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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I don’t know if this counts as an attack of bad luck or not, but it wasn’t until after ol’ Robbo got to his office this morning that he discovered he was supposed to have today off.  D’oh!  However, now that he’s back home at Port Swiller Manor, a few odds and ends for you:

♦   Idly flipping through an alumni magazine, I came across this opening paragraph:  “When I was growing up and a student at [Skool], the word “disruptive” would have had negative connotations.  Disruptive people were troublemakers: they acted in unruly and disorderly ways.  Now its meaning in business and technology has taken a 360-degree turn.  Being disruptive signifies creating innovations that improve the existing order, typically in unexpected ways.”

Sigh.

Growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes.  One of my favorites (well, among those suitable to a family-friendly blog) was about the two Aggies who get caught in a violent thunderstorm while flying a small plane to College Station.  As the plane gets tossed about, one of the Aggies turns to the other and yells, “Let’s do a 360 and get the hell out of here!”

♦  Michael Strain has a note on Dee Cee bike lanes and the law of unintended consequences.  All that he says is very true, but I still prefer having the damned cyclists off to one side instead of clogging up the travel lanes, which they do constantly and, IMHO, deliberately.  Arrogant wankers, the lot of ‘em.

♦   It would seem that I’m a real man.  Good to know. Which reminds me:  When I went in for my physical last week and was chatting with my doc, I mentioned that all the gels are teenagers now.  She immediately said, “Wow, do you need a man cave!”  So the next time Mrs. Robbo gives me any grief about hiding out here, I’ve got my “Doctor’s orders” defense nicely teed up.

♦  Because it’s gotten to be a thing here, two more Star Trek:TOS episodes -

Miri” – An adult-killing plague caused by scientists trying to prevent aging.  First use of the Alt-Earth scheme, although the crew seems surprisingly unsurprised to find an exact duplicate of early 60’s Earth at the other end of the Galaxy.  Also the first use of the gang of feral kids and their special words (“grups and onlies”) theme.  And I believe the first instance of Bones saying something snide about Spock’s green blood. The title character was played by Kim Darby, who was also Mattie Ross in the John Wayne version of “True Grit” where she was, unfortunately, rayther a weak link with her gosh-darn perkiness.  (Hailee Stenfield, OTOH, gets Mattie absolutely bang right in the remake, a movie I would love if the Coen brothers hadn’t felt compelled to muck about with the plot.)

hillDagger of the Mind” – Supposedly enlightened warden of a penal colony turns out to be a maniac playing God with his prisoners’ minds.  James Gregory, the warden, will always be Inspector Luger to me, no matter what movie or show he’s in.  And Marianna Hill, as a member of the Enterprise’s medical staff, is quite the cupcake.  (Which see.)

I’m finding these shows to be pretty well-written, each setting up a discrete dilemma and then deftly solving it, although the assumptions and values displayed therein seem almost archaic 50 years on and are proving to be a stark and sobering reminder of how far we’ve slid into the pit as a culture.

♦  Oh, speaking of which, I suppose tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Feh.

♦   Finally, I’m having entirely too much fun being enigmatic about whether or not eldest gel gets a car for her upcoming 17th birthday.  MWAAAA-HAHAHA!!!!! 

Whelp, that’s it for the moment.  Here’s hoping it’s going to be warmer this weekend wherever you are than it will be here!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.

 

uss enterpriseGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

My post below touching on the Star Trek movie I happened to have chosen to watch the evening I unexpectedly met Mrs. Robbo generated a fair bit of “wow, how did you dodge that bullet” commentary with respect to my choice, so I thought I would follow up with a completely gratuitous post summarizing my opinion of the franchise as a whole.

