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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noticed the ballyhoo this week over the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

The fact of the matter is that I was only four years old at the time of the first Moon landing, so have no clear recollection of it.  Thus, this is read-about-it history to me instead of lived-it history.

I do have vague recollections of being awakened at odd times of night to see various events associated with some of the later missions.  The last two I remember following quite closely.

And the other thing I remember very clearly after Apollo 17 and the end of the program was thinking, “Oh, well.  We’ll be going back again soon, I’m sure.  Then Mars.  Then who knows?”  Even at the tender age of seven, I had some historickal sense of the Spirit of Exploration, so I figured we’d simply carry on forward with what to me was, and still is, a completely logical progression.

Fifty years after Apollo 11, I’m still tapping my foot, glancing at my watch, and waiting….

Thus, all this celebration really kind of rubs me the wrong way, as it seems rather hollow.  Just what the heck have we done since then?  Fooled about in Low Earth Orbit with a flying dump truck?  Built a couple LEO “stations”?  Lobbed some unmanned probes here and there?

I’m not saying these programs haven’t had their benefits or been technologically marvelous in their own ways.  And I’m not even complaining here about NASA nowadays frittering itself away on things like Muslim-outreach and the Globull Enwarmening scam.  I’m just saying I’m disappointed we don’t have colonies on the Moon and Mars, asteroid mining, and a high-orbit space port for deeper space missions.  Because until we do have such follow-on achievements, the Apollo Program is really something of a blind alley, isn’t it.

To this end, I really think governments should take a page out of history and allow and encourage more private space exploration.  It is, as Captain Kirk would say, the Final Frontier, after all.  And it isn’t going to be conquered by gubmint bureaucrats, but instead by adventurers, people in it hoping to make a huge profit or else just doing it because they get a kick out of it.  (Absurdly enough, the movie Star Trek: First Contact nails this idea nicely:  Zephram Cochran’s self-interested quest to develop warp drive is the wave of the future, IMHO.  Ol’ Robbo likes to think whoever wrote that story-line had Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” floating around in the back of their mind, even if I really rather doubt it.)

Ah, well.

Maybe, just maybe, the current song and dance might kindle in others that same expectation I had back when I was a boy and still do.  And on the privateering front, I continue to be impressed by the advances being made by Space-X.  Moar, please!


**Could not resist the apropos quote, although the fact of the matter is I’ve never been a Jackie Gleeson fan.  I appreciate his talent, but his brand of humor was too broad for me.  It’s just a matter of taste.

UPDATE:  Speaking of NASA and humor, an oldie that has always made Robbo laugh:









Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on my post immediately below, shortly after Ol’ Robbo updated it mid-day Saturday, the heat-exhaustion did indeed set it.  (I’m something of a martyr to it.)  My muscles cramped up, my head split, my ears started ringing, and my chest got all froggy.  I consequently spent the next 36 hours pretty much flat on my back sucking down water and Gatorade.

“Maybe it’s time you hired somebody to mow!” said Mrs. R in her most quarter-century-plus wifely voice.

Damme if I do.

Anyhoo, between my extended rest and the fact that it has been cooler and drier the past 48 hours, Ol’ Robbo is back to normal enough to say a thing or two about the Battle of Gettysburg which began this day in 1863.

Or rather, not so much about the battle itself, but about its most famous recent cinematic depiction, which I may or may not re-watch for the eleventy-millionth time again in the course of the next few days.  We’ll see.

Ol’ Robbo has some beefs about this film, some major, some minor.***   But my biggest has always been this:  Michael Shaara, who wrote The Killer Angels, the novel on which the movie is based, was very careful to state explicitly in his introduction that the book was not a story about the Battle of Gettysburg itself.  Instead, he said, it was the story of some of the men who fought in that battle.

Fair enough.

But the movie, in taking the title “Gettysburg”, by implication spools the story back out to encompass the entire battle.  And even though that may not be it’s intent, the average movie-goer, assuming they haven’t read up their history independently, and aren’t completely pedantic nuts like me, come away thinking that the story presented in the movie is pretty much the whole story of the Battle.*****

What irks me about this is that so much which ought to be celebrated (at least if you’re a Unionist) or at least acknowledged, gets swept aside. (Yes, I know it’s a drama and not a history. Make that clearer, is all I’m saying.)

