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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday! **

First off, let me finish off an item that I raised in the post immediately below but that I don’t want to get buried: Last evening, I watched “The Case for Christ”.  Frankly, I didn’t much like it, and not just because it’s set in the horror that was the late Carter Era.  The theology and scientific overlap are, as somebody here said, solid.  But the film itself is pure Hallmark Pablum.  Your results may vary, but if somebody was trying to bring me in to Christianity and showed it to me? I’d get the willies.  (On a more microcosmic level, this same thing happened when I was swimming the Tiber and somebody gave me some Scott Hahn to read.  Better to get a sober grounding first, then to turn to the enthusiasts.  Otherwise, the “flight” instinct might kick in.)  Nonetheless, I was moved enough to order Lee Strobel’s book.  Hopefully, it probes the thing a bit deeper than the film.

That out of the way, Ol’ Robbo has had what, at least to me, seems to have been a very good Lent this year, both cleansing and enlightening.  I’ll tell you about it some time if you’re really interested, but for now I’ll just say that I truly hope, in the words of Alfred, Lord Tennis Court, that after all that work and introspection I will be able to rise on the stepping stones of my dead self to higher things instead of (as usual) going splat some time shortly after Easter.

In any event, Holy Week is now upon us, and I intend to do the whole cycle this year: Tenebrae on Wednesday, the Mass of the Last Supper on Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.  (I always attend the Vigil in order to cheer on fellow converts coming in to Holy Mother Church.  This will be the 11th anniversary of my own swim across the Tiber.) Sunday itself is reserved for riding herd on my somewhat Christianity-and-water family.  (And I talk about enthusiasts! Physician, heal thyself.)

Anyhoo, as I think I mentioned previously, I’ll be going dark here for the week and will be back after it’s all over and done.  Feel free to keep commenting on this and all the more recent posts, as I’ll still be keeping track and am very, very grateful for all your input.

In the meantime, God bless you all!


** Because it is, isn’t it?  The mob showered Jesus with praise and adoration because they thought when He entered Jerusalem that He was going to turn Pilate into a pumpkin and the Roman garrison into a bunch of white mice.  Quite wrong, of course.  How do we deal with this?

UPDATE:  Bumpers all round, Ladies and Gentlemen, because Ol’ Robbo has finally achieved a long-time dream! I give you my first and second ever successful palm frond crosses:

Nobody ever taught me how to do one and I always felt a twinge of regret watching some seven year old folding them up in nothing flat.  So this afternoon I dug up this how-to YooToob video (actually and coincidentally put out by my own diocese), and hey presto!

Yes, it may be silly, but it actually means quite a bit to me.  Huzzay, huzzah!

MORE:  I just did a bunch of them for practice and left one on each of the Gels’ pillows (Mrs. R included) for when they come home for Easter.  Heh.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pray let us raise our glasses in honor of Lew Wallace, born this day in 1827.  I bring this up for a felicitous reason I’ll get to in a moment.

Wallace had quite the life.  Starting out as a lawyer, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and served in the Mexican War.  In the Civil War, he served primarily in the Western Theater as a brigadier general.  He did well at the Battles of Forts Henry and Donelson, but owing to garbled communications, was out of position at a critical moment on the first day of Shiloh, thereby invoking the wrath of Grant, who thought it was Wallace’s fault.  (It wasn’t, and Grant rather grudgingly admitted the error later in his Memoirs.)

For this black mark, Wallace was banished to second line command positions, where he eventually wound up in charge of a small force along the Monocacy River outside Frederick, Murrland that, in 1864, suddenly found itself the only organized military unit between Washington D.C. and a flank move by Jubal Early out of the Shenandoah Valley.  Hopelessly out-gunned, Wallace nonetheless deployed his small force, which deployment delayed Early’s move by a day and bought enough time for re-enforcements to be rushed to the Washington defenses.

As Wiki notes, Wallace also served on the military commission for the trials of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and presided over the trial of Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the Andersonville prison camp (who I believe was the only Confederate war criminal ever hanged by the Union).

Later, Wallace became governor of the New Mexico territory and personally met Billy the Kid.

But what makes today’s birthday especially apropos are the facts a) that Wallace became a writer in later life and was the author of Ben-Hur, which was an insanely popular novel in its day, and b) that Netflix just delivered the 2-DVD set of the Heston movie version of the book, which I plan to watch over the weekend, as Mrs. R and Youngest Gel will be out of town visiting her parents and I’ll have Port Swiller Manor to myself.

I’ve never read the novel, although I am tempted to check it out.  However, reviews I’ve seen suggest it is somewhat overwrought and ponderous in style, and I’m a little hesitant to tackle it even for historickal purposes until I get some better feedback.

