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world endGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, per the recommendation of one of you lot, ol’ Robbo sat down to watch The World’s End.

Somehow or other it had completely escaped me that this film was made by Edgar Wright, the same fellah who did Shaun of the Dead (which is also in my Netflix queue).  So I really didn’t know what to expect.

The set-up was fairly straightforward:  20 years after their graduation from school,  Gary King (Earth’s nearest equivalent to Zaphod Beeblebrox) reassembles his now respectable and prosperous mates to re-attempt an epic pub-crawl that they had failed to finish in their yoot in the sleepy little English town where they went to school.

Somehow or other, I thought this was just going to be a British buddy-romp, with lots of hijinks and the obligatory re-bonding/closure of long-supressed issues thrown in.

Which it was – and enjoyably so, I might add – until it suddenly – or as the MSM likes to say of bad economic news these days, unexpectedly – turned into Westworld, or perhaps The Stepford Hipsters.  Anyway, there were robots.  Lots of ’em.  Not that these other themes  disappeared, mind you.  Rayther, they continued to work themselves out while at the same time the protagonists were getting chased about by alien-crafted robots in a lead up to the Apocalypse.  Or something.

I think that if I were about twenty or thirty years younger than I am, this genre probably would appeal to me a lot more than it does.  ( I hit the big 5-0 in January.)   Fact of the matter is that while I find I can remain loyal to teh SciFy of my misspent yoot (which see the gratuitous Zaphod reference above),  I really can’t find much enthusiasm for things I’m seeing for the first time now that I’m older. (The single exception to this is Firefly, which I only got into about four years ago, but is really more of a space western than anything else.)

So I thank whoever recommended this film.  I still intend to watch Shaun, and maybe it will be different because I already know it involves zombies.  But I have to say that The End of the World didn’t really rock mine.

Call it two bumpers out of five, but remember that I’m rapidly becoming that grumpy old coot telling the kids to git off’n my lawn.

Next up (although not tonight, because I’m going to watch my beloved Nats WITH the return of Bryce Harper), In A World, the story of a girl trying to break into the movie-trailer voice-over racket in the shadow of her highly-successful father.   I hope it doesn’t get too Gawd-help-us.

CoriolanGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pace Cole Porter, I couldn’t resist the post title because last evening ol’ Robbo kicked off his annual Bachelor Week by watching Ralph Feinnes’ 2011 production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.  (Go here for a synopsis of the story, which the Bard is supposed to have pinched from a translation of Plutarch.)

I will confess that, despite having concentrated on Shakespeare as a college English major, I have never read this play nor seen a performance of it before.  Indeed, aside from being aware of its bloody reputation, my only previous encounter had been a still photo of Laurence Olivier playing the part, being held upside down by his ankles and covered in gore.  (Oh, and as a complete aside, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture is, IMHO, one of his best bits of incidental musick, although it has nothing to do with the Bard’s play.)  So my opinion probably isn’t worth all that much.

Nevertheless, I believe the film was, on balance, worth a dekko, and I raise a glass to whomever of you recommended it.

On the plus side, the play itself is classic tragedy.  Coriolanus (if you haven’t clicked the link yet) is a noble hero of the young Roman Republic, having devoted his life to her wars against both her Etruscan oppressors and neighboring cities.  By every right, he ought to be propelled to the highest offices and receive the highest accolades, but his Patrician pride and his refusal to kiss the collective backsides of teh Roman mob drive him to his eventual undoing.   You will seldom see a better teeing up of the ancient Grecco-Roman literary concept of hamartia, the Tragic Flaw.  Furthermore, with Feinnes himself as the glowering Coriolanus, Gerard (“SPAAAARTAAAANSSS!!!”) Butler as his arch-enemy Aufidius, and Vanessa Redgrave (yes) as his mother, Volumnia, you’ve got a solid core of actors who actually know what to do with the Bard.  (Most of the extras seem to be Jugs of one sort or another with names ending in -jovic and -jevick.)

