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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!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo supposes that most friends of the decanter are well aware that this past weekend – specifically July 1 through July 3 – was the 150-somethingth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I didn’t post anything about it  because I kind of burned out on historickal postings a couple years back, feeling I was becoming boring and repetitive, and decided to take a break.  Something tells me that I will soon be ready to plunge back in to such things [Ed. – you mean going back to being boring and repetitive?  Quiet, you!] , but I’m not quite there yet.

Anyhoo, I mention it now because I am currently on the back porch of stately Port Swiller Manor in the quiet evenfall, listening to the rain come down and the occasional distant rumble of thunder, and something just now wandered back into what Ol’ Robbo likes to think of as his braim.

You see, on the night of July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle, there was a hell of a thunderstorm over Gettysburg.  It thoroughly drenched the poor wounded scattered all over the battlefield (and probably killed many of them), and hampered both Lee’s efforts to beat a speedy retreat, and Meade’s efforts to chase him down.

Now, the day’s fighting, which had culminated in Pickett’s Charge, also featured a mass cannonade by both sides – the Confederates first trying to soften the Union center, and the Union replying against the Confederate guns and then blowing holes in Pickett’s lines.  And what wandered into Robbo’s braim was a memory that he had read somewhere of an apparently widespread belief of the time that cannon-fire somehow provoked thunderstorms, and that many were not surprised by the deluge that night.

Of course, correlation does not prove causation.  And the odds of getting caught in a thunderstorm anywhere in the American East during campaigning season are, well, pretty good.  Indeed, Central Pennsylvania in particular gets bulls-eyed on an almost constant basis during the summah.  On the other hand,  empirical observation is not to be completely ignored, and I sometimes wonder whether there might actually be anything to it.

No, I’m not going all AlGore here.  I’m talking about a localized phenomenon: all other conditions being satisfied (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.), could a massive discharge of the chemicals contained in gunpowder change the atmospheric balance in a very limited area to produce an isolated weather event?  I remember the Old Gentleman back in the day looking up at baby cumulo-nimbus clouds and remarking that “one more torque of energy” could turn them into thunderheads.  Could such a discharge supply that additional torque?

Beats the hell out of me, but I enjoy wondering about it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

Ol’ Robbo really has nothing planned to mark the occasion this year.  Indeed, as is sometimes the case, I am bacheloring it this week at Port Swiller Manor, as the Gels are scattered about at camp and visits to grandparents and whatnot.  So right now I’m just sitting out on the porch with the cats, the dog, and muh coffee (covfifi?), enjoying the cool of the morning, and trying to muster up the energy to go spread a couple bags of mulch and zap some weeds before it gets too hot.  Depending on whether or when we catch a thunderstorm later, I’ll grill up a bacon-cheeseburger and some corn for my dins and then sit back out on the porch and listen to the fireworks.

Hey, I’m not known as the World’s Most Exciting Man for nothing.

Anyhoo, a few thoughts:

♦  I see the usual crop of “Whither America?” essays out there today bemoaning the polarized state of politicks and the debasement of our so-called culchah, and wondering How Much Longer We Can Go On As A Nation.  My guess? We’ll probably muddle through somehow.  (And I’d have said the same thing even if She Who Must Not Be Named had been elected.)  I still believe that when push comes to shove and people are shaken out of their complacency, there is still enough of the American Character in the majority of the population to see us through.  (Okay, I admit this sounds trite, but it’s either this or a ten-thousand word essay, and I’ve not nearly enough energy for that this morning.)

♦  Good for The Donald for coming to the defense of poor little Charlie Gard and his family.  (Go on over to the linkie to get Ace’s background and take.)  To me, this whole wretched situation illustrates perfectly the monstrosity of single-payer, State-run “health care”.  When Leviathan is lord and master, you are nothing but a slave and your life is nothing but a statistic.  (Oh, and one cheer, I suppose, for Papa Frankie, who finally voiced his support for the Gards as well, although it took him long enough to do so.)

