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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No profoundly muddled insights this evening, as Netflix sent along “The Great Escape”.

The movie is nearly three hours long and what with Ol’ Robbo’s need of a set amount of his beauty sleep before tomorrow’s plunge once more unto the Swamp, dear friends, once more, I can either watch TGE or I can bloviate here.  I can’t do both.

See you tomorrow.

*Knocks three times on table top, slips through secret hole under kitchen counter*


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere a month or two back, Ol’ Robbo noted here his disappointment over the movie King Solomon’s Mines (in which Stewart Granger spent most of the film imitating Marlin Perkins while Deborah Kerr kept losing bits of her costume), but he also noted that said disappointment had decided him to read the original book by H. Rider Haggard.

Well, let’s just say that good can come of bad, because I just got done with the book and I’m here to tell you that it was a thoroughly enjoyable story: exciting, exotic, at times bordering on the absurd, and occasionally quite creepy and gory.  (I’m recalling a reference to Gagool the Witch that I had seen somewhere else.  I hadn’t known till now that this is where she came from.)  And our friend Allan Quatermain turns out to be the sort of phlegmatic, professional, ambivalent pukka sahib who seems to be at the center of nearly all the stories I’ve read by British Empire writers who have spent any real time on the frontiers (think Kipling, for example).

Incidentally, I’ve also been reading a book the Mothe sent on to me some time this past summah called The Zulu At War: The History, Rise, and Fall of the Tribe that Washed Its Spears by Adrian Greaves and Xolani Mkhize.  It’s a real trainwreck of a composition, but from the tangled prose, it’s still pretty clear that Haggard’s mythical tribe of Kukuanaland is based pretty faithfully on the Zulus, with whom he had extensive personal experience when he was Out East himself.

By the bye, I link specifically to the new edition of KSM put out by the Oxford University Press for two reasons.  First, it comes with very informative textual and explanatory notes, although I think you can probably skip the introduction which seems to be about the psychology behind romance writing.  (Who knew Freud and Jung were both HRH fans?) Second, the cover art by A.C. Michael reminds me very much of the work of the great N.C. Wyeth.

So Ol’ Robbo is definitely going to delve further into Haggard’s writing.  (I believe there are numerous Quatermain adventures as well as others.)  I’m also circling back round to Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but NOT Catriona since I learned my lesson about that one last time; some of the other historickal adventures).  I’ve dipped into Conan-Doyle (The White Company, Brigadier Gerard) but I know there’s lots more left unexplored.  I have all of P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion stories but need to explore further there as well.  Kipling, of course.  Finally, yes, dammit, I need to get into John Buchan.  Any suggestions on where to start with him?

UPDATE: Well, I say I’m going to circle back round to RLS, but that’s only if I can find the #@*^&# fellah!  One of Mrs. R’s least endearing practices is her periodic “tidying up” of the Port Swiller Library, usually when she decides I’ve left too many books stacked up on tables or else when she wants to put a new framed photo or whatnot up somewhere.   The trouble is that, in so doing, she’s in the habit of putting books back on the shelves hugger-mugger and all ahoo, with no respect whatsoever for Ol’ Robbo’s careful organization.  (Mr. Dewey ain’t in it, and I don’t need no stinking decimals, neither!)  Result?  Well, at the moment Jim Hawkins and David Balfour have up and disappeared.

I suppose eventually, after much searching, I’ll find one or both of them wedged between Augustine’s Confessions, a Plum Wodehouse novel,  and Atlantic Salmon Fly-Tying Patterns, but I’d just as soon the Missus didn’t mess about with them in the first place.  Grrr…..


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fortunately for Ol’ Robbo’s blood pressure, Game Four of the Nats/Cubs series (with the latter up 2-1) was postponed this evening due to rain.  I didn’t think I could stand to watch had the game gone forward.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes haunted by apprehensions that he isn’t really a very good father, but this postponement gave him some cause for reassurance in at least one respect:  Both of the Younger Gels independently came to him this evening to argue about the merits of sticking with the planned fourth arm in our rotation versus bringing back our ace.  Surely that counts for something, am I right?

