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Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Thanksgiving (or “Friendgiving” as the kids are calling it now, whatever the hell that means)!  I hope you all have a blessed and grateful holiday get-together with your family and friends.

Ol’ Robbo will be out of action for the next few days due to holiday logistics.  Meanwhile, I’d just like to register my glee over the latest moonbat meme to come across the innertoobs.  You see, according to said meme, we ought to embrace the wholesale immigration of Syrian refugees because the Native Americans (™) embraced the arrival of the Puritans back in the day.  Hence the holiday.  If you don’t accept this groupthink, so the reasoning goes, you’re a hypocrite.


Are these not the same moonbats who for some years now have told us that the Pilgrims were genocidal invaders hell-bent on wiping out the Indigenous Nations?

Yes, yes I think they are.

And how has that worked out for the “Natives”?

It isn’t hypocrisy, it’s just plain fool triumph of feeling over reason.  As I’ve said before, these people don’t think, they emote. God help them and us all.

Anyhoo, a very happy Thanksgiving and I’ll see you later.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on my previous post, it turned out that Mrs. Robbo didn’t really much want to go to the party either, so we pulled a Bunbury.  Instead, Mrs. R went and gave teh pooch a bath while ol’ Robbo toddled downstairs and popped in the DVD of the old Leslie Howard version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel“.   Once you get past the rayther poor early 30’s production qualities, it’s not a’tall a bad flick.  A couple of observations:

– Very early on in the movie, Howard appears disguised as an old crone sneaking out of Paris.  I would be prepared to bet a fair bit of money that Terry Jones had this exact character in mind in some of his Monty Python drag bits.

oberon– Merle Oberon.  Sink me!

– It is wonderfully disturbing, given the awful times in which we live, to watch a movie about hysterical mobs and ruthless authoritarianism.  Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.**

Anyhoo, having watched the flick, I remembered that Anthony Andrews had done a remake in the 80’s which I seem to recall was pretty good, too.  Fortunately, Netflix carries it, so I shall see.  I also tossed in “Danger:UXB“, another Andrews piece and a prime example of the Golden Age of Brit teevee.  Just for good measure, I also went to the devil’s website and picked up the original novel by Baroness Emma Orczy, having never read it before.  While there, I also compulsively picked up another one of Frank Sheed’s theological gems and the autobiographies of Kit Carson and General John Fremont.

And since I was surfing Netflix anyway, I also tossed “The Last Legion” into the queue.  I did this because I enjoy laughing over the absurdity of Colin Firth trying to play a battle-hardened Roman general.  It has absolutely nothing to do with svelte south-Indian beauties in wet, clingy shirts.  Nope, nothing at all, at all.

This is how ol’ Robbo’s so-called mind works.  Probably explains all the headaches.


** I know this is said to be a false attribution, but even if it isn’t true it ought to be.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What with His Holiness’s impending descent on Dee Cee and the mayhem it’s going to cause, ol’ Robbo decided that the prudent course would be to eat some leave time and stay out of the way until the whole thing has all blown over.  (I was strolling around the Mall at lunch yesterday and what with all the construction going on along the parade route – fences, marquees, port-o-johns and the grass being boarded over – it looked like a Capital Fourth on steroids.)  This will probably come back to bite me when the weather turns icy and snowy, but so be it.

Anyhoo, I recently made a swoop through the devil’s website and picked up a few items which may be of interest to friends of the decanter.

GBaUBofBFirst, I finally got around to bagging a couple of DVD’s that I’ve been meaning to get, namely the “Band of Brothers” box set and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”  Of the former, I will state once again that Damian Lewis looks like a constipated cat and that David Schwimmer, poor man, is doomed to be Ross from “Friends” no matter where he goes or what he does.  Of the latter, I think I’m only repeating the obvious in that it’s the best of Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy.  I do have one question that has always bugged me, however:  When Tuco shoots the bad guy from the tub, Clint hears the shot and says to the kitten, “Every gun has its own tune”,  meaning that he recognizes the sound and thus knows Tuco is around and can use him to help kybosh Angel Eyes’ gang who are holding Clint.  Well, that wasn’t the same pistol that Tuco had been using the last time Clint was with him, now was it.  So why would he say that?

A small point, but it bugs me.

