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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

AlbrechtsbergerThe setting of the Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form today at ol’ Robbo’s church was by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809).  I’d never heard any of his musick before, but I found myself smiling in recognition of the name because Albrechtsberger was one of three of Beethoven’s teachers with whom Lucy attempts to spike Schroeder in a “Peanuts” strip I remember from my misspent yoot.  (Salieri was another.  I can’t recall the third for certain but it might have been Franz Anton Hoffmeister.)

This just goes to show that there’s no such thing as “useless” trivia and that one never knows when some obscure factoid lodged in one’s braims at random might not come back to serve a purpose some day.

The setting itself (in D Major) was perfectly fine, by the bye, although I do not recall a Gloria in which the text was run through so very quickly.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, ol’ Robbo finds himself knocking about Port Swiller Manor for the third day, quietly waiting for Pope Francis to wrap things up downtown and head north.

♦   Frankly, I’ve not paid the least attention to the coverage of events so far.  For one thing, I absolutely refuse to let the media (mainstream OR social) tell me what I ought to make of it all.  For another, I just don’t cotton to anything that smacks of celebrity hype.  (Of course, to be perfectly honest with myself I acknowledge that I might be singing a different tune if this were St. John Paul II or Benedict and not Francis.)  For a third, as an ordinary every-Sunday foot soldier, I get the same feeling about the outpouring of enthusiasm associated with the visit as I do about the crowds who show up only for Christmas and Easter services.

♦   Fingers crossed, please:  Eldest Gel fired off her early-decision application to Sweet Briar College last evening.  We should get a yea or nay within two weeks or so.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t accept her (good ACT’s, steadily rising high school GPA and a legacy several times over, plus the school really needs to grow its student body again so it’s a buyer’s market), but the process is unnerving just the same.

♦   Watching the con-trails of jets cruising overhead this morning, I got wondering about calculating their distances from my porch.  If I assume a plane is at an altitude of, say, six miles and accurately measure the angle of the hypotenuse from my point of observation, using right triangle geometry trig I ought to be able to calculate the length of that hypotenuse, yes?  Or no?

♦   Well, at six and a half games behind with only about ten days left in the season, I just don’t think my beloved Nats are going to catch the Mets.  Ah, well.  Is it possible that the “Back To The Future, Part 2” prophesy will be fulfilled by the Cubbies taking it all this year?  If they make the post-season, I will certainly root for them.

Anyhoo, time for moar coffee.

UPDATE:  A glass of wine with Don for putting me some stuff-you-should-have-remembered-from-school knowledge in response to the cruising jet question.  All I can say is that it’s been a very long time since I did any trig.

Anyhoo, out of curiosity, I ran a couple calculations, assuming a jet to be cruising at an altitude of 37,000 ft, or 7 miles just to make it simpler.  An observed angle of 35 degrees produces a line between my eye and the plane of just over 12 1/4 miles.  An observed angle of 20 degrees gives a distance of just over 20 1/2 miles.

The thing is, these results are mighty near what I would have guessed just eyeballing it.  Pretty cool.

(And yes, you can see a jet at 20 miles.  Or rather, at certain times of day around dawn and dusk, you can see sunlight reflecting off of them sometimes.)

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!

The first genuine rainy day for a while in the port swiller neighborhood gets ol’ Robbo out of having to mow the lawn this morning, so how about a few idle observations?

♦   The kid at the hardware store this morning asked me if I needed help taking a 20 pound bag of bird food out to my car.  I know he was only trying to do his job but my first instinct was to punch him.  Do I look that decrepit before my morning coffee?

♦  As a matter of fact, I think I am getting kinda decrepit.  I crocked my right elbow kayaking on vacation.  That was the last week of July.  It hurts worse now.  Eh.

