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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.

Merely as a palate-cleanser after the day’s insanities, Ol’ Robbo will note here that he spotted a new-to-me word on a bumper sticker this morning, “ferroequinology“.

I gathered it had to do with train-spotting, both from the context (an illustration of a locomotive and some text to do with wandering around tracks), but also because I remember enough Latin to know that “ferro” + “equus” = “iron” + “horse”.

I looked the word up on Wiki and evidently it’s a “non-standard” term invented by the people who go in for this particular hobby, but it still made me smile.  What better pseudo-scientific name could they have hit upon, after all?

Feel free to incorporate it into your next cocktail  party conversation.  And thank me later.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sitting out on the Port Swiller Manor porch on what amounts to a beautiful early October morning, it’s hard to fathom what’s happening or about to happen Down South.  Prayers for all friends of the decanter in Flahrduh, and stay safe!

Ol’ Robbo has a personal interest in this one because most of Mrs. R’s family live in South Flahrduh along the Atlantic coast.  The In-Laws bugged out the other day and are staying up here until it’s over, but they had to leave Mrs. R’s grandmother, who is too frail to move, and several sets of aunts, uncles, and cousins also decided to ride it out.  It’s not that I worry they’ll drown or get crushed by debris.  Instead, I worry about the aftermath – utilities gone, food and water running short, etc., etc.  Fortunately (at least for them), as of this morning it looks like Irma’s track has slid a little farther west and they’re more and more likely to be spared the brunt.  Hard cheese for those on the Gulf side, though.

As I say, hard to fathom from here.

Anyhoo, here’s some inconsequential nonsense:

♦  I am delighted to report the presence of no fewer than three separate hummingbirds at my feeder this year.  Last year I had two, and the year before – when I first hung it out – only the singleton.  They’re all hens (if one can properly use the word “hen” for the females of this particular species) and spend most of the time fighting one another.

♦  Speaking of hen-fights, Ol’ Robbo saw an article this week reporting that somebody was going to film an all-grrrlz version of “Lord of the Flies” and some Socialist Juicebox Wankers are upset because grrrrlz could never possibly treat each other that way.  I mentioned this item to Middle Gel, who only laughed.  “Do these critics even know any girls?” she asked.

♦ Speaking of movies, Ol’ Robbo watched the 1950 version of “King Solomon’s Mines” the other evening.  I try to like this film, I really do, but I always come away from it with a feeling of “meh”.  I think it’s because the story is good but the acting is flat.  Deborah Kerr does nothing for Ol’ Robbo, Stewart Granger (at least in this film) seems pretty wooden, and Richard Carlson’s English accent is ridiculous.  Are any of the other film versions of this story worth a dekko?

♦ And on the same topic, has any friend of the decanter ever read the Rider Haggard book on which the KSM films are based?  Ol’ Robbo has not read any Haggard himself but means to one of these days.  I probably ought to get on to that before they’re banned by the Thought Police.  (Toxic masculinity and British Imperialism, you know.  Can’t have that!)

Well, speaking of getting on, I suppose I had ought to finish my kahfeh and go mow the lawn.

UPDATED:  Done and done.  Do you know how much rain we’ve had in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this year?  Enough so that I have not once been able to get through mowing the entire yard without stopping to clean the mud and wet clippings out of the blade housing, usually more than once.  That’s how much.

And while I was mowing, I said to myself, “Self, why don’t you just try reading “King Solomon’s Mines” yourself?”  So, as I had other biznay just now over to the devil’s website, I picked up a copy.  While I was at it, I also picked up Hugh Walpole’s “Rogue Herries” for no other reason than that John Cleese mentions it in the “Cheese Shop” sketch and I’ve always been curious.

I’ll let you know what I think.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ever have a book which you genuinely dislike, yet you still feel compelled not only to read it but to reread it?  My personal gremlin is Jeff Shaara’s The Last Full Measure.  It continues to bother the hell out of me (whatever the arrangements might have been) that he lifted the entire concept – story, style, language, and all – straight off his father; the book’s way too long-winded; and if I had a quarter for every time he mentions “the screams of the wounded”, I’d be a very rich man.

And yet, even though I’ve already read it four or five times, I tossed the damned thing into my bags when I went away on my recent trip, I’m now to the point where Grant is just investing Petersburg, and I know for a certainty that I’m going to feel compelled to finish it yet again.

I believe psychiatry has a term for this kind of behavior.

