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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo watched a couple of WWII movies this week that I thought well worth a mention.

The first, which ran on TCM, was “Battleground” (1949), about the 101st Airborne pinned down at Bastogne.  I knew I’d seen it before, because I remembered Ricardo Montalban being in it.  However, having watched the “Band of Brothers” series multiple times since then, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Tom Hanks and his screenwriters have seen it too, as there is much which seems to reappear in the BoB treatment of the siege.  A solid flick.

The second, which I got from Netflix, was “The Train” (1964).  Burt Lancaster is a French railwayman who, along with his Resistance pals, seeks to thwart a Nazi plot to steal a load of French Master paintings and ship them out of Paris by rail just before the Allies move in.  (Funnily, the first paintings shown being fingered by the Krauts were by Gauguin.  My reaction was, “Hey, take ’em.”) I had not seen this film before (although one sequence in which a British Spitfire tries to catch and destroy a locomotive before it can get to a tunnel and hide seems oddly familiar), and had no real expectations one way or the other.  Well, my friends, setting aside the fact that Lancaster didn’t even bother trying to adopt a French accent but instead grunted his lines in good ol’ ‘Murican, I found this film to be terrific.  It’s chock-a-block with intrigue, suspense, and action.  The Nazis are suitably villainous, the French pragmatic, cynical, but patriotic.  The special effects are quite good.  And there’s not a single ounce of superfluous fat in the screenplay.  (Oh, and I read that Lancaster does all his own stunts.)  Highly recommended.

Speaking of Netflix and old movies, I assume you all saw the recent article about the academic who argues Dick Van Dyke’s soot-covered chimney-sweep mug in “Mary Poppins” is somehow raaaaaacist?  It’s complete horse hockey, of course, and I doubt even the academic xerself believes it, but this is a perfect example of the cultural Marxist assault on the Western canon: Make an assertion, however ridiculous or outrageous, and stick to it through force of will until your target crumbles.  I’ve read elsewhere that Netflix itself will succumb (perhaps even willingly) to this assault and destroy its library of DVD classics, leaving its clients with no choice but streaming of politically correct modern claptrap.

In the last year or two, Ol’ Robbo has started collecting DVD copies of movies that have come under the censorial gaze of the modern Committee of Public Safety, including such classicks as “Gone With The Wind”, “Blazing Saddles”, and “Animal House”.  It is arguable that films like these contain material that is antithetical to the current Neo-Jacobin sensibilities (to which Ol’ Robbo would reply, “Fine. Don’t watch them, then.”).  But to attack something as innocent as “Mary Poppins” on completely bogus grounds? That’s escalating the liquidation to an alarming extent.  And I doubt if my wallet is large enough to provide sanctuary for all that many refugees from this kind of purge.

(Nonetheless yes, I’m already preparing a secret hidey-hole in which to store my collection for when the Ogpu come round looking for it. Ssssshhhhh!!!!!)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo didn’t watch the SOTU this evening: I’ll leave it to my trusted politickal sources to suss that one out.

Instead, I relate a conversation:

Youngest: Dad, when do I get a car?

Self: We don’t “get” cars, my dear, we “buy” them. That costs money. And you have to earn it.

Youngest: Okay, when do we “buy” me a car?

Self: How’s your GPA? And I see that summah camp work crew application still not filled out….

Youngest: Oh, funny thing! I was going to do that this evening. (Grabs pen, proceeds to write….) So, about that car?

Self: So, about that GPA?

My friends, I can’t help but say that for once Ol’ Robbo is feeling the power.

For some reason, the scene put me in mind of what I had thought was another Geico commercial, but on review turns out to be a State Farm wannabe. Still funny and apropos.  (Imagine me as the guy in the waders, and a set of keys on the end of the line.):


MADMEN UPDATE:  I got thinking (again) about the broader subject of insurance company advertising.  (Don’t ask me why, it’s just something I think about from time to time.) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another sector that consistently generates such clever and funny ads.  I suppose when you haven’t got an eye-grabbing product to flaunt in and of itself, you need to rely much more heavily on the sales pitch to sell it.

