanter and/or their relations).

Of course, this is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.  I must say that I don’t care much for all that “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” stuff.  To me, it’s too much like Sam Elliot’s line in “Gettysburg” about “men in tall hats and gold watch-fobs thumping their chests and saying what a brave charge it was”.

The fact of the matter is that the War could have ended a lot earlier if anyone had paid any attention to poor, dear Blessed Karl of Austria who, upon his accession to the throne, frantically tried to bring about a peace.  Alas, that rat-bastard Woodrow Wilson and his hard-liner pals wouldn’t take anything less than total annihilation of the Central Powers, the War dragged on another year of slaughter, the Bolsheviks seized control in Russia, and Germany was left ripe for the rise of Nazism.  All so that rat-bastard Wilson (I just love typing that) could indulge his progressivist authoritarian pipe-dream of bringing about the Brave New World both in Europe and at home.

And of course, we’re still very much paying for it.  Feh.

I mentioned the other day that I was reading Stephen Sears’ Chancellorsville.  From there, I went on to reread Glenn Tucker’s High Tide at Gettysburg.  As with the Sears book, it’s been a few years since I last dipped into this, and I’d forgotten how much like a bravura college lecture it reads – matter of fact narrative punctured with florid atmospheric word-paintings and asides about personalities.  Tucker doesn’t take sides but is sympathetic to both, which probably means he’d be guilty of wrong think these days.

From there, I set myself to revisit a task which I feel honor-bound to complete even though it’s very difficult, that is to finally finish reading James Longstreet’s From Manassas to Appomattox.  Old Pete may have been many things, but a good writer was definitely not one of them.  This book is amazingly dull and plodding, and seems uplifted by some nugget of opinion or observation only every ten pages or so.  But it is Old Pete, a man who was there.  Also, I dislike intensely the idea of not finishing a book once I’ve picked it up.

So that’s that.  A cold, gray day today, perfect for a blanket, a pot of coffee, and plodding.

UPDATE: Okay, I just finished the chapters devoted to Gettysburg, and things are actually starting to get good.  Particularly in the last one, Old Pete goes into a tirade against those critics who claimed or inferred that he lost the battle, and goes on to argue that it was, in fact, all Lee’s fault for not listening to his suggestion that the Rebs wheel round to the right.  Heh, indeed.

UPDATE DEUX:  Well, we’re in full self-justification territory now.  After departing Lee post-Gettysburg, he’s gone on to kick Braxton Bragg in the nuts over Chickamauga  and Chattanooga (which, if you’re a Southern sympathizer, is probably warranted), and to argue that his fart-assing about the wilds of East Tennessee over the winter of 1863-64 was the Single Most Important Strategic Thing for the Confederacy, if only Richmond had been paying attention.  (He doesn’t help his case by reprinting a number of communications from Sam Grant that basically say, “Yeah, Longstreet’s in East Tennessee. He’s harmless. I’m headed for Georgia.”)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been down the past day or so with some kind of stomach bug.  In my opinion, there is no worse combination than feeling hungry, nauseous, and stopped up all at the same time.  Bleh.

I mention this not out of self-pity, but so that I can raise a glass to Sleepy Beth, who, in commenting on my recent post griping about Mrs. R hustling me into getting the flu shot, said, “Oh, you may *think* her “I told you so” has been nullified, but you’re likely wrong. Instead, if you get sick, it’ll be the “Just think how bad it could have been if you didn’t get your flu shot.”

Damme if that isn’t exactly what Mrs. R said this morning.  Cheers, Ma’am!

Anyhoo, to while away the time, I’ve picked up Stephen W. Sears’ Chancellorsville (As of now, it’s late afternoon on May 2 and Jackson is about to launch his flank attack on hapless Otis Howard.)  While I’ve read it several times before, it’s been a few years, and I’m finding the book crisp, clear, and insightful in ways I’d forgotten.

I’m also finding myself entertaining a question, buried deep down in the recesses of my braims but nonetheless clearly present: What if Hooker WINS this time?

I’m not talking about Alt History and its useless yet pleasant debates about What Might Have Been.  I mean that as I read this book about this particular factual occurrence, part of my mind is given over to the slim possibility that the words on the page might somehow be different than they were before.

This fancy isn’t reserved for historickal works either.  I frequently experience the same thing when rereading a piece of fiction, too.  (To give but a single example, I’m always afraid that Théoden, upon seeing the siege of Minas Tirith, really might turn around and slink off into the hills.)  And as I think about it, I also get the same sensation when re-watching a favorite movie.  (Curiously, I never, ever think a piece of musick is going to suddenly go off in some different direction the Nth time I hear it.)

