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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.

 

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

At our regular monthly office meeting today, one of our IT wallahs came in to give a presentation on some obscure techie matter.  After introducing himself, he asked our indulgence while he set up his electronics in order to put his talking points up on the big flat screen.***

“I’ll bet you it takes him fifteen minutes of fiddling with his wires and inputs for a presentation that will last no longer than two,” I muttered to a friend sitting next to me.

She groaned appreciatively in anticipation.

Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds later, the thing was finally ready to go.

“And they call me a cynic,” I murmured.

My colleague, to her credit, giggled.

** Any friends of the decanter remember this old comic strip? It was a great favorite among the Family Robbo in my misspent yoot.  “The Urge To Kill”, one of the stock descriptive labels of the strip, had a prominent place in our household lexicon.

*** Of course, he also had the identical presentation in paper form, copies of which were distributed around the room in something short of two minutes flat.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano seems no longer to be grabbing headlines for the moment.  I gather that, having done some damage (and what idiot builds next to an active volcano?), the lava has established its primary path to the sea and is busily heading that way without bothering anybody else.

When we were all gathered together the other day, somebody in the Port Swiller Manor household referred to this eruption in the context of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  Ol’ Robbo couldn’t allow this.

“Not so,” says I. “The Hawaiian Islands sit over a volcanic hotspot – a stationary thin point in the Earth’s lower crust – right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Plate.  This, in fact, isn’t a tectonic thing, but a different phenomenon altogether.”

At which point the family’s collective “toxic nerd alert” alarum seems to have gone off, as suddenly Ol’ Robbo found himself talking solely to one of the cats, who was asleep anyway.

Hmpph!

Nonetheless, the geography of Hawaii does, in fact, have a tangential connection with plate tectonics, in that it neatly maps out the drift of the Pacific Plate over this particular hotspot.  As you can see from just looking at an ordinary map, the chain runs from southeast to northwest, the islands getting progressively smaller as you go along.  This is because the Plate itself is drifting northwest:  As long as some bit of it is over the hotspot, that bit is subject to volcanic island formation and growth.  Once the islands drift away from the hotspot, they start to erode.  Eventually, the Big Island, which is now the active one, particularly on its southeast side, will slide away from the hotspot and start to crumble and shrink as well, while yet another one eventually rises up southeast of it.

Pretty neat, eh?

And want to hear something even neater?  Go look at Google-Earth on “satellite view” setting:  Not only will you see the Hawaiian chain continue trailing away to the northwest under water, eventually you’ll see it hook sharply north and trail all the way up nearly to far eastern Russia.  That north-south section – the remnant of long-ago passage over the very same hotspot – is known as the Emperor Seamounts, and shows that the Pacific Plate at one point was drifting due north before taking a turn northwest.

And don’t just take my word for this: John McPhee writes at some length about it (and provides an illustrative map) in his Annals of the Former World, which Ol’ Robbo plugs here from time to time (and, I guess, is plugging again), and which I cannot recommend too enthusiastically.  I don’t pretend to understand it at more than a surface level, but the makings of the Earth – from plate tectonics to continental drift, volcanic hotspots to glacial gougings, erosion to geologically-driven shifts in weather patterns – never ceases to amaze and delight me.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had not realized until today that this weekend will see the “wedding” of Prince Harry to that Megan what’s-her-name person.

I use the quotation marks deliberately. Sorry to be so harsh, but he’s an immature playboy idiot and she’s got “reality tee-vee trash” stamped all over her.  As I mentioned to Mrs. R this evening, I’m astounded HRH is even allowing the biznay to go forward, much less actively participating in it.

Ol’ Robbo happens to be a Constitutional Monarchist at heart:  I can easily see the benefits of a Royal Family, with a King or Queen as the Personification of the Country.  But in order for this to work, the Royals have to live up to a very high standard of behavior.  Her Majesty and Prince Phillip get this.  Charles does not.  (And Diana was too crazy to keep up the pace.)  William and Kate, much to my initial surprise, surely do.  Harry, so far as I can tell, never has.  And I doubt it even enters into what’s-her-name’s mind.

I give the whole thing, which will be the gift that keeps on giving to our tabloid writer friends, a year and half tops.  Mrs. R says she’ll get a baby out of him first.

And with that, I will say no more about it. Except that I hope I am proven completely and utterly wrong.  Not for their sake, but for Britain’s.

