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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to give you two or three who still come together here a bit of advance notice, Ol’ Robbo is going to be away from teh blogs this coming week on biznay.  (Unless, that is,  he can manifest the patience to dial in via his iWhatever phone thingy, which is laborious and highly doubtful.)

Perhaps it’s just as well.  The flu I’ve been dealing with recently has been unusually hard to shake.  Work has been (and will be) unusually intense.  And on the domestic front, at the moment aggravations, as Ol’ Will might have said,  come not single spies, but in battalions.

Evidently because of all this, Ol’ Robbo’s Muse seems to have wandered off and left me without inspiration for the moment.  (I mean, posting about Joan Collins getting flogged? Really?)

Anyhoo, I’ll be back round next weekend, hopefully tanned, rested and ready to bring you friends of the decanter something actually worth reading.

In the meantime, the decanter and walnuts are on the table and the Stilton is on the sideboard.

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

 

The other evening Ol’ Robbo ran off the 1955 Howard Hawks moovie, “Land of the Pharaohs“.  I had watched it once before about four or five years ago (indeed, I might have posted about it but am too lazy to check) and wanted to come back for a second look.

It’s an odd duck of a film. Hawks, of course, was a legendary director – working with such heavyweights as The Dook, Cary Grant, Bogart, Bacall, and Kate Hepburn, among others.  But so far as I can see, he mostly did westerns, war pictures, thrillers, and screwball comedies: A cast-of-thousands ancient epic like this one seems to be a definite outlier for him.   Also, I couldn’t help noticing that one of the writers for the film was William Faulkner.  (Yes, that William Faulkner.)

In the picture, Pharaoh Khufu, fabulously wealthy and successful, becomes obsessed with constructing a pyramid tomb for himself that will be completely bandit-proof, allowing him to enjoy his riches in the “next life” undisturbed.  To this end, he engages the services of a master-architect, a prisoner from one of his recent conquests.  Meanwhile, Khufu meets and marries (as his second wife) a feisty princess (Nellifer by name) from a tributary kingdom.  She gets greedy (well, she is anyway) and hatches a plot to kybosh him and set herself up as Queen in his place.  I’ll let it go at that without any spoilers just in case any of you actually wants to watch the film yourselves.

For all that, it’s really not too bad a film, if you’re just looking for simple entertainment.  I believe it was actually shot in Egypt, and some of the landscapes are quite striking.  Also, the big crowd/army scenes work very well.  The dialogue is nothing special, but the climax is pretty satisfying.

Khufu is played by Jack Hawkins, one of those solid Brit actors who seems to turn up in just about everything in the 50’s and 60’s.  The last time I saw him, he was playing the demolition-wallah who slogged through the Burma jungle with William Holden on the way to blow up Alec Guinness’s “Bridge Over The River Kwai”.

The master architect is played by James Robertson Justice, who I know from no other film whatever.  The man was a dead-ringer for Peter Ustinov, if Ustie had ever spent any time in the gym.

Then there’s Princess Nellifer.  She’s played by a young Joan Collins.   She is, quite bluntly, a nasty bitch.  But she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume.  And in one scene, she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume getting flogged.  So there’s that.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  Just saying.

Anyhoo, high-quality escapist entertainment of a sort rarely seen in the present day and age.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other day, Ol’ Robbo mentioned that he was working his way through the Beeb’s recent production of “The Hollow Crown“, Shakespeare’s quartet of historickal plays including Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V.  At the time, having watched Richard II and Henry IV part 1, I said I thought I liked the series.  My opinion remained more or less the same after watching Henry IV part 2.  However, last evening I finally ran off Henry V and I’m afraid I must report that I’ve downgraded my overall impression.  Or rayther, that I think the last installment of the quartet just didn’t come up to scratch.

Probably this is in part because I happen to know this play an awful lot better than the other three, but also, I think, it’s because the scope of this one is so much grander than the others and the production (and cast) simply didn’t have the means to match this change of scale.