On the one hand, this sensation annoys and slightly worries me, since it’s pretty close to somebody or other’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

On the other, Ol’ Robbo has the habit of reading and watching his favorites many, many times (else they wouldn’t be favorites), and it does keep things fresh and entertaining.

Well, you can call it willful suspension of disbelief or else creeping madness.  (The Old Gentleman used to make snide comments about “fuzzy-headed English majors” and the Mothe often flat-out told me I’m a loony.) I suppose if it confines itself to reading for pleasure, it’s harmless enough.  If I show signs of trying to apply it in Real Life (“That red light is actually green; I now identify as a fourteen year old girl”), then somebody please summon those nice young men in their clean white coats.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Cold and rainy at Port Swiller Manor this morning, and Ol’ Robbo has absolutely no good reason to go outside.  (I’ll be pulling the ferns and hostas off the porch for the winter later, but that can wait.)

Instead, I’m wallowing in a little nostalgia.

Remember the Golden Years of the Blogsphere when somebody would get hold of a meme, play it, and then flip it around to a bunch of other folks who would play in turn, everybody linking and commenting together?

Good times.  Good times.

Well, even thought those days are over (I often feel like I’m only talking to myself here), Ol’ Robbo is going to indulge himself in a little fun by playing with this Merriam-Webster gizmo (found at the Puppy-Blender’s) that shows what words were “introduced” the year one was born.

Some examples from Anno Domini 1965:

Alley-oop – This surprised me until I read farther that M-W only dates the word here in the context of basketball.

Chill factor – M-W seems to relate this to the concept of “wind chill”. I’m pretty sure its slang use is of much more recent vintage.

Domino Theory – A nice historickal reference, given that we already had a military presence in Vietnam at that point, but I’m a little surprised it didn’t go back to Korea.  Often sneered at, but to my mind a credible fear.

Hippie – Gorram hippies.  My uncle was one.  Long hair, tie-dye, the works.  To him, the Brave New World was all about free pot and free sex, and I still remember the yelling matches between him and my parents back in the early 70’s over that sumbitch Nixon.  He broke off contact with the Old Gentleman after my grandmother died in the mid-90’s, and the last I heard of him he was a part-time bartender and sleeping on a buddy’s sofa.

Lava lamp – See above.  I think my uncle had one.  (I know he had a water bed.)  Duuuuude…….

Postfeminist – This surprises me a bit, given that the concept of “feminism” goes back at least to the 19th Century.  You’d think somebody would have come up with a “post-” theory earlier than the 60’s.  (Fun fact: My Gels look at the current state of “feminism” with horror and revulsion.)

Unawesome – I have never heard anyone use this word and don’t believe it actually exists.

White Hat – I don’t believe this one.  The “White Hat” was a device used in Westerns going back much earlier than that.  Somebody must have been using the term then, too.

Yorkie-poo – Yorkie-poo?  Ol’ Robbo hates Yorkies and dislikes poodles, too, so this is really the worst of both worlds.

So there you are.  Lots of others, mostly of a technical or corporate-speak variety.  G’wan over and play yourselves, and in the meantime feel free to get off my lawn.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is off from work tomorrow, so tonight is my early Friday Night.  What say you to opening the sluice-gates of my alleged mind and see what comes pouring out?

♦   How about just a little politicks first? Robbo’s prediction: The ‘Pubs hold the House and gain in the Senate. (And yes, both the Elder Gels have mailed in their absentee ballots.) Blue Wave? Naw.  Red Tsunami.

♦  Related, today was “Patriotism Day” at Youngest’s high school. (It’s “Theme Week” leading up to Homecoming this weekend.  Teh kidz were supposed to dress up appropriately.  Youngest wore Stars & Stripes pants and a “Trump 2020” shirt.  Heh, indeed.

♦  Okay, how about we turn to the Arts? Yesterday evening on the drive home, Ol’ Robbo heard the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony on the local classickal station.  The DJ started off by reading some wankstein’s musings about how this piece was ol’ Pyotr Ilyich’s musickal musing on the subject of Destiny, and the ambiguity of whether the final movement represented a Triumph over Fate or a resigned acceptance of it.

Cor lumme, stone the crows.  This is exactly why I loathe Romanticism in all its manifestation.  I don’t give a damn about Tchaikovsky’s views on predestination, I only care about whether the musick is well-crafted or not.  (Duke Ellington: “If it sounds good, it is good.”)

