You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Swimming the Tiber’ category.

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….

 

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.

Gel: Really?

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.

Heh.

 

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.

Blog Stats

  • 414,500 hits
August 2015
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.