At least I’ve reached the point of familiarity where I can skim over great chunks without any sense of guilt or loss, but still……

Anyhoo, the good news is that I will be seeing my brother on my upcoming hols and he is promising to bring along a fist-full of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels.  I’ve never read any of them (although I heard a portion of Dr. No on tape years and years ago), and am quite looking forward to trying them out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is currently making his way for the umpteenth time through the Flashman Papers (yes, I know I should be expanding my horizons elsewhere) and it suddenly occurred to him that he had never heard Flash Harry’s favorite song, “Drink Puppy Drink” by George Whyte-Melville.

Whelp, through the magic of YooToob, to look it up (at least in its regimental version) was the work of an instant.  Probably not much like the single-finger-on-the-keyboard version Flashy performed while enduring the tender embraces of Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar, but I pass it on just in case you’re interested.  Enjoy!

And here, in case you’re further interested, are what this site says are the lyrics to the song:

Now here’s to the fox with his ass beneath the rocks,
Here’s to the line that we follow.
And here’s to every hound with his nose upon the ground,
And a-merrily we whoop and we holloa!

Chorus (after each verse):
So drink, puppy, drink, let ev’ry puppy drink
That’s old enough to lap and to swallow;
For he’ll grow into an hound,
And we’ll pass the bottle ’round,
And merrily we’ll whoop and we’ll holloa.

Now here’s to the horse and the rider too, of course,
Here’s to the rally to the hunt, boys;
And here’s to every friend that can struggle to the end,
And here’s to the tally-ho in front, boys.

Now here’s to the gap and the timber that we rap,
Here’s to the white thorn, and the black, too;
And here’s to the pace that puts life into the chase,
And the fence that gives a moment for the pack, too.

Now the pack is staunch and true, now they come from scent to view,
And it’s worth the risk to life, limb and neck, boys;
To see them drive and stoop until they finish with ‘Whoop’,
Forty minutes on the grass without a check, boys.

A glass of wine, indeed.

Said nobody.  Ever.

(Those of you who have experienced first-hand the joys of I-70 dying a couple hundred yards short of the Pennsylvania Turnpike will know of what Ol’ Robbo types.)

Greetings, my fellow Port Swillers!

As mentioned in the post below, Ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his Sunday running the two younger gels out to their annual summah camp.  It’s about three hours each way between Port Swiller Manor and the camp’s location in southwestern Pennsylvania, and, as I’ve mentioned over the years, there are many attractions to the drive, historickal, geographical, and geological.

One of the lesser attractions is the gang of idjits and lunatics who seem to enjoy tooling up and down this route.  One sportsman this morning decided that, from a cruising speed of near 80 mph, he was going to come to a near dead stop in the left lane of the Turnpike.  Ol’ Robbo, who was about fifteen cars behind, became interested to see cars suddenly flying off in all directions and laying rubber as they jammed on their brakes.  His own language, as he undertook similar defensive maneuvers, was not of an improving kind.

(I didn’t get to see whether the fellah had Murrland plates, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised.  Remember, all Murrland drivers are bat-shite crazy.  Every. Single. One.)

Another lesser attraction is the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel.  I admire it as an engineering achievement, and I love its position as the gateway into the Laurel Highlands, but there’s something about the lighting inside that has a strobe-like effect on Ol’ Robbo’s braims.  All I can do is take a deep breath, focus on the pavement immediately behind the car in front of me, and hope for the best.  One of these days, I’m going to have a seizure going through it.

Anyhoo, the gels are deposited, Mrs. R and I are back home, and all is well.

By the bye: For many, many years, I’ve been referring to the gels’ annual retreat as “Bible-thumper camp”.  I do this because it is, in fact, specifically and aggressively Christian-themed (“God first.  Others second.  I’m third.”), and because it is run by Evangelicals.  So there’s a lot of, well, enthusiasm.  But, really, I’m only teasing, not mocking.  (Obviously, we would not have been sending the gels there for a decade if we thought there was something actually wrong with it.)  All of us Christians are under attack by the Shadow these days, and while I might kid one of the Out Companies* about its funny ways, I mean no disrespect to its devotion to the Cause.


* Spot the gratuitous Tolkien reference

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I believe that after all these years (almost 14 by my count) of blogging, today marks an historick first, insofar as I am posting today for the very first time from the immense comfort of my hammock on the back porch of Port Swiller Manor.

I must say, I could seriously get used to this.   (Indeed, one of the Four Things which Ol’ Robbo hopes to do when and if he is ever able to retire is to turn his attention to more serious writing.  If I’m not mistaken, none other than William Makepeace Thackeray is said to have done his very best work while similarly lounging in his hammock, so you never know!)

And what are the Four Things, you ask? Well, as I say, one of them is serious writing.  Another is to reform my garden from a butterfly-bush wilderness into an orderly, civilized set of flower beds.  The third is to actually sit down and work up some piano musick to performance level, instead of forever sight-reading.  Finally, I want to take up golf again, which I haven’t seriously played in 25 years.