On the minus side, the play is set in modern times, something which regular friends of the decanter will know generally displeases ol’ Robbo.  (Indeed, I suppose the point Feinnes was after was to make it look like an episode out of the recent unpleasantness in the Balkans, which would explain the ethnic make-up of the extras.  The comparison to the history of early republican Rome is not completely illegitimate.)  So instead of men running about with plumed helmets and swords, you get men running about with body armor and modern weaponry plus lots of stuff blowing up.  I suppose I could live with that.  What I didn’t like was the accompanying modern media portrayal of war – complete with nooz flashes, punditistas (including a Bill O’Reilly lookalike) and video cameras everywhere.  There’s where your “relevant” setting drifts across the line to annoying distraction.  On the other hand, I thought the scenes of parliamentary maneuvering – especially the bits featuring the Tribunes – the “crows to peck the eagles” – who were out to hocus Coriolanus for being such a shhhnob– were really quite effective.

Finally, the film is shot in that bobbly, hand-held style so fashionable these days that tends to give ol’ Robbo something of a headache, particularly when, as was the case last evening, he is weighed down to the Plimsoll mark with wiener schnitzel and potato pancakes.

All in all, though, I’ll give this film two and a half bumpers out of five.

Next up,  The World’s End.

UPDATE:  I was chatting with teh Mothe this afternoon about this fillum and she remarked that since Schindler’s List she simply can’t bear to watch Feinnes.  I admitted I’ve never actually seen it, as I am too much of a coward.  Same deal with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  I dunno how I would respond to the Real Thing, but my tolerance for, well, Screen Evil is pretty durn low.

Beau-Geste-2-739297Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Several times in the past week or two, ol’ Robbo has come across the name of author P.C. Wren in his readings.  As regular friends of the decanter may know, it is a practice of mine to pay attention to what I like to think of as these little cosmic hints.  As summah time is now O-fficially upon us, and as I’ve never actually read any of Wren’s books before, it occurred to me that I ought to follow up.  Thus, a quick trip to the devil’s website and I now have Beau Geste and Beau Sabreur winging their way toward Port Swiller Manor.

I’ll let you know what I think of them.  As Wren is appreciated and admired enjoyed by the sort of people I appreciate and admire, I expect to enjoy them myself thoroughly.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s memory may be a bit fuzzy, of course, but I simply don’t recall this much ballyhoo in the MSM during the last World Cup.  Of course I understand that it’s long been a pipe dream of the Sports-Industrial Complex and its hangers-on to get soccer really well established in this country and the Cup represents a fresh opportunity to make it a Thing.  But I also can’t help wondering if there isn’t a certain amount of “SQUIRREL!” attached to this year’s pitch:  Yeah, the Middle East is in flames, the Russian Bear is on the loose, the economy is flat-lining, the border is being tsunami’d and the Constitution is being used as t-paper by Certain Persons, but how ’bout them gutsy Americans making it to the knock-out round? GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!!!

Per my post below, call it “Starbucks and Fútbol”.

As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo does not care to be hustled by the so-called popular cultchah.  He tends to flat his ears back and dig in his heels.  Whelp, I’m a-flatten’ and a-diggin’ on this one.

Anyhoo, I’ve always found the sport, except when it was being played by teh gels, to be excruciatingly dull.   (True, I enjoy George MacDonald Fraser’s descriptions of fit’bah matches in the McAuslan stories, but  that’s because of the way he tells them.  The man could describe paint drying and make it seem hy-larious.)   Yes, I’m well aware that there’s a tremendous amount of skill and strategy that go into it, but, well, it still bores me.  So there.

Also, now that it’s being enthused over by hipster-doofus Euro-weenie wannabies of the kind who also love electric cars, free-range veggies, the United Nations and post-Christian social mores?  I dislike it even more.

Indeed, there’s only one match that ever really made a significant impression on the so-called braim of Robbo:


N’yar, Jim-lad!

So that’s that.  Now if you will excuse me, ol’ Robbo is off to watch a Real American Game, hoping his beloved Nationals will thrash the Cubbies this evening up to Wrigley.

