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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s latest cinematic treat this week was “The General” (1926), the classic Buster Keaton silent film in which he plays a Southern train engineer during the Civil War.   When Yankee spies slip into Georgia and steal a train with which they plan to cause mayhem behind the lines in support of a Union advance, Keaton’s patriotic character (actually named Johnnie Gray), although previously rejected by the Confederate Army (and his girl) because of the importance of his civilian work, nonetheless single-handedly takes off in pursuit with another locomotive and thwarts the Yankee plot.  Of course, I’m probably violating all sorts of Socialist Juicebox Wanker taboos just watching a film that has a sympathetic Southerner as its hero, much less commenting on it.

Without looking it up because I’m being lazy and because I couldn’t link it anyway due to WordPress’s continued cussedness, I’ve an idea that this film is loosely based on an actual Great Locomotive Chase that occurred during the War, although I can’t now recall which side did the original stealing, who chased whom, or what the eventual outcome was.  For some reason, I believe the locomotive involved in that one was called the “Texas”. UPDATE:  The lovely and talented Diane looked it up.  So did I.  She is correct that the stolen locomotive was, in fact, called The “General”, and that the Yankees were the thiefs.  The “Texas” was one of the locomotives the Confederates used in the chase.  Indeed, she was on the southbound tracks and the Rebs ran her backwards in pursuit.  Somewhere or other, Ol’ Robbo still has an old National Geographic book on the War that includes a painting of this backward pursuit.  That’s what was lurking in the recesses of my braims when I wrote this paragraph.

Anyhoo, I haven’t seen this film since I was about thirteen, when the Mothe took me to see it at the old Olmos Theatre in San Antonio as part of a “classics” series that also featured such greats as the Marx Brothers, the “Pink Panther” movies, Hitchcock, and others.  Of course here, Keaton is the film, and the pleasure comes in watching the combination of his deadpan face and the facility with which he did all his own stunts. (His very last film, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” (1966), is a huge favorite of Ol’ Robbo’s, in no small part because his character of Erronius – “a befuddled old man” – is really a loving tribute to Keaton’s skills.)

Alas, the version of “The General” owned by Netflix is seriously marred by the soundtrack that accompanies it, which is nothing more than a series of standard orchestral pieces by such composers as Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and Glazunov strung together one after another and having absolutely no relationship whatsoever to what is happening on the screen.  I may as well have been listening to the damned radio.  After a while, I hit the mute button out of pure, distracted frustration, but of course that creates its own problems:  Not only is a completely silent film  jarring in and of itself, one is also left listening to all those ambient background noises that one started watching the film to escape in the first place:  skirmishing cats; the dog barking at her own shadow; Youngest Gel on the phone in her room two floors above, yacking with her friends at the top of her very considerable voice.  Grrr…..

The film’s mismatched soundtrack also reminded me of an experience I had with an airing of “Nosferatu” on PBS a few years ago.  Friends of the decanter of a certain age may remember an electronics toy of some years back.  It consisted of a battery-powered board on which were embedded various circuits, transistors, diodes, and other do-hickeys.  With the provided wires, you linked them up by various schematic diagrams in the book accompanying the toy, thereby creating a variety of audio and visual devices.  Well, this “Nosferatu” was accompanied by a score which sounded like nothing so much as a kid messing about with this toy – a random series of pings, grunts, clicks, and wah-wahs that again had absolutely nothing to do with the picture. Infuriating.

(By the bye, Eldest watched “Nosferatu” for the first time recently as part of an English class she’s taking on literary monsters.  She simply couldn’t believe it when I told her that there were numerous instances, among its original audiences, of viewers fainting and having hysterics because they were so frightened.)

Anyway, there you are.  Next time, I might just hit the mute button again, steal Middle Gel’s electronic keyboard, and accompany the damned thing myself.

And speaking of silent, next up on Robbo’s movie list is the 1925 version of “Ben Hur”, which I’ve never seen before.  The blurb on the Netflix envelope says that it is accompanied by a score from Hollywood composer Carl Davis, so hopefully this time there will be a little more sympathy between audio and visual.  I’ll let you know.


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!

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, Autumn has definitely arrived in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with mild days and cool, crisp evenings.  It is very much Ol’ Robbo’s favorite season, even when it gets colder and rainy.