First, I was amazed at some of the cuts made.  Off the top of my head:

  •  Canterbury’s somewhat twisted discourse on Salic Law and why “as clear as is the summer’s sun” it did not disbar Henry’s claim to the French throne.
  •  The entire scene at Southhampton wherein the plot by Lord Scroop and friends against Henry is uncovered.  This is a critical piece of continuity because rebellion against the lawful king is a theme that pervades the whole damn quartet.
  • Of the Four Captains (Gower, McMorris, Jamy, and Fluellen), only the Welshman Fluellen makes the film, and most of his lines are slashed away.
  • A lot of Ancient Pistol’s lines are cut, including much of his run-in with Harry and his determination to turn to a life of crime after learning of Mistress Quickly’s death.
  • The vast majority of the “Would it were day!” scene in which the French nobles sit about fidgeting on the eve of battle and wishing the Dauphin would shut the hell up is missing.
  • The entire biznay about the French killing “the poys and the luggage” also is gone.  This really surprised me because the film contained a lot of shots of the kid who hung around with Falstaff and his friends and eventually followed Bardolph and company to France.  If ever there was a Star Trek Redshirt in this film, I thought he’d be it.

Second, I’m sorry, but Tom Hiddleston was a disappointment.  I thought he’d done very well as Prince Hal in the previous movies, but his King Harry left me cold.  Yes, the tennis balls scene was not bad, but his big “Once more unto the breach” and “St. Crispin’s Day” speeches? Meh.  There was nothing really commanding or regal or inspirational in either speech.  And it didn’t help that all the soldiers around him at Harfleur in the former seemed….apathetic, while somebody got the idea that the latter should be made in conversational tone only to his inner circle of nobles.

I also thought Anton Lesser’s Exeter was pretty weak.  This was King Harry’s heavy?

Third, and I suppose this was a matter of Beeb budget, but the fight at Agincourt was distinctly lame:  the play speaks of 10,000 French casualties, but it never looks like there are more than about 100 extras on the set at any one time.   The English longbowmen look as if they hadn’t got a few dozen arrows among them all.  The Duke of York buys it by being stabbed in the back while he’s creeping around in the forest all by himself.  [Note: I know that the play itself calls for a few discreet tableaux to illustrate the fighting.  Fair enough.  But if you’re going to do a “realistic” production, then you need to either go big or go home.]

Finally, I’m really not sure about John Hurt’s “Chorus”.   Olivier and Branagh got around this innovation (the only one that I’m aware of in all of Shakespeare) by staging a “play within a play”, gradually pulling back from, respectively, an Elizabethan stage and a modern moovie production and gradually becoming immersed in the story.  Here, it’s a simple voice-over to what is supposed to be “real” action.  Frankly, I don’t think this works.  Would it be heretical to suggest that maybe the Chorus should have been taken out altogether in this format?

On the good side,  I thought the scenes with Pistol, Bardolph and Nym were very good, especially the one where they said goodbye to Mistress Quickly.  I also liked all the scenes with Princess Katherine, including her “English lesson” with her maid and her broken-tongue courtship by Harry.  I also liked Lambert Wilson’s King Charles, especially when he realized that his idiot son had been needlessly taunting Harry with his stupid tennis ball gift.

Now I’m going to have to go back and watch Kenneth Branagh’s movie version of the play.  Yes, it omits things, too.  Yes, much goes waaaaay over the top.  Yes, Branagh was an enfant terrible.  Indeed,  I wish there had been a strong director on the project with the ability to say, “Ken? NO!”  But I have to confess: the man knows how to play a King.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yeah, about those Million Wimminz Marches today.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo hasn’t really paid any attention to them himself because so far as I can make out it’s all really nothing more than an organized temper tantrum.

Eldest Gel got an email from her school the other day announcing that it would be sending a bus to the one in DeeCee if any of the students cared to participate.  The Gel told me she was within about half an inch of sending an email back asking, if that were the case, would the school also be sending a bus to the March for Life next Friday?

Prudence stopped her, but still: Heh.

She also keeps getting emails from the Dean of Students forwarding “information and resources” for dealing with the “trauma and stress” of the election.  She actually wrote back to the Dean on this, asking her  to please stop sending these missives a) because the Gel was tired of getting them and b) because not everyone was actually upset by the election results.

The Dean replied that they couldn’t start mucking about with the general campus email list just to accommodate individual student requests and that if the Gel didn’t like them, she should just delete without reading.

I kind of figured that would be the response, but I was glad the Gel made the point anyway.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well…..here we go.  No matter what you may think of the Donald, I believe we can all agree that nothing quite like this has ever happened before in the history of American presidential politicks.