Doubleday: “By the way, what the hell is this ‘designated hitter'” rule? Find out who called for it and have them shot immediately!”

Which brings me to the portrayal of the action on July 1.   The movie faithfully follows the book’s description of the initial clash between Federal and Confederate forces through the eyes of Buford, Heth, Reynolds, and, farther back, Lee.  But once Reynolds is killed, you get about five minutes of Heth telling Lee the Confederate forces are coming down in flank from the north, a bunch of Yankee soldiers panicking and running away, and then another officer telling Lee the Yankees have fallen back through Gettysburg and are reforming on the hills behind.  The fact of the matter is that Abner Doubleday, taking over the 1st Corp in place of the fallen Reynolds, and Oliver O. Howard, with his much-maligned 11th Corp, spent the rest of the First Day putting up a hell of a spirited defense against the overwhelming numbers and flanking movements of the Confederates.  Without additional support they had no chance of actually winning, but they were able to hold their forces together, give the Rebs several local bloody noses, and withdraw without going completely to pieces (although it wasn’t pretty).

Oliver O. Howard: “Yeah, I know Stonewall got the jump on us at Chancellorsville, but that wasn’t really our fault. We stopped him in the end, didn’t we?”

The Second Day could not have been fought at all without their (and their Corps’) gallant efforts on the First.

So when Sam Elliot leans against the caisson wheel at the close of the First Day in the movie and says, “Well, General Reynolds, we held the high ground,” Ol’ Robbo gets a bit miffed on the part of those others who helped make it happen.

Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

(Okay, maybe I’m not quite completely over the effects of the heat.)


***I’ll give you an example of a minor one.  When C. Thomas Howell, as Tom Chamberlain, stops to chat with a trio of Confederate prisoners, the staging of the scene is lifted straight from Winslow Homer’s painting, “Prisoners From The Front”.  In the movie, Howell (in an ungodly accent that wouldn’t have been heard within a thousand miles of Maine), talks with the Reb on the left, who in the painting is a slack-mouthed bumpkin.  Were the scene faithful to the painting, he more likely would have exchanged courtesies with the cavalier officer on the right.

Another egregious borrowing is the scene in which Reynolds dies.  It ends with a blatant nod to “The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West.  Ol’ Robbo will be generous and assume that this is tribute and not plagiarism.

*****People often say, when I argue this sort of thing, “You may be right, Tom, but the movie will encourage people to read further and become more informed.”  I’ve yet to see any real evidence that this is the case except far out on the margins.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Robbo Family tradition played out today, as Mrs. R and I carted Youngest Gel off to two weeks at Bible-Thumper Camp.  This is the Gel’s tenth year there as a camper and she’ll go back for another two week stint in August as a member of the kitchen crew.  (She also intends to set the Port Swiller Family record by going back next year for her eleventh, possibly as a team captain, thus doing down Middle Gel, who chose to spend the summah of her senior year in high school at the Young Life camp up to Upstate New York.)

I use the “Bible-Thumper” moniker here in completely good-natured jest.  The camp is unabashedly Christian in its mission and activities, is run by Evangelicals and is staffed by college kids from places like Liberty University and Grove City College.  As what’s left of our so-called culture hurtles ever more swiftly into the abyss, Ol’ Robbo isn’t going to let a few theological disputes between them and the Old Religion prevent him from welcoming these folks as allies. (The camp motto is: God First, Others Second, I’m Third.)  Plus, after all these years, not one of the Gels has reported any snake-handling sessions there….

I keed.  I keed!

On the other hand, as always, a stream of “Christian Rock” was blaring over the loudspeakers over to the main assembly area.   Theology aside, from a purely aesthetic point of view, Ol’ Robbo has always found this particular musickal genre pretty vile.  What I say is, if Gregorian Chant is good enough for me, it’s good enough for these young whipper-snappers!

Lawn.  Off.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel happens to be a big fan of goofy Nick Cage movies (which, “Leaving Las Vegas” aside, seems to pretty much include all of them).

Nonetheless, I discovered the other day that she hasn’t seen “Con Air”.

This astonished me, especially as she’s also a fan of a lot of the other actors in that movie.

For myself, this is one of those flicks which, if I stumble across it on cable while searching for alternatives to watching the Nats fold up again, I’ll always stop and watch.