Anyhoo, and violently switching subjects:

Ol’ Robbo, as regular friends of the decanter know, is an enormous fan of the author George Macdonald Fraser.  One of Fraser’s books, written in the late 80’s, is The Hollywood History of The World, in which he compares historickal costume dramas with the “reality” of the periods they purport to represent.  The book is split up into seven sections:  The Ancient World; Knights and Barbarians; Tudors and Sea Dogs; Romance and Royalty; Rule Britannia; New World, Old West; and The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo has been re-reading it this week.

I don’t think this is one of GMF’s best works, as it covers an awful lot of ground at what I think is a pretty superficial pace, but it does throw out a delightful lot of references.  So, given an evening’s reprieve from the tortures of October Ball, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of opening up this book to its index and dialing up Netflix in order to toss as many of GMF’s references into his queue as possible.  I’m at 90+ films in reserve now, and am pretty sure this is a record.  (Whoever at the NSA has Ol’ Robbo’s file no doubt will have kittens tomorrow morning as a result.)

You know what? GMF’s movie list stretches back to the early 30’s, but a surprising number of his cites are still available, even if some of them are only in the “save” category, which means that the odds of my seeing them are pretty slim.

On the other hand, some of them, as you might imagine, Ol’ Robbo has seen already, some many times.  But others will be new to me and I will post about them here.

Curiously enough, when I got this idea, I was already working through a patch of WWII historickal films, all of which get a nod from GMF.  Here, then, are some very brief reviews:

Sahara” (1943) – I’ve seen it before, but it stands up very well as a nice, tight, film.  An American tank is cut off from the retreat from Tobruk in 1942 and has to make it’s way across the North African desert alone.  Humphrey Bogart is the tank commander, aided by a young Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, the fellah who played Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester ’73 and who, once, you’ve seen him, you’ll never fail to recognize.  Along the way, they pick up an RAMC medico and a couple of tommies, a Sudanese scout and his Italian prisoner, and a Luftwaffe pilot.  Together, they have to navigate between water holes, and also fend off the German unit coming after them.   Good stuff.

A Walk In The Sun (1945) – I cannot recommend.  It tells the story of an American platoon going ashore in Italy.  Unlike in Sahara, I found the characters to be wooden and clichéd.  The pace may very well have matched actual combat conditions, but it didn’t translate well to the screen.  Oh, and there’s a ballad.  Ol’ Robbo hates ballads.

The Desert Fox” (1951) – I also can’t recommend.  Although James Mason is rightly cast as Erwin Rommel (whom I respect as a principled warrior, by the bye), I think the movie tries to do too much in too little time, short-changing Rommel’s skillfulness in fighting in North Africa, his frustration in trying to hold the Atlantic Wall, and his (questionable) complicity in the attempted assassination of Hitler.

Well, there we are.  Game Four? (Sigh.) Bring it on.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo often takes a walk round the National Mall on his lunch break.  Over the course of time, I’ve seen many, many things there, but never something quite like this:

WASHINGTON — A 45-foot-tall sculpture of a nude woman could be coming to the National Mall for an extended stay. 

Organizers of the Catharsis on the Mall event are trying to raise funds to transport the R-Evolution sculpture from San Francisco to D.C. in time for this year’s event, which is set for November. 

The organizers say they have received approval from the National Park Service to have the structure on the grounds of the National Mall. It would stand next to the Washington Monument and face the White House.

The article says the purpose of the statue is to encourage people to “de-objectify” women’s bodies.  Or something.  I’m not sure how erecting a giant, unmissible object is supposed to do that, but whatever.  Also, if the way tourons take pictures of themselves pretending to prop up the Washington Monument is any indication, there are going to be hijinks a-plenty that the organizers of this thing probably didn’t have in mind.

Speaking of objectifying women, our Maximum Leader is back on the blogs with a post about the passing this  week of Hugh Hefner.  Ol’ Robbo can’t say that he thinks Hef’s legacy was a net gain for the culchah.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finally got around to watching Rogue One last evening.  I’m hardly what you would call a Star Wars fanboi (I still haven’t seen Episode VII), but I must say that I think I rather enjoyed the film overall.  A nice, tight story; good cinematography; a Death Star that seemed almost to possess a malice of its own.

