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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Mardi Gras!

Ol’ Robbo celebrated the evening by killing off his current box o’ wine (I’m giving up the grape for Lent – prayers appreciated) and watching some Monty Python.

I must say that, although said Python was a definite influence on my misspent yoot, the older I get, the more apparent becomes the distinction between the gold and the dross.  At times, the Team still seem to me to be absolutely transcendent in terms of their humor, but the hackery of some of their other bits also becomes more apparent.

How lovely to possess the DVD technology to bleep right through the tedious bits and get on to the keepers. 

Which are your favorite Python items?  And, relatedly, which are your favorite presentations of them: TeeVee, film or record?  

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sat with Eldest Gel as she registered on line to vote this evening.  She wanted to get in early enough to participate in the Ol’ Virginny primaries next month.

Yeeks.

“Dad”, she said, “I’m confused.  I’ve read a lot recently by some sensible people calling themselves “classical liberals”, but they don’t sound very much like the other “liberals” I read about. What gives?”

“Oh,” I replied, “You’re absolutely right.  The two are completely different.  In fact, I consider myself to be a “classical liberal”.  I’m not much of a teacher, but read Adam Smith.  Read Edmund Burke.  Read Friedrich Hayek.  They will tell you what it means.”

“Yeah,” she said, “maybe.”

I hope she does, although I doubt it (at least in the immediate future).  Sad, this may be.  On the other hand, given her proclivities, had she been an avid reader at this age, she would by now have stumbled across and embraced Ayn Rand.  I’m really rayther happy that this hasn’t happened.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo watched the Sooper Bowl this evening, only the second pro football game he’s caught this season.  Some observations:

  • Good game.  Ol’ Robbo prefers a good defensive struggle to an offensive blow-out.  I’m the same way about baseball, with which I am far more concerned.  I recall a banner on the wall in my own high school locker room:  “If they never score, we never lose.  Defense wins championships.”
  • (I can’t make this dot go away(
  • Peyton Manning.  I’ve enjoyed seeing the guy thwarted from time to time over the years because of his, in my humble opinion, outsized ego.  But his final game? Nice to see him get another ring.
  • (ditto)
  • I heard (did not see) that “Lady Gaga” sang the National Anthem straight down the middle, concentrating on the anthem and not on herself (indeed, making a point of it).  If so, good on her.  For that, at least.
  • (ditto)
  • Ol’ Robbo flees  as far away from “pop” culture as he can on a regular basis, confining his ordinary teevee viewing to old movies, baseball,  and cable retro series like “Star Trek: TNG” and “Frasier”.  It’s only in such incidences as the Sooper Bowl that he comes in direct contact with what might be called the here and now.  My impression?  God help us all – it’s worse than I thought.
Image filched from the Capital Weather Gang (which see link)

Image filched from the Capital Weather Gang (which see link)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, from the midst of Snowzilla!

Yes, it set in around 1:45 pm yesterday and has been snowing like dammit ever since.  Tough to eyeball accurately, but I’d say we’re already well north of a foot at Port Swiller Manor, with a forecast of continued white stuff well into tonight.

Ol’ Robbo was actually surprised to wake up this morning and find that the power had not gone out overnight.  That means at least one more hot pot of coffee for me, so for the moment all is well.  The wind hasn’t really been an issue yet and I think, I think, we might just dodge that particular bullet.

Of course, I could be mis-

No, no.  Just kidding.

If the power holds up today, I plan to watch a 1981 production of Othello that I stumbled across in the Netflix library.  Bob Hoskins plays Iago, so it has some potential.  I’ll let you know what I think.

If not, I’ve started in again on Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time.  I’m not sure if this is my second or third reading but I’m already getting much more out of it than last time.  How I could have missed a line like “He’s so wet you could shoot snipe off of him” previously is beyond me.

The Big Dig starts tomorrow.  Despite the fact that the Bishop has already granted dispensation to stay home, I would like to have gone to Mass.  Unfortunately, I just don’t think I’ll be able to get the driveway cleared in time to make it.  Oh, well.  At least I’m guaranteed some good exercise.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, here she comes – they’re still calling for a total of a couple feet starting this afternoon, together with howling winds and whiteout conditions.