Mind you, I am NOT a “Trekkie”.  Yes, along with many others of my age, in my misspent yoot I spent a lot of weekday afternoons watching and loving reruns of the original series.  Yes, certain words and phrases from the series have made it into the Robbo lexicon.  Yes, I built a model or two of the Enterprise.  (For what it’s worth, I also had models of the Galactica, a Colonial Viper, an X-Wing and a TIE-Fighter.  I also built 1/48 scale models of most of the Allied fighters and bombers of WWII and hung them from my bedroom ceiling.) Yes, I was excited that the teevee series made it on to the big screen.  And yes, I know all about the Kobayashi Maru test.

But that’s it.  Totes serially.  I never owned a costume.  I never sought an autograph.  I never went to a convention.  I have never owned a “Star Fleet Academy” rear-window decal.  I never sought to learn how to speak Klingon.  And I never, ever, believed that the United Federation of Planets was any kind of political model for the real world.

I’m normal.  NORMAL,  I tell you!

Which is all to say that the following rankings are both completely subjective and probably shallow and  ill-informed as well.  I don’t care.

Anyhoo, here we go:

The Original Series Movies

1stStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  A no-brainer, amirite?  A perfectly balanced film bringing out all the TOS tropes while also encapsulating the glories of space travel (the scene where the Enterprise leaves space dock always chokes me up) and setting up a classic submarine chess match between Kirk and Khan.  I like this film so much that I don’t even snicker at Scotty’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the pipes toward the end.  Without looking it up, I believe that even the late Prog New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael described it as “wonderful, dumb fun”.

2nd (tie)Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Two very different films with two very different sets of strengths and weaknesses which balance each other out in my mind.  ST4-TVH has a lot of anti-Reagan platitudes and hippy-dippy nature cant, but it holds up in terms of the chemistry among the main characters.  ST6-TUC would have been a much better film, but it spends too much time in dry, tedious Sherlock Holmes-like questing for clues surrounding its central mystery. (I say nothing of the fact that its main theme musick was a complete rip-off of “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Gustov Holst’s The Planets.)

4th (tie)Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  Two films that, in my mind at least, shared the same fatal flaw in that both were so arch about themselves and the Universe they portrayed as to cross the border into camp.   The plot of STIII-SFS was reasonably sound and could have been done quite well, but was squandered in its execution – the whole disabling of the Excelsior, for example.  STV-TFF, on the other hand, while also carrying a not-unreasonable plot, was just….well, bad all around.

6thStar Trek: The Motion Picture.  Yep, sucked.  By golly, unless you weren’t there yourself, you don’t know the disappointment felt by a 14 y.o. boy of my previous Trek experience when this dog of a film hit the big screen, Bald Babe notwithstanding.  Personally, I blame Jimmy Carter.

The Next Generation Movies

Before getting to the films, I will say that I hated the first season or two of ST:TNG on teevee because it bent all over itself to show how politically correct it was:  Psychiatric counselor (in homespun body suit) on the bridge; Model U.N. -type captain; nary a shot fired in anger;  constant apologies for Mankind’s perceived past transgressions against Mother Universe.   However, after a while, the show seemed to calm down and turn its attention to teh stars out there instead of gazing at its own navel. (Well, okay, there was a good bit of the multiple personalities of Data and the, ah,  doings of Riker on the holideck, but you know what I mean.)

Anyhoo, I never cared as much about any of the TNG films as I did of teh TOS ones, probably because I never totally accepted the TNG premise.  Nonetheless, here we go:

1stStar Trek TNG: First Contact.  I always thought the Borg, the ultimate sci-fi manifestation of Collective Progressivism,  was the single greatest idea to come out of the minds of the TNG writers, however ironically.   I also liked the film’s easy treatment of the personalities and relationships that had evolved among the TNG Enterprise’s crew over the prior teevee seasons.  Instead of having to prove themselves, the characters seemed to be having fun.

2ndStar Trek TNG: Generations.  Weeeeell, it was okay, and I suppose a reasonably good hand-over, although I always laugh at the scene in which Kirk is cooking an omelet and directing Picard to fetch him various spices.  What bothers me is TMW – Too Much Whoopie.  (I could never stand her Guinan character.)

