Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XLV - Sputnik 1, the first man-made object in space, launched 4 October 1957.

The launch of Sputnik 1 was a genuine triumph, but never doubt that the Soviet Union was a murderous abomination, a blight upon the face of the earth. And fifty years ago this week, a blight across the face of the heavens.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Space Suit" from Apollo 18 (T.L.A.M.)

The Victors
I still didn't see yesterday's game; so, I still cannot bring you my personal views on how the valiant Wolverines acquitted themselves against the scholarly Wildcats. Damn the Big Ten Network. Having read today's newspaper and its sundry accounts, I am heartened by Chad Henne's return. In time, Ryan Mallett will blossom into a deadly weapon for our cause, but for the nonce he is just a lad and not yet grown into the role.

It is a testament to Mike Hart's grandeur that even on a bad day he still netted over one hundred yards rushing. You've got to have Hart!

Go Blue!

He Tasks Me
I wanted to leave the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University of Notre Dame alone with their misery, to stop making such a public spectacle of their misfortune, but Alistair insists that even at 0-5 the vile Fighting Irish are still "relevant." In the words of Khan Noonien Singh, "He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him."

Notre Dame's football team, if it may be called such, is 0-5. Charlie the Whale has lead his boys to the first 0-5 start in school history and seven consecutive losses going back to last season. 0 and 5. This is Weis's third season as head coach at Notre Dame and he has lead his team to five defeats. In the previous coach's third season, he lead his team to five defeats (and six victories). That coach lost his job. Anyone think the Whale will lead the '07 vile Irish to six victories? Anyone think he will lose his job? I wonder what exactly that says about the University of Notre Dame.

This debacle could not have happened to a more deserving gang of braggarts and bullies. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The End of the World"
"The Unquiet Dead"
"Aliens of London" (Part 1)
"World War Three" (Part 2)
"The Long Game"*
"Father's Day"
"The Empty Child" (Part 1)
"The Doctor Dances" (Part 2)
"Boom Town"**
"Bad Wolf" (Part 1)
"The Parting of the Ways" (Part 2)

*precursor to "Bad Wolf"
**epilogue to "World War Three"

The Victors
Damn the Big Ten Network. Still, a win is a win, even if I didn't get to see it. The Michigan State-Wisconsin game was more fun that I'd anticipated, so much so that my father and I went to a later screening of The Kingdom than initially planned. Back to the business at hand, I have no idea if Michigan's defense played well or poorly, if the offense played well or poorly, or if the coaching staff lead well or poorly. Again, damn the Big Ten Network and the greedy bastards behind its unholy inception. More tomorrow.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Your Racist Friend" from Flood (T.L.A.M.)
You don't listen to Nirvana because you want the pain to go away.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
I shall be walking a proverbial tightrope throughout this post. On the one hand, I wish to explain to you, my friends and treasured readers, the perilous circumstances in which I have found myself over the past week. On the other hand, I wish not to inappropriately air private dirty laundry in such a public forum. On the gripping hand, The Secret Base of the Rebel Black Dot Society is first, last, and solely the rostrum from which I pontificate and opine, denounce and defend. Whatever you think of me, my bombast, and the causes I cherish or scorn, you are "here," in the curious parlance of ye olde interweb, of your own volition; you read these lines of your own accord. Each and every one of you has an absolute right to object to anything that might offend thine eye. But when you presume to suggest there exist topics about which I dare not write you have entered an entirely other realm of commentary and criticism. I alone, answerable only to my conscience, itself aided by the blessed touch of the Holy Ghost (quite a boon, that), and availing myself of the counsel of whomever I see fit, am the arbiter of what is apropos for The Secret Base and its august audience. To those who presume themselves lofty enough to dictate the terms of this blog, might I politely suggest that you take a very long walk off a very short pier. You and your ilk are not welcome here.

