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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Is anything going on in the world?  Lessee….

Well, Coronapalooza continues to be both a fraud and a farce.  And Francisco Franco is still dead.

I saw somewhere that somebody had labeled the Current Unpleasantness as the “1793 Project”, which made me smile.  You may argue the denizens of “Chaz” or “Chomp” or “Soymalia” or whatever it is and their ilk are more Maoists than Jacobins but hey, potato/potahto.

Ol’ Robbo didn’t get the chance to comment on the attempted disappearing of “Gone With The Wind” and “The Germans” episode of “Fawlty Towers” before the censors evidently backtracked in the face of popular outrage.  I’ve DVD’s of both so on a personal level this doesn’t affect me much, but I’m glad of the pushback anyway.  Gives one hope that the Silent Majority might really be a Thing.

On that note, Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember a time when if I objected to somebody else’s form of expression, a crucifix in a jar of wee-wees or a photo of a fellah with a bullwhip protruding from an unlikely orifice or a burning American flag for example, I was advised by my betters just not to look at them.

Oh, and on that note, this blog supports Elmer Fudd’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  (Not that Ol’ Robbo endorses any attempt to generate new Loony Toons.  Mel Blanc is dead and gone, peace be upon him, and anyway the whole franchise went to hell some time in the mid-60’s when it stopped being a part of the package got up for adult movie goers and deliberately became a kiddy-oriented product.  Nonetheless, the point remains.  What’s Fudd going to do now? Speak with Bugs’ manager?)

Feh.  On second thoughts, let’s not look out on the world.  It ’tis a silly place.

So what’s happening closer to home?

The big news is that Middle Gel successfully completed her scuba rescue certification this weekend.  As I understand it, this is a major milestone in the advancement of a diver.  She’ll be going for her master diver cert some time soon.

Oh, and remember how Ol’ Robbo was griping about the Gel’s car having another attack of the vapors?  Well, she picked it up from the dealership in Newport News this morning.  On her way back up to Port Swiller Manor, some piece of debris hit her in front, causing a strip of plastic lining the front, right wheel-well to pop out.  Grrrr.  Sensibly, she stopped at a gas station, bought a roll of duct tape, and triaged the thing back into place.  That’s my gel!  (Fortunately, looking it over, I believe I can anchor the thing back down myself without the Volkswagen bandits rooking me for even more money.  But still…Grrrrrrr)

Meanwhile, Youngest got laid off from her Starbucks gig last week due to crashed sales.  Absurdly enough, I think she’s actually going to make more coin over the next six weeks from unemployment than she otherwise would have working.  As this is supposed to be her pocket money for shipping off to college this fall (and things are now a go for that), Ol’ Robbo is not complaining.

Decanter Dog goes in for her check-up this week and we’re seriously going to enquire into anxiety meds.  As everybody in the house has noticed, she seems to have got markedly more neurotic recently, and cooks off at every little sound or movement.  Damme if I know why she’s suddenly ramped it up to eleventy, but it’s a real pain.

And on the subject of pets, I recently uncovered not so much a conspiracy as an exploratory committee into the idea of bringing another kitten into Port Swiller Manor.  I stomped on this immediately.  In the first place, I pointed out, the remaining Decanter Cat, after having spent years quietly skulking in the shadows of her companion kittehs, far from feeling lonely has blossomed in her solo spotlight in the past six months.  In the second place, while Decanter Dog was willing to accept the fact of the then-current kittehs when she first came to us, I’ve every confidence she’d kill any new intruder.  Harsh, but so is Life.

Ol’ Robbo made a DYI attempt at cutting his own hair this evening, a first in my fifty-five years on this planet.  Specifically, I took a pair of scissors to my four-month-old ducktails, cutting them in as near a straight line as I could.  None of the wimminz-folk at dinner broke out in howls of derisive laughter, Bruce, so I guess I didn’t butcher the job too badly.  (There is No…RULE…SIX!!)

Finally, I offer you a picture of a single jasmine cluster.  Regular friends of the decanter will know of Ol’ Robbo’s jasmine-related woes.  As dearly as I love the stuff, and despite all the “hearty variety” flim-flam served up by various nurseries, it just doesn’t survive this far north.  I’ve planted a dozen different specimens the past few years, but of them all only one has survived.  Absurdly, it’s the one that has the greatest exposure and least sunlight compared to all the others, and only grows a couple feet during the season.  And yet, it managed to put out this cluster this year.  A metaphor for Hope in our debased times?  A freak of glowbull enwarmening?  A one-off to be wiped out the next really cold wintah?  I dunno.

