Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Autumn has definitely arrived in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with mild days and cool, crisp evenings.  It is very much Ol’ Robbo’s favorite season, even when it gets colder and rainy.

For some reason I’ve never completely fathomed, it also puts me in mind to revisit my studies of North American colonialism in general, and the French and Indian War in particular.  Arcane knowledge, some might say, particularly in this day and age of goddam Cultural Marxism where history began fifteen minutes ago, but Ol’ Robbo continues to be of the opinion that one cannot understand America as a concept without understanding her Revolutionary beginnings, and one cannot understand the Revolution without also understanding the Colonial roots from which it sprang.  (And speaking of the Colonial Era, did I ever mention here that my geneology-obsessed cousin recently discovered that ancestors of ours were killed and captured during Shawnee raids on the Virginia frontier in 1759 and 1763?  Hard cheese for them, of course, but pretty durn cool in retrospect.)

Anyhoo, it is always around this time of year that I pull my Francis Parkman off the shelf and delve into his massive opus on the struggle between France and Britain in North America.  This year, I had also been considering revisiting the great Fred Anderson (I have his Crucible of War and A People’s Army), since I haven’t read him in a while.

So imagine my serendipitous delight when I unexpectedly received in the mail from long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory this week a copy of Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monogahela and the Road to Revolution by David Preston, a new-to-Robbo author, but I doubt ODT would recommend him if he was a wrong ‘un.

Poor old General Braddock – hopelessly out of his depth in the tactics of frontier fighting, bushwhacked, receiving a painful and fatal wound, then being buried ignominiously in the middle of the road the remainder of his army retreated over so as not to be dug up and scalped by the Indians.  And all for the sake of Pittsburgh.  I think about that a lot when I’m driving the Gels back and forth to summah camp out in southwestern Pennsylvania.

I’m looking forward to reading this book bigly.

** Spot the reference.

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In re HarveyWeinsteinGate,  I understand Captain Renault is shocked, shocked, that there is sexual predation in Big Entertainment.

There’s really not much else to say.  I believe this sort of thing is, in fact, Standard Operating Procedure in Gomorrah on the Pacific, that everybody out there knows it is, that it’s been going on forever, that the predators are not just men, and that the victims* are not just women or just adults.

My only real questions are why Weinstein in particular got tagged for it, and why now?

I doubt, in the end, that this will be enough to bring down fire and brimstone on Tinseltown, nor that it will change the inmates’ collective belief that they are our betters Because Celebrity, but it’s nice to think it might.

* I use the word “victims” very loosely here.  I’ve little doubt the Hollywood casting couches have seen everything from rape to de facto prostitution.  It’s all nasty.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No profoundly muddled insights this evening, as Netflix sent along “The Great Escape”.

The movie is nearly three hours long and what with Ol’ Robbo’s need of a set amount of his beauty sleep before tomorrow’s plunge once more unto the Swamp, dear friends, once more, I can either watch TGE or I can bloviate here.  I can’t do both.

See you tomorrow.

*Knocks three times on table top, slips through secret hole under kitchen counter*

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope friends of the decanter will indulge Ol’ Robbo in a little bit of Proud Dad bragging?  You will? A glass of wine with you!

Well, the big news is that Middle Gel this weekend successfully auditioned for the All-State Senior Honors Choir, a pretty durn big deal in high school choral circles, and well worth the “Honors” part of its title.  Competition for membership, as I understand it, is quite fierce.

The Gel hadn’t been overly happy with her audition, and really wasn’t expecting to get in.  When she found out the results this morning and called me, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sound so surprised by joy.

Well done, indeed!

On the other hand, Youngest fanned on her second attempt to get her learner’s permit this afternoon.  About this I am again really rayther relieved, especially after an incident Saturday morning when we were at the store.

As we went in, the Gel walked straight into the path of an old duffer coming the opposite direction, apparently without even noticing him.  The fellah had to quickly side-step, and moved off with a black look on his face.  When I chided the Gel about paying attention to where she was going, she said, “Oh, I have issues with situational awareness”.

