Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The League of Nations
I'm sure this new U.N./African Union force will prove a silver bullet solution: Darfurlink. Just like the U.N. forces in Bosnia from 1992-'95 and Rwanda in '94. Boy howdy, those blue-helmeted cowboys sure are effective, yessiree Bob! So, the long-suffering people of Darfur will be freed from the constant threat of murder and rape... except by U.N. peacekeepers and other employees, who really distinguished themselves with organized rape, pedophilia, extortion, and prostitution rings in Congo-Kinshasa, Burundi, Sierre Leone, Guinea, Kosovo, and Liberia. So, U.N. peacekeepers will either stand-by and watch the slaughter of innocents, as they did throughout Rwanda in '94 and at Srebrenica in '95, or they will actively prey upon those already victimized, just as they're done throughout equatorial Africa over the last decade. Fantastic. Way to go, Mankind, we can really be proud of yourselves today, we've taken a stand and said that human suffering is A-OK, as long as the brutalizers have a United Nations mandate.

I am increasingly of the belief that the United Nations Organization does more harm than good to the cause of building a better world. I am sure there are factors I have not considered; so, if you disagree, please, I beseech you to comment.

Ricky Fitness
Though for a few hours more it's still July, the reality is that tempus fugate and football season is fast approaching. So, this afternoon I deigned to tape Gilmore Girls and watch Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption while I exercised. I really should have foreseen the looming debacle: Frank Gore, the featured running back for the San Francisco 49ers, broke a bone in his hand during a drill on the first day of training camp. Instead of debating how this injury might adversely affect Gore's performance and thus the prospects of the 49ers, the ATH panel discussed the implications for... wait for it... fantasy football "owners."

I will amputate, sauté, and devour my own dexter arm before ever again watching Around the Horn.
The Japanese government should formally apologize for the unspeakable crimes committed against the Korean, Chinese, Filipino, and sundry Asian and Pacific peoples in the name of the Emperor in the half-century of conquest between the occupation of Korea and Taiwan at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan in 1945. That said, when the three surviving Black September terrorists who murdered the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Games were set free by the craven West German government, what comfort do you suppose the Israelis' families derived from that selfsame Bonn government's apologies for the monstrous crimes of Nazi Germany? In the face of genocidal murder and systematic rape and degradation, how much mileage do you get out of "sorry"?

And while I am not unsympathetic to the surviving women and the families of the deceased women who were forced to act as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy, does the United States Congress not have more pressing matters to address? Nihonlink. The war in Iraq? Our porous border with Mexico? The ticking time bomb of Social Security? Our dependence on foreign oil? Sleeper cells and/or homegrown terrorists hiding in our midst? The insanely fragile power grid, which hasn't really been improved since the great blackout of August 2003? None of these things and a thousand others like them is more pressing than a non-binding, purely symbolic resolution against our closest friend and ally in East Asia?
Emily the Strange
Emily holds the future in her own hands.

kNOw future

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "The Thing on the Bass Amp!" from The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death! and other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 29 Juli
Elvis Costello, "Radio, Radio" from This Years Model (T.L.A.M.)

Also on the musical front, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is a stupendous title for an album, but great Caesar's ghost, My Chemical Romance is a piss-poor excuse for a band. A pox on them for squandering such an august title on their insipid tunes.

Disturbingly, I heard that vapid anthem so emblematic of 2006, "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield, today and now I cannot get the cursed thing out of my head. I loathe that song, yet my mind continually drifts back to Ms. Bedingfield's voice. Drat, drat, and double drat! There's one surefire way out of this mess, the old one-two punch of "Viva Las Vegas" by the King of Rock 'n' Roll and "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves. Ready, steady, here we go.

Ricky Fitness
I was reminded this afternoon of something I all too easily and frequently forget: I really like working out. I don't just enjoy the physical and (slight) visual improvements that are the fruits of my labor, I derive pleasure and, more importantly, fulfillment from the act of exercising. God wants us to toil, to sweat, to work hard to make ourselves better; so, naturally, when you can get past your aches and petty complaints, you'll find there is a great sense of having done right in exercising, of consciously rejecting gluttony and sloth. Not for no reason did those two make the short list of deadly sins. It's hot, it's sweaty, and my thoughts are all of bloody murder when Oprah's on the confounded treadmill, but I really do like working out. It's the damnedest thing.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Question of Love and Hate
Steve Ditko is far-famed as the co-creator of Spider-Man, but I most admire his solo creation The Question. Crusading reporter Vic Sage shared Ditko's Objectivist leanings and fought against corruption and collectivism in all its guises. He donned the faceless mask of The Question whenever extralegal intervention was required to bring justice to the wicked, the anonymity allowing Vic Sage to continue to pillory his ideological foes from his media pulpit. The Question believed that right and wrong were as distinct as black and white; the merciless should be shown no mercy, the brutal should be brutalized, and the exploiters should be exploited. His costume consisted of the trademark suit, trench coat, and fedora of a pulp private dick, and of course that iconic mask that made him appear faceless; The Question was too cool for words.

I am not an Objectivist for one simple reason: I am a Christian. (Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, once said to William F. Buckley, "You're too smart to believe in God.") Aside from viewing compassion as a weakness and denying the existence of Almighty God, though, there is much of value to be found in Objectivist thought: hatred of socialism, opposition to Marx's fatalist theory of history, celebration of rebellion against conformity, belief in beauty and science, rejection of superstition. Crusading reporters (a rarity in actual journalism)-cum-masked crimefighters are a dime a dozen in comics; the characteristics that make The Question exceptional are the mask (comics are a visual medium, after all) and his philosophy. Many different writers have reinterpreted this so that what is cool about The Question is the mask and that particular writer's philosophy, which as we shall see is where all my troubles began.

In 2004-05, DC Comics published a six-issue miniseries titled The Question, subtitled "Devil's in the Details." Vic Sage travels to Metropolis and uncovers a conspiracy between Lex Luthor and a group of criminal daredevils calling themselves the Subterraneans to assassinate Superman using a new skyscraper, the Science Spire, as an enormous Kryptonian-specific death ray. It's quite a fantastic story, with The Question appearing seemingly at random to pummel out of Metropolis's criminal elements the clues he needs to first discover and then unravel the mystery of the Subterraneans; Superman making only a few scattered cameos, all of which manage that rare feat of capturing the character's essential majesty; Lex Luthor's minions positively cackling at their own ingenuity in hiding the dread weapon of the Science Spire in plain sight; and Sage sweetly pining for Lois Lane, whom he knew back in journalism school. In the end, the guilty are swiftly and severely dispatched, the Science Spire's potential as a weapon is blunted, and without the Man of Steel's knowledge The Question has saved his life. Rick Veitch's plot is complimented, enhanced, and elevated by Tommy Lee Edwards's realistic, frenetic art. I love "Devil's in the Details."

But the title's prophetic, because there's one singular yet enormous problem with Veitch and Edwards's The Question: Vic Sage, The Question, "talks" to the City of Metropolis. He "walks in two worlds," defeating in spiritual/astral combat a psychopomp called, simply enough, Psychopomp, and gathering as many clues about the Subterraneans' intentions from "listening" to Metropolis as from whaling on two-bit hoods and hired goons. The Science Spire is a huge resonator/reservoir for qi ("chi" in the story, spelled in accordance with the old Wade-Giles system of romanization), described in the story as "Earth energy," the perfect weapon against Superman's alien physiology. Obviously, I do not believe in qi/chi, but neither do I believe in the Olympian gods of ancient Greece, and that's never stopped me from enjoying a Wonder Woman story; so, no problem there. My problem lies in The Question's attunement to this energy, his ability to, as repeated within the text ad nauseum, "walk in two worlds." The Question is an Objectivist, he would not subscribe to any concept as evocative of New Age fuzziness as "walking in two worlds." It's ridiculous! At one point Superman suspects that The Question may be under the influence of a psychotropic substance, but The Questions says any physical changes in his blood chemistry are merely the result of, you guessed it, "walking in two worlds."