The subject came up as I was recharging my Netflix DVD queue t’other day, so I immediately tossed it in the queue toward the top.  It showed up this afternoon, and we’ll watch it together hopefully this evening.

That’s Ol’ Robbo: Always looking out for the cultural betterment of his nearest and dearest.

I’ll let you know what she thinks.

UPDATE: Whelp, Eldest was too worn out from her first day of VBS to want to watch a movie tonight.  She’s also on duty at her paying evening job for most of the rest of this week, so we won’t get to run the bunneh until some time closer to the weekend.  I’ll follow up with a separate post.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was just about to compose a long diatribe about Netflix’s crumbling DVD service. (My queue just ran out and I’ve spent the last hour or so recharging it.  I’m up to about 70 movies, but it was hard work.***)  Based on my previous experience, the current format makes it damme hard to browse effectively.  Plus, a lot of titles previously available have simply disappeared.  Also, the suspiciously high number of “saved until available” hits I’ve got for what ought to be fairly popular movies seems to indicate that Netflix has  given up on any real effort to replace destroyed copies.  (I can’t get “The World Is Not Enough“? Really?)  Finally, I no longer see any effort to expand their library beyond anything other than “new releases”.

I’ve a sinking feeling that Netflix’ll probably discontinue the whole platform within the foreseeable future and stake everything on their (also) dying streaming service.  Then where will Ol’ Robbo be when it’s not baseball season?

Anyhoo, as I contemplated expanding the previous two paragraphs into many more, Mrs. R came storming into Port Swiller Manor in a high state of disgust.  She’d just been to a meeting of the local philanthropic wimminz group of which she is a member and officer.  Apparently, the town community center which they wish to use as a venue for one of their fundraisers recently had an attack of wokeness and is now only offering its cheapest rates to entities that can demonstrate their own lack of barriers and prejudices.  So in order to get the best rate they could, Mrs. R’s group voted this evening to eliminate all “sexist” language from their bylaws.  They’re still, let us say, the Old Dominion Ladies’ Alternative Junior League, but they’ve replaced all the “she’s” in the bylaws with “he/she’s”, etc.

“What the hell?” Mrs. Robbo asked, in my opinion quite reasonably.

She abstained on the vote itself, but wanted to know if this meant men would be allowed to join the club.  Oh, no, she was assured, it’s just a thing to get the better rate, since we always need to save money.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

I’m not sure if she’s more disgusted at the community center’s new regime, or at the club’s mealy-mouthed efforts to conform with it.

Mrs. Robbo is a very non-political sort of person and wants only to get on with others, and often has rolled her eyes at Ol’ Robbo when he’s got up on his hind legs about some Socialist Juicebox Wanker issue or other.  But something like this just might make her realize the truth of Trotsky’s dictum that “you might not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.”


***Feel free to toss Ol’ Robbo any movie suggestions.  I’ve profited greatly from friend of the decanter tips in the past.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has no greater ambition this fine Friday morning than to toddle down the street and finally get his overdue car safety inspection dealt with. While I’m waiting for the tail end of rush hour to clear up, how about a little of this and that?

♦  Ol’ Robbo loves how the marriage-speak sentence “We need to do X” actually translates into “You need to do X”.  (The only possible response, of course, is “Yes, Dear.” They hate that.)

♦  Speaking of domestic irritants, Eldest has long had the most infuriating habit of taking glasses, plates, and silverware up to her room and squirreling them away in squalid post-meal heaps.  I’ve begged, I’ve threatened, I’ve shamed – she still does it.  Other than installing locks in the kitchen, I’m at a loss.

♦  Speaking of kitchens, any friends of the decanter ever tried this Beyond Meat thing?  It sounds revolting on several different levels to Ol’ Robbo.  I’ve got a work colleague, an avid vegan, with whom I’m occasionally forced to eat lunch.  The trouble is that when she’s eating, about the only thing she can talk about is her veganism, and this fake-meat thing often comes up.  She won’t come out and call me a murderer to my face for my own carnivorous preferences, but you can tell she’s thinking it.  (I just smile thinly.)

