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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Would it surprise friends of the decanter to learn that Sean Connery, of all people, was once in a Western? And not only that, but that his co-stars included Brigitte Bardot and veteran Brit character-actor Jack Hawkins? It did Ol’ Robbo. (Although, upon reflection and given “Zardoz”, I’m not really sure why.)

The film is called “Shalako” (1968). A hunting party of 1880’s European aristos inadvertently wanders into Apache territory with predictable results. Connery, a loner scout, stumbles across them and attempts to save their bacon. Considering that the whole genre was pretty much petering out by then, it’s really not all that bad a film, although Ol’ Robbo feels no need to see it again.

The film starts with a long written prologue cataloging examples of real-life Euros who visited the West in the earlies, I suppose by way of explaining why a bunch of thnobs would be wandering around the New Mexican desert. Ol’ Robbo was disappointed to see that Flash Harry was not included in this list, and can only assume that the relevant volume of the Flashman Papers was not yet available at the time the film was made. (One’s mind boggles at the thought of Flashy coming across Bardot.)

And speaking of which, did you know that Audrey Hepburn, of all people, was also in a Western? Yes, with Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, and Lillian Gish! It’s called “The Unforgiven” (1960). A frontier community under attack by the local Kiowas begins to turn ugly when rumor surfaces that Hepburn, one family’s adopted daughter, might actually be an Indian herself. It’s been a bit of time since Ol’ Robbo watched it, but my impression again was that it wasn’t bad. That one I might have to review to confirm my opinion. (I really want to like Lancaster more than I do because I think “The Train” (1964) is one of the Truly Great Films. Alas, I’ve been disappointed with him in pretty much everything else.)

** A glass of wine with Alan Jackson.

Non-Sequitur UPDATE: Not that it has anything to do with movies, but Ol’ Robbo just wanted to mention here that he’s almost positive he spotted a bald eagle yesterday afternoon. High and far off, but too big to be a hawk and definitely not a vulture, and I think I could just make out its head. They’re in the river valley but we’re about a mile off so they almost never get this far out. I think I’ve seen one maybe twice in all our years here. Neat.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, bumpers all round, friends of the decanter, as yesterday the Family Robbo went down to the Virginny Tidewater to attend Middle Gel’s college graduation. Huzzay, Huzzah!

(Absurdly enough, this was the first real graduation ceremony we had been to since this same gel finished high school, what with the lockdowns and all.)

The festivities started with a lunch with the Gel, her Young Man, and his family, as well as the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his elder daughter. This was our first meeting with said Young Man’s family, and I’m not sure I made the best of impressions: As I’ve noted here before, I can’t understand much of what is being said when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time and therefore tend not to participate. No doubt I’m already being summed up once again as “cold and aloof”. Eh, I’m used to it.

Due to the threat of rain, it was decided to hold the graduation itself indoors. And because it was unpossible to squash everybody into the same space at the same time, it was further decided to do the thing on a rolling basis: the kidz signed up for specific time-slots and at such times headed over to the gym to walk across the stage and shake hands with the school president (whose ability to maintain a smile all that time left Ol’ Robbo in something like awe) while we parents looked on from the floor. (And because this is the 21st Century, the Gel’s grandparents were able to watch it livestreamed from Flahrudah.) In the meanwhile, the atmosphere was something more like a giant open house, as we strolled about and visited various places and events of interest. I must confess that I much prefer this approach to the traditional litany of boring speeches, endless lines of faceless grads, and being parboiled under the hot, steamy sun.

The day ended with a bit of practical biznay, as Ol’ Robbo was made to load several of the Gel’s trunks, apparently packed with lead ingots, into the back of the Honda Juggernaut to bring home, thus saving her a bit of space in her own car when she comes home next week.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all.

So here we are. Two down and one to go. And speaking of which, the Good Sport of the day was Youngest Gel. She had her last final Friday morning and, being booted out of her dorm the same day, immediately afterwards undertook the ten hour drive home. Despite that, she gamely got up early yesterday morning and joined us for the trip and the festivities, and furthermore did not complain once. Ol’ Robbo would have lost a lot of money had he betted on the likelihood of all that happening.