Objectivism is named after the philosophy's supposedly objective appraisal of the world; a central maxim, derived from the works of Aristotle, is "A is A." Briefly, A what it seems to be, a letter than starts the alphabet and corresponds to certain sounds. It is not symbolic or totemic of anything greater or lesser than that. A is exactly and solely what it appears to be. A is A. Thus, the world is what it appears to be, rock and steel and glass and air and flesh and bone. The world is no mere facet of an invisible, only subconsciously discernible undercurrent of "Earth energy." To an Objectivist, there is no "all-powerful Force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field controls my destiny."

Thus, the crux of the problem, the titular question of love and hate. I'm thrilled by the plot, art, and atmosphere of The Question, but I detest the same story's utter perversion of The Question. I want to hate The Question, but in a world full of genuinely and achingly mediocre comics every other element of the book - the dialogue, the cleverness of the Subterraneans' scheme and the uncommonly logical structure of their organization, the uniqueness of Luthor's plot against Superman, the characterizations of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, the nonstop fucking brilliance of the art - screams out for just praise! There is everything to love about "Devil's in the Details," except for that one detail of The Question's out-of-left-field powers. Is perfection required? Must I reject the whole for that one admittedly not insignificant flaw? Should I take as stark and intransigent a position as Sage himself might? Alas, alas, this tumultuous world demands moderation in all things; there's nothing for it but to love almost all of The Question and hate hate hate that one detail in The Question. Verdammt compromise!
The Explorers Club
No. XXXVI – Project Apollo, Part II: Apollo 10 and so close, yet so far away; Apollo 11 and one giant leap; Apollo 12 and “Yippee!;” and Apollo 13 and NASA’s finest hour.

Dieu Et Mon Droit
I like Gordon Brown better already: Anglo-Americanlink.

"And we should acknowledge the debt the world owes to the United States for its leadership in this fight against international terrorism."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I watched my very first full episode of Doctor Who last night, "Daleks in Manhattan." I am indebted to my favorite sawbones, Dr. Hee Haw, who made a passing reference to the Daleks in a comment from some months back that served as my introduction to these most fascinating villains. Doc, I thank you. One episode in and I am game for more of The Doctor's adventures, even after the Daleks have exited the stage. Have I discovered a new science fiction love? What I saw last night augurs well for the series, but only the fullness of time shall tell. Bring on more metallic staccato screeching!

The Stars My Destination: The Good
When the space shuttle Endeavour sunders the sky and vaults into the heavens in early August, among the crew will be astronaut Barbara Morgan, who originally joined NASA as Christa McAullife's for the first Teacher in Space flight, a mission that ended in the Challenger disaster. This speaks well of both Ms. Morgan and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, that neither will cower in the face of hardship and bitter loss. Fortune favors the bold.

The conquest of outer space requires temerity, not trepidation! There is no risk-free way to travel to space; every step of a celestial voyage places life and limb in tremendous jeopardy. But the rewards of achieving the heavens are well worth the price that has been paid in blood and treasure. From the memorial plaque at the site of the Apollo 1 disaster:
"Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived."
And by Jove, that is precisely what we're doing! The motto of NASA is Ad astra per aspera, usually, and somewhat loosely, translated as "A rough road leads to the stars." From President Kennedy's immortal speech committing America to landing men on the Moon before the end of the 1960s:
"We choose to go to the Moon, we choose to go to the Moon and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
Though twenty-one years have past since that fateful day when I sat in my elementary school's library (McAullife's participation was a big deal, especially in the public schools) and watch the destruction of the Challenger live on TV, and though those seven brave souls were sadly not the last lives lost in the exploration of the final frontier, we will live in the shadow of the Challenger disaster as long as her sister shuttles continue to fly. But astronaut Morgan's flight will reaffirm that though a dear price has been paid, we dare not abandon our dreams. Godspeed, Endeavour.

The Stars My Destination: The Bad
For all its lofty ambitions, NASA is still a human enterprise and humans are flawed, terrible, broken creatures: drunklink. I can think of only three responsive measures: roll my eyes, hope against hope that NASA gets its house in order, and post the following cartoon by Michael Ramirez.

The Stars My Destination: The Ugly
Note that I am more likely to use the word "Mankind" when talking up the virtues of manned space flight and "humans" when lamenting the fallen state of Man. What is to follow is not an original thought (so, of course, from whence I am quoting it presently escapes me), but of course we are all aware that we only ever say "You're only human" when an error has been made. We never say, "George Lucas, your films are spectacular and have brought joy to millions. You're only human!" As misanthropic as I strive to be, even I find solace in conforming to the linguistic conventions of my contemporaries.

So, "the Wolverines" win games while "we" loss, and "Mankind" soars while "humans" remain mired in failure.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "Why Do All Girls Think They're Fat?" from Monkeys For Nothin' and the Chimps For Free (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 27 Juli
They Might Be Giants, "Don't Let's Start" from Then: The Earlier Years, Disc One (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: You might think it odd to choose as the first Song of the Day from the new RBF album a song that has previously appeared on both Everything Sucks and the Keep Your Receipt EP, but a good song is a good song no matter how many times it has been released and recorded. And the message still resonates, why do even the fairest girls find their comely visage damnably flawed?

For the longest time, I thought the lyrics were, "Do-do-donut star...." Nonsense, certainly, but not outside the realm of possibility for a They Might Be Giants song.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Emily the Strange
Emily's dream...

...is your worst nightmare.

Sweet dreams.
Emily the Strange
Emily isn't evil...

...she's just up to no good.

The Stars My Destination
Sabotage! I am aghast. What kind of maniac would do such a thing? This is the space program! It is supposed to embody all that is bright and noble about Mankind! Thank Bog it was so amateurish and so readily detected.

Vote For Kodos
Speaking of maniacs, I have yet to decide behind which contender for the Republican presidential nomination to throw my (moral, not financial) support: Senator McCain, former Mayor Giuliani, or former Senator Thompson. However, Mr. McCain's prospects have recently dimmed. I donated $40 to his campaign back in 2000, in the ever-so-much-fun run-up to the Michigan primary, and have remained on his emailing list ever since. In an email received yesterday, the senator's supporters were referred to as "McCainiacs." *stunned pause* What?! Why in the name of Richard Milhous Nixon would any Republican emulate the delusional "Deaniacs" from 2004? Those drug-addled morons couldn't even manage to defeat the virtually self-defeating John Kerry. Even President Bush won an election against Kerry! "McCainiacs"? Once again, I am aghast. Will this prove the straw that broke the camel's back and sundered forever my ties to McCain? Time shall tell, but it's not looking good for the senior Senator from Arizona.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Pool Party!" from Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Raise your glasses in a last toast to high chlorine, my friends, the pool is back in action.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Loot - Addendum
I also received e-cards from Skeeter and Daddy Dylweed. Woo hoo!

Hello, Death Kitty
I think it is fairly obvious that the feline in question is not merely predicting patients' deaths, but orchestrating their demise through some as yet undetermined means: killer kittylink. There may well be a "biochemical explanation": poison.

Onward, pussycat! Kill! Kill! (I have neither seen nor plan to see Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Bright Future in Sales" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Happy birthday to me, but seriously, Mike, you're 28 years old. You really do have to get your shit together, because you cannot live like this forever.