♦  Oh, and I hadn’t realized it until I researched this a bit, but Cole Porter stole the main theme from this movement for his song “Farewell, Amanda” from the Spencer Tracy/Kate Hepburn move “Adam’s Rib”, one of my old favorites.  Been a while since I’ve seen it…..Must look to Netflix queue…….

♦  By the bye, I  despise the whole concept of predestination and fatalism, too.  Ol’ Robbo would not have made a good Calvinist.

♦  Any Charles Portis fans among you?

♦  Today is the Feast of St. Chrysanthus, an early martyr. I had hoped that there might be some association with chrysanthemums, since they are so closely associated with this season and many flower names do, in fact, have Christian origins, but apparently not.  (I don’t really care much for mums anyway.  Too garish for me.)

♦  I suppose I had ought to say something about the World Series here, but really, Ol’ Robbo has no dog in this fight.  I’m pretty sure the Sawx are going to win it all.  I am absolutely sure there’s nothing quite so obnoxious as a triumphant Bahston sports fan.

♦  Speaking of athletics, Ol’ Robbo has got back into working out on his rowing erg.  I realized recently that I had made a big mistake last year (when I first bought it) of trying to do long, steady, power rows (30 minutes, for instance) right off the bat.  I quickly got discouraged with that (being not a 19 y.o. varsity athlete but a 53 y.o. desk-jockey), and so stopped using the thing.  But recently it occurred to me to do some research on recommended workouts and I came across a whole packet of programs of interval training.  Makes all the difference in teh world.  I’ve been at it now for about two weeks and haven’t felt this good in a long time.

♦  By the bye, when I was rowing crew in college back in the day, I had a t-shirt that read “Put an erg on the water and it sinks…”  I still think that’s the right attitude.  (Who knows? Perhaps one day Ol’ Robbo will invest in a scull and take up plashing about on the Potomac.)

Well, enough.  Tomorrow morning, Ol’ Robbo probably will try to get out and give the yard one final mow for the year, ahead of the nor’easter which is supposed to blow in later in the day.  Porch plants probably come inside this weekend, too, and I’m getting ready to slap the rear side-panels back on La Wrangler in anticipation of the colder weather.  (And wetter.  I understand we may get an El Nino this year, which means much precipitation on the East Coast.)







Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that the cooler weather has settled in firmly, Ol’ Robbo can return to his practice of reusing the shirt he wears to Mass Sunday afternoon for the office on Monday.  I enjoy this because I can still smell the incense the next day.

There are a number of different incensings during the course of the Traditional Latin Mass:  The incensing of the altar before the Introit; the incensing of the Missal before the reading of the Gospel; the incensing of the Offerings, the priest, the other servers and the congregation; and at the Consecration itself.  Given a good-sized thurible and some snappy wrist action,  the atmosphere can get pretty saturated by the time things are done.

Good old smells and bells.  Gotta love ’em.

UPDATE: Speaking of things Traddie, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught a week or two ago by a small item (at the Puppy-blender’s, I think) concerning one Brian M. McCall, an Associate Dean and Professor at Oklahoma Law.  In 2014, Dr. McCall published To Build The City of God:  Living as Catholics in a Secular Age. It is, so I gather, a Rad-Trad guide to navigating our current, ghastly, so-called “culture”.  Apparently, it includes some rayther stark assessments and opinions.  (For example, it condemns “same-sex marriage” and states that women shouldn’t wear pants out of modesty.)

Evidently, somebody recently read this book and Was Not Amused.  A campaign was started against Dr. McCall, not because he’d every been found to have discriminated against, harassed, or even treated anybody without respect, but simply because he had committed wrongthink in putting these ideas to paper.  The nooz item I saw was the reported that he’s now been hounded out of his administrative position with the school because of it.

I went ahead and bought the book.  Even though Ol’ Robbo is a Traddie of sorts himself, I’ll wager there are some things in it with which I will disagree.  Fine.  But I felt it my obligation to make at least some small protest against this kind of Orwellian bullying.  (Show of hands, by the bye, for those who believe McCall would have received the same treatment had he reached these conclusions from the perspective of Islamic fundamentalism.  Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)

I’ll let you know what I think of it. (The book itself, that is. You can gather what I think of the situation already.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to follow up on my post immediately below, Ol’ Robbo did watch the 1982 made-for-teevee version of “Ivanhoe” last evening and found it perfectly enjoyable in a blandish way.