** The “theme” of my college crew. We happened to have a 35th reunion zoom meeting this past week at which we surprised our old coach, who had an enormous impact on all of us, with the news that we have kicked in to establish an endowment in his name for supplying the program with new shells. The Bowie song, which was a staple of our team winter workouts, has been floating around in the back of my head for days.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

I hope all friends of the decanter will join me this festive day in donning your candy-ass monkey suits, dialing “Quando, Quando, Quando” up to eleven on your 8-tracks, and remembering not to “go changing”.

Ah, me.

Ol’ Robbo floats this joke every year on this day, and even though it invariably lays an egg, I still enjoy it myself.

In part, I love to pay tribute to a truly great movie that is immensely funny, eminently quotable (which see), has a fantastic soundtrack (which resurrected several careers and introduced a whole new generation to R&B), and has, in its themes of charity and redemption, a surprisingly strong Catholic underpinning. (“Boys, you got to learn not to talk to nuns like that.”) (Which see.)

In other part, I also love to spit on the modern “Environmental Movement”. Make no mistake: Ol’ Robbo believes in responsible stewardship as much as anybody else. But what goes on now in the name of “Green” is a cheat and a swindle and (shall I say it?) a blasphemy, a program based on politicks, not science, and designed for no other reason than to empower and enrich those in on it, and to shackle and enslave us peons who aren’t. (That this is also Lenin’s birthday is, to me, no accident. That one of the co-founders of “Earth Day” murdered his girlfriend and composted her body in his apartment closet is, shall we say, par for the course. Green on the outside, red on the inside. And you know who else was a keen environmentalist (and a strict vegetarian, and an ardent dog-lover?)) But don’t you dare question anything: the science, the costs, the liberties surrendered, etc. You just take that filthy, unreliable, dangerous public transportation back to your browned-out, unheated, stack-a-prole hovel and appreciate your soy rations while Your Betters jet off to Davos to discuss Deep Things before disbursing to their seaside mansions to wine and dine their cronies dropping by in fleets of SUVs. PAH!! As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s a crisis, then maybe I’ll start to listen. In the meantime, they can sit the fook down and shut the fook up.

Ah. That felt good.

As regular friends of the decanter will know, Middle Gel is spooling up to go into a career in environmental management, finishing up her undergrad degree on it in a couple weeks and heading off to grad school in the fall for same. Ol’ Robbo has ranted and raved on the above themes to her for years and years and (I hope) instilled in her the necessary sense of balance and skepticism to allow her to do some real good while avoiding both the Scylla of rainbows and unicorn-farts idealism and the Charybdis of graft and corruption-fueled totalitarianism. I will say that if anybody can pull off such a delicate balance, she can. (If not, I hope she goes with the graft and corruption. That way, when I’m reduced to beggary, at least I’ll have a seaside mansion where I can go stay.)

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

This year’s Family Robbo tax return package showed up on the Port Swillor Manor doorstep last evening for signing, processing, and check-cutting.

The irony of Caesar’s goons coming around to collect his denarii during Holy Week this year has not been lost on Ol’ Robbo, and has provided me an interesting point of meditation vis a vis what gets rendered to him and what gets rendered to God and, perhaps more importantly, why.

On the one hand, it’s quite comforting, when reading of the latest madness of the world around one, to know that in the end it really doesn’t make that much difference when compared to Eternity.

On the other, I still live here, so I will ask a question I may have asked already: It’s been a long time now since Uncle paid any attention to the notion that you only buy what you can pay for and that there should at least be some rational relationship between federal outlays and federal revenues. He simply prints the stuff now. (Inflation? Never heard of it!) That being the case, why am I still paying any income tax at all?

The world wonders.

Okay, Ol’ Robbo is really signing off for now. Bless you all and have a very Happy Easter, and I’ll see you on the other side.

** I don’t care what the young whipper-snappers say, they’re still relevant. And Revolver is still my favorite album.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Well, here we are at Palm Sunday, and a very curious thing happened at Mass today. While my church is almost impeccable in its musickal selections, today’s setting of the Mass was really rayther awful. It was a Missa Syllabica by one Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). It was clanky and dissonant, and also had a real Phillip Glass neener-neener-neener minimalist vibe to it. Very distracting and unsettling.

