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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On behalf of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art, here’s wishing you all a Happy Halloween!

It’ll be a quiet one here in the neighborhood. I don’t see much by way of “decoration” this year and there’s a respectable chance of rain this evening (the first I can recall in many years). On the other hand, some of the Karens tried to “vote” to move trick-or-treating to this past Saturday because this is a school night. They failed. Heh.

As for Port Swiller Manor itself, our street is a sort of neighborhood peninsula which gets almost no through-traffic. In past years, it was only kids from houses right around us who visited and they’re almost all grown up now. Ol’ Robbo isn’t even bothering with a jack-o-lantern, although I believe Mrs. R got in some candy Just In Case.

As for myself, I shall celebrate in what is now my usual fashion by hiding in the basement and re-watching “Young Frankenstein” for the umteenth time. What knockers!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it’s that time of year when every Saturday starts to include multiple trips out into the woods behind Port Swiller Manor with a tarp full of leaves (from the driveway, sidewalks, and front ditch) over my shoulder and the heavier footwear is indicated. As regular friends of the decanter will already know, I’ll be griping about this steadily well into January.

In the meantime, mowing the lawn is as much about mulching (other) leaves as it is cutting grass. Ol’ Robbo actually loves this. There is a very pleasing sense of order from chaos when I behold the sharp line between the bright, green grass over which I’ve already passed and the jumbled yellows, reds, and browns of the way in front of me.

Of course, this is only a fleeting illusion since the leaves continue to come down. One of our first blog friends back in the earlies was a site called TexasBestGrok. His tag line read, “Like cutting water with a knife”. I often think about that this time of year.

But isn’t that the story of Civilization anyway?

By the bye, the word is doubtlessly flying about the decanter: Where are Ol’ Robbo’s Bean boots? Well, I generally save those for the colder, wetter weather. This pair of Timberlands actually has a bit of a history. Something over ten years ago I had to go out to the Quad Cities to take some depositions. I swear that I checked the weather prior to the trip and nothing was in the forecast. However, when we got to Chicago we learned that a blizzard was inbound in the next day or so. I’d brought nothing but regular shoes with me. Fortunately, my colleague was from the western burbs and knew of an outlet mall right along the highway we were taking, so I stopped in and bought these. As it turned out, I certainly needed them. (I tried to expense them as a biznay necessity when I got back but was indignantly declined.) Anyhoo, they’ve held up very well ever since.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

All these years, Ol’ Robbo has studiously avoided the fever swamp that is Twitter. I’ve never had an account, never posted anything there, and don’t read it except sometimes when somebody reposts a link at another website. Nope, nope, nope.

That said, I am enjoying the Elon Musk takeover saga bigly. Yugely, even.

It’s a good thing I stocked up on all that popcorn.

Let the entertainment proceed!

UPDATE: Per RBJ’s comment, Not The Bee’s Musk Meme Roundup. Are you not entertained?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo learns, via the weather guys on his FacePlant feed, that a sequel to the movie “Twister” (1996) is in the works.

My first reaction was that Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both dead, and Helen Hunt is way too old to be running around in a t-shirt and sports bra. Why not let things be.

There doesn’t appear to be much information on the retread, er, update yet. IMDB only has a plot summary:

Twenty years ago, scientists achieved the impossible. They collected a full data set from the inside of a monster F5 tornado. Through the application of this data, they were able to create Antheia, an advanced early warning system. With this information, thousands of lives have been saved and populations have grown comfortably under the watchful eye of their protector. However, whilst science has become complacent, mother nature has continued to evolve…

If by “evolve” the plot does not spell out that “populations” have brought this New Terror on themselves via anthropogenic glowbull enwarmening, and that “science has become complacent” because it was bought off by Big Energy, Ol’ Robbo will personally go down to the Capitol, strip off all his clothes, and sing “I’m a Little Tea Cup” complete with choreography.

I’ve seen the original more times than I care to admit but I honestly have no interest in this one.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Virginia, I guess there really is a Santa Claus. Those of you following the great Port Swiller Manor basement saga may recall Ol’ Robbo mentioning, with deep cynicism, that we were going to try and wangle a little dosh out of our insurance policy to make up for some of the costs of the water damage and repair. Well, we got the word yesterday that not only are they coming through, they’re ponying up far, far beyond any amount I thought at all possible. I have no earthly idea of the whys and wherefores, but there it is. Huzzay, huzzah!