The most mystifying element of the past week has been that amid the howling about my grave offenses and the veiled threats that my apologies were "not enough," only one specific charge was ever leveled against me:
"I'm sorry the wedding was such an obvious 'horror show' for you."*
That is a preposterous lie. Its author is a liar, replete with pants on fire. In the first case, my account of the matrimonial weekend had not advanced beyond Friday evening, a full day before the wedding, of which no direct mention had yet been made. Secondly, I wrote, "Ohio is, as I have mentioned, a horror show." Ohio. The State of Ohio. Is the wedding in question the entire State of Ohio? I think not. I did not write, "The wedding was a horror show." Nor, "This trip to Ohio was a horror show." I said that Ohio is a horror show. My dear mother was born and raised in Ohio; I have more family in Ohio than in any other state of the Union. Two of my favorite places on Earth, Cedar Point and the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, are technically in Ohio. ("Technically" because Cedar Point is on a peninsula, as disconnected from Ohio as possible without being an island. Wright-Patt belongs to the USAF, and thus to all Americans, not just the blighted denizens of Ohio.) All this and yet Ohio remains, as I have mentioned, a horror show.

Fully aware of my boorish manners and ferocious temper, I am keenly sensitive to charges of having wronged my kith and kin. On Wednesday, 19 September, I was told that "The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony: The Wedding Album, Part 3" had scandalized two of my relatives. That I had committed offense was transmitted to me in three ways: via a mobile telephone call, via an email missive, and via a comment left at The Secret Base. Wishing to make right what I had done wrong, I embarked upon a two-pronged approach. First, I deleted "The Wedding Album, Part 3" and apologized for having caused offense. Second, I apologized through the three media by which word of the offense had reached me: mobile phone, email, and a blog comment.

Some may call this a trifling nuance, but to my way of thinking it is a critical difference: I apologized for any offense my words may have caused, but I did not apologize for having written those words. My intent had not been malicious and reviewing "Part 3" I saw nothing but a frank and candid account of an extremely busy day in my life. As I demand of myself when composing the tripe that constitutes this blog, I praised what I liked and mocked what I disliked. I could have omitted mention of those things I found displeasing, but a lie of omission is every bit as malevolent as a lie of deception. I've told many a tall tale in my time, but that is not the purpose of The Secret Base. Still, I had not intended to offend anyone and I rued having done so. Thus, I mutilated The Secret Base as an act of contrition and issued four distinct apologies: in the place of the deleted "Wedding Album, Part 3," in a replying comment, in a replying email missive, and during the mobile telephone conversation.

There is a tradition, the Ten Days of Repentance, preceding the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is usually rendered in English as the "Day of Atonement," the day for making amends both with those you have wronged and with God Almighty. A bit of wisdom associated with the Ten Days of Repentance is intended to prevent the wronged from abusing those who are attempting to atone; it states,
"We are to apologize three times and if our apology is not accepted by the third offering, we are now owed the apology."
Believing myself to have done nothing wrong, I yet issued four distinct apologies and committed an unbidden act of contrition, a profound act given how greatly invested I am in The Secret Base. I apologized not three times, but four. In response, those apologies were spit back in my face as "not enough." Not enough. Further acts of contrition were demanded, though nothing specified. To get back into the good graces of those I had offended would take "a lot." A lot. Not enough. A lot.

The following moment was one of which I am quite proud. I have been working to master my temper, to tame it and bend it to my will. Upon being so defamed and so dismissively insulted, I was livid. My fury was a living thing, a monster with a soul as black as pitch. But I did not allow it to strike out in its fury. I demanded from it at least a semblance of decorum, a few moments' peace so that I could devise a course of action I would have no later cause to regret. I reined in the beast and on this one occasion, a moment of perfectly justified rage, tamed it to my will. In a final act of conciliation, and of farewell, I sent a bouquet of flowers to The Shire; the accompanying card bore a fifth apology.

