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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo recently purchased himself a (slightly used) box set of “Danger UXB“, the series, like so many other great classics, having vanished from the Netflix DVD library. I ran off the first episode last evening. 40 years on and fresh as ever.

Do you know, I have no stomach for movie suspense. I squeem and squirm and look the other way and mutter “na, na, na, I’m not listening” when the poor fellah starts banging at the bomb fuse with a hammer and chisel. And the ridiculous thing is that I feel this way even when I know perfectly well what’s going to happen next because I’ve seen it before.

Funny enough, I’m the same way with books. I can read, say, The Fellowship of the Ring a hundred times and each time get the creeps when Frodo is hiding behind the tree while the Nazgul sniffs for him on the path nearby.

In each case, there’s always something in the back of my mind that whispers what if it happens differently this time?

You may call this willful suspension of disbelief. You may also call it insanity. Your choice.

(By the bye, a glass of wine in honor of John Hawkesworth, who produced the series. Now there was a fellah who knew how to put together quality teevee.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest got home from school last evening for the long weekend. (Can you believe it’s fall break already?)

I’d swear the Gel is taller than she was when I last saw her in August. And this after she gained better than an inch last year.

Talk about your late growth spurt. I always thought girls did most of their sprouting early on. Certainly this was the case with the other two. Who knows why Youngest should prove the exception.

Incidentally, it may or may not have been my pondering on this question when she came home from school last spring, but “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” is floating around somewhere in my Netflix queue at the moment.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel has decided to revisit her Tolkien. (I can’t remember the last time I saw her or her sisters reading for the pure pleasure of it, so this pleases me greatly.)

Although she decided to go back and start with The Hobbit, she seems to be trying to piece together what she remembers from the other books and tie them into the story as she goes along. Yesterday she asked me, “What exactly are Wizards, again?”

Well, she’s not a little girl anymore but a full-fledged adult, so it hardly seemed fitting to fob her off with “Oh, they’re very wise beings with magical powers.” So I told her briefly and off the top of my head about Tolkien’s Creation story. I mentioned Eru, the Valar, the Maiar, and the history of their battle against the dark forces of the fallen Melkor (including Sauron) for control of Arda, and how Gandalf and the other Wizards were a set of Maiar who took bodily form and went into the world to carry on this battle.

The look that crept over her face as I rattled this off was, well, incredulous.

“You are such a nerd!” she said.

What was it Billy Shakespeare said about serpent’s teeth and thankless childs?

Ol’ Robbo might agree that he deserves getting tarred with that epithet were he to bring up the subject on his own, but she asked! She asked!


UPDATE: Heh. Having finished The Hobbit, Eldest said, “Tolkien took two pages to describe the Battle of Five Armies. How the hell did Peter Jackson stretch that out to an entire feature-length movie?”

That’s my gel! Indeed, my very first substantive blog post from back in the very first days of the Llamas (coming up on 18 years ago, now) was a satirical damnation of Jackson and all his works.

And, by the bye, rereading that post just now, two things come to mind. First, Eldest, who I’m pretty certain has not read it, spotted the same flaw. Second, rereading it after all this time, like flipping through an old photo album, fills me with a sort of melancholic blend of fondness and regret over what it was like to be young and full of fresh ideas.

Good times, my fellow port swillers. Good times.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, yes, I’m around. I’ve just not had much materialize in my braims to pass on to you over the past few days. Let’s see what we can do even without….

For those of you interested, yes, Ol’ Robbo is directly affected by the jab-mandate that issued Friday. Alas, I’m hardly in a position to draw myself up, snap my fingers under the boss’s nose, and declaim “Be damned to you and to this job!” I’ve still got some weeks before I actually have to do anything about it and am holding out hope that the whole biznay will collapse under its own politickal weight and go away before then. (A scenario not quite outside the realm of possibility.)

Meanwhile, we continue to chug along. The last few days have been so warm and languid in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor that I’ve caught myself routinely checking Decanter Dog and the kittehs, sprawled about on the porch soaking it all in, to make sure they’re all still breathing.

And speaking of breathing, I’m here to tell you that I am no fan of ragweed season. Geh.