I got wondering later on if Father was maybe being subtly sneaky about this. Palm Sunday itself is always unsettling when you stop to consider that the mob which cheered Christ into Jerusalem with boughs and cloaks strewn on the ground was the same mob howling for his blood five days later. Alas, I think a lot of people – especially the Christmas & Easter crowd – get distracted fiddling with their fronds and don’t pay that much attention to the second part. (I kid you not, I was at a dinner-party Friday evening where some of the other guests were comparing worship times and lengths with an eye to “getting it over with” so as not to ruin the rest of their Sunday.) Anyway, as to the awful musick, maybe that was the idea, maybe not. I still disliked it intensely. (And no, Ol’ Robbo is not being a crank or a snob about modern musick. There’s a fellah named Richard Rice, only a year or two older than me, who puts out very respectful Mass settings and other liturgical musick. If he can do it, so can Arvo.)

At any rate, Holy Week is upon us. As I mentioned previously, I doubt if I’ll post again until after Easter. This isn’t a fast in itself, but I am going to be fasting and abstaining every day this week (Father recommended finishing Lent at a sprint, and I’m taking up his challenge), I plan to do the full Triduum worship schedule, I still have to make a living, and I doubt I’ll have any energy left with which to think up content. I’ll still hang around, however.)

Oh, but before I go, let me just follow up on two items from yesterday and the day before.

First (from Friday), no, Ol’ Robbo is not getting to watch the final round of the Masters today. Mrs. R may not be here, but her honey-do list still is. (I just finished tacking up some ivy, a job which involved crawling out Youngest Gel’s window onto the roof of the garage. Gah.)

Second (from yesterday), I finally did, in fact, spot the bird with the nest in the ivy over our garage door. My initial guesses were all wrong: It’s a goldfinch. Neat!

See you on the other side!

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

Poking about on the innerwebz, Ol’ Robbo sees that today is the anniversary of the “Battle on the Ice” in 1242 between Russians under Prince Alexander Nevsky and an invading band of Teutonic knights. It’s famous now in popular imagination due to the film rendition by Sergei Eisenstein in which the band of plucky Russian peasants is saved when the ice breaks under the Krauts’ heavy armor and causes a lot of them to drown (which apparently did not actually happen).

Ol’ Robbo has never actually seen the Eisenstein movie, although I’ve heard about it. (As an aside, I’ve heard Prokofiev’s musickal treatment for it. Like almost all the rest of Prokofiev, it is, in my humble opinion, one-note rubbish.) Nonetheless, I recall being dumbfounded the first time I saw the 2004 film “King Arthur“, because it literally stole this scene, lock, stock, and barrel, simply replacing the band of plucky Russians with a mixed band of plucky Britons and Celts. (The Germans, of course, remained more or less the same, differences between 5th Century Saxons and 13th Century Teutons being a matter of hair-splitting.) I could only suppose the writers thought their audience would simply be too ignorant to notice the appropriation.

You may ask, “Tom, what were you doing watching that anyway?” Well, I was initially intrigued by the film’s attempt to put Arthur in the historickal context of Romanized Britain shortly after the Legions left. The notion of the last defense of the light of civilization against the oncoming night of barbarism has always appealed to me much more than magickal tales of Arthur’s knights slaying dragons and tricking witches, primarily because the evidence is that there is some historical truth to it (although I get the basis behind the legends, too). But between this kind of naked cinematic theft and a bunch of overblown special-effects, I found myself put off. (I also realized some years after first seeing it that the movie also quietly pushes the Pelasgian heresy, but that’s a rant for another time.)

Yes, this is a small point, but I’m also a small blog. If I don’t call it out, who will?