♦   Can somebody put me some knowledge about why this “deal” with Iran is so “historic”?  From what I understand, they get pretty much everything they want – self-monitoring, a big wodge of cash, etc., while we as a country are cordially invited to go stick our collective head in a pig.  Meanwhile, I gather all the Important People have little side arrangements of their own attached to the thing.  In the real world, that’s not a deal, it’s a sell-out.

♦  And what’s even more worrisome, the GOP-controlled Congress is in on it.  Most non-political junkies don’t know that the Senate adopted a procedural sleight of hand weeks ago making it near impossible for the actual substance of the deal to be voted on this week.  All you’ve heard about over the past couple days is simply an exercise in what Ace calls “Failure Theatre”.

♦  Oh, and while on the topic, let me just again reiterate that immigration without assimilation is invasion.

♦  And then they wonder why Teh Donald’s popularity is surging.

♦   Speaking of failure theatre,  stick a fork in the Nationals’ season because it’s done.  As is, I think, Matt Williams, whose chief flaw is an apparent inability to properly handle a bullpen.  Curiously, as I watched them drop their fourth straight game in a loss against the Fish last evening, all I felt was numbness.

♦   Speaking of handling things, it’s looking more and more like the Pope’s upcoming visit to Dee Cee is going to cause havoc.  We haven’t been told to go ahead and stay home yet, but they already making noise about telecommuting – something I’m not authorized to do because I don’t have an agreement in place.  Wouldn’t be surprised if unscheduled leave and/or closure don’t come into play.

♦   And no, I’ve no interest in trying to go see the parade.  I simply can’t warm up to Papa Franky.  If he isn’t an actual proponent of liberation theology (which, IMHO is nothing more that Marxism in a dog-collar), he sure sounds like one.

Whelp, time to go throw myself in the hammock and listen to the rain.


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!

As I see from a quick dekko at sitemeter, it seems the demand for the return of Robbo from his summah hols has been astronomical.  Well, my friends, your wait is over, as I am most definitely back.

As I mentioned, the Family Robbo met up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his brood at a lakeside retreat this year.  More specifically, it was Lake Anna, nestled in the heart of the Great Commonwealth of Virginny and also sporting its own nuke plant a couple miles up the shore from us, the wastewater discharge from which kept our part of the lake at a temperature somewhere in the mid-80’s.  Indeed, splashing about in it was not unlike taking a bath and, frankly, wasn’t all that refreshing.

As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo spent very little time actually swimming and much of his time kayaking.  I would roll out of bed earlyish in the morning and put in an hour and a half to two hours of industrious paddling about, then go for another round later in the afternoon.  It was most soothing.  As it happens, I have the kind of body that, with any kind of regular exercise, buffs up quite quickly, so I am also feeling quite fit at the moment, although my arms are still killing me.

In between bouts of rowing, I found time to get in a goodish bit of reading, too.  My list included the following:

sheed mapA Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith by Frank Sheed.  This book is not an argument but rayther, as its title implies, a simple statement of the Faith.  Here is what we believe.  Here is why we believe it.  Here is what we do and don’t do as a result of these beliefs.  Here are what we think are the consequences of following and not following them.  Easy, logical, lucid prose without all that heavy breathing you get from somebody like Scott Hahn.

fremont first impressionsFrémont’s First Impressions: The Original Report of His Exploring Expeditions of 1842-1844.  I picked this up because of my recent visit to Wyoming and views of the Oregon Trail  Fremont’s first expedition in 1842 was to map said Trail as far as South Pass.  I was delighted to recognize the area he describes in and around Ft. Laramie.   The second took him all the way to near what is now Portland, down across the Sierra Nevadas (in the dead of winter) into the Sacramento River valley, around the souther Sierras through Arizona and New Mexico, back up into Colorado and then hey for home.  The book is very well written and “The Pathfinder” obviously knew what he was about: exact scientific measurements and observations; good judgment of terrain; (mostly) careful travel with the occasional calculated risk; an instant grasp of the strategic importance of the Columbia River and San Francisco Bay to the rapidly expanding United States; and genuine curiosity about that area of the Intermountain West known as “The Great Basin”.  Unfortunately, for some reason this edition does not contain any of the maps, drawings or appendices attached to the original reports.  Also, it is fronted by a somewhat condescending introduction by some modern academic who is quick to point out what a racist/imperialist/white male aggressor Fremont was, and that, of course, we aren’t like that now.  Sheesh.

