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Well, friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be knocking off posting (among other things) until after Easter Day, the better to focus on Higher Matters.

After Palm Sunday Mass tomorrow, we will be toddling down to the National Cathedral to hear the Middle Gel perform Bach’s St. John Passion.  (I met her for lunch between rehearsals today and caught the first part of the afternoon session.  Exquisite.)

This year I also intend to do the full Tenebrae and Paschal Triduum.  And by great fortune, I was able to arrange so that I can go to the Easter Vigil Mass this year, having had to miss it for other commitments the past couple years.

So all in all, it’s going to be a mighty full week.  Hope you all have a blessed one.

I’ll see you all on the other side.

 

 

 

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Ol’ Robbo is going with this rendition of the Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898) this year because he recently reread C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and Tanner’s image of an angelic presence closely matches Lewis’s descriptions of the same thing.  (I’m guessing Lewis probably saw it.  As a general matter, angels are not cute n’ cuddly, but tend to scare the daylights out of people when they come visiting.)

I was wondering today why the Annunciation is not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church (and, apparently, never has been).  The Immaculate Conception is, as is the Assumption of the Virgin, but arguably today, the day of the great “Yes”, is far more important theologically than either of those days:

  And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

-Luke, 1:26-38 (KJV – Yes, I swam the Tiber but I still appreciate the beauty of the language so deal with it.)

My question is completely honest, by the way, and is not meant to be snarky or flippant.

Incidentally, it was only a few years ago that I came to realize the significance of J.R.R. Tolkien placing the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of Sauron on March 25.  If I recall correctly, my exact response was, “Oooooooooooh…..”

Relatedly, ol’ Robbo has had a very good Lent so far.  I have been less concerned with denials (which I will focus on during Holy Week) and more concerned with reflection and really feel that I’ve dug deeper into the Faith, particularly with respect to the matter of charity.  I don’t believe I posted it here, but I had a dream a week or two ago in which I was surrounded by a group of utterly selfless people and was keenly aware of my own shortcomings compared to them.  I woke up with both the shame of this comparison and the resolve to do something about it.  I like to think I’m already making a bit of progress.

savesweetbriarGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, earlier today Mrs. Robbo and teh Eldest Gel, along with Mrs. Former Llama Military Correspondent and teh Middle Gel’s godmother, joined some 600-odd other alumnae to descend on Sweet Briar College and welcome the undergrads returning from spring break.   You can go here to see some vid of the event, and here to see some pics.  I would have posted some pics here myself, but apparently, “Now be sure to send them to my email account because I can’t copy them on to the blog otherwise” is some kind of weirdo moon-man language to my bride and offspring.   (Perhaps I will be able to update.)

Anyhoo, Mrs. R and teh Eldest report that the event went off very well.  The undergrads seemed truly moved by the show of support and I think the message to the Nazgul board and president that the Vixens mean business was duly reenforced.

In the meantime, it was reported today that the Saving Sweet Briar pledges have now topped $3 million.  This evening, Mrs. R told me that something even bigger is afoot, but she couldn’t give details about it.  (Fact is, I couldn’t have reported them anyway.  Mrs. R will never believe me that I simply can’t understand her when she’s using speakerphone in her car.)  Stand by for more news on this front this week.

Also, I heard this morning regarding the elderly retired dining hall employee I mentioned below who is being thrown out of her on-campus cottage, that a number of alumnae have volunteered to step up and ensure that, if she can’t in the end stay there, they will take care of her and ensure that she’s not left out on the street.

Perhaps not altogether by coincidence, Father McA’s homily at Mass today centered on the felix culpa, the “happy fault”.  Wiki has a pretty good explanation of this:

The Latin expression felix culpa derives from the writings of St. Augustine regarding the Fall of Man, the source of original sin: “For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” (in Latin: Melius enim iudicavit de malis benefacere, quam mala nulla esse permittere.)  The phrase appears in lyric form sung annually in the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil: “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem,” “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.” The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas cited this line when he explained how the principle that “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom” underlies the causal relation between original sin and the Divine Redeemer’s Incarnation, thus concluding that a higher state is not inhibited by sin. The Catholic saint Ambrose also speaks of the fortunate ruin of Adam in the Garden of Eden in that his sin brought more good to humanity than if he had stayed perfectly innocent.

 (Just as an aside, anything that cites Augustine, Aquinas and Ambrose is almost automatically going to get ol’ Robbo’s hearty endorsement.)