UPDATE:  Felicitously enough, my movie for this evening (since the Nats have been rained out again) is The Prince and the Showgirl.  The first half is one of the funniest films out there. (“So amusink, how you vill laff” is a long-time part of the Family Robbo lexicon.)  Alas, the second half turns mushy and maudlin.  At least I can cut the thing off when it grows tarsome.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where Sweet Briar College has become the scene of another skirmish in the culture wars due to the blunt comments of this year’s graduation speaker:

Students and alumni of Sweet Briar College are expressing outrage after the school’s commencement speaker said she has only “partial sympathy” for the #MeToo movement.

“I do intend to change your view of yourselves and your world just a little if I can,” Nella Gray Barkley, who graduated from Sweet Briar in 1955, began her speech on May 12. “I do not intend to suggest you put on your armor and ride into battle in a man’s world. In fact, I do not believe it’s a men’s world; we women just need to claim the part of it we want and claim that with high expectations and no ambivalence.”

Barkley went on to say that her sympathy for women claiming to be victims of sexual harassment or assault depends in part on the woman’s role in the encounter.

“I applaud the woman coming forward who was cornered in a locked wine cellar by a man who was her superior,” Barkley explained, but added that “I have little patience with the woman who arrives breathlessly at her boss’s hotel room for a so-called conference. What did she think was going to happen?” 

Reminding graduates that “it is you who makes the ground rules, and you who enjoys the consequences of them,” she asserted that it’s “only natural for men from Mars to follow the shortest skirt in the room.”

I became aware of this largely due to the hissy-fit it provoked on the Vixen Facebook pages I still frequent even though Eldest Gel has finished up her time there and is transferring this fall.

For what it’s worth, the President of SBC issued a statement a few hours after the speech and resulting kerfluffle, basically suggesting that everybody grow the hell up.  Good on her.

As the father of three girls, of course, Ol’ Robbo is hardly sympathetic to a laissez-faire  “Oh, well, Boys will be Boys” attitude.  (I am, in fact, in favor of the strong restraints placed on male behavior by that obnoxiously patriarchal and antiquated Code of Chivalry.)  On the other hand, I fail to see why opposition to such a position is incompatible with basic common sense.  My advice to the Gels is and always has been simple:  Don’t. Do. Stupid. Things.  Don’t go to a frat party and get drunk.  Don’t walk around without a basic plan for your own self-defense.  Don’t, as the speaker suggests, go alone to a hotel room with your boss (or any other man not related to you by blood or marriage, for that matter).  Indeed, I would think that if you know men can be louts, this is exactly the practical path to take to avoid such problems.

But no, under the tortured reasoning of Third Wave Feminism, such an attitude is so much double-plus ungood wrongthink.  It’s “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming”.  How dare anyone suggest that if the wimminz take the power and authority of their own lives, they also take responsibility for them?

Sigh.

Oh, for what it’s worth, the Gels have all internalized my common sense approach very thoroughly.  And they all loathe modern feminism.   So there is that.

 

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.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A quiet Saturday morning here at Port Swiller Manor, as I am giving mowing the yard a miss this week so to encourage it to seed itself.  (If I have to suffer from all this grass pollen, I may as well take the benefits, too.) So a few things:

♦  Robbo was made to be social last evening, as we attended a drinks and dinner thing for one of Mrs. R’s ladies’ clubs.   One of the things I hate about parties is the fact that all the ambient music and babble makes it very difficult for me to follow what people are saying to me, thus making conversation extremely hard work.  I think there’s a term for this kind of deafness – something like aural overload – and for the first time I found myself seriously thinking I really ought to look into hearing aid options.  (My lawn:  You may get off it immediately.)

I also dislike intensely people my age who act like they’re about 21.  Then again, when Ol’ Robbo was 21, he got criticized for acting like he was in his 50’s, so I suppose there’s some kind of cosmic harmony there.

♦  Speaking of the Young People and pop culchah, regular friends of the decanter will not be a-tall surprised that Mr. Kanye West, as an entertainer, means little or nothing to Ol’ Robbo, even though I have a general idea of how big an influence he has on others.  But I am appalled at the level of venom and the nakedness of the “Get your ass back on the plantation, boy!” response to his daring to say positive things about The Donald.  I hope that’s an eye-opener for other people, too.

♦  And speaking of such things, good on that girl who wore the Chinese prom dress for (politely) telling her on-line cry-bully cultural-appropriation critics to stuff it.

♦  And speaking of The Donald, I do not give a single, solitary damn about Stormy Daniels.

♦  So what do we make of the sudden thaw in Korean relations?  I believe the Norks are suddenly feeling very vulnerable what with the (I believe confirmed) literal collapse of the mountain that was holding their nuclear testing facilities, but I’ve also an idea that we have been leaning on the Chinese to real in Lil’ Kim and make him play nice.  Will something come of it?  Who knows, but when I was growing up I assumed that East and West Germany would be forever separated, so there’s that.