If you don’t hear from me in the next few days, it’ll be because the power is out.  (Yeah, it seems I should have bought that generator now, but this is still too rare an event to quite justify it to me.)

Picking up on the comments below, we’ve lost power before in the winter, of course, but I don’t recall the outages lasting more than a day or so.  The longest blackouts that I remember at Port Swiller Manor came in the wake of Hurricane Isabel in ’03 and the big Derecho in 2012, each one lasting four or five days.  Those were miserable times.  In winter, if you have enough firewood, blankets, and adult beverages, all you have to do is snuggle in.  But in summah?  The house gets progressively hotter and more disgusting and there’s not much relief other than to hide in the basement.

Or, as Mrs. R is wont to do, flee to a hotel.

Anyhoo, we’ll see what happens.

I’ll catch up with you all on the other side, perhaps with pictures.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Snow finally arrived in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor yesterday:  A gentle dusting that lasted a couple hours across midday.  It didn’t stick but it was very pretty to watch.

Next up, it seems that a major storm is now shaping to hit the Mid-Atlantic some time toward the end of the week.  Depending on which forecaster/models you follow, we’re either going to get some freezing rain or else a major Snowmageddon-like blizzard.

Oddly enough, ol’ Robbo would be happy if this one misses.  Eldest Gel and Mrs. R are supposed to travel down to her college for an overnight orientation thing Sunday night and I really want her to go.

Also, after many bitter years of disappointment, I’ve finally learned not to buy into the pre-storm hype, but simply to wait and see what happens.  As Carol Burnett said in one of her bag lady skits, “I been hurt a lot.”

UPDATE:  Okay, nooz of the impending weather did finally compel me to order up a 40 pound bucket o’ driveway melt, but I’d meant to do that anyway.  Also, I mentioned to Eldest Gel the other day that since she’s now driving and parking in my driveway, she can help me shovel it out as needed.  Look on her face was priceless.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now I imagine all three or four of you have read the news that the Anglican Communion this week put the Episcopal Church on a three year suspension over the issue of ghey marriage, with the instructions to get back in line or risk being chucked permanently.  ECUSA immediately responded by playing the defiant victim card.  Frankly, ol’ Robbo was astonished.  For years the attitude of ECUSA was that Canterbury would never take punitive steps in response to its creeping progressivism because it basically bankrolls the Communion.  I guess the African and South American Bishops, who have become the real theological leaders, finally have had enough.

It’s possible that one side or the other will blink eventually, but this sure looks like the beginning of a final and permanent schism to me.  If that happens, I suspect that most if not all of the remaining traditionalists within ECUSA will bail – going to the North American Anglicans, some other Protestant denomination and maybe Rome herself.  The rump, finally free of all adult supervision, will then crumble further into fringe Unitarian obscurity.

This news aggravates a long-standing sore in ol’ Robbo’s conscience, since, as regular friends of the decanter know, when I swam the Tiber myself eight years ago, I left my family on the other, Palie, shore.  Mrs. R has no interest whatsoever in following me, and the gels are all caught in teenaged limbo – too old to remold but not quite old enough to make up their own minds (at least while still under Mrs. R’s roof).  I pray for their conversions (and those of the rest of my family) daily and try to set an example and drop gentle hints, but so far, no joy.  I’m not sure what else, if anything, I can do, but I still worry that I haven’t exerted myself enough to get them off the Titanic before it finally goes down.

Perhaps this sudden new in-gushing of ice water will motivate them to take stock anew.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past couple weeks, ol’ Robbo has found himself reading several books new to him.  Some brief impressions [Spoiler Alert!] re each:

