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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I can’t link it here because I’m on my phone, but I see via Drudge that the Grammies are tonight and that some of the “stars” plan to “get political”.

Bless their hearts.

Friends of the decanter will already know that Ol’ Robbo has never had any truck with celebrity worship, nor given a wet slap about what some entertainer may think about things. But it seems to me that more and more people are beginning to come round to this same way of thinking, especially now that the totalitarian left has abandoned any pretense that it isn’t fighting a flat-out civil war against Middle America.

I could be mistaken, of course, but if my income depended on ticket or CD sales, I’d probably want to think carefully about who I’m alienating with my virtue-signaling.

BTW, watched “Hail, Caesar” last evening. Meh. The Coen Brothers have definitely done some good films, but they’ve served up some stinkers, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is enjoying a much-appreciated Friday off today. My sole achievement so far has been to refill the bird feeders off the porch, and even then I didn’t bother to change out of my robe and jammers. Hey, I like to watch the birds with my morning coffee. Got a problem with that?

On the whole home computer thing, I’m beginning to lean towards a Laptop of Robbo’s Own.  (Everyone else at home has one, so why not?) Any suggestions? I really only would use it for on-line shopping/research and blogging, so I don’t need anything fancy-shmancy (or pricey). Mrs. R wants me to take the desktop into the Apple store to see if they can fix it, but it strikes me that would probably wind up costing just as much.

Eldest Gel is home for the weekend.  She asked me last evening what I thought of Bitch McConnell telling Liawatha to sit down and shut up in the Senate.  I replied that he also should have told her to go make him a sammich.  The Gel laughed heartily.  That’s my gel!

Well, I suppose I should shift myself soon, as my non-paying job never ends: tax docs to prepare, lightbulbs to replace, and a run to the Bost Office today. But first? Maybe one more cup o’ Joe.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the big nor’easter pounding the East Coast today brought exactly nothing to Your Nation’s Capital.

Not that we aren’t knee-deep in snowflakes here this winter, but they’re of the political rayther than the meteorological variety. Ha, ha, ha.

As a matter if fact, it’s been a relatively benign winter so far this year, and I even noticed yesterday that the forsythia is already starting to bloom. Must be all that glow bull enwarmening that ManBearPig is spreading about. AlGore promises that he’s on the case. Super serial, you guys!

For all that, I can’t remember a year when I so yearned for the return of the warmth as I do this year. Must be getting older or something.

pats-jpegGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s Sooper Sunday once again and the nacho fixin’s are all in place and ready to go.

Ol’ Robbo really hasn’t paid much attention at all to pro football ever since Marino retired, but the Gels and I still generally catch the Big Game.

This year, my greatest motivation for watching is the possibility – however remote – that the Patriots fall on their collective backsides.

Ol’ Robbo detests New England.  Granted, some of that is because of my residual bias from being a former long time Dolphins fan.  But I’m also old enough to remember the days when they were perpetual bottom-feeders, and back then they bore their lowliness with a certain humility and dignity.  However, as soon as they became successful, they immediate turned into a gang of the most obnoxious and arrogant jackasses.  And the Cult of Tom Brady?  Sick-making to a degree.

This seems to be a thing with Bahston-based sports teams (which see the Sawx ever since their break-out season in 2003).  Perhaps it’s something in the water.

Anyhoo, I couldn’t tell you Thing One about Atlanta, and I have no earthly idea how they’ll do against the Belichick Juggernaut, but for what it’s worth, GO FALCONS!

UPDATE:  Oh, and on a much, much more important note, only nine days until pitchers and catchers report!  Ol’ Robbo can’t wait for the boys of summah to return.   GO, NATS!!

UPDATE DEUX:  Sorry, I was thinking of the 2004 Sawx, when they came back from a 3-games to nada deficit to take the Yankees in the American League title bout.  Best. Series. Evah.  And I was supporting them whole-heartedly the entire way.  Since then?  We hates them.

POST-GAME UPDATE TROIS: Dammit.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is back from his week of biznay travel safe and sound.  The trip itself was extremely productive and, apart from the fact that we had to return to the gate in Denver yesterday morning because a passenger suddenly felt sick as we were taxiing out to the runway and were therefore very late, it went remarkably smoothly.  (The fellah in the seat next to me was quite irate.  I pointed out to him that it was just as well the sickie piped up when he did and that it was a hell of a lot better than having to make an emergency landing in someplace like Kansas City.)

As I say, a good week.

Well, except for the rental car, that is.