Greetings, my fellow coffee chuggers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself kicking his heels yardwork-wise, so to speak, this first Saturday in April: Mrs. R, Sorcerer’s Apprentice-style, has summoned up a wave of mulch, but it isn’t here yet. Meanwhile, the grass isn’t quite cuttable, and it’s still a leetle chilly to be getting on with other pending tasks. (Ask me about how I’m going to have to get out on the roof of the garage to finally kill all the ivy there. Go ahead. Ask me.) So a bit of this and that for you:

I see where Greta Thunberg, the 19-year old high school dropout with severe mental issues transmogrified into the Environmental Joan d’Arc, is set to publish the “Great Big Book of Climate Doom”** this fall. Honestly, I had thought her already used up and spit out by her dark masters. Apparently not. Although I of course don’t approve, I at least get those who use her and her like: Evil’s gonna evil. What I don’t get is people who are unable to see through this kind of manipulative exploitation. Evidently there are still enough of them to make somebody think such a book worth it. (I really do feel sorry for the kid, by the bye.)

A much more immediate eco-worry to Ol’ Robbo is the fear that the bed of Lily of the Valley I planted last spring didn’t make it. It’s in a contained area under a large maple that dries out much more quickly than its surroundings, and although I tried to be good about watering it last fall (which is typically a dryish time around here), I’m now not sure that was good enough to get it thoroughly established. I need to go poke at it this morning to be sure, but I just haven’t seen anything break surface yet. It would be a real pity to lose, because they were a gift from a friend and I’ve always thought there’s something particularly special about sharing among gardeners.

On a much brighter note, Ol’ Robbo can now confirm that the weed n’ feed lawn service he subscribed to last year is definitely making a difference: the grass is greener and there’s hardly an early weed in sight. There do remain some bald patches, primarily where I grubbed up a lot of moss and also where the big maple fell last summah, which the fall overseeding didn’t seem to help. I suppose I’ll have to get out and do the patchwork myself. I see an awful lot of conflicting advice about when to do so: Some Solons say do it in late spring. Others say don’t do that because it’ll just burn out in summah and better wait till fall. Ol’ Robbo thinks he’ll adopt a sort of reverse-Solomon approach and try both. I mean, what the hey.

Would you like to read about Ol’ Robbo’s birdwatching? Sure, I knew you would!*** As I reported earlier in the week, I put up a new birdhouse along the fence, and within a day or so I spotted a pair of bluebirds seriously checking it out, much to my gratification. However, as I joked to Mrs. R, it doesn’t look like they’ve put a down payment on the place just yet. Not that there’s a neurotic nutjob lying just below my own rational surface, but it is taking a considerable amount of willpower for me to stop myself fretting about whether the hole in the box might somehow not be big enough for them.

And finally, again on the birdwatching front, while Ol’ Robbo gets downy woodpeckers into his feeder all the time, I can at last confirm a definite sighting of a hairy woodpecker as well. What of it, you ask? Well, the downy and the hairy look very, very much like each other, except the latter is a bit bigger and has a longer beak. But the other morning the light was just right enough and I was just quick enough to get my binoculars up and focused to make the distinction. So add another species to the roster. (Well, I think it’s interesting!)

** Back in the day when the Gels were very, very small, we used to watch a cartoon called “Stanley” about a boy and his sooper-intelligent talking fish. Each episode they’d consult “The Great Big Book of Everything”, usually for information about some plant or animal species. The introductory tune to said consultation was very catchy and still lurks somewhere at the back of my braims. I suppose I should try to exorcise it, since “Stanley” is a Disney product and the Maus has so recently, well, revealed itself for what it is.

*** Spot the reference. We used to watch it with the Mothe when I was a small lad, not to embrace it but, under her direction, to mock it. Wise woman, my mother was.

Prof. Farnsworth-like “Good NEWS, Everyone!” UPDATE: Upon closer inspect, I do, indeed, find the LOTV breaking ground in several spots! I’m sure at least some didn’t make it, but now it’ll be a matter of supplementing (which I was going to do anyway) instead of replacing.

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers and happy April 1st!

Ol’ Robbo was just thinking this morning how incredibly frustrating it must be these days to be a Babylon Bee writer. You get a brilliant idea for a satiric piece, write it up, and dash optimistically down to the editor’s office, only to be informed it’s NBG because current events have already out-parodied it.

