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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This week Youngest Gel started evening swim practices in anticipation of her high school team getting under way in about a month or so.  (This will be her third year on the varsity, he mentioned gratuitously.)

As we drove home after I picked her up, she began talking about how lovely the moon was up in the sky in front of us.  This led to a discussion about sunlight and starlight, and eventually about how light travels.  (What was it Douglas Adams said? It travels so fast that it takes most civilizations thousands of years to realize that it travels at all?)

Eventually, I got round to reeling off what I remember of the speed of light: 12 million miles a minute; it takes about six minutes or so to travel from the Sun to Earth; measuring distances in space by light-years; etc.

“What is a light-year, anyway?” the Gel asked.

“Well,” I said, “It’s the distance light travels in one year.  Remember how I said 12 million miles a minute?  So multiply that by sixty to get miles per hour, then multiply that by twenty-four to get miles per day, and multiply that by three hundred sixty-five to get an approximation of the distance of a light year.  I don’t know the exact number, but I do know it’s awfully big.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her lips moving as she did a quick and dirty calculation in her head, her eyes steadily widening.

“Well, okay.  How far away are the stars, then?” she asked.

“That varies, of course, ” I replied.  “Alpha Centauri is our nearest neighbor at about two light-years’ distance.  On the other hand, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation of Orion, is 500 light years off.  Others are at different distances, some very much farther than that.”

“Five hundred!” she exclaimed.  “Are you telling me that the light I see on Orion’s shoulder left it 500 years ago? Like when Columbus had just arrived in the Americas?”

“Yippers,” I said. “And for all we know, it could have gone supernova or even disappeared altogether any time between then and now and we wouldn’t even know it until the effects got here.”

The Gel huddled herself together, an awe-struck look on her face.

“This is seriously freaking me out,” she said.

Ol’ Robbo, for one, is glad that the Gel had this reaction.  Not only am I pleased at her grasp of the physical concepts (and math) involved, I also believe it demonstrates a proper sense of humility.

It’s also one that I happen to share.  When looking about God’s Creation, I can’t think of anything more humbling than contemplating interstellar distances (unless it’s geological time, another of my favorite things to noodle).

Oh, and obligatory (not because I like the movie – I don’t much – but because I often sing it in the shower and it’s also my chief reference for quick and dirty facts of this sort):



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

First, I’m happy to report that both Elder Gels made it safely back to school today.  I was especially worried about Eldest since she was by herself and headed for central North Carolina where there’s still plenty of weather to deal with, but she had no trouble.  I don’t know if my invoking St. Christopher had anything to do with it, but it surely didn’t hurt.

A friend with whom I was chatting before Mass today referred to Francis as “a lame-duck Pope”.  I think that’s about right: Especially after he lashed out at those of us genuinely outraged and horror-struck this week, I can’t say that I have any real respect left for him outside that mandated by the rank he holds.  Thank Heaven I live in a really strong diocese with good men and women in charge, and that my own Padre is a truly holy man.

On a different note, you will probably recall the passage in the NT in which Jesus scolds the Pharisees about their hypocrisy, saying any one of them would pull an ox out of a pit if it fell in on the Sabbath?  Well, Ol’ Robbo was thinking of that this afternoon as I scrubbed out my kitchen garbage can that had somehow got covered in both sticky foodstuffs AND ants.  I’m sure He would understand.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, according to chatter seen by Father Z this week, Frankie may be gunning for Cardinal Vigano for spilling the beans. (Salute the rank, not the man, Robbo…Salute the rank, not the man…..)

I also see that a number of state AG offices are launching probes into local dioceses here in the States.  I should be pleased about this, but I can’t help fearing that the hacks running these offices may not have the same endgame in mind as I do.

Meanwhile, on a completely different note, today is “Homecoming Sunday” at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church.  This is basically a parish picnic to kick off fall and to lure people back to church who have “taken the summer off”.  Back in the day, Ol’ Robbo spent a number of years on the committee, setting up chairs and tables, organizing the food, arranging for the moonbounce, etc.

It’s pouring rain today.  It never rains on Homecoming Sunday.  The weather is usually absolutely beautiful.  Indeed, I can remember only one time previously in the twenty-odd years I’ve been here that they moved it inside, and that was only because of a drizzle.

I heard there was going to be some kind of mini-petting zoo this year.  Wonder how that will work out…..

Ol’ Robbo would not want to be on that committee today.  (I say this in ecumenical sympathy, by the bye, not sneeringly.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it seems so far that the Vatican is simply going to try and brazen this thing out.  Devil at work within our walls? What devil? Debauchery and cover-up?  Never heard of ’em.  Anyway, you should be concerning yourselves with higher matters.  Oh, look over there – it’s the plastic litter crisis! Aiiiiieee!!!

Meanwhile, it looks as if the MSM has found its talking points. When the issue was strictly pedophilia, they were all over HMC (and rightly so, don’t get me wrong). But here, where the issue predatory sodomy of young men?  Why, we who cry out in rage and grief are nothing but a pack of right-wing, homophobic, whacko-birds who are trying to “pounce” on the issue to get at Frankie because of politicks or racism or something.  We’re the ones who ought to be ashamed!

