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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finally got around to watching “Dunkirk” last evening after it bobbed up in his Netflix queue.

Overall, I guess I liked the movie, although it certainly didn’t live up to some of the hype I’d heard about it when it first came out in theatres.**  I loved the cinematography, and was pleased that the CGI effects were kept to a bare minimum.

But there were some things that bugged me about it, too, both in terms of craftsmanship and in terms of historickal presentation. May I share them with you?  Well, here goes.  First, however, even though I imagine just about every friend of the decanter has already seen the thing anyway, blogging rules require that I issue a:



(And no, the spoiler is not that the British Expeditionary Force gets off the beach.)

First, I was rather surprised at the lack of any real exposition or backstory at the beginning.  I mean, one minute blank screen, the next a group of Tommies getting shot at.  And the next, the sole survivor of the squad trying to find a place on the ships. We never learn a single thing about him (not even his name, I think).  Ditto for the Spitfire pilots and the man and his son driving their boat across the Channel who are the centerpieces of the other two interwoven stories here.  You and I, who know something about history, can take all this in, but what is the average young victim of our public education system supposed to make of it?  Also, so far as character development went, yes, they’re all protagonists because they’re Brits, but besides that why am I supposed to feel any particular attachment to them?  There’s nothing to connect with. (This is the same problem I have with “Rogue One”, by the bye.)

Second, it took Ol’ Robbo a while to figure out the whole “one week/one day/one hour” biznay and that those were the lengths of the three different plot lines the movie was weaving together to build to the final scene.  And once I did figure it out, I found it frankly irritating: A day and a night and another day with our Tommy and then the story cuts back to the same damn dogfight we were watching earlier.  Yes, the final point where all the lines merged was a good one, but it seemed to me an obnoxious way to go about getting there.  Also, it didn’t seem to me that anyone was paying much attention to continuity – even taking into account the leaps in time, I couldn’t help noticing that the weather seemed to be changing an awful lot.

Third, I’m no expert on the Evacuation, but it seems to me that the movie’s suggestion that the Royal Navy bugged out and left the rescue largely to the private craft, and that London didn’t really expect many of the BEF to get away anyway, is…..incorrect.  IIRC, there were something between 40 and 60 British destroyers on hand, of which about 10% were sunk and twice as many damaged, and that they continued to aid the operation the entire time.  And of the 400K soldiers who set out with the BEF, I think they took off something in the neighborhood of 330K, the other 70K being casualties for the entire operation, not just the evacuation.

Also, I thought the air-battle portion was a bit thin.  I know the story’s POV was mostly confined to the two Spitfire pilots mentioned above, but each side lost something like 150 planes in the battle.  I don’t think the Heinkels were stooging over one at a time, nor the Stukas in groups of three, when they attacked the beaches, nor were the Spits attacking them in similar numbers.

So there you are.  I’d probably watch “Dunkirk” again if I came across it on cable, but I don’t feel any particular need to make an additional effort.

(Incidentally, the fact that the Brits were able to get so many men away under the Luftwaffe’s onslaught lends credence to the theory I’ve seen in Derek Robinson’s Piece of Cake and elsewhere that Hitler did not try to invade Britain because the Royal Navy still controlled the invasion route and he knew the Luftwaffe could not beat them on its own.  I will at least say that such theory makes sense to me, even if I don’t completely buy into it.)

** You know what’s really beginning to irritate me? When people say that they saw a movie “in theatres”.  No you didn’t – you saw it in a theatre.  “In theatres” is just marketing talk, but it’s slipped into conversational form.  Grr….

UPDATE: Speaking of movies, I know what it was I wanted to mention here.  A week or two ago, Eldest Gel and I watched “Tropic Thunder” together.  (I hadn’t seen it before but she has it more or less memorized.)  Anyhoo, Robert Downey, Jr.’s riff on Russell Crowe was about the funniest durn thing I’ve seen in a long time.  To paraphrase the old New Yorker’s review of the Marx Brothers’ “Night At The Opera”, it was doing to Russell Crowe what ought to be done to Russell Crowe.  And why Crowe didn’t hunt down Downey and beat the daylights out of him for it, I really don’t know.