As for the movie, it’s been ages, and I think the last time I watched it I dozed off somewhere around Heston’s visit to the leper colony.  Fortunately, as I say, it came in two disks this time, so I have a natural way by which to split up my labors.

Anyhoo, with the coincidence of Wallace’s birthday and the arrival of the flick, why not celebrate?


**Obligatory, because that’s exactly what’s popped into your head, isn’t it.







Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had considered putting up a post about the new four-handed “consent” condom as the latest example of the disaster that is “sexual liberation”.  When, I felt like asking again, are the feminist crowd finally going to admit that separating sex from procreation was a huge mistake, that the whole thing was actually cooked up by dudes as a way to get the milk without buying the cow, and that they (the feminists) got seriously, seriously scammed.  (It was a brilliant sell.  Completely evil, but brilliant nonetheless.)  My guess is no time soon and that they will continue to apply these Rube Goldberg-like band-aids to the insoluble problems of “casual” sex.

But it’s such a lovely day today that I really don’t have the heart to rant.  [Ed. – Except it looks like you already did.]  So instead, I give you a recent article  about a new study which claims to have established experimentally that cats understand some words.

Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there’s no evidence cats actually attach meaning to our words, not even their own names. Instead, they’ve learned that when they hear their names they often get rewards like food or play, or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they hear their names a lot. So the sound of it becomes special, even if they don’t really understand it refers to their identity.

Well remember, that’s what cats let on to knowing.  What secrets they harbor inside remain unfathomable.

We’re on our fifth and sixth cats now.  Certainly, all the kittehs we’ve owned (“His cat he calls her but she owns him not”)** have known their names, plus a few other words.  “Mouse” and “treat” are among the terms that have meaning for our current pair. “Mouse” refers to the little plastic toys Ginger loves having thrown for her, while “treat” means Fiona has once again hypnotized Mrs. R into going to the pantry.

Of course, most of our communication with them is non-verbal – body language, facial expression, and the like.  Somebody ought to study that.  With a little practice and discernment, there’s a vast wealth of signals a cat can shoot at you just by the way she cocks her ears or flicks her tail.  And in fact, that language is far, far subtler than anything our dog is capable of communicating.

And, of course, obligatory to a post touching on feline sneekiness:


**Spot the quote

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo caught bits and pieces of the story of the Iranian Christian convert turned down for asylum by the Brits on the grounds that Christianity is not a peaceful religion, but the story turns out to be even more horrible than I had thought. (Warning, UK Daily Mail link)

The Home Office turned down a Christian convert’s bid for asylum in an ‘unbelievably offensive’ letter quoting bloodthirsty passages from the bible to prove Christianity is not a religion of peace.

The Iranian national claimed asylum in 2016, but was turned down, with Home Office officials saying his conversion from Islam was ‘inconsistent’ with his claim Christianity was a peaceful religion – by highlighting violent passages from the bible.

In the refusal letter six passages are listed and a claim is made that Revelations is filled with ‘images of revenge, destruction, death and violence.’

Un. Bulievable.

The Home Office seems to be getting a lot of flak for this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision is reversed.  But it’s only a check: They’ll be back at it again soon enough.

Meanwhile, on a much happier note, our Padre confirmed today what I’ve been noticing with my own eyeballs for some weeks now:  Attendance at our Traditional Latin Mass has been growing steadily.  Apparently it’s the same with the other Masses as well.  Thank Heaven I have such a strong parish.  I sometimes get depressed when I see what people are shrieking at each other over social media.  Makes it seem as if the whole world is going to hell.  But then I see something like this and my hope is restored.

And speaking of Hope, I’m sure friends of the decanter are aware that tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation. J.R.R. Tolkien always insisted his Lord of the Rings was not allegorical.  On the other hand, it’s no accident that he chose March 25 as the date for the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of Sauron.

And this gives me an excuse to repost one of my favorite paintings, The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937).  I like it because his rather non-traditional rendering of the Angel’s appearance is very close to the images of such manifestations as described in the writings of C.S. Lewis, particularly in his Ransom Trilogy.  I don’t know if Lewis knew Tanner’s painting, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised.   Anyway, enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As promised (or threatened) below, Ol’ Robbo has a bit of this and that bouncing around inside his braims at the moment:

♦  As I meant to mention, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of the great Johann Sebastian Bach in 1685.  Robbo considers ol’ Johnny Bach to be the single greatest musickal genius in history, and I’ll fight anybody in the octagon who says otherwise.