And then silence. For days on end I received no word. To Skeeter's consternation I postponed any further episodes of "The Wedding Album" and laid low for a whole week, refocusing my blogging efforts on college football and the delightful trivia that is the hallmark of The Secret Base. All the while my rage festered and begged to be given a free hand, and my Bog what satisfaction I would have found in revenge, but I was resolved to take the moral high ground. Over a week later and I have been told nothing; so, I must assume my apologies are still "not enough." Very well.

You may call me vain, and you might be right; you may call me boastful, and you might be right; you may call me an arsehole, and I know you'd be right; but whatever you say about me I have made a conscious decision to live my life in accordance with certain principles. Among them is that no one - NO ONE - speaks to me like that. I have often played the villain; so, I am willing to kowtow and be meek when I have done wrong. But I apologized, even though I believed myself to be right. I held my tongue (technically, I restrained my fingertips from typing, but that lacks a certain drama), even though every instinct I have screamed for revenge. I prayed for the Holy Ghost to flood my heart with the all-too-familiar sensation of guilt if I had done wrong. And how was my contrition, the contrition of an innocent man, received? It was spat back in my face. It was scoffed at as "not enough." More was demanded, "a lot" more. I am no cringing milquetoast! I will not beg and scrape for forgiveness like a dog! I will not countenance being insulted and demeaned in this manner!

So, the offending parties have been exiled, removed from my sight. Until the conclusion of "The Wedding Album," they shall be "The Bride/The Wife" and "The Bridegroom/The Husband." For some not insubstantial period of time thereafter that shall cease to be welcome amid the happy happy joy joy proceedings of this august assemblage. This is to me a thoroughly unsatisfactory revenge for the harm done me, but for the sake of general domestic tranquility it shall have to suffice. Nemo me impune lacessit. Not yet, but every day I refine my methods.

Coming soon: "The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony: The Wedding Album, Part 3, Mark II"

*I know quotation marks are unnecessary with block quoted text, but, come on, quotation marks are always cool.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Nirvana, "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" from In Utero (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: And so shall I.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day

One entire wall of my room is given over to an impressive array of built-in bookshelves. During my year in Texile, my father quite reasonably took over the wall of shelves to help house his ludicrous library of contemporary geopolitical non-fiction. He was rifling through the shelves when I entered the room and woke up my HAL. Upon seeing the above picture of Zooey Deschanel open on my desktop, he responded, "Too many clothes."


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Darlington, "Gretchen" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Parker Posey Appreciation Day
I received the following text message from Skeeter on Sunday evening:
At dinner. Parker Posey is at the next table.
THAT'S AWESOME! To my knowledge, that is the second time Skeeter has encountered (a very loose definition of encountered, I grant you) Ms. Posey in the six years that my friend has resided in the Big Apple. Parker Posey in the flesh, man, that's too cool.

I believe the above image to be from Fay Grim, which I have not yet seen, but which I have been warned is quite horrid. We are dealing with Parker Posey, though, and thus that warning shall be insufficient to deter me.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Old School Off the Bright" from A Jackknife to a Swan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Poetry...
"We need every able asshole,
Every asshole you can spare,
We're going up the Bright,
And welcome to this fine affair."
Hello, Kitty
Initially, I expected my parents' kitty, Tiger, to behave in a manner reminiscent of my beloved Sam, but such is not the case. The more I am exposed to other cats, the more apparent their inferiority becomes. Sam wasn't just unique, he was magnificent. That said, I have come to love Tiger. A few minutes ago, I was forced to leave my easy chair and mount the stairs up to my room, in the process disturbing a peacefully sleeping Tiger. I didn't want to wake her, and I stayed in the chair a full half hour longer than I'd intended. But I was on the phone with Codename: PANDORA until after 1:30 AM last night and I'm bushed; plus, I'd been holding so still for Tiger than my legs had begun to fall asleep. In the end, I upended her as gently as possible and set her down on a warm spot where my legs had been resting. My hope is that she goes right back to sleep, but even if she doesn't I doubt she'll hold a grudge, what with cats having brains the size of walnuts and all.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dienstag, 25 September
Phish, "Dog Faced Boy" via iTunes (Ki-El)

Commentary: I hate Phish, but not quite as much as I hate Ki-El.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All Things Collegiate
First up, MSU alumnus Ki-El's thoughts on yesterday's commentary on the Year of Arts and Culture. This is exactly the kind of debate I've always dreamed The Secret Base could stimulate!


