Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now I imagine all three or four of you have read the news that the Anglican Communion this week put the Episcopal Church on a three year suspension over the issue of ghey marriage, with the instructions to get back in line or risk being chucked permanently.  ECUSA immediately responded by playing the defiant victim card.  Frankly, ol’ Robbo was astonished.  For years the attitude of ECUSA was that Canterbury would never take punitive steps in response to its creeping progressivism because it basically bankrolls the Communion.  I guess the African and South American Bishops, who have become the real theological leaders, finally have had enough.

It’s possible that one side or the other will blink eventually, but this sure looks like the beginning of a final and permanent schism to me.  If that happens, I suspect that most if not all of the remaining traditionalists within ECUSA will bail – going to the North American Anglicans, some other Protestant denomination and maybe Rome herself.  The rump, finally free of all adult supervision, will then crumble further into fringe Unitarian obscurity.

This news aggravates a long-standing sore in ol’ Robbo’s conscience, since, as regular friends of the decanter know, when I swam the Tiber myself eight years ago, I left my family on the other, Palie, shore.  Mrs. R has no interest whatsoever in following me, and the gels are all caught in teenaged limbo – too old to remold but not quite old enough to make up their own minds (at least while still under Mrs. R’s roof).  I pray for their conversions (and those of the rest of my family) daily and try to set an example and drop gentle hints, but so far, no joy.  I’m not sure what else, if anything, I can do, but I still worry that I haven’t exerted myself enough to get them off the Titanic before it finally goes down.

Perhaps this sudden new in-gushing of ice water will motivate them to take stock anew.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past couple weeks, ol’ Robbo has found himself reading several books new to him.  Some brief impressions [Spoiler Alert!] re each:

UnbrokenThe first is Unbroken:  A Word War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, a copy of which was loaned to me at New Year’s by the Former Llama Military Correspondent, which means he probably never will see it again.  (I’m as bad as Hugo Bracegirdle about returning books.)  It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Troubled Yoot Extraodinaire, who discovers a talent and drive for competitive running which leads him to shatter all kinds of scholastic records and lands him a spot in the ’36 Olympics in Berlin.   Before he can make a return appearance, war breaks out.  Zamperini is drafted into the Army Air Corp and finds himself bombardier on a B-24 in the Pacific Theatre.  After some early success, he is one of only three survivors when his plane crashes into the ocean.  These three (one of whom dies) then spend the next 40+ days adrift in a small life raft with no food or water but what the occasional fish, bird and rainstorm can provide, surrounded by hungry sharks, subject to extremes of sun and wind, and once even strafed by a passing Japanese bomber.  Eventually, the two survivors get picked up by the Japanese and sent to POW camps.  Then the real hardship begins:  Beatings, starvation, torture, slave labor, exposure.  Zamperini falls victim to a particularly sadistic Japanese corporal known as The Bird, who beats him senseless daily.  Somehow or other, they manage to endure several years of this until the War ends and they are liberated.  Liberation is pure joy.  Once back in the States, however, Zamperini discovers that the War is not, in fact, over – at least in his own head.  He quickly goes into a power-dive of self-destructive behavior and it is only when his wife drags him to a Billy Graham sermon that he finds redemption and gets himself back together.  The rest of his life is remarkably peaceful, rewarding, and spiritual.

The book is meticulously detailed and clearly, if rayther dryly, written, but I have a few things.  First, the title.  Zamperini wasn’t “unbroken”.  Even according to the text itself, he was most thoroughly broken by his torture within the Japanese camps by The Bird and took that brokenness with him back home.  (He nearly strangles his wife in his sleep, thinking in a dream that she is The Bird.)  As for his redemption, it should be noted that Zamperini, while floating in the life raft, promised God that if He delivered him, Zamperini would devote the rest of his life to Him.  He also reported, during that same period, several times hearing choirs of angels around him.  Well, we hear nothing more of this until the remembrance of that promise seems to come back to him at the Graham sermon, where it’s presented awfully cut and dry:

1.) Graham – “You need to get with God.”

2.)  Zamperini – ” Oh. ‘Kay.”

3.)  ???

4.)  Spiritual Profit!

I’m over-simplifying a bit, of course, but I wish that aspect of things had been unpacked more thoroughly, because it seems to me the key point of the entire narrative.  (I’m reminded of what Mattie Ross says in Charles Portis’s True Grit about how nothing in life is free except the Grace of God and that none of us deserve it.)  Oh, well.  At least it’s better than the recent movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, which, according to my sources, pretty much ignores the whole God thing altogether.