♦  This reminds me that I need to go back and have another go at Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music In The Castle of Heaven.  I started it some time in the last year or two but found I wasn’t in the mood for JEG’s blend of wandered history, sight-seeing, and ego.  He also makes mention of a scene from the movie “Amadeus“.  Surely Gardener knows that this movie contained virtually not a single accurate biographical fact about Mozart?

♦  Another writer who appreciated Bach was the late Douglas Adams.  His Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – his best book IMHO, although the ending still puzzles me – contains a long, drawn out, back-handed compliment to the Master.  This lets me rant again about what has always frustrated me about Adams, namely his ability to see God’s thumbprints all over the Universe but refusal to acknowledge what he was looking at.  The book speaks wonderfully to the intersection of mathematics, musick, and the natural order of things.  Did Adams suppose this intersection a mere accident?

♦  Speaking of Adams, I re-watched the Beeb’s old Hitchhiker’s Guide series recently.  I hadn’t seen it in quite some time and found it really rather good, if you can get past the shoe-string budget special effects.  I refuse to see the more recent movie version of the story, as I consider it to be heretical. UPDATE:  Oh, and it’s on Ol’ Robbo’s “bucket list” as the kids like to say that I will someday dress up as Zaphod Beeblebrox for a Halloween party.

♦  Also speaking of movies, I see where a third Bill & Ted installment is in the works, “Bill & Ted Get The Early-Bird Special” or whatever.  I dunno…..I love the original (in fact I own it) for its good-natured dopiness and modest ambitions.  The second one tried way too hard for my taste.  This one?  I assume it’s a complete vanity job for Winter and Reeves, so I hope they’re just going to have fun with it.

Why is it there’s nothing out these days except reboots, sequels, and comic book movies?  (I know the answer, actually.)

♦  I watched “Cool Hand Luke” the other evening.  Now there’s a movie for you, even if I don’t care that much for Paul Newman.  ‘Preciatin’ over here, boss!

♦  One thing I don’t appreciate is the sudden call from the Left to destroy the rules surrounding Presidential elections – national popular vote, abolition of the Electoral College, lowering the voting age, and so on. Of course, it’s all part of the plan to bring about collectivist totalitarianism (and I’m not being hyperbolic here but dead serious), but I wonder why now.  Is it because they think they’ve reached a threshold of ignorance, envy, and greed (to say nothing of fraud) amongst the voters that warrants putting these things in play?  Or is it a panicked Hail Mary response to the set-backs they’ve received from OrangeManBad and a perception that their powers have about peeked for the next generation?  I hope for the latter but fear the former.

♦  Oh, and thank Heaven I do not, never have, and never intend to have a Twitter account.  Pure. Crazy. Poison.

So that’s that.  After a thunder and hail storm rolled through here late this afternoon, Port Swiller Manor ought to get a pretty good look at that big Full Moon this evening.  Think I’ll go look for it……

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening, Ol’ Robbo watched “The Time Machine” again, mostly because I enjoy the coo-el CGI effects plus the depravity of Jeremy Irons.

It got me thinking, though, that I reeeeally ought to go back to H.G. Wells’s original, which I’ve never actually read.

Ditto his “War of the Worlds“, which I read eons ago but don’t much remember and probably couldn’t properly understand back then.

Buh-lieve me, Ol’ Robbo is perfectly cognizant of the intellectual and spiritual dispute between, on the one side, Champions of the Faith such as Chesterton and Belloc, and on the other such persons as Wells and G.B. Shaw.  Rest assured that I can appreciate Shaw for his wit without compromising my faith in the God of GKC and Belloc.  I’m equally confident I can dip into the sci-fi wonderings of HGW without corrupting myself.

Here, though, I’m mostly prompted by a curiosity as to whether the film has any real connection with the book, a source of perpetual grievance to Ol’ Robbo.  (Off the top of my head, I’ll guess that the metrosexual, smart-ass, holographic library attendant of the film  prolly is an add-on.)

I’ll let you know what I think, although I’ll bet there are friends of the decanter who already know the answers to my questions.  Feel free to fire away……






Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I mentioned last week, in light of the current sex scandal rocking Holy Mother Church, my padre recommended reading St. Peter Damien’s The Book of Gomorrah, which railed against the same sort of goings on back in the 11th Century.  Per Father’s suggestion, I ordered it this week and read it this afternoon.

All I can say is that’ll bring your post-Mass bagel and cream-cheese back up in a hurry.  (It’s short, to the point, and quite graphic.  On the other hand, it is very clear in its spirit of hating the sin but loving the sinner.)

Yes, as Mark Twain apparently did not say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.