The Loot
chocolate chip cookies (The Worrywart)
The 4400 - The Third Season (Mt. Love)
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Volume One (The L.A.W.)
Reel Big Fish, Monkeys For Nothin' and the Chimps For Free (Mt. Love)
Charles Brooks, ed., Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year - 2007 Edition (The Worrywart) - a 17-year tradition
largess to purchase a printer (The Worrywart)
largess to purchase a new pair of dress shoes (The Worrywart)

I do not know if The Goldbricker (my dad) contributed to any of The Worrywart's (my mom) gifts. He may have, he may not have. He did sign my birthday card, though.

Glory be, the Marvin the Martian cookie jar jointly owned by my beloved brother and I is about 1/3 full of my mom's unrivaled chocolate chip cookies! Don't get attached to them, those cookies are not long for this world.

We have yet to work out the joint-custody agreement for Marvin, but I suspect we'll end up swapping him on an annual basis.

Emily the Strange
Emily isn't crazy...

...she's just mad.

Hat Day, After a Fashion
This evening, I finally made up the last of the missed Hat Days by wearing the Lebanon Raceway ballcap I inherited from my Grandpa Little, God rest his soul. Boy howdy, he loved harness racing. I miss you, Grampa. I love Hat Day!

The Blood Royal
Ladies and gentlemen, we here at The Secret Base, who are pleased as punch to live in America where no petty king holds sway, proudly present the culmination of generation after generation of inbreeding by the royal houses of Europe: bucket-o-crazylink.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Emily the Strange
Emily saw the light...

...and she wasn't impressed.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Smoking Popes, "Not That Kind of Girlfriend" from Plea for Peace (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Not That Kind of Girlfriend" was always intended as today's Song of the Day, but mid-afternoon I had a telephonic conversation that put a far different and more amusing spin on the song, particularly the title. Hee hee.
Pachydermlink! Rather arbitrarily, I've always preferred the mastodon to the mammoth. I believe the reason is twofold: (a) I saw a mastodon skeleton as a rather young lad long before I saw a mammoth skeleton, and the mastodon in question had been found in my beloved homeland of Michigan. (b) The mammoth is more widely known; so, my natural inclination is to support the mastodon, the marching band geek of prehistoric elephantine behemoths.

I love it when the earth yields up its secrets. To quote that great philosopher of our age, The M.C. Bat Commander, "There's so much to learn!"


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XXXV - Project Apollo, Part I: Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee, and the tragedy of Apollo 1; Apollo 7 and Wally Schirra's feeling grumpy; Apollo 8 and the Christmas Eve broadcast: and Apollo 9 and the flight of the Spider.

Project Apollo was a showcase of Mankind's best: bravery, ambition, intelligence, skill, and the harnessing of these qualities in common cause. There will never be episodes of "The Explorers Club" closer to my heart than this and those to follow in the coming weeks. I ask you to do me the honor of immersing yourself in the history of the Apollo program. I thank you.
Deep in the Heart of Darkness
The pool right outside my apartment, one of two in the complex, has been closed by the City of Fort Worthless. The posted sign states the reason as "to high chlorine." I don't know if this is shorthand for "due to high levels of chlorine" or a misspelling of "too high chlorine(-to-water ratio)." To high chlorine. Credit where it's due: Texas never runs out of new ways to surprise and horrify me.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Awfully Quiet" from More Noise and Other Disturbances (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 22 Juli
The Ataris, "If You Really Want to Hear About It" from End is Forever (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

HALcyon Daze
As I type, I am on hold with AppleCare. You know things have taken a turn for the worse when the procedure the technician suggested in a tone chock-full of confidence fails to produce the desired result and he then replies, "Huh," clearly confounded.

Now several minutes later, the problem righted itself, at least for the nonce, as I was staring at the screen, prompting the technician to say, "That's weird." Huzzah, ladies and gentlemen, my HAL is a curiosity! Should the utterly mysterious problem recur, a deeper investigation shall be undertaken.
Science! vs. Pseudo-Scientific Gobbledygook
The Drake Equation is an attempt, devised by Dr. Frank Drake, to mathematically estimate the number of alien civilizations that might exist in the universe and thus, by extension, the number of alien civilizations with which we might reasonably expect to detect and possibly even communicate. To date, we have not detected any civilizations other than our own, and though the field of animal intelligence is fascinating and has made great strides in recent years as medical science has produced great advances in brain scanning devices and techniques, Homo sapiens sapiens is the only sentient species known to exist.

I am a lifelong fan of science fiction. There is much more to SF than aliens, but without them SF would be so much less, both in volume and in substance. Even before I was sophisticated enough to tackle Asimov, Pohl, or Bester, I was fascinated by aliens as diverse as the Wookiee Chewbacca, the Vulcan Mr. Spock, the Kryptonian Superman, and the eponymous Aliens who so frequently imperiled Sigourney Weaver. And despite the potentially cataclysmic or even apocalyptic ramifications of first contact, I dearly wish us to meet aliens. And I am a proponent of science for its own sake, the notion that pure research is an inherent good, even if no practical applications are immediately forthcoming or even foreseeable. For reasons above and beyond the whimsical, I like the fanciful notion behind the plaques on the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes and the golden records included within the Voyager 1 and 2 probes. Please bear these items in mind when contemplating the following:

The Drake Equation is so patently unscientific as to have crossed all the way into the realm of being anti-scientific.

"Science, n., 1. the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding." (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The Drake Equation, by contrast, is a celebration of ignorance and misunderstanding. I applaud Dr. Drake's audacity in attempting to bring reason to the previously metaphysical, and thereby inherently muddled, debate about Man's place in the cosmos and the question of extraterrestrial life. But in the same breath I damn the man's arrogance and abandonment of the scientific method.

Earth is the only planet and/or miscellaneous heavenly body known to support life. The essence of science is experimentation producing replicable results. We have only the good earth to study, we have absolutely zero data on how life has arisen in environments other than Earth; therefore, any and all assumptions made to fulfill parts fl, fi, and fc of the equation are either (a) pure guesses or (b) based solely on Earth's experience. Neither is replicable, therefore neither is scientific. So, the very construction of the Drake Equation requires one to set aside the scientific method and use a none-too-distant relative of the Ouija board.

Furthermore, L is an entirely insufficient tool for encompassing the problem scale poses to interstellar contact. We know nothing about the nature of an interstellar civilization, having never witnessed one, nor can be claim to know much or anything about the typical longevity of a civilization with technology comparable to our own. (Sure, we're still here, the world didn't end yesterday, but that tells us precious little about the likelihood of the world ending in ten years.) So, any number used for L is, like the f's, naught but guesswork. Yes, one can bring the full weight of probability and other mathematical disciplines to bear to add a veneer of respectability to the numbers, but at the end of the day even the most rigorously derived probabilities will be derived solely from Earth's experience (and our understanding of life's genesis here is far from complete) and thus not necessarily applicable to alien worlds.

And even if a pan-galactic version of Poor Richard's Almanac from the far future, listing precisely the duration of the "communicative phases" of a large number of alien civilizations, were to fall into your lap, this would not address the true nature of the problem of scale. Consider: the Egotrippers were a mighty interstellar civilization with colonies throughout the Milky Way Galaxy, including a populace in the billions on an Earth-like world orbiting Tau Ceti, a star nearly twelve light-years distant from ours, Sol. The Egotrippers broadcast radio signals on the exact frequencies for which SETI's followers have been scouring the heavens lo these past forty-odd years. The Egotripper civilization's "communicative phase" (Drake's L) lasted for over twenty million years; the last Egotripper world to cease radio broadcasts was that orbiting Tau Ceti, and its message reached Earth a scant twelve years after being broadcast. But if the radio waves of that broadcast reached Earth in 1871, how would we ever know? Mankind didn't possess radio technology until the late 18th century, too late to receive any Egotripper signals.