I gawped.

“And you expect us to let you get behind the wheel of a car?  Do you realize that “situational awareness” is more critical to safe driving than all the DMV rules and regulations ever spawned?  You’d better get over those “issues” P.D.Q., missy.”

She promised to do so, but I could tell she was already thinking about something else.

So now you see why I choose the word “relieved” at learning the news of her swinging strike two.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere a month or two back, Ol’ Robbo noted here his disappointment over the movie King Solomon’s Mines (in which Stewart Granger spent most of the film imitating Marlin Perkins while Deborah Kerr kept losing bits of her costume), but he also noted that said disappointment had decided him to read the original book by H. Rider Haggard.

Well, let’s just say that good can come of bad, because I just got done with the book and I’m here to tell you that it was a thoroughly enjoyable story: exciting, exotic, at times bordering on the absurd, and occasionally quite creepy and gory.  (I’m recalling a reference to Gagool the Witch that I had seen somewhere else.  I hadn’t known till now that this is where she came from.)  And our friend Allan Quatermain turns out to be the sort of phlegmatic, professional, ambivalent pukka sahib who seems to be at the center of nearly all the stories I’ve read by British Empire writers who have spent any real time on the frontiers (think Kipling, for example).

Incidentally, I’ve also been reading a book the Mothe sent on to me some time this past summah called The Zulu At War: The History, Rise, and Fall of the Tribe that Washed Its Spears by Adrian Greaves and Xolani Mkhize.  It’s a real trainwreck of a composition, but from the tangled prose, it’s still pretty clear that Haggard’s mythical tribe of Kukuanaland is based pretty faithfully on the Zulus, with whom he had extensive personal experience when he was Out East himself.

By the bye, I link specifically to the new edition of KSM put out by the Oxford University Press for two reasons.  First, it comes with very informative textual and explanatory notes, although I think you can probably skip the introduction which seems to be about the psychology behind romance writing.  (Who knew Freud and Jung were both HRH fans?) Second, the cover art by A.C. Michael reminds me very much of the work of the great N.C. Wyeth.

So Ol’ Robbo is definitely going to delve further into Haggard’s writing.  (I believe there are numerous Quatermain adventures as well as others.)  I’m also circling back round to Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but NOT Catriona since I learned my lesson about that one last time; some of the other historickal adventures).  I’ve dipped into Conan-Doyle (The White Company, Brigadier Gerard) but I know there’s lots more left unexplored.  I have all of P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion stories but need to explore further there as well.  Kipling, of course.  Finally, yes, dammit, I need to get into John Buchan.  Any suggestions on where to start with him?

UPDATE: Well, I say I’m going to circle back round to RLS, but that’s only if I can find the #@*^&# fellah!  One of Mrs. R’s least endearing practices is her periodic “tidying up” of the Port Swiller Library, usually when she decides I’ve left too many books stacked up on tables or else when she wants to put a new framed photo or whatnot up somewhere.   The trouble is that, in so doing, she’s in the habit of putting books back on the shelves hugger-mugger and all ahoo, with no respect whatsoever for Ol’ Robbo’s careful organization.  (Mr. Dewey ain’t in it, and I don’t need no stinking decimals, neither!)  Result?  Well, at the moment Jim Hawkins and David Balfour have up and disappeared.

I suppose eventually, after much searching, I’ll find one or both of them wedged between Augustine’s Confessions, a Plum Wodehouse novel,  and Atlantic Salmon Fly-Tying Patterns, but I’d just as soon the Missus didn’t mess about with them in the first place.  Grrr…..



Catriona

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, what can I say?  Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals went to Game 5 of the NLDS, and all I got was this lousy hangover!

It was a truly weird and unfortunate season-ender.  Weird because of such things as Mad Max melting down and Wieters getting a catcher interference call and a bat to the head on the same swing.  Unfortunate because, given a whole bunch of different factors, this was probably our best shot for a while.  Also because of all the “Nats still aren’t ready for Prime Time” tisk-tisking out in Baseball Pundit Land which I’m sure we will have to endure.