For some reason I’ve never completely fathomed, it also puts me in mind to revisit my studies of North American colonialism in general, and the French and Indian War in particular.  Arcane knowledge, some might say, particularly in this day and age of goddam Cultural Marxism where history began fifteen minutes ago, but Ol’ Robbo continues to be of the opinion that one cannot understand America as a concept without understanding her Revolutionary beginnings, and one cannot understand the Revolution without also understanding the Colonial roots from which it sprang.  (And speaking of the Colonial Era, did I ever mention here that my geneology-obsessed cousin recently discovered that ancestors of ours were killed and captured during Shawnee raids on the Virginia frontier in 1759 and 1763?  Hard cheese for them, of course, but pretty durn cool in retrospect.)

Anyhoo, it is always around this time of year that I pull my Francis Parkman off the shelf and delve into his massive opus on the struggle between France and Britain in North America.  This year, I had also been considering revisiting the great Fred Anderson (I have his Crucible of War and A People’s Army), since I haven’t read him in a while.

So imagine my serendipitous delight when I unexpectedly received in the mail from long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory this week a copy of Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monogahela and the Road to Revolution by David Preston, a new-to-Robbo author, but I doubt ODT would recommend him if he was a wrong ‘un.

Poor old General Braddock – hopelessly out of his depth in the tactics of frontier fighting, bushwhacked, receiving a painful and fatal wound, then being buried ignominiously in the middle of the road the remainder of his army retreated over so as not to be dug up and scalped by the Indians.  And all for the sake of Pittsburgh.  I think about that a lot when I’m driving the Gels back and forth to summah camp out in southwestern Pennsylvania.

I’m looking forward to reading this book bigly.

** Spot the reference.

UPDATE:  Poking around on the devil’s website, Ol’ Robbo also found a book authored by Preston entitled The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783 (The Iroquoians and Their World), which of course I immediately had to scoop up as well.   (Ol’ Robbo is the worst sort of impulse-buyer when it comes to books.  I suppose there are worse vices.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere a month or two back, Ol’ Robbo noted here his disappointment over the movie King Solomon’s Mines (in which Stewart Granger spent most of the film imitating Marlin Perkins while Deborah Kerr kept losing bits of her costume), but he also noted that said disappointment had decided him to read the original book by H. Rider Haggard.

Well, let’s just say that good can come of bad, because I just got done with the book and I’m here to tell you that it was a thoroughly enjoyable story: exciting, exotic, at times bordering on the absurd, and occasionally quite creepy and gory.  (I’m recalling a reference to Gagool the Witch that I had seen somewhere else.  I hadn’t known till now that this is where she came from.)  And our friend Allan Quatermain turns out to be the sort of phlegmatic, professional, ambivalent pukka sahib who seems to be at the center of nearly all the stories I’ve read by British Empire writers who have spent any real time on the frontiers (think Kipling, for example).

Incidentally, I’ve also been reading a book the Mothe sent on to me some time this past summah called The Zulu At War: The History, Rise, and Fall of the Tribe that Washed Its Spears by Adrian Greaves and Xolani Mkhize.  It’s a real trainwreck of a composition, but from the tangled prose, it’s still pretty clear that Haggard’s mythical tribe of Kukuanaland is based pretty faithfully on the Zulus, with whom he had extensive personal experience when he was Out East himself.

By the bye, I link specifically to the new edition of KSM put out by the Oxford University Press for two reasons.  First, it comes with very informative textual and explanatory notes, although I think you can probably skip the introduction which seems to be about the psychology behind romance writing.  (Who knew Freud and Jung were both HRH fans?) Second, the cover art by A.C. Michael reminds me very much of the work of the great N.C. Wyeth.

So Ol’ Robbo is definitely going to delve further into Haggard’s writing.  (I believe there are numerous Quatermain adventures as well as others.)  I’m also circling back round to Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but NOT Catriona since I learned my lesson about that one last time; some of the other historickal adventures).  I’ve dipped into Conan-Doyle (The White Company, Brigadier Gerard) but I know there’s lots more left unexplored.  I have all of P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion stories but need to explore further there as well.  Kipling, of course.  Finally, yes, dammit, I need to get into John Buchan.  Any suggestions on where to start with him?