Personally (and much to the ire of my Eldest who has been on the Trump Train since Day One), I am still in wait-and-see mode because I simply have no idea what’s actually going to happen.  On the other hand, I know to a micron the caliber of the bullet we dodged in refusing to crown She Who Must Not Be Named, so I am overall grateful.

This I do know:  The man has set himself one hell of a task.  The Deep Power (i.e., the bureaucracy, the mainstream media, and their fellow-travelers in academia and Hollywood) is going to do absolutely everything it can to destroy him, lest it finds itself destroyed.   As I say, one hell of a task.  On the other hand, who better suited to do it than a  pragmatic Noo Yawker business tycoon with Rudy Giuliani-like bridge-and-tunnel sensibilities?  And what better time than when technology has rendered the MSM obsolete as the gate-keepers of information?

Trump calls his task “draining the swamp”.  I like to think of it more as cleaning the Augean Stables.  The last couple days I’ve had an image in my head of the Donald, dressed in a lion’s skin and carrying a large club, furiously hammering on the banks  of the Potomac and the Anacostia to make them flow through downtown DeeCee.

‘Course, I’ve also had the flu.  So there’s that.

Anyhoo, we shall see what we see.

UPDATE: Caught a few minutes of the introductions and convocation (which I thought tastefully done) and the Donald’s speech.  I hope you like your steak tartare, because that there was some raw, red, dripping nationalist-populism, that was.  Trash-talking the Establishment to its face was kinda cool.

I didn’t see anything else, because just after the conclusion the Youngest Gel appeared and told me that the downstairs loo was overflowing.  D’OH!  Talk about your Augean mess!  I hammered at it for about 45 minutes with a plunger without result.  Then it started doing this curious loop where the bowl would empty out but a few seconds later the water pump in the basement would throw the sludge right back up.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  I figured this meant whatever was stuck in it was somewhere in the main drain out of the house, and for a while hoped that the flow back and forth across the mouth of the pipe might winkle free whatever was stuck in it.

No such luck.

Eventually, I was forced to call a plumber.  He agreed after poking around that it was a main drain blockage.  His pessimistic initial belief, however, was that we were dealing with either a collapsed pipe or a tree root, which left me feeling rayther faint.  Fortunately, however, he employed his sooper-dooper industrial-strength snake and found and cleared the stoppage about thirty feet out into the yard.

As I say, the mess was Augean.  I just got done cleaning it up a while ago.

And that, children, is how Ol’ Robbo spent the first afternoon of the Trump Administration.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy MLK Day.  (Or, as a smart-assed friend of mine used to insist on calling it: SlainCivilRightsLeaderTheReverendDr.MartinLutherKingJunior Day.)

Thankee for your kind wishes viz Ol’ Robbo’s bout with the flu.  While I’m still feeling rayther weak and am coughing a bit, I am confident that I’m on the mend.   On the other hand, it seems just about everyone else in the family has now picked it up to one degree or another.  The knowledge that at least some of them got flu shots gives ol’ Robbo a certain amount of subversive pleasure.

So a few post-plague odds and ends for you:

♦  Ol’ Robbo finally took down the Christmas decorations today, including the tree.  As always and despite my vigorous plying of broom and vacuum, I expect to keep finding fir needles about the front room and hall well into July.  Eh.

 I always chuck the tree onto the brush pile out in the woods past the back gate.  In case you’re interested, I have observed that it takes two to three years for these trees to finally crumble into their primordial components:  Next year, this one will be a skeleton.  The year after, it will be a crumpled skeleton.  The year after that, dust.  (Thinking of the brush pile and the seventeen years I’ve been contributing to it, I just now remembered a book I read as a child.  It had something to do with a tornado hitting a Kansas farm and scooping out and dumping some incredibly fertile soil in such a way that all kinds of strange things began growing on the heap of dirt that the twister left behind.)

♦  Speaking of years, this past week saw the seventeenth and fifteenth birthdays of the two younger Gels.  Tempus bloody fugit, indeed.  They celebrated said B-days with back-to-back sleepover parties Friday and Saturday nights.   You may judge for yourselves what ol’ Robbo thought of having Port Swiller Manor loaded to the gunn’ls with teenaged girls for 48 hours straight.  (No, it isn’t anywhere near the thrill you might think.)