Jesus wept.

I carry a Vatican flag magnet on my bumper.  In the past few days, I’ve wondered whether I ought to take it off.  But I came to the conclusion that I absolutely should not.  HMC is the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is her Head, not the Pope, nor any of the debased cardinals and bishops involved in this thing.  She’s also my church, as I am a part (granted, a very tiny, feeble, part) of her body.  And I’ll be damned if I let the devil and his spawn drive me out of her. Christ promised she would endure, and I’m going to nail my faith to the mast and believe that promise.

So, there.

And speaking of Christ being the head of the Church, I smiled this week when I came across this quote from Hilaire Belloc:

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine – but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

Things can’t stand as they presently are, and I can’t believe some people think the issues are just going to go away if enough obfuscation, misdirection, and silence is applied.  It’s probably going to hurt like hell, but one way or another I believe we will come out stronger in the end.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo cannot now recall whether some friend of the decanter recommended them to him or not, but I’ve been trying out the Beeb’s recent “Father Brown Mysteries” with Mark Williams in the title role.

I have to confess that after watching the first three episodes, I’m not really all that impressed.  I don’t hate the show, mind you, but I don’t feel much desire to whistle up the next DVD from Netflix, either.

For one thing, there is of course the total impossibility of translating GKC’s extremely lush writing style into a screenplay.  (The way he describes a scene is every bit as important as the substance of the scene itself.  Want a perfect example? Read his description of the arrival of Innocent Smith at Beacon House in Manalive.  It’s overwhelming.)  There’s also GKC’s overriding theme that Faith and Reason are not antithetical, but in fact are allies because God Himself is the ultimate Reason.  It’s not that the shows seem disrespectful, exactly, but that they seem to scootch past this as quickly as possible to get on with the sleuthing.  (Perhaps this was just an early hook to pull in viewers and these deeper issues get more treatment in later episodes.  I just don’t know.)

Discounting that, however, I have some other nits as well.  For instance, the show seems to not include M. Hercule Flambeau, a reformed French mastermind of thievery and Father Brown’s usual companion, at all.  In the books, Brown often delivers his piercing observations on human nature and the eternal battle between Good and Evil in his discussions with Flambeau, but here he obviously can’t.   Instead, to the extent he says anything at all, Brown’s conversation seems to be directed toward a regular cast of side characters, including a nosey church secretary, an outrageous village flirt, some kind of Eastern European maid, and a snarky chauffer, none of whom I recall from the original stories.  Then there’s the local inspector, who I’d swear had the same lines in all three episodes I watched: “I’ve got motive and opportunity, and that’s enough,” and, “I’m placing you under arrest for suspicion of the murder of [X]”.

And that’s another thing.  In the GKC stories, Father Brown (and M. Flambeau) find themselves in various locales around GB and the Continent.  All the action in the shows seems to take place in the same small village, which would lead one to think the place must be awash in blood and to wonder just how long it can last with all of its denizens being snuffed out one after another.

All that said, I don’t think Williams is especially bad in the role of Father B, although I think he’s too physically large for the part.  (Brown is supposed to be a little, unnoticeable man.)  No doubt he was cast because of his ability to bug his eyes out and purse his lips in distracted contemplation.

And on that note, I would still love to see Alec Guinness’s turn in the role.  I should think he would have been perfect.  And if I am not mistaken, I believe I read somewhere that the exposure to the Faith that Guinness received through his playing of Father Brown was a big factor in his decision to swim the Tiber himself.  (When I went to the devil’s website to find this film, I saw it was only a couple bucks.  So why not?  Guess I will see it.)

Anyhoo, I think I’d give this series two glasses of port (and maybe an extra sip) out of five.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Wow.  I didn’t think the “Uncle Teddy” scandal rocking Holy Mother Church could get much worse.  It just did:

In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, said that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Read the whole thing.  The Archbishop calls for Frankie and everyone else mixed up in this filth to resign.  I’d second that heartily.**

(You’ll notice again, by the bye, that this story has virtually vanished from the mainstream media.)

UPDATE:  **If what Vigano says is true, of course.  People on whose judgements I rely say that he is solidly reliable.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had to go to the Vigil Mass this evening, not being able to attend tomorrow for reasons that will become evident in a future post.

I swam the Tiber about eleven years ago now, and in all that time I’ve been to maybe half a dozen Vigils (apart from the Easter Vigil, which is in a class by itself).  Somehow or other, it always seems a bit like cheating to me.  You know, get yer Mass obligation out of the way at 5pm on Saturday so you can sleep in Sunday morning and then go to brunch.

Nonsense, I know, and probably more of a bugaboo for a convert than for an old hand, but still……

On another note, re the ongoing sex scandal within HMC, I give you Bishop Robert C. Morlino.  What he said.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t dipped much into politickal posting here of late, but once in a while things get so crazy that even I feel compelled to remark on them.  Quite the week, I think friends of the decanter will agree?

♦ Chelsea Clinton spouts off on the economic “benefits” of abortion.  Hey, Chelsea – You might not be interested in Moloch, but Moloch is always interested in you!

