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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was up early this morning clearing the inch or so of snow off the Port Swiller Manor driveway left by the latest of the nor’easters to brush past us this year. (I’m waiting to see what Mr. Sun can do about the ice underneath before going back out.) I think this must be at least the fourth, so this is turning out to be a pretty active season, indeed. Given that we can get such storms here well into mid-to-late March, we’ve plenty of time left to take one head-on. Snowzilla,*** our last major blizzard, struck (I think) in 2016, so I feel we’re about due. (UPDATE: Yup, almost exactly six years ago. Jump in the wayback machine to see my contemporary post for the Snowzilla graphic.)

Looking out the window, the bird feeders are mobbed at the moment. Normally, I fill the main one once a week, but when there’s snow on the ground I sometimes break down and do a double ration. This can be a very slippery slope, especially for a fellah like me who carries a pretty fair supply of guilt about with him: Let all those birds become dependent on me and then cut them off in their hour of need? How could I? Such a brute! The problem is that I have a gang of sparrows, at least fifteen of them, who hang around here and can clean the whole thing out in about a day. If I tried to keep up with them, I’d bankrupt myself in a week or two. Ah, well.

** Readers are reminded that names like Snowzilla, Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, and even the infamous Holepocalypse, are given these storms in jest by the local weather nerds. This is to be distinguished from the “named storm” protocol adopted by The Weather Channel a couple years ago in support of its rhetorical fearmongering campaign. (See, also, “polar vortex” and “bomb cyclone”. Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember when this was just called “winter weather”.)

UPDATE: It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that the Holepocalypse is probably only “infamous” to, well, local weather nerds. I should explain that it was a storm of the mid-teens that dropped a considerable amount of snow across the mid-Atlantic but, for whatever reason of track and development, left a small radius immediately around Dee Cee without a single flake. Government weather machine jokes abounded at the time.

UPDATE DEUX: Ol’ Robbo was standing on the back porch this afternoon, waiting for Decanter Dog to finish her biznay in the back yard, when he noticed not one, not two, but THREE adult red foxes along the wood line behind the fence. They were racing about, nibbling at each other, and making a good bit of noise. Surely, I said to myself, they can’t be breeding? In this weather?

Turns out yes, yes they can be, and that’s probably what was going on. I think it was two males and one female. (Lucky vixen.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s regular workday consists of sitting hunched over a computer screen all day. So on my day off, here I am….hunched over a computer screen. (I will say, in my defense, that it’s just too cold to be oot and aboot, and I don’t much feel like mopping floors right now.)

Anyhoo, last evening I watched “Midway”. No, not the abomination from 2019,*** but the old “block-buster” original from 1976. I hadn’t seen it since some time in my early teens, and something prodded me recently (perhaps watching the 2019 abomination) to go back and see if it was as stinky as I remember it.

Well, it is. But the smell is a bit different this time.

Back in my misspent yoot, I was a nerd about many things (shut up!), one of them being WWII naval operations in the Pacific. I recall being indignant with “Midway” back then because it was so sloppy about the “actual footage” used: torpedo and dive bombers misidentified, clips of planes not in operation in 1942, well-known footage from other battles, etc., etc.

That annoyed me again last evening, but what really got me was the obviousness of the fact that this film was nothing more than an effort to recreate the success of “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, only to do so on the cheap, going so far as to swipe large chunks of footage from the latter film (which, in Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion, has a serious claim to the title of Best WWII Movie of All Time). As if nobody would notice. Honestly, there were more original flying scenes in the average episode of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” than this. (Of course, the opening credits also run over clips from the classic “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”, but that seemed to me more like a homage, and makes sense in a chronological way.)

The film was also, oddly, too short. The only real subplot was the one involving Charlton Heston, his son, and teh Japanese girlfriend. Either more such subplots should have been added, or that one should have been chucked, as it throws the movie off balance. Perhaps some more character development of some of the combatants would have been appropriate. As for the actual combat, the tactical situation is pretty well set up, and I suppose the attack on Midway Island itself is reasonably well done, but the carrier battle scenes suffer (again) from the lack of original footage.

So, meh. I don’t think I need to see it again.

Oh, one other thing surprised me: Some of the names in the supporting cast. Dabney Coleman? Erik “Ponch” Estrada? Tom Selleck? Larry Freakin’ Csonka? I admit I larffed.

*** “Abomination” is the only word. I won’t go into it all here, but I will say one thing more generally applicable: When Ol’ Robbo becomes Emperor of the World, no object created for the screen in CGI will be permitted to be shown doing anything such object cannot do in real life. Violation of this rule will cause us to ban CGI altogether. Period.