Enjoy it nonetheless.









Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The trailer for the third movie is up and it does little to allay the bad feeling I got when I first heard of this project.

It may surprise some friends of the decanter but the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorite movies.  It’s goofy and light-hearted and doesn’t take itself in the least seriously, and is still fun to pull out thirty years later.

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is a different kettle of fish.  It was plain that after the surprising success of the original the suits got hold of that one and tried to turn it into a blockbuster, resulting in a movie that was plodding, forced, and overly-reliant on special effects.

From what I see here, the suits are still in charge.  (In addition to having the look of the second film, in the clip it seems they’re just trying to reheat jokes from the original.)

Also, Winter and Reeves are too damn old to be acting like teenagers.  Keanu looks like his dentures are about to fall out.

And what are the odds of Digital Zombie George Carlin?


UPDATE:  I should have added the disclaimer that I hope I am completely wrong about this.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was over at Netflix charging up his queue when he noticed that two of his favorite Jimmy Stewart westerns, Bend of the River (1952) and The Far Country (1954) simply aren’t listed any more.  (The same thing happened when I tried to check out Land of the Pharaohs (1955) a couple weeks back.)

Fuming, I immediately skootched over to the devil’s website and bought “The James Steward Western Collection” which, in addition to these two, also features Winchester ’73 (1950), Destry Rides Again (1939), Night Passage (1957), and The Rare Breed (1966).

It was only twenty bucks, which is good value, but the whole episode reminded me that I am increasingly frustrated by Netflix, who appear to be indifferent to maintaining their DVD library if not outright deliberately culling it.  Right now, my “availability unknown” queue  – which is functionally a fuggedaboutit column – is longer than my “active” one, which itself is peppered with “delay” and “long delay” tags.

Just because I haven’t done a “list”*** post in a long, long time, here’s my current “unknown” queue.  I’ll give you that some of the films are a bit ecclectic or obscure, but some of the titles might surprise you:

Khartoum (1966); The Gods Must Be Crazy (1984); Rio Grande (1950); 633 Squadron (1964); Bandolero! (1968); The World Is Not Enough (1999); Bullets Over Broadway (1994); Flash Gordon (1980); The Freshman (1990); The Flight of the Phoenix (1965); Sleeper (1973); The Man Who Would Be King (1975); Love At First Bite (1979); The Desert Rats (1953); A Fish Called Wanda (1988); The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968); The Last Legion (2007); The Ladykillers (1955); The Crimson Pirate (1952); The Alamo (1960); The Black Swan (1943); The Four Feathers (1939); How The West Was Won (1962); Pork Chop Hill (1959); The Red Badge of Courage (1951); Tarzan The Ape Man (1932); Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai (1984); Love In A Cold Climate (2001);  The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976); Apocalypto (2006); Arsenic And Old Lace (1944); The Highwaymen (2019); Grosse Point Blank (1997); Broken Arrow (1996); The Secret Of My Success (1987); Memphis Belle (1990); Captain Blood (1935); Get Shorty (1995); Batman – The Movie (1966).

I dunno what Netflix’s metrics are for letting a title go overboard, but as I say it’s grrrrr-inducing.  Some of these are obviously purchase-worthy and I’m resigned to doing so, I guess, but others just aren’t.  I thought the whole point of Netflix was to be able to pull up the latter from time to time, but what do I know.

**Yes, it’s actually in paragraph form but WordPress’s quirky auto-paragraphing makes real lists too unwieldy.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy** Memorial Day!

Ol’ Robbo is nursing a pair of very achy knees this afternoon after putting in a great deal of extra work in the yard this long weekend, much of which involved squatting and kneeling.  (I’m thinking I may need to get a couple of those copper-weave braces that Brett Favre and Jerry Rice are hawking on the teevee these days.  Of course, if I actually had some gin in the house at the moment, that would work pretty well, too.)

I won’t bore you with a detailed account of my goings on, but if you indulge me in just one  item I promise you a couple nice pics at the bottom of this post.  I mention it because it’s a job I’ve been dreading and putting off for some considerable time.

You see, we have a short, steep hill going round one side of the house.  It’s covered in shade virtually all day, and is the path the runoff takes when it rains heavily enough to overwhelm the drains out front.  So grass never grew there and it was always either baked hard or a muddy slough.