♦  Speaking of work colleagues, I’ve another one, a college history major no less, who didn’t realize yesterday was the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  **Thud**

♦  Speaking of history, Ol’ Robbo re-watched “The Death of Stalin” last evening.  I enjoy this film more and more each time I see it.  The trouble was that this time I also watched the special features commentary.  I swear the director said something about how important it was to make a film about dictatorship in the age of Trump and Brexit.  Seriously?  Wanker.

♦  And speaking of films, the other evening I also re-watched “Lost Horizon“, which I hadn’t seen since my misspent teens.  I guess Ol’ Robbo has got old and crusty, because I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I remembered it.  Frank Capra is, for the most part, just too gooshy for me.  (“It Happened One Night” is, of course, a notable exception.)  Think I’ll just stick to the book going forward.

Well, I suppose I had ought to be shifting and go take La Wrangler for her checkup.  Do you know, she’s sixteen years old now and I’ve still only put a little over 99K miles on her?  Reckon she’ll last me a good while longer.

UPDATE:  La Wrangler is just fine.  Seems the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has changed the inspection sticker: It used to be yellow but is now smaller and blue. What would we do without bureaucrats?

Took a walk with Eldest this afternoon to get her some pick-me-up cofevve before her evening work shift.  When I mentioned the vegan thing to her (there’s no shame in using the same materials for blogging and meatspace conversation), she rolled her eyes and started to laugh.

“Veganism is vegetarianism turned up to eleven,” she said.  “It’s its own whole level of crazy, and for some reason they simply can’t shut up about it.  Eat your pretentious goop if you like but leave me out of it, I say.”

That’s my Gel – both for the sentiment and the nifty reference!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo tried to start several different posts on various topics this evening and couldn’t seem to get any of them to fire.   One was about how staggeringly beautiful Melania Trump is, one was about a kerfluffle at a local mega-church, and one was about the dynamics of having all three Gels home for a few days, a thing that has become something of a rarity now that the older two are off at school.  All interesting topics, I should think, but the words just wouldn’t come.


Ol’ Robbo is quite used to sailing into the compositional doldrums come summah, but none of the usual factors seems to be at play here.  The weather has been pretty cool and I’m not yet suffering my chronic heat exhaustion brought on by commuting in a jeep with no A/C.  I’ve no major distractions or troubles at the moment.  I’m perhaps more aware than usual of the dangers relevant to my professional standing from hitting the wrong hot-button topics, but while I often have to bite my tongue about those, this doesn’t usually prevent me from blathering about other things.   No, it seems I’ve just got the Block.

Heigh-ho.  It happens.

Whelp, Time the Great Healer, and all that.  Rayther than waste any more of your valuable time on it, I’m instead going to go watch “Lost Horizon” (1937) which turned up in my Netflix queue today.  I first saw this film some time in my early teens, and I think it was the first Civilized Westerner meets Exotic East adventure tale to really fire up my imagination, and to eventually lead me to authors such as Rider Haggard, P.C. Wren, Anthony Hope, R.L. Stevenson, C.S. Forester, and, of course, Kipling.  And yes, I read the James Hilton novel on which the movie is based not all that long ago and enjoyed it, too.

Maybe a little escapism will do the trick, eh?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust that all y’all (as they say in Texas) had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend, taking some time, of course, to reflect on why we have the holiday in the first place and to honor the fallen.

Anyhoo, as he climbed back into the Innerwebz this morning, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was taken by an article which makes him, at least potentially, very happy:  French Senate says Notre-Dame must be restored exactly as it was.

On Monday evening, the French Senate approved the government’s Notre-Dame restoration bill – but added a clause that it must be restored to the state it was before the blaze, striking a blow to the government which had launched an international architecture competition to debate ideas on the restoration.

Now to be perfectly honest, I’ve no idea what the “French Senate” actually is.  Nor do I know how it interacts with “the government”  (although I expect the latter is something akin to our own Executive Branch).  If you read the article in full, it also hints that the final authorization still has to be ironed out with yet another legislative chamber, so despite the headline, this apparently is not a done deal yet.

Nonetheless, I am encouraged.  I dismissed as so much fluff all those ideas about rebuilding the place with a glass ceiling, a minaret, a roof-top garden, and other modernist sacrilegious tweeks the other day, but I confess that I still had a Nameless Fear that something of the sort might happen.  Matter of fact, I still do, and will continue to harbor it until I see the actual construction start.