Even from the far side of our galaxy, a radio signal would take "only" 100,000 years to reach Earth. A civilization could have flourished for millions and millions of years, but unless it was doing so at astronomical and geological equivalent of right this very minute we would have, given our current detection strategies, no clue and no way to acquire any clue. And mind you that though life on Earth is ancient, our species is only 200,000 years old; our civilization is only 10,000 years old; and radio technology is arguably only 125 years old. I detest the doomsday pessimism that arises when the nuclear bomb is discussed, but the stark reality is we do not know how much longer Earth, as represented by Mankind, will possess radio transmission and reception capability. The dinosaurs ruled the earth for scores of millions of years, but they disappeared three scores of millions of years ago; were our only source of information about them their radio broadcasts (not their physical equipment, just the energy of their broadcasts) instead of their remains, we would be entirely ignorant of their existence. And all this without even asking how 21st century, Earth-bound Man could be expected to communicate with an alien race from a star 75,000 light-years distant that shan't arise for another 500,000,000 years. The underlying and scientifically unsupportable thesis behind the Drake Equation is that all civilizations must have arisen at very nearly the same moment and must exist for very nearly the same duration; that makes Mr. Spock delightfully more likely, but it has fuck-all to do with the scientific method.

Yet, because most scientists are science fiction fans and thus hold a deep affection for the very idea of aliens, and because Drake is a highly intelligent man who has made many valuable contributions to astronomical knowledge, many have overlooked or disregarded the abandonment of the scientific method enshrined in the Drake Equation. Thus, whatever benefit might be derived from the equation as a stimulus for a series discussion of the potential existence of alien life is undermined and more than outweighed by the affront to science at the equation's very foundation. I believe in science, not cheap newspaper horoscope theatrics dressed up in a lab coat and given a stereotypical rocket scientist's German accent. The Drake Equation is gobbledygook, pseudo-scientific at best, but virulently anti-scientific gobbledygook at worst; I fear the worst. Let it be added to the ashheap of fraudulent science alongside alchemy, augury, and phrenology.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Semisonic, "She's Got My Number" from All About Chemistry (T.L.A.M.)
M2K4... 5... 6... 7...
Oh no! Opportunity and Spirit are imperiled: The Way to Dusty Death (BBC) and The Way to Dusty Death (NASA)! We know you can pull through, intrepid robot friends! Your human masters are rooting for you!

As ever, the most amazing thing is that Spirit and Opportunity were only "supposed" to operate for 90 sols (Martian days = 24 hours, 37 minutes) on the unforgiving Red Planet. And that was when they touched down in January 2004!

Bog, I love those plucky little robots.

Commentary: The, ahem, opportunity to pair the Mars Exploration Rovers and a Macbeth quote? Delicious.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hat Day, After a Fashion
Tonight, I wore my M Rec Sports ballcap. I love Hat Day!

Emily the Strange
Emily doesn't make imaginary friends...

...she creates imaginary enemies.

Thirty-eight years ago to the day...

JULY 1969, A.D.

Niel A. Armstrong

Michael Collins

Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.

Richard Nixon
President, United States of America"

I was born ten years after Apollo 11, ten years after we achieved the Moon by sheer force of will. For this reason above all others, no matter what disasters befall us or what tragedies mark the passing of years, I shall always believe that we live in a world of nigh-limitless splendor.

Saturn is well on the way to staging its own celestial production of 101 Dalmatians: moonlink. The Cassini probe is just one of those really, really good ideas. Way to go, eggheads!


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
James Darren, "It's Only a Paper Moon" from The Best is Yet to Come (T.L.A.M.)
Sigh, if only 'twas true: Onionlink.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Mr. Job Snow, a.k.a. "Snow Job" (a press nickname)
Mr. Hiram Mellon
Mr. Harriman "Hotspur" Fitch
Mrs. Nora von Spee, a.k.a. "The Fabulous Miss Nora Lamont"
Mr. Bramall "Bram" Frost
Miss Scheherazade "Sadie" Khalid
Mr. Clement Spicer
"The Governor"
"The Levantine"
Mrs. Sibylla Snow, a.k.a. "The Snow Queen"
"The Vizier"
"Abdul Abulbul Amir"
"The Bard"
"The Cadet Commander"
Mr. Fritz Spitz
Mr. Rupert Smithson
"Hizzoner, the Duke of New York"
~Mr. Maximilian von Spee (deceased)

Polis of Detroit
Snow Detective Agency
Levant Trading Company
Club Flying Circus

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hat Day!
I can't believe I missed two consecutive Hat Days! Curse you, summer, inveterate disruptor of routines and rituals! This evening, I wore my Pith helmet. I shall wear hats during dinner both tomorrow and the next day to make up, in an entirely inadequate way, for the last two weeks of shameful failure. Recent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I love Hat Day!

Emily the Strange
Emily may be odd...

...but she always gets even.
Das Boot
For no readily apparent reason the following bit from the film Crimson Tide came to mind early this morning. I have since checked my DVD to ensure the accuracy of the exchange between Gene Hackman as Captain Ramsey and George Dzundza as the Chief of the Boat (COB), addressing the officers and crew of the film's principal setting, the ballistic missile submarine U.S.S. Alabama SSBN-731.

Hackman: "Mr. COB?"
Dzundza: "Yes, sir!"
"You're aware of the name of this ship, aren't you, Mr. COB?"
"Very aware, sir!"
"It bears a proud name, doesn't it, Mr. COB?"
"Very proud, sir!"
"It represents fine people."
"Very fine people, sir!"
"Who live in a fine, outstanding state."
"Outstanding, sir!"
"In the greatest country in the entire world."
"In the entire world, sir!"
And what is that name, Mr. COB?"
"Alabama, sir!"
"And what do we say?"
Together: "Go, 'Bama!"
Crew: "Roll Tide!"

Science!: A-Viking We Will Go
Treasurelink. My ancestry is more English than anything else, but what does that really mean? Were my antecedents Danish vikings? Norman invaders, also of viking extract? Angles, Saxons, or Jutes, all of whom were once themselves invaders? Roman legionaries or auxiliaries? Or am I descended from the original Britannic Celts? Wondering around Yorkshire with a metal detector would seems unlikely to scare up any answers. Still, I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday. Well done, Whelans! I am opposed to heaping excessive praise upon the fickle "wisdom of the common man," but I must admit that the possibility for major discoveries to be made by relative amateurs is a most appealing facet of archaeology. Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy, is the paramount exemplar of this phenomenon.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Metal Detector" from Factory Showroom (T.L.A.M.)
Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day
You know, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is just a fabulous, fabulous film.

Switching gears, I'm glad I never recklessly resolved to see any and all movies featuring the enchanting Ms. Deschanel (as I did concerning the films of Parker Posey), because I have nothing but disdain for the music of Janis Joplin, whom Ms. Deschanel is portraying in a bio pic due out next year. Awful.

Emily the Strange
Emily doesn't just break rules...

...she breaks hearts.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Green Day, "The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink" from Short Music for Short People (T.L.A.M.)

