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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On the way home to Port Swiller Manor this evening, Ol’ Robbo swears he found himself stuck behind someone who was watching teevee while he was driving.  Seriously – I could see his iThingy up on his dashboard with what looked like some guy doing stand-up on the screen.  We were stopping and starting, and this doofus driver kept letting large gaps open up in front of him before he’d notice and then scurry to catch up.


Have people really gone that absolutely bat-shite insane? Have they really become so completely self-absorbed that their personal entertainment trumps all other considerations? Have they become so utterly beholden to their little rectangular electronic gods that they can’t tear themselves away from adoration even for a moment?  (Don’t answer – these are rhetorical questions.  Of course they have.)

It’s almost superfluous to add that the car had Murrland plates on it.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was listening to the local classickal station on the way home this evening when the deejay put in a plug for an upcoming production at one of the local venues of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito.  Even though it’s Mozart, it’s an opera Ol’ Robbo does not really know at all.  (I won’t go into my general dislike of all but a few pre-Romantic operas and absolutely all Romantic and Post-Romantic ones.  Suffice to say that my taste in Mozart’s contributions to the genre is confined to his three great collaborations with Lorenzo Da Ponte, as well as his earlier Die Entführung aus dem Serail. )

I do know, however, that La Clemenza is set during the reign of the Roman Emperor Titus (reigned 79-81 A.D.), and that it has to do with high-level politickal intrigue during his reign.

Anyhoo, what grabbed my attention was the deejay’s pronunciation of the name “Titus” when she said basically the same thing regarding the plot that I’m writing here.  She said, “TEE-tus”.  I’ve always thought the English pronunciation is “TIE-tus”.

There are several possibilities here.  One, the deejay simply is ignorant.  Two, that the deejay was trying to show off her Latin creds.  Three, that there is more than one acceptable Anglicized pronunciations of the name.  Four, that she was just reading copy rayther hurridly and didn’t have time to recognize the name before she spoke it.

I dismiss the first possibility out of hand.  I happen to know that this deejay is well educated and well travelled, and that she speaks at least French fluently.

I also dismiss the second possibility because if she was going for the Latin she would have said “TEE-TOOS” instead of “TEE-tus”.

I bring up the third possibility because of a memory of watching a program somewhere on the Byzantine Empire.  I’ve always pronounced Byzantine as “BIZZ-un-teen”, but the program narrator, a Brit, kept saying, “BYE-ZAN-teen”.  If “TEE-tus” is a Brit thing (and I honestly don’t know), it’s possible the deejay picked that up somewhere and was using it.

As to the fourth possibility? I’m guessing that’s the real answer.  This particular deejay has time-management issues, and frequently has to stomp on the end of a piece she’s playing because she’s run up against the top of the hour and has to cut out for the Nihilist Propaganda Nooz update.

The world wonders.

(Actually, the world probably doesn’t give a pair of dingo’s kidneys, but this kind of thing always grabs Ol’ Robbo’s attention.)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I would imagine that some friends of the decanter (especially those who are still here from the old “meaty, woolly, snippy” Llama Days), particularly after reading a goofy, aimless post like the one immediately below, sometimes ask themselves, “Self? Whatever happened to the old Robbo who was so caustic about the continual cultural and politickal slide into the slime?”

(And as an aside, how was that for a Hardyesque cracker of a sentence?)

Well, I suppose there are a couple of reasons for my steering away from that sort of thing these days.

The first is prudential.  As you know I work in The Swamp.  My first obligation is to support the Port Swiller Family, and it doesn’t seem particularly responsible to endanger my career and their livelihood so that I can indulge in unfettered gratuitous ranting here.  (Not that I would expect a genuine friend of the decanter to rat me out, but what happens if some random Socialist Juicebox Wanker stumbles in here and decides to come after me?  Better wait until I’m retired to say what I really think.)

The second is simple time and energy.  While I keep up with the individual waypoints of this slide – the current Hollywood unmaskings, the NFL debacle, the Roy Moore witch-hunt, etc., – very keenly, frankly, by the end of the day (when I have time to post), there’s nothing much left to say that somebody like Ace or Insty hasn’t already said.  Plus, to be honest, I’m bloody sick and tired of it.  It’s only where I think I have some specific, first-hand knowledge or insight that I feel the urge to put in my two cents.  But then,  see point one.