I was going to post this in the comment section of your bloggy blog, but after I started typing I realized it would never fit the space provided. So do with it as you will. I've heard two separate explanations as to the origins of MSU's Spartan moniker which may shed a little light on your quandary.

1 – As you may or may not know (I'm assuming you do, but just in case), State's initial team name was The Aggies, a rather bland name created in support of the school's original mandate as an agricultural land grant institution. When the decision was made in the '20s to update the team name in accordance with the school's expanded mandate as a more complete educational institution, a letter from an alumni
comparing a recent heartbreaking defeat of the Aggies football squad to the Spartans at Thermopylae landed on the University president's desk. Apparently, the team had been playing the then powerhouse of college football and lost in overtime, but said powerhouse (who knows what teams were good in the '20s? Could've been Harvard for all I know) was so wore down from their win that the next week they lost a major game and their shot at the title. The president, digging on the story, offered the name to the team and it stuck. My brother told me this story years ago when we were both reading Frank Miller's 300 as a mini series, but I can't say for sure if it's true. Brian was a student at Western at the time, so this wasn't any kind of "rah rah" team spirit speech – just something he's heard somewhere. Maybe next time we talk, I'll ask if he remembers where he heard it.

2 – Wikipedia's much less romantic take on the Spartan name comes from a supposed comparison made between land grant colleges and the Spartan method of education by Rep. Justin Morrill (the man who pressed Congress to approve the land grant system). I'm not sure exactly what aspect of Spartan culture this is in reference to (sadly, my knowledge of the specifics of the ancient world is pretty inadequate), but the end result was the same – MSU's name comes from historical reference to the warriors of Sparta.

Now, in either event, you must be wondering how exactly this applies to the issue of such "soldier-fanatics" relating to let alone supporting the arts. To my mind, both possible explanations for the Spartan name serve up their own reasons for why MSU's current "Year of Arts and Culture" makes perfect sense in the larger scheme of things.

1 – In regards to the Thermopylae tale, that specific group of 300 Spartans fought and died in support of the Athenians out of necessity. With the entirety of Greek civilization in peril, the often opposing city-states set aside their differences for a greater good (yes, there's more to it, but that's the gist, in any case). Transpose this alliance to modern day life at MSU, and there are a few direct parallels one can infer. If we consider the athletes of the college to represent the Spartans in this instance (and for the sake of extending the metaphor, let's say that the often underdog football team represents the 300 of Thermopylae) and consider the many arts students and faculty aided by "Year of Arts and Culture" to be the Athenians, then the issue becomes less about drawing inspiration as you put it and more about working within a set of real circumstances. The university as an institution provides the athletes with their means of competing (or the Spartans their means of doing battle) and the athletes in turn support the higher learning functions of the school financially (literally buying the cultured Athenians the time they need to complete their own goals). And just as the original Spartans and Athenians doubtlessly looked upon each other with a fair amount of scorn, so too do the competing factions of almost any university let alone MSU look at each other with the occasional eye of derision. Speaking as someone who played football for six years, I can attest
that virtually any football team in America is going to have at least a handful of complete fucking meatheads, and most of the Arts students at State view many of the athletes in that way (however unfair it may be to many of them). Conversely, I'm sure most of the football players on campus catch an occasional glimpse of the kinds of kids I shared classes with outside the Peanut Barrel on Grand River smoking cloves
and think "Faggots!" or some other such meatheaded thought. It's the way of the world.