So there you are.

Anyhoo, a few odds and ends for you:

♦  We had a very cool and wet spring in the neighborhood this year, with a resultant lushness that I haven’t seen in quite some time.  Indeed, so much so that the hedge of hollies which we planted along the sidewalk out front some years ago have positively exploded.  T’other day, Ol’ Robbo came home to find a piece of paper taped to his mailbox.  Its gist was that the hollies were sticking branches out over the sidewalk and could we please cut them back.  It was signed, “Your friendly neighbors.”

I’ll give them that the trees needed pruning (which I did yesterday), but there is something about the passive-aggressive nature of this “friendly” notice that really irritates Ol’ Robbo.  Indeed, I was half-tempted to scrawl “Balls to you!” on the thing and just leave it there.

Ah, well, at least it was a tad better than the little snirp who, once or twice over the years, has actually hacked down some of my branches and simply left them lying all over the sidewalk.  I caught him at it once, and it was only the gray hairs on his head that kept me from taking a horsewhip to him.

♦  Speaking of horsewhips, Ol’ Robbo realizes more and more what a bye he got with the Eldest Gel not being at all interested in dating when she was in high school.  Suddenly it seems both of the younger Gels have romantic irons in the fire, and Ol’ Robbo’s stomach muscles are tightening accordingly.  (Actually, the Youngest’s is a very polite and sensible young man, who I think I like.  She’s so besotted with him that she’s actually going to try and take honors chemistry next year because he is.  Gawd!)

♦  And speaking of the Younger Gels, it’s off to Bible-Thumper Camp tomorrow morning.  This will be Middle Gel’s tenth year and Youngest’s eighth.  (Right now, all of Robbo’s wymminz are in the kitchen, squabbling over a trip to Tarzhay to pick up last-second supplies.  Why does everything have to be so complicated?  Ol’ Robbo is feigning deafness.)

♦  Oh, and have I said it lately?


Whelp, that’s about it for now.  Another advantage of hammock-blogging, now that the Gels have left on their equipment-run, is that I can simply hit the power button, close my laptop, and go nappy-byes.

As I say, I could get used to this.  Zzzzzzz………




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had one of his patent weird dreams last night.

In this one, I was helping home an elephant who had gone one over the eight.

Not only was it drunk, it was up on its hind legs, stalking along slowly but shakily. I found myself leaning up against it on one side, steadying it as it swayed along.

Then I realized that this was no ordinary elephant, but that it was dressed up to the nines with spats, cravat, tail-coat, and top hat.  Also, that we were in a very fancy-shmancy urban neighborhood, something like Louisburg Square in Bahston.

Eventually, we reached a very well-to-do-looking townhouse, which I understood to be the elephant’s own.  For some reason, they wouldn’t let us in, so I steered the elephant to the next house over.  It proved to be equally sumptuous, and the door was opened by a very well turned out older lady.

As I maneuvered the elephant inside and helped him collapse on a convenient sofa, I apologized to the matron for our unseemly intrusion.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s quite all right.  We’re used to him.”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

I hadn’t the remotest idea what all this was supposed to mean.  Thinking it over, my best guess is that I have been rereading George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers for the umpteenth time recently, and just finished Flashman and the Redskins.  In it, Fraser uses the Victorian slang about “seeing the elephant” at one point.  I can only suppose that this expression stuck with me for some reason.

Why I “saw the elephant” in that particular condition, however, remains a mystery.

** If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

UPDATE: Oh, all right.  Enjoy!


R.I.P. Adam West.

Although I only saw the old series as late afternoon reruns when I was in elementary school, I still like to say that West was the only “real” Batman, mostly to annoy the sort of people who take comic book (excuse me, “graphic novel”) characters seriously.

If nothing else, you have to admire the guy for being such a good sport about making his name over something that was so eminently silly, and respect him for cashing in on it as well.  Rayther like Bill Shatner in that, I suppose.

Speaking of the Caped Crusader, Eldest Gel made me watch the Lego-Batman movie a couple weeks ago.  Yeebus!  The pure inundation of light, sound, and movement nearly caused Ol’ Robbo to have a seizure.  Is this what it takes to keep our Ritalin-soaked kids’ attention these days?

UPDATE: Speaking of comic book moovies reminds me of a discussion I had with a work colleague of the feminist persuasion this week about the new Gal Gadot Wonder Woman movie.  She was of the opinion that it probably wouldn’t appeal to adolescent boys.

I thought back to my own misspent yoot and my droolings over the lovely and talented Lynda Carter in the same roll.

“Oh,” I said, “I think they’ll like it.”

Maybe not for the grrrlzz-power reasons my colleague would want, but…I think they’ll like it.

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