UnbrokenThe first is Unbroken:  A Word War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, a copy of which was loaned to me at New Year’s by the Former Llama Military Correspondent, which means he probably never will see it again.  (I’m as bad as Hugo Bracegirdle about returning books.)  It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Troubled Yoot Extraodinaire, who discovers a talent and drive for competitive running which leads him to shatter all kinds of scholastic records and lands him a spot in the ’36 Olympics in Berlin.   Before he can make a return appearance, war breaks out.  Zamperini is drafted into the Army Air Corp and finds himself bombardier on a B-24 in the Pacific Theatre.  After some early success, he is one of only three survivors when his plane crashes into the ocean.  These three (one of whom dies) then spend the next 40+ days adrift in a small life raft with no food or water but what the occasional fish, bird and rainstorm can provide, surrounded by hungry sharks, subject to extremes of sun and wind, and once even strafed by a passing Japanese bomber.  Eventually, the two survivors get picked up by the Japanese and sent to POW camps.  Then the real hardship begins:  Beatings, starvation, torture, slave labor, exposure.  Zamperini falls victim to a particularly sadistic Japanese corporal known as The Bird, who beats him senseless daily.  Somehow or other, they manage to endure several years of this until the War ends and they are liberated.  Liberation is pure joy.  Once back in the States, however, Zamperini discovers that the War is not, in fact, over – at least in his own head.  He quickly goes into a power-dive of self-destructive behavior and it is only when his wife drags him to a Billy Graham sermon that he finds redemption and gets himself back together.  The rest of his life is remarkably peaceful, rewarding, and spiritual.

The book is meticulously detailed and clearly, if rayther dryly, written, but I have a few things.  First, the title.  Zamperini wasn’t “unbroken”.  Even according to the text itself, he was most thoroughly broken by his torture within the Japanese camps by The Bird and took that brokenness with him back home.  (He nearly strangles his wife in his sleep, thinking in a dream that she is The Bird.)  As for his redemption, it should be noted that Zamperini, while floating in the life raft, promised God that if He delivered him, Zamperini would devote the rest of his life to Him.  He also reported, during that same period, several times hearing choirs of angels around him.  Well, we hear nothing more of this until the remembrance of that promise seems to come back to him at the Graham sermon, where it’s presented awfully cut and dry:

1.) Graham – “You need to get with God.”

2.)  Zamperini – ” Oh. ‘Kay.”

3.)  ???

4.)  Spiritual Profit!

I’m over-simplifying a bit, of course, but I wish that aspect of things had been unpacked more thoroughly, because it seems to me the key point of the entire narrative.  (I’m reminded of what Mattie Ross says in Charles Portis’s True Grit about how nothing in life is free except the Grace of God and that none of us deserve it.)  Oh, well.  At least it’s better than the recent movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, which, according to my sources, pretty much ignores the whole God thing altogether.

PrincessBrideSecond is The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, “abridged” by William Goldman.  For some years I’d been meaning to read this, fond as I was of the movie version, so recently I bought both the book and the DVD to add to my collection.  (An aside: Robin Wright appears in some of the extra features commentary and is quite RCBfA-worthy, IYKWIMAITYD.)  This particular edition of the book is a special “30th Anniversary” one, containing both a 30th Anniversary and the 25th Anniversary author’s prefaces.  The “abridgment” consists of Goldman (who wrote the movie’s screenplay as well as a bunch of other famous ones such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “All The President’s Men”, “The Stepford Wives”, and “A Bridge Too Far” (aka, “A Movie Too Long”)) putting together all the “good parts”, i.e., the action sequences, and summarizing and commenting upon long, useless, cranky, Melville-like asides by Morgenstern in between.  From the preface, I learned that the whole Fred Savage/Peter Falk reading biznay in the movie was based on Goldman’s recollection of his own father’s reading the book to him when he was a kid sick in bed.  I also learned some of the historick background of both the story and of Morgenstern, and of the apparent ongoing legal squabbles between Goldman, his publishers, and Morgenstern’s estate over the publication of all these materials.

Then I did a little background check and discovered that the whole “Morgenstern” thing – together with what Goldman let fall about his childhood, his marriage, his reading to his own son and his research travels – was a hoax.  Goldman wrote the whole damned thing himself.

Bastard.  Ol’ Robbo hates getting pawned.

I’m sure you remember in the movie when Vizinni says the “Greatest Mistake” is getting involved in a land war in Asia?  I’d always thought of that as a bit of stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam, perhaps gratuitously introduced by the director, Rob “Meathead” Reiner.

When I first came across the line in the book, however, still thinking Morgenstern was For Realz, I thought, “Hmm…Could the original author have been making a cranky reference to Alexander teh Great’s foolish attempt to conquer India?  The various wars between Rome and Persia that went so badly for some Emperors?  Even the ill-fated Song Dynasty resistance to the Mongol invasion of China?”

When I realized what was afoot, however, I went back to my first conclusion:  Stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam.