Crist Saves?
Jack Ketch. I first heard of Charlie Crist years ago when The Professor was an undergraduate at Florida State. Mr. Crist was running for office against one or another of Florida's ubiquitous Morphonios dynasty; Crist versus Morphonios tickled The Professor's funny bone as being delightfully close to "Christ vs. Morphonios," plainly the name of a denizen of the demonic depths. Charlie Crist: No H, no mercy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Prompted by today's Song of the Day, the wicked "Ketchup Soup" by the largely unknown band The Teen Idols, I finally ripped Short Music for Short People into my iTunes library after watching this evening's new episode of Eureka. You never adequately appreciate just how terribly long thirty seconds can feel until you listen to a truly wretched thirty-second song. Of one hundred one songs, ranging in length from 0:08 seconds to 0:37 seconds, I added forty-six to my ever-growing library; most of the rest I'd rather not hear again as long as I shall live. But several of those forty-six are so righteous as to justify whatever price I originally paid for the compilation ("Triple Track" by Dance Hall Crashers, I'm looking in your direction).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spy vs. Spy
The empire* strikes back: spylink. I like the line about the British expulsion of the Russian diplomats threatening to "jeopardise (sic) co-operation on counter-terrorism;" I compliment the flair of whomever wrote this piece. Considering that the Russian intelligence and security services have been subtly accused of poisoning to death a British citizen with an exotic radioactive toxin, I should think that itself would constitute an act of state-sponsored terrorism, aimed as much at silencing other expatriate dissidents as at punishing the late Mr. Litvinenko, and thus by definition place in grave jeopardy Anglo-Russian counter-terrorism efforts. I am sorry Mr. Litvinenko is dead and I do not wish to return to the bad old days when agents of the Kremlin prowled the world with virtual impunity, executing whomever was perceived as a threat to the Rodina, but I'd be a monkey's uncle before I denied that this story is a hell of a lot of fun. This, my friends, is the closest real-world analog to the exploits of 007.

*Empire? I have to believe that Putin would love to transition from being President of the Russian Federation to Tsar of the Russian Empire. We just need to install a new German Kaiser at Potsdam at it will be the Belle Époque born anew!

The Hoax With the Most
In the immortal words of the 1966 film Batman, "Success! Success! They've done it! They've done it!": hoaxlink. The more I learn about The Big Donor Show, the more I admire the people behind it. And, saints be praised, the hoax appears to have had the intended effect. Huzzah!

I do not mean to make light of the loss of life and destruction of property wrought by the earthquake, but this is just begging for levity: radioactive material leaked into the sea? I think we all know how this ends. Godzillalink. This is why were I to ever relocate to Japan I'd live in the frozen north of Hokkaido, not in hipster Tokyo, epicenter of Japan's crazy and completely awesome pop culture and frequent target of rampages by giant atomic monsters. Compared to that, battling the dreaded snow monkeys on Hokkaido would be a walk in the proverbial ravenous monkey-infested park.

Emily the Strange
Emily doesn't cheat...

...she plays by her own rules.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Teen Idols, "Ketchup Soup" from Short Music for Short People (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Spy vs. Spy
The double-speak and veiled threats really are my favorite part of international diplomacy: Spylink. "The Russians are our friends... that's why we're throwing their spies the hell off of our islands! We're friends!" And this article also highlights my favorite part of British Parliamentary democracy: William Hague is the shadow foreign secretary. I adore the way the Brits innocently use terms that would be blatantly sinister in American English, like "government scheme" or "shadow cabinet." That's why in Dreamcatcher Damien Lewis with an American accent is an earnest hero, but with an English accent he's an insidious alien. It's kind of like the row between the Russians and the British; the British are our friends and we adore the accent (without it Keira Knightley would be naught but a way, way too skinny girl with a funny-looking face), but we also consider it aural shorthand for nefarious intent. How fun!

Emily the Strange
Emily doesn't aim high...

...she aims low.

(An elucidation of the accompanying picture: Emily has used a slingshot to strike a boy in the crotch from a safe distance. It's okay, though, because the boy has his baseball cap on backwards; so, he clearly had it coming.)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Five Iron Frenzy, "Juggernaut" from Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XXXIV - The Revolt of the Admirals

The "Revolt of the Admirals" is merely the most famous incident in the U.S. Air Force's (founded 1947) ongoing campaign to wish the U.S. Navy (founded 1775) out of existence. Time and again the Navy has been proven to be essential to the defense of the American way, yet time and again the Air Force has tried to get rid of it entirely. It's fascinating.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
William Shatner, "Ideal Woman" from Has Been (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 14 Juli
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Pictures to Prove It" from Question the Answers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Pictures to prove it / Smudged with fingerprints and tears."
From the Department of "Better Late Than Never"
Yesterday was Bastille Day! Oh, the temptation to mock the self-importance of our French friends is nigh-irresistable, but I shall refrain as a gesture of goodwill toward President Sarkozy: Froglink. The inclusion of other nations in the Bastille Day parade could be seen as an expression of France's desire to reduce the whole of Europe to constituent parts of metropolitan France, but for the nonce I shall take our Gallic comrades at their word: they wish to forge a Europe united in common cause by shared values, not build an empire by stealth. Vive la France!

Across the Channel, The Proms started on Friday. I, for the twentieth-eighth consecutive season, shall not be in attendance at the Royal Albert Hall. Should I ever have the means and will to summer in the England of my forefathers, I should be quite interesting in experiencing at least one concert of The Proms, and not solely for the novelty.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another."
--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

My heart belonged to DC Comics, the home of Superman, the Batman, and the Justice League of America, long before I started reading comic books in the summer of 2000. DC is currently ruled by a corrupt despot named Dan DiDio (DDD), whom I liken "the Matt Millen of comic books." (I know of no greater insult.) I oppose everything he stands for and everything he has done at DC; hand to the Good Book, I would rather DC Comics go out of business and cease publication of all comics posthaste than see the company lurch from folly to folly as it has under DDD's ham-fisted stewardship.

Quality is by no means anathema to popularity, but more often than not a work's quality has naught to do with its popularity, e.g., the CSI television franchise. The rarest and loveliest spectacle in popular culture is the immense popularity of a work of significant quality, e.g., the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series. And it was only the commercial success of the first two Star Wars films that allowed the production of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Likewise, the publication of comic books is a business, and no monthly book, regardless the quality of its content, can endure without some degree of popularity. I would like to think the following reflects a dissatisfaction with DiDio's policies at DC Comics that is far broader than my own dire threats and festering ire:
Marvel recorded 48.42% of the Unit Market Share, nearly 20 percentage points above DC’s 28.57%. Both the size of the “spread” between publishers and DC’s percentage of share are perhaps both historic figures in the Diamond/single distributor era.
For the article from whence the above passage was cherry-picked: Newsarama. The "Diamond/single distributor era" goes back approximately ten to twelve years. Suffice to say, the mid '90s. In a phrase that I feel is some small measure of just retribution for DDD's vendetta against the membership of the former JLI, Bwa ha ha ha ha! DDD's short-sighted methods and sycophantic cronies have lead DC to new lows; here we see hope, for DDD's superiors at the Warner Bros. and Time-Warner corporate levels have a vested interesting in seeing DC Comics prosper. With DC falling ever further behind bitter rival Marvel it is only a matter of time before a palace coup either sacks DDD or laterally promotes him to a empty portfolio. Either result would see the liberation of DC's characters and few surviving writers and artists of well repute. Liberty!

Let us hope that DC's fortunes continue to decline and decline that we may all the sooner say good riddance to bad rubbish and begin the difficult, worthwhile project of restoring the once and future grandeur of the DC Universe.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Martian Manhunter
Some alliterative ideas for Z'imm's codename:

Martian Menace
Martian Marauder
Martian Maniac
Martian Master
Martian Monster
Martian Monk
Mad Martian

Ooo, I like the Mad Martian. I don't know if I like it enough, but I do like it.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Avril Lavigne, "Everything Back But You" from The Best Damn Thing (T.L.A.M.)