3rd (tie) – Star Trek TNG:  Insurrection and Star Trek TNG: Nemesis.  Whelp, I admit I don’t recall much of either film.  One had to do with a planet of Enlightened Vegan, Free-Range Baby-boom Volvo Drivers.  The other had to do with some kind of Evil Picard Clone doing Bad Things.  Frankly, it was all pretty dull.

Reboot Movies

I gather that there are two: Star Trek and Stark Trek Into Darkness.  I’ve seen neither and I spit on both.  Want your own story? Write your own damned story!

 

Portrait of Mozart by brother-in-law Joseph Lange around 1783, said by Constanze to be the best likeness of her husband.

Portrait of Mozart by brother-in-law Joseph Lange around 1783, said by Constanze to be the best likeness of her husband.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As many of you probably know, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth, in 1756, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Last week, as part of its month-long celebration of Mozart’s birth, the local classickal station chose as its CD “pick of the week” a recording that included a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, various movements of which received multiple plays during the course of the week.

This made ol’ Robbo smile because of a certain passage in Patrick O’Brian’s The Letter of Marque.  (WARNING: If you are not an aficionado of the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin canon, the rest of this post won’t make much sense to you.  I can only suggest that you drop whatever else you’re doing and go start in on these books right now.  Right. Now.)  In it, Jack and Stephen are talking in the cabin of the Surprise when Jack suddenly breaks his train of thought about other matters and exclaims, “….Surely that is not the “Marseillaise” you are picking out?”

Stephen had his ‘cello between his knees and for some time now he had been very quietly stroking two or three phrases with variations upon them – a half-conscious playing that interrupted neither his talk nor his listening. ‘It is not,’ he said. ‘It is, or rather it is meant to be, the Mozart piece that was no doubt lurking somewhere in the Frenchman’s mind when he wrote it.  Yet something eludes me…..”

‘Stephen,’ cried Jack. ‘Not another note, I beg.  I have it exactly, if only it don’t fly away.’ He whipped the cloth off his violin-case, tuned roughly, and swept straight into the true line.  After a while, Stephen joined him, and when they were thoroughly satisfied they stopped, tuned very exactly, passed the rosin to and fro and so returned to the direct statement, to variations upon it, inversions, embroideries, first one setting out a flight of improvisations while the other filled in and then the other doing the same, playing on and on until a lee-lurch half-flung Stephen from his seat, so that his ‘cello gave a dismal screech.

I smiled because the Mozart to which Stephen referred was, in fact, one of the secondary themes of the first movement of this particular concerto.  I give it you here.  The orchestra first states it in the minor at about 1:34, then repeats in the major at 1:42 and 1:48.  The piano gets in on the act at 6:53 and makes a full, triumphant statement of the theme at 7:32.  It never really goes away for the rest of the movement.  Enjoy!

You must admit that it is quite engaging, and readily capable of earwig-like lurking once installed in one’s head.  (And before anybody starts pointing out the differences between this theme and that of the “Marseillaise”, bear in mind that Stephen specifically states that the former is “lurking” in the Frenchman’s mind.  It’s an influence, not a direct match.)

I must confess that there are times, when reading O’Brian’s magnum opus, that I am not altogether sure he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to musick.   But this one is a safe and pleasant bet.

 

*A reference to another literary work.  10 points for spotting it and The Mothe is disqualified from playing because it would be a gimme for her.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Poking about in Wiki, ol’ Robbo noticed that today is the anniversary of the birth (in 1919) of long-time Hollywood stalwart Robert Stack.

stack airplaneMy first exposure to Stack (and to Leslie Nielsen) was the 1980 disaster movie lampoon “Airplane!”, which I thought so damned funny that I literally fell out of my seat at the theater laughing.  (35 years and umpteen viewings later, I still think it’s hy-larious.)  But it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I first saw the John Wayne movie “The High and the Mighty”, in which Stack played a pilot who cracked under pressure, that I realized his performance in “Airplane” was largely a riff on that role.  Although I’m pretty sure I wasn’t meant to, I also found myself rolling on the floor and laughing while watching Stack in “THATM” as a result.

