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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….
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Sorry for the lack of posts, but ol’ Robbo’s been on his back the last couple days with that bug that starts in your stomach and then debones you completely. Bloggy creativity simply was beyond my feeble powers (not that I have much to go on to begin with).
I’m feeling better today, thanks, and can see myself slipping back into the ol’ routine in the very near future.
In the meantime, whilst flopped on my back, I managed to get through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (the abridged version, anyway*) for the very first time and am about half way through F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom, again for the first time. Given the news these days, I find both of these books to be very timely, if depressing, reading.
I mentioned not long ago that I had recently read A.S.’s Ivan Denisovitch for the first time and was simply blown away by the raw power and dignity of his writing. I get the same sensation reading Gulag. Even when he’s being sarcastic, even when he loses his literary temper, or perhaps especially when in such mood, A.S. has about him a moral weight which simply flattens everything in its path. An amazing experience.
As for the facts and figures, what on earth can one say? The Middle Gel happens to have just finished a research paper on the Holocaust. As awful as that was, the fact is that Stalin made Hitler look like Mr. Rogers in comparison. And yet people in the West covered up, prevaricated, lied about “Uncle Joe” and his hellish system (which, in fact, went right on back to Lenin and his crew. And so far as I know, ol’ Vlad may very well be using the same system to this day in order to get rid of his own particular set of enemies.). How sick is that? It’s no wonder A.S. saves his most acidic comments for them. (I still remember an argument back in the mid 80’s at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown over Dr. Seuss’s Butter-Battle Book, my antagonist insisting that, like the question of which side of teh bread to butter, there was no real difference between the Western tradition and the Soviet system. That was about as close as I ever came to abandoning logic and reason and belting someone in the mouth for being such an idiot.)
As far as Hayek goes, somebody said that one’s reaction to his writing is a pretty good indicator of one’s own ingrained mindset. Well, to me the man is arguing nothing more than Common Sense. Those who think central (i.e., government) “planning” is the answer to all of Society’s ills overlook one tiny problem with it: It doesn’t work.** It can’t work, simply because there are too many variables floating about for any one person or group of persons to take in all at once. In all of history, only the Market has proven capable of handling such a flood of ever-changing data. Of course, one can greatly decrease those variables if one…..simply turns the population into a uniform group of robot slaves, although it still doesn’t work and a lot of people wind up dead, starving or in prison. Hayek gives the benefit of the doubt to good-hearted collectivists who genuinely seek the betterment of everyone, but history suggests to me that there really are not so many of such ilk, and that the vast majority of said collectivists are enamored more of the centralized power in and of itself than any benefits it might produce.
Could all of that – Institution of a Collectivist State with an appended gulag system – ever happen here? Eight years ago, I’d have said absolutely not. But the Progressives have had control of much societal high ground – the Academy, the Media, Hollywood and the Bureaucracy – for some time now and with their capture of the Executive I think they’ve had a very hard try at establishing the foundation for one. A lot of people simply don’t notice because they’re happy with their Starbucks and Kardashians. In the end, however, because of elements of our national nature and condition too complicated to go into here, I still don’t think the collectivists are going to succeed, but as the Iron Dook said, it’ll be a damned near-run thing.
*Abridged by permission and in cooperation with the author. The full version of Gulag is divided into three volumes and it was noticed that although sales of the first one continued very strong, sales of the second and third tailed off, suggesting people weren’t being exposed to them at the same rate. This was a bad thing, since many of A.S.’s most powerful statements about the dignity of the individual and the power of the human (and Divine) spirit come in the last volume. So the thing was cut back somewhat and presented in one volume. Having read it, I think I need to go back and get the full three-volume monty.
**Hayek is not the laissez-faire libertarian his critics paint him to be, however. He never said there is no situation where state planning is important. That’s just a straw man. What he said was that the market and other private arrangements should have pride of place and that the state should only step in when these didn’t work. (Thus, prevention of monopolies or oligarchies, for example.) He also warned against the corrosive effect of a general welfare state. You need not read far into the headlines to see the wisdom of that warning.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
This evening, teh Eldest Gel informed me that her latest English assignment is to read Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.
Gel: What’s it about?
Self: No offense, but it’s all about a teenaged hipster-doofus whining over his disillusioning encounters with the so-called Real World, which he discovers to be largely fake. Your classmates are going to love it.