I say “we”, but as a matter of fact the credit for this victory goes entirely to Mrs. Robbo, as she was the one who filed the claim and kept after it. Myself, I probably wouldn’t even have bothered trying.


So, it’s the Astros and the Phillies in the Series, eh? Ol’ Robbo can’t say that he is positively rooting for one team or the other. In thinking it over, the only skin in the game I can find is the preference not to see Bryce Harper get a ring. Is that petty and shallow of me? I think so. I think so.

Still, I suppose “Go Astros”.


UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo meant to mention that Mrs. R and the elder Gels reported back on the wine festival they went to this past weekend. Turns out it was Halloween themed and there were “pairings” of wine and candy. I don’t mean bubbly and chocolate, I mean sweet whites with Starbursts and such!

What the heck do people think sometimes? This is how Rome fell.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just a few thoughts from Ol’ Robbo’s bachelor weekend viewings:

“Dodge City” (1939) – From Netflix. My first viewing and most likely my last. It’s not a bad story, mind you, but I’m sorry, I just can’t accept Errol Flynn as a cowboy/gunman. He’s too, for lack of a better word, pretty. UPDATE: Perhaps “stylized” is the better word. He can get away with it in swashbucklers because that’s mostly fantasy for the audience. But there are just too many genuinely tough cowboy characters out there for him to succeed they same way in this genre.

Red River” (1948) – From my collection. A very, very good movie with one major flaw. Chekhov once wrote, “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” (He said the same thing in a couple other forms, too.) When Montgomery Clift and John Ireland, rival gun-slicks, first meet, it’s foreshadowed that eventually they’ll have to fight it out between them. Walter Brennan even says so explicitly. Yet nothing ever comes of it.

The Train” (1964) – Another Netflix rental. Why is it that I like Burt Lancaster so much in this film but have been disappointed by everything else of his I’ve ever seen? I suppose it’s just a function of character and directing. And I love how the film gets around everybody else having a German or French accent while Burt talks in good ol’ ‘Murican by simply ignoring it.

So there you have it.

UPDATED DEUX: So what shows up in my mailbox today from Netflix but another Flynn western – “San Antonio” (1945). Guess I’ll watch it to see if he’s a little more believable this time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely autumnal day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, cool and bright.

Ol’ Robbo got a real treat this morning. I had to drag myself out of bed at oh-dark-thirty to take Mrs. R to the airport. (She flew out to see the elder Gels for a couple nights. I gather they’re going to a local wine festival tomorrow. “Indiana” and “wine” are not two words I would normally associate with each other. I’ll be interested in the report.)

Ol’ Robbo dislikes airport drops, especially in the dark, as I don’t see very well (especially when still half asleep) and people are idjits, but eventually I managed to maneuver through, send off the Missus, and break back out.

And then came the treat. Coming back east on the highway I had a huge, clear sky in front of me. From pitch dark at its top, it shaded steadily lighter down to the horizon where, just above the tree-line, it held the slightest suggestion of an almost salmon color. And the crescent moon rode above it all.

Heavenly. In every meaning of the word.

Of course, it was still dark when I got home so I went back to bed. (Another treat.)

As regular readers will know, a crew was here working on the basement all week. Ol’ Robbo was concerned that their constant tramping back and forth across the front yard was going to do bad things to the grass, but when I went out to mow today, it seemed this wasn’t the case. Trampled a bit, yes, but not torn up. (They’ve got about a half day’s worth of work left and things are looking really good. I suppose it says something about Ol’ Robbo’s age and station that I am genuinely excited to see a new sump pump installed.)

Friends of the decanter may recall the great maple downing of last year. After I cleaned up all the lesser branches myself, I had a crew cut up the larger ones and the trunk into logs, which are still sitting in a pile outside my back gate. They’re all at least a foot and a half or better in diameter. Perhaps a bit overly-ambitious, a week or two after they were cut up I took a wedge and a sledge-hammer and tried to split one of them. I don’t pretend to be the strongest guy in the world but I’m no weakling, either. That said, it was like trying to split iron. I was looking them over again this morning, thinking of having another go. Now that they’ve had better than a year to season, I’m hoping for more positive results.