2 – If we take Morrill's supposed comment on the land grant university's connection to Spartan society at face value, an equal number of modern parallels can be drawn which are entirely valid in the face of our Thermopylae example and even complementary to it. Again, I lay no claim to expansive knowledge of Spartan society, but I think it's fair to assume that the ruling warrior class provided for a certain amount of educational opportunities for its society's members on top of the general security the big pointy swords and brush-headed helmets allowed for. Similarly, the defining characteristic of the land grant university has always been providing an institution that serves the local community with a variety of educational opportunities they would be without (sure, most of the land grant college's started
only as agricultural schools, but what the fuck else were the people of 1862 supposed to do with a shit load of free government acreage?). That history of educational opportunity for the general public is still very much alive at MSU, and it's one of the reasons I'm most proud to call myself a State graduate. Doubtlessly, U of M has a
higher reputation amongst academic circles and other high brow areas of American society in terms of its most famous programs and institutions, but State graduates a higher number of students in general and Michigan residents specifically each year. I'm not trying to start a pissing match on the pros and cons of either university;
I'm just saying that the higher educational opportunities afforded to Michigan residents through MSU is a feather in school's cap. I was also struck while an undergrad by the fact that many of MSU's most acclaimed schools and programs had a specific focus on more practical fields of work as opposed to somewhat more insular academic-minded areas of study (for example: secondary education, music therapy,
hospitality business and even packaging, which was something I never even considered being a field of study before I made it to college). Just as the Spartans allowed for their own people to be educated above other cultures, America's support of public universities like MSU allow for a whole swath of citizens to get college degrees, raising the education level of the middle class generation after generation.

OK, so after that long rambly bit, one other important factor to keep in mind while looking at Year of Arts and Culture are the specific motivating factors behind recent changes in MSU's handling of arts education. When I was an undergrad, I was a student in the College of Arts & Letters, a unit of the university under whose banner rested
English, Theatre, Music, History, Religious Studies and a few other smaller disciplines. Furthermore, I lived for two years in the Mason-Abbot dorms as a member of the Residential Option in Arts & Letters (ROIAL), which was a program intended to draw together a bunch of arts students who wouldn't get lost in the shuffle of such a big school. By my senior year, MSU had a new president in the form of Lou Anna Simon, a career educator who admitted to a meeting of Arts & Letters faculty and students that she "didn't get" what people in the humanities do. Over the past few years, Simon has been restructuring Arts & Letters to be a residential college in the mold of MSU's well-respected James Madison College, and generally, I'm all for that
approach as it pretty much takes the tenants of the ROIAL program and applies them to every student studying the arts at MSU. On the other hand, Simon is kind of an idiot, so I've been watching what she's done to the arts programs there with a cautious eye.

This year (I believe) marked the first year that the College of Arts & Letters was replaced by the newly residential College of Arts & Humanities. Amongst the changes made to MSU's previous method of organizing curriculum were the dismantling of ROIAL (I'm still pretty bummed I missed the farewell party earlier this summer), the spinning of the Music department into its own college (which will eventually be
supported by a new building) and the moving of history into the College of Social Sciences. Some of these changes I'm for, some I'm against, and some I haven't made up my mind on. In any event, I'm generally for the overriding reasoning behind all the changes which is to make the arts curriculum at State see more students, more money and more recognition. I can only assume that this Year of Arts and Culture is the university's way of supporting the new initiative both financially (you'll notice on that page that they're supporting both the music college and the arts college) and socially (trying to gain credit for being cutting edge thinkers in their approach to academics or some such ridiculous thing). All the while, the Spartan athletic
program (regardless of the winning or losing percentages of most of its teams) rakes in money hand over fist for the general fund while the university as a whole supports the broadest and most comprehensive reach possible.

So no, I don't think that MSU's current celebration is at odds with its mascot.