Off-Topic UPDATE: By the bye, when Ol’ Robbo mentioned the other day that he intended to give MLB another chance this season, why the heck didn’t anybody tell me there’s a strike going on? Sheesh!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ironically, just after putting up my post immediately below, I started developing a sore throat, sinus pain, and muscle aches. Ha, ha, ha. Go figure. (Spent most of yesterday resting with a wet cloth over my eyes. Yes, I’m better now.)

Anyhoo, this blog doesn’t write itself so I thought I would mention that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1756, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I don’t have much to say about it except to repeat my often-given warning that if you are going to watch the movie “Amadeus” in celebration, for Heaven’s sake don’t come away with the idea that anything it portrays with regard to Gangerl and those around him is actually true. The film is wildly inaccurate, sometimes completely wrong, romantic applesauce from start to finish.

And for those who argue that they like the film for its soundtrack, well, the performances are all by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner. I won’t say they’re actually outright bad, but Sir Neville and teh Gang are a very bland, middle-of-the-road outfit. Lots of other groups, particularly specialists in historickally-informed/period performance, who will give you better quality.

That’s all.

** Spot the quote. If you can get this one, Ol’ Robbo will be deeply impressed.

Closer To Home UPDATE: Speaking of birthdays and movies, Ol’ Robbo completely his own latest lap around the calendar just recently. Eldest Gel gave me, as a present, a tee-shirt featuring a cartoon meercat in a hula skirt with a caption that reads “Are ya achin’ for some bacon?” When I looked at it blankly, she impatiently explained that it was from Disney’s “The Lion King” and whipped out her iThingy to show me the relevant clip. I’ve never actually seen “The Lion King”, nor do I particularly wish to. For some reason, this irritates her greatly. I guess the gift was a rayther ham-fisted hint to that effect. (We have the same issue about “The Shawshank Redemption”. What would she give me in that case?)

Relatedly, there just arrived today as a present from Youngest a special collector’s edition of “Forrest Gump”. Again, I’ve never seen it, nor do I care to, as Ol’ Robbo has no taste for the Idiot Savant character. Plus, Tom Hanks is on my out list. I can only suppose that I’ve mentioned this to the Gel at some time or another, and that she’s being more directly to the point than her sistah.

UPDATE DEUX: Youngest just texted, “Next year it’ll be the full Harry Potter collection!” Heh.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Suspecting, not without reason, that if left to himself Ol’ Robbo would never get round to it, Mrs. R signed me up for my annual (well, it’s probably now triennial or quadrennial) checkup the other day.

As you might gather, I’m not fond of my current doctor. She’s a scold. Coffee? Bad. Meat? Bad. Wine? Baaaaaad. At my last visit, about the only vice she couldn’t find in me was free-basing heroin. Also, she both over-diagnoses and over-prescribes. Pills, pills, and even more pills. This is contrary to my personal philosophy that the taking of medicine should be restricted to the absolute minimum necessary. (The Old Gentleman was a doctor and so is my brother, so I grew up with no illusions about what it can and cannot do.)

So why do I stay with her? Shear inertia. Plus, I admit I’m getting to the age where building up a baseline relationship makes more and more sense, and I shouldn’t be hopping about. (Alas, my previous doc, with whom I’d been a long time and did like, switched to a concierge practice and relocated to extremely inconvenient new digs.)

The good news is that the checkup couldn’t be scheduled any earlier than the end of April, so I’ve got that long to get into some serious training. At least I’ve got a good motivator.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you keeping track of such things will be pleased to learn that Youngest Gel successfully drove herself back to Ohio yesterday, even dealing calmly with a snowstorm that caught her between Morgantown, WV and Columbus. She checked in with us at various breaks and, I suppose fortunately, in that it spared me additional worry, didn’t mention the snow until after she’d cleared it. I may say that I’m rayther proud of her.

The Gel stalled around quite a bit about heading back to school. First it was going to be Thursday. Then Friday. Then 5 ack emma Sunday. Then 8 am, when she finally left. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be at school and wouldn’t enjoy it once she was back, just that she felt it took so much more energy to motivate herself to start the journey than it did when she came home before Christmas. I guess she just hasn’t broken away quite yet.

Ol’ Robbo still distinctly remembers his own “break point”, if you will. It was Christmas vacation my junior year. One afternoon a couple of days before I flew back to school, I suddenly had the oddest sensation. Looking about the house, I realized, “This is all ending. In a very short time, I’m not going to live here anymore. Life as I’ve known it up till now is going to change. Forever.” The shock of it all made me sit down hard, and I’m not sure there weren’t a few tears, too. From that point forward, even when I came home for the summah, I always felt more like a visitor than an inmate.