Some years back we decided to make the best of the situation by simply laying in a wide path of river stone. (Without actually measuring, I’d estimate the entire area is roughly eight feet wide and maybe twenty to twenty-five feet long.)  It looks nice enough, and eventually Ol’ Robbo is going to get around to trying some rhododendron on either side.

However, either last year or possibly even the year before now, we had a freak rainstorm one spring morning.  It dumped something like four or five inches in one hour, and the resultant cataract coming down the hill threw the stones all over the place, leaving large tracts of the underlying groundsheet uncovered.

I’d been hemming and hawing about putting it right ever since.  One simply can’t rake stones of that size (everything from an egg to a Russet potato), nor can one effectively shovel them.  The only thing to do is pick them up one by one and either fill up a bucket or else simply toss them back where they belong.  I thought it would take forever.

However, as Sam Gamgee’s Gaffer said, “It’s the job what’s never started as takes longest to finish,” so this morning I said to myself, “Self, let’s do this.”

Turned out it really didn’t take all that long at all.  Thus endeth the lesson.  But, as I say, all that squatting and carrying took their toll.

Thank you for your patience!  Now how about a couple more flower pics?

First, here’s another of those big bomb peonies.  I actually found this plant hidden back in the raspberries when we first moved into Port Swiller Manor.  I dug it up, split the root ball in half, and replanted the two at opposite ends of my rose/peony bed:

And I include this second pic even though the flower is not completely open yet for fear that I won’t get another chance.  This has always been my very favorite of all my peonies because of its soft, delicate coloring and pure, simple petals. (In fact, I used to have two of this specimen but one died.)  Here’s the thing though:  This is the only bud on the entire plant.  The plant itself seems perfectly happy and healthy, but there’s not so much as a smidgen of a suggestion of any other buds forming.  I find this…disturbing.

Anyhoo, there you are.  The wisteria are nearing peek bloom now and the scent is wafting across my porch even as I type this.  Next up I believe the jackmanii clematis next to the garage is about to let loose.

**”Happy” refers to the fact that this weekend has become the unofficial start of the summah season.  What would be the appropriate word when speaking strictly of remembering our fallen military members?

UPDATE:  ARGH! Checking my usual web haunts just now, I see that while I was out schlepping in the yard all morning, Oregon Muse over at Ace’s Place used Capucine as his “Who Dis?” girl today!  I suggested that entry to him a couple weeks ago after seeing her in “North To Alaska” and he agreed!  I coulda been a contender!  See what happens when you leave the innertoobs for real life?



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s main gardening task this Saturday before Memorial Day is to give the lawn a weed n’ feed treatment and, honestly, I can’t bring myself to inflict a post on you just about that.

Instead, a little Hollywood History of the World musing.

Last evening Ol’ Robbo watched “The 300 Spartans” (1962).  For a war movie, it seemed to me fairly bland and wooden, but appeared to be a reasonably accurate (at least according to tradition) depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae and the run-up to it.  I guess Richard Egan (Leonidas) was something of a minor beefcake back in the day but I found him sleazy-looking.  (UPDATE DEUX:  No, that’s the wrong adjective.  Sorry.  What I mean is that he just didn’t project Ancient Greek royalty to me.  He looks more the hard-bitten sergeant in a WWII film, or perhaps the bad-guy hired gun in a western.)  I also suppose poor Ralph Richardson (Themistocles) just needed the money.  David Farrar (Xerxes) looked too much like Vincent Price to really be taken seriously.

Here’s the thing:  The film makes much of the alliance and dalliance between Xerxes and Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus (the lovely and talented Anne Wakefield).  As the story develops, it becomes increasingly clear that while outwardly supporting him, she is actually trying to manipulate Xerxes into calling off his invasion of Greece.  Indeed, according to the movie, she had just persuaded him, after his forces’ initial defeats, to turn around and go home when news of the secret goat track to the rear of the Spartans’ position came in, causing Xerxes renewed hope of Persian victory.  The show goes on after all and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s been a while, but I don’t remember this from my historickal readings.  That Artemisia (in good faith) warned Xerxes not to commit his naval fleet to battle at Salamis and then saved her own neck in that fight by pretending to turn traitor and then escaping, yes.  But I don’t recall her coming into the tactical story of Thermopylae.

Ol’ Robbo needs to pull out his Herodotus again, I guess.  Not that I mind:  I reread him probably every three or four years and evidently this is a sign it’s time to do so again.