How about a couple film quick hits? Over the weekend, Ol’ Robbo watched “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” (1935). I’ve an idea I’d seen it before but couldn’t remember. It presses all the right buttons for anyone liking unapologetic British India: tent-pegging, the Great Game (complete with native disguises), and hordes of badmashes howling down the pass. The only awkward bit was the tedious explanations as to why the three main characters, officers in a British lancer regiment, all had American accents. (Gary Cooper was the star.)

I also watched “3:10 to Yuma” (1957). I’d seen it before and remembered it to be good, but I’d forgotten just how good it is. Glenn Ford’s Ben Wade must be one of the most appealing yet scary bad guys in all of the western genre, and the mental fencing he and Van Heflin’s Dan Evans engage in is really quite thrilling. The story and acting are so enjoyable that one is quite ready to ignore some cinematic howlers, including telephone poles in the distance and an opening credits sequence featuring a stagecoach dashing across the desert under an sky featuring a quite prominent con-trail.

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo warned you. Just not much else to say at the moment. (At least out loud.)

No, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t usually put up two posts in one day, but I’ve no intention of doing any kind of 20th anniversary of 9/11 reflection tomorrow. (I’d probably just get myself arrested.)

So today you get a twofer.

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that I replaced the faucet in the downstairs loo during my recent vacation? Well, the one in the mawster bawthroom heard about that and decided it wanted to get in on the fun and games, too, and started leaking out one of its knobs.

Unlike the one in the loo which is one of those compact affairs with both knobs and faucet all on the same bar, this is one of those three separate piece jobs. Which means three times as much un-anchoring and re-anchoring hardware, together with twice as many lines to unhook and re-hook.

Also unlike the loo sink which is a pedestal, this one sits atop a cabinet. So while it’s somewhat easier to get at things, it’s a much more cramped working space. Lying on my back trying to work wrenches and screwdrivers around the doings by flashlight, I could feel the claustrophobia hovering just beyond my conscience. Pretending that I was working in a U-boat to while away the time probably didn’t help much.

Ol’ Robbo is not a very large guy at all, and it was something of a squash for me. How some of these larger fellahs manage to work in such spaces I really cannot imagine.

*** A perfect double-reference. On a whim, Ol’ Robbo recently purchased a collection of the old “Carry On” films, the old British comedy series. (Did you know that this was the largest movie franchise in British history and the second longest-running one behind the Bond collection?) Last evening I happened to watch “Don’t Lose Your Head”, which is their spoof of “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. So there you are.

I first came across the franchise via watching telly my post-college year in London. That was thirty-mumble years ago. My long-time recollection was that they’re amusing enough but a bit hit-or-miss. I’m finding now that this impression was correct. “Head” is one of the funnier ones. On the other hand, “Follow That Camel”, their take on “Beau Geste” which I watched the other evening, is just silly. Glad I got the collection, though, and will probably pick up Volume 2, as well.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that it’s been a long while since he posted random bits from the Before Times here. Perhaps it’s a good idea to pick up the habit again before they’re disappeared forever.

Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1754, of Vice-Admiral William Bligh, surely one of the most unjustly-maligned figures in popular culture. Even many of those who have never seen “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) nor heard of Charles Laughton have the idea in their heads that Bligh was an unhinged tyrant. Well, he wasn’t. A disciplinarian, yes. A man with a temper, yes. Perhaps not endowed with what are now known as “communication skills”, yes. But an unhinged tyrant? No. And he was a damned good sailor, too.

Not too long ago, Ol’ Robbo re-watched “The Bounty” (1984), with Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian. It does a much better job of probing into the actual causes of the Mutiny. (And as an aside, Patrick O’Brian also deals very well with Bligh in the Aubrey/Maturin novel Desolation Island, discussing not only the Mutiny itself and Bligh’s remarkable voyage after being cast adrift, but also the reasons for the rebellion against him by the local cabal of grifters when he was Governor of Australia.)

Funny enough, though, I prefer the older movie as a movie: Laughton plays Bligh as a cartoon villain, but he’s so much fun to watch that I am able to swallow my outraged historickal sensibilities. On the other hand, the more recent film comes over as rayther flat to me, despite its attention to period detail and gorgeous cinematography. Go figure.

