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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s finally done: After what Ol’ Robbo considered to be far too much fuss and bother (and in my books, any fuss and bother is far too much), and a mere two months along, the Port Swiller Manor generator is all hooked up and good to go.

Yes, once we finally coordinated with Washington Gas about getting somebody out to install a “bigger” meter out front and inspect the hookup out back, the generator-wallah was out yesterday to test-fire our newest home-improvement gadget.  Sounded just like a lawnmower.  Musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.*

So now, knowing what resources I’ve got as my back, I feel completely confident that the next time the Storm of the Century of the Week bears down on Port Swiller Manor, I can stand outside in my robe, shake my fists at the heavens, and cry, “BLOW, winds, and ker-ACK thy cheeks!”**

I may even stick straws in my hair.  You know – just to get in the proper mood.

On second thought…..better not, what with daughters and all.  Wouldn’t want any would-be Gonerils and Regans to get any funny ideas.

Anyhoo, we’re in the midst of quite the stormy spell, so perhaps we’ll get to put the thing to use rather sooner than later.


* Ol’ Robbo loves the sound of a mower in the distance, especially when I can smell the new-cut grass.  Conversely, back in college I often heard the sound of the leaf-vacuums during fall classes.  To this day, whenever I hear one I start to doze off.

** Did I ever relate this story before?  Sophomore year in college, I was dating a fellow Brit-Lit shark.  For Thanksgiving, I and a couple other fellahs were invited by another classmate down to their home in Darien, CT for dinner.  On the way back to the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, up I-95 to I-91, it poured buckets the whole way.  Pitch black, zero visibility, construction all over the place, and ill-tempered 18-wheeler drivers.  Ol’ Robbo was quite frightened, perhaps more-so because I was a passenger and not the driver.  In any event, I arrived back on campus thoroughly exhausted, only to discover that my G.F. had left a message to go see her as soon as possible.

Alarmed, I raced over to her room and found her surrounded by candles and in tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh,” she replied.  “I’m re-reading King Lear.  And it’s all so…...tragic!”

“Good night,” I said coldly.

It was right about then that I realized that Diane Chambers, although theoretically good, was in practical life disastrous.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news today about the death of Tom Wolfe at age 88.

I’ve got a good many of his essays and all of his novels, and while at times I think some of his plots and characters a bit overblown, the underlying satire is consistently deadly.  May I call him late 20th Century America’s Evelyn Waugh? Yes, I’ll go ahead and do that.

Coincidentally, I had been mulling a Wolfe post this week anyway because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – a man I thoroughly loathe on many levels – including the musickal – and the local classickal radio station is already in full (if you’ll pardon the expression) knob-gobbling mode.  I had thought of mentioning Wolfe’s famous essay “Radical Chic” about the Maestro and his wife hosting a loft party for the Black Panthers, which was a fundamental part of the shaping of Ol’ Robbo’s politickal sensibilities back when he was a teenager.  (I’ve no use for Limousine Liberalism whatsoever.)

Wolfe, by the bye, was a graduate of Dubyunell and quite active as an alum.  Indeed, he gave the graduation speech for my class at the law school back in ’91.  It was a brutal take-down of P.C-ism and its (then) close ally, multiculturalism.  The grads, who as a class were pretty conservative, ate it up.  The faculty, who were considerably more lefty, were mortified.  Good times.

I say that multiculturalism was an ally of political correctness back then.  Funny how it isn’t any more:  What was once encouraged as the shelving of one’s own nativist preferences in exploration of other points of view, tastes, and experiences, has recently morphed – at least in the eyes of the Politically Correct – into the sin of “cultural appropriation” and is now strictly verboten.  (If Wolfe ever addressed this morphing in any of his more recent writing, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about it.  But I’m sure he was aware of it.)

Anyhoo, he’s now beyond these petty earthly tribalisms and hopefully on his way to a Better Place.  Godspeed.