GabrieliSecond, a couple of CD’s.  The local classickal station keeps a couple of canzons by Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612) in its rotation, so I finally broke down and bought the disc from which they came, “Music of Gabrieli and His Contemporaries“.  Said contemporaries (none of whom I know) include Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634), Gabriel Diaz (1590-1638) and Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517).  The first three produced great, glorious, triumphal antiphone – Spain and Italy in all their Renaissance powerhouse.  The latter – who was obviously earlier – at least here seems much more contemplative and melancholy, traits which I associate with what little Late Medieval musick I have come across.   These pieces are all done by the Empire Brass on modern instruments which, I think, is acceptable, but I should like to hear them on period instruments, too.  The voice here covered by the trumpet would be played on the cornetto, a curved piece of wood that looks rayther like a gazelle’s horn.  I have a DVD of Monteverdi’s opera “Orfeo” in which cornetti are used and they are quite supple.

Beethoven EroicaI also picked up a copy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica”, performed by the Orechestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique under the direction of Sir John Elliot Full-of-Himself.  I’ve actually got the box set of Beethoven’s symphonies by this lot, but the CD of the Eroica mysteriously vanished.  Perhaps it was the mice.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I like the story that ol’ Ludwig Van was set on dedicating this piece to Napoleon until he finally realized what a monster That Man actually was and became so enraged that he nearly tore the work up.  Ass.  By the way, Peter Schickele, in the guise of P.D.Q. Bach, did a very funny parody of the 4th movement from this piece in his “Preachers of Crimetheus” which you can find on his album, “1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults“.

Sheed MoLSheed TheologyFinally, although I already have them but because the Pope is in town and a lot of people are saying a lot of very foolish, ignorant things about him and about Catholicism, let me again recommend a couple of books by Frank Sheed:  A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith and Theology For Beginners.  These were recommended to me by a seminarian doing a turn at my church this past summah and I can’t begin to tell you how much I have profited by them.  Straightforward, tightly reasoned and accessible to anyone who has the least talent for comprehension and willingness to make any kind of effort to actually understand what they are talking about.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo heard yesterday that Lily Tomlin is in a new movie called “Grandma”.  When I first heard the movie’s plot and that it was being billed as a comedy, and especially with the parade of Planned Parenthood fetus-slaughtering horribles somehow becoming even more chillingly evil every day, I thought the whole thing must be a ghastly parody story.  Well, no.

In need of cash — we’ll get to why in a minute — Elle Reid [Tomlin’s character], a poet and sometime professor in her 70s, decides to sell some precious old books. She figures that even though they’re a bit worse for wear, her first editions of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir should fetch a few hundred dollars at the local feminist bookstore-cafe. Her outrage when she’s grudgingly offered a lot less than that compounds her dismay at her teenage granddaughter’s cluelessness about the authors of “The Feminine Mystique” and “The Second Sex.” What’s wrong with the world these days?

Why did I think it must be a sick parody?  Well you see, the “why” here is that her (of course unmarried) granddaughter is pregnant and wants to get an abortion.  Apparently, the bulk of the picture involves the pair of them knocking about the streets of L.A., laughing, crying and bonding with each other while trying to gin up the readies to pay for it.

I tell yez, the jokes practically write themselves.

The linked review, from the NYTimes,  rayther skates over this foundational plot point in a few short words and instead focuses on Tomlin’s I-Am-Wimminz-Hear-Me-Roar character:

She is impatient with the world and suspicious of the motives of a lot of people in it, but that is partly a result of her idealism, her uncompromising commitment to behaving like a free human being.

Get that?  ROOOAAAR!!

Funnily enough, I’m impatient with the world and suspicious of many peoples’ motives, too, God forgive me.  But the idealism grounding my commitment to “behaving like a free human being” in no way, shape or form involves  aiding and abetting in the destruction of another one.

I suppose I’m just kinda stupid that way.

Anyhoo, I’m guessing the film will get a lot of critical acclaim  and not much box-office dosh.   Certainly none of my daughters – all of whom are very much Pro-Life – would find the slightest reason for wanting to go see it.

N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Many, many years ago, ol’ Robbo picked up the collected works of Charles Kingsley at a library sale somewhere in (if I’m not mistaken) the Hamptons.  At the time, I knew he was a Victorian writer of schoolboy adventure stories, but not much more.  However, since the books were very cheap, I bought them anyway with the intention of eventually getting around to reading them.