Self: Yes, really.
Gel: But…. we go through this all the time ourselves and I hate it! I already know we’re self-absorbed and ignorant! I already know that eventually I’ll grow up and get a better perspective! I already know that Christianity says all these earthly things are irrelevant! Why would I want to read some guy’s self-absorbed ranting about it?
Self: Because that’s the assignment.
Gel: Yeah. But what a loser.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the vast majority of those friends of the decanter who have had or cared for small children have spent numerous hours reading to the little “blessings” at bed-time. I know I have, starting out with “‘C’ is for Clown” and “There’s A Monster at the End of this Book” (I can do a kick-ass Grover voice) and working up through Seuss and the Berenstain Bears (gack!) to Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia Chronicles.
Well, guess what? Apparently, this makes you and me Haters. Because Social Justice or something:
“Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?” asks a story on the ABC’s website.
“Should parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring?”
The story was followed by a broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National that also tackled the apparently divisive issue of bedtime reading.
“Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi.
Gelonesi responded online: “This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”
Let that one sink in for a few moments. Go on, I’ll wait. Imagine getting fined or thrown into the hoosegow for spending a cozy half hour reading “Madeline” to your daughter because it might give her a leg up in the world.
I mentioned the article to Mrs. Robbo this evening and she simply couldn’t believe it. But this is yet another marker of where dying Western Civilisation stands at the moment, even if most of us are still too fat and happy to see it. Granted, the piece comes from Australia and the “academic” involved is a Brit, but I’ll bet you it wouldn’t take me long to find some Progressivista here in teh States nodding at the “wisdom” of such a proposal.
They’d say, of course, that it’s “for the children” and the promotion of “fairness”, but that, if I may say so, would be a God-damned lie. The real motivation, as is always the case with statists, has nothing to do with empowerment or equal chances, and is instead the beating down of all individualism, self-improvement, personal responsibility, and reward for hard work and merit, and the replacement of a free association of autonomous citizens with an army of mindless
drones slaves serving the collective.
Swift said parents should be mindful of the advantage provided by bedtime reading.
“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,” he said.
Yeah, right. By this reasoning, it could be argued that I also “unfairly disadvantage” other people’s children by staying faithful to my wife, working hard at my job, providing the gels with a roof over their heads, food, clothing, religious grounding, and the best education we can manage, and trying to instill in them the same set of values and skill sets that my parents hammered into me and which have allowed me to do these other things for them.
Maybe I ought to knock off all of that, too?
Gelonesi is absolutely right in one thing: “Devilish” is exactly the right word. God help us all.
UPDATE: Fun fact for you that I have long cherished. Baltimore, the city that has been so much in the nooz lately, poster child for 50 years of Big State gub’mint, is tagged routinely as having the highest illiteracy rate of any major U.S. city. In the late 80’s, the then-mayor decided to adopt a new motto for the place – “Baltimore – the City that Reads”. Did so with a completely straight face, too. By the bye, that little campaign is now dead, Jim.
UPDATE DEUX: In response to some of the comments, yes, a few years ago I would have thought this article to be Onion-bait. Not now. Instead, I believe the forces of darkness, like the King of the Nazgul before the crumpled defenses of Minas Tirith, are launching a full frontal assault all along the line.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yesterday afternoon found ol’ Robbo taking a break from his yard work duties to run the Middle Gel and a friend into town.
It turns out that this weekend is the 2015 AVON 39 mile “”Walk to End Breast Cancer”, and part of our route ran parallel to a long string of marchers on the sidewalk. Most of them had pink hats or ribbons or some such, but a fairly large number seem to have gone all out: tutus, bikinis, (pink) dyed hair, boots, lavish jewelry, etc. I even saw one fellah inexplicably dressed in a dog costume.
Now this is going to sound churlish, but here it is: The cause is, of course, perfectly worthy, but it strikes me that there is a line somewhere between supporting it and making a spectacle of oneself. (I had the same reaction to that whole “Ice-water Challenge” thing.) Money is money, true. But considered as a spiritual matter, charity is displaced by vanity, and this is not a Good Thing.
And, I might point out, Somebody Else doesn’t approve either:
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
– Matthew 6:1-4
It’s the age in which we live, unfortunately.
Oh, and one other thing. When I become Emperor of the World, spandex tights will be worn by license only. Yeesh!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy May Day!