Heh, indeed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself down to the lanes late this afternoon as part of a little summah intern festivity thrown by our office.  (Actually, I haven’t the faintest idea who any of our interns are, but a friend of mine was in charge of organization and she sweet-talked me into coming along in order to boost the participation numbers.)

Friends of the decanter may be slightly surprised, given my snooty patrician airs here, but the fact of the matter is that Ol’ Robbo was a tolerably competent casual bowler back in the day, consistently scoring in the upper 100’s and now and again breaking 200.  This is largely due to the fact that I ducked a whole six-week Hobbesian high school gym period by signing up for a bowling class when I was a junior, and also because my friends and I back then used to hit the lanes on the weekends fairly consistently.

Alas, that was nearly 40 years ago, and I have only been to the lanes a handful of times since, most recently (so far as I can recall), with the Gels a few years ago.  The result? I only managed a score in the high 80’s today.  As I flubbed first ball after first ball and only managed to save something from the wreckage each frame on the second, I spent most of the time getting angrier and angrier with myself for my feeble performance.  At least I managed to avoid descending into foul-mouthed tirades, which is what usually happens when I reach the frustration stage with my more private dilettante efforts at the keyboard or now and again on the links.  (Just as well, as a burst of temper, especially given that Ol’ Robbo has the reputation around his office as the quiet one who keeps to himself, probably would have landed me in a world of HR hurt.)

Yes, I know the primary purpose of the outing was supposed to be social, not competitive, but I can’t help myself with these things.  If you’re going to do it at all, dammit, then do it well.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s struggles over the past few days with a recalcitrant air-conditioner? Whelp, the service people were back out this morning and are now diagnosing a shot motor. The good news is that the thing itself is still under warranty.  The bad news is that we are going to have to pay for the labor of switching it out.  The worse news is that we have no A/C at Port Swiller Manor until tomorrow afternoon, and it is plenty hot around these parts.  (Fortunately, it’s still a fairly dry heat. The old saying about humidity may be a trite cliché, but that doesn’t make it untrue.)

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo is sitting under the porch fans this evening, patiently waiting for Eldest to quit the basement and go to bed so that he can scurry down to its relatively freezerish precinct, and thought he would kill the time by throwing together a few odds and ends.

♦  I saw an item today wherein an Israeli company has announced it is setting out to put a spacecraft down on the Moon.  This delights Ol’ Robbo on many levels.  Mazel tov! 

♦  That reminds me that Ol’ Robbo donated some money to buy pizzas for the IDF during one of the Intifadas way back in ’03 or ’04.  I’m still getting solicitations from the local Jewish Defense League to this day.

♦ And speaking of transportation technology, if I haven’t said it here before (well, even if I have), I’m going to say it now:  Ol’ Robbo will never, ever, get into a “driverless” car.  Period. Full stop.  End of story.  I don’t mind all the bells and whistles that alert you to traffic in your blind spot or whatnot, but I’ll be damned if I ever let a machine take actual command.

♦  And speaking of cars, Middle Gel called me from the VW dealership this afternoon with the announcement that one of her headlights had been whacked somehow and needed to be replaced at a fairly hefty cost.  I don’t quite get the latter part of the news, because I’ve replaced both headlights on La Wrangler myself for no expense other than the cost of the part and one or two skinned knuckles.  Is there any good reason I couldn’t have got the relevant headlight part for the Gel’s car and done it myself? Or has German engineering successfully eliminated the self-help option?

♦  Also touching on cars, Ol’ Robbo got caught in the traffic-jam caused by Marine One lifting off from the White House lawn this morning, taking President Trump out to Andrews AFB for his trip to Europe.  (They shut down Constitution Avenue between 16th and 17th for such comings and goings.) I’ve had this happen probably half a dozen times over the past few years.  It’s always a pain in the backside, but it’s also pretty cool to see the Presidential party on their way hither and yon.