UPDATE: Oh, if you’re interested in a real historickal lunatic who had no biznay commanding a ship, read up on the mutiny of the crew of H.M.S. Hermione in 1797 against Captain Hugh Pigot. Dudley Pope’s The Black Ship is an excellent source for this.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The new washing machine was delivered to Port Swiller Manor this morning. When they said 7:00 A.M, by jigs, they meant 7:00 A.M. Lots of new electronic whistles and bells compared to its dead, 20+ year old predecessor. One of them is a “stain removal guide” setting. The choices include “tomato, wine, blood, grass, [and] dirt”, which immediately struck me as an outline for a fairly lurid thriller. (Perhaps I’ll write it.) Making its maiden run now. Definitely has a larger capacity than the old one.

In a change from the ordinary, Ol’ Robbo needs to refill his hummingbird feeder today not because the current content is getting old but because the little blighters have almost emptied it. I can’t recall a more active year here. There are at least three of them, and hummers being such aggressive and territorial types it’s like watching the Battle of Britain every day. (How any of them has time for sipping in between dogfights escapes me.)

I continue to scan the headlines with disgust and contempt, but also with a certain detachment because I have God. (This may sound trite or corny, but I’ve worked hard at it and finally begin to understand, however hazily, what it truly means.) How horrifying it must be for those who replace Him with worship of the State or themselves or nothing or whatever to lead such angry, empty, deceitful lives, only to discover in the end how wrong they were. (I think of the demise of Mabel Brand in Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. One of the scariest things I’ve ever read. But I also think of Puddleglum in The Silver Chair when the witch tries and fails to hocus him into denying his faith in Aslan.)

I assume that most of you who still bother to drop in here for a glass of port also spend time over at the Ace of Spades Moron HQ. Yesterday on his GAAAINZZZ thread, Ace mentioned a “push-up challenge”, the goal of which is to try and do 100 push-ups over the course of a day. As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo hit on this very idea himself a couple of months ago. I’m now doing 125 a day, in sets of 25. It may sound idiotic, but I only actually stumbled across the principle of doing push-ups properly fairly recently. All those years I had been concentrating on trying to straighten out my arms instead of pressing with my pecs. What a difference.

My next challenge will be pull-ups, which I can’t do worth jack.

I’m probably a bad old man for it, but now that Mrs. R and Eldest are back at work at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, I derive a certain satisfaction at watching them have to get up early in the morning to get ready. (Summahs have always been a bit irksome when Robbo has to put on the ol’ harness while everybody else sleeps in.)

On the gardening front, I will be cutting back the forsythia this weekend in order to see if I can get a more concentrated bloom next spring. They had plenty of flowers last year (thanks, I believe, to the lime treatment I started giving them) but they were overgrown and stringy. We’ll see what happens.

Also on said front, Ol’ Robbo is geeking out because his lawn service sent out order forms for fall aeration, over-seeding, and lime treatment, for which I am enthusiastically signing up. It’s my Christmas present to myself this year. (No kidding.) The Port Swiller Manor demesne hasn’t had such care since we first moved in and I’m determined to wrestle it back to good health.

And speaking of which, time for Ol’ Robbo to go haul out the mower…….

French-Fried UPDATE: Because Ol’ Robbo got the jump on his Saturday yardwork chores early, he was able to spend the afternoon lounging about. Following up on my comment about misbegotten Jackie Chan scripts the other day, I spent it reading Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days.

Well, I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly. Perhaps at least just one futuristic invention? But, no: Just a fun adventure story heavily dependent on railway and shipping time-tables. And while others might roll their eyes and skip a bit when Verne starts going into detail about the geography of various railroads in India and the United States, I got a geeky pleasure out of them. (When I told Eldest about it, we got into a discussion of whether Verne himself put in the travelling leg-work to gather together all his information and atmosphere. I should think he must have done.)