As I say, Youngest isn’t there yet. (Middle Gel is, I believe. Eldest is working from home at the moment, but there may be some news about that in the near future.)

By the bye, Youngest was teasing me about the drive. She’s already picked up the sensible habit of stopping at familiar waypoints for gas and food, but she stops three different times on the eight-hour trip. And not only that, but she actually goes in and sits down for ten or fifteen minutes to rest, fiddle with her phone, and whatnot. “That would drive you nuts, wouldn’t it,” she laughed. You’re durn right it would.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A balmy 12 degrees above on the Port Swiller Manor porch thermometer this morning, and not for the first time these past couple weeks. Ol’ Robbo recalls now that the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a chilly winter in the East this year. Evidently, they knew what they were talking about. At least it’s sunny and calm today, as the latest threatened nor’easter decided to move out to sea instead of up the coast. (They’re already talking about the possibility of another one sometime next week.)

Fortunately, there’s really not much that needs doing outside these days, so I need not venture out much except to let Decanter Dog out and in. I’ve noticed that she seems positively indifferent to temperature and, much to my irritation, will sometimes loiter about on the porch even in artic conditions while I try to shoo her back into the house after her biznay is done. This contrasts completely with her attitude toward precipitation: She loathes the rain and sometimes almost literally needs to be kicked down the back stairs in it. (On the other hand, she adores snowfall. Go figure.)

This also contrasts with Decanter Kitten, who always insists on going on the porch when I let DD out. She’s intensely sensitive to the cold. As soon as she realizes how chilly it is, she makes a bee-line back to the door. I don’t much understand this, as she’s a Maine coon and has a long, very thick coat. Nor do I understand why hot weather doesn’t seem to bother her much. But there it is. (Decanter Cat, who is a short-haired tabby, avoids going outside altogether when it’s even a bit chilly but will bask in the heat of summah all day. This, at least, makes some sense to me.)

Anyhoo, here it is near the end of January and Ol’ Robbo is already craving the return of warmer air. This “sick of it” date seems to creep farther forward each year with me.

Ex “Post” Facto UPDATE: Garn, I typed too soon! I’d just settled in with a fresh cuppa kawfee and Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time when I was gently reminded by Mrs. R that she’d made an appointment to take her Honda Juggernaut in for service and I’d promised to tag along and give her a ride home. So much for my hibernal plans.

On the other hand, it got closer to the freezing mark this afternoon than I’d anticipated, so as I was oot and aboot anyway, I harnessed and coated Decanter Dog and took her for a long walk in the woods. It was enjoyable.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed Mrs. R brought this item to Ol’ Robbo’s attention: Fairfax County Public Schools curriculum employing “privilege bingo”. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. Thank Heaven the Gels are all up and out of all that. (I’m sure they were never actually subjected to this sort of thing themselves: They would have been outraged, and we certainly would have heard about it.)

Two things strike Ol’ Robbo here. First, if any good can be said to have come out of these last two wretched years of house arrest, I think it lies in the great awakening parents are experiencing regarding what the kidz are actually being “taught” in the schools. For a long time, I believe there was a certain level of complaisant trust that the system had the kidz’ best interest in mind and was doing the right thing by them. All the recent “on-line learning” has ripped the curtain away for many.

Second, according to the article FCPS is pushing back with a response that amounts to “Nekulturny kulaks! How dare you question what we put in your children’s heads or how!” I’m seeing this same line being used elsewhere, too, and it strikes me as completely tone-deaf. (I’m sure newly-not-Governor Terry McAuliff would agree with me about that now.) But it also strikes the optimist in me (yes, there is one) as perhaps a sign of fear and panic now that the jig is, as it were, up. It is just possible that the pendulum has swung about as far as it’s going to go and is fixing to start back in the other direction. We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening, Ol’ Robbo was standing at the top of the back stairs waiting for Decanter Dog to finish up her biznay in the yard and idly scanning the sky overhead when I suddenly realized that one of the stars was moving, heading calmly and steadily in a southeasterly direction.

Whatever it was, it definitely was not a meteor, nor was it any kind of commercial aircraft. My guess is that it was an artificial satellite of some sort, and my further guess is that it was the International Space Station. (Is there anything else in orbit actually visible to the naked eye?)

I’ve been poking about on the innertoobs to try and verify this. Alas, the only tracking tools I’ve found tell me where the thing is right now, not 36 hours ago. On the other hand, they confirm that the general direction and speed of what I saw makes an ISS-sighting perfectly plausible. I hope so.