Sigh.

As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo hadn’t much confidence going into this series in the first place, simply because I didn’t really think the Baseball Gods would allow us to beat both the Odd-Year Curse and the Post-Season Oh-fer at the same time.  What the BG’s giveth, the BG’s taketh away.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo of an anecdote I may have told here before.  As long-time friends of the decanter may recall, Eldest Gel spent 7th and 8th grades in parochial school.  One time while we were chatting with the padre, she decided, in typical 8th Grader fashion, to try and spike Ol’ Robbo.

Father,” she suddenly exclaimed, “My dad says there are Baseball Gods!”

The padre, who is an avid fan himself and also knew exactly what the Gel was trying to do, without batting an eye said, “Of course there are Baseball Gods.”

The look on Eldest’s face at that response?  Priceless.

Anyhoo, there we are.

Going forward? Well, Ol’ Robbo is probably inclined to back the Astros, who I’ve had a feeling for quite some time are likely going to win it all anyway. On the other hand, I’ve no real animus toward either the Cubbies or the Dodgers. (Of course, my loathing of the Yankees goes without saying.)

Double sigh.

What else is there to say, now, except:

Pitchers and catchers report in four months! 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is reminded again this evening of his love/hate relationship with October Baseball, as his beloved Nationals, behind the dominant pitching of Strasburg and the very first franchise post-season grand slam courtesy of Michael A. Tater, crush the Cubbies 5-0 at Wrigley, avoid ignominious elimination,  and send the division playoffs to Game 5 tomorrow night back home at Nats Park.

I say “love/hate” because the emotional tides are so damn strong that they leave me, literally, physically exhausted after each game.  When we lose, I find myself in a thoroughly filthy temper (indeed, enough to send me to the confessional Saturday).  When we win? Euphoria.

Does that seem right to you?

Anyhoo, we play for all the marbles tomorrow night.  What else is there to say, except:

GO, NATS!!!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fortunately for Ol’ Robbo’s blood pressure, Game Four of the Nats/Cubs series (with the latter up 2-1) was postponed this evening due to rain.  I didn’t think I could stand to watch had the game gone forward.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes haunted by apprehensions that he isn’t really a very good father, but this postponement gave him some cause for reassurance in at least one respect:  Both of the Younger Gels independently came to him this evening to argue about the merits of sticking with the planned fourth arm in our rotation versus bringing back our ace.  Surely that counts for something, am I right?

Anyhoo, and violently switching subjects:

Ol’ Robbo, as regular friends of the decanter know, is an enormous fan of the author George Macdonald Fraser.  One of Fraser’s books, written in the late 80’s, is The Hollywood History of The World, in which he compares historickal costume dramas with the “reality” of the periods they purport to represent.  The book is split up into seven sections:  The Ancient World; Knights and Barbarians; Tudors and Sea Dogs; Romance and Royalty; Rule Britannia; New World, Old West; and The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo has been re-reading it this week.

I don’t think this is one of GMF’s best works, as it covers an awful lot of ground at what I think is a pretty superficial pace, but it does throw out a delightful lot of references.  So, given an evening’s reprieve from the tortures of October Ball, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of opening up this book to its index and dialing up Netflix in order to toss as many of GMF’s references into his queue as possible.  I’m at 90+ films in reserve now, and am pretty sure this is a record.  (Whoever at the NSA has Ol’ Robbo’s file no doubt will have kittens tomorrow morning as a result.)

You know what? GMF’s movie list stretches back to the early 30’s, but a surprising number of his cites are still available, even if some of them are only in the “save” category, which means that the odds of my seeing them are pretty slim.

On the other hand, some of them, as you might imagine, Ol’ Robbo has seen already, some many times.  But others will be new to me and I will post about them here.