Ol’ Robbo mentioned last week that he might be able to give you some foxgloves today.  Over the years I’ve encouraged them to seed themselves in one corner of my garden, with various results.  The past few years have been rather lean, but for some reason, possibly the very mild winter we had, this spring they’ve really taken off.  Ol’ Robbo truly loves foxglove, and hopes you do, too.  Enjoy!


I believe there are a couple of yellow ones on the way up as well.

“You were expecting weighty content today?”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was watching Star Trek: The Original Series last evening.  The episode was “The Corbomite Maneuver“, one of the better first season episodes even if the subplot about the jittery navigator Bailey is rather tedious.

Anyhoo, perhaps because the ongoing house arrest is causing me to peer more intently into every little nook and cranny, I finally decided to look up which child actor played the alien commander Balok.

Turns out it was Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron Howard.

I’m sure every true Trek Geek knew this already, but since I’m emphatically not one it was news to me.  Huh.

According to IMDB, Clint has been working quite steadily over the years.  Also according to his profile, he’s a self-described conservative.  Working in the Hollywood Swamp, he says he simply keeps his head down and his mouth shut while on the job and enjoys like-minded company when off the clock.  Oddly enough, Ol’ Robbo is in exactly the same position.

Oh, the other thing about this episode is the “tranya”, the liquor served out by Balok to the Enterprise’s boarding party.  My brother and I still use that word as code for adult beverages, especially when talking about them (as in “let’s have some”) in front of our wives.

And no, I’m not a geek.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

An odd day here at Port Swiller Manor, in that we have a big, blue, sunny May sky, but also a howling northwest wind and chilly temperatures.  (My porch thermometer bottomed out at 35 degrees last night.)  Nonetheless, when I went out this morning (my first time in La Wrangler in two weeks), I had the top down.

My jaunt was up to the hardware store to restock my birdseed supply, as my feeder has been empty for about a week and a half.  One of Ol’ Robbo’s simple pleasures is to refill his feeder after such a lapse, pour a cup of kawfee, and sit back and watch the birds return.  It’s a funny thing, but the chickadees are almost inevitably the first ones in.  On the other hand, with any luck the despised cowbirds, impatient of easy loot, will have gone elsewhere by now and won’t come back.

And speaking of birds, the catbird has returned.  Another sure sign of the approach of warmer weather. (I’ve seen mockingbirds as well but they don’t tend to come into my yard for some reason.)

In the garden, my roses are opening up.  I think as soon as we get a good warm spell, the peonies will follow.

As for the movie flash, I caught “North To Alaska” (1960) on an obscure cable channel last evening.  Ol’ Robbo has never seen this film before.  It struck him as a pretty decent flick, with John Wayne pretty much being John Wayne.  It also confirmed me in my long-standing opinion that Stewart Granger’s appeal was largely a matter of eye-candy and not acting skill.  On the other hand, I’d only ever seen Ernie Kovacs’ comedy sketches and was pleasantly surprised at his film presence.  Of the leading lady, one Capucine, as John Cleese’s French knight would put it, “Oh, yas, she’s a verrah nice”.

The channel is running a Dook marathon this weekend and one of the films they’re airing is “The Fighting Kentuckian” (1949), another Wayne film I haven’t seen.  Ol’ Robbo was gob-smacked, when they ran a plug for it, to learn that Oliver Hardy, of all people, is in it.  Who knew?  Alas, it comes on at a time not convenient for me and Netflix doesn’t seem to carry it.  I see where the devil’s website does, however, and at a reasonable price.  Anybody have an opinion about whether it would be worth it?

UPDATE:  “Good news, everyone!” as Professor Farnsworth would say.  I was checking back on my Netflix queue and discovered that “The Dam Busters” (1955) has suddenly been added to the active list!  It’s been sitting in my “availability unknown” column – along with about 40 other films – forever.  Apparently, it’ll be reissued at the end of the month.  I’ve long suspected that Netflix is perfectly willing to let its DVD library crumble into dust (I recently discovered the swine had been billing me for a streaming service I did not order) but this gives me a wee bit of hope.