Emily the Strange
Emily believes...

...seeing is deceiving.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
John Williams, "The Raiders March" from Raiders of the Lost Ark - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Martian Manhunter
As a consequence of the experiments-cum-depredations of The Alienist in the story "Little Green Men," a fraction of J'onn J'onzz's body mass will be separated from the whole and achieve a sentience all its own. This short, megalomaniacal offshoot of my favorite Martian shall call himself Z'imm J'onzz (I am declaring "z'imm" to be Martian for "shadow"); obviously, he is a loving tribute to/pastiche of Invader ZIM. Z'imm, using his Martian shape-shifting abilities to pose as a human named John Carter, sets up his underground base beneath an unsuspecting house in Mars, Pennsylvania, and, embodying the parts of J'onn's personality that love his native Mars far more than his adoptive Earth, plots to somehow revive the all-but-extinct Green Martian civilization. After a further bit of exposition, I shall request your aid.

Martians living on Earth use multiple names, above and beyond the tumult and confusion that often results from superheroes' alter egos and secret identities. J'onn J'onzz is the native Martian name of the superhero the Martian Manhunter, who also uses the human alias of John Jones. The Pale Martian hero Miss Martian's true name is M'gann M'orzz, adapted into human parlance as Megan Morse (a real woman after whom the fictional Miss Martian was named). The Martian Manhunter's genocidal twin brother, Ma'alefa'ak J'onzz, corrupted his name into the supervillain codename Malefic. Z'imm has his human alias all set, John Carter of Mars, Pa., but what, if anything, should I do for a nom de villainy?

From the moment of his inception, even before I gave him the Martian name Z'imm, I've been calling him "the Green Meanie" (a name borrowed from an unrelated Martian A.I./mecha from my "The Cloak's World"). Today, like a bolt from the blue, the Green Meanie suddenly stuck me as... somewhat unfortunate. So, what does Z'imm call himself when he's out and about scheming and plotting the human race's doom? I would greatly appreciate your suggestions, dear readers.

Green Meanie
The Invader
The Martian Invader
The Green Menace
The Green Doom
byeh? And please don't feel constrained by these mediocre choices. An original suggestion may be required to save the day.

Martian Manhunter
J'onn J'onzz
John Jones

Miss Martian
M'gann M'orzz
Megan Morse

Ma'alefa'ak J'onzz
(Malcolm Jones - once I bring him back from the grave through the use of a time machine)

Z'imm J'onzz
John Carter

Never turn your back on a Spaniard: piracylink. There is no more treacherous, craven creature on Bog's green Earth than a Spaniard. Just yesterday I was thinking that perhaps the contempt with which I have regarded the Spanish people since the aftermath of the March 11, 2004 train bombings was unduly harsh, that maybe I ought to give them another chance. And then they commit a brazen act of piracy on the high seas. Gracias for showing your true colors, you jackals.

All indications are that the wreck from whence the contentious treasure was brought forth was in international waters, meaning it was recovered, not pilfered as the filthy Spaniards have asserted. Furthermore, if the wreck sank back in the 17th or 18th centuries, would not enough time have passed for "finder's keepers" to be the governing legal principle? Piracy is low, even for the Spaniards. Let us pray that the captive crew are not long held hostage in perfidious Iberia.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dieu Et Mon Droit
Off with their 'eads! Queenlink. I'd wager the BBC wants to bring back Cromwell and the Protectorate!

Emily the Strange
Emily isn't lazy...

...she's just happy doing nothing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Extrasolar water: aqualink. I shall further address "hot Jupiters" and all manner of other so-called exoplanets when I savage the ill-named Fermi paradox and the preposterous Drake Equation in a forthcoming post. For now, though, I cannot wait until our techniques are sufficiently sophisticated to find (a) terrestrial planets, e.g., Mars, Venus, or Earth and (b) we find a world with an Earth-like nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere with an unbroken salt water ocean for its surface. Yes, boys and girls, star-hugging gas giants are all fine and good, but me, I'm jonesing for a waterworld.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "All Kinds of Time" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)
Happy Birthday!
He is unaware of the existence of The Secret Base, and I'm reasonably certain I haven't spoken to him since at least 2004, but I'd like to wish a happy birthday to Danny Boy, my oldest friend, whom I've known since I was two years old, before the Mountain of Love was even born. Danny is two weeks my senior and in our youth we were nearly identical tow-headed rascals. In both visage and temperament he's pure Irish, Bog bless the lad. Three years of silence is nothing; no matter what, I'll always count Danny Boy among my friends. Once back in Michigan, I shall have to contact his folks to learn how to get back in touch with him. Happiest of birthday wishes for you, old chum.

Rick Fitness
Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption are virtually unwatchable during the summer months. Fortunately, I have found something new to hold my attention during the not-as-daily-as-it-should-be routine: Gilmore Girls. I love it, and in the grand tradition of Hedonism-Bot, "I apologize for nothing!"

Two of the more useful widgets in my HAL's "Dashboard" are a "This Day in History" calendar, listing historical events of widely varying significance, and a Red Wings sweater-of-the-day calendar, which lists a different player's name on the date corresponding to his number, both displayed in the style of his Red Wings sweater. Today is July 11. The Red Wings calendar is today displaying the jersey of No. 11, Shawn Burr. This Day in History informs me that today is the anniversary of the fatal duel between then-Vice President Aaron Burr and then-former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Shawn Burr, Aaron Burr, the number eleven... coincidence... or not?

Or do you suppose the Red Wings were, by assigning Shawn Burr the number eleven, signally their endorsement of Burr's killing of Hamilton? Is the Red Wings organization just an elaborate front to disguise a nest of rabid, latter-day Anti-Federalist sentiment?

Emily the Strange
Emily doesn't search to belong...

...she searches to be lost.

Get lost.
Happy Birthday!
I nearly missed it, but happy birthday to Ambrosia Sue, my sister-in-law-to-be! I changed her codename from The Buckeye to Ambrosia Sue because even though the verdammt Ohioans don't think "Buckeye" is an insult, we all know it is, and it was not right to use such a vicious slur as the codename of my brother's intended. Happy birthday, future sister-in-law.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, a pontiff after my own heart: popelink. Sound the trumpets! Ring the bells! O joyous day, the Counter-Reformation is back! Time at last to bring those Protestant bastards to heel. Pope John Paul II was a good, good man, and time may even prove he was a saint, but to my way of thinking he went too far and permitted too many insults to Catholicism in the name of ecumenical reconciliation. Holy Mother Church is the one true church, and it is greatly encouraging to hear the Vatican say as much. I knew electing the the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Bishop of Rome was a grand idea; way to go, Princes of the Church!

The Airing of Grievances
I love my brother, the Mountain of Love. You all know I love my brother; so, what is my purpose in telling you what you already know, that I love my brother? It seems customary to do so before critiquing a loved one.

I love my brother, and I reveled in the time we were able to share when this apartment was BTW South, but when he gets the idea into his head to be a miserable bastard he is implacably gloomy. The whole time we lived at BTW South, he was implacably gloomy. His life sucks, his life is going to suck for at minimum the next few years, he's sick and tired of his life sucking. On and on and on he lamented an endless cavalcade of woe. The torrent was relentless, and heedless of my efforts to remind him of the manifold blessings in his life. It's hard to face that kind of resolute unhappiness every single day, to hear the person you love most in the whole world tell you that his entire life is misery, and that living with you does nothing to lift the fog and gloom. God forgive me, I'm relieved to be prevailed upon no longer to play Sisyphus day in and day out. My sincerest hope is that living with Ambrosia Sue will prove for him a panacea. Or, magic bullet solutions being so few and far between, that she will prove far more empathetic and nurturing than me, that she will suss out the requirements of his happiness. Try as I might, I was utterly and totally incapable of doing anything to pierce the sullen veil and I tried my best, my very best. I'm sorry I was powerless to help you, David, and I'm sorry for resenting your dedication to misery and gloominess.

