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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.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy St. Pat’s Day!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t think very much of this “holiday”, given that in its modern, secular form, it seems to be not much more than an excuse for the young people to get thoroughly blotto. It also emphasizes the trivialization of many ancient and important cultural and religious symbols in much the same way that the modern Halloween does.

For all that, I completely forgot what day it was this morning and grabbed a green sweater quite at random.

I felt like an idiot all day.

So now for a bit of Irish random:

– Ol’ Robbo cannot abide either corned beef OR cabbage.

– Despite the title of this post, I know absolutely nothing about Irish whiskey. To the extent I touch the hard stuff anymore, I remain a single-malt scotch man (Laphroig by preference).

– On the other hand, I DO know a thing or two about stout. Mostly, that it should not be quaffed when the outside temperature is anything over about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

– “The Commitments”, the story of one man’s attempt to bring soul music to Dublin, remains one of my very favorite movies. Fookin’ deadly!

– Leprechauns. They’re not cute and cuddly, they won’t enhance your breakfast cereal experience, and God help you if you ever do somehow stumble across their horde of treasure. One of my favorite short stories encapsulating the actual terror associated with “Thim People” is “The Happy Despatch” by Patrick O’Brian. (Yes, THAT Patrick O’Brian. You’ll find it in his book “The Rendezvous and Other Stories”.)

– One of my favorite collections of short stories that really digs down into the “true” Irish character is, of course, “The Irish R.M.” by E. O. Somerville and Martin Ross, a pair of Anglo-Irish ladies writing in the early 20th Century. They are surprisingly sympathetic to the natives.

– One Irishman surprisingly NOT sympathetic to his countrymen was the playwrite John Synge. Writing about the same people at about the same time as Somerville and Ross, he was brutal in his depictions of their backwardness. Ol’ Robbo was in a college production of his “Playboy of the Western World” and actually took lessons to get the brogue right. As my eldest gel is discovering, ANY play is fun to do, but this one was pretty brutal in its depictions. (Small wonder the audience rioted when it debuted in Dublin in 1901, or whenever it was.)

– Whelp, that’s about it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll go listen to a Chieftans CD. Just because.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, if you paid attention to the nooz at all today, you are no doubt aware first, that the Administration released its proposed budget, which boosts defense spending while slashing domestic programs, and second, that the collective Left are having conniptions about it.

Curiously enough, Ol’ Robbo’s immediate reaction to both of these was basically one of …… comfort and nostalgia, and even, shall I say it, delight.

Why? Because this is very familiar ground. Ol’ Robbo remembers exactly the same bun-fights back in the Reagan years. Of course, the stakes (*Cough! Twenty-plus trillion in debt! Cough!*) are considerably higher now, but as Sam Clemens famously did not actually say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Perhaps my favorite beef is over the proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (including PBS and NPR). So far as I can tell, the argument seems to be, “I love Art so much that I DEMAND other people keep paying for it for me, man!!”

Yeah, no. You want it?  You buy it.  (And I say this as a monthly contributor to my local classickal radio station.)

Of course, this is all theatre (talk about Art!) at the moment. We’ll see what emerges once the actual sausage-making process had taken place. My cynical guess is status quo ante, but it’s already been such a crazy year of firsts that who knows?

 

*An anomalous title. I understand that “Sesame Street” went to HBO some time ago. I don’t recall any major outcry over disadvantaged yoots being forced to watch it on a premium cable channel. (By the bye, given HBO’s track record, I can only shudder when I think of the possible story lines they might have developed for the show.)

Stomping my own new post below, but I just wanted to say good for Betsy DeVos for advising college conservatives this week, “Don’t shut up.”

I sent the article to Eldest Gel (sorry, don’t know how to link on my iPhone) and she really appreciated it. Currently, she’s locked in battle with her Econ prof: the prof sets up a political/economic question based in certain given (and slanted) assumptions, and the Gel immediately starts challenging said assumptions. Rancor ensues.

The other thing that irritates the hell out of her is the expectation that she conform to certain beliefs and attitudes based on her sex. Apparently she was arguing about this with someone the other day and said, “I’m a woman. So, what? I think for myself, thank you.” Much fainting ensued.

That’s my Gel!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I can’t link it here because I’m on my phone, but I see via Drudge that the Grammies are tonight and that some of the “stars” plan to “get political”.

Bless their hearts.

Friends of the decanter will already know that Ol’ Robbo has never had any truck with celebrity worship, nor given a wet slap about what some entertainer may think about things. But it seems to me that more and more people are beginning to come round to this same way of thinking, especially now that the totalitarian left has abandoned any pretense that it isn’t fighting a flat-out civil war against Middle America.

I could be mistaken, of course, but if my income depended on ticket or CD sales, I’d probably want to think carefully about who I’m alienating with my virtue-signaling.

BTW, watched “Hail, Caesar” last evening. Meh. The Coen Brothers have definitely done some good films, but they’ve served up some stinkers, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

 

The other evening Ol’ Robbo ran off the 1955 Howard Hawks moovie, “Land of the Pharaohs“.  I had watched it once before about four or five years ago (indeed, I might have posted about it but am too lazy to check) and wanted to come back for a second look.

It’s an odd duck of a film. Hawks, of course, was a legendary director – working with such heavyweights as The Dook, Cary Grant, Bogart, Bacall, and Kate Hepburn, among others.  But so far as I can see, he mostly did westerns, war pictures, thrillers, and screwball comedies: A cast-of-thousands ancient epic like this one seems to be a definite outlier for him.   Also, I couldn’t help noticing that one of the writers for the film was William Faulkner.  (Yes, that William Faulkner.)