UPDATE: Well, I say I’m going to circle back round to RLS, but that’s only if I can find the #@*^&# fellah!  One of Mrs. R’s least endearing practices is her periodic “tidying up” of the Port Swiller Library, usually when she decides I’ve left too many books stacked up on tables or else when she wants to put a new framed photo or whatnot up somewhere.   The trouble is that, in so doing, she’s in the habit of putting books back on the shelves hugger-mugger and all ahoo, with no respect whatsoever for Ol’ Robbo’s careful organization.  (Mr. Dewey ain’t in it, and I don’t need no stinking decimals, neither!)  Result?  Well, at the moment Jim Hawkins and David Balfour have up and disappeared.

I suppose eventually, after much searching, I’ll find one or both of them wedged between Augustine’s Confessions, a Plum Wodehouse novel,  and Atlantic Salmon Fly-Tying Patterns, but I’d just as soon the Missus didn’t mess about with them in the first place.  Grrr…..


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fortunately for Ol’ Robbo’s blood pressure, Game Four of the Nats/Cubs series (with the latter up 2-1) was postponed this evening due to rain.  I didn’t think I could stand to watch had the game gone forward.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes haunted by apprehensions that he isn’t really a very good father, but this postponement gave him some cause for reassurance in at least one respect:  Both of the Younger Gels independently came to him this evening to argue about the merits of sticking with the planned fourth arm in our rotation versus bringing back our ace.  Surely that counts for something, am I right?

Anyhoo, and violently switching subjects:

Ol’ Robbo, as regular friends of the decanter know, is an enormous fan of the author George Macdonald Fraser.  One of Fraser’s books, written in the late 80’s, is The Hollywood History of The World, in which he compares historickal costume dramas with the “reality” of the periods they purport to represent.  The book is split up into seven sections:  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 has been re-reading it this week.

I don’t think this is one of GMF’s best works, as it covers an awful lot of ground at what I think is a pretty superficial pace, but it does throw out a delightful lot of references.  So, given an evening’s reprieve from the tortures of October Ball, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of opening up this book to its index and dialing up Netflix in order to toss as many of GMF’s references into his queue as possible.  I’m at 90+ films in reserve now, and am pretty sure this is a record.  (Whoever at the NSA has Ol’ Robbo’s file no doubt will have kittens tomorrow morning as a result.)

You know what? GMF’s movie list stretches back to the early 30’s, but a surprising number of his cites are still available, even if some of them are only in the “save” category, which means that the odds of my seeing them are pretty slim.

On the other hand, some of them, as you might imagine, Ol’ Robbo has seen already, some many times.  But others will be new to me and I will post about them here.

Curiously enough, when I got this idea, I was already working through a patch of WWII historickal films, all of which get a nod from GMF.  Here, then, are some very brief reviews:

Sahara” (1943) – I’ve seen it before, but it stands up very well as a nice, tight, film.  An American tank is cut off from the retreat from Tobruk in 1942 and has to make it’s way across the North African desert alone.  Humphrey Bogart is the tank commander, aided by a young Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, the fellah who played Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester ’73 and who, once, you’ve seen him, you’ll never fail to recognize.  Along the way, they pick up an RAMC medico and a couple of tommies, a Sudanese scout and his Italian prisoner, and a Luftwaffe pilot.  Together, they have to navigate between water holes, and also fend off the German unit coming after them.   Good stuff.

A Walk In The Sun (1945) – I cannot recommend.  It tells the story of an American platoon going ashore in Italy.  Unlike in Sahara, I found the characters to be wooden and clichéd.  The pace may very well have matched actual combat conditions, but it didn’t translate well to the screen.  Oh, and there’s a ballad.  Ol’ Robbo hates ballads.

The Desert Fox” (1951) – I also can’t recommend.  Although James Mason is rightly cast as Erwin Rommel (whom I respect as a principled warrior, by the bye), I think the movie tries to do too much in too little time, short-changing Rommel’s skillfulness in fighting in North Africa, his frustration in trying to hold the Atlantic Wall, and his (questionable) complicity in the attempted assassination of Hitler.

Well, there we are.  Game Four? (Sigh.) Bring it on.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where boxing legend Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta has died at the age of 95.

One of Mrs. Robbo’s cousins married a niece of his.  Ol’ Robbo attended the wedding (which was at a catering hall – a compromise, I suppose, since he is Jewish and she is Catholic) and the reception (which was at the niece’s parents’ house, I think) out on Lawn Gyland.