Curiously enough, when I got this idea, I was already working through a patch of WWII historickal films, all of which get a nod from GMF.  Here, then, are some very brief reviews:

Sahara” (1943) – I’ve seen it before, but it stands up very well as a nice, tight, film.  An American tank is cut off from the retreat from Tobruk in 1942 and has to make it’s way across the North African desert alone.  Humphrey Bogart is the tank commander, aided by a young Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, the fellah who played Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester ’73 and who, once, you’ve seen him, you’ll never fail to recognize.  Along the way, they pick up an RAMC medico and a couple of tommies, a Sudanese scout and his Italian prisoner, and a Luftwaffe pilot.  Together, they have to navigate between water holes, and also fend off the German unit coming after them.   Good stuff.

A Walk In The Sun (1945) – I cannot recommend.  It tells the story of an American platoon going ashore in Italy.  Unlike in Sahara, I found the characters to be wooden and clichéd.  The pace may very well have matched actual combat conditions, but it didn’t translate well to the screen.  Oh, and there’s a ballad.  Ol’ Robbo hates ballads.

The Desert Fox” (1951) – I also can’t recommend.  Although James Mason is rightly cast as Erwin Rommel (whom I respect as a principled warrior, by the bye), I think the movie tries to do too much in too little time, short-changing Rommel’s skillfulness in fighting in North Africa, his frustration in trying to hold the Atlantic Wall, and his (questionable) complicity in the attempted assassination of Hitler.

Well, there we are.  Game Four? (Sigh.) Bring it on.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who forgather here over the decanter and walnuts on a regular basis, I’d just like to give you advanced warning that Ol’ Robbo may not be around much over the next few days, as his attention will be taken up with the first round of the MLB playoffs in which his beloved Nationals are set to take on the CubbiesLET’S GO, NATS!

However, before I plunge into the battle, I’d just like to say a word here about TeeVee coverage of same and how terrible and disturbing Ol’ Robbo thinks it is that, having come this far, I am suddenly robbed of my usual broadcasters and instead must be subjected to the likes of Joe Buck and others at Fox and MLB Network.  (2017 saw the Nats’ fourth pennant in six years – cough, cough – so I’ve plenty of experience now.)

I mean, regular season Nats games are covered on MASN (the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) by Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo.  This is the day-in, day-out routine for six months and 162 games.  These guys travel all over the country with the team.  They talk to the players and coaches (and management) every day.  They’re invested, if you will.  I will even go so far as to say (God help me), that they are part of the Nationals “Family”.

So how fair is it for them that after all this they’re suddenly replaced in the booth for October Ball by a parcel of folks who don’t give a rat’s ass about the team one way or another?  (And by the bye, I’ve got no problem whatsoever with a broadcaster showing bias in favor of his home team.)

And how jarring is it for Ol’ Robbo, who prizes routine and consistency and loyalty above most other things, to suddenly find a bunch of strangers opining about His Team?  (What the hell do they know or care, for instance, about beloved team nicknames like “Tony Two-Bags” Rendon or Michael A. “Tater“?)

It seems to me [pounds the table] that any team which makes the playoffs ought to be allowed to carry coverage of the games on both the national networks and its own home network.

Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

Sigh.  Whelp, I know that my feeble voice isn’t going to sway the big money boys, and that things are what they are.  So what else is there to say, except:

GO, NATS!!!

UPDATE:  Okay,  the series is being carried on TBS, not Fox.  And it’s really not so bad:  I’d rather listen to Ron Darling than Joe Buck any day.  But my point still stands.

Meanwhile,  Ol’ Robbo is reminded of his love/hate relationship with October Baseball.  As of this update, the series stands tied at 1-1 after the Nats’ Bats finally awaken in spectacular fashion late in Game 2.  Looks like I picked a hell of a week to quit drinking. [Reaches for decanter. Guzzles.]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has nothing either especially informed or even reasonably intelligent to say about the mass shooting on the Strip Sunday night except this:  I do wish people would stop calling what happened a “tragedy”.  A tragedy is an earthquake or an accidental fire in a high-rise or a school bus accident.  This was an atrocity and should be called and treated as such.  (And no, I don’t believe doing so involves surrendering our weapons of self-defense to the benevolent hand of the God State.)

 

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