UPDATE DEUX:  Back to gardening, as you can see I’ve added a couple of rose pics.  The upper is one of our double-knockouts.  I wish I knew what variety the lower one is: I brought it and a couple others back from my parents’ cottage up to Maine years ago and I’ve long since lost the information.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What with baseball season put on indefinite hold due to Coronapalooza, Ol’ Robbo has had to lean more heavily on old movies for entertainment these last weeks.  A sampling:

Only The Valiant” (1951) – A new-to-me film I stumbled across on an obscure cable channel.  Gregory Peck is a hard-horse Cavalry officer who has to hold a narrow defile against the Apaches with a handful of disgruntled troopers until re-enforcements arrive.  It was okay.  Ol’ Robbo has never really understood the Peck allure.  To me he always seemed simply wooden.  If there was some kind of brooding, smoldering, passionate substratum under that tightly-contained facade, damme if I could ever see it.  When I put this to the Mothe, who was a yuge Peck fan, she would simply reply, “You haven’t the genes, dear boy.  You haven’t the genes.”

Big Night” (1996) – Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci as two Italian brothers who have one last chance to save their 1950’s Jersey restaurant before the bank takes it.  With Minnie Driver when she was sort of a thing and Isabella Rossellini, who at one time Ol’ Robbo thought the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (but not here).  It’s actually a very small film but it has its moments.  I saw it once years and years ago and my impression was simply, “Eh, fine”.  Nothing this time really changed that.  I will say this:  Ian Holm, who is one of my very favorite actors, could do many, many things.  But here he could not pull off a convincing Italian patrono.

The Lavender Hill Mob” (1951) – Mild-mannered bank nobody Alec Guinness quietly concocts a plan to steal his employer’s gold and get it out of England disguised as Eiffel Tower souvenir paperweights.  In Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion, this is the second best of the classic Guinness/Ealing Studios comedies, the best being – far and away – “The Ladykillers“.  Fight me.

Coming Up:

Adventures of Don Juan” (1948) – I’ve not seen this one before but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that it’s Errol Flynn doing pretty much what he does in every picture – fling himself about the stage with a sword and a debonair smile.  And once again, Alan Hale will be trailing him, no doubt chuckling heartily.  (Alas, no Basil Rathbone in this one.)

Sahara” (1943) – After Tobruk, Humphry Bogart is an American tank commander who has to get back to Allied lines.  On the way, he picks up a ragtag of passengers including a Brit medical team, a Frenchie, a Sudanese soldier and his Italian prisoner, and a downed Luftwaffe pilot.  I’ve seen this pic a number of times and it is a really good cat-and-mouse tactical thriller involving the search for water and an on-coming German strike force.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing it again.

So there you have it.

UPDATE:  I received word today that “Joe Kidd” (1972) is on the way.  I honestly can’t recall if I’ve seen this before.  I’m much less familiar with Clint’s Westerns (apart from the Leone spaghettis) than I am with the Duke’s because by the time Eastwood got into making such movies the genre was dying out.  (Happily, his “Unforgiven” (1992), of course, gave it new life.  Fun fact: Rob Campbell, who played one of the cowboy bad guys in that film, was a classmate of mine in college.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy (if, in fact, that is the right word given the theological complexity of the day) Palm Sunday!

I made these last year and in fact still have them.  They are my very first successful attempts at palm crosses, a skill I had quietly envied in others for years before finally stumbling across a how-to video making their construction explainable even to hapless idiots like me.  In my triumph, I also made some for the Gels although I don’t know what happened to those.

Ol’ Robbo usually tries to knock off the electronic media stuff during Holy Week, but given the lockdown craziness this year I believe I’m going to go the opposite direction and bring myself to start observing Mass via the innertoobs. I’ll probably drop in here, too, at least just to check things, but I don’t know how much I’m likely to post.  Who knows, though….perhaps the effort to pull myself together after the last three weeks’ shambles will inspire some worthwhile observation.

We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just to give you friends of the decanter something happy to think about as you gaze out into the silent, body-strewn streets, I would point out that today is the “anniversary” of the birth, in 1732, of Franz Joseph Haydn.  (It’s generally argued that he was probably born March 31, but I believe it was Haydn’s own joke that April 1 was the more appropriate date.)

Ol’ Papa is one of Robbo’s very favorite musickal personalities:  Self-made, hard working, modest, a shrewd businessman, yet at the same time loyal, kind-hearted, and extremely witty.  And the man had nothing of that narcissistic wankery about him which was invading Western Art via the romantic movement by the time of his death in 1809.  Papa was an artisan, not an artiste, and never forgot that his musick was meant first for the glory of God and second for the enjoyment of his audiences.

He was a Good Man.

I won’t post any yootoob performance samples here since I abstain from musick during Lent, but if you want a definitive biography I cannot recommend highly enough Haydn: His Life and Music by H.C. Robbins Landon.



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July 2020