In the picture, Pharaoh Khufu, fabulously wealthy and successful, becomes obsessed with constructing a pyramid tomb for himself that will be completely bandit-proof, allowing him to enjoy his riches in the “next life” undisturbed.  To this end, he engages the services of a master-architect, a prisoner from one of his recent conquests.  Meanwhile, Khufu meets and marries (as his second wife) a feisty princess (Nellifer by name) from a tributary kingdom.  She gets greedy (well, she is anyway) and hatches a plot to kybosh him and set herself up as Queen in his place.  I’ll let it go at that without any spoilers just in case any of you actually wants to watch the film yourselves.

For all that, it’s really not too bad a film, if you’re just looking for simple entertainment.  I believe it was actually shot in Egypt, and some of the landscapes are quite striking.  Also, the big crowd/army scenes work very well.  The dialogue is nothing special, but the climax is pretty satisfying.

Khufu is played by Jack Hawkins, one of those solid Brit actors who seems to turn up in just about everything in the 50’s and 60’s.  The last time I saw him, he was playing the demolition-wallah who slogged through the Burma jungle with William Holden on the way to blow up Alec Guinness’s “Bridge Over The River Kwai”.

The master architect is played by James Robertson Justice, who I know from no other film whatever.  The man was a dead-ringer for Peter Ustinov, if Ustie had ever spent any time in the gym.

Then there’s Princess Nellifer.  She’s played by a young Joan Collins.   She is, quite bluntly, a nasty bitch.  But she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume.  And in one scene, she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume getting flogged.  So there’s that.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  Just saying.

Anyhoo, high-quality escapist entertainment of a sort rarely seen in the present day and age.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other day, Ol’ Robbo mentioned that he was working his way through the Beeb’s recent production of “The Hollow Crown“, Shakespeare’s quartet of historickal plays including Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V.  At the time, having watched Richard II and Henry IV part 1, I said I thought I liked the series.  My opinion remained more or less the same after watching Henry IV part 2.  However, last evening I finally ran off Henry V and I’m afraid I must report that I’ve downgraded my overall impression.  Or rayther, that I think the last installment of the quartet just didn’t come up to scratch.

Probably this is in part because I happen to know this play an awful lot better than the other three, but also, I think, it’s because the scope of this one is so much grander than the others and the production (and cast) simply didn’t have the means to match this change of scale.

First, I was amazed at some of the cuts made.  Off the top of my head:

  •  Canterbury’s somewhat twisted discourse on Salic Law and why “as clear as is the summer’s sun” it did not disbar Henry’s claim to the French throne.
  •  The entire scene at Southhampton wherein the plot by Lord Scroop and friends against Henry is uncovered.  This is a critical piece of continuity because rebellion against the lawful king is a theme that pervades the whole damn quartet.
  • Of the Four Captains (Gower, McMorris, Jamy, and Fluellen), only the Welshman Fluellen makes the film, and most of his lines are slashed away.
  • A lot of Ancient Pistol’s lines are cut, including much of his run-in with Harry and his determination to turn to a life of crime after learning of Mistress Quickly’s death.
  • The vast majority of the “Would it were day!” scene in which the French nobles sit about fidgeting on the eve of battle and wishing the Dauphin would shut the hell up is missing.
  • The entire biznay about the French killing “the poys and the luggage” also is gone.  This really surprised me because the film contained a lot of shots of the kid who hung around with Falstaff and his friends and eventually followed Bardolph and company to France.  If ever there was a Star Trek Redshirt in this film, I thought he’d be it.

Second, I’m sorry, but Tom Hiddleston was a disappointment.  I thought he’d done very well as Prince Hal in the previous movies, but his King Harry left me cold.  Yes, the tennis balls scene was not bad, but his big “Once more unto the breach” and “St. Crispin’s Day” speeches? Meh.  There was nothing really commanding or regal or inspirational in either speech.  And it didn’t help that all the soldiers around him at Harfleur in the former seemed….apathetic, while somebody got the idea that the latter should be made in conversational tone only to his inner circle of nobles.

I also thought Anton Lesser’s Exeter was pretty weak.  This was King Harry’s heavy?

Third, and I suppose this was a matter of Beeb budget, but the fight at Agincourt was distinctly lame:  the play speaks of 10,000 French casualties, but it never looks like there are more than about 100 extras on the set at any one time.   The English longbowmen look as if they hadn’t got a few dozen arrows among them all.  The Duke of York buys it by being stabbed in the back while he’s creeping around in the forest all by himself.  [Note: I know that the play itself calls for a few discreet tableaux to illustrate the fighting.  Fair enough.  But if you’re going to do a “realistic” production, then you need to either go big or go home.]

Finally, I’m really not sure about John Hurt’s “Chorus”.   Olivier and Branagh got around this innovation (the only one that I’m aware of in all of Shakespeare) by staging a “play within a play”, gradually pulling back from, respectively, an Elizabethan stage and a modern moovie production and gradually becoming immersed in the story.  Here, it’s a simple voice-over to what is supposed to be “real” action.  Frankly, I don’t think this works.  Would it be heretical to suggest that maybe the Chorus should have been taken out altogether in this format?

On the good side,  I thought the scenes with Pistol, Bardolph and Nym were very good, especially the one where they said goodbye to Mistress Quickly.  I also liked all the scenes with Princess Katherine, including her “English lesson” with her maid and her broken-tongue courtship by Harry.  I also liked Lambert Wilson’s King Charles, especially when he realized that his idiot son had been needlessly taunting Harry with his stupid tennis ball gift.

Now I’m going to have to go back and watch Kenneth Branagh’s movie version of the play.  Yes, it omits things, too.  Yes, much goes waaaaay over the top.  Yes, Branagh was an enfant terrible.  Indeed,  I wish there had been a strong director on the project with the ability to say, “Ken? NO!”  But I have to confess: the man knows how to play a King.

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