♦  Andrew Cuomo trashes America and then digs deeper by trying to deny the plain meaning of his own words. “Bitch set me up!”

♦  Three hundred-odd newspaper editors collude to trash the President because he accuses them of colluding to trash him.  ‘Kay.

♦  Big Tech has decided that it has a duty to protect us all from ungood wrong think.  This is a big reason why I never fooled with Twitter and don’t bother much with FacePlant anymore.  (I just hope that they don’t decide to come and take my little WordPress soapbox away from me, too.)

You can say whatever else you like about this Administration, but it has produced one very positive effect anyway: The masks are all coming off.

These people hate you.  They really hate you.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

We had a terrific Mass of Thanksgiving in the Extraordinary Form today, complete with three priests, a congratulatory message and marching orders straight from the Vatican, the “Asperges Me” and a “Te Deum“, together with one of Palestrina’s longer settings.  The normal Traditional Latin Mass in my parish runs about an hour and a half.  This one went well over two hours.  I didn’t even notice the difference until it was over and I happened to glance at my watch in the parking lot.

The occasion was a celebration of the ordination ten days ago of a fellah from our parish as a new Canon to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

While the Mass itself was celebrated by our home boy, the homily was given by another priest, who I gathered was somebody higher up in the Institute who had been involved with our man’s education and ordination.  At any rate, he worked into his homily some references to our man’s experiences during seminary in Italy.

And you know what? This chilled me slightly.  Why? Because of this whole damned (in the literal sense) “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick scandal. 

I’m not accusing the homilist – of whom I know nothing – of anything at all, at all.  Nor was I really worried specifically about our new ordinate, who I’d watched as alter server in various functions over the years. No, it was just a more general association.  Allusions to and jokes about seminary life, however innocently meant, under the recent revelations just left a bad taste in my mouth.

As I thought about this more later on, I started to get angry.  Damn these men who have sullied Holy Mother Church.  Damn them for putting these vile thoughts into my head even in the midst of what should have been an unadulterated glory. Damn them, damn them, damn them!

We need radical surgery here.  We need intense investigation, not just by the clergy but also by lay members as well.  We need very public disclosure of exactly who did what, who knew what, and all the details of where, when, and how.  We need absolutely clear and cold denunciation, and absolutely clear and cold disgrace and punishment.

This is not a time for “coming together” or for “easing our pain through the healing process”.  Nor is it a time for simply sweeping things under the rug.  (You’ll notice the story has completely vanished from the MSM.)  No, this is a time for taking names and kicking asses.

We shall see what actually happens……


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This past Sunday marked the first anniversary of the death of my mother.

As regular friends of the decanter might have noticed, losing the Mothe hit Ol’ Robbo very hard indeed, as we were extremely close.  (It was nothing like this when the Old Gentleman shuffled off eleven years ago, as we were more distant.)  Also, the circumstances were such that I didn’t get a chance to have that last talk with her that I’d been counting on.  As a result, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last year in a state of grief bordering, I suppose, on clinical depression – withdrawn, disinterested, physically exhausted, all that sort of thing.  It was more or less constant at first, and although by this spring it became a more occasional thing, when the blue devils hit, they still hit hard.

Mrs. R suggested a few times that I ought to go “see somebody”, but I always resisted.  In the first place, I already knew perfectly well what the trouble was.  In the second, I knew that any trick-cyclist I consulted would probably try to put me on happy pills, and Ol’ Robbo wants none of that, thank you very much.  (I prefer to deal with my sorrows the old-fashioned way – by drowning them.)

No, instead I relied on what both my godfather (who deals with geriatric issues in his medical practice) and my priest (who lost his mother two or three years ago) said: Grief is perfectly natural, the first year is the hardest, and things will get better. “Time, the Great Healer” and all that.

Nonetheless, I felt a distinct dread as the anniversary approached that I’d be wracked by a fresh outburst.

But you know what?  As the day progressed, I instead started getting the unexpected feeling that a corner had finally been turned. I hate the expression “move on”, but I could really feel something inside saying that I had mourned long enough and that it was now okay to allow myself to get back into the swing of things.  And I did just that: I prayed harder at Mass than I have in a long time; I spent the afternoon terrifying myself by reading Karl Keating; I had a really good workout on the treadmill; and then in the evening I watched an opera on DVD (Mozart’s “Abduction” – a Covent Gardens performance with Solti conducting and Kurt Moll thoroughly chewing up the part of Osmin) for the first time in I don’t know how long.

Does this mean the blue devils are gone for good? Probably not.  But I really do feel that the worst of it is finally over.

It’s a good thing, too, not just for me but for the Family Robbo as well.  It certainly hasn’t been easy for Mrs. R and the Gels to have me moping about all this time, and they’ve certainly had their work cut out for them by trying to be supportive while keeping their distance (I am a querulous patient when ill and generally wish to be left alone).  Hopefully, they can now put aside their worrying about me.

Anyhoo, here we are.  (Sorry to spout.  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t generally like to use this place to spill his guts but I just felt I had to get this one out there.)

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