♦  This article on a proposed global nuclear weapons ban and the high art of virtue-signaling made Ol’ Robbo smile nostalgically because it brought back to mind his time at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT in the mid-80’s when, in response to that crazy summbich Reagan threatening to blow up the world, it became very fashionable for various city councils and campus student governments to pass ordinances and resolutions declaring themselves to be “nuclear-free zones”.  (For some reason, Providence, RI stands out in my mind as an example.)

In response, I drew a cartoon for the conservative paper on campus featuring a handy-dandy, do-it-yourself, “personal” nuclear-free zone:  It featured a hippy with a paper bag over his head.

Curiously, there were those who didn’t think this was s’damn funny. (They were the same crowd who were distraught over the campus health center refusing to stock cyanide capsules to be used in case somebody dropped The Big One.)

(A glass of wine with Vodka Boy over at the Puppy-Blender’s place.)

Whelp, better go spread that mulch……

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo does not mean to set himself up as some kind of Beltway Pundit, but I can’t help noticing that events over the past couple weeks – the assassination attempt against Rep. Scalise and other Republican congresscritters, the flurry of sensible Supreme Court rulings, the collapse of the “Russia! Russia! Russia!” narrative, the beclowning of CNN (“Certainly Not News”) and other mainstream media – seem to have kicked the absolute stuffing out of the “Antifa/Resist!” movement.

Oh, sure, it’ll go on – much the way the “Hanging Chad” and “9/11 Truthers” memes have, but I’ve an idea that going forward, it will continue to have less and less weight, and ultimately will be reduced to a few Pajama Boys blogging at one another in fury from their moms’ basements.

It’s just a feeling.

One solid, albeit anecdotal thing I have noticed?  Those “Resist” bumper stickers I was beginning to see on my daily commute?  They seem to have vanished.

Speaking of which, perhaps I’ve hung around the AoSHQ Moron Horde too long, because I am very seriously considering incorporating one of the standard comment jokes over there into a custom bumper sticker which will read:

YOUR CONCERN STATUS:

[X] Noted        [   ] Not Noted

 

What do you think?

** I hope, I hope you all know who said this.

Bad, bad biznay today.  Bad, bad biznay.

Of course, this was obviously a lone-wolf shooter, and we may never, ever, know what motivated him.  All we can do now is light candles, wear ribbons, and stand together,  Dee Cee Stwong.

Oh, and moar gun control!

(Oops! Forgot I had that Sarcasm Function turned on.  I’m still getting used to this durn laptop.)

Honestly, though, I have no idea what is going to happen now that Lefty eliminationist rhetoric is bubbling up and out of the innertoobs and starting to actually affect real world actions in such a dramatic fashion.

From what I’ve seen of the chatter today, there are those on that side who are positively delighted, but surely a great many more sensible liberals – including most of the Establishment types – must realize that if this genie is allowed out, it’s going to come for them, too?

For that matter, even the radicals themselves ought to know this.  Somehow, though, they always seem to think they can ride out the Whirlwind. History would suggest, however, that this is a very foolish bet.  (See, e.g., Robespierre, Maximilien, filed and receipted by the Terror he himself had a major hand in starting.)

If there is not an immediate, united condemnation of this sort of thing, it’s going to get very ugly, very quickly, I fear.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to catch the “Trump” version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar up in Noo Yawk.  It’s just art, you know, but ever so deliciously edgy…..

(Actually and for realz, I’m going to go and watch “Duck Soup”.  What Would Rufus T. Firefly Do?  Answer: “He’d stand ’em up against a wall and *POP* goes the weasel!”)

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy St. Pat’s Day!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t think very much of this “holiday”, given that in its modern, secular form, it seems to be not much more than an excuse for the young people to get thoroughly blotto. It also emphasizes the trivialization of many ancient and important cultural and religious symbols in much the same way that the modern Halloween does.

For all that, I completely forgot what day it was this morning and grabbed a green sweater quite at random.

I felt like an idiot all day.

So now for a bit of Irish random:

– Ol’ Robbo cannot abide either corned beef OR cabbage.