Curious to hear your thoughts,

- Kiel

St. Charlie
This is the core of my problem with Charlie Weis: the members of the Irish Nation, most of them bright, pleasant, and erudite people, have in him an inexplicable and groundless faith that borders on the idolatrous. And note in what I say next that I am not endorsing Ty Willingham as a head football coach nor his tenure as head coach at Notre Dame, but in his first season at Notre Dame, using players largely recruited by his predecessor Bob Davie, Willingham lead the vile Fighting Irish to an 8-0 start; at this point, he was under contract for five or six seasons and his contract was not renegotiated to boost Willingham's salary. In Weis's first season at Notre Dame, using players largely recruited by his predecessor Ty Willingham, he lead the vile Fighting Irish to a 5-2 start; at this point, he was under contract for six years, but his contract was renegotiated to extend his tenure and boost his salary.

From what source does this faith in Weis emanate? To hear Notre Dame fans, one would think that Bill Belichick (head coach), Tom Brady (quarterback), Deion Branch (wide receiver), and Tedy Bruschi (linebacker) had absolutely nothing to do with New England's three Super Bowl triumphs, that each had been solely engineered by Weis (offensive coordinator). Weis was a tremendously important part of the Patriots' success, but he was only one part of a very complex recipe. So, after he had signed his name to a contract, why was it necessary to renegotiate his contract midway through a season? Fear that he might bolt for an NFL head coaching job? That could only be true if Weis's word (his signature on a contract and his statements to the media) was meaningless. But the necessity of the contract extension is secondary. The real question is, based upon what criteria was renegotiation even considered? Up to that point in his first year, Weis had not performed as well as the reviled Willingham! What was Weis's record as a head coach in college before coming to Notre Dame? He doesn't have one. What was Weis's record as a head coach in the NFL before coming to Notre Dame? He doesn't have one. So, with no credentials as a head coach in over fifteen years, and even that was at the high school level; with no experience as a college recruiter; with many other people with whom he had to share credit for the potency of New England's offense; and with a 5-2 record that at Michigan at least would have had a coach in hot water, based upon WHAT EXACTLY was St. Charlie offered a new, higher paying, and longer lasting contract midway through his first season?

I should also add that I believe Notre Dame's invitation to and sound defeat in two consecutive BCS Bowl games stands as yet another indictment of the BCS as a pinheaded and deeply flawed system. One last shot at the vile Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame and then I'll be a paragon of sympathy and goodwill until after bowl bids are announced in early December: they are 0-4, the first 0-4 start in school history, and stand an excellent chance of being ineligible for post-season play. They and their boorish head coach are irrelevant.

Monday, September 24, 2007

There are days when NPR seems to function as nothing more than the public relations arm of the Democratic National Committee, but even on those days commercial radio is still a soul-sucking wasteland of crudity and vapidity. And I am not always in a humor to listen to the tapes I keep in Lumi. I have a long-standing aversion to silence; so, whatever am I to do? I find succor from the least likely of sources, East Lansing, a blighted burg usually lambasted here at The Secret Base by the not even slightly affectionate nickname "Evil Lansing." WKAR 90.5 FM, based on the Michigan State campus, is an NPR station, but with the exception of Morning Edition and All Things Considered their broadcast day is given over to that which used to be the bedrock of most of the nation's NPR stations, classical music.

Last week, I heard something curious on WKAR, a reference to this academic year (2007-08) being the "Year of Arts and Culture" at Michigan State University. My first reaction was nostalgia at being reminded of the "Year of the Humanities and Arts" (YoHA) held at the University of Michigan during my freshman year (1997-98, a convenient decade ago). My second reaction was confusion. This is not just my usual vociferous MSU-bashing, but does anyone else find this, shall we say, peculiar? A Year of Arts and Culture... at an institution that proudly boasts the Spartans as a mascot? The ancient Spartans of the Peloponnese, those implacable Dorian soldier-fanatics, were fierce critics of the very concept of art and, as it is meant in this context, culture, disdaining both as the decadent values of their hated rivals, the Athenians. And it is from these people that the faculty, staff, and students of Michigan State University are supposed to draw inspiration. Does this not seem quite at odds with the notion of a Year of Arts and Culture?

And now back to our regularly scheduled vociferous MSU-bashing: leave it to the Spartans to achieve through daftness such a refined degree of irony.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "I Want My City Back" from A Jackknife to a Swan (T.L.A.M.)