Most importantly, although, as I say, I keep up with it all, I find myself increasingly detached from the whole awful biznay because I recognize its ultimate meaninglessness in relation to, ah, Higher Priorities.   So you can imagine with what resonance and empathy Ol’ Robbo savored part of yesterday’s reading at Mass from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

– Philippians 3:17-21  (Yes, I quote the KJV here.  Got a problem with that?)

I can’t think of a plainer or more accurate description of the people who dominate the headlines these days than those “whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”

And I want nothing to do with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, cold, dark, early nights mean moar movies for ol’ Robbo, so here are some thumbnail sketches of what has floated across the Port Swiller screen this week.  (None of these are part of my Hollywood History of the World project, by the bye, just mostly what was already in the ol’ Netflix queue.)

Oh, and once again I apologize because my WordPress linky button still doesn’t seem to be working.  Go figure.

Nonetheless, here we go:

Operation Petticoat” (1959) – In 1941, a damaged American submarine has to clear out of the Philippines ahead of the oncoming Japanese invasion.  In the course of her scramble, she picks up a set of a half-dozen female nurses.  Hy-larity ensues, up to and including the need  to paint the sub pink.  A perfectly harmless comedy.  Cary Grant, as the sub commander, would be entertaining just sitting on an empty stage reading names out of a phone book.  On the other hand, Tony Curtis plays his XO.  Ol’ Robbo has never understood the appeal of Tony Curtis, especially when he tries to play pretty-boy sophisticates.  (Here, he is a REMF whose experience to date has been nothing but vamping officers’ wives.)  I think it was Mark Steyn who somewhere mocked Curtis’s ridiculous accent in such roles by quoting, from what I don’t know,  “Yonduh is duh castle of muh fadduh, duh Emperuh.”  All I know is that I howl with laughter at his line from “Spartacus” where he tells Olivier, “I also teach duh Classics.” (BTW, IMDB tells me he also had a bit part in “Winchester ’73“, one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorites.  I’ve never noticed before. I’ll have to look next time.)

I’d never seen this film before, but it brought back to mind the fact that back in my misspent yoot I had watched the teevee series (1977-79) based on it, starring John “I’ll do anything” Astin as the skipper and, ironically, Jamie Lee Curtis as one of the lady crew.  I also immediately recognized, because of the kind of flotsam and jetsam strewed across the Robbo braims, that the series had simply borrowed a good bit of stock footage from the film.  (I’m thinking particularly of the torpedo that hits the truck on the beach, which I think was in the teevee show opening credits.)

Objective, Burma!” (1945) – Another new-to-me film.  A special paratrooper corps jumps into Burma to take out a large Japanese radar installation, but has to hack its way out on foot when air support can’t extricate it.  Errol Flynn – fifteen years older and about fifteen pounds heavier than in his early 30’s swashbuckling days – leads the troops.  Eh, it was okay, if a highly romanticized version of the actual conditions of ground combat in Burma as relayed by George MacDonald Fraser, who was a sniper-scout in the British XIV Army there, in his autobiographical Quartered Safe Out Here.

I think I actually have this one in my queue as part of my Hollywood History project, but in fact I  watched it on Turner Classic Movies this week as part of their Rehabilitating Communism series marking the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.  One of the writers of the film, Lester Cole, was part of the “Hollywood Ten” and was black-listed.  The fellah who MC’s the TCM films these days noted this, and was quick to explain that the Red Scare was nothing more than the gratuitous lashings out of a bunch of close-minded, knuckle-dragging, Bible-thumping, sister-loving, Unpeople of Jesusland and totally without merit.  In this day and age, after all we’ve learned about Hollywood, the Media, Academia, and the Deep State, ol’ Robbo is gob-smacked that these people still have the chutzpah to push that line.

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense” (1984) – What, you think Ol’ Robbo can’t be hip? (Stop laughing.) I watch this concert film every now and again just because I happen to like the Talking Heads (I am sure I’ve told the story here before about the time I listened to their album “More Songs About Buildings And Food” for nearly seven straight hours because it was the only tape I had in my car)  and because I enjoy the pure energy here.  This time, I found myself wondering idly how many calories David Byrne, ah, burned every time he did that show.

Live And Let Die” (1973) – The first of the Roger Moore Bond films, of course.  I hadn’t seen it in years, and was immediately struck, in terms of pacing and story, at how much more like the old Connery films had been, as opposed to the more, eh, frivolous and gimmicky direction the later Moore editions took.  Of course, I was also struck by the lovely and talented Jane Seymour, who I believe debuted here.  My stars, though, I’ll bet the Socialist Juicebox Wankers scream “Raaaaaayciiiiiist!!!!” over this one at the top of their Pajama-Boy voices these days.