Very sad.

We had our first o-fficial Tornado Warning of the year last evening here in teh neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Ol’ Robbo happened to be sitting out on the porch watching the lightning in the distance when suddenly seemingly every electronic device in the house started cooking off. (I half-fancied even the coffee-maker was yelling at me to get under cover.) The cell itself was in the wrong direction, never got anywhere near us, and actually fizzled out after about five minutes, so I didn’t bother to bestir myself. I can’t really say I have anything against an alert system per se, but I do insist on treating it as strictly advisory in nature and relying on my own commonsense assessment of the situation before scurrying for shelter. I suppose in the Brave New World that our Betters are currently foisting on us, it will soon be mandatory to go huddle in the basement when the sirens sound. Attendance will be taken and unexcused absence will be punished. (This will be made much easier, of course, when we’re all forced to give up our homes and move into inner city stack-a-prole apartment towers in the name of “Sustainability”.)

(Attention Bee Writers: Use this before it comes true!)

I see where my probationary-beloved Nats got shellacked in a spring-training game against teh Cards 29-8 (that is not a typo). Yeah, spring training and all, but yikes? I’m going to dismiss this as an early April Fool’s joke and let it go.

Well, Ol’ Robbo tried to come up with a humorous take on what’s going on in the skools these days, but I just can’t even. Thank Heaven my own kids are full-grown and also (**frantically knocks on wood**) that I don’t expect to see grandlings starting to appear for another three to five years, by which time I hope the current horror will have collapsed in on itself and the devil driven out. (Who’s the fool now, eh?)

To end on a much happier and more optimistic note, let us celebrate the 290th Birthday of Franz Joseph Haydn, born this day (maybe) in 1732!


There is a good deal of question about whether Haydn was actually born on March 31 or April 1 (the records are incomplete). I think most scholars now assume it was the former. Haydn himself, in characteristic humble but tongue-in-cheek form, said something to the effect that if it wasn’t the latter, it should have been, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Happy Birthday, Papa!

** Spot the lyric.

UPDATE: STL answer here, in case you’re interested.

UPDATE DEUX: Heh. According to my sitemeter, there must be some fellow Diamond Rio appreciators out there. Nothing wrong with that.

Greetings, my fellow coffee chuggers!

Last evening Ol’ Robbo sat down to watch the made-for-teevee mocumentary movie “The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch. “

For those of you unfamiliar, “The Rutles” was a parody of The Beatles put together back in the mid-70’s by Eric Idle and Neil Innes of Monty Python fame.** Somebody or other put me on to the thing originally when I was in school in the 80’s and I immediately took to them. The musickal and lyrical lampoons were immensely clever and funny, and it is some tribute to their quality that most of the Beatles themselves, if memory serves, liked them, too. I had one of their albums back in the day, which I thoroughly memorized, and also enjoyed the original mockumentary “Meet the Rutles”, which I also like to think of as the godfather of “This Is Spinal Tap” and the other Christopher Guest films of that genre.

So it was with immense disappointment that Ol’ Robbo realized about ten minutes in that TR2, which came out in 2003 or 2004, was going to be a real beaten-dead-horse affair. As the “interviewer”, Idle mostly served up nothing but a lot of warmed-over Python gags (and it occurred to me, thinking of some of his other projects over the years (see “Spamalot”), that this is pretty much all he’s ever done since the early 70’s). Guy’s gotta eat, same as the rest of us, but c’mon.

Also, the “theme” of the show was the “influence” the Rutles supposedly had on other famous groups and stars, so it’s filled with “interviews” of people like Mick Jagger, Salman Rushdie, David Bowie, Clint Black, Carrie Fisher, Jewel, Tom Hanks, Gary Shandling, Steve Martin, and other early-2000’s celebrity big bugs. Ol’ Robbo hates this particular phenomenon, especially when it’s so overdone as it is here.*** It’s a kind of Inner Circle fashionableness, like doing a guest voice appearance on “The Simpsons,” or a cameo in (God help us) one of the innumerable “Sharknado” sequels. Aren’t we hip? Isn’t our presence here a Thing? Aren’t we in the know? Pah.