An off Friday for ol’ Robbo and my one goal for the day is to plant some wisteria against the porch pillars to replace the jasmine that didn’t survive this winter’s global warming. I’ve already got a hedge of the stuff along one side of the back fence, so it will all compliment nicely.
The great thing about wisteria is that, once established, it is virtually indestructible. And apart from whacking it back every now and again to keep it from consuming all around it, it’s virtually maintenance-free.
The older I get, the more I like that combination.
UPDATE: Done and done. Meadow Farms was selling nice, big, three gallon container specimens with hearty root systems and good budding. (Somebody told me long ago that one must never buy a wisteria unless one sees flowers on it. Otherwise you might get stuck with a dud.)
Sigh…even as I went to pull out the jasmine, I still cherished a hope that it might just be pining for the fjords. Nope. It was, indeed, ex-jasmine.
Whelp, now that that job is over with, the garden is a solid mass of weeds and the lawn needs mowing again, but I’m not going to bother with those today.
UPDATE DEUX: By the bye, when I said happy May Day, I meant the traditional holiday, not the rat-bastard Communist one. As a matter of fact, today is also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, established in the mid-50’s to emphasize the dignity associated with honest labor that the Church felt was lost under Marxist regimes. The difference between it and the Commie May Day is that Christianity is first and last about the salvation of each and every individual soul. Honest labor contributes to that salvation. On the other hand, to the Commies, the “worker” is nothing more than a faceless number, simply part of an overall politickal calculus, and utterly meaningless in and of himself. Indeed, that whole “worker’s paradise” line was nothing more than bait designed to get the mob to do what the elites wanted. (Spits.)
Just so we have that sorted out.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy
Earth Punch A Hippy Day! (Holly Maddox could not be reached for comment.)
Ol’ Robbo had to laugh when he learned that President Boyfriend chose to mark the occasion by taking a completely unnecessary and apparently un-ironic joy-ride on Air Force One down to the Everglades in order to harangue us all about our wasteful ways. 9000 gallons of aviation fuel, I believe, to say nothing of all the limos and suburbans involved in the security details. The Puppy Blender is right: I don’t want to hear one goddam word about my “carbon footprint”. I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who are telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. (And that goes for AlGore, too.)
The Youngest Gel has been coming home from school with various bits of agitprop about the perils of
global warming climate change whatever-the-hell they’re calling it now, which I have been trying gently but firmly to debunk. (The older two, happily, are maturing nicely into skeptics. The Youngest still has a way to go, bless her heart.) It occurred to me that the starting point of my explanation is like that regarding so many other topics these days: “First of all, this has nothing to do with [substantive issue] and everything to do with politics.” And as Peej O’Rourke once noted, politics is the business of obtaining status and power without merit.
We hates politics.
Look, I firmly believe in responsible stewardship. It’s in the Bible and the Catechism, after all. And I don’t doubt that there are lots of fellow travelers out there who get a warm fuzzy from driving their
electric coal-powered cars, putting in mercury-leaking lightbulbs and only flushing once a day. But I’m convinced that all the senior ring-leaders are fully aware that this biznay is – and always has been – nothing more than another authoritarian power-grabbing scam designed to more easily control and manipulate us kulaks.
I think this evening I might reread the chapter on glowbull warminj in Peej’s All The Trouble In The World (which I continue to believe was his very best book.) Even though it came out in the 90’s, it’s still as fresh and on point today as it was back then. Watermelons, after all, have a long shelf life.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! And a blessed Easter to you all – He has risen, indeed!
I would wax more about the Resurrection here, except that it is late and I would not do it justice. Suffice to say for the moment that ol’ Robbo had a very…substantive Lent and a pretty, well, satisfying Triduum. Also, the God-awful nooz of the last few weeks reminds me again of a famous quote from Francis, Cardinal George a couple years ago that has been partially reposted much lately:
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
Indeed, it certainly seems more and more likely, given the temporary power surge of what I have come to call the Hipster Brownshirts. But mark the rest of the quote:
“His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history.”
Yeppers. In hoc signo vinces!
Anyhoo, more on all that later. In the meantime, even though Robbo’s beloved Nats dropped their season opener this afternoon, I can’t help but celebrating Opening Day of the single most perfect game in the history of the world with what is now a classic tribute:
Enjoy! And play ball!
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.
Greetings, 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.