I may have mentioned after my last trip on this same biznay early in December that these excursions involve driving hundreds of miles in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rockies.  After having been stuck with a small econo-car rental the last time we went out and getting caught in several snow storms, my colleagues and I demanded that the bean-counters let us have an SUV this time.  (Our foresight proved justified, because we got caught in snow storms yet again.)  Surprisingly, they agreed.  To this end, when we got into Denver Sunday evening, we found ourselves presented with a brand new, tricked out, 2017 Ford Explorer.

Ol’ Robbo was pretty pleased with the thing at first, but our relationship almost immediately soured when I realized at oh-dark-thirty Monday morning that I hadn’t the faintest idea how to actually start it up.  (The rental-wallah had started it himself Sunday evening when he was showing me all the whistles and bells and I hadn’t been paying attention because I was so tired.)

To me, starting a car is supposed to be a straight-forward process:

1.)  Insert key.

2.)  Turn key.

3.)  Profit!

Even with past rentals that featured the option of keyless ignition, I have always ignored such option and stuck with this tried-and-true system.  And so I wished to this time around.  However, after spending about ten minutes that morning trying to figure out where the hell to stick the key in, I suddenly made an alarming discovery:

Keyless ignition in THIS car was mandatory.

It was also ridiculously complicated.  First, you had to hit the “lock” button on the remote.  Then, you had to hit the “start engine” button on the remote twice.  Then you had to stomp on the brake and hit the other “start engine” button on the dashboard.  All that just to turn the stupid thing on?  How is this supposed to be an asset to me?

And of course, because it was usually dark when we were heading out in the morning or coming back in the evening and I was completely unfamiliar with the button layout on the remote, even after I figured out the magic sequence all kinds of hilarity resulted.  Sometimes I wound up opening the back hatch.  Sometimes I wound up setting off the alarm.   One morning when I had the remote in my pocket as I was leaning over the hood to scrape off the ice and snow, I managed to do both at the same time.

And of course, since the key wasn’t conveniently stuck in the side of the steering column, I was forever scrambling to find the damned thing amidst all the flotsam and jetsam of the center console whenever we got out of the car.

Yeesh!

This Explorer also featured side mirrors that automatically folded back against the body of the car like a bird’s wings when you shut off the engine.  Unfortunately, while trying to adjust the mirrors, through some combination of buttons on the door I managed to disconnect them from the servo-motor.  The result was that the things blew back against the side of the car all by themselves when I got anywhere above 40 mph or so, a situation that certainly didn’t make highway cruising any easier.  It took about two days for me to figure out how to reconnect them.

Finally, I have never driven a car that was so much of a confounded busy-bodying scold before.

For one thing, it was forever beeping at me in alarum about something or other and displaying all kinds of mysterious visual warnings on the dashboard.  We never figured out what these visuals were supposed to mean (although I suspect at least one of them had something to do with snow covering a headlight) because we couldn’t find the owner’s manual to look up the code.  (We learned later that the manual wasn’t in the glove compartment because it was stored with the spare tire instead.  It was explained that without the manual, changing tires on the thing would be virtually impossible, so the rental people thought it better to do so.)

Also, said Explorer had a hyper-active proximity warning:  One evening, as I was trying to parallel park in a fairly tight spot, the thing started clicking at me.  The nearer I got to the car behind me, the faster the clicking.  I can tell you that this does absolutely nothing for one’s concentration, especially when one is trying to get out of the way of the traffic coming up behind.  (Indeed, I found myself feeling like the guy attempting to disarm the nuke with ten seconds to go until detonation and feverishly trying to decide whether to cut the red wire or the blue.)

Ol’ Robbo can’t stand being nagged.  It’s bad enough when the nagger is one of the Port Swiller wimminz, but a stupid machine?  Even worse.  Over the course of the week, I found myself talking back to the thing in ever-increasing irritation.  “Shut up!” “Mind your own bloody biznay!”  “Who the hell asked you?”  “Which I’m doing it, ain’t I!”

My two companions (both wimminz themselves) thought this was hilarious, but after a while I wasn’t joking anymore.

Anyhoo, it’s just as well that this was only a week’s rental, because there’s just no way that Ol’ Robbo could see a long-term relationship with this car working out at all.

(By the bye, last time out we rented our econo-junker from some down-market outfit where the counter-guy didn’t appear to give much of a damn at all.  This time, we used Enterprise Rent-A-Car.   I dunno what it’s like in their other offices because it’s been years since the last time I dealt with them, but I can tell you that their people at the Denver airport are friendly and helpful almost to the point of ferocity.)

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.

 

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!

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.

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