This is, in part, one of the conundrums alluded to in last month's post "Tease."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mike Park, "Supposed To Be There Too" from For the Love of Music (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I apologize for having not written anything interesting in recent days. There is a temptation to ascribe decreased reader interest to summer daze, to the long days and hot nights that lure most people away from their HALs and out onto their porches and other places of friendly congregation, and this is certainly happening, but I also know that I have been shirking my responsibilities as a writer. Though I look forward fondly to departing Texas, and sincerely praying never to return, endings make me morose... which is possibly the most insultingly unoriginal piece of gibberish haunting the boarded up Thunderdome of my mind. Ominously, morosity is the last way station on the road to apathy.

Can one summon a semblance of the salad days of yore through sheer will? I know not. I can feel a distant stirring in the blood, a receptiveness to bold declarations of forging a personal Golden Age or dying in the attempt. I am never one to disparage the value of words and they are fine words; so, I shall not dismiss them as "only words." Even so, the Dark Bastard is a dread foe with which not to be trifled lightly. I will need cunning and guile as well as strength to overthrow him, cunning and guile I have not displayed in too many years. Years, whole years I have squandered. Ye gods. (Of course, there is also a temptation to read great themes into a passing malaise, and of this too I must be wary.)

The looming campaign against the depredations of the Dark Bastard aside, The Secret Base has not of late been what it should. I adore "The Explorers Club" and "The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day," but I have put too much emphasis on these gimmicky features. My love for them is pure and true, but my neglect of the erstwhile meat and potatoes of this bloggy blog is inexcusable. You shall never know how many posts I have censored in the past few months. I haven't weighed in on my friends, I haven't discussed my family, I've allowed "The Endurance" to whither and all but die. (Fortunately, I have done a finer job of nurturing "The Endurance"'s real-world counterpart.) Hell, I've gone so far as to establish a stealth blog in order to experience the catharsis formerly attained through The Secret Base. No more. This namby-pamby bullshit is at an end.

The Endurance
Codename: PANDORA's standard Secret Base codename is The Sardine. Fanatical readers may remember from the mammoth "The Anniversary Party presents Codename: CHAOS" that her Christian name is Amanda. Make no mistake, I really, really enjoy typing "Codename: PANDORA," deriving from it almost certainly more glee than I should. But, in so indulging such a fancy, I lost sight of the nigh-sacred policies that made The Secret Base the best blog on ye olde internet. (Deny it? Name one blog better. I dare you.) Secret Base standards and practices clearly require that codenames are used not to preserve anonymity, but to furnish mirth and amusement. With the exceptions of Skeeter and The Watergirl, killjoys who requested any and all mention of their last names be redacted (I tease, girls) and the Anonymous Friend, about whom at his request no more specific reference may be made, I don't give a good Bog damn about you people's anonymity.

The precipitating event of the Mountain of Love's unceremonious canning from the job for which we came to this accursed place was the discovery by his superiors of some indiscreet words on his late, lamented bloggy blog; this proves that there is every reason to be protective of, perhaps even paranoid about one's identity here in the ethereal realms. I suggest not that all caution be thrown to the wind, but one of the raisons d'être of The Secret Base is to rebel against the notion that as far as the internet is concerned we must, to upend Murrow's immortal admonition, walk in fear of one another. In my use-cum-abuse of "Codename: PANDORA," I betrayed that principle and by extension mine own self.

Her name is Amanda, her codename is The Sardine, and I adore her. I may continue to use the double codename Codename: PANDORA, but only because I delight in it so, and only as long as everyone knows I am gushing about The Sardine.

And now for one of those ridiculously excessive declarative sentences of which I am so terribly fond: Prepare yourselves for the restoration of the true The Secret Base of the Rebel Black Dot Society.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "It Must Be Summer" from Utopia Parkway (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "And it must be summer / Cause I can't go on." I had "It Must Be Summer" on repeat throughout the writing of the first portion of the above post. Utopia Parkway is such a pleasantly melancholy album.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XXXIII - The Twelve Labors of Heracles, Part II: the Stymphalian Birds, the Cretan Bull, the Mares of Diomedes, the Girdle of Hippolyte, the Cows of Geryon, the Apples of Hesperides, and Cerberus; the legacy of the Twelve Labors.

The Rebel Black Song of the Day
Liz Phair, "Headache" via iTunes (Skeeter)

Samstag, 7 Juli
Astropop 3, "So Happy" from Plea for Peace (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

London Can Take It, Two Years On
Fifty-two people were murdered in London, the cradle of liberal democracy, by monsters blaspheming against their own faith. Precisely two weeks later, on July 21, 2005, virtually identical attacks were thwarted; a week ago, additional jihadist attacks in London and Glasgow failed to claim any innocent lives, more by chance than anything else. I not know when we will be free of these outrages, but I do know that we will prevail. Democracies always appear fragile and weak to tyrants, but when the guns fall silent it is always the democrats who stand on the ashes of the tyrants' dreams. London can take it. We all can take it.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Softball, "Capricious" from Mailorder for the Masses (T.L.A.M.)

Donnerstag, 5 Juli
Marvin Gaye, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" via iTunes (Alistair)

Commentary: Accepting nominations for Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day was not a one-off publicity stunt, dear readers, but an open-ended invitation. One trait shared by nearly all of you is a deep and abiding love of music; our tastes differ radically, but the bedrock of musical appreciation remains. Share the love.

Martian Manhunter
"Flight of the V.U.L.T.U.R.E."
"The Vulcan Affair"
"The Callistan Menace"
"Little Green Men"
"The Jungle"
"Return of Saturn"
"John Carter of Mars, Pa."
"The Bronze Age"
"Clanking Doom"
"Mind's Game"
"The Warlord of Mars"


"Martian Noir"

And of course there is also "Manhunters Are From Mars, Worms Are From Venus," originally devised for The Magic of Shazam! but very easily adapted to Martian Manhunter. Or, perhaps ideally, "Manhunters Are From Mars, Worms Are From Venus" could be published as crossover between Martian Manhunter and The Magic of Shazam!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Good vibrationslink. My only concern is that once the internal power problem has been hurdled, what obstacles will remain in place to limit the creation of truly cybernetic organisms? How long would it be before cyborg organs and limbs would be used not only to preserve the lives of the sick and dying, but by athletes looking to gain a competitive advantage, by armies looking to create super-soldiers? How much of a man can you replace with machines before he ceases to be a man? The theoretical barriers to the creation of cyborgs are falling with frightening celerity, leaving only problems of practical engineering. And there is no problem of practical engineering that cannot be overcome by keen minds with time and resources on their side. Whither man and come the machines?

At the same time, I wish not to be mistaken for a Luddite. I am not the earliest of the early adapters, I did not wait in line last Friday to purchase on iPhone (though I covet one), but I do believe that the greatest triumph in the history of Man was the Apollo Program. The older I get, the less I like Jurassic Park because, since it is basically a modern variant on Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, I believe it marks the point at which Steven Spielberg degenerated into a man terrified of his own shadow, transformed beyond recognition from a merchant of dreams to a merchant of fear. In the novel Invisible Monsters Chuck Palahniuk wrote, "When did the future go from being a promise to a threat?" Those who fear technology believe that the future is a threat. They are cowards. I believe the future is a promise. I believe technology is the means through which Man has risen above his animalistic origins; I believe out ingenuity is what makes us human. I am concerned about the potential menace of runaway cyborg technology alone because I wish our humanity to remain intact when we finally forge the future that every generation of our ancestors dreamed for themselves and their posterity.