♦  Speaking of the Gels, Eldest heads back to school tomorrow.  Aside from French, she finished with a solid A-/B+ GPA her first semester, of which I am quite proud.  (Don’t tell her I said so, but she did a hell of a lot better her first semester in college than did ol’ Robbo.  Also, from what she let fall in conversation, I think she learned some valuable lessons in what college-level studying actually entails.)   As of now, the plan is that she’s going to major in history and minor in theatre, and also pick up an Arts Management certificate.   And speaking of theatrics, the Gel has been cast as the Wicked Witch in the school’s spring production of Shrek The Musical.  She says herself that this is one of the most idiotic and useless musickals ever produced, but that she is nonetheless looking forward to having a good time participating.  I know exactly what she means.

♦  Also speaking of theatrics, Ol’ Robbo is now half way through watching the 2012-ish Beeb production of The Hollow Crown (comprising Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.)  I think, I think that I like the series.  The acting is uniformly great and, at least for the most part, the production plays Will’s history straight down the middle.  I guess my main criticisms are that it seems some dialogue has been cut in favor of prolonged visuals (yes, I get that these are movies instead of plays on film), and also that the who thing is saturated with that sort of vaguely Celtish World Musick which I really dislike.

One thing that actually made me laugh:  In Richard II, Bolingbroke is well played by Rory Kinnear.  I’ve never seen him before, but his old dad, Roy Kinnear, is well-known to ol’ Robbo as a minor comedic actor with bit parts in films such as The Three Musketeers and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.  Ol’ Robbo loves these Thespian family links.  Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when I popped in H-IVp1 to discover that the role of Bolingbroke had been taken over by none other than Jeremy Irons!  The man, although talented, whistled his lines over a set of obviously false teeth.  Ol’ Robbo enjoyed that yugely.

♦  Finally, speaking of the Bard, Ol’ Robbo has decided that it is high time he reorganized the Port Swiller library.  (I’ve never done an actual count, but I reckon we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 volumes, all told.)  It’s been a mess for some years but I have been content with that because I at least knew where everything was, more or less.  Recently, however, I discovered that Mrs. R was taking things in her own hands.  I do not wish to disparage Mrs. R’s learning in any way, but her approach to organization is based on neatness rayther than content.  She can’t abide books stacked up on tables or in corners or on top of other books:  Those she can’t jam in somewhere on the shelves anyhoo, she simply squirrels away elsewhere in the house.  Indeed, I didn’t even realize the gravity of the situation until I discovered a book I had been looking for – along with multiple other missing volumes – packed into an old bookcase in the Eldest Gel’s bedroom closet.

I mean, I say!

mcbroom_UPDATE:  To satisfy my own curiosity and to prove to you lot that I’m not completely insane, I did a bit of digging to try and find that children’s book I referred to above:  It’s McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman.  (I didn’t realize until I did this research that this was one of a whole series of McBroom books, all of which seem to center on Tall Tales.)

Interestingly, another of my very favorite books as a kid was Fleischman’s By The Great Horn Spoon!, the story of a small boy who runs away from well-to-do Boston to the California Gold Rush, and who’s aunt’s butler goes along to keep an eye on him.  I probably read that book a hundred times in grade school.

I knew that Disney had made a moovie version of the book called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin“, which I longed to see for what seemed like ages.  Eventually, they ran it one Sunday evening on tee vee.  I recall being very, very excited.  However, despite the very not bad presence of Suzanne Pleshette in it, the movie made such a pig’s breakfast of the novel that I was seriously traumatized.  And that is the origin of my life-long hatred of moovie treatments of favorite books.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posts this week, but Ol’ Robbo seems to have got the flu fairly good and hard this year.  (I will spare you the details.)

For those two or three friends of the decanter who look forward to my usual feeble attempts at wit and wisdom, I say, “I’ll be back.”

For those who want to scold me about not getting my flu shot, I say, “Shut up.”

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Epiphany!

Port Swiller Manor and environs were supposed to be buried under our first measurable snowfall of the season overnight – up to an inch, they predicted – but woke up this morning to what even Jim “Mimbo” Cantore, in his most eye-rolling, chest-thumping, tongue-swallowing passion, probably could just barely bring himself to call a “light dusting”.  Feh.

Personally, I blame ManBearPig.  Serial, you guys!