I mean, think about it:  This whole State Farm series including the one above was generally pretty funny, as was their middle-of-the-night-phone-call one (“She sounds hideous”).  Geico routinely hits it out of the park with their gecko, their cavemen, their rhetorical “Could switching to Geico…” series.  Farmers struck gold when they got veteran (and very good) actor J.K. Simmons to do the “seen a thing or two” line.   Allstate’s Mayhem series is darkly amusing, too.  (On the other hand, I find their “Are you in good hands?” series with Dennis Haysbert a bit flat.  They could score bigly on this if they could manage to insert one “Jobu” reference.)  Heck, even though I don’t care for “Flo” all that much and I despise her soyboy sidekick Jimmy, I still find the Progressive commercials mildly amusing.  (Granted, the one where she visits her deadbeat twin sister is outright funny.)

On the other hand, I find the Liberty Mutual series unappealing.  It started with the weird millennial gal who named her car “Brad” and goes on with various people whining about how some other insurance company are being big, fat meanies about making them whole, even when the accident is their fault.  In this, I think Liberty is unique.  Probably with good reason:  I don’t believe disgruntled spite is really a winning marketing plan.  (Unless, of course, you’re going for that slice of the demographic whose whole world view is based on disgruntled spite against their parents, their employers, the “System”, the “Man”.  But how many Bernie-bot Starbucks baristas can afford a car?)

Anyhoo, I think it’s all both interesting and (mostly) entertaining.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As a bounce-back from this week’s Virginia infanticide Debacle, which is now in the rake-handle-to-the-face-of-the-Left stage, how about a little of this and that?

♦  It’s snowing around Port Swiller Manor at the moment, and Youngest is out running errands in it.  (Needless to say, school is cancelled today per the county’s “one flake” policy.)  When I expressed some misgivings about this, she said, “But Dad, I need the experience, right?”  Yes, yes she does.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t worry.

♦  Ol’ Robbo recently had a birthday.  I’m now 54.  That puts me in my “mid-50’s” now, right? And have I officially hit middle age?  Red Ferrari and leggy young blonds, here I come! (Not.) Reminds me again of a favorite Basil Fawlty internal dialogue:


What was that?

That was your life, mate.

Oh, that’s nice.  Do I get another?

Sorry, mate.

♦  How about some micro-movie reviews?

The Big Country (1958) – I first saw this on teevee when I was about 12 or so.  It was the movie that made me first fall in love with westerns, mostly because of the beautiful scenery.  The story itself is about Easterner Gregory Peck finding himself in the middle of a bitter fight over water rights.  I never understood the appeal of Peck, who to me always seemed so wooden.  Whenever I put this to the Mothe, who thought he was yummy, she’d always say, “You haven’t the genes, dear boy.  You haven’t the genes.”  It also stars the equally unappealing to me Jean Simmons, who always seemed like such a rabbit.  Charlton Heston struts his stuff and Burl Ives is a thoroughly creepy contender in the fight.

Gung Ho! (1943) – Pure WWII propaganda based on a 1942 Marine raid on the Japanese-held island of Makin in the Gilberts.  There’s not much to say about it, except that it stars Randolph Scott and a young Robert Mitchum, who is one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorite actors.

In Which We Serve (1942) – Another WWII film, written and directed by, and starring Noel Coward.  Survivors of a Brit destroyer sunk by the Luftwaffe off Crete think on their past lives as they cling to a life raft.  It’s actually pretty well done.  I wrote the other day about my misgivings over John Wayne’s decision to stick to his acting instead of signing up for the war.  Coward tried to sign on, but was specifically told by Churchill that he’d do more good sticking to entertainment.  The Nazis wanted to kill him at any rate.

♦ Is the Super Bowl this weekend?  I doubt I’ll watch.  OTOH, pitchers and catchers report in two weeks, so it isn’t that long until the real sports season begins! (UPDATE UNO:  Let me make clear that I’m not “boycotting” in support of Colin Kaepernick or anything.  I just don’t give much of a damn.  And the Pats are more or less a lock anyway since Belicheck signed his soul away to Satan.)