Anyhoo, I thought the whole biznay was flat and over-contrived, which is too bad since, as I say, I enjoy the franchise so much.****

** I tried to explain this to one of the Gels once and got the reply “Who cares about the Beatles?” Whippersnapper!

*** It can be done successfully and entertainingly, but I don’t know where or how the line is drawn. For instance, “The Blues Brothers” is, in Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion, one of the great films of all time, and it certainly has its celebrity appearances, some in big roles, others in cameo. I suppose a major difference there is that the celebs were playing material parts, not wallowing in self-adoration. Plus, the writing was of course infinitely better.

****This could, of course, be the Lenten lack of port talking. But I know what I saw.

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers and Happy Hump Day.

Yes, the Lenten grind goes on and is becoming more and more of a grind. Fortunate, Friday, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and therefore qualifies for what’s known round here as “Bacon Friday”.

Endeavor to persevere.

So what’s going on? Lessee….

Ol’ Robbo is happy to report that Middle Gel will not be taking that summah job at Nationals Park I mentioned the other week, because she’s been offered the one she really wanted with the Virginny Parks Department, where she’ll spend six weeks overseeing yoot conservationists cleaning and refurbishing various state park facilities at sites TBD. It’s the sort of thing out of which she wants to make a career and why she’s headed off for her master’s this fall. I tease her about becoming a Green Nazi but she insists she’s much more interested in practical issues like cleaning up the Chesapeake than she is in a Brave New World powered by rainbows and unicorn farts. We shall see.

Speaking of the Nats, Ol’ Robbo, in his (guarded and provisional) return to MLB was looking over their spring-training roster and likely position players. I haven’t the faintest idea who most of these guys are anymore, other than a handful of vets and one or two names I recognize from the minors. I must admit, I never saw the logic of putting together a World Series-winning team in 2019 and then immediately gutting it, but then again I don’t own a ball club. On the other hand, if you are going to spend time in the cellar “rebuilding”, 2020 and 2021 certainly were likely years to do so. Is it possible the Lerners knew what was coming? (Okay, even Ol’ Robbo doesn’t possess enough tinfoil to cover that theory!)

Speaking of entertainment, for some reason Eldest has had a long-standing grudge over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has never seen “The Lion King”. “I’ve studied Hamlet,” I say, “Bill had a way with words and action, ya know? Why should I watch a cartoon version with a singing warthog?” Finally, in a moment of weakness, I gave in recently. (She pulled the “I’m-leaving-home-soon-and-then-you’ll-be-sorry!” card.) But I insisted that in exchange she has to watch a Duke Wayne picture with me. She immediately suggested “Liberty Valance” but I know she’s seen that one already. I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to either “Hondo” or “The Cowboys” now because of their heavy paternal themes.

Speaking of which, thank Heaven I have no small kids at the moment. The monsters aren’t even pretending anymore. That is all.

On the “They’ll Do It Every Time” front, it’s been a while since we’ve had any major appliance trouble, so the oven has decided to mix things up a bit by causing its own “off” button to break. Jab at it all you want and nothing happens now. Indeed, the only way to turn the damn thing off is to go down in the basement and throw the circuit-breaker for 10 seconds or so. (That was a trick an electrician taught us some years ago to combat the entire panel freezing up when the stove-top gas burners flare in a particular way on being lit. He didn’t even charge us for the advice. We liked that guy.) We’ll see how long I can tolerate this before biting the bullet and calling somebody to fix it.

And on that front, Ol’ Robbo has been noticing a quiet drip sounding in the wall nowhere near any pipes. I suppose this means I’m going to have to take a flashlight and go look at the roof in the attic. I really don’t want to see what I fully expect to see. (Damned squirrels!)

Finally, in the Weirdo Dreams Dept., I swear that last night in the midst of other highly strange sights and sounds I became aware of a string band performing a Baroque setting of Olivia Newton-John’s “Please, Mister, Please”. But then a trumpet broke in doing a jazz riff and the whole thing ground to a halt. (Heck, I don’t know!)

Time for more kawfee.


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June 2022