PrincessBrideSecond is The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, “abridged” by William Goldman.  For some years I’d been meaning to read this, fond as I was of the movie version, so recently I bought both the book and the DVD to add to my collection.  (An aside: Robin Wright appears in some of the extra features commentary and is quite RCBfA-worthy, IYKWIMAITYD.)  This particular edition of the book is a special “30th Anniversary” one, containing both a 30th Anniversary and the 25th Anniversary author’s prefaces.  The “abridgment” consists of Goldman (who wrote the movie’s screenplay as well as a bunch of other famous ones such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “All The President’s Men”, “The Stepford Wives”, and “A Bridge Too Far” (aka, “A Movie Too Long”)) putting together all the “good parts”, i.e., the action sequences, and summarizing and commenting upon long, useless, cranky, Melville-like asides by Morgenstern in between.  From the preface, I learned that the whole Fred Savage/Peter Falk reading biznay in the movie was based on Goldman’s recollection of his own father’s reading the book to him when he was a kid sick in bed.  I also learned some of the historick background of both the story and of Morgenstern, and of the apparent ongoing legal squabbles between Goldman, his publishers, and Morgenstern’s estate over the publication of all these materials.

Then I did a little background check and discovered that the whole “Morgenstern” thing – together with what Goldman let fall about his childhood, his marriage, his reading to his own son and his research travels – was a hoax.  Goldman wrote the whole damned thing himself.

Bastard.  Ol’ Robbo hates getting pawned.

I’m sure you remember in the movie when Vizinni says the “Greatest Mistake” is getting involved in a land war in Asia?  I’d always thought of that as a bit of stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam, perhaps gratuitously introduced by the director, Rob “Meathead” Reiner.

When I first came across the line in the book, however, still thinking Morgenstern was For Realz, I thought, “Hmm…Could the original author have been making a cranky reference to Alexander teh Great’s foolish attempt to conquer India?  The various wars between Rome and Persia that went so badly for some Emperors?  Even the ill-fated Song Dynasty resistance to the Mongol invasion of China?”

When I realized what was afoot, however, I went back to my first conclusion:  Stoopid Baby Boomer snark about Vietnam.

It’s a helluva fun read, nonetheless.

GreatestKnightFinally, I’ve just started a book picked up for me by Mrs. Robbo as a small token of my upcoming mumbledy-mumble birthday:  The Greatest Knight:  The Remarkable Life of William Marshall, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge.  Marshall, who first rose in the service of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, became a sort of early 13th Century equivalent of the Very Model of a Modern Major General and was deeply involved in the rise of the Knightly Class as well as the history of the English Throne during the reigns of Richard the Lionheart, Wicked King John and those immediately around them, particularly Henry II’s first son, Henry.  The text is based in part on a valedictory biography of Marshall penned shortly after his death, but also supported and damped by other available contemporary references.

I can’t say that much about the book yet except that Asbridge goes to great pains to make sure his readers understand the difference between judging Marshall according to his own time and judging him according to modern sensibilities.  This is increasingly important in our own godawful age, in which it is becoming all the more common to attempt to simply “disappear” people and events which don’t fit in with the current narrative.  Nonetheless, Asbridge slips a bit now and again.  At one point, he remarks that toys given to medieval boys and girls were often “gender-normed”.  In other words, little boys were given toy soldiers and little girls were given dolls.  [P.C. Police:  Get….OUT!!!  Me:  So, what?]  Also, he has the annoying habit of using C.E. (“Common Era”) for dates instead of A.D. (“Anno Domini”).  This may be the academic standard now but it grates on ol’ Robbo’s soul mightily.  Back in the day, the ol’ Jacobins tried to chuck the calendar completely and start with a brand new one.   It seems their modern equivalents have got wise enough to appropriate and assimilate their target rayther than obliterating it.

Anyhoo, so far quite an interesting exploration of an era of which I don’t know much beyond a few facts about the main players.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo is still around, although I confess that I have yet to finish the bottle of port I got in for the Christmas festivities.  (Some reveler I am.)

Anyhoo, I may have missed some regime change, but why will Safari and iMac suddenly not let me copy and paste Innernet links or YooToob videos?  (I was going to do a retrospective on the late David Bowie’s song “Changes” and ol’ Robbo’s varsity crew winter training at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in the day, but the ability to insert links suddenly seems to have disappeared from my screen.)

What gives?

UPDATE: Oh, I think I see.  Whereas previously the link to a specific page at, say, Amazon automatically appeared in the, er, linkie bar, now it just says “amazon.com” and you have to click again to get the specific page address.  Or something.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Epiphany!