Speaking of which, I was watching a program on the Smithsonian Channel last evening about the history of the planet. (The show purports to rely a lot on “new satellite evidence”, which is the link here.) It was the first episode of a series (called something like “The Life of Earth”) and sought to squash the first 4.5 billion years of Earth history into 50 minutes of programming, a very daunting task. What came across when the timeline was so sped up was how often and violently the planet’s atmosphere changes, both in terms of temperature and even composition. I had to chuckle a bit: Among massive volcanic activity, periodic asteroid collisions, and the overspreading of single-celled photosynthetic-based organisms mucking it about, our own presence in the mix, even if you buy into the worst of teh climate-alarmist rhetoric, seems comparatively tiny and insignificant.

The show was also refreshingly neutral, with no apparent politickal axe to grind. However, as I say this was the first episode. The rest of the series evidently deals with the rise and spread of Mankind. I’m sure in the end all the Bad Things will turn out to be our own damn fault after all.

UPDATE: Which reminds me, I saw this article the other day: NASA turns to religious scholars to prepare humanity for alien contact. (The tone is surprisingly unlike Oolon Colluphid’s blockbuster trilogy, Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes, and Who Is This God Person Anyway?) I suppose if you’re like the kid who lived across the street from me in my yoot who routinely brought round pamphlets “proving” dinosaur bones are elaborate fakes, such contact would be difficult to comprehend. As an ardent admirer of C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy, Ol’ Robbo says, “Moar, faster, please!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The Family Robbo had a hearty laugh at the dinner table over this one last evening: “UCLA Scientists Studying ‘Inequality’ Among Animals“. No, it’s not the Babylon Bee, which was Eldest Gel’s first question. Per the article:

According to the Washington Free Beacon, these studies first began with a group of behavioral ecologists at UCLA who “saw how COVID-19 was highlighting health disparities and other inequalities around the world,” and eventually “began to wonder if they could learn more about inequality by studying it in animals.”

“When we started looking for it, we found lots and lots of examples,” Dr. Jennifer Smith told the New York Times. “To see this across so many different species was quite surprising. And we’re just touching the surface.”

Natural selection is a hate crime! “Red in tooth and claw?” It’s high time that this be changed to “lavender in warm kisses and gentle caress.” Because muh feelings! We immediately decided that the United Nations needs to establish a High Court of Animal Truth, Equity, and Reconciliation, presided over by a blue-ribbon panel of unicorns, and it needs to do so right now.

Aggshully, without digging deeper into it Ol’ Robbo assumes this is, in fact, a piece of weapons-grade trolling on the part of “UCLA scientists” or somebody else, the thought of which warms the cockles of my heart. (The “studies” lead to some distinctly pro-family conclusions, which I believe is a tell.) The frightening part is that I’m not altogether sure about such assumption. (Please tell me I’m right. Lie if you have to.)

Also frightening is the thought that a whole lot of people will believe it anyway. (Not that natural selection exists, of course, but that it has some connection with “social justice” psychobabble and is Wrong.) After all, we live in stupid, stupid times. Have I mentioned this recently?

**An old Woody Allen joke.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Would those aficionados of older movies among you out there have ever guessed that Audrey Hepburn did a western? Well, she did. It’s a 1960 John Huston film called “The Unforgiven”, in which she plays a young woman settler on the frontier who suddenly learns that she really was a Kiowa baby snatched from her village during a punitive raid. Strife ensues. Burt Lancaster and Audie Murphy are her brothers who turn out not to be her brothers.

Alas, the movie’s not very good. The set-up was too long and dull, and the acting was uneven. I suppose the climactic siege and shoot-out is okay, but it’s nothing special.

Y’know, Burt Lancaster is one of those actors who Ol’ Robbo wants to like more than he can get himself to. “The Train” (1964) is one of my favorite movies, and Lancaster, a sort of diamond-in-the-rough version of Charleton Heston, really shines out in it. But I have to admit I’ve been disappointed with every other role I’ve seen him in.

As for Hepburn, Ol’ Robbo’s never been much of a fan but she holds up surprisingly well on the frontier, reminding me somewhat of Jean Simmons, another petite mouse, in “The Big Country” (1958) with Gregory Peck.

Now, Peck was an actor of whom I never saw the appeal, even where I like his movies, always playing the same stiff, stern, stand-offish fellah. The Mothe, on the other hand, was a yuge Peck fan. Whenever I asked her what the attraction was, she’d always reply, “You haven’t the genes, dear boy. You haven’t the genes.”

Ah, well.

And just to round off with a more contemporary entry, I watched “Fatman” (2020) the other evening, with Mel Gibson as Kris Kringle. Weeeellll….. It had one or two snort-worthy moments plus a couple intriguing ideas about Santa’s place between reality and myth that never went anywhere, but by the end it was just another “Lethel Weapon” installment. Glad I saw it once, I suppose, but I wouldn’t bother again.


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January 2022