Whelp, 20-odd years later, prompted by a reference I’ve seen repeatedly somewhere else,*  I finally cracked the cover of what may well be Kingsley’s most remembered novel, Westward Ho!

Good God, Almighty.

The book is a massive, sprawling story of the loyal sons of Devon and Cornwall during the glory days of Good Queen Bess who, under the leadership of such stout figgahs as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, repeatedly biff the Dons along the Spanish Main and in Ireland while, at the same time, foiling the plots of nefarious Jesuits prowling around Merry Old England like the Hosts of Midian, trying to topple the Golden Age of Elizabeth and bring said enlightened paradise back under the foul claw of teh Whore of Babylon, sometimes referred to as the Pope in Rome.   In this, Kingsley drifts mighty close to outright libel.  For example, so far as I know, there is absolutely no credible evidence that St. Edmund Campion was in any way involved in any plot to dethrone Elizabeth, but Kingsley does not seem to concern himself with actual facts in pursuit of his theme.

If you’re sensing my bias here, you’re not wrong.  The book was published in the early 1850’s** and here and there Kingsley breaks out of the past tense to take jabs at those then-current Papists who wished for the reconversion of Britain to Holy Mother Church.   As I remarked to the Mothe this past Sunday in our weekly telephone chat, it sounded to me like Kingsley was taking a whack at the Oxford Movement.  And damme if I wasn’t right.  Upon a bit of further research, I found that Kingsley, who was himself an Anglican clergyman, was virulently anti-Catholic and got into a printed dispute with the Blessed John Henry, Cardinal Newman, in which the former accused the latter of being a liar and a fraud.  It was as a result of this spat that Newman penned his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

Since several of ol’ Robbo’s guiding figgahs for his own swim across the Tiber came from the Oxford Movement (including not only Cardinal Newman but also Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson and Msgr. Ronald Knox), you can understand why I might be a wee bit touchy about this.  I wonder what I would have thought about it when I first bought the books twenty-odd years ago.

Anyhoo, despite all these defects, Westward Ho! is a right ripping yarn in parts, with some terrific descriptive imagery and an action-packed plot.  Also, I’ve got little problem with his bashing of the Dons over their treatment of their New World conquests, which amounted to not much more than rape in the classical meaning of stealing anything and everything that wasn’t positively nailed down.

Besides, I’m almost 400 pages into it and am not going to quit now.  So, there.


* I simply can’t remember where, now.  However, I also know that Evelyn Waugh, himself a Catholic convert, has his title character in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold attempt to slog through Westward Ho! in order to drown out the possibly psychotic voices in his head.  Heh.

** Of interest, the book was dedicated to the “White Rajah” Sir James Brooke, for no other reason than that Kingsley thought Brooke a hell of a fellah.  George MacDonald Fraser sharks will, of course, recall Brooke from Flashman’s Lady.

See? Hang around long enough and it all ties together…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers! A rainy Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor allows me to duck mowing the lawn and instead bore those two or three who still gather over the decanter with my first impressions of the great state of Wyoming, or at least of its south-easternmost parts.  (Ol’ Robbo was taken camping in Yellowstone as a toddler, but that hardly counts.)

This area is pure High Prairie, the westernmost part of teh Great Plains lapping up against the Rockies, and resembles, in large part, nothing so much as the Ocean.  George Armstrong Custer puts it rayther well in the early part of his “My Life on the Plains”:

Starting from almost any point near the central portion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encounter a series of undulations at a more or less remote distance from each other, but constantly in view.  Comparing the surface of the country to that of the ocean, a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not require a very great stretch of the imagination, when viewing this boundless ocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as gigantic waves, not wildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standing silent and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the impressive grandeur of the scene.  These undulations, varying in height from fifty to five hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light, sandy soil, but often of different varieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect.

The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puzzling to the inexperienced plainsman.  He imagines, and very naturally, too, judging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlook the surrounding country.  After a weary walk or ride of perhaps several miles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds himself at the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond in the direction he desires to go rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far as the eye can reach.  Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from five to ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting, he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the “divide”, but again only to discover that another and apparently higher divide rises in his front, and at about the same distance.  Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles may be journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours.