As a matter of fact, I was genuinely hoping that Ma Nature would perform as advertised, because I reckoned the elder Gels could get in a little useful practice driving in a small amount of the stuff.  This is one of ol’ Robbo’s perennial frets, so I really was rayther disappointed.  I suppose we’ll have to wait for the next one.

Another source of disappointment was the fact that I didn’t get the sense of panic that usually engulfs the Imperial City at the first sign of a snowflake.  Oh, sure, our school district chickened out and cancelled all evening activities yesterday, and I got stuck behind several sand trucks on the way home, but I happened to stop by the store and saw no signs whatever of shortages of t-paper or batteries, or of moms fighting to the death over the last half gallon of 2% milk.

Ol’ Robbo’s a traditionalist and likes to see customs kept, and  I’m not sure why we didn’t have our fun this time.   Who knows?  Perhaps either this place is beginning to wise up to its own foolishness, or else it’s so focused on the approach of Storm Donald that it doesn’t have time for other distractions.

UPDATE: Well, we got our inch or so a day late.  Ol’ Robbo spent about 45 minutes clearing off the driveway and scattering salt.  Teh Gels met it all with a collective “meh”.

 

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was making his way through his morning tasks down the office early yesterday when the phone rang.  It was the Eldest, still at home for a couple more weeks from college (and kicking her heels because for some reason she’s not getting the hours at her job she had been anticipating).

Daaaad,” she said, ” Our potty [meaning the Gels’ collective loo upstairs] is overflowing!  There’s water all over teh floor and it’s starting to stain the ceiling in the breakfast room below!”

I closed my eyes wearily.

Why is it overflowing?  Have you tried plunging it?”

“I don’t know why! And yes, I tried.  It’s no good!”

I heaved a sigh wearily.  (I may say that I’ve been dealing with a tummy bug off and on the past couple days and don’t have much extra energy.)

Fine….I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I said.

“But it’s all over the place!” she exclaimed.

“I said I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I replied.

Well.

The good news?  The Gel her own self had “dealt with it” long before I actually got home.  She bailed out the bowl.  She plunged the potty vigorously until the obstruction finally cleared itself.  She threw towels down all over the place.  She put pots and bowls down in the brekkers room to catch le deluge.  (After she had called me, the water broke through the ceiling and started pouring down.)  She even commandeered every fan in the house in order to help dry things out.

By the time I actually got home, no more immediate work was necessary.

I must say that I am quite proud of the Eldest for stepping up and dealing with things on her own.

I must also say that I am disappointed, although not really surprised, that nobody has owned up to their complicity in causing the crisis in the first place.  Oh, I know perfectly well what happened:  In two words?  Teenaged.  Gels.  Let us just say that somebody tried to flush something that had no biznay being flushed despite my repeated warnings and leave it at that.

Of course, I asked each of them individually what they knew of the facts.  Of course, I also got three individual variations on the theme of “I dindu nuthin”.

The breakfast room ceiling is now a yuge mess.  All the paint and drywall has fallen away along a large seam and brownish water stains spread out along both sides.  “You see that?” I pointed out to them all, “That’s the result of your collective having not done anything.  And that is going to cost us a boatlad of money to fix!  You’ll just have to look at it until we can budget away the dosh.  I hope you’re happy.”

I often think of W.S. Gilbert’s lines from The Pirates of Penzance about  “the felicity of unbounded domesticity”.   If he was being sarcastic, I’d be happy to pour him a bumper of port.  If he was being serious, I’d happily kick him in the Ball’s Pond Road.  Yes I would.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a happy and festive New Year celebration?  Good!

Ol’ Robbo’s was, alas, defined by the fact that at about fifteen seconds to midnight I was hurrying down the basement stairs to see the “ball drop” in Times Square on teevee.  Everyone else, including several friends of the Gels, were already there.

As I scuttled down, my foot hit a patch of wet (I strongly suspect one of the kids splashed some soda).  The result? My leg shot out from under me and I tumbled the rest of the way down.

As I happened to be carrying a glass of wine at the time – most of which splashed all over me – and as I ended up at the bottom somewhat wide-eyed and discombobulated, let us say that appearances were …… against me.

In my defense, I pointed out to anyone who would listen for two seconds that a) I managed to control my fall so that I landed on my backside, and b) I didn’t drop my glass.  Unfortunately, I fear that such exculpatory evidence didn’t cut much ice, and that the collective opinion was that ol’ Robbo was one over the eight.

Ah, well.

 

 

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