So there you have it.  Feel free to add your own opinions, observations, comments, reflections, recommendations, etc.

In the meantime, I’m off to watch “Damn the Defiant” (1962) – Alec Guinness plays the captain of one of His Majesty’s Ships during the Napoleonic Wars trying to keep his sadistic Number One, played by Dirk Bogarde, from driving his crew to mutiny.  I’ve only seen this movie once before and retain a generally positive memory, but we will see what a return viewing produces.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Must be an awfully slow nooz cycle this afternoon, because at the 6 P.M. top o’ the hour break on the local classickal station, Nihilist Propoganda Radio devoted a portion of its precious three minutes to getting it’s knickers in a wad over the Wisconsin State Senate eliminating the minimum hunting age.  [Sorry, no linky at the moment because WordPress is acting up this evening.]

The piece was mostly about “critics'” concerns that the woods would now be filled with unsupervised shotgun-toting toddlers spraying Death left, right, and center, and How Could Any Responsible Government Allow This?

It was only at the very end the reporter admitted that, in fact, 34 other states have no minimum hunting age.

I laughed out loud at that.

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t been hunting in nearly thirty years, nor has he passed on to the Gels any of his remaining knowledge of it.  Mrs. Robbo has a strong Bambi Complex, and said sport was never important enough to me to be worth picking a fight with her over it.

Nonetheless, the nooz does provoke some fond memories.

I must have been about five or six when I first started tramping around after the Old Gentleman as he went quail hunting in South Texas.  On certain special occasions, I was rewarded for my pains by being allowed to fire off his shotgun at a piece of wood floating in a stock tank.  At least once, the thing knocked me down.

When I was seven, I started learning how to shoot in earnest, firing a little .22 at tin cans set up on fence posts in our back yard.  (There was no one living behind us, only empty scrub.)

The next year, I graduated up to a Remington .222, and put in some earnest time at the local rifle range.  During hunting season that year, I bagged a white-tail buck and a big tom turkey (which we had for Christmas dinner – delicious!).

When I was about twelve or thirteen, in addition to my rifle work, I started learning to use a shotgun, shooting skeet in the summah and hunting duck in the winter.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was actually a pretty decent wing-shot.

And that was it.  I went off to college and don’t recall ever deer hunting again.  The aforementioned Last Hunt (dove hunting with the Old Gentleman in the South Carolina Low Country) was over Christmas Break of either my first or second year of law school, and my eyes were so damn bad by then that I couldn’t even see the bloody birds, much less knock them down.

So that was that.

Still, as I say, I’m fond of the memories.

Now, so long as I’m on the topic of guns, I will also say that the one thing I dearly wish to happen is that the Gels all learn to arm and defend themselves.  Alas, I can’t put them any knowledge myself, because I’ve never actually fired a handgun in my life.  The signs, however, are hopeful:

For one thing, even though Mrs. R still loathes hunting (because Bambi), she is gradually shaking off her belief that guns are evil and icky and likely to jump up and shoot you all by themselves.  I’ve almost convinced her to let me bring a weapon into Port Swiller Manor for home defense.  (Which reminds me:  My brother still has his Remington 12-guage given to him by the Old Gentleman for Christmas one year.  What the hell ever happened to mine?)  And she does not flat-out object to the idea of the Gels arming up, either.

For another, one of Eldest Gel’s profs teaches an off-campus shooting course from time to time, and she’s said more than once that she’s going to sign up the next time it’s available.  She’s also said she plans to buy a gun as soon as she’s old enough.

For a third, Middle Gel recently went out to a local range with a Young Gentleman friend of hers (and his family), and had a ball blazing away at the targets with a variety of hardware.  (I’m especially concerned about her because she’s such a petite thing.)

Fourth, Youngest is keen to give it a try as well, although based on her learner’s permit driving woes (she struck out on the test for a third time), I’m not sure she has the necessary focus yet.

So there’s that.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo just learned that Youngest Gel, now a high school sophomore, made varsity swim team again this year.  It’s always gratifying to see one of your kids achieve something genuinely solid as a result of her own self-motivated hard work.  Woo Hoo!

Swim meets, by the bye, are a very moderate entertainment for those of us stuck in the bleachers.  The kid is only in the water for a few seconds at a time, with loooong intervals between each of her competitions, and what with everyone wearing the same suit, goggles, and cap, most of the time I can’t even tell which one she is.