Anyhoo, it’s tightly told and nicely written, and the perfect thing for a lazy afternoon in the hammock. And I was amused to see a Frenchy’s pen-portrait of a stuffy, stiff-upper-lip Englishman. (Somewhere or other, right on the outskirts of memory, I recall reading recently a discussion of foreign attempts to portray the English, in which Phileas Fogg’s name naturally comes up. It’s going to drive me crazy trying to remember where I saw this.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After a perfectly gergious day yesterday, the low dropped down into the mid-50’s last night for the first time in months. Ol’ Robbo would take that year round.

Sometimes you just can’t win.

Last evening, Eldest wandered in and said, “Watcha doing?”

“Reading an autobiography by Alec Guinness,” I answered, “then I’m going to watch a movie called ‘Operation Petticoat’. You’re welcome to join me.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. It’s a screwball comedy about a WW2 submarine.”

“Gawd,” she said. “You are such a nerd! Why can’t you be more hip?”

“But I thought you liked the fact that I’m a nerd. You’ve complimented me on it many times. Are you saying I should do a Steve Buscemi ‘Greetings, fellow kids’ thing?”

Gawd!” she said, “It’s ‘How do you do, fellow kids’! You can’t even get the meme right, you nerd!”

I shrugged. She flounced.

(But I’m guessing not seriously.)

Incidentally, I b’lieve this was my second viewing of “O.P.” I liked it a lot more than the first time I saw it, but I guess I’m simply never going to cotton on to Tony “Yonda lies da castle of muh faddah” Curtis.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

WordPress doesn’t time-stamp my posties, so I will tell you myself that it’s about four ack-emma as I type this. We had a wicked pissah of a lightning storm come through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor about an hour ago, courtesy of what remains of Hurricane Ida, and I simply can’t get back to sleep. So, then…….

What I wrote below about perhaps finally finding the mystery crack in the garage causing my basement study to flood? Fuggedaboutit. Even now the study floor is covered in water and the automatic pump is churning industriously. Grrrrr…..

Which reminds me of a long-standing question: We’ve lived in this house for nearly twenty-one years now. To say that I know all if its quirks and, ah, weaknesses is to put it mildly. So when we come to sell eventually, assuming Ol’ Robbo is still above ground, morally speaking exactly how much of this knowledge am I obliged to disclose to potential buyers? I put this to Mrs. R the other day and she takes a strict caveat emptor approach, but I wonder……

Speaking of such things, I also noted recently the death of the Port Swiller Manor washing machine. The replacement arrives this Saturday. A friend has offered to let us run loads at her house if needed, but we’re trying to avoid this. When Mrs. R asked if my boxer drawer would hold out, I replied, “It’ll be a damned nice thing – the nearest run thing you ever saw”. I’m not sure the Iron Duke would appreciate my appropriation, but I got a chuckle out of it.

Somewhat at random, yesterday Ol’ Robbo plucked from his library shelf Alec Guinness’s memoir A Positively Final Appearance. (I have a small collection of books of reminiscence by such stage giants as Olivier, Gielgud, et al. Ol’ Robbo was bitten by the theatre bug a long time ago and never quite got over it.) I may or may not have read it before, I cannot recollect. In any event, as much as I like Guinness, I do wish he had not been so churlish about his Star Wars fandom. I understand his frustration that such silliness should have overshadowed his other far-more substantial achievements, but he was just an entertainer, after all, and Obi-Wan did put a substantial amount of coin in his pocket, so………

By the bye, I like to think that Alan Rickman’s character in “Galaxy Quest” is as much, or more, of a nod to Guinness as it is to Leonard Nimoy. Certainly there are better grounds for such bitterness. (I mean, Shakespeare versus “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”. You be the judge.)

And incidentally, if I had to pick a favorite Guinness movie role, I’d probably have to go with Professor Marcus from “The Ladykillers”.

Well, I won’t bore you friends of the decanter with an obscure ** spot the quote riddle. I put up the title to mark the fact that this is September 1st and we can now begin to see that summah has done its worst and will do so no more. As I started out quoting Wellington, surely it’s fitting to finish up quoting Churchill: “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning.” (Well, it doesn’t work completely, but it’s now five ack emma, so forget it, I’m rolling.***)

***Okay, you can spot that reference.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo’s vacation is about over and done and tomorrow I put back on the ol’ harness. On the whole, it was quite restful and I’m ready to get back to work. A few observations to wrap it up:

As promised earlier, I did clean out the garage yesterday, at least as far as I could. I duly emptied it out, swept, blowered and mopped, threw a bunch of junk away, and reorganized the remains. So it’s definitely cleaner. (I did not make any friends among the many spiders who live there.) However, a really thorough job would have involved a good power-washing of the floor (my washer is hors de combat) and repainting the walls (don’t tell Mrs. R I said that). Maybe next year.