Chronology has consequences.

I mention Nielson in this context because I experience the same sensation whenever I come across his earlier work.  For instance, he was the ship’s captain in “The Poseidon Adventure”, as well as the commander in “Forbidden Planet” – which was an important forerunner of the Roddenberry/Lucas/Spielberg line of outer space flicks.  As serious as these roles were supposed to be, I couldn’t help expecting him to suddenly say, “And don’t call me Shirley” and fart.

Interestingly, I do not have these feelings with respect to Peter Graves and Lloyd Bridges, who also did some self-parody in “Airplane!”  I can only suppose this is because I had already seen them in other roles, so was inoculated against the effect.

Stack died a few years back, but I’m sure he must have been aware that a whole generation of movie-goers would only remember him for his self-parody, instead of the underlying body of his work on which it was based.   If he was teh pro that I believe he was, I suppose his reaction would be to shrug his shoulders and say, “Well, that show-biz.  And don’t call me Shirley.”

UPDATE:  Regular friend of the decanter NOVACurmudgeon calls me out for failing to mention Stack’s work as Eliot Ness.  Fair enough, although this was not directly related to the flying link.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that Stack IS Ness, IS the actor who defined the character on screen.

Old hands here will know that this is a favorite hare of ol’ Robbo’s.  There are simply some connections of actors and characters that cannot be broken.  In addition to Stack/Ness, I give you some other examples:

Adam West IS Batman.

Bill Shatner IS James Tiberius Kirk.

As fond as I am of Peter Ustinov, David Sachet IS Hercule Poirot.

As fond as I am of Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett IS Sherlock Holmes.

Margaret Hamilton IS the Wicked Witch of the West.

And so on.  Some chemistry, some combination of factors, sets the mold, which must then be broken.  And ol’ Robbo will have no truck with reboots, retreads or Johnny-come-lately wannabes who attempt to put it back together again.

*Thumps table.  Glares all around.*

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening the boys and girls down the Cathedral put on their annual Lessons and Carols Festivus and this year the thing was live streamed and YooToobed.  Teh Middle Gel and her crew do their stuff starting at about 51:30.  She is in the second row, third from the right.  (Co-incidentally, the soloist was a classmate of teh Eldest Gel in middle school at Robbo’s parish.)

I put this up here mainly for the benefit of the Mothe, who lives too far away to see teh Gel in action in person, but I have to confess that I also am motivated by my immense pride in what she is doing.  I can only ask your indulgence and hope that, at least amongst the longer-standing friends of the decanter, you understand the combination of my intense love of musick and my sincere delight in my offsprings’ achievements that compels me, and do not come away with the impression that ol’ Robbo is simply sticking on side.

(For what it’s worth, BTW, I’m told that none of the choir particularly liked the piece they sang.  But that’s showbiz.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was flipping idly through the assortment of “holiday” cards that have piled up on the side table by the front door of Port Swiller Manor this evening when he realized that, out of about thirty or so such cards we’ve received so far, only one of them took as its theme the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Most of the rest feature montages of family photos.  My favorite is one that came in the shape of a Christmas tree ornament, complete with ribbon for hanging on a convenient branch  – to honor, I suppose – our closeness.*   Its computer-generated mailing label spelled the Robbo family name wrong.

I throw this out as observation, not condemnation.  Truth of the matter is that, as Port Swiller Communications Director, Mrs. Robbo took the same route with our own cards (although she prided herself on actually hand-addressing the envelopes).   When I raised some mild concern, she replied that I was perfectly at liberty to send “real” Christmas cards to anybody I like, including my imaginary internet friends, and good luck.  Until I stepped up and started writing, however, I could stuff it.

Yes, Dear.

To give you an idea of my “stepping up” is such matters, I’ve still barely made a dent in the set of Madonna and Child cards I bought a couple years ago.

Yes, I denounce myself.