Who Was This Guy, Really?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A couple days ago, Ol’ Robbo found himself watching “Tombstone” on one of the cable channels. It’s one of those movies that I’ll always watch if I stumble across it, and even toss into the Netflix queue from time to time, because I like both the story and the cast.  (Kurt Russell and Sam Elliot, for Pete’s sake, along with Stephen Lang and the fellah who played Col. Gamble in “Gettysburg“.  And Robbo can haz moar Dana Delaney, pleez?)

Then, by chance, last evening I watched “My Darling Clementine“, John Ford’s 1946 version of the famous showdown with Henry Fonda in the part of Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature as Doc Holliday.  (I forgot I had seen it before.  Frankly, it’s okay but nothing to write home about.  And Monument Valley looks nothing like southern Arizona.)

And as I watched “Clementine”, I found myself musing on other screen treatments of Earp.  Jimmy Stewart plays him as a comic fraud in a completely unnecessary side-story in an otherwise serious and compassionate “Cheyenne Autumn“.  Will Geer plays him as genial and competent in his Dodge City days in “Winchester ’73“.  And I even recall an episode of Star Trek TOS where Kirk and his team get transported by aliens to a Tombstone mock-up with Earp as something of a Terminator.

And as all this flashed through my alleged mind, it occurred to me that I really haven’t the faintest idea who the real Wyatt Earp actually was.  How many brothers did he have and who died where and why?  Was he married or not?  What was he doing in Tombstone to begin with? Why did he get tangled up with the Clantons?  Who actually got kilt at the O-K Corral and did the fight even actually take place there?  What really happened after that?  (In a special feature that accompanied the “Clementine” movie, a history prof suggested that a lot of this ambiguity was the result of Earp’s own efforts to cash in on celebrity self-promotion.)

It’s an interesting crossroads where popular myth and reality clash.  Other obvious Old West examples that spring to mind are Davy Crockett, Billy the Kid and Custer.  (Kit Carson, too, although his mythification occurred during his own lifetime and he’s long forgotten by all but serious students of the period these days.) I find it to be a satisfying intellectual exercise to try and read up on the actual biographical facts (so far as we know them) and plot them against the various fictional portrayals that have come down the line.  In the case of Earp, as I say, I just don’t have a baseline against which to work.  Any friends of the decanter know of a solid biography into which I could dip?

Speaking of which, I suppose it’s appropriate here to mention something that has long bugged Ol’ Robbo:  Recently, I’ve been making my way again through the HBO series “Band of Brothers“.  As fans of that series know, the early episodes have much to do with the incompetent martinetism and eventual humiliation of Easy Company’s first commander, Captain Sobel.  My problem?  He wasn’t a fictional character, but a real man.  And if you read the Stephen Ambrose book on which the series is based, you’ll learn that he led a miserable life, botched a suicide attempt, and died alienated from his entire family.  It just makes me uncomfortable that such a wretched individual – who could have lived to within just a few years ago – should be depicted this way in popular entertainment.  Yes, it was all true,  but still……..

Oh, one other thing:  Ol’ Robbo is becoming increasingly convinced that Netflix is not trying very hard to keep current its DVD library.  The number of films in my “saved” queue marked “Delivery Date Unknown” has got pretty significant over the past year or two, and I’m not talking about obscure titles, but about films that are part of the general canon.  “Sleeper”? “Tora! Tora! Tora!”? “The Man Who Would Be King”, “A Fish Called Wanda” for Heaven’s sake?  If you don’t want to carry such titles anymore, Netflix, for Pete’s sake just say so and drop them from your offerings!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy St. George’s Day!

(And happy….eh…454th – if my math is correct – birthday of Will Shakespeare, too!)

Of course, Ol’ Robbo is neither blind nor a fool, and knows that the Britain of which he has always been such a fan has virtually ceased to exist, overwhelmed by foreign invasion and suicidal self-doubt.  Similarly, he knows that Shakespeare’s genius is practically an alien language to the Young People these days.

Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo prefers to light single candles rayther than to curse the darkness.  So I will put aside my gloom and ask you all to charge your glasses, gunn’ls under, and raise them to St. George and the Bard with three times three and no heel taps!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt you’ve seen by now that The New Yorker has decided to take a slap at Chick-Fil-A for daring to expand its footprint in the City and further spreading its Christian cooties all over the place?   “Creepy infiltration” the author calls it.  Why?

And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

You know, it’s a damned shame what happened to The New Yorker.  My parents subscribed for years and years, and when I went off to college I took out my own subscription as well.  There was always that insular, Manhattanite, soft-liberal air about it, but this very rarely interfered with the high-quality writing, as it was still then somewhat tied to Reality.  And in those days, the magazine was still capable of laughing at itself over this attitude. (I have a framed print of a New Yorker cartoon from the 70’s in the downstairs loo.  A long-haired yoot is speeding away from a grand country house in a sports car.  His mother and grandmother are sitting out on the terrace watching him go.  The mother is saying to the grandmother, “It’s all right, Mother.  When the boy says society is rotten, he doesn’t mean Southampton.”)

But Tina Brown took over in the early 90’s and immediately turned the magazine politickal (I recall her slobbering all over the Clintons) and “edgy”, and it’s been veering harder left ever since.  (Or so I gather.  I let my subscription run out after putting up with her for a year or two. I did see the cover art featuring “Sesame Street’s” Ernie and Bert cuddling after the Supremes handed down their gay marriage decision.)  And here we are.

As I say, a damned shame.

As for CFA, the article admits that it’s selling sammiches like gang-busters in the City, so evidently not all Noo Yawkers are bothered by its –eek!– “pervasive Christian traditionalism”.

Closer to home, CFA has been the Port Swiller go-to fast food place for years and years.  The food is consistently yummy, the service consistently efficient and pleasant, even under trying circumstances.  (We once stopped at one in Charlottesville the day of the UVA/Virginia Tech game.  It was a sea of people, but it was the most patient, good-natured, and tolerant sea of people I’ve ever seen, and the staff were absolute heroes.)  And nobody has ever quizzed me on my sexual politicks or demanded to share their personal witness before handing over my order.  (Compare that with Starbucks’ short-lived attempt to have their baristas mix it up with customers over racial politicks. Feh!)

After the SJW sturmtruppen tried to organize a boycott of CFA over its owners’ Christianity a few years back, a boycott that blew up in their faces bigly, we took to calling the place “Hate-Fil-A” in mockery (of the SJW’s, that is).  We still refer to “Hate-sammiches”, “Hate-shakes”, and “Fries of Intolerance”.  Eldest Gel and I also have a long-standing joke:  Whenever she comes home from picking up a meal there, she says, “Do you know what those intolerant bastards did? They told me to have a nice day!  Who the hell do they think they are?”

And now, darn it, Ol’ Robbo is hungry for a Hate-sammich, but it’s Sunday and CFA isn’t open.  Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and again, Happy Easter!

Sorry about the moroseness of the post below.  For what it’s worth, I’m already feeling better.

Anyhoo, we had a very pleasant Easter Weekend at Port Swiller Manor which featured a visit by my brother and most of his family.  At dinner yesterday, the bro mentioned a story he had read about recently reporting that amateur divers had discovered the remains of a WWII German U-Boat at the bottom of Lake Ontario.

I was amazed by this piece of news.  How the heck could a Nazi sub sneak all the way up the St. Lawrence and into the Lake without being spotted or running aground in the tortuous stretches past Montreal?  And even if it managed to do so, to what possible end?  It couldn’t go attacking, simply because it would quickly run out of fish and also be bottled up once the Canadians were on the alert.  So what would be its mission?  Landing sabotage teams? Spying? Something else?

It was a truly fascinating topic of, admittedly, somewhat vino-fueled discussion.  Sounded like a couple of First Lords of the Admiralty, we did.