That these alumnae are (reportedly) willing to step up and help out the poor dining hall lady is, I believe, an illustration of this principle.  So, too, in a different way, has been the threatened closure of the school on teh Eldest Gel.  This is one of the first serious blows in her life, and she’s learned from it a thing or two about rolling with the punches.  Also, she’s never gotten actively involved in a movement like this before, so the lesson in civic participation is a good one.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, from our conversations about it I’m convinced that she truly understands she’s not just in this thing for her own future, but also for all the other alumnae, undergrads and potential Vixens out there.

Felix culpa, indeed.

Also,

HOLLA! HOLLA! HOLLA!

UPDATE:  Reportedly, the number of participants was closer to a thousand.  Nice teevee piece in the link.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  As noted below, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels.  A few random thoughts, firstly travel-related:

♦   Going through airport security, I was submitted both times to the full TSA Grope Special.  In each instance, they claimed that they needed to check out something on the front of my pants picked up by the body scan.   Hey, Einsteins!  It’s called a “fly” and it’s made of metal!  (Either that or the rosary I always carry in my pocket is radioactive and left some kind of signature after I pulled it out.)  Baysterds didn’t even give me flowers or buy me breakfast afterwards.

♦   Perhaps in my bemusement over getting an unexpected hand in my crotch, or perhaps because I hadn’t yet had any coffee, on my way out Wednesday morning I managed to lose my driver’s license going through security at Reagan National.  Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this loss until I got to the car rental counter at my final destination.   Not being able to get a car proved to be a nuisance, but at least one that I was able to work round via taxis and bumming rides from people.

♦   The good news is that the airport folks not only found my license, they also called about it and then mailed it to me with a very polite cover letter.  I got it back this evening.

♦  By the bye, Ol’ Robbo has resolved that he is never again going to fly on Ash Wednesday with the expectation that he will get to Mass at the other end.  Even when I plan it all out in advance, I’m so frazzled by the time I arrive that I just can’t make myself do it, especially, as noted above, when I don’t have wheels of my own.

♦  Oddly enough, in all my years this was the first time I’ve ever flown Southwest.  I must say that their open-seat boarding policy confused me mightily at first.  On further consideration, it still doesn’t make that much sense to me:  All the early boarders naturally are going to take up the aisle and window seats.  When the tail of the line (the despised “Group C”) comes on board, there’s still going to be a lot of confusion and aisle-crowding as they seek to insert themselves into the middle seats.  I don’t see how this is superior to assigned seating with more controlled boarding groups.   (Oh, and I put Southwest’s policy of offering to put you among the “Group A” borders for an extra fee at the same contemptible level as Disney’s policy of letting you pay more to jump to the head of the ride line.)

♦  Oh, and this trip was to Texas, where regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his misspent yoot.  It’s remarkable how much at ease you can put a Texan of a certain age you’re interviewing by saying, “Oh, sure I remember Cody Carlson from high school!  He was just a year ahead of me!”

And a few non-travel thoughts:

♦  Remember when we were all told that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and that we should “Question Authority”?  Me, too.  Good times, good times.  I certainly prefer it to “Shut your whore mouthes, you rubes!”

♦  Per my previous dose of random below,  teh youngest gel got her braces slapped on today.  I have to admit that I can barely suppress my amusement at the way all her “s’s” have transmogrified into “th’s”.   And the Middle Gel, who got hers off last fall, evidently couldn’t suppress her urge to taunt her younger sister over what’s in store for her the next two years.

♦   Meanwhile, it looks as if Mrs. R and I are headed up to Harrisburg, PA this weekend to check out a used Honda CR-V for the Eldest.  It’s two years old, single owner, 30K miles, clean bill of health, moderate whistles and bells, balance of extended warranty and a pretty reasonable price.

♦  Braces and another car, all in the same week.  Siiiigh.  I suppose I could set up as a cocaine wholesaler.  Or perhaps run guns.

♦  Of course, we’re now in Lent.  I plan to do a considerable amount of new reading, and have already started in on a series of sermons by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, recently recommended to me by a member of a Catholic FB group where I like to hang out.   However, while I am delving into the serious stuff, I am also permitting myself to take breaks with lighter reading fare, so long as it has some Christian-based theme or sensibility.  As a practical matter, this means the fiction of Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.  At the moment, I am running through the former’s Father Brown mysteries.