The minute generator that inspired this post is a wonder and should rightly be celebrated. Technological devices and processes are neither good nor bad; we, as reasoning beings, determine their potential to aid or hinder through our choices. All moral responsibility begins and ends with us.

Lest this discussion become too pie-in-the-sky and we lose sight of the Christmas-morning-of-yore glee of scientific discovery: Science!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day!
Two hundred thirty-one years ago today, the United States of America was proclaimed as a democratic nation of free men independent of the mildly despotic British Empire. In the subsequent centuries, we have been the paramount agency driving the creation a world that while far from perfect is more prosperous and more free than any antecedent civilization, realizing President Abraham Lincoln's, our national martyr, description of the American republic as "the last, best hope of earth." Today's the Fourth of July, me fellow Americans, Independence Day; have yourselves a damn good time and always remember the wisdom encapsulated in one of the Mountain of Love's custom-made T-shirts: "America kicks ass!"

State(s) of the Union
Between the admission as states of Arizona and New Mexico in 1912 and the admission of Alaska in 1959, the flag bore forty-eight stars, remaining unchanged for forty-seven years, a record. The fiftieth state, Hawai'i, was admitted into the Union on July 4, 1960, forty-seven years ago today. Tomorrow, we will set a new duration record for the flag of the United States of America. Our nation was always about growth, about change, about territorial expansion. Is that at an end? If so, what does that mean for the rest of the ideas at the core of "America"?

I love the fifty-star flag, the flag to which I pledged my loyalty through my youth, but even as a relatively little boy fifty struck me as an almost suspiciously perfect number. Then again, it is also pleasingly perfect. Fifty. I love fifty, but what a thrill it must be to live through the admission of a new state. A new state! More America! That I'd love to see before I die.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "The Star-Spangled Banner" from Hurray for the Yellow and Blue (T.L.A.M.)
The Endurance
All is bliss and loveliness. To write in ludicrous hyperbole, all is becoming right with the world. To write in misplaced nefariousness, my scheme is coming to fruition.

Adventure and excitement, though things not craved by Jedi, abounded today. Upon returning to the erstwhile BTW South with my groceries, I was aghast to discover my brand-new gallon of milk was leaking. Both of my pitchers were already full of orange juice and I don't have any other suitable containers. Certainly, I could have committed all of my cups to the venture, but presently a superior solution presented itself. Ever since the Mountain's departure, I have been keeping my emptied apple sauce jars on the kitchen table (which couldn't possibly fit into the kitchen, but what else am I supposed to call it, just "the table"? I don't usually eat dinner of it; so, "dinner table" would be equally inaccurate). Why am I keeping them? Pure whimsy, I have no other purpose in mind. But one sprang to mind! I seized the already thoroughly rinsed jars and poured the lion's share of the milk into them, with the remainder going into two glasses, one each for tonight's and tomorrow's dinners. "Victory for ZIM!"

Also, to the relief of all I did not see K. Steeze. He rang my mobile from DFW Airport, still on the plane that ferried him from LAX and concerned that he might miss his connecting flight to Charlotte, which was scheduled to depart at approximately that very moment. Great googly moogly! Should the need arise, he asked, might be find lodging at humble adobe? "Indubitably," I wish I'd said, instead of the "Of course" or some such banality I spoke. Twenty minutes later he rang again, having made his connection, and thanked me for my ultimately unnecessary hospitality. K. Steeze is one of my favorite people in all the world, but I was ever so pleased that he will be able to continue his sojourn to visit his folks, Meeker and The Counselor, in the Carolinas, and then later onward to the Naked City. I would not wish my bitterest foe to set foot in Texas; so, I should have hated to have seen the Steezer stranded here, however fleetingly and however much I would have enjoyed his company. By this hour he is well away. Huzzah!

Deep in the Heart of Darkness
Of late, a disturbing percentage of my friends and family have transited through this baneful place. In the last ten months, The L.A.W. has been to the Metroplex twice for work; Ki-El was here for work; my parents, The Worrywart and The Goldbricker, made a stopover in Houston on the way to their Alaskan cruise; and if Codename: PANDORA had traveled from Colorado Springs to New York with the rest of her co-workers, instead of taking a direct flight from Denver, she too would have fallen into Houston's web. Damn you, Texas, do what you want to me, but leave them alone!

You know what's awesome about the planet Uranus? Almost everything. From its perpendicular rotational axis to Futurama's "Urectum" joke, Uranus kicks ass. Among the manifold glories of Uranus are the name of its numerous, though tiny, moons, which range from the incongruously mundane Margaret to the wickedly delightful Caliban, both drawn from the fertile mind of the Bard. When it comes to Uranus, I gush, and for that I make no apology; no bones about it, Uranus rules.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Ska Robot Army!" from The Return of The Aquabats! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Amusingly, The Return of The Aquabats! is their debut album.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Believe: The Restoration of Honor
The Red Wings have much to do to redeem themselves from their Faustian pact with the monster Bertuzzi, but his departure is a grand beginning: good riddance to bad rubbishlink.

Giant Robot-Birdhead, minus the robot: birdlink! I wonder if an Old World relative of Argentavis magnificens played any role in spawning the myths of the Persian roc, Hebrew ziz, and sundry big birds of myth and legend from all around the globe. Mayhap, methinks, mayhap.

Underutilized Words

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Guster, "Ramona" from Keep It Together (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Keep It Together was a disappointment when first released, but over it time it has grown on me. It's not nearly the equal of Lost and Gone Forever or the better songs on Goldfly, but it has slowly but steadily increased in my esteem.

"Ramona" was previously a BTW South Song of the Day, selected by your humble narrator, but as stated earlier that it no obstacle to becoming a Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day. It is my nature: I saw each of the
Star Wars prequels over a dozen times at the theater; I've watched every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (there are 176) at least thrice, and many episodes several additional times; I read my comic books twice before filing them away in the proper box, where they are stored in case reading an issue again should strike my fancy. I enjoying going back very nearly as much as I enjoy going forward.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XXXII - The Twelve Labors of Heracles, Part I: the ire of Hera and the murders of Megara and the children; the Nemean Lion, the Hydra, the Ceryneian Hind, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Augean stables.

The Disney animated film Hercules, from whence I have taken the above image of Megara, departs significantly from the traditional Heracles/Hercules narrative, but a) it's highly enjoyable on its own merits and b) there aren't all that terribly many images of Megara around. Hera-inflicted madness or no, too much emphasis is placed on the labors themselves and too little on why Heracles, certainly no hero in any Judeo-Christian moral framework, was obligated to perform ten (eventually twelve) labors for King Eurystheus. Thus, lest we be tempted to forget Heracles's great crime, Megara.

Dominion Day
Happy Dominion Day to our friends in the Great White North! Yes, yes, nowadays they prefer to call it "Canada Day," but from the Great War to Armistice Day to Dominion Day, my preference for certain anachronisms is well-documented. And the formal name of the fabled Canadas is still the Dominion of Canada. I have always described Michigan as the most Canadian state in the Union; so, amid the interminable rain and thunderstorms of benighted Fort Worthless my thoughts all day dwelt on the sacred soil of beloved Michigan. Happy Dominion Day, you hosers!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
William Shatner, "Real" from Has Been (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: William Shatner is not James T. Kirk, but I admire him greatly all the same.