waugh battleThe End of the Battle by Evelyn Waugh.  I won’t say anything about it here.  Waugh is one of my very favorite authors and the Sword of Honor trilogy (of which this is the third book) is probably my very favorite Waugh.  I’ve read this book many, many times.  One question that occurs to me, though:  Why do references to J.H. Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish keep popping up in Waugh’s novels?  It is usually found in officers’ messes, masters’ common rooms and elsewhere and I can’t help thinking that Mr. Wu is getting in a little dig for his own amusement although I don’t quite get the joke.

chricton pirate latitudesPirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  A swashbuckler set in the reign of Charles II featuring a dashing privateer taking a whack at the Dons in the Caribbean.  I’ve never read any Crichton before although I’ve heard of his good reputation.  Frankly, I don’t understand it, if this book is any example of his writing.  It might have made a good screenplay, but the prose and characters have a Tom Clancy-like cardboard quality about them.  Also, Crichton doesn’t seem to grasp some basics of nautical terminology.  He uses “ground” when he means “deck” and he persistently refers to ships (including a galleon) as “boats”.  He also describes a gunnery trick used by the hero to elude his pursuing enemies that is patently absurd.  (I also started out on Crichton’s Sphere but ran out of time and only got about a quarter of the way in – the book belonged to teh rental house.  Just as well, really, because the prose was as bad as in P.L and was beginning to irk me.

And why was I able to get so much reading done? Because the house turned out to be quite big and roomy enough for the ten of us not to suffer that ghastly feeling of being on top of each other all the time and I was quite able during the mid-day hours to snuggle into a corner relatively undisturbed, apart from some bouts of door-slamming and children running about that reminded me of something out of “Arsenic and Old Lace”.

All in all, a good week, leaving ol’ Robbo tanned, ready and rested.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry, I don’t at the moment have anything particularly weighty to say after the recent seismic upheavals in the Body Politick other than “Dum spiro, spero“.  Perhaps I will venture on some more substantive musings in the near future, perhaps not.  I can tell you this:  Teh Eldest Gel, who has become a keen follower of current events, noted earlier this evening that progressives don’t argue, they have temper tantrums.  “It’s like they’re a bunch of goddam toddlers!” she said.   Yep.

In the meantime, since his beloved Nationals aren’t playing this evening, ol’ Robbo is going to settle in for an “Arrested Development” festival.  As I have said here before and, no doubt, will say again, it is my considered opinion that this was the single funniest program ever put on television.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was going to stay completely off the topic of this week’s brutal mass-murder down in Charleston because the story line seemed so inevitable: psycho-monster slaughters innocents; vultures swoop in on still the warm corpses to push their various politickal agendas (race, guns, self-aggrandizement, etc.); street thugs take advantage of the situation to go wild; civilisation crumbles just a bit further.

I’ve seen this movie before.

However, what I didn’t expect was the complete awesomeness of teh victims’ families:

Relatives of the nine people shot down during a Bible study session inside their historic black church confronted the 21-year-old suspect Friday during his initial hearing. They described their pain and anger, but also spoke of love.

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose relative Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

My friends, this is Christianity in action.  First, the obvious nod to the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Second, though, note the plea that the killer repent.  Repentance isn’t just an empty “Yeah, man, I’m sorry.”  It also requires suitable penance.  In this case, indeed, it may very well require submission to the full weight and penalty of the Law, i.e., a trip to teh Chair or whatever it is they use down in South Carolina these days.   But if Stormdoor (or whatever his name is) actually does this sincerely, the relatives recognize that his soul can still be saved.  These people are thinking the long game, not just our brief appearance here on Earth.