In fact, thanks to modern speed (80 mph speed limit, baybee!), these “gigantic waves” do seem to chase each other wildly.  I’ve been on the Plains before, mostly in Illinois and Iowa.  I’ve driven between Omaha and Lincoln.  Because I flew in and out of Denver on this trip, I got a chunk of Northern Colorado, too.  But it was only once I got into Wyoming, especially north of Cheyenne, that I really got the full effect, most of these other areas being either urbanized or else thoroughly tamed farmland.  It was absolutely humbling – wave after wave after wave of land, all under an enormous sky.  However, it was not all plain sailing, because these hills are also broken up by a succession of creeks and rivers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  A few odds and ends on this stormy, Nats rained out, evening, for your consideration:

♦  Ol’ Robbo continues to believe that Social Media is the new young god on the political scene these days:  swaying Low Information Voters, stampeding Big Biznay and scaring the absolute shite out of the politicos.  Unfortunately, it’s also a petulant, spoiled, adolescent god with a massive Narcissist complex, an absentee father, a mother driven to bribe it for faux-affection,  and an agenda that amounts to showing them all how wrong they were.

 God (the real one) help us all.

♦  On these lines, I recently looked into purchasing a complete DVD set of The Dukes of Hazzard in protest of the sudden urge to airbrush the Confederate Battle Flag off the top of the General Lee.  250 to 300 bucks? Not bloody likely!

♦  An completely gratuitous note: John Schneider, who played Bo Duke in TDoH:TOS, bought a house in San Antonio originally built by ol’ Robbo’s parents.  Yeah, buddy, I and my brother were the guys who first cleared that 2.5 acres of brush and scrub and established the lawn and gardens.  You’re welcome.

♦  Also, perhaps more importantly, on these general pre-totalitarian lines, I absolutely love this bumper sticker.

♦  Speaking of new things, are other friends of teh decanter slightly creepified by the new Kentucky Fried Chicken ad campaign featuring a zombie Colonel Sanders?  I’m old enough to remember ol’ Harland himself doing said spots.  He was gracious and dignified.  This new fellah? Snarky, flippant, and, for lack of a better term, icky.  Not a good thing.  Is there no one in the Sanders family who could step up and do a legacy thing the way Dave Thomas’s daughter did for Wendy’s?  (Okay, I confess that I thought the “Wendy” Thomas ad campaign was rayther lame and much prefer the current hot ginger, neo-Dana Delany thing, but that’s a different matter.)

♦   Dana Delany.  Be right back.

♦  Modern Times.  I was 13 before I took my first commercial jet flight – a fly-fishing trip to Alaska, accompanied by much ballyhoo and bedlam- and also accompanied and heavily monitored by the Old Gentleman.  This evening I finally caved in to teh youngest gel’s request to hop a flight some time soon with her best friend to Chicago to visit said friend’s father.

♦   Okay, to finish up, I still love this.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because his beloved Nationals were early on obviously on the way to defeat this evening, ol’ Robbo popped in his latest Netflix serving, the movie version of The A-Team.

I used to enjoy the original series very much in my misspent yoot.  And as much as I hate reboots as a general rule, I also like the more recent movie enough to have seen it multiple times.

smith leesonAs I was watching said movie, teh Eldest wandered into the room.  In answer to her questions, I said more or less what I have just written.  However, I also pointed out that I’ve never quite got used to the idea of Liam Neeson as Hannibal Smith.

“Wait, what? Why?” she said.

“Well, I don’t know,” I answered, “He just doesn’t seem…tough enough to me.”

“Liam Neeson?” she said, “Are you crazy?  Why not?”

“Oh, I dunno, ” I said, “He just seems too…Sensative-Irish to me and only fake-tough, if you know what I mean.”

“No,” she replied, “I don’t.  I think Liam is teh awesome.”

smith peppard“Fine,” I said, “But let me tell you two things.  First, Liam Neeson is no Aslan.  Second, George Peppard could have beaten the living bayjaysus out of Neeson without even putting out his cigar.  So there.”

She walked off, shaking her head and muttering.

I don’t care.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening ol’ Robbo went down the Cathedral to take part in the annual end-of-year choir pot-luck and concert, an event he has come to thoroughly enjoy.  After the meal, more or less, the boys and girls put on performances of various pieces they’ve worked up (sometimes at the last minute), some serious and some silly.