♦  And speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo usually steers clear of politicks here, but I have to note that I heard a bit on this afternoon’s NPR top o’ the hour nooz digest in which some environmental lobbyist was whinging about The Donald’s pick of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to take Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court.  The lobbyist had his panties in a twist over the idea that, get this, Kavanaugh believes laws should be made by Congress and not by unaccountable Executive Branch bureaucrats!!

The horror.  THE HORROR!!

Oh, who the hell am I kidding? BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

♦  Touching on the summah heat again, we just would pick this week to start a bed of young pachysandra out front, wouldn’t we? No rain in the forecast for at least another ten days.  (Fortunately, I was able to strategically place a soaker hose uphill from the bed, and find that if I simply leave it on long enough, gravity takes care of spreading the water all about.)

♦  The pachys, by the bye, are part of the new arrangement for diverting rain-water Ol’ Robbo mentioned t’other day.  The landscapers have been busy this week putting in the new rock bed/run-off channels, and I’m happy to say that I am pleased with the results so far.  We shall see, of course, what actually happens the next time we get le deluge.

Whelp, that’s about enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is headed for the basement now, most probably to see if his Beloved Nats are working themselves farther out of playoff contention.  (What a disappointing year so far.  I mentioned jumping on the Fire Dave Martinez bandwagon the other day? Well, despite their taking three out of four against the Fish this week,  I ‘ve still got my Nike Vertical Leap shoes on just in case.)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

You may or may not have seen it, what with everything else going on these days, but the Episcopal Church is “considering” revising the Book of Common Prayer to eradicate all masculine references to God.  I put quotes around the word “considering” because I can tell you here and now that this is a done deal.  The Palie clergy and congregations – at least in my experience – have been doing this on the sly for some time, and its official adoption now that the proposal has been put up is only a matter of the paperwork.

And, at least according to one version of the proposal being batted about at this year’s convention, that ain’t the all of it:

Switching to gender-neutral language is the most commonly mentioned reason to make the change, but many stakeholders in the church want other revisions. There are advocates for adding language about  a Christian’s duty to conserve the Earth; for adding a liturgical ceremony to celebrate a transgender person’s adoption of a new name; for adding same-sex marriage ceremonies to the liturgy, since the church has been performing such weddings for years; for updating the calendar of saints to include important figures named as saints since 1979.

Oh, you betcha.  (Actually, I believe there is language about environmental stewardship in the Catholic Catechism already.  And I’ve got no problem with celebrating the Feast Day of St. John Paul the Second (October 22).  The other stuff? Yeah, you betcha.)

The Family Robbo were discussing this item at dinner last evening.  The sense of the meeting was pretty clear that if these things go through, they’re gone.  (The general idea seems to be in favor of seeking out whatever pockets of traditional mainline Protestantism remain (have I mentioned here that my great-grandfather on my father’s side was a Presbyterian minister?), or perhaps venturing among the Evangelicals.  Alas, nobody seems interested in Ol’ Robbo’s open invitation to follow him across the Tiber.  As terribly disappointing as this is, however, I have at least come to understand what a truly enormous thing it is that I’m asking – even if they don’t – and that it might simply be beyond them at this point.  I would not wish them to sign on for something they simply don’t understand.  I will thus just continue my policy of trying to lead by (admittedly feeble) example, and praying for their eventual enlightenment.)

Because of parliamentary procedures within TEC, consummation of this mucking about with the BCP will take some years.  What might make the family bolt much more precipitately is the fact that the longtime Rector of Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church retired a couple weeks ago.  He was as proggy as any of them. (I once heard him in an unguarded moment musing that Leviticus could be read not to prohibit doinking the livestock, but merely to insist on purification afterwards before entering the Temple.)  But he had enough biznay sense to recognize that the parish in general, and the Big Money Boys in particular, are fairly evenly split between Progs and Trads, and that it was in his best interest to keep his public ministry as neutral as possible.  If the Diocese is fool enough to install some hard-charging Lefty in his place, the Family Robbo won’t be the only ones making a bee-line for the exits.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely, lovely Saturday morning here at Port Swiller Manor.  Cool, crisp, and the promise of a marvelous Maine-like day.  Fortunately, we’ve had so much heat and so little rain recently that Ol’ Robbo can get away with skipping the lawn this week, although I will have to get out with the hose and water things later on.