Nonetheless,  I am still very pleased and proud (as is she).

** Yeah, yeah, I know.  But I’ve got a blog and there you are.  Just wait – in a few years I’m likely to start posts with the sentence “Let me tell you about my grandchildren……”


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all remembered to move your clocks back last evening in accordance with whichever kind of “Official Time” we’re now shifting to (I can never remember which is Daylight Savings and which is Standard).

The most immediate effect at Port Swiller Manor was that Ol’ Robbo did his first “blind grilling” of the season this evening.  There’s no direct light on the Port Swiller patio, only a bit of ambient light coming down from the porch and the library windows above.  So determining when Mrs. R’s feesh  or my own steak is done is really more a matter of dead reckoning than anything else. (Don’t worry; I’m a professional.)

Of course, the time change also means that starting tomorrow, Ol’ Robbo’s evening commute goes completely dark.  In one sense, this is a Good Thing, in that it means there are fewer cyclists and pedestrians wandering heedlessly across my path in that self-centered way of theirs.  In another, though, it’s a Bad Thing, in that those who do wander thusly are a heck of a lot harder to spot.  (I pass over several crosswalks heavily used by students at one of the downtown universities.  Half the time, they don’t even bother to look.  Damned kids.)

And of course, we’re about six or seven weeks out from the winter solstice, which means that even though I now get an extra hour of light for my morning commute, soon that one will be reduced to darkness as well.   (And my doc wonders why I have a Vitamin D deficiency!)

This time of year is always a bit disconcerting, because commuting between the Swamp and the Port Swiller neighborhood, I can no longer really notice what’s going on around me, and it’s only if I happen to be out driving about, say, on a weekend, that I get to “catch up” as it were in the “Yikes, when did they knock that house down?”  or the “Oh, so that’s the roadkill the stink is coming from!” sense.

(Oh, and speaking of clocks and commuting, the one clock I never change is the one in La Wrangler.  The dealer set it for me when I bought her back in April, 2003, and I haven’t touched it since.  As of now, it’s an hour (and three minutes) fast, and will stay that way until we switch over again.  For some reason, this irritates the hell out of my family.  Heh.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

*Assumes Andy Rooney voice* – Ever have one of those moments when you suddenly realize how fast life is actually moving?

I was thinking about that early this morning after I heard Middle Gel slip out of the house and drive off.  She’s going to an all-district choir audition today, and then later is off to a Young Life weekend retreat somewhere out in the country.  I won’t see her again until late tomorrow evening.

Then again, last weekend when she was home from college, I helped Eldest rehearse a mock video job interview for her public speaking class and realized that’s going to be the real deal before I know it.

And then again, again, yesterday I had to put my foot down with the Youngest and say I didn’t care whether there was a guestroom or not, or who else was going to be there, she was not staying overnight at her boyfriend’s house because Nice Young Ladies Don’t Do That Sort Of Thing, so stop asking!

To cap it all off, the Mothe would have been 83 today.  Ol’ Robbo is still pretty shaken up about losing her.  Ironically, though, because of that loss, the Port Swiller Manor mortgage goes bye-bye today.

To quote a favorite soliloquy:  “Vrooom! What was that?  That was your life, mate.  Oh, that’s nice – do I get another?  Sorry, mate.”

Oh, well.  Back to the world of dreams….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that his beloved Nationals’ season has ended in another first round playoff humiliation, Ol’ Robbo has turned his attention back to his Netflix movie queue.   By happenstance, over the last few days I’ve seen a couple of new-to-me movies, my quick thoughts on which I offer for your consideration:

“Hell To Eternity” (1960):  Evidently based on the real-life story of Guy Gabaldon, it tells the tale of a young boy orphaned in East Los Angeles by the Depression who is adopted by an immigrant Japanese family.  When WWII breaks out, Guy joins the Marines, and because of his bilingualism, is instrumental in capturing numerous prisoners during the American invasion of Saipan.

The movie’s kind of uneven.  The early yoot set up is a bit hokey, and there’s a long Hawaiian shore-leave section that goes absolutely nowhere.  On the other hand, the emphasis on America as a melting pot instead of a (Balkanized, poisonous) fruit salad is very good (although the movie doesn’t duck the thorny issue of Japanese internment camps), and the scene in which Guy gets his adopted mother’s blessing to go fight Imperial Japanese troops is pretty moving.  Also, there are some good close-quarter ground combat scenes.