The Shade of Things to Come
Wednesday: Nemo me impune lacessit.
The Victors
Mike Hart is everything good and noble about the University of Michigan distilled into one extraordinary human being. Not just an extraordinary football player, an extraordinary human being.

Images lifted from MGoBlog.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Simon and Garfunkel, "Cecilia" from Bridge Over Troubled Water (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 21 September
They Might Be Giants, "Your Own Worst Enemy" from Factory Showroom (T.L.A.M.)
The Explorers Club
No. XLIV - Medusa

The ever-fascinating Medusa was next up in the rotation, but I brief considered the 1973 Yom Kippur War for this week's episode of "The Explorers Club," given that Yom Kippur was on Friday/Saturday. But I thought it better were I to cover the Arab-Israeli wars to do so as a series - 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, the First Intifada, the Second Intifada, 2006 - rather than one here and one there, all willy-nilly.

The Victors
While yesterday was certainly fun and I extend my sincerest congratulations to the valiant Wolverines, methinks the statement, reprinted in today's newspapers, that "Michigan is back" may be a tab premature. Penn State's "best" victory had been over *snicker* Notre Dame; so, there can be much debate as to how deserved was the ferocious Nittany Lions' No. 10 ranking. That said, woot! How about that Mike Hart? Sweet merciful crap, the kid's a juggernaut! Again and again he charged straight into the teeth of Linebacker U's signature players like a one-man bloody Light Brigade, though with far better results. Actual analysis to follow later in the week.

The second best news of the day was the dastardly Spartans' triumph over the most hapless team in football, the vile Fighting Irish. But, even in victory Michigan State gave us a gift: they allowed Notre Dame to score two offensive touchdowns. Jumpin' Jack Pratt, how pathetic does your defense have to be to give up points to "offensive guru" St. Charlie's staggeringly impotent offense? Bwa ha ha ha ha! Never send a Spartan to do a man's job. The vile Fighting Irish are 0-4! MSU gave up points to the worst offense in college football! Win-win.

And of course Tressel & Co. displayed all the sportsmanship one would expect from the hated Buckeyes by running up the score against a beleaguered Northwestern squad. THE Ohio State University: genuine class.

Go Blue!
And yet Skeeter still insists that Mongolia is a mythical land. Bog bless her for her consistency: Khaaaaaaaaan! Also, a trek.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

He's not handicapped, he's handicapable: iguanalink!

Yom Kippur
Sorry I missed the kickoff last night, but I hope everyone's having a remorseful Yom Kippur.

Think the iguana smuggler will atone, or shout defiantly, "I apologize for nothing!"?

Awesome awesomeness!

Perchance to Dram
You can tell it's Indian Summer because last night I dreamed about people attending a baseball game and playing in a beer league softball game. Curiously, or perhaps not so curiously given my disdain for baseball, at no point did I appear in the dream. Also, the protagonists of ye olde dream were members of a Stasi-like organization, clearly showing the influence of The Lives of Others.

Baseball and the GDR: strange bedfellows, or oddly apropos?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ever so briefly, Sir Derek Jacobi as... the Master!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barenaked Ladies, "The Wrong Man Was Convicted" from Maybe You Should Drive (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Job Snow, a.k.a. "Snow Job"
Snow Detective Agency*
Snowshoes (Snow + gumshoes = Snowshoes)
Snow Globe

*May be changed to the Snow Defense Agency
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Simon and Garfunkel, "Keep the Customer Satisfied" from Bridge Over Troubled Waters (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Excerpts from the first verse,
"Gee, but it's great to be back home,
Home is where I want to be."

And the chorus,
"It's the same old story.
Everywhere I go,
I get slandered,
I hear words I never heard
In the Bible."