For one of her entries, teh Middle Gel, along with two of her mates, served up this lovely setting of the Ave Maria by Jaques Arcadelt (1507-1568).  No, I’d never heard of him, either, since my knowledge of Renaissance musick really only centers around the great English composers of the period.  It’s only when you get to Monteverdi that I start picking up on Continentals.  Anyhoo, here’s what Wiki has to say about him:

Jacques Arcadelt (also Jacob Arcadelt; c. 1507 – 14 October 1568) was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, and principally known as a composer of secular vocal music. Although he also wrote sacred vocal music, he was one of the most famous of the early composers of madrigals; his first book of madrigals, published within a decade of the appearance of the earliest examples of the form, was the most widely printed collection of madrigals of the entire era. In addition to his work as a madrigalist, and distinguishing him from the other prominent early composers of madrigals – Philippe Verdelot and Costanzo Festa – he was equally prolific and adept at composing chansons, particularly late in his career when he lived in Paris.

Arcadelt was the most influential member of the early phase of madrigal composition, the “classic” phase; it was through Arcadelt’s publications, more than those of any other composer, that the madrigal became known outside of Italy. Later composers considered Arcadelt’s style to represent an ideal; later reprints of his first madrigal book were often used for teaching, with reprints appearing more than a century after its original publication.

So there you are.  The Gel, by the way, took the top soprano part and sang divinely as per usual.  (She has a cold, poor thing, and was not much satisfied with her performance, but I thought it very good.)

UPDATE:  I see where the video has been blocked. Well, you’ll just have to be on your honor to go over to YooToob and look it up for yourselves.  Remember, this material will be on the final.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

augustus-pp-statueThose friends of the decanter who have some passing familiarity with antiquity and the arts will quickly recognize this sculpture as the Augustus of Prima Porta, a likely posthumous and somewhat artificially-hulkified tribute to the first, and arguably greatest, of the Roman Emperors.  The piece is one of the two or three most recognizable bits of sculpture to come down to us from classickal civilization.   (In fact, I had a framed poster of it on my walls all through high school and college.)

Recently, it came to ol’ Robbo’s attention that a “street artist” calling himself “Gaia” has incorporated an image of this statue into a big mural that adorns one end of some new Mediterranean restaurant in Dee Cee called Pinea.  (You can go here to check the thing out.  I won’t try to repaste it here because of copyright, and besides, I’m sure the restaurant people wouldn’t mind the clicks.  For those of you who don’t make the jump, suffice to say ol’ Octavian is depicted in vibrant colors with a string of citrus slices around his neck and various items of Italian cuisine in the background.  Childish, but ultimately harmless, and at least it ties in with the place.)

Ol’ Robbo only happens to have learned about this work because of a monthly glossy called “Modern Luxury DC” that shows up, quite un-asked for, in the Port Swiller mailbox.  This mag purports to be the arbiter hipsterium of Your Nation’s Capital, carrying a variety of articles about coo-el new art exhibits, designer clothing, fashionable watering holes, “edgy” architecture, and up-and-coming Bright Young Things and Politicos.  (To give but one example of the latter, the latest issue featured an article on Mother’s Day with a photo of the current First Lady and her children.  The headline reads “Queen Mother”.   Note to Modern Luxury DC: Yeah, about that? No.)

Anyhoo, each issue of said mag goes straight to the basket in the downstairs loo, where Robbo flips through it just to keep up with exactly how awful things are out there in HipsterLand, until he is thoroughly disgusted and tosses it.  Perusing the latest, I came across an “On the Scene” item about the unveiling of “Gaia’s” new mural at a private cocktail party (which see the link above).  And what did “Modern Luxury DC” have to say about this piece of art?  “The new mural features a 14.5 foot tall Roman soldier.”

A “Roman soldier”, eh?  As I say above, the Prima Porta is a famous icon depicting one of the greatest figures of classickal history.  And all this hipster-doofus rag can come up with to describe it is “a Roman soldier“?

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

This got me wondering how they would treat some other giants of the cultural and politickal history on which their Neo-Tinsel Age is built:

An Early SparksNotes Contributor

An Early SparksNotes Contributor










Some Musician.  His Stare Is Kind Of Micro-Aggressive.

Some Musician. His Stare Is Kind Of Micro-Aggressive.











The Short, French Dude From History Class

The Short, French Dude From History Class











Perhaps I over-react, but is there nobody, nobody in the chain from artist to writer to editor who could do any better than “a Roman soldier”?

It’s bad enough that these people don’t know what they’re talking about, but I fear that they also just don’t care, which is much, much worse.

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