Jeffrey Hunter, who I suppose I ought to know but don’t, plays Guy.  Most of the rest of the cast is fairly unremarkable, but I chuckled over the fact that one of Guy’s brothers is played by a young George “Oh, My!” Takei. (UPDATE: As lynx-eyed commenters note, yes, I do know Hunter a bit, even if I didn’t realize it.  Shoulda checked IMDB first, I suppose.  Turns out he also had a bit part in “The Longest Day”, but then, who didn’t?)

The Bounty” (1984):  Another retelling of the mutiny by Fletcher Christian and a large part of the crew of HMAV Bounty against the harsh Captain Bligh.  A source I usually trust had dismissed this movie as historickally accurate, but not very entertaining.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to disagree strongly with the latter half of this assessment: Ol’ Robbo thought the movie very well done, indeed, with gorgeous camera work, intelligent period detail, and a plot that hummed along at a very good pace.

Anthony Hopkins gets Bligh’s difficult personality down nicely.  And Mel Gibson plays Christian (accurately and very well) as something of a ne’er-do-well who simply goes native in Tahiti.  (As an aside, what is it with Mel’s need to indulge in on-screen masochism in every single one of his films?  In this one, we see a shot of him having a gasping conversation with Hopkins while having a very large tattoo pounded into his lower back.)  The film also features such heavy-weights as Olivier, Edward Fox, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s pet peeves is the unwarranted maligning of Captain Bligh in popular culture, largely due to Charles Laughton’s entertaining but damn near libelous caricature of him (“MIS-tuh CHRIS-tian!”) in the old 1935 version, with Clarke Gable playing Christian as the noble hero.  Bah!

Incidentally, one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorite authors, George MacDonald Fraser, wrote a book called The Hollywood History of the World:  From One Million Years B.C. to Apocalypse Now, in which he discusses Tinseltown’s treatment of various historickal epochs: The Ancient World: Knights and Barbarians: Tudors and Sea-Dogs: Romance and Royalty: Rule, Britannia; New World, Old West; and, The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo, rereading this book, recently had the brilliant idea to flip through the index and add every single reference available to his Netflix queue.  I’ve now got about eighty films marked down, many of which I haven’t seen before.  I’ll post my thoughts on them as I work my way through much the same way as I’ve done here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Ol’ Robbo is off to watch an old favorite of an “historickal” film, that classic Errol Flynn swashbuckler, “The Sea Hawk” (1940).  Dashing English buccaneers and eeeevil Spanish Dons.  What more could one want?  Oh, and Flora Robson, as Good Queen Bess, is a perfect example of someone who nobody could honestly say is physically beautiful, but nonetheless carries herself with a spirit and a humor that she is  downright attractive.  (Yes, “she has a great personality” is an ugly-covering cliché, but there is a great deal of truth in it, as I’m sure most, if not all, friends of the decanter have discovered from personal experience.  If you don’t understand, you’re probably too young to be sipping port here anyway, so vamoose! )

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Halloween is upon us.

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo is not at all fond of this “holiday”.

Indeed, this year, I didn’t even bother to carve a jack-o-lantern, even though this is one of the very few aspects of the day that I’ve always really rather enjoyed, as I see it as a vestige of the original spirit of the day and not the product of the nasty modern secular/commercial virus which has infected this and just about every other holiday (with the possible exceptions of the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving) in this wretched day and age.  (So long as we’re talking three triangles and a toothy grin, and none of this fancy-shmancy “pumpkin art” stuff, mind you).   We have a pumpkin, but it remains un-lobotomized and faceless on the front porch, and will stay there in such condition probably until the beginning of Advent.

Not that it matters much.  What with where Port Swiller Manor lies in relation to the rest of the neighborhood, we get very, very little traffic here.  Even our next door neighbors, who have three small kids, general go off to the trick or trunk at the local church.  UPDATE: Of course as I typed this, some kiddies showed up at the door!

Also, of course, the Gels have outgrown the day, so there’s nothing much in it for us now.  Indeed, the only nod paid was by Youngest Gel, who went to school in a home-made Waluigi costume that consisted of nothing more than a long-sleeved purple shirt and a set of “overalls” jury-rigged from her jeans and a pair of suspenders she borrowed from me.  Truth be told, she looked rather fetching.

Fortunately, tomorrow is All Saints Day, one of Ol’ Robbo’s very favorites in the entire calendar.  So I will spend the balance of this evening hiding, and looking forward to a better day in the morning.

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