Yes, today marks the O-ficcial end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and – practically speaking – all those lords, ladies, maids, partridges, rings, et al are invited to get off my lawn.

Seriously, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is, in my humble opinion, one of the most tedious and un-rescuable of all the Christmas standard carols, despite the fact that some people think it’ s some kind of Catholic code.

EpiphanyAnyhoo,  the point of the day is to mark the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, there to worship and adore the Baby Jesus, thereby heralding His ministry amongst the Gentiles.

I try to wrap my brain around this encounter.  According to Matthew:

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

I love that “another way” language.  Clearly, the Magi got wind of what Herod (not a man to be crossed0 intended and wanted no part of it.  But what was the timing? What was the protocol?  I’m fine with the idea that the Magi were not”Three Kings” but were something more like astrologers or “wise men without portfolio”.  But what were the temporal obligations of their visit? What were the security protocols? How did it end?

Inquiring (and yet, perhaps, useless) minds want to know.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I warned in the post below that New Year’s additions might be sparse, but it turned out more complicated than I had thought.  You see, one of Mrs. R’s aunts died – suddenly but not unexpectedly – over the weekend, so there was more knee-bent running around advancing behavior than even I had anticipated.

Anyhoo, the upshot was that while Mrs. R went up to Lon Guyland to see to her aunt’s remembrances, teh Gels and I traveled to the vast but secure land holdings of the Former Llama Military Correspondent, there to participate in our joint families’ twenty-first Noo Year celebration together.

Because ol’ Robbo’s Wrangler won’t hold four adults and luggage, we took teh Eldest Gel’s Honda CRV.  Because it was her ride, I respected her choice of musick and asked no questions about the 180-odd tunes she synched up on her iWhatever for the trip.

Teh Eldest is, shall we say, eccentric.  As I’ve said before, she believes Freddy Mercury was the greatest musickal genius ever to have lived.  Thus, her playlist was chockabloc with Queen.  What I hadn’t realized is that she has been pushing out in her taste for Classic Rock.  As we cruised down the highway, I got a hefty sampling of ’60’s, 70’s and 80’s icons:  Aerosmith, Rush, Huey Lewis, Elton John, the Beatles, the guys who sang “Sister Christian”,  Rockwell.  She also threw in some Sinatra.

One of teh Gel’s tunes was “Tainted Love”, the Soft Cell cover.  Foolishly, ol’ Robbo noted that he actually bought that album back in the day in the hope of impressing the “cool” kids with which he was trying to hang out.

Teh Gel nearly put the car into the ditch laughing over that one.

“Wait, wait, ” she gasped, “Were you trying to get in with the band geeks?”

“Well…..yes,” I admitted.

“Oh, ha ha haaah.  I knew it! ” she said.

Shut up.  And get off my lawn.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Not really Christmas-related, but last evening ol’ Robbo watched the 1972 screwball comedy “What’s Up, Doc?”  I haven’t seen this film for some time and was impressed with how well it has held up over the years.  The big chase scene at the end is still a classic.

Yes, I am actually praising a movie featuring the young Mecha-Streisand, but I’ve always liked it in spite of her, not because of her.  The plot is funny and tight enough and the supporting cast (including Kenneth Mars, Sorrell “Boss Hogg” Booke and Madeline Kahn in her first role) are deep enough to get around her.  As for Ryan O’Neal?  Eh, the Mothe says he is nom-worthy.

Frankly, the only real flaw in the film is the relationship between O’Neal’s otherworldly music professor and Babwa!’s sassy firecracker.  I don’t buy it.  The man wants peace and quiet.  Sure, a life with Madeline Kahn’s Eunice would have involved 24/7 hen-pecking, but so would one with Babwa!.  The difference is that Kahn’s character (a thankless role, btw) is a mere neurotic twit and her hen-pecking can be ignored.  On the other hand, cross Babwa! and she’d boil the kids’ bunny or burn the house down or administer the John Wayne Bobbitt treatment faster than you can say “knife”.   In the end, I don’t really think he traded up.

One other point and I admit up front that I might actually be mis-remembering this:  The final scene finds O’Neal on a flight out of San Francisco back to Iowa.  As he sits there, he suddenly hears Babwa!’s voice behind him and realizes she’s followed him.  A few words later, they seal the deal of their new-found relationship.  Now, during all this, the old Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Up, Doc?” is showing on the plane’s moovie screen.  (Get it? Get it?)  Here’s the relevant part:

Now as I remember it from previous viewings, O’Neal and Babwa! get there biznay out of the way and the camera focuses itself on the cartoon just when Bugs sticks his carrot in Elmer Fudd’s gun, blows it up and seltzers Fudd in the face.  But on the DVD I watched last evening, there was a sudden jerk from O’Neal and Babwa! straight to Bugs and Elmer singing harmony.