And what I really liked was the fact that so many different characters were involved.  It felt much, much more like a genuine fight between Empire and Rebel Alliance, and not just another episode of Skywalker Family Squabbles© with a bunch of extras on either side.

If the film had a weakness, I’d say it’s that I really didn’t know much more about any of these characters at the end than I did at the beginning.

Also, I have to say the CGI appearances of Zombie Peter Cushing and Zombie Carrie Fisher disturbed me somewhat.  Being made to play a character even though you’re actually dead somehow just doesn’t seem right.

Nonetheless, as I say, I think I liked it.

On the other hand, I see there’s a new Star Trek series being launched, Star Trek:Discovery.  It’s already being called ST:SJW because it’s being marketed as having a real Hard Left vibe.  Thanks, but I believe I’ll pass on that one.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Via the Puppy-blender, Ol’ Robbo came across this article on the fifteenth anniversary of the short-lived tee-vee series “Firefly“.

Ol’ Robbo never saw the show on network tee-vee, but came across it later and now owns the series on DVD and watches it every few months. Apart from the solid crafting and nifty dialogue of the show, in terms of its general spirit I consider myself to be a true Browncoat, especially considering all that is going on these days in the Imperial Swamp.

Anyhoo, the article prompts both a reminiscence and a question in what passes for Ol’ Robbo’s braims:

First, the reminiscence.  I’ve probably mentioned here before that the creator of “Firefly”, Joss Whedon, was a classmate of mine at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  Indeed, we lived in the same residential college.  All I remember of him back in those days was seeing him wandering round campus in some kind of daze.  Whether recreational pharmaceuticals were involved, I simply could not will not say.

Second, the question.  “Firefly” is stridently libertarian in tone, the crew of the good ship Serenity all opposed to the totalitarian impulses of the Alliance for various reasons, yet in his own life Whedon has been a knob-gobbling supporter of Progressivism in general, and Emperor Barky O-Beho the First in particular.  Why is this? Does he not get the paradox?  Or does he just not care?

The World wonders.

Oh, and as I’m on the subject of Whedon, I will state here and now that his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is wretched, both in understanding and performance.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

WHO put the “bop” in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?

WHO put the “ram” in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

The world wonders.

Ol’ Robbo apologizes.  As mentioned below, I’ve a trial coming up eftsoons.  We’re scheduled to go on up to Maine on hols almost immediately afterwards, in large part to visit the Mothe, whose health has declined rather significantly this year, but there is some small but hideous chance that said trial will interfere with said trip.

I find myself…somewhat stressed by the possibilities of both legal combat and familial disruption, and thus prone to such apparently inane lines of thought.

UPDATE:  As I typed, Middle Gel got home from an evening out with a gentleman friend seeing the latest Spider-Man reboot and going out to dinner.  She mentioned that she had wasabi, which immediately brought to Ol’ Robbo’s mind a Budweiser advertising meme that flared and died before she was even born.  Those of you old enough will recall it, I’m sure:

The rest of you? Lawn. Off.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As some friends of the decanter may be aware, it is Ol’ Robbo’s habit, when the weather is not too hot, of devoting his weekday lunch hour to a brisk walk ’round the National Mall.  (I generally do a sort of figure-eight between 15th Street and 3rd Street, with an extra loop round the reflecting pool in front of the Grant Memorial.  All told, and counting the distance to and from my office, it’s about 3 1/2 miles.)

In addition to the exercise benefits, Ol’ Robbo frankly enjoys people-watching, and just generally getting a sniff of the air, watching the latest hatches of ducklings grow up, and looking at the clouds and feeling the cycle of the year.

Another benefit is seeing the various seasonal displays and installments come and go.  Right now, the big to-do is the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.  This year, the theme is “Circus Arts“.

I suppose I haven’t been paying that much attention, but I’d had no idea that the “Circus” has gained such airs and pretensions in recent years.  From the Smithsonian’s promotional copy:

Circus arts have evolved over time to reflect changing social tastes and values, technological innovations, and performance styles. Immigrants from all over the world continue to contribute their creativity and skills, foods, languages, rituals, and other customs that enrich the circus arts.  Across the country, emerging youth and social circuses and schools provide new opportunities for artistic expression.