Unfortunately, Peter D addressed his complaint to Pope St. Leo IX, who brought the hammer down forthwith.  I somehow don’t think Papa Frankie has the same backswing and follow-through.

On the other hand, my old friend Father M reminded me the other day of an old adage that “a fat Pope follows a thin Pope.”  That is, the College of Cardinals, when selecting a successor, will seek to compensate for a perceived deficiency in the predecessor.  I think it’s pretty well established by now that Frankie is more interested in mucking about with Liberation Theology and trendy environmentalism than in pushing the “Smite” button when it comes to cleaning out Vatican corruption and vice.

So when it comes to his successor? Cardinal Sarah for the win!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since Ol’ Robbo got his householder rant out of the way last evening, I thought I’d do a little extra.  If you haven’t seen it, there’s a good roundup on Governor Northam, the Virginia Infanticide Bill, and the Dark Side over at the Puppy-Blender’s place this morning.  Note in particular Wretchard the Cat’s thoughts in the update.  I mention them not only because I think he raises a terribly valid point about normalizing evil, but also because it gives Ol’ Robbo the apropos opportunity to flaunt again the only verse of Alexander Pope that I can quote off the top of my head:

Vice is a monster of such frightful mien

That to be hated needs but be seen.

But seen too oft, familiar with her face, 

First we endure, then pity, then embrace. 

Of course, They Might Be Giants put it rather more succinctly in their lyric, “Can’t shake the Devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding”.

For what it’s worth, Mrs. Robbo, who is a generally middle of the road, non-politickal sort of person, is appalled and disgusted by the whole bizznay, both the hyper-radical abortion move and the one-sided, out of control PC witch-hunt.  (At this point, I don’t think Northam’s out, but what do I know.)  To the extent she represents the much ballyhooed “suburban women’s vote”, the thing may represent a tremendous over-reach on the part of the Radical Left and will come back to bite them.  I hope and pray she’s correct.

MORE: A rare Saturday Ewok sighting with some of the latest.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is rereading, as he does every two or three years or so, Anthony Powell’s four-movement novel cycle, A Dance to the Music of Time.

I won’t go into an opinion or analysis of Mr. Pole’s monumental narrative fugue here (except to say that I appreciate it more with each rereading).  Instead, I raise a discrete literary point that touches on a question that has burned at the back of the Robbo braims for a long time.

In The Valley of Bones, which is the first novel of the third “movement” of the quartet, reference is made by one of the characters to a collection of children’s short stories and poems by Rudyard Kipling called Puck of Pook’s Hill.  I had been unaware of this collection heretofore, so on spotting this reference, I immediately dashed over to the devil’s website to order a copy.  (And before you start sneering at Ol’ Robbo ordering children’s stories, I will state that “children’s” literature of the early 20th Century is far more intelligent and grounded than most of what passes for “adult” literature in the early 21st Century.  We live in a Tinsel Age.  So there.)

Anyhoo, while perusing the content of Kipling’s work, Ol’ Robbo started to get excited in particular about a chapter entitled “The Knights of the Joyous Venture” about a Danish long-ship that makes a raid down the coast of Africa.

I got excited about this because I hoped that at last, at last, I’d finally stumbled across the source of a reference in one of the novels of Mr. Evelyn Waugh (A Handful of Dust, I think), to a story of a Viking long-boat that shows up under the walls of Constantinople.

Alas, after reading the synopsis, it seems this isn’t the source.

Garn!  I’m looking forward to expanding my Kipling activities. But  I’m still frustrated that I haven’t found the source for the Norse visit to the seat of the Byzantine Empire.

For those friends of the decanter who are following Robbo’s library reorganization, I’m happy to report that it. is. done.

I’m pretty pleased with the results, too.  They’re all almost in some kind of order now.

In case you were wondering, I also did a count of the volumes both in the library and in the basement: 1,574, although this admittedly includes about twenty-five duplicates, the children’s books I mentioned below, and the twenty or so law books I kept from school but of which I will never, ever have any use.

The good news?  With my rearrangements, I’ve got room on the library shelves for even more!  [Insert Sideshow Bob laugh here.]

In poking about these past two days, I cannot account for only two books that I know for a fact I own:  Treasure Island and KidnappedCatriona is still on the shelf, however, so if there is a Robert Louis Stevenson thief around here, they’re a pretty knowledgeable and discerning one, for whom I find myself owing a certain grudging respect.  (If you’re not a RLS fan, Catriona is the sequel to Kidnapped.  The latter was terrific, the former a complete dud.)

Next stop?  Reorganizing my CD collection!


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