It’s a helluva fun read, nonetheless.

GreatestKnightFinally, I’ve just started a book picked up for me by Mrs. Robbo as a small token of my upcoming mumbledy-mumble birthday:  The Greatest Knight:  The Remarkable Life of William Marshall, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge.  Marshall, who first rose in the service of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, became a sort of early 13th Century equivalent of the Very Model of a Modern Major General and was deeply involved in the rise of the Knightly Class as well as the history of the English Throne during the reigns of Richard the Lionheart, Wicked King John and those immediately around them, particularly Henry II’s first son, Henry.  The text is based in part on a valedictory biography of Marshall penned shortly after his death, but also supported and damped by other available contemporary references.

I can’t say that much about the book yet except that Asbridge goes to great pains to make sure his readers understand the difference between judging Marshall according to his own time and judging him according to modern sensibilities.  This is increasingly important in our own godawful age, in which it is becoming all the more common to attempt to simply “disappear” people and events which don’t fit in with the current narrative.  Nonetheless, Asbridge slips a bit now and again.  At one point, he remarks that toys given to medieval boys and girls were often “gender-normed”.  In other words, little boys were given toy soldiers and little girls were given dolls.  [P.C. Police:  Get….OUT!!!  Me:  So, what?]  Also, he has the annoying habit of using C.E. (“Common Era”) for dates instead of A.D. (“Anno Domini”).  This may be the academic standard now but it grates on ol’ Robbo’s soul mightily.  Back in the day, the ol’ Jacobins tried to chuck the calendar completely and start with a brand new one.   It seems their modern equivalents have got wise enough to appropriate and assimilate their target rayther than obliterating it.

Anyhoo, so far quite an interesting exploration of an era of which I don’t know much beyond a few facts about the main players.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo is still around, although I confess that I have yet to finish the bottle of port I got in for the Christmas festivities.  (Some reveler I am.)

Anyhoo, I may have missed some regime change, but why will Safari and iMac suddenly not let me copy and paste Innernet links or YooToob videos?  (I was going to do a retrospective on the late David Bowie’s song “Changes” and ol’ Robbo’s varsity crew winter training at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in the day, but the ability to insert links suddenly seems to have disappeared from my screen.)

What gives?

UPDATE: Oh, I think I see.  Whereas previously the link to a specific page at, say, Amazon automatically appeared in the, er, linkie bar, now it just says “amazon.com” and you have to click again to get the specific page address.  Or something.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I warned in the post below that New Year’s additions might be sparse, but it turned out more complicated than I had thought.  You see, one of Mrs. R’s aunts died – suddenly but not unexpectedly – over the weekend, so there was more knee-bent running around advancing behavior than even I had anticipated.

Anyhoo, the upshot was that while Mrs. R went up to Lon Guyland to see to her aunt’s remembrances, teh Gels and I traveled to the vast but secure land holdings of the Former Llama Military Correspondent, there to participate in our joint families’ twenty-first Noo Year celebration together.

Because ol’ Robbo’s Wrangler won’t hold four adults and luggage, we took teh Eldest Gel’s Honda CRV.  Because it was her ride, I respected her choice of musick and asked no questions about the 180-odd tunes she synched up on her iWhatever for the trip.

Teh Eldest is, shall we say, eccentric.  As I’ve said before, she believes Freddy Mercury was the greatest musickal genius ever to have lived.  Thus, her playlist was chockabloc with Queen.  What I hadn’t realized is that she has been pushing out in her taste for Classic Rock.  As we cruised down the highway, I got a hefty sampling of ’60’s, 70’s and 80’s icons:  Aerosmith, Rush, Huey Lewis, Elton John, the Beatles, the guys who sang “Sister Christian”,  Rockwell.  She also threw in some Sinatra.

One of teh Gel’s tunes was “Tainted Love”, the Soft Cell cover.  Foolishly, ol’ Robbo noted that he actually bought that album back in the day in the hope of impressing the “cool” kids with which he was trying to hang out.

Teh Gel nearly put the car into the ditch laughing over that one.

“Wait, wait, ” she gasped, “Were you trying to get in with the band geeks?”

“Well…..yes,” I admitted.

“Oh, ha ha haaah.  I knew it! ” she said.

Shut up.  And get off my lawn.

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