That, as I say, is a true understanding of Christian salvation.  And I tell you truly that I’m not sure, given the same set of circumstances, that I could myself measure up to these brave folks.

God bless ’em.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you who do not follow ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals, I should preface this post by noting that the Nats have a lot of new faces in their bullpen this year and, as of the first week of June, are still trying to figure out who are going to be their go-to set up men in the 7th and 8th, ahead of Drew Storen in the 9th.

JanssenAmong the mix of said faces is Casey Janssen, a pitcher with the Blue Jays of Toronto for some years before coming over to Dee Cee this year.  He had some injuries, and has only recently started to appear in our games on a more regular basis.

The few times I’ve seen Janssen whilst watching games on tee-vee, I’ve found myself saying, “Self, who is this guy? Wait! I know! Something to do with heresy…..Arianism? No.  Manichaeism?  No.  Wait! Now I remember! Jansenism!

(I will not even attempt to summarize Jansenism here.  Suffice to say that it is a heresy focused on the fault line between free will and predestination.)

Anyhoo, that’s what I use in order to remember him.  Crossing streams, I know.  However, should he make a good name for himself pitching, that problem goes away.

UPDATE: Oh, I forgot to mention this.  After thinking it over, I have self-identifed as Napoleon.  In future, I expect all of you friends of the decanter to address me as “Sire“.  See to it.

UPDATE DEUX:  Most friends of the decanter probably will pick up on the Monty Python riff in the title of this post.  (Well, I hope you will.)  I should note here that I think this sketch was far funnier in record form than it was in the original tee-vee series.  Ol’ Robbo has long-standing opinions on the effectiveness of various Python bits.  Some worked best on film, some worked best in studio, some worked best in audio.  It all had to do with timing,  inflection, and chemistry.  Not sure that I can come up with a grand unification theory to explain all my opinions, but they’re definite nonetheless.  Go ahead and ask me about a given sketch and I’ll give you my analysis.  Go on, I dare you.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are off this evening,  so it looks like I’ll be dipping back into the Netflix queue.  Next up is “Bridge on the River Kwai”.  Heck of a long film, but I find that if you fast-forward through the bits where William Holden is standing around looking moody, the thing is more manageable.

In the meantime, I see that there has been some crowing and gnashing of teeth (depending on your point of view) over a Gallup poll out this week that purports to show that the country is shifting left on many moral issues.  The poll has been being conducted annually since 1999 and claims that this year, for the first time, social liberals and social conservatives are “at parity”.

Frankly, I don’t think I buy this.  On the one hand, I believe there’s no question that what I might call Left-libertinism has become more and more fashionable in recent years thanks to the cheerleading from the gub’mint, the academy, the MSM and Hollywood.  On the other, though, I can’t help wondering if the supposed decline in the number of people holding conservative social values isn’t really a decline in willingness to answer pollster questions about such values.  In an interview this week, Marco Rubio said that mainstream Christianity is on the verge of being tagged as “hate speech”.  Whether this is a correct assessment or not (and, FWIW, I think it is), my observation suggests that a good many people believe it and are simply clamming up.

Personally, I never answer polls or surveys, nor do I discuss moral or politickal issues with anyone outside my family or close, trusted friends.  Long-time friends of the decanter will know that, even in more-or-less bloggy anonymity, I have cut back steadily on commentary about such matters here since 2008, and that this place is nothing like the flesh-flying-out-the-windows-inconveniencing-the-passers-by air of the ol’ Llama Central before that.   That’s no accident.  Prudence, i.e., the protection of my family from harassment, calls for it.   On the other hand, I, of course, strive to keep the candle lit and on a candlestick to give light to all within Port Swiller Manor.  Eh, what can you do?

The punch line, to which I turn for comfort repeatedly, is that Truth is Truth no matter what fashion or the law says, and that it will prevail in the end.  You can’t take the sky from me.

Now, off to the movies….


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