Am I losing my mind or did somebody edit out the gun part?  I won’t rant about Soviet airbrushing or ISIS classical architecture demolition or other statist efforts to change history because, as I say, I’m not altogether sure here, but if I am correct you may take said ranting as a given.

Programming Note:  What with the likelihood of silly knees-bent running around advancing behavior associated with Noo Yearz tomorrow, I don’t know how many opportunities I will get at the keyboard over the next day or two, so if I don’t post, go ahead and take the next couple days of Christmas as given and also have a happy (and safe!) New Year.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Father P said in a recent homily that Holy Mother Church deliberately placed a number of saints’ feast days in the period immediately following Christmas Day to cover the dearth of Biblical references to the actual birth and immediate infancy of Jesus.  This, he said, was because newborns – even that who was God Incarnate – are good for little more than feeding, sleeping and producing poopy diapers, and Scripture deems it best to avoid such squalid details about our Lord.

Reasonable enough.

Anyhoo, today is the Feast of St. Thomas a’ Becket, martyred Bishop of Canterbury.  You know, the one at whom Peter O’Toole kept rolling his eyes and crying out in anguish, “Thomaaaaassss!!!!!

Because my mind is what it is, I can’t help associating this day with SCTV’s parody NASA production of T.S. Eliot’s “Murder In The Cathedral”.  Alas, there seems to be some kind of copyright ban on showing the clip, but – and you can trust me on this – it was damned funny stuff.  (SCTV was always better than Saturday Night Live, even in SNL’s original heyday.  **Breaks beer bottle, looks around for challengers to his assertion.**)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As we prepared to dig into Christmas din-dins the other day, the Eldest Gel started to get up from the table.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To get some barbeque sauce for my roast beef,” she answered.  (She’s a confirmed BBQ sauce addict.)

What?” I exclaimed.  “You can’t do that to such a noble piece of meat, especially on Christmas Day, not in my house!  Besides, I made some gravy from the drippings.”

Somewhat abashed, she sat back down.

Well, now that we’re on the fourth day of attacking the same roast and into the Sammich Zone, I’m going to go ahead and allow extracurricular condiments now.  (In fact, I’m rayther partial to French’s mustard on roast beef sammiches myself.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. John the Beloved!

Friends of the decanter are probably aware of the lovely little non-controversy controversy over what day Christmas actually ends.  Conventional teaching – as in the “twelve days of Christmas” – says the Epiphany on January 6.  Some others argue that it ought to be the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord on January 8.  Real hard-core types hold out for Candlemas on February 2.

It’s fascinating stuff to me, however I don’t bring it up here to get into the arguments but to note that when I went for a jog yesterday afternoon, I saw that somebody had already run their tree out to the curb.

And earlier in the day when I had flipped on the local classickal radio station there was not a ghost left of the “holiday” musick with which it had been saturation-bombing my ears since the day after Thanksgiving.

Sigh.

The appropriation and commercialization of the season by the secular world is bad enough.  What’s worse is the bending and mutilating of its symbols, images and traditions in order to fit the needs desires of said world.  (These desires include the deliberate destruction of their religious associations, by the way.  The government/industrial complex does not suffer other centers of power in its long march toward creating Utopia.)

Ol’ Robbo saw an item in the nooz a few days back about some academic type down in Florida who is proposing we change “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Federal Holiday”.  Her reasoning centers on the usual blather about inclusiveness and insensitivity, but part of me thinks the actual proposal isn’t such a bad idea.  Go appropriate your own damned symbols!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. Stephen!  I hope you are all recovering from lots of Christmas Day merriment – it was certainly quite late this morning before anyone at Port Swiller Manor began to stir.  (Except for the eldest cat, who started -as is her wont- to pester me to feed her at about 6 ack emma.  Damned cats.)

Anyhoo, we had a very pleasant Christmas Day ourselves, meaning there was no teenager trauma and the oven didn’t cut out on me (as happened last year before I could get teh popovers done).  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t like to brag, but I will say that I seem to have a genuine talent when it comes to roasts.  I absolutely nailed that bad boy this year, getting a near perfect rosey-red center.  Surprisingly, there really isn’t that much left – maybe two or three meals’ worth.  I like to think this was some testament to my cooking.

Today I begin my new exercise regime, by the bye.  Nobody would ever call me fat, but because of my fondness for red meat and wine I’m beginning to develop a certain flabbiness which probably is not the best thing for a fellah shortly to turn 51.

 

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