The two things I remember (this was better than 20 years ago) were a) that copies of the couple’s pre-nup were set out for the guests’ reading pleasure in the loo, and b) the presence of a large number of attendees who looked like extras from “Goodfellas”.

I do not recall that LaMotta himself was there, but then I was trying to stay well in the background the whole time, so I really wouldn’t have known.

The couple are still married, by the bye, so apparently the pre-nup was unnecessary.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry about the most recent dearth of posties here – the fact of the matter is that the Mothe’s passing has hit me rather harder – and in more different ways – than I thought it would, and I simply haven’t much been in the mood.

Nonetheless, I feel a bit more inspired this evening, so here are a few bits and pieces for you:

♦ Prayers for the folks along the Gulf Coast suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which, I gather, is now coming back for a second landfall.  From what I’ve read, the people there are really coming together to help each other out.

♦  Most of the stories about Harvey have been coming from around the Houston area, but I b’lieve the storm actually made first landfall farther southwest, and am curious about its effects there.  This is because Ol’ Robbo spent a good bit of his misspent yoot fishing and duck hunting out of Port O’Connor, Texas, much of it within sight of the ruins of an old Coast Guard station destroyed by another storm in the late 60’s or early 70’s.  I’ve an idea that Port O’Connor was somewhere near the eye of Harvey, but can’t find any real information about it.

♦  I saw some pictures of the First Couple visiting Corpus Christi this afternoon to view the damage.  Totally off topic, but by God, Melania Trump is a beautiful woman.

♦  Speaking of politicks, Ol’ Robbo has been trying to come up with a label for the leftist goon squads that have been so much in the nooz lately.  I had considered Neo-Jacobins, but regretfully rejected it as being probably too historickally obscure.  But I’ve hit on an even better one for this day and age:  Antifassholes.   (I don’t care if somebody else has also thought of this – I promise I came up with it my very own self.)

♦  And I think…I think…that the whole Antifasshole movement has overreached itself and is not going to be able to mau-mau the country after all.

♦  Anything else?  Well, probably.  But I can’t think of it right now.  Oh, except Ol’ Robbo has been taking a very, very keen pleasure the past two days asking the two Younger Gels and Mrs. R, “And how was school today?”  Most. Wonderful. Time. Of. The. Year.

No, I am not at all a nice man.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On the eve of his last day of work before a very much needed summah hols, Ol’ Robbo finds himself mulling this and that:

♦  Long time friend of the decanter Diane asks:

– How did it get to be August? Seriously, I feel as if July just poked her head in the door to say hello, then disappeared. I realized this morning that in another week, maybe two, I’ll be driving to work in the dark again. Oy.

Ain’t it da troot?  At least  for myself, I have a ready explanation:  In the past six weeks, I’ve had to make three trips out west for work, including the two-week trial-prep/trial one I just finished up.  Still scary to contemplate how quickly it goes by.

And now we’re rolling into another interesting Fall of Things: Eldest Gel starts her sophomore year in college; Middle Gel is doing the college application thing (with her sights set on early admission at one place in particular which I will go into at another time); and Youngest starts her sophomore year in high school….well, staying out of trouble and hopefully realizing now that if she hopes to get good grades, she’s actually going to have to, you know, earn them herself.

Diane also goes on to note:

– Something is up at my elderly neighbor’s. When I came home Monday, they had a trailer backed in to their parking bay, and a van pulled up in the center. One of their sons and his wife were loading things up, and I overheard bits of “Goodwill or toss?” conversations. As of today, the parking bay, which had been a sort of extra storage spot for the couple, is pretty much bare. Not sure if this is just a huge purge, a purge because they plan to move, or something else. Have never met the son and wife, so didn’t want to pry.

I’m guessing I know exactly what is going on there.  I won’t get into details in this post, but I expect that part of my upcoming hols is going to be devoted to the very same scenario.  The Mothe is not at all well.

♦  Well, okaaaay, then!

♦  Ol’ Robbo has come to a very succinct formulation of a belief that applies to his interpretation of much of what is occupying the headlines these days:  Government is a necessary evil, and politics is a false god.

Kinda covers the bases, don’t you think?  Aaand discounts most of them.

What’s that, comrade? Get my coat, we are going for a ride? Very well, but……..

