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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo’s Nats begin spring training today with pitchers and catchers reporting for their first workout. I have to confess that I’m underwhelmed: We lost better than a hundred games last year, and I’ve seen nothing at all during the offseason to make me believe we’re not going to lose better than a hundred more this year. The team remains a bunch of kids and a few has-beens and won’t be anything else until the whole ownership question is resolved and serious money begins to be spent. (True, the bunch of kids in the infield has some real defensive potential, but so long as things are at sixes and sevens they’ll only be traded away once they prove themselves.) Eh.

So I’ll certainly watch the games and may even go to the Park a time or two, but I’ll do so with a “Natitude” of complete fatalism.

And yes, I’d love to be proved wrong.

Meanwhile, Ol’ Robbo sees that MLB continues to gut the game with its rules-changes. So far as I’ve gathered, they’ve made the extra-innings lead-off man on 2nd permanent. They’ve established a pitch clock. The pitcher is now limited to two throw-overs to 1st per batter. The frippin’ bases themselves are now larger. And the shift has been banned. (I say nothing about the reduction of intra-division games because it’s going to be downright painful to see Trey Turner play for the Philthies against us.)

Barbarians drawing grease mustaches and glasses on Rembrandts.

The shift ban is interesting. Personally, I never cared for the strategy myself, usually muttering “Aw, c’mon…” when it was put into effect against a favorite batter. On the other hand, the 10th Amendment fan in me rebels at the League stepping in and taking it away. A manager ought to be able to put his fielders anywhere he wants! Besides, I see this as the thin end of the wedge: Within a few years, don’t be surprised if the rules are changed to require the outfielders to stand still in the exact center of their respective territories until a fly ball hits the ground “in order to improve league batting averages and generate more scoring.” Feh.

Anyhoo, we shall see. Meanwhile, what else is there to say except

Go, Nats.

** That Guy Who Always Thinks It’s Beginning

Non-Insider Baseball UPDATE: The lovely and talented Sleepy Beth reminds me that yesterday was Valentine’s, something we no longer really pay any attention to here at Port Swiller Manor, except that Mrs. R and I did binge-watch a couple of episodes of “Cheers” on Hulu, something we usually reserve for the weekends. Yee-haw.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are at the close of another Christmas.

By a fortuitous bit of timing, “Twelfth Night” arrived in my mailbox from Netflix a couple days ago and I plan to watch it this evening. This is the 1980 Beeb production. I’m sure I’ve seen it before more than once but it has been some time since Ol’ Robbo brushed up his Shakespeare and I have no real recollection. That series by the Beeb was quite hit or miss, sometimes outstanding, sometimes awful. I hope this is one of the good ‘uns.

What in tarnation is “Dry January“? I’d never heard the term before until the fellah sopping up all my Scotch at New Year’s (which see below) mentioned doing it. I’ve also heard it mentioned twice on the teevee since. Feh. Virtue-signaling wankery, if you ask me. What was that Ol’ Robbo read somewhere about hypocrites and street corners? Anybody? Anybody? Buller? (Lent begins on February 22 this year, by the bye.)

(Hey, I didn’t get a harrump!! from that guy!)

Bard-o-licious UPDATE: Yup, this “Twelfth Night” is one of the good ‘uns, And Ol’ Robbo must have seen it before because I immediately recognized the actress who plays Viola, Felicity Kendal, who looks like an intelligent and cheerful chipmunk. However, it also must have been very long ago because I did not remember Robert Hardy as Sir Toby Belch, which he did, as he did everything else, superbly and with great gusto.

Another cast-member was Maurice Roeves (as Antonio), who regular friends of the decanter will remember as Sar’n James in “Danger-UXB”. (“Clock-stoppah…….ON!”) He also had the thankless task of playing Col. Munro in that Daniel Day-Lewis version of “The Last of the Mohicans” which so irritates Ol’ Robbo with its butchery of Fenimore Cooper’s story. Not that I have any fondness for FC myself, but I stridently object to this kind of thing.