Well, that’s that and Ol’ Robbo must be off to seek out his din-dins. Weiner schnitzel and potato pancakes for me tonight! (Yet another treat. A meal I only make when Mrs. R is not around in deference to her sensibilities. I try to explain that if God didn’t want us to eat the veals He wouldn’t have made them so tasty, but she isn’t persuaded.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Trafalgar Day! Ol’ Robbo was trying to imagine how Lord Nelson’s “England expects” signal would go over nowadays, even translated into authentic post-modernist gibberish, but couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t have landed him in the HR office before he could say, “Kiss me, Hardy!”

I realize that I’ve tailed off on my historickal posting here a great deal since the old days. I’m not sure why, except that coming up with original insights for annual celebrations of births, battles, and deaths gradually changed from pure pleasure to something closer to work. I keep waiting for it to feel fresh again. We’re not quite there, yet.

Anyhoo, speaking of fresh, my eye was caught this morning by a side note by Professor Mondo, who writes:

[Side note: I occasionally encounter people who are puzzled by my habit of re-reading books — particularly fiction. “You know what happens; you know how the story turns out, who lives and who dies. Why do you read them again?”

I often ask in return, “Do you only talk to your friends once in your lives?” End of side note.]

Robbo approves of this sentiment. Indeed, I wish I could borrow it and the Way-Back Machine to revisit the partner at the law firm for which I worked twenty-five years ago who was astonished that I had read some fictional piece or other more than once.

As it happens, I also possess a curious quirk in that no matter how many times I’ve read a given story, there’s always a tiny part of my brain that thinks things might turn out different this time. For example, what if the Black Riders actually capture Frodo in the Eastfarthing? What if the Waakzaamheid doesn’t broach to, but instead sinks Jack Aubrey’s horrible old Leopard? What if Dr. Messenger doesn’t go and get himself drowned, leaving poor Tony Last alone and delirious with fever? I actually find myself feeling a sense of relief when things turn out the way the rest of my mind knew perfectly well they would.

Perhaps this makes me a bit of a nut, but I knew that anyway. It also lets me read a book twenty or thirty times, taking some new insight away each time without getting bogged down by boredom.

Now pardon Ol’ Robbo – he needs to go make sure that the Brits still won this time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is informed by Mrs. R that today is the 22nd anniversary of our move into Port Swiller Manor. Huzzay, huzzah!

I have said here before and will repeat now that I never, ever want to move again and sincerely hope that the last time I leave this place, it’ll be in a box.

However, what with the ongoing basement project, Ol’ Robbo is once again encountering a familiar situation. Over the years I’ve had electricians, plumbers, and builders poking about the innards of the place say something along the lines of, “I don’t know why they did this [pointing to a particular bit of wiring, plumbing, etc.] that way, but…….”

It used to worry me. Now I just smile. The house was built 50 years ago and hasn’t fallen down yet. I reckon it’ll stand up long enough to see me out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Being exiled from the Port Swiller Manor basement and its electronic entertainments for the time being, Ol’ Robbo took his DVD player with him and successfully hooked it up to the flat screen in one of the Gels’ bedrooms. That’s a pretty good achievement, given my lack of technological chops.

However, I had to get ambitious. For reasons beyond me, the picture wasn’t formatting for the full screen but instead was rayther squashed up. In trying to correct this, I seem to have turned on the closed-captioning and damme if I can figure out how to turn it off again.

I swear I found the right button on the DVD remote. I swear I found the “cc” function and turned it to “off”. Indeed, I went round the world of the “audio” functions, at one point even turning the soundtrack into dubbed French. And yet, here we still are.

Part of me wonders if this is not the DVD player itself but instead some sort of built-in, nefarious do-gooderism of the Gel’s screen. So far, I haven’t managed to figure out the “functions” on that thing.

Ah, well.

As it happens, Ol’ Robbo watched “Blazing Saddles” last evening. I have to admit that hearing “I Get A Kick Out Of You” in canned French was amusing, as were some of the attempted captions. I don’t know how that’s done these days but took a malignant pleasure in the thought of some snerp cringing away over his earphones and keyboard. (If I’m wrong about this, don’t tell me.)

While on the subject, I will just say here that when I try to watch Brooks movies as movies, I’m disappointed. When I get it in my head that they’re really just series of gags and one-liners strung together, I find them much more entertaining. The only exception to this rule, in my humble opinion, is “Young Frankenstein” (which I always watch on Halloween) and I believe Gene Wilder wrote most of that.

Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph!


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October 2022