Alas…..I finally got around to looking up the matter on the Whirled Why Dweb this evening and discovered…..the story is apparently a hoax from a couple years back.

Oh, well.  It was fun playing Churchill while it lasted.

The premise would make a pretty good historick thriller though, wouldn’t it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Middle Gel is the usual babysitter for Mrs. Robbo’s 5 y.o. God-son.  However, because the Gel and her school choir left this morning on a spring break trip to Noo Yawk City and therefor was unavailable, Mrs. R stepped up to take care of the boy in her place so that his parents could go out and catch a concert this evening.

Although Ol’ Robbo was generally successful in avoiding having to join in on such caretaking, he did manage to stumble into the library just as Mrs. R was pulling out one of the books the boy had brought along with him, The Monster At The End Of This Book It features the lovably cowardly Grover from Sesame Street, who becomes increasingly frantic at the turn of every page as he contemplates having to face said Monster.  Only at the end does he realize that it is, in fact, his own self.  Har, har.

Ol’ Robbo read this book many, many times to the Gels back in the day.  One of my (alas, unprofitable) talents is the ability to mimic voices.  And if I may say so, I do a pretty durn good Grover.  Unfortunately, however, it involves a kind of shrieking trill high up in the throat that, after a bit, gets pretty painful.   For a while there, I came to positively dread having to do it, especially when all of them were young enough that I would sometimes have to read it three times in one evening.

“Oh,” said Mrs. R tonight,  “Let’s get Uncle Robbo to read this to you.  He does it so very well!”

Well, what could I do but dust off the vocal chords and have at it.  This is what happens when you get a reputation.

Frankly, I think the boy was a bit alarumed by my histrionic shrieking at first, but after a few minutes he began to enjoy himself, and toward the end of the book was positively demanding that I “turn the page” just to see Grover’s next level of panic.

So I suppose I’ve still got it.

Nice to know, since I realize that the prospect of reading this same damned book to grandchildren is, if not immanent (God forbid),  at least on the  horizon.

On the other hand, my throat distinctly hurts again.  Nothing for it but an extra (purely medicinal, of course) glass of wine, eh?






“Fighting Joe” Hooker

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did you all perchance see this article over the weekend via the Puppy-Blender?

Sign Referencing Civil War Hero Is Sexual Harassment, Says Massachusetts Lawmaker: Rep. Michelle DuBois wants to remove a statehouse sign that reads “General Hooker Entrance” because it is an affront to “women’s dignity”.


She has been calling for the removal of a statehouse sign that reads “General Hooker Entrance” (so inscribed because it stands opposite a statue of General Hooker), which she described as an affront to “women’s dignity.”

“Female staffers don’t use that entrance because the sign is offensive to them,” DuBois told WBZ-TV this week.

If you’re trying to do the math to reconcile No-Different-Than-Men Grrrrrrlz with this kind of fainting-couch nonsense, don’t bother.  This is pure mau-mauing and is all about the Will to Power.  Logic and consistency – and even Real World consequences – have nothing to do with it.

Oh, my actual favorite part of the article?

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post stated that Hooker had famously defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee in battle, when it’s really the other way around. (We should have paid more attention to those Ken Burns documentaries after all.) The opening paragraph has been edited to remove this reference.

Yeah, not so much.  Hooker was a good, steady corps commander.  He fought well and bravely in the Peninsula Campaign, at Fredericksburg, and at Antietam, and swept the Confederate left flank away at Lookout Mountain during the Battle of Chattanooga.  Kinda got his clock cleaned when he went toe to toe with Lee, however.

Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo is of the school that Hooker’s strategy as commander of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville to pull a sneak flank move on Lee was positively brilliant, and even once that was exposed – and despite Jackson’s own flank attack – he could have carried the day had he not been wounded (concussed) when a shell hit his HQ.  The man became disoriented and lost his nerve, and should have been relieved.  (Meade, Reynolds, and Hancock, all still held in reserve at that point, were screaming to be let loose at the Confederates.  It would have made all the difference.)   In this, I would strongly recommend Stephen Sears’ Chancellorsville for a lucid and fascinating description of the campaign.  (Ken Burns? Feh.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Motivated by all the buzz I’ve read about it in the corners of the innerwebs where I lurk, Ol’ Robbo recently went out and bought himself a copy of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote To Chaos.  Curiously enough, without either of us knowing it, at exactly the same time that I was picking up my hardback copy from the devil’s website, Mrs. R was downloading a copy onto her iThingy.  Go figure.

Not that I usually read this sort of thing, of course.  And I certainly wouldn’t bother with a “Rules for Life” book by somebody like, say, Oprah, or Joel Osteen, or Phil Donahue.  But the word I got was that Peterson is sharp, articulate, and causing all the right Lefty heads to explode, so I decided to check him out.  (The back of the book contains blurbs of praise from Camille Paglia, Howard Bloom, and National Review.)


The “Rules” themselves are what I would have considered to be simple common sense:  Don’t lie, cheat, or steal.  Respect yourself.  Respect others.  Respect tradition. (Here he restates the principle of Chesterton’s Fence without apparently realizing it).  Discipline the kids when they need it.  Do your damn laundry.  That sort of thing.  I guess what Peterson brings to the table is his unpacking of these things and getting at their roots.  In this, he covers a lot of intersecting topics such as behavioral evolution (I’ll never look at a lobster the same way again), clinical psychology, the biological differences between male and female, personal biography, and social development – on both the individual and societal levels.

Another big topic which dances in and out of his discussion is religion, and specifically Christianity.  (He also discusses the Old Testament and refers here and there to parallels within Buddhism, Taoism, and Ancient Egyptian mythology.  There is no mention whatever of Islam.)  Here, I have to admit that he puzzles me a bit, because for all of his praise of the Christian ethic (and there is a tremendous amount here), I can’t quite figure out if he actually, you know, is one.

For one thing, he makes some odd assertions.  He quotes the “Gospel” of Thomas.  He makes a gratuitous reference to Christ’s “androgyny” that seems immaterial.  He talks about the 19th Century Church’s “belief” in faith without works, which I’m pretty sure was isolated to a few Calvinist sects.  (At least it was never part of HMC’s teachings so far as I know.)

For another, he consistently refers to Christ as an “Archetype”.  That’s mythology-speak.  He also discusses Christianity largely in terms of psychological constructs, instead of terms of the relationship between us and a separate, independent God who exists whether we believe in Him or not.  (Nietzsche can go piss up a rope.)  Also, when he writes of the (false) dichotomy between Faith and Science, I can’t tell if he’s merely reporting it, or falls somewhat into the trap himself.

On the other hand, his description of the Logos, the Word of God, is fantastic, as are his thoughts on suffering, sacrifice and what some people call “servant leadership”.  Also, Bishop Robert Barron has been enthusing about him.  So maybe I’m just missing something here.

Another thing Peterson is absolutely fantastic on is the problem of Evil.  He calls it “denial of Being”, which is another way of describing Satan’s “Non serviam!”  It amounts to the complete and utter rejection of nothing less than Creation itself.  In his discussion, he quotes not only Milton’s Lucifer, but also those psychopaths who shot up Sandy Hook and Columbine.  I thank God that I simply cannot fathom that level of depravity.

Anyway, I like what I’ve read, even though I must confess that I rather galloped through it (which may explain some of my questions).  It’s well worth going back and reading more slowly on a chapter by chapter basis.  Unfortunately, and for Heaven’s sake don’t take this the wrong way, as much as I like the book, I’m fairly certain that it won’t get that much play with those who need it more than I do.  My soul is far, far from perfect, but I’m reasonably sure I’m at least headed in the right general direction.  The question is, how do you get the lazy, the shiftless, the narcissistic, or the outright psychotic to sit down and both read and absorb this wisdom?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Without looking it up, I believe it was Chesterton who said something to the effect that insanity could be defined as repeatedly doing exactly the same thing but expecting different results.  Ol’ Robbo found himself thinking about this as he watched “Red Tails” on cable last evening.  It’s one of those movies I’ll generally stop on if I’m flipping through the teevee channels and can’t find anything else.