♦  And speaking of international relations, did you see where Saudi Arabia and the Vatican struck a deal about building Christian churches in the KSA?  Pretty cool.  I think Prince Whatshisname is sincere about his push for reform, even if it’s only to maintain his own head.  (I also think he and the Israelis are deep in a scheme to wipe out the mutual threat from Iran, but that’s a different matter.)

The times.  They be interesting.

♦  Those of you who feared Ol’ Robbo was going to self-immolate in panic over his beloved Nats may stand down for now, as the team has won 6 straight, is back over .500 and is within striking distance of 1st place in the NL East.  More importantly, from what I’ve seen, they’re really beginning to mesh and hum, and it’s becoming an actual pleasure to watch them again.  GO NATS!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that the hot weather has arrived and people are out and about more, it appears that the latest hipster-doofus transportation craze ’round here is those two-wheeled stand-up scooters with the tiny handlebars.  There’s a company that has littered the streets of Your Nation’s Capital with them, and apparently you just grab one, pay a fee over your favorite personal device, and go, leaving it wherever you like when you’re done.  (How on earth said company keeps track of them, I’ve no idea.)

These things are proving to be more of a menace than the bikes or even the flocks of tour-segues.  They’re both very fast and very nimble, thus encouraging hot-dogging, and I’ve had several close calls already with hipster-doofuses surfing them along the paths and sidewalks, weaving in and out of the foot traffic.  Somebody’s going to get hurt.  (Hint: It isn’t going to be me.)

Speaking of segue tours, I fear I accidentally ruined a young lady’s sight-seeing today.  She was part of a flock of them that had cut right across my line of march, forcing me to stop and wait.  As I stood glaring squinting at nothing in particular,  I suddenly realized she had come to a stop, leaving me a gap, a rather sheepish look on her face.  I waved curtly and continued on.

Sorry, Miss.  I didn’t know it was loaded……

Georges de La Tour – St. Joseph the Carpenter

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker!

As he was making his way home this evening, Ol’ Robbo found himself comparing and contrasting the Christian view – emphasized on this Feast Day – of the sanctity and dignity of honest labor that adheres to each individual with the arbitrary, faceless, collectivist, archetypal pawn that is the “worker” of Marxist political doctrine.  The two simply couldn’t be more different.  Jesus loves each and every one of us personally.  Under Marxism, you’re just nameless cannon-fodder.  (BTW, I really hate the word “worker” for precisely this reason.)

And speaking of which, I gather that either yesterday or the day before (I refuse to look it up) was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, the man whose crackpot Utopian theories were directly responsible for the deaths of 100+ million people and the denigration and enslavement of how many 100 millions more.

Heck of a job, Marxy.

And yet there are still those who praise the bastard, arguing that Marxism will work this time, swearsies, if only we get the Right People in place and give them the proper amount of power, which is to say, all of it.  Some of them, I suspect, are simply naïve.  Others know perfectly well that the whole thing is a crock, but recognize it as a vehicle by which they pursue their will to power.

I’m always reminded of what Peej O’Rourke wrote (long before he contracted Trump Derangement Syndrome):  “Communists worship Satan.  Socialists believe perdition is a good system run by bad people.  And Liberals think we should all go to hell because it’s warm there in the winters.”

Anyhoo, as a husband, father, and principal bread-winner, over the years I have become more and more fond of St. Joseph.  When Ol’ Robbo swam the Tiber ten years ago, I took as my patrons Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the former because he was a convert himself and the latter because of his enormous intellectual defense of the Faith.  I still turn to them, but for ordinary, everyday, hands-on practical living?  Give me Joe.  (I’ve even got a “Prayer to St. Joseph Over A Difficult Problem”  – lifted from Father Z some time back – tacked to my bulletin board at work.)

St. Joseph, ora pro nobis!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Speaking of the national suicide of Great Britain that Ol’ Robbo mentioned the other day, here’s a perfect example: Can somebody justify this Alfie Evans horror show to me?

No, not “justify”.  I actually don’t want it justified.  But I would like it explained.

I mean, it’s awful enough that the National Health doesn’t consider it worth the money to prolong the poor kid’s life, but for the love of God what possible legitimate reason could HM Government have for not allowing his parents to carry him off someplace else where others are willing to do so?

Socialism.  In the eyes of the all-powerful State, ou, as an individual, are worth exactly nothing.

UPDATE:  I see that the poor boy died yesterday.  Rest in peace.

And I’m sure the doctors and judges directly responsible are taking consolation in the idea that it was for Alfie’s own good as well as everyone else’s.

Bastards.

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