Anyhoo, a pleasant evening was had by all.

It also occurred to Ol’ Robbo that, despite being a Brit Lit major himself all those many moons ago, it’s been a very long time since I sat down and seriously read some Shakespeare. I must needs remedy this, I think.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter rbj1 reports that Turner Classic Movies is running a “Thin Man” marathon New Year’s Eve.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo will be unable to tune in. I learn this morning that what I’d thought was going to be a quite evening’s celebration with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family has suddenly strengthened into a Cat 3 shindig with the addition of several other guests, so I will now be spending it “entertaining”. (Mrs. R denies this, but I know perfectly well how it will play out. The good news is that it might actually be warm enough this year for the thing to spill out onto the porch.)

Don’t worry: I only say “alas” in the sense that figuring out food and drink suddenly becomes more complicated. As a matter of fact, all of the additional guests are good friends, not quite such crusty reactionaries as I am (and as is the FLMC), but within a few standard deviations thereof. Furthermore, they know me thoroughly and know to ignore most of my blather, so I needn’t worry about holding my tongue as I had to at Christmas dins.

Anyhoo, a thing about “Thin Man”. The original novel on which the films were based was of course written by Dashiell Hammett, who for many years was the slave of playwright Lilliam Hellman. (He dedicated the novel to her, and indeed Nora Charles is supposed to be a tribute.) This didn’t matter much to Ol’ Robbo until I read up on Hellman. John Zmirak, in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, uses her to illustrate Envy. (He also refers to her as “Stalin’s Trollop”.) A thoroughly horrible woman. I’m not saying I’ve stopped watching these movies as a result of this knowledge, but it now lurks around the edge of them for me, emitting a faint but foul odor.

Just an observation. I suppose if one goes digging far enough one can find many, many instances of this sort of thing but this one in particular sticks in Ol’ Robbo’s braims.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with no particular place to go and nothing in particular to do today, everything being already teed up for the celebrations. Indeed, I could have spent the whole day loafing in robe and jammies. However, I’ve never been able to stand that: At a certain point I must get showered and dressed. Otherwise, I start to get the heebie-jeebies.


The Storm of the Century of the Week blew through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this morning, dropping heavy, non-sticking snow for about twenty minutes. The skies are clearing out now but the wind continues to howl and the temperature plummet. It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that he needs to up the birds’ rations today – they look like they could use them.

Middle Gel remarked that she’s happy she’s not out in Indiana today, as the low in Bloomington was -7. Oh, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience the joys of a Midwest Wintah soon enough. My personal record low was -17, together with a screaming wind, experienced one morning in Cheyenne. That was the first time I ever felt the cold as an entity that would actually kill me if I gave it half the chance.


Speaking of which, this is the first vacation in which it feels like the Elder Gels are visiting rayther than coming home. Most interesting. As I recall, I felt the same sort of dynamic from the other side, as it were, my first year of grad school. (The first time I felt that the change was coming was Christmas my junior year in college. It hit me one day while I was sitting and talking with the Mothe. I admit I burst into tears.)


Tonight, in the spirit of things, I gather we’re all going to watch “Home Alone” together. Ol’ Robbo confesses he hasn’t actually seen this film since it was in the theatres however many years ago. (Don’t tell me.) Another time maybe I can get them all to watch “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, an inexplicably under-rated movie in my humble opinion. (I mean, it’s got John Houseman, Robert Mitchem, and Bobcat Goldthwaite in it. What more could one ask?)

Also in the spirit, it would seem Mrs. R found a little indoor mini-s’mores making device. Hard pass on that for Ol’ Robbo, who has never liked sweets and grows more and more intolerant of them as the years go by. (Perhaps I’ll break into the Laphroigh instead.)