I can’t remember the last time I saw it, but I had forgotten that it had a pretty heavy-hitting cast which included James Mason, Michael Hordern (an old favorite of mine), Julian Glover, Rebecca Hussey (who was a thing at the time), John Rhys-Davies, and Sam Neill (and what hasn’t he been in?).

As for Anthony Andrews in the title role, well, if Colin Firth can play a battle-hardened Roman general in a movie I absolutely deny tossing into my queue every now and again (and deny even further that it has anything to do with the presence of a shmokin’ hot Indian actress), I suppose Andrews can be a silly English kniggit, too.

I say it’s blandish because although the jousts and the climactic storming of the castle are pretty cool, the rest of it just sort of putters along without a whole lot of drama or chemistry.  (I recall that the 1952 movie with Robert Taylor, Liz Taylor, and Joan Fontaine had a lot more fireworks to it.)

And as I only read the book once about eleventy-billion years ago, I have no idea how faithful this version is to Sir Walter’s original.

I’ll only say also that sob stories about how mean the Normans were to the Saxons amuse me to a certain extent, since the Saxons had been doing the same damned thing (and worse) to the Britons for hundreds of years prior.  The biter bit, as it were.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t seem to tape out a fully-formed post on any single subject this evening, so how about a this-n-that fondue?

♦  Start with the fact that I can’t spell “fondue” without looking it up.  And I dislike the whole concept because of some childhood incident, the specifics of which I can no longer recall.

♦  The Local Classickal Station is doing their annual fall pledge drive and I have finally become so sick of hearing the same pitches over and over and over again that I’ve actually turned off my radio until it’s done, a practice I usually reserve for Lent.  (Yes, I do contribute.)

♦  I recently read Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That again for the nth-time.  With each reading, I find I become even more fascinated by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, but also more repelled by his character.

♦  And on the subject of books, I have a very real feeling that it’s time for me to revisit Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which I reread every couple years.  I remember a meme some blog-friend posted years ago:  Pamela Flitton or Brenda Last?

♦  Today was the first day of the season that I was able to do my lunchtime walkies without breaking a sweat, something I’m sure my office mates appreciated.  I also was able to keep up a spanking pace – my habit is to leave my building at the same time each day and to wind up near the Grant Memorial at about 12:45 pm.  There’s a nearby bell tower that strikes quarterly, and where I am when it goes off tells me how good my pace is.

♦  Obsessive-compulsive? Moi? Say rather that my mind is quite scattershot, so I need to build as many routines as possible – walking the same route at the same time, parking in the same space every day, keeping my keys, wallet, etc., in the same spot.  Otherwise, I would become disoriented very quickly.

♦  Speaking of the season, the annual Flu Shot Wars have flared up at Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. R has begun badgering me about getting one and I have already stuck in my heals and balked.  Ol’ Robbo has a deep aversion to needles.  It’s as simple as that.

Whelp, enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is off to revisit the early-80’s tee-vee version of “Ivanhoe” with Anthony Andrews, who was at his peak star power in those days.  I can’t help thinking that Andrews didn’t really have the brawn to play a medieval knight, not like Robert Taylor. But ne’er mind.




Derwent Water, Lake District – Image lifted from Wiki

**No, this post has absolutely nothing to do with “Star Wars”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I can’t find it now, but regular friends of the decanter may recall my posting some time back that I had long been curious about the fact that John Cleese’s Cheese Shop customer character from Monty Python had been skimming Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole while seated in the public library in Thurmond Street before suddenly becoming peckish.  Esurient.  Y’e were ‘ungry-like!  To this end, I wrote that I was going to buy and read the book myself.

Well, my friends, I’m happy to report that although it lay around neglected for months after I ordered it from the devil’s website, I finally sat down and read this 700+ page opus this past week.

When the book was first published in the 1920’s, John Buchan called it “the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure“.  To me? It’s trash. Glorious, entertaining trash, but trash nonetheless.

Rogue Herries is the first of four novels chronicling the fortunes of the Herries family, stout English gentry from Cumberland, from the 18th through the 20th Centuries.  The “Rogue” involved is Francis, youngest son of his generation, and the book picks up his story in about 1730 when, disgusted with the imperfections of the world around him, he removes himself and his young family back to the ramshackle Herries manor house in the Lake District.  He’s called “Rogue” by the locals because he is willful to the point of violence, eccentric, and notorious for such things as humiliating his wife, selling his mistress at a fair, and harboring a suspected witch in his household.  The story covers the next thirty-odd years of his and his family’s life.