Somehow, each time I find myself hoping it’s better than I remember it being.  After all, the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII are a noble and uplifting subject.  And yet, every time I’m  disappointed anew.  The movie is just plain bad: cardboard characters, completely predictable and clichéd dialogue, and CGI Mustangs doing unpossible things.

A pity.

But maybe…just maybe….next time…….

Anyhoo a few notes on some other historickal movies that have come through my Netflix queue of late:

Drums Along the Mohawk” (1939)- Upstate New York settlers fighting off the Iroquois during the Revolutionary War.  It’s funny: I’ve seen this film probably three or four times, but couldn’t remember a single thing about it from previous viewings.  This time around I decided I really don’t care for it very much, despite the presence of the lovely and talented Claudette Colbert.  Too much “Ye Olde” about it, I guess.  Also, I’ve decided once and for all that the only costume genre Henry Fonda had any business being in was Westerns.  (I was reminded of his role as Pierre in that bizarre adaptation of “War and Peace“.  In speaking of Napoleon’s armies, even all dolled up as a Russian noble, he may as well have been talking of the Comanche.)

The Howards of Virginia” (1940) – Now this one was new to me and I actually quite liked it.  Another Revolutionary War film in which young up-and-coming frontiersman Cary Grant plucks Martha Scott out of Tidewater Society (under her brother Cedric Hardwicke’s nose) and builds her an estate out in the Shenandoah.  As the political situation collapses, trouble ensues.  It seemed Grant couldn’t decide whether to stick with an Irish accent or not, but otherwise I thought it a good story well acted.  (A lot of the exteriors were filmed at Colonial Williamsburg not long after it had been rescued and refurbished.)

Beau Geste” (1939)- With Gary Cooper in the title role.  I’ve been wanting to see this for years, and it was well worth it.  P.C. Wren’s convoluted story-lines and rich dialogue could never be completely replicated on the screen, but I thought the movie did a fine job in presenting the story.  (And on that front, I’ve now really got to track down “The Desert Song” and watch it.)

Ivanhoe” (1952)- The tale of knightly strife between Saxons and Normans under Wicked King John.  A pretty good  chain-mail story (although I confess I haven’t read Scott in years and years).  And how’d you like to be Robert Taylor  with a young Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Fontaine fighting over you!  Tough life, eh?  This film reminded me that I want to go back and have a look at the Anthony Andrews tee-vee version, which I haven’t seen in 35-odd years but have a vague recollection was pretty well done, too.

Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945) – I’ll tell you truly, friends – Ol’ Robbo could watch Claude Rains all day and every day.  And even though Vivian Leigh was quite off her rocker, she’s still mighty easy on the eyes.  (OTOH, I am now firmly convinced that Stewart Granger was nothing more than beefcake.  Even when playing the large-living Apollodorus, he couldn’t really act that much.)  Finally, while there are many things about Mr. G.B. Shaw which Ol’ Robbo finds objectionable, I will give it to the man that he wielded a mighty witty pen.

Oh, I’m also reminded that yesterday was the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.  Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t noticed either of the major screen treatments running on cable this week.  (Perhaps they did when we were without power over the weekend.)  I haven’t seen the John Wayne version in years and need to toss it in the queue.  Of course, that was mostly the Dook being the Dook, but is that such a bad thing?  Some time fairly recently I also actually tried the 2004 version and was pleasantly surprised in that it wasn’t half as awful as I dreaded: I doubt seriously whether there was much room for Billy Bob Thornton’s ironic self-awareness on the frontier in 1836, but otherwise I thought it was a reasonably fair treatment.  (And yes, the real Col. Travis was something of a preening twit.)

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