* A riff on a long-standing entry in the Port Swiller Family lexicon.  Go here for the original.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, after the Washington Redskins kerfluffle that made the nooz last week, I wasn’t especially surprised to see this headline this afternoon:  Native American group planning $9 billion lawsuit against the [Cleveland] Indians.  According to the article, an outfit called “People Not Mascots” objects both to the “Indians” name as well as to the team mascot, Chief Wahoo.  “We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” [group leader Robert] Roche told WEWS-TV. “It’s been offensive since day one. We are not mascots.  My children are not mascots.  We are people.”  


All I can say is that if we are now going to subject our sports teams’ mascots to a general purge based on offensensitivity, can we make sure and include this one?  It gives me an unhappy:

Phanaticus Delenda Est

Phanaticus Delenda Est














Of course, this sort of thing is making headlines at the moment because Lefty bullying is in fashion and because the MSM is in full “SQUIRREL!!” mode trying to attract Low Information Voter attention away from the truly appalling foreign, domestic and, yes dammit, Constitutional crises in which we find ourselves.  (I was trying the other evening to find an apropos equivalent to “Bread and Circuses”. The best I could come up with was “Smoothies and Kardashians”.  You might have better luck.)

In the end, though, I doubt if much comes out of any of it.  (The threatened suit, I mean.)  The Press will spot some other squirrel and the matter will be quietly dropped.  Either that or we will be fighting each other over $1000 loaves of bread or fleeing “dirty” bomb terrorist attacks and won’t have time to think about it.

Nonetheless, just to hedge my bet, I nipped over to the devil’s website and bought a copy of “Major League” this evening.  You know, just in case the film is suddenly disappeared.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ever notice how all those bumper stickers reading “Question Authority” and “Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism” which used to be so prevalent on the backs of Volvos and Priuses  seem of have disappeared?  Me, too.

I believe the new attitude among the people who used to trumpet such sentiments is, “Shut up, bitchez!”


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the spotty posting over the past few days.  Port Swiller Manor currently is undergoing the traditional transformation from School Year to Summah Break with all the attendant activities and commitments.  Indeed, Ol’ Robbo spent the majority of the day today transporting teh younger gels to camp at Summer’s Best Two Weeks (about which I have written before) and only returned home a little while ago.  Give it another day or two and the more relaxed summah schedule may allow me more quality posting opportunities.



charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, teh youngest gel’s softball team survived a scary-close, extra-innings semi-final game this evening to advance to the City Series Championship game on Wednesday.

(And as an aside, as I walked in from the parking lot, I spotted Adam LaRoche and his family.  He has a couple of kids in our league.  Rather than accosting him, I simply made eye-contact, smiled and went on about my biznay.)

Anyhoo, the team finished their regular season at 10-2, one game back of the division winners (who were eliminated this evening on an adjacent field).   The gel has made something of a name for herself as a solid glove at 1st, although her chief delight is playing 3rd and gunning down runners.  (The other day, with bases loaded, she fielded a grounder hit to her there.  Everyone in the park thought she was going to step on the bag for the easy out, but she instead fired the ball to the catcher for the force at home.  The run she saved proved important.)

As for ol’ Robbo, I’ve been acting this season as a sort of deputy assistant coach, helping out with practices, pre-game BP and warm-ups as I’m available, and sometimes coaching 1st.  It’s a level of service with which I’m quite happy, as it allows me to be involved without saddling me with responsibilities I probably could not handle, given everything else going on.

Our record this season against the team we’re facing for the championship is 1-1, so I’ve an idea this is going to be an exciting game.  Wish us luck!

UPDATE:  Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!  I’m happy to report that not only did our team win this evening, the gel proved to be one of the heroes of the game.  Oh, you’d like details? Super, thanks for asking!  Well, it was the bottom of the 3rd and we were up 6-4 with bases loaded.  (The other team had scored all four of its runs in the top of the 3rd and looked like they were getting their mojo.)  The gel came up to the plate and hit a screaming daisy-cutter right over the bag at third.  All the base-runners came home and she boogied into second for a stand-up double, scoring herself a few minutes later.  This effectively took the mickey out of the other team and we eventually finished them off 11-4.   Ol’ Robbo is mighty proud tonight.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening, ol’ Robbo looked into the first of the DVD’s recently recommended to him by friends of the decanter, namely Joss Whedon’s 2012 take on the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing”.