Guinnes Father BrownI have the ability sometimes when reading to hear in my mind specific voices for specific characters.  In the case of Father Brown, I derive infinite satisfaction from imagining his voice (and his appearance and movements) to be that of Sir Alec Guinness.  I’ve never actually seen his portrayal of the padre, but it is evident, almost obvious to me that he was absolutely perfect for the part.  (Without looking it up, I recall reading somewhere that his work on this project was one of the key factors behind Guinness’s swim across the Tiber.)

♦  Finally, my latest Star Trek: TOS comment (which may be the last until after Easter):  The Corbomite Maneuver.   A classic.  First totally space-based episode.  First battle of wits between ship’s commanders.  First gratuitous shirtless Jim Kirk shot.  And to this day my brother and I refer to adult beverages as “tranya”.

KingcakeGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Mardi Gras!  (I hope you all behave yourselves.)

Ol’ Robbo will be flying out on biznay tomorrow.  This will be the second time I’ve done so on Ash Wednesday.  The first time was back in 2006, the spring after Hurricane Katrina had flattened Noo Orleans, and my destination was Mobile, Alabama.

I was unaware of it until I visited Mobile the first time, but the city maintains the claim that it was the first to organize a Mardi Gras celebration and that Noo Orleans was a mere usurper of the tradition.  (Rayther like the ongoing squabble over who held the first Thanksgiving.  The local lawyer with whom I was working was quite sniffy about it.)  And since Noo Orleans was still a mess that year, many people who would have gone there went to Mobile, instead.  

By the time I got there on the Wednesday, downtown was an absolute cesspool, covered in trash and smelling to high heaven of beer, vomit and pee despite a very strong and blustery wind. 

I don’t think there’s any danger of the same sort of thing happening this time, as I am headed to a completely different kind of place. 

220px-Viola_tricolor_LC0041Greetings, my fellow port swillers and a good Quinquagesima Sunday to you!  A balmy six degrees above zero with a howling northwest wind were waiting for ol’ Robbo this morning when he went out to clear off the snow dumped by last evening’s squalls on the Port Swiller driveway.  Although the sky was clear and the sun out, these conditions did not encourage me to dawdle at my work.

Ol’ Robbo had another of his bizarro dream specials last evening.  The story shifted around a lot, but at its climax I found that I was Lt. Worf and I had just discovered irrefutable proof that the proprietress of an English seaside hotel had attempted to poison my friends and me by putting arsenic in our tea.

However, as I swept through the door of her office in a towering wrath and prepared to deliver my devastating J’accuse!, I suddenly realized the absurdity of the situation and burst into laughter.  Indeed, I laughed so hard that I woke myself up, and even kept laughing for a few moments after I was awake.

This happens to me every now and again and is without a doubt one of the most delightful sensations I know.  I like to think of it as an echo of the joy one must experience in Heaven.

stvalentine4Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy St. Valentine’s Day!

No, I don’t mean the overly-commercialized, morally debauched one with which we are assaulted more fiercely every year by the shock troops of the so-called popular culture.  I mean the one that reminds us real love, inspired by God, is far better and beyond any of that.

One of the traditions (albeit, a disputed one) concerning the origin of St. Valentine’s feast day is that it was an attempt by the early Church to provide a wholesome alternative to the old pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, which was essentially a three day orgy held in mid-February.

Curious, if chilling, that the circle seems to be coming back around, what with the rise of the New Gnosticism and increasing warning from the pulpit that we of the Church need to prepare ourselves for possible persecution and even martyrdom, not at the hands of foreign terrorists but at those of our own domestic “betters”.

Well anyway, here’s a more positive fact to leave with you:  Saint Valentine is the patron, among other things, of beekeepers.  I couldn’t find a satisfying explanation for this except on what appears to be a druidism website, which I’m not about to link here, but I still think it’s neat.

Saint Valentine, ora pro nobis.

UPDATE:  Dave Barry’s review of Fifty Shades (the book), which I seem to have missed at the time.  Hy. Larious.  (A glass of wine with Carl Eric Scott over at NRO, who has a nice post on this whole biznay and the proper, balanced attitude toward it which includes large quotes from C.S. Lewis.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  I hope all of you kicked off the Christmas festivities yesterday with joy and merriment!

We certainly did, at least until the oven conked out after I’d removed the roast but before I could start the popovers, thus leaving our traditional Christmas Day dins rayther uneven.   (We have a GE Profile.  The range is gas but the oven is electric.  The thing’s about five years old and this must be the third or fourth time it’s crashed.  Stupid electronics.)  Never mind.  The rest of the food was delicious, there was plenty of drink and the gels did not fight with each other, so it was all good.