Middle Gel and I ran out to the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania yesterday in order to retrieve Youngest from her term at Bible-Thumper camp.**  (We took the Gel’s VW Tiguan, which proved to be a pretty slick little mover out on the highway, btw.)  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, Middle Gel, after a considerable amount of anguish, decided to attend a different camp this summah, and so missed out on her eleventh year at BTC.  It was good for her to get to go up to retrieve her sistah, as she got to see a lot of her old friends.  She now talks about possibly applying to be a counselor there next year.

Youngest, as it turns out, had a very good term.  She took the girls’ swim medal for her age group and was the camp chess champ.  Also, if you go to the linkie, you’ll see that the camp is divided into two teams, Romans and Galatians.  Over the course of the term, the teams compete in a variety of athletic competitions with an intensity that matches many big-time college rivalries.  Youngest is a Roman, and the Romans won this year (an admittedly rare occurrence).  The Gel screamed and shouted so much that her voice is literally gone at the moment. (A very small loss, indeed.)

Aaanyhoo, upon our return to Port Swiller Manor late yesterday afternoon, Ol’ Robbo noticed that the A/C was not working again.  I say “again” because about a month ago it stopped blowing cold air.  (It was still blowing air but just couldn’t keep up with the thermostat.) When the repair fellah came out, he discovered a leak in the coolant line caused by a faulty weld that was gumming up the works. The insides, which he showed me, were a solid block of ice.  So we had to shut the whole thing down, wait for the ice to melt, and then go about fixing it.  Fortunately, since the screw-up was the company’s fault, the repair was free.

This time, the thing was just shut down altogether.  (The outside unit was still working, however.) I flipped the circuit breaker a couple times, fiddled with the thermostat, pounded on the sides.  Then I noticed that the insulation around the coolant line is sodden and dripping.  So here we go again, I think.

Curiously, the A/C is working fine this morning.  My theory is that when it shut itself off, the ice melted all by itself, so the thing could kick back in.  Doesn’t mean the leak isn’t still there, however.

I hope my diagnosis is correct, as it should mean another free repair.

Fortunately, as I said up top, a lovely day today, so having the thing offline for a while will have no real impact.  But still……..Grrrrrrr.


**Ol’ Robbo uses this term, and always has, only in the spirit of gentle teasing, not in mockery, of course.  In the battle lines of the current culture wars, I gladly fight alongside the Evangelicals.

UPDATE:  Heh.  HVAC fellah appeared this afternoon.  I rattled off my observations and explained my theory.  He listened patiently, remarked that every observation was helpful in its own way, and then proceeded to diagnose something completely different.  (The system had just shut off because of a slight clog in the drainpipe.  He flushed it out with some water and vinegar just to make sure it was clean.)  He was very polite, but I know what he was thinking because I think the same thing when laymen start arguing legal theories at me.  I suppose I had it coming.

UPDATE DEUX: Came home this Monday evening to discover the thermostat was spiking again.  (Apparently, everyone else at home was too caught up in themselves to notice.)  I went through the flush drill again as the fellah had shown me.  No result.  The inside unit sounds like it’s trying to restart, but just isn’t turning over for whatever reason.  At this point, I don’t think it unreasonable for me to bring my own theory back into play.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

A very quiet one this year for Ol’ Robbo.  Middle Gel is the only other family member home at the moment.  Our big plan for this afternoon is to go over to Bed, Bath, And Whatevs and buy all her college dorm stuff, which will be a nice little time together.  Afterwards, she may or may not be going with some of her friends to see the big downtown fireworks display.  (As so often seems to be the case with teenagers, the plan at this point is “I have no idea”.)

In the meantime, Ol’ Robbo will be content to sip an adult beverage or two and, if the weather isn’t too beastly, perhaps sit out on the porch and listen to the rumble and bump of neighbors letting fly with their own home displays.