I gather from the notes that this was a sort of vanity project of Whedon’s, a long-standing idea that first manifested itself in some informal group readings and eventually became literally a home movie, as it was shot at his own house.   I suppose I found that novelty somewhat interesting, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would view this movie as a serious performance of the piece.

First of all, I believe Whedon’s decision to set the film in contemporary Santa Monica with a cast of contemporary Hollywood types proves fatal.  The first order of biznay in dealing with Shakespeare effectively is to get us out of our own world and into the one he creates.  This is done most effectively in three possible ways:  Setting the piece (stage, costumes, etc.) in the Bard’s own time; setting the piece in its own historickal context (this works best for the histories, obviously – Julius Caesar, Richard III, etc.); or setting the piece in some vague “Once Upon A Time” that can’t really be pinned down but is sufficiently far away from the here and now to engage our fantasy (Branagh did this pretty effectively in his version of “Much Ado”).

But southern California in 2012?  One’s first instinct is to ask, “Why is everyone talking like that?”  Archaic language does not do well in the present tense.  (Nor do myriad anachronistic titles, addresses and the like.  And as to Claudio trying to maintain his antiquated code of morality in O.C. Gomorrah?  Fuggedaboudit!)

Second, I must say I really wasn’t impressed with any of the cast, all of whom seemed to play their roles like modern teevee characters instead of stage classics.  (Indeed, when the dumb blond playing Conrad managed to turn “into” to “inna”, I laughed out loud.)  I will say, once again going back to Branagh’s treatment, that Nathan Fillion did a better job than Michael Keaton with Dogberry, because Fillion properly played him as a bumbling idiot who’s had some hard knocks and desperately clings to any shred of respectability he can, instead of as a Beetlejuice-like lunatic.  Whedon left in some of Dogberry’s lines that Branagh had cut which I think key to the character:

“Dost thou not suspect my place?  Dost thou not suspect my years?  O that he were here to write me down as ass!  But, masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.  No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness.  I am a wise fellow, and which is more, an officer, and which is more, a householder, and which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina, and one that knows the law, go to, and a rich fellow enough, go to, and a fellow that has had losses, and one that that two gowns, and every thing handsome about him!”

So all in all, although I’m glad I actually sat down and watched the film, I really didn’t much like it.

I’d give this film one bumper out of five.

Next up: “Coriolanus“.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took advantage of today’s gorgeous weather to finally get out and clean up the raspberry canes, which, after suffering a fair bit from the cold and snow this past winter, are having what in sports would be called a rebuilding year.

As I pulled out dead canes and uprooted weeds, I found myself thinking about a remark the M-i-L made to Mrs. Robbo last week when the in-laws came to visit Port Swiller Manor on their annual spring migration north.  Apparently, she took a look at the front of the house and said, “Has Robbo given up on landscaping, then?”


As a matter of fact, there was some justification for such a remark.  As it happens, this year’s project will be to replace the front sidewalk and to put in a new planting bed along the front of the house, while at the same time putting in some new drains to help stem the flash floods we get from the downpours around here which have played merry hell with the current bed.  Given that most of the current bushes (a set of ancient, declining azaleas) and flowers are going to be torn out within the next week or two, I don’t see any real point in wasting any energy on trying to keep up with it all.

But still, this is something of a tender subject to me.

Having occupied Port Swiller Manor for nearly 14 years now, I’ve come to recognize that my efforts at gardening really constitute more of a rear-guard delaying action against the encroaching jungle than anything else.   But then again, there’s only me to do it, and given the lack of time, money and professional reinforcements (unlike some people – which see above, I don’t happen to have the luxury of a truck full of Salvadorans showing up twice a week to help me out), I think I do a tolerable job at least keeping things neat.

Plus, when I do manage to pull something off –  a good blooming on the climbing rose or the peonies, a garden absolutely full of butterflies flittering around the Buddleia at midsummer, a successful installation of trellis and jasmine – I have the satisfaction of knowing it was the result of my own effort, and not of some hired pros.

I’d much rather engage in honest, if humble and only modestly successful cultivation than live in a showplace and pay off somebody else to look after it.





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June 2014