Speaking of the spirit, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to come through without getting thoroughly browned off by premature Christmas musick this year. Don’t ask me how, but there it is. (I thought hearing Willie Nelson sing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” right after Thanksgiving was going to get me, but I managed to weather it.)


“I Read the News Today, Oh Boy” Dept. Why has it suddenly become double-plus ungood wrong think to raise questions about Ukrainian President Zelensky, or indeed to treat him as anything other than a Hero?*** Hard pass on that, as well. I know a gal who declared the other day “Zelensky Day” on FacePlant after he spoke to Congress. Of course, this is the same gal who on the day of the January 6th protests felt compelled to inform her FacePlant audience that she and her family were “all safe home and sound”. She lives twenty miles from downtown Dee Cee. Wanker. Do you wonder why Ol’ Robbo grows daily more skeptical of and disgusted with the current state of things?

***Rhetorical question. Ol’ Robbo knows perfectly well why.


“And Robbo Wept, For There Were No More Wu’s to Conquer” Dept. Speaking of such things, I’ve just about finished my latest cycle through the complete works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh, having only his collected correspondence with Nancy Mitford left to go. Each time I read him, I become more firmly convinced that he really is my favorite author of all time.


Well, that should be enough for those two or three of you who gather together here. (I truly hope you enjoy these musings – just as I went to hit “post” the first time I discovered my wifi had cut out on me and only my first sentence had been saved, so I had to retype the whole dang post from memory. D’oh!) I will duly put up a Christmas Card tomorrow here as I decorate the rest of Port Swiller Manor, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel set out early this morning to spend a few days at her college, visiting friends she hasn’t seen all semester while she was abroad.

One can always tell when the Gel is around even without seeing her. Two key signs are that all the milk and most of the t.p. vanish. Another is that the sink fills with dirty dishes.

So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I just now discovered she’d left her cereal bowl in said sink before tootling off. Nonetheless, I still feel like Eduardo Ciannelli’s priest of Kali in the movie “Gunga Din“: “Kill! …. Kill! Kill! KILL!!”


UPDATE: What’s that you say? You’ve never seen “Gunga Din”? Do so. Do so! (Before it gets disappeared for wrong-think.) It’s got a tetch too much screwball comedy to it in parts, but it’s overall a pretty good film. And the battle scene at the end is great.

On behalf of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art,** here’s wishing you all a safe and joyous Thanksgiving Day!

For Ol’ Robbo’s part, I may learn of some potentially exciting news at our celebration but will say no more about it now so as not to fall flat on my face crank up anticipation too much.

I’ll let you know on the other side!

**In accordance with the RCBfA bylaws, the pumpkin (pictured above) is, technically, a fruit. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Well, once again Ol’ Robbo hopes you all had a happy Thanksgiving. We certainly did.

So far as the mystery nooz goes, I am glad I did not speak ahead of myself after all. You see, my nephew and his Young Lady are pretty much certain to get engaged some time soon. What had been spread about was rumor that an actual Announcement was to be made when all of us gathered together. This proved to be groundless. In fact, my nephew was really rayther annoyed when he learned of all the gossip that had been flying around. Heh.

In the meanwhile, all the usual pleasant things happened at the Robbo Family shindig. My brother roasts his bird out on the bar-b every year and this time got it absolutely bang-right. As Gravy Captain, my contribution to the feast was made better directly as a result of his triumph. As for overall tone, everyone was in good spirits and there was plenty of festive jollity.

I suppose the only down side this year was that Ol’ Robbo, in order not to be a spoil-sport, agreed to watch the World Cup match between the U.S. and England yesterday. Other people may genuinely like it but soccer leaves me cold. The fact that after 90 minutes this match ended in a nil-nil tie only deepened the chill for me. On the other hand, it was an excuse to sit about and indulge in more food and drink, so it had that going for it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Veterans’ Day!