♦  Oh, and tomorrow is Candlemas, but it’s also Groundhog Day.  A fun fact about Robbo: I have never made it through the Bill Murray movie of that name without dozing off.  I don’t know why – time and place, possibly – but it’s true.  I’ve absolutely nothing against it, you understand, but to this day I don’t know how it actually ends.

UPDATE DEUX:  Well, we actually got a couple inches of snow after all.  Perfect for taking the puppeh on a long walk round the neighborhood.  On the other hand, Mrs. Robbo’s overnight school outing to the Murrland Science Center got cancelled, so now she’s more or less kicking her heals.  When Mrs. R has a lot of energy and nothing in particular upon which to focus it, it’s best to slide quietly out of the way and hide.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s Netflix queue has been running on a John Wayne theme this week, so if you’re a snowflake or soiboi triggered by toxic masculinity, I highly advise that you DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST.

The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) – The Duke as Marine Sergeant Stryker, hammering raw recruits into lean, mean, fighting machines.  Forty years later, his character would be written as a sadistic psychopath driving the innocent to insanity, but here his harsh methods pay off and help clear the Japs off Mt. Suribachi.  There’s really not much to the movie except that the actual WWII Pacific combat footage incorporated into it is pretty interesting.  Oh, and John Agar is one of the privates the Duke puts straight.  He married Shirley Temple.  All three of them are in Fort Apache, just about her last movie, and fortunately long past her tap-dancing cutesy-pie stage.  Which see:

The Fighting Seabees (1944) – The Duke as Wedge Donovan, construction company owner, who works with the Navy to forge his crew into a combat unit.  I will say honestly that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the Duke’s WWII movies, since he didn’t actually enlist in the service himself at the time because he didn’t want to disrupt his career.  (Compare this with Juh-Juh-Juh-Jimmy Stewart, who did put his career on hiatus and became a decorated combat bomber pilot.)  Again, there’s not that much to the film, although it does feature Susan Hayward, who looks rather like a grown up Shirley Temple.

The High and the Mighty (1954) – The grand-daddy of air disaster flicks. The Duke is an out-to-pasture co-pilot, who has to take command of a passenger flight from Hawaii to San Francisco after engine trouble develops and pilot Robert Stack flips out.  In the meanwhile, the various passengers’ stories are told.  It’s pure cheese, plus it’s so completely “50’s” in its sensibilities (everyone smokes, the stewardess bemoans her single life, comments which would constitute verbal sexual harassment these days are rampant), that the average SJW snowflake would run shrieking from the room after the first five minutes. I just smile.

I mention Robert Stack because he, of course, was also in Airplane! (1980), the movie that hy-lariously and effectively put the bullet in the back of the head of the air-disaster genre.  I got curious because several of the passengers in THATM looked somewhat familiar, but, alas, none of them (so far as I can tell) were also in Airplane!  I did discover that Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa in the old “Our Gang” series, had a bit part.  And the third officer, William Campbell, was easily recognizable to fans of “Star Trek: TOS” as Trelane from “The Squire of Gothos”.

That’s Ol’ Robbo: Doing the nerd work so you don’t have to.  And don’t call me “Shirley”.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Twelfth Night!

Not that Port Swiller Manor indulges in anything like revelry to mark the Eve of the Epiphany, since Ol’ Robbo is really the only one round here who pays much attention to that sort of thing, but I intend to raise a glass or two at any rate.

One custom I have taken to in recent years is the chalking of the door.  I do this on the sly, lest Mrs. Robbo raise objections on grounds of either unsightliness or hocus-pocus.  I can’t pray at her, so to speak, but I can and do certainly pray for her (and the Gels, of course).

Anyhoo, have a merry evening.  But if anybody advises you to wear yellow stockings and crossed garters, YOU. SAY. NO.

Well, friends of the decanter, as promised yesterday, and mostly because it seemed a good way to spend some time with the Elder Gels before they go back to school, Ol’ Robbo betook himself to go see “Aquaman” with them this afternoon.  Eldest duly took us to her favorite theatre, one which features ridiculously comfortable leather recliner loungers with footrests, plus a bar out front.