I call the book trash because the plot is complete soap-opera. (Without looking it up, I wonder if it has been dramatized? Should be if it hasn’t.)  Some of it, for instance Francis’s interactions with his boy-wonder son David, is quite moving at times.  On the other hand, most of the story about his relationship with his second wife, the Gypsy-girl Mirabell Starr, had me groaning and occasionally muttering “Oh, come on!”

Not that trash is a bad thing, mind you.  I’m reminded of the passage from Evelyn Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender in which the literary critic Edvard Spruce is discussing a new novel, The Death Wish, by a rising (but insane) WWII British Army officer:

“You’ve read The Death Wish?” Spruce asked.

“Bits.  It’s pure novelette.”

Novelette? It’s twice the length of Ulysses.  Not many publishers have enough paper to print it nowadays.  I read a lot of it last night.  I can’t sleep with those damned bombs.  Ludovic’s Death Wish has got something, you know.”

“Something very bad.”

“Oh, yes, bad; egregiously bad.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see it have a great success.”

“Hardly what we expected from the author of the aphorisms.”

“It is an interesting thing,” said Spruce, “but very few of the great masters of trash aimed low to start with.  Most of them wrote sonnet sequences in their youth.  Look at Hall Caine – the protégé of Rossetti – and the young Hugh Walpole emulating Henry James.  Dorothy Sayers wrote religious verse.  Practically no one ever sets out to write trash.  Those that do don’t get very far.”

(I hope that Miss Sayers hunted down Mr. Wu and clocked him one for that, by the bye.)

Anyhoo, there it is.

Two other things about the novel, both of which are plusses to Ol’ Robbo.

First, as I say, the story picks up about 1730, and while it’s largely at a distance, the history of the period does make occasional appearances.  There are mutterings here and there of Jacobite and Hanoverian politicks, and Francis in fact meets Bonnie Prince Cherlie in Carlisle during the ’45.  The troubles with the American Colonies also are mentioned.  And there are also hints of the changes beginning to sweep 18th Century Britain with the onset of the Industrial Revolution (which I strongly suspect will have a more prominent part in the next novel in the sequence).

Finally, Walpole’s descriptions of the English Lake District – its geography, its changing seasons, its people – is straight out of a Tourist Board’s dream:  One’s overwhelming feeling upon reading them is the desire to go see the place oneself.  Walpole doesn’t attempt to distort or camouflage anything, either. He’s no Thomas Hardy inventing a region of Wessex or E.F. Benson setting a Mapp & Lucia story in the town of Rye but calling it Tilling.  Instead, he lays out a precise geography – Keswick, Grange, Rosthwaite, Barrowdale, and the River Derwent.  If you dial up Gurgle-Maps, you can pinpoint exactly where each bit of his action takes place.  Ol’ Robbo used to own a book of Lake District photography.  Maddeningly, I can’t seem to find it anymore.  Too bad, because I’d bet a considerable sum that it covered many of the locations described by Walpole.

So overall, a satisfying exercise, I think, although I’m not sure I’ve gained any illumination as to why Cleese mentions it in the Python sketch, except maybe to emphasize the character’s eccentric half-intellectualism.  At some point, I probably will re-read it, too.  A quick glance at the devil’s website shows that the other three volumes of the Herries Chronicles are also available.  Put it this way: I’ll probably eventually buy them because I now know they exist and, frankly, I want to see what happens next, but I doubt I’ll read them (or this one again)  until I’m flopped on a beach somewhere or sitting on a porch in Maine overlooking Casco Bay.  This is pure vacation-reading, so it is.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!  Did you know that ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize this was a holiday weekend until last Friday?  The relief I felt when I found I had an extra day after all the silly running about behavior I had to do Saturday and Sunday was immense.

So on to this and that:

♦  In the spirit of the day, I recommend to you once again a trilogy of books by Hugh Thomas, sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  They are Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to Magellan, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America, and World Without End: Spain, Phillip II, and the First Global Empire.  What I really like about these books is the way Thomas sets Spain’s American ventures in the context of its home politicks and culture – the Reconquista, the Inquisition, the relations of Castile and Aragon, and the larger Hapsburg connections between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.  It all wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

♦  Speaking of which, Eldest is taking a course this semester on pre-Columbian American empires, specifically the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas.  She’s really enjoying it, in part because her prof refuses to paint them as Rousseauian utopias and is careful to include the uglier aspects as well.  (She recently watched “Apocalypto” in connection with the course.  Her review? “It was weird.”)