Well, la-dee-freakin’-da.

What I actually saw today as I strolled along was a collection of cheap canvas tents and clowns.

I hate clowns.

Not so crazy about cheap canvas, either.

Also, among all the circus-themed attractions this year, there is a singleton pavilion devoted to “On the Move: Migration Across the Ages”.  I gather the “link” is supposed to have to do with the numbers of “immigrants” who traditionally have gone into circuses (Gypsies, anybody?), but it looks to me more like a thinly-disguised stick in the Administration’s eye over clamping down on border security.

Eh.   Whatever.

Oh, what you won’t see?

*No exotic animals will be involved in the program.

But of course.  That’s yer “changing social tastes and values”.  And if said changes have to come via lawfare waged by fanatical interest groups, well shut up, peasants, because we know what’s good for you better than you do.

Indeed, the theme of the Festival is damned ironic, considering  Ringling Bros. had its final show just over a month ago, having been hounded out of biznay by the PETA crowd over its elephants, camels, tigers, and so on.  Ol’ Robbo remembers going to see that show several times in his misspent yoot, and the parade of elephants was always one of his favorites.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is currently making his way for the umpteenth time through the Flashman Papers (yes, I know I should be expanding my horizons elsewhere) and it suddenly occurred to him that he had never heard Flash Harry’s favorite song, “Drink Puppy Drink” by George Whyte-Melville.

Whelp, through the magic of YooToob, to look it up (at least in its regimental version) was the work of an instant.  Probably not much like the single-finger-on-the-keyboard version Flashy performed while enduring the tender embraces of Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar, but I pass it on just in case you’re interested.  Enjoy!

And here, in case you’re further interested, are what this site says are the lyrics to the song:

Now here’s to the fox with his ass beneath the rocks,
Here’s to the line that we follow.
And here’s to every hound with his nose upon the ground,
And a-merrily we whoop and we holloa!

Chorus (after each verse):
So drink, puppy, drink, let ev’ry puppy drink
That’s old enough to lap and to swallow;
For he’ll grow into an hound,
And we’ll pass the bottle ’round,
And merrily we’ll whoop and we’ll holloa.

Now here’s to the horse and the rider too, of course,
Here’s to the rally to the hunt, boys;
And here’s to every friend that can struggle to the end,
And here’s to the tally-ho in front, boys.

Now here’s to the gap and the timber that we rap,
Here’s to the white thorn, and the black, too;
And here’s to the pace that puts life into the chase,
And the fence that gives a moment for the pack, too.

Now the pack is staunch and true, now they come from scent to view,
And it’s worth the risk to life, limb and neck, boys;
To see them drive and stoop until they finish with ‘Whoop’,
Forty minutes on the grass without a check, boys.

A glass of wine, indeed.

R.I.P. Adam West.

Although I only saw the old series as late afternoon reruns when I was in elementary school, I still like to say that West was the only “real” Batman, mostly to annoy the sort of people who take comic book (excuse me, “graphic novel”) characters seriously.

If nothing else, you have to admire the guy for being such a good sport about making his name over something that was so eminently silly, and respect him for cashing in on it as well.  Rayther like Bill Shatner in that, I suppose.

Speaking of the Caped Crusader, Eldest Gel made me watch the Lego-Batman movie a couple weeks ago.  Yeebus!  The pure inundation of light, sound, and movement nearly caused Ol’ Robbo to have a seizure.  Is this what it takes to keep our Ritalin-soaked kids’ attention these days?

UPDATE: Speaking of comic book moovies reminds me of a discussion I had with a work colleague of the feminist persuasion this week about the new Gal Gadot Wonder Woman movie.  She was of the opinion that it probably wouldn’t appeal to adolescent boys.

I thought back to my own misspent yoot and my droolings over the lovely and talented Lynda Carter in the same roll.

“Oh,” I said, “I think they’ll like it.”

Maybe not for the grrrlzz-power reasons my colleague would want, but…I think they’ll like it.

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