♦  In the Department of Complete Random, yes, yes I just did indulge myself by purchasing a Sam Grant bobblehead.  Got a problem with that?  I pass his Memorial every day on my lunch-time walkies, and never fail to ruminate on what a decent, modest, but firm and clear-headed fellah he was.

♦  We just destroyed our first yellow-jacket nest of the year.  (Well, we had an exterminator do it for us.)  What would summah around Port Swiller Manor be without a yellow-jacket nest manifesting itself somewhere in the grounds?  At least this year I didn’t discover it by walking straight in to it and getting numerous stings as a result.

♦  Gimme.  No, I am not kidding….

Okay, that’s probably enough for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those two or three of you who have been following the saga of the aches and pains of Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Jeep Wrangler may be interested to know that I took her into the shop this morning, reporting to the fellahs there that I thought there was a problem in the front end because of jittery steering and a howling noise I thought was coming from the right front wheel.

Whelp, this afternoon, the shop gave me a call:  Nope, they said, nothing wrong with the front end.  They’d taken La Wrangler out for a spin themselves, listened intently to the noise, and diagnosed that a bearing was going, in fact, in the rear differential.  Bottom line? Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

In the immortal words of Tom and Ray, “Aw, Jeez!” **

This evening, I came across this article about rear differential noises.  From my own observations, it seems to fit the case here, at least to the point where I figure the service wallahs aren’t trying to rip me off:

There are various situations which can create rear differential noise. For example, howling of gears is a sure sign of wearing. If you notice that the howling noise only occurs during deceleration, then it is a good indicator that the pinion-bearing preload has loosened.

Howling under acceleration at various speeds, however, indicates that the gears are already worn out or are out of alignment or depth with each other. If rear differential noise occurs while accelerating the car only at a certain speed, it is likely because the gears have become worn due to overloading and lubrication failure. If your gears are newly installed and still create a howling noise, double-check its preload  and make sure that the teeth are properly aligned.

Rumbling and whirring noises at speed over 20 mph, moreover, can be the result of worn carrier bearings. For vehicles with C-clip axles, the rear differential noise may change at different turns. Generally, worn out pinion bearings can create whirring noises at various speeds, be it may during deceleration and/or acceleration. If the pinion bearings are the problem, they create more of a whirring noise than a rumble because it turns several times faster than the carrier assembly. Regular clunking every few feet can also be an indicator of a broken pinion gear and/or chipped and damaged ring gear.

Overly worn out bearings tend to make a howling noise when they do not properly support the gears. Rumbling while turning, on the other hand, is a sign of bad wheel bearings. Clunking and banging noises on the corners can be due to lack of sufficient posi-traction lubrication, broken spider gears, or worn posi-traction or limited-slip clutches.  Broken spider gears, moreover, can also immobilize the differential and create a loud, crunching sound during final departure. If the rear differential noise is characterized by clunking every two or three feet, then there is a great chance that a broken ring gear is the problem with the section with the broken teeth banging or grinding as it tries to engage the pinion.

(Emphasis added.)

It really doesn’t bother me that my own initial suspicion was completely wrong.  (I quizzed the fellah on the front end and, as I say, he insisted everything there was fine.)  After all, Ol’ Robbo has never pretended to have the slightest savvy when it comes to auto mechanics, and besides, noise can be a tricky thing to pin down.

No, what I worry about is that the old girl seems to be starting to have multiple issues all at once.  If she carries on this way and becomes a perpetual money-pit, I fear that Mrs. Robbo is going to demand that I give her up and get a new car.  And here’s the thing: Mrs. R has always hated La Wrangler.  For years now, my sole effective defense of her has been that she’s long paid off, so whatever Mrs. R thinks of her in terms of comfort and, eh, panache, at least she serves the Port Swiller Manor exchequer in a positive way.  Were I to go for another, that shield would collapse completely.

We shall see.

** Ol’ Robbo used to listen to the Tappet Brothers every Saturday morning in the very late 80’s up through the 90’s, frequently spewing coffee through his nose at their wit and wisdom.  Alas, I still remember the point where they got on the anti-SUV “GloBull Warmening is gonna kill us all!!!” bandwagon.  If I recall correctly, their response to families (like my own) who argued that they needed to drive SUV’s because nothing smaller could hold multiple children, their gub’mint mandated car seats, and all their other paraphernalia, was basically, “So don’t have so many children.”  Whelp, have this, boys!

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