* True story:  The female of this couple was a classmate of Mrs. R in college and she and I went out on a blind date literally the evening before I met Mrs. R.  Said date was a first-class disaster and I believe said classmate actually doesn’t even remember it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

♦  Well, ol’ Robbo was finally forced to break down and go get the Tree yesterday afternoon, checkmated by the Port Swiller Family schedule for the next two weeks which precludes decorating the thing any other time than this afternoon.  UPDATE: Done and done.  As per usual, Ol’ Robbo strung the lights and the gels put up all the gewgaws.    Made a good job of it, too.

♦   One of my many casual neuroses is a fear that the tree is going to slide off the roof of the ol’ Jeep as I bring it home.  Every year I look dubiously at the thin strands of twine being strung across the thing higgldy-piggldy by mere kids and wish I’d brought along a set of bungee cords.  Every year I creep along the five or six miles from my church to Port Swiller Manor at the pace of a Florida retiree in a Cadillac on I-95.  And every year my fear is proved misplaced except the one year when I forgot and did my usual bootlegger turn into the driveway.  Dang tree practically took off, sliding down the windshield right in front of me and trying to roll overboard.

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention that when the kid was loading the tree on top of La Wrangler, he asked me how I liked driving her.  I replied enthusiastically, after which he said, “I dunno, it just looks so bad-ass.”

Get that?  What have I been saying all this time?  Robbo is a Bad Boy!

 

♦  Speaking of driving at this time of year, when ol’ Robbo is installed as Emperor, putting a wreath on the grill of your car is gonna cost you a hefty fine.  Putting antlers and a red nose on it is going to constitute a flogging offense.  Just so you know.

♦  I have to admit that this made me violate the No Hot Beverages rule, to my loss.  You’ve been warned.

♦   On a more serious note, here it is Gaudete Sunday already and I don’t feel the slightest bit prepared.   I’d had big plans for this Advent in terms of readings and meditations, but work busyness and a series of domestic fires to put out totally threw them out.  Oh, well.  I’d better get going.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I think I might have seen this one before, but it still makes me laugh:

st nick

I love these memes.  Why not use the tools available to wrestle back images co-opted by the popular culture?

And speaking of the holidays, Mrs. Robbo and I are off later today to the Cathedral to hear the Middle Gel and her mates sing Handel’s Messiah.  Watch this space for my review.

UPDATE:  Sigh…..Have I mentioned lately what it is like to live in a house with three teenaged daughters, especially for someone like ol’ Robbo who values peace, calm and order very highly?

Yes, it’s an open question whether my liver is going to last until we can get them all packed off to college.  And after breaking up an apocalyptic cat-fight over a pair of shoes a while ago (shoes, for all love!), my thought on this Feast of St. Nicholas was RELEASE THE KRAMPUS!

krampus and NicholasWho?

In Germanic countries, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Krampus, an evil spirit or little devil, usually dressed in fur or black with a long tail, and carries a rattling chain, birch branches and a big black bag. In Holland Sinterklass or Sinterklaus leaves from Spain on a boat, accompanied by Black Peter (Piet), his Moor servant. Peter wears animal skins or the traditional medieval Moorish colorful clothing. M December 5, St. Nicholas Eve, is known in some rural areas of Austria as “Krampus Day.” Children and adults go to the village square to throw snowballs and try to chase off Krampus. Other Krampuses lie in wait, rattling their chains and threatening to carry off naughty children in their black bags, or to punish them with their birch branches. All this is done in fun; Krampus’ main purpose is remind the children to be good.

Yes, carrot and stick.  But of course, by today’s standards of raising the precious little snowflakes, it’s almost a hate crime to even hint to them that their bad behavior might have, well, bad consequences.

Grrrrr….

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies for the thin posting of late, both in number and substance.  I’ve got about half a dozen draft posts queued up, but my Muse seems to have taken a powder and nothing worth reading is coming together.  Heigh, ho.  It’ll pass.

In the meantime, I give you a meme the Eldest Gel showed me this evening that made me laugh quite a bit:

jesus bear

 

 

 

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