– Despite the title of this post, I know absolutely nothing about Irish whiskey. To the extent I touch the hard stuff anymore, I remain a single-malt scotch man (Laphroig by preference).

– On the other hand, I DO know a thing or two about stout. Mostly, that it should not be quaffed when the outside temperature is anything over about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

– “The Commitments”, the story of one man’s attempt to bring soul music to Dublin, remains one of my very favorite movies. Fookin’ deadly!

– Leprechauns. They’re not cute and cuddly, they won’t enhance your breakfast cereal experience, and God help you if you ever do somehow stumble across their horde of treasure. One of my favorite short stories encapsulating the actual terror associated with “Thim People” is “The Happy Despatch” by Patrick O’Brian. (Yes, THAT Patrick O’Brian. You’ll find it in his book “The Rendezvous and Other Stories”.)

– One of my favorite collections of short stories that really digs down into the “true” Irish character is, of course, “The Irish R.M.” by E. O. Somerville and Martin Ross, a pair of Anglo-Irish ladies writing in the early 20th Century. They are surprisingly sympathetic to the natives.

– One Irishman surprisingly NOT sympathetic to his countrymen was the playwrite John Synge. Writing about the same people at about the same time as Somerville and Ross, he was brutal in his depictions of their backwardness. Ol’ Robbo was in a college production of his “Playboy of the Western World” and actually took lessons to get the brogue right. As my eldest gel is discovering, ANY play is fun to do, but this one was pretty brutal in its depictions. (Small wonder the audience rioted when it debuted in Dublin in 1901, or whenever it was.)

– Whelp, that’s about it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll go listen to a Chieftans CD. Just because.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, if you paid attention to the nooz at all today, you are no doubt aware first, that the Administration released its proposed budget, which boosts defense spending while slashing domestic programs, and second, that the collective Left are having conniptions about it.

Curiously enough, Ol’ Robbo’s immediate reaction to both of these was basically one of …… comfort and nostalgia, and even, shall I say it, delight.

Why? Because this is very familiar ground. Ol’ Robbo remembers exactly the same bun-fights back in the Reagan years. Of course, the stakes (*Cough! Twenty-plus trillion in debt! Cough!*) are considerably higher now, but as Sam Clemens famously did not actually say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Perhaps my favorite beef is over the proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (including PBS and NPR). So far as I can tell, the argument seems to be, “I love Art so much that I DEMAND other people keep paying for it for me, man!!”

Yeah, no. You want it?  You buy it.  (And I say this as a monthly contributor to my local classickal radio station.)

Of course, this is all theatre (talk about Art!) at the moment. We’ll see what emerges once the actual sausage-making process had taken place. My cynical guess is status quo ante, but it’s already been such a crazy year of firsts that who knows?

 

*An anomalous title. I understand that “Sesame Street” went to HBO some time ago. I don’t recall any major outcry over disadvantaged yoots being forced to watch it on a premium cable channel. (By the bye, given HBO’s track record, I can only shudder when I think of the possible story lines they might have developed for the show.)

Greeting, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself watching a program on the Military History channel this evening about “odd” and “bizarre” weapons ideas over the years.

The overall tone of the show is pretty snarky, as in some cases is fairly justified. But one of the topics covered was the Japanese balloon bombs of WWII that were launched against the American west coast. The show laughs them off as being random and ineffective, but ignores an incident that I recall from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest where a parson and his family stumbled across one while on a picnic. If I remember correctly without looking it up, the thing went off and killed most of them.

Ha, jolly, ha.

On the other hand, the show feels compelled to issue content warnings before sections dealing with weapons systems involving pigeons and bats.

What a stupid, stupid time in which we live.

Yeah, think I’ll go read a book.

BTW, I’m reminded again of a story that Churchill became interested in a project to train seagulls to poop on German U-boat periscope lenses. Dunno if that was true, but if not, it should have been.

Update:  Looked it up but can’t link here because I’m on my phone:  the incident occurred May 5, 1945, in Oregon.  Church outing. Five kids and the pastor’s pregnant  wife were killed. Not a good story line for a flippant show about “weird” killing machines.  Feh.

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.

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