This, by the bye, was the first time I can recall setting foot in a movie theatre since “The King’s Speech”.  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t get out much. (UPDATE: I’m reminded that I did see one other film in a theatre since then, Steve Carell’s 2013 “The Way, Way Back“.  I obviously blocked the memory because I thought this such an awful film.  If there’s one thing Ol’ Robbo can’t stand, it’s stories about people behaving badly and then whinging about it.  (Yeah, I’m looking at you, “Sideways”.)

As I noted previously, I’m not a comic book (oops, I mean “graphic novel”) movie guy, so I have very little to compare this one against and no real frame of reference.  For all that, I found myself rather enjoying it.  Jason Momoa in the title role is charming as hell and makes Aquaman somebody you’d want to like.  (For any Nats fans out there, he sort of looks like Bryce Harper but with Anthony Rendon’s smile.) Nicole Kidman is only two years younger than me but she still looks pretty good (even though I don’t think her costumes flattered her all that much).  Willem Dafoe had his usual creepy child-molester stare.  Patrick Wilson I recognized from, I’m ashamed to say, “The A-Team”.  (Shut up.)  I don’t know who Amber Heard, Aquaman’s love interest, is, but she did nothing for me.  (Aside from her tinny acting, she had this weird “Little Mermaid” look to her that was quite off-putting.)

As for the story, I won’t spoil it.  There’s some posturing about how land-dwellers are polluting the seas so terribly and must be chastised, but it becomes clear that this is mostly cover for good, old-fashioned palace intrigue within the Atlantian Royal House.  There’s also a subplot about the origins of Aquaman’s arch-enemy, Black Manta.  (Has anybody decried this as racist yet?)  The thing had over the top and cliched moments of drama, passion, sadness, etc., etc., but it wasn’t dark at all.  Lots of light and color, plus a good-humored undertone and wise-cracking that kept bubbling up, mostly, as I say, through Momoa.

The screenplay seems to help itself liberally from any number of other films – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Indiana Jones, Mission Impossible, nods to A Perfect Storm and Jaws, etc.

I remarked to the Gels on the way out that there ought to be an international convention limiting the amount of CGI that can go into any one film.  This one had vast schools (too vast, IMHO) of every kind of undersea creature you could think of (or not), even including sharks with freakin’ lasers on their heads and the obligatory kraken. It also has squadrons of undersea warships straight out of the fevered braims of George Lucas.  In the end, Ol’ Robbo got kind of lost as to who was fighting who.

Anyhoo, although I probably wouldn’t bother seeing it again, it proved to be a fun way to spend a couple hours with the Gels and I’m glad I went.  Say three and a half out of five glasses.

And now, because the movie begins with the meeting of Aquaman’s parents, an Atlantian woman and a human man,  I’m going to indulge myself in some real man-meets-mermaid musick that’s been running in my head ever since:





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has never had any interest whatsoever in all this DC/Marvel Universe movie stuff.  In this, I’m not being a snob, it’s just not my thing.

Nonetheless, I pass on to you Eldest’s take on “Aquaman”.  She says it’s basically “The Lord of the Rings Under the Sea” and is so stupidly fun that she’s seen it twice already.  If a movie of this sort is supposed to be pure escapism, then I suppose this means it’s good.

(I have also heard several of my female associates (including Eldest) making yummy sounds about the guy playing the title role, so I guess it’s got that going for it, too.)

Back in the days of his misspent yoot, Ol’ Robbo used to watch the old Super Friends cartoons on Saturday mornings pretty regularly.  Aquaman was always somewhat problematic for me in that he didn’t seem to actually do anything except talk to the fishes, making them put in all the grunt work.  Indeed, even when he travelled he always had to get a lift in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.  To my mind, this was pretty lame.

Speaking of the Super Friends, Eldest was convulsing herself in laughter over the idea that somebody eventually is going to do a Wonder Twins movie.

Soon, I’ll bet.

UPDATE:  Speaking of movies I’ll never, never see, what impossible series of events caused “Holmes and Watson” to ever see the light of day? (And I’m not just asking because I dislike Will Ferrell’s hammer-handed comedic style.)  So. Much. Wrongness.