Mind you, I doubt this move by the Frog Senate has much to do with religious motivation or preservation as HMC would see it.  Instead, I believe it is more in line with what I’ve read about a draconian obsession amongst the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys** with historick preservation of Things Uniquely French.   After all, I believe there still exists an Academy which lays down the law about such things as cluttering up the French language with bastard English (the law being that you can’t).

But hey, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, amirite?

Of course, this assertion of orthodozy brings Ol’ Robbo round to wondering again how on earth that rat-bastard Mitterand ***  managed to swing the construction of I.M. Pei’s pyramid slap in front of the Louvre.  That thing went up 30 years ago.  I remember thinking at the time that it was nothing more than a giant flipping of the bird to Western (and more specifically French) Tradition.  Nothing since then has given me any reason to change my mind.

Howsoever, that’s an aside.  I am still cautiously optimistic about this week’s nooz regarding Notre Dame.


** Okay, how could I write a post about the French without slipping that in?

*** One of my favorite modern Catholic Apologists, John Zmirak, uses Mitterand as a case study in Gluttony for Power in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins.  Well worth a read.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s Ol’ Robbo’s understanding that HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series came to a conclusion the other day.

I’ve never seen a single episode myself as I gather it was basically a pron version of Dungeons & Dragons and that holds no appeal for me, but I’m aware that many other folk were deeply devoted to it, and also that a substantial subsection of that group were disappointed in the finale for one reason or another.  This evening, Eldest Gel, who was not a fan herself but likes to observet the observidies, tried to explain to me some of the various objections, as well as some proposals for rectification, up to and including a rewrite of the entire final season.  These proposals, in turn, apparently are generating pushback from the people involved in “GoT’s” actual production and their allied fans.  From what she tells me, the debate seems saturated by a tone of entitlement  toddlerism.  “I want ‘GoT’ MY way!  And I’m going to hold my breath until I DIE, unless they do it exactly as I say! Whaaaaaah!!!”

Seriously, have people nothing better to do with themselves than get cranked up over this?  I’ve been around long enough to see plenty of teevee series come to a controlled storyline  end: “M*A*S*H”, “Cheers”, “Seinfeld”, etc.  I found most of them to be pretty lame, but I never gave it much thought beyond that.

Of course, it’s a tricky biznay, wrapping up a show.  Indeed, so far as Ol’ Robbo recalls, the only series finale that dropped the ball straight into the cup was that of “Newhart“, and even then you had to be in on the backstory to appreciate it.  (But then again, by that point I suppose the only people watching the show were, like Ol’ Robbo, true Bob Newhart fans, and knew all about the backstory.)

Anyhoo, allow Ol’ Robbo to indulge himself by crossing this particular stream, about which he cares not, with another (The “Hitler Rants” Parodies) which he enjoys thoroughly:





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is not quite ready to set his hair on fire and start running about screaming over the idea of Notre Dame Cathedral being fitted out with a green or glass roof, or being turned into some kind of generic “worship center”.  So far as I understand it, people are just spit-balling at this point and the MSM is feasting on click-bait.  The actual decision will take years and probably will be made by people not currently in the position to do so.  (IOW, I hope that punk Macron is long gone by then.)

Of course, Ol’ Robbo favors an exact reconstruction of the original (although I can do without the spire), but you probably guessed that already.

UPDATE:  A friend of the decanter asks, “Tom, what do you have to say about the Abortion Wars hotting up again this week?” Not much, really, as I figure I’d probably just be preaching to the choir here.  I am and always have been Pro-Life.  So are the Gels.  That’s that.

And while I’m updating, I’ll also say I really don’t know much yet about that Charles County, Murrland public school forced recitation of the Islamic conversion creed now possibly heading to the Supremes.  It seems outrageous on the surface, at least, although I’m rather inclined to agree with the same instructor’s alleged remark that, “Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.” (I’m looking at you, C&E Crowd!)  But as I say, I haven’t dug into the facts much, nor into the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning for siding with the school.  (In fact, I don’t even remember that ruling coming out.)  Ol’ Robbo has no problem with a public school teaching about a major religion, but forcing a kid to practice it (or even pretend to) seems to me to go way over the line.  OTOH, having been involved in litigation that’s made its way into the press myself, I know just how distorted a story can get.


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