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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Some time back Ol’ Robbo was lamenting the fact that, although the fireflies were out in force at Port Swiller Manor, he still hadn’t seen bats wheedling about in the dusk. Whelp, we’re good now.

On the bat-food front, my new back porch bug-zapper, after great initial success, crapped out on me in that the fluorescent light went dark, and when I tried to fix it, broke under my hand. I’ve had to order another that specifically touts the replaceability of its light. Grrr.

On the Busman’s Holiday Front, Evening Entertainment Division, Ol’ Robbo has had from Netflix and been meaning to watch for some days now “1984” with John Hurt as Winston Smith. Yet, when I come to consider shoving it into the player, I realize that I’ve been monitoring this sort of thing in real time all day on the innerwebz, so why would I possibly want to see it again in fictional version?

Tonight, instead, I watched TCM’s airing of “The Spoilers” (1942), which I hadn’t seen before. Alaska Gold Rush. Randolph Scott and the young Duke Wayne beating the crap out of each other. Good times. And why fool with Marlene Dietrich when Margaret Lindsey is on deck? (Insider Baseball for the Ka-Boom and Valu-Rite friends of the decanter, if our late, lamented friend, Oregon Muse hadn’t made the latter a Who Dis? Girl, he otter have done.)

Anyhoo, there you are.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo being out of town for a few days, it falls upon your humble correspondent to take care of Decanter Dog. (I’m pretty much O.C. for the cats anyway, and what Gels are flitting in and out of Port Swiller Manor at the moment can take care of themselves.)

D-Dog is, and always has been, passionately attached to Mrs. R, and while she’s fond of everyone else in the household, Ol’ Robbo is a poor substitute for “Mommy”. As is her wont, the pooch went through about thirty-six hours of outright sulking when Mommy left, refusing to eat, refusing to be comforted (much), refusing to come upstairs at bedtime. Fortunately, she’s in a much better mood today.

One thing that had escaped my notice heretofore is how many different meds Mrs. R has the dog on. Liver, joints, bronchitis…you name it. Ol’ Robbo has a thing about over-medication (for both pets and people): My philosophy has always been not to take any more pills than the absolute bare minimum necessary. (Indeed, I’m in the process of trying to find a new doctor because my current one over-prescribes so much.) So, although elaborate instructions were left me, I’m being somewhat cavalier in my adherence to them. And I’ll be damned if I brush D-Dog’s teeth.

On a related note, I see where Trumpet the bloodhound won this year’s Westminster Dog Show, a first for the breed. Congratulations! This immediately made me think of Hubert, Christopher Guest’s also-ran bloodhound in “Best in Show“.** The movie is older than I realized now, but I’m sure Hubert is smiling down from Doggy-Heaven at this news.

**I own all of Guest’s “mock-umentaries”. I couldn’t tell you which is my favorite because I can never decide.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much in him by way of profundity at the moment, but he did get to touch this weekend on two of the little things in life that he thoroughly enjoys: useless movie trivia and the weather.

As to the first, Eldest Gel and I ran off “Land of the Pharaohs**” (1955) Saturday evening, Howard Hawks’ lavish tale of Ye Olde Egypt, with a screenwriting credit to William Faulkner. I’ve seen it a number of times before and already knew that it was, if not the first, at least one of the very first roles of Joan Collins, and also that it holds some kind of record as to numbers of extras involved. What I did not realize before (until Eldest pointed it out) is that the part of the Captain vamped by Collins into betraying Jack Hawkins’ Pharaoh was played by Sydney Chaplin, Charlie’s son. Indeed, Ol’ Robbo knows little to nothing of Charlie Chaplin’s biography and didn’t even know he had children. Once seen, however, the resemblance is obvious. (It’s in the eyes.)

As to the second, regular friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s deep suspicion of modern communications technology, but I must confess that it assisted*** me in defying Ma Nature last evening. Keeping a close watch on the weather “app” on my iPhone thingy, I was able to perfectly time dashing outside to grill din-dins between two thunderstorms, getting the coals going just as the first rolled off (indeed, an afterthought of a lightning bolt came down pretty near me) and scurrying back in with the meats just as the next arrived. HA! (Of course, Bob at the NSA probably noticed, too, and I’m sure the incident will be brought up at my show-trial when the Truth and Reconciliation Board eventually gets its claws on me.)

So there you have it.

**For some mysterious reason, “Pharaoh” is one of those words Ol’ Robbo has the dickens of a time spelling correctly. After swearing at WordPress for repeatedly redlining me, I sheepishly had to go and look it up.

***Emphasis on “assisted” – my own eyes are still my primary information source.

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!

Yes, yes, it’s May the Fourth. Anybody who adds “be with you” to that over the decanter is highly likely to be pelted with walnut shells and propelled face-first into the Stilton.

Honestly, the joke was kinda, sorta, maybe-slightly-almost amusing the very first time. But to turn it into some kind of quasi-religious holiday? Well, Ol’ Robbo’s got a God already, thank you very much.

I was twelve when the first Star Wars installment hit the theatres, and I still recall the sense of absolute wonderment at that opening scene of the rebel blockade-runner being chased down by the imperial destroyer simply because there had never ever been anything remotely like it on screen before. Admittedly, it still gives me a bit of a chill all these years later. (But I also remember the first time I showed it to the Gels, who themselves had been exposed to much better special effects all their lives. Their reaction? “Meh.”)

I also remember Gene Shalit, the film critic, who believe it or not is still apparently alive, praising SW because the plot was simple and at times light-hearted, in contrast to most of the rest of science-fiction on offer at the time. (Think 2001-A Space Odyssey.)

But then what happened? Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me summarize: The franchise went Full Wagner. (Never go Full Wagner.)*** And here we are, forty-five years later, with a bloated, politicized, faux-religious yet immensely empty, steaming heap of artistic garbage, with a brainwashed, wallet-hoovered, yo-yo fan-base who think that May the Fourth is a Thing.

As you may gather, this irritates Ol’ Robbo not a little.

***If you don’t spot the first riff, shame on you. If you do spot the second, well done indeed!

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 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!

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.


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July 2022