Another result is that I may, at last, have finally found the crack whereby the water gets down into my basement study from the garage every time it floods. (It happened again last week and there’s mud all over my study floor. Another job for another day.) Fortunately, I had some quikrete left over from another of this week’s projects with which I won’t bore you, so I duly filled it in. I guess we’ll get to test it soon, as I understand what’s left of Hurricane Ida after it makes landfall is supposed to come through here mid-week, and I’m sure lots of water will get into the garage.

Eldest Gel and I watched “Around The World In 80 Days” (2004) last evening because we both like goofy Jackie Chan action movies, but really, this was ridiculous. (And Jim Broadbent ought to be ashamed of himself.) I’ve never actually read any Verne, but the knowledge of what violence this film must do to his novel has motivated both the Gel and me to pick it up in order to, so to speak, get the bad taste out of our mouths. One of the arguments made for film adaptations of liddashur is that they’re supposed to encourage viewers (especially the young people) to read the source material. Personally, I’ve never believed that happens very much. True, it’s happening here, but we’re both cranks and I doubt if many others would share our motivation.

On that note, I’ve also got “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” (1954) in my queue, this time on the Gel’s recommendation. Again, I don’t know how closely the film follows the book, but the Gel enthuses over it because it actually tells a story without relying on explosions every five seconds, and also because she’s discovered what a good actor James Mason was. (And now she gets a real kick out of my Peter Lorre impersonations, too.) I may have seen this film when I was a small boy but I remember nothing about it, except maybe a giant squid.

Oh, speaking of books, those of you who recall that Ol’ Robbo started his vacation binge-reading the works of George MacDonald Fraser may be interested to know that I made it through virtually his entire canon, fiction and non-fiction, except Black Ajax (which I don’t own), Mr. American (which is too long), and The Steel Bonnets (his history of the Anglo-Scots border reivers which, frankly, puts me to sleep.) That should hold me on GMF for a while.

Mrs. Robbo returns home today from playing in a regional USTA tournament, her first I believe. (She also got to visit with Middle Gel because the tourney was in her neighborhood.) I’m happy that she has her tennis even though I’ve never had any interest in the sport myself. While her team didn’t advance, I gather they nonetheless put up a respectable showing. (Mrs. R has played since she was a little girl and was captain of her college team. She’s never been a power hitter, but has always relied on control and finesse. Recently, so I understand, she has developed a wicked slice that has placed her much in demand as a doubles partner.)

To celebrate her return and as a send-off before we all – Mrs. R, Eldest, and I – go back to work tomorrow, I’m doing a bit of a slap up dins tonight. Mrs. R doesn’t eat meat, so I am doing her some fish. Fortunately, she recently discovered a taste for tilapia. I say fortunately because a) the thing is so mild that you can go to town with sauces and marinades, and b) no more salmon stinking up the kitchen. I’m trying a cilantro-lime marinade recipe this time. Eldest and I are quite content with steak on the bar-b. Add some popovers and artichoke and we’re all good to go.

Well, that’s that. Time, almost, to re-enter the (un)real world of madness that I have been trying to ignore mostly while on vacay. Ol’ Robbo avoids politickal commentary here as a rule, but God help us all.

UPDATE: What better way to wind up your vacation than to set your hair on fire! Ol’ Robbo has a small firepit near his grill in which he’s accustomed to burning empty charcoal bags. I must have got a bit cavalier about it this evening because tossing the screen on top I managed to create a fireball that wooshed past my head. A little later, I noticed that it had singed a goodish part of the hair above my left ear. Distinctive smell, too. Fortunately, I am approaching what Mrs. R calls the “Mountain-Man” look, so even though the ends withered, there was no permanent effect.



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October 2021