Ol’ Robbo is not going to comment on the events from earlier this week, in part because this isn’t really a politickal blog, in part because we don’t even actually know for sure what happened, and in part because if I paid any attention to all the spin being furiously spun my neck would snap. We shall see. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, we’re getting a good bit of rain today from what’s left of Hurricane Nicole, soaking all the leaves that are down and guaranteeing that Ol’ Robbo is going to have a bad time cleaning them up tomorrow. (And I need to make major gains tomorrow because starting Sunday the temperature is going to drop right off, making yardwork that much more unpleasant.) Heigh-ho.

Last evening Ol’ Robbo re-watched “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), the delightful little romantic comedy with Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and the Great and Powerful Oz (aka Frank Morgan). I’d only seen it once before and remembered there was something or other about it that I had bookmarked in my brain, but was surprised when Morgan turned up. “Oh, that’s what it was!” I said to myself. Fortunately, I said it internally. I’m one of those people who love to cross-reference actors while watching a movie. (“Oh, yes, he was so-and-so in such-and-such.”) Mrs. R is one of many who can’t stand people like me when it comes to this habit, so I do my best to suppress it when she’s around. It can be hard sometimes.

Well I suppose this turned out to be a pretty random post after all. My apologies. I’ve been wicked busy with work lately and haven’t had much time or energy to focus on anything else.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, you know what to do. Ol’ Robbo found himself in a deeply skeptical mood when he awoke this morning, but we shall see. (I’m not so skeptical about the tallies themselves, but rayther whether any meaningful change will come about as a result.)

In the meantime, some randomness.


I have not o-fficially congratulated the Houston Astros yet on their World Series victory. In all the celebration, I was stunned to learn that this was manager Dusty Baker’s first. He’s been around so long that I just assumed he’d got a ring before. By the bye, when he managed Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals, I used to fret endlessly about the toothpick he invariably sucked and chewed on during the games, just waiting for him to get the durn thing stuck in his throat. I see he’s still at it. And I still fret.

And yes, I partook of Bryce Harper’s tears and yes, they were delicious.


Major Appliance Pro-Tip: Do not buy a top-loading washing machine that doesn’t have a central pillar. It’s true that you can fit more into an open basket, but the thing gets out of balance way too easily. At least ours does.


Alas, Ol’ Robbo missed the Blood-Moon eclipse this morning. I’m informed there won’t be another for three years. Somehow I will find the resolve to push through until then. Courage.


How about some more useless movie trivia? I caught “Valley of the Kings” (1954) on TCM the other evening. Robert Taylor is a sort of turn-of-the-century Indiana Jones, except he’s fighting looters instead of Nazis, and rather that hunting for some magickal thingumabob, is simply trying to find archeological evidence to support the Old Testament story of Joseph in Egypt. Not a bad film with lots of “on location” shots, but what capped it off for me was to find Leon Askin (aka General Burkhalter from “Hogan’s Heroes”) in a supporting role. Such sightings of old favorites out of context amuse me. It’s not unlike when one was a kid and spotted one’s elementary school teacher in the grocery store for the first time. “Wait, what’s she doing here??”


Well, time to strap in. As much as I detest politicks, I also can’t help watching them somewhat obsessively. See you on the other side.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On behalf of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art, here’s wishing you all a Happy Halloween!

It’ll be a quiet one here in the neighborhood. I don’t see much by way of “decoration” this year and there’s a respectable chance of rain this evening (the first I can recall in many years). On the other hand, some of the Karens tried to “vote” to move trick-or-treating to this past Saturday because this is a school night. They failed. Heh.

As for Port Swiller Manor itself, our street is a sort of neighborhood peninsula which gets almost no through-traffic. In past years, it was only kids from houses right around us who visited and they’re almost all grown up now. Ol’ Robbo isn’t even bothering with a jack-o-lantern, although I believe Mrs. R got in some candy Just In Case.

As for myself, I shall celebrate in what is now my usual fashion by hiding in the basement and re-watching “Young Frankenstein” for the umteenth time. What knockers!


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March 2023