♦  And speaking of ugly, is Melania Trump really getting flak for wearing a “colonial” pith helmet on her tour of Africa?  Do these fookin’ people honestly have nothing better to do with themselves?  Or is this just aggression-transfer resulting from last week’s Pickett’s Charge effort to sink Justice Kavanaugh?

♦ On a completely different note, our trip to CNU to visit Middle Gel this weekend was very nice.  We saw her perform in a pan-musick department concert Saturday afternoon, and then went to a BBQ picnic out on the lawn.  While we were eating, the marching band came, well, marching by on their way to the football stadium for the evening’s game.  I understand they are the second largest Division III marching band in the country.  They were really strutting their stuff, too.  I dunno why, but Ol’ Robbo has always been a sucker for school marching bands.  I like both the sound and the razzmatazz.  (And no, I was never a Band Geek myself.)

“Ah, Ha, Ha, Haaa…”

♦  Pulling out of the parking garage at the hotel yesterday morning, Ol’ Robbo was able to make a turn in our Honda Juggernaut that missed a neighboring car’s fender by inches but saved me having to back up again.  As I did so, I laughed in the voice of Snake from “The Simpsons”.  Mrs. R looked at me and said, “You are so strange.”  But I was happy.  Is this just a guy thing?

♦  And speaking of happy and driving, friend of the decanter Tubbs remarks in a comment below on the slog that is I-95 and the Dee Cee Beltway.  In fact, we didn’t do too badly coming up I-64 from the Tidewater and then I-95 from Richmond yesterday.  And I have to confess that ever since they’ve completed the EZ-Pass express lanes on the Beltway and dropped them down to around Stafford on I-95, the last 45 minutes or so of my trips home from south of The Swamp have become downright pleasant.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Ol’ Robbo needs to go mow the lawn now and feel appropriately guilty about historickal European destruction of Indigenous Peoples, but mostly go mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Yardwork status? Done.  I forgot to mention earlier that we took Youngest with us on our visit this weekend.  She got very mad at Ol’ Robbo because I point-blank refused to let her practice driving on the interstates.  I did, in fact, let her drive when we were in Newport News, but even then she almost ran a red light because she got distracted by something.  No way is she ready for bumper-to-bumper at 80 MPH.

“The Sea Hawk” – Artist unknown

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my brief review of Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood and my intent to go on to his The Sea Hawk?  In it, I mentioned the faithfulness of the Errol Flynn “Captain Blood” movie to the book and wondered whether his “Sea Hawk” film would be the same.

Well, my friends, I finished reading The Sea Hawk, but I’m here to tell you there is absolutely no connection between the book and the Flynn movie.

Ol’ Robbo was expecting another sea-tale of English Rovers under Good Queen Bess harrying the Dons in the New World and appropriating the loot being sent back to Spain, simply because that’s what the movie was.  It’s there, all right, but completely disposed of in the first page or two.  This is the story of a particular Cornish Gentleman which picks up after his roving days and his service against the Armada.  Through a series of events too complicated to spell out, he is wrongfully suspected of killing his intended’s brother, is kidnapped by his own half-brother (the real killer) who plans to sell him into slavery on the Barbary Coast, is captured by the Spanish at sea and sent by the Inquisition to the galleys, is captured again by Muslim Corsairs, and at that point decides to go renegade, winding up as the right-hand man of the Pasha of Algiers, shedding his name of Sir Oliver Tressilian and becoming Sakr-El-Bahr, the “Sea Hawk”.

And that’s all just in Part I of the book.

The second, longer part is about his return journey, so to speak, and involves revenge, intrigue, and Islamic power politicks, plus the very long (I’d say a bit too long) evolution of his relationship with the girl he’d meant to marry at the start of the story.  Without giving away any spoilers, there’s a very exciting rescue, plus a final scene with a few surprise twists that leads to a satisfactory conclusion.

As I said about the other Sabatini book, a good, ripping yarn.

One thing that struck me was a fair amount of hostility towards Christianity on the part of the author, who largely dismisses those who profess it as hypocrites.  Sabatini seems far more approving of Islam which, he seems to argue, may be barbarous, but at least is honest about it.  He also emphasizes its fatalistic character and the effect this has on its adherents. (I seem to recall reading somewhere that this is a big factor behind why so many prisoners convert:  If one’s fate has already been written, then one isn’t responsible for one’s actions.) I wouldn’t call it an outright embracing, but he’s certainly sympathetic in his portrayal of the Corsairs and their ways.

Anyhoo, another book that will definitely stay on Ol’ Robbo’s adventure-stories shelf.



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