UPDATE DEUX:  Eldest and I returned to this topic at dinner this evening.  She was so enthusiastic about the glorious silliness of “Aquaman” – it seems now to be a twist on the Arthurian legend in which Mordred is now a surfer dude who somehow gets Excalibur – that the upshot is she and I and Middle Gel are going to go see the thing tomorrow.  Prayers would be appreciated.

Then I made a serious mistake.  “Tell me,” I said, “about this whole DC/Marvel Universe thing.”

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

The Gel immediately went off on a 20 minute art school thesis defense.  Not only did she describe the arc of character development of each set of supers, she also commented extensively and pitilessly on the actors, the directors, the plots, tone, color, even the freakin’ camera techniques.  (If I understood it correctly, her summation was that Marvel did well and DC to date has flopped.  “Aquaman” seems to be some kind of New Hope for the latter franchise.)  Furthermore, she presented a staggeringly clear summary of the financials involved.

I was at once blown away by her grasp of all of these things, and at the same time a bit deflated that she should devote so much energy and analysis to, well, comic book characters.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Ol’ Robbo is off to catch this evening’s installment of “Star Trek: TOS”.  ; )

UPDATE TROIS:  Last evening’s episode of ST:TOS was “Bread and Circuses” about the alternate Earth in which Rome never fell.  A detail I’d never noticed before was that one of the ways the slaves were mollified was the provision by the government of universal health care and pensions.  Food for thought, no?


“Adorazione Dei Pastori” – Antonio da Correggio (1530)

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

  • Luke 2:1-20

Isn’t it a curious thing that Ol’ Robbo can’t read this passage without tearing up?

A very merry Christmas to all friends of the decanter!  God bless you all!  Bumpers all round and gunn’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heel taps!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself watching “The Legend of Bagger Vance” on one of the golf channels this evening.  Will Smith (who I’ve often argued could have been the modern day Cary Grant) and MATT DAMON!

So far, it’s pretty lame.  And totally predictable.

But what amuses me are the commercials in between.  Is there any sport out there that has a more direct connection with hustling merchandise to its audience?  I mean the NFL and MLB push things like jerseys on pure spectators.  Big Golf pushes merchandise on legions of wannabe competitors.  Clubs, balls, practice aids, shoes, apparel – you name it.  (And now that I think about it, I suppose Big Tennis does the same thing.)

I don’t note this out of mockery.  Ol’ Robbo actually likes the game a good bit.  I learned it initially from my old father, who eventually became about an 8 handicap.  The summah before I went off to law school I spent working as a bagboy at a club.  One of the perks was free lessons with the club pro, a woman who had a real gift for teaching.  I never got so far as establishing a handicap myself, but I did gain a fundamental appreciation of the game.

I haven’t had much time at all since then to do anything about it, much to my regret, but it’s always been a plan of mine to include a return to golf among the Four Things I plan to do in my retirement (the other three being serious writing, the piano, and gardening).  I’ve still got the Old Gentleman’s last set of clubs, which I don’t think he ever actually used.  It’s sitting out in my garage, gathering dust.  Some day I’ll dust them off and take them for a ride.  But I’m sure by then, if the bug bites me good and hard, I’ll find myself taken in by whatever up-to-the-moment technology Big Golf is flogging at that point.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since I already lobbed a substantive religious rant at you two days ago, I’ll just remark here that this afternoon – already a week late – I finally put together my Advent table wreath.

The pines at the entrance to our neighborhood which I usually raid for materials got trimmed some time this past fall, so I decided not to cut more off them until they get shaggy again.  Instead, I used some evergreens out of the Port Swiller Manor yard itself, mostly holly and laurel (the hollies have lots of berries this year, no doubt because of all the rain we got).  It looks pretty decent, I suppose, but I doubt it’s going to last all that long since bigger, flatter leaves dry up a lot more quickly than pine needles.  Still, it’ll do until I can go buy a couple feet of roping.

The purple-bowed wreaths went up on the front door in a timely manner, at least.  We got them at Costco this year, by the bye.  Very nicely made and quite inexpensive.  I just hope they’ll make it until Twelfth Night.


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