Two completely un-related but apropos thoughts for the day:

First, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t buy into the “Second Civil War” talk I see here and there on the webz these days.  Instead, I see a mirror of the late ’60’s, only this time with twitter.  A small, but very noisy gang of radicals has abandoned their “For the Children” pretense, ripped off their masks, and exposed themselves for what they really are.  Most normal people are, I think, repelled by such things, which is why we got Nixon in ’68 and ’72, Reagan in ’80 and ’84, and Trump in ’16 and (most probably) ’20.  The Hard Left seems to go through these periodic meltdowns, which ironically is probably what has saved us from them these past 100 years or so.

Second, is there a “Fire Dave Martinez” bandwagon yet? Cos’ if there is, I’m feeling the increased urge to jump on board.  This is not where Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats ought to be right now.

Anyhoo, have a safe and pleasant holiday, and God bless America!

UPDATE: A delightful trip to BB&B.  It turns out Ol’ Robbo had never actually been there before and was thinking instead of the local TJMaxx, which is a rather ratty, depressing place.  This, instead, was enormous, well-stocked, and staffed by very friendly people who seemed delighted to be helping the Gel get together her school things.  We tricked her out in sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and the like, but she’s holding off on some of the other more purely decorative things until she can coordinate with her roommate who is bringing what.

Col. Strong Vincent

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I’m sure all the Civil War history sharks amongst you know, this year is the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3), and today specifically is the anniversary of the Battle of Little Round Top.

Since Groovy Vic, who is a friend of the decanter ab origio, is not blogging these days and thus can’t do so as she used to, Ol’ Robbo feels it to be incumbent upon himself to raise a glass in honor of Brigade Commander Strong Vincent, who recognized the value of anchoring the far left of the Union line on Little Round Top on the Second Day after the idiot Dan Sickles went walkabouts, and took sole responsibility for diverting his brigade to that position.

The limelight of Little Round Top has since fallen mostly on Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine regiment for their gallant defense which included both a “refusal of the line” and a bayonet charge.  Not in any way to discredit the man, who was truly an exceptionally good fighting officer, but as Vic loves to point out, Chamberlain never would have been there in the first place had it not been for Vincent’s brilliant but now largely overlooked action.

Vincent, by the bye, was mortally wounded during the early stage of the fight and died a few days later.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did you all see the story this week that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name has been removed from a children’s literary award because of double-plus ungood wrong-think?

Yes, the new name of the award will be “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” because that show contained correct views of the 19th Century frontier, including the voice-over in the radio commercials from years back (which Ol’ Robbo is not making up) where the beta-boy says in a sing-song, Mr. Rogers voice., “It’s the wonderful diversity that makes this place so special!”

Just you wait.  It’s only a matter of time before the Kennedy Center disappears its Mark Twain Humor Award on similar grounds. (“How dare they give a prize named after a man who used that word in his writings?”)

UPDATE:  Speaking of frontier writers never likely to have a children’s book award named after them, I’m currently re-reading John C. Cremony’s Life Among the Apaches.  Cremony was part of the 1850 Border Commission sent to sort out the line between the United States and Mexico after the war.  Since he was apparently the only member of the party who could speak Spanish, he became the main mouthpiece between them and the Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona.  He published his observations in 1868.

Cremony is a major source for George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman and the Redskins, since the first part of that story has Flashy in the southwest in 1849/50 and dealing extensively with Mangus Colorado, James Gallatin, and other figures of the time and place.  Through Flashy’s mouth, GMF has this to say about post hoc armchair virtue-signaling:

I know the heathen, and their oppressors, pretty well, you see, and the folly of sitting smug in judgment years after, stuffed with piety and ignorance and book-learned bias.  Humanity is beastly and stupid, aye, and helpless, and there’s an end to it. And that’s as true for Crazy Horse as it was for Custer – and they’re both long gone, thank God.  But I draw the line at the likes of anthropological half-truthers; oh, there’s a deal in what they say, right enough – but it’s only one side of the tale, and when I hear it puffed out with all that righteous certainty, as though every white man was a villain and every redskin a saint, and the fools swallow it and feel suitably guilty…well, it can get my goat, especially when I’ve got a drink in me and my kidneys are creaking.


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