Earlier this afternoon ol’ Robbo found himself wondering why he was feeling so sleepy.  Then I remembered that I’d put in a full day on Christmas Eve getting everything decked and prepared, that I didn’t get home from Midnight Mass until past 2:30 ack emma yesterday, that I was dragooned out of bed about four hours later to open presents, that I stayed up late into the evening cleaning up the remains of said dinner and that I was up again at six this morning in order to run the gels to the airport for their trip down to Flahwrduh to visit Mrs. Robbo’s parents and grandmother.

Yeah, that’ll do it.

No matter, though.  I’ll be baching it for the next few days and can sleep in as long as I like tomorrow.

And for those of you wondering, I should have an internet connection up in the new Port Swiller Eagle’s Nest this weekend so will be able to resume normal posting and to catch up on what’s going on in the world.  (The router is still in the eldest gel’s new digs at the moment as is the family Mac, but since she’s out of town she need not know that I’ve invaded her space in order to use it.)

UPDATE: D’OH!  So much for sleeping in.  Thursday is our usual trash collection but since it was Christmas our collectors informed us they would be around today.  We have a LOT of trash stacked up so it was important to me to get it out to the curb.  Unfortunately, I had assumed they would come around some time mid-morning like they usually do, so that I could attend to this at my leisure.  Uh-uh.  At about 6:30, I suddenly awoke to the sound of their truck rumbling up the street.  I dashed outside just in time to see them going round the corner.  So, trash still stacked up and ol’ Robbo jerked out of the dreamless.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was flipping idly through the assortment of “holiday” cards that have piled up on the side table by the front door of Port Swiller Manor this evening when he realized that, out of about thirty or so such cards we’ve received so far, only one of them took as its theme the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Most of the rest feature montages of family photos.  My favorite is one that came in the shape of a Christmas tree ornament, complete with ribbon for hanging on a convenient branch  – to honor, I suppose – our closeness.*   Its computer-generated mailing label spelled the Robbo family name wrong.

I throw this out as observation, not condemnation.  Truth of the matter is that, as Port Swiller Communications Director, Mrs. Robbo took the same route with our own cards (although she prided herself on actually hand-addressing the envelopes).   When I raised some mild concern, she replied that I was perfectly at liberty to send “real” Christmas cards to anybody I like, including my imaginary internet friends, and good luck.  Until I stepped up and started writing, however, I could stuff it.

Yes, Dear.

To give you an idea of my “stepping up” is such matters, I’ve still barely made a dent in the set of Madonna and Child cards I bought a couple years ago.

Yes, I denounce myself.

* True story:  The female of this couple was a classmate of Mrs. R in college and she and I went out on a blind date literally the evening before I met Mrs. R.  Said date was a first-class disaster and I believe said classmate actually doesn’t even remember it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo may have mentioned here that the Youngest Gel started middle school this fall?  If I did, I probably also noted that she had tested into the G/T (or as they now call it, the AAP) program in the local public system.

big-broAnyhoo, recently her English class was assigned Orwell’s 1984, and, quite frankly, she’s been floundering a bit with it.

Now,  Robbo certainly has spilled a great many pixels over the years lamenting the sorry state of our so-called public education system and its low, snow-ball standards of indoctrination education.   But even to me it seems that this particular novel probably is not appropriate material for a bunch of 7th graders, however gifted n’ talented they might be.   (Indeed, I don’t recall reading the novel myself until my brief flirtation with libertarianism my senior year of high school.)

Aside from the difficulty of wrapping their tender brains around the prose and the dystopian gub’mint concepts which it seeks to describe, other wags already have pointed out that there are certain, em, “benefits” of the Brave New World decreed by Big Brother therein which would have any modern adolescent boy asking, “Where do I sign up?”  IF you know what I mean and I think you do.

At any rate, the whole biznay just doesn’t sit well with me.

OTOH, I spent a very pleasant time this evening going over the gel’s history homework about the Progressive Movement in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, craftily inserting poison pills into the Accepted Narrative.  Give me another week or two and I hope to have her convinced that Woodrow Wilson was a first class bastard (which he was).  And God help her teacher if the name Margaret Sanger comes up…..

Speaking of such things, what say friends of the decanter to Saira Blair, the 18 y.o. who recently won a seat in the West Virginia legislature on a platform of Pro-Life, Pro-2nd Amendment and Pro-Constitution?  The elder two gels are definitely, nay emphatically, right there with her, and, while they are still badly outnumbered amongst their peers,  I still think this may be the Next Big Wave.

 

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