I get slandered, libeled.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Victors
As I watched the valiant Wolverines' triumph over the vile Fighting Irish on Saturday, the first Michigan game of the season I'd been able to watch on television, I felt two very familiar emotions: exultation at the prowess and skill of my boys in the beloved maize and blue and vicious joy at the ineptitude of those golden domed braggarts. At the same time, I felt a new and completely mystifying sensation: compassion for my dear friend Alistair, a proud Notre Dame alumnus and a better, kinder man than me. What the dickens?

The sometimes acrimonious Michigan-Notre Dame arguments between Alistair and your humble narrator are a rite of Fall here at The Secret Base: I think the Irish are worthy of scorn, he thinks they are worthy of praise; he bristles against Fielding Yost's anti-Catholic crusade of a century ago, I forgive Yost because he was an anti-Catholic bastard a century ago. But through it all I manage to keep my hatred of Notre Dame from having any ill-effect on my attitude toward Alistair. On my more generous days, I can even credit him for his unfailing loyalty to his alma mater. But his also normally interdicts any positive feelings I might derive from Notre Dame from reaching Alistair; for example, when the Irish are terrible, I rarely feel any sympathy for the adverse affect that must have on Alistair. This is unfortunate, but I consider it a far bargain as long as it shields my affection for him from my hatred for his team.

But, the team Notre Dame fielded last Saturday was so inept, so incompetent as to have crossed over into the realm of buffoonery. In his third year as head coach, Charlie Weis has reduced the vile Fighting Irish to a winless laughingstock. (For those of you keeping score at home, regardless of what has transpired in the intervening year, in the much-maligned Lloyd Carr's third year as Michigan's head coach he lead the team to an undefeated season and a national championship.) I revel in even the slightest misfortune to befall Notre Dame, especially since Weis, for whom I have a special enmity, became head coach. But, this has gotten out of control. Gloriously out of control, but for the first time the vile Fighting Irish are so woebegone as to have inspired sympathy not for them, may they rot in their failure, but for my friend, who must be suffering mightily.

So, I really really really loved last Saturday's game, and I am overjoyed that the defensive scrubs were able to preserve the shutout, my joy was ever so slightly mitigated by my sympathy for Alistair's wretched plight. I guess now the poor guy will have to find solace in the loving arms of his lovely wife and cut-as-a-button son.... Hey, wait a second, he's got a wife and kid! He has more to fill his life than just college football! He'll be just fine! Awesome, the gloves can come off: bwa ha ha ha ha, Notre Dame sucks! They are the pits, the absolute worst! Bwa ha ha ha ha! Oh, their misery tastes like sweet ambrosia! I love it!

Of course, Notre Dame under Charlie Weis and Jimmy Clausen may be the worst I-A football team I've ever seen; so, I must admit that I am slightly worried about this weekend's contest against Joe "Methuselah" Paterno and his ferocious Nittany Lions of Penn State. Notre Dame beat themselves as much if not more than Michigan beat them. I was ecstatic at the Wolverines' triumph, but I still don't think anyone can accurately gauge this year's squad. Are we as bad as we must have looked against Appalachian State and Oregon? Are the boys as good as they looked against Notre Lame? I fear the former, but I am hopeful for the latter. Either way, for one day at least, Hail! Hail! To Michigan! The leaders and best!

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Short Round, "Cleansing, Cut, Scrape" from Mailorder for the Masses (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony: The Wedding Album, Part 3
Wednesday, 5:07 PM - The Mountain of Oh called me moments ago to inform me that "The Wedding Album, Part 3" was deeply offensive and highly inappropriate. To those I have offended, mea culpa.
The Girls of September '79
Happy birthday to The Watergirl! She and I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor at the same time, we had a couple friends in common, and on one occasion I was even in her apartment whilst hanging out, after a fashion, with her roommate. Yet, we neither met nor exchanged words until after she'd left Ann Arbor. I made an internet friend of someone I could have easily met in real life. Crazy. Since then, though, our bond has migrated into the real world and it's all good. Happy birthday, Katie!

Thus concludes another year's series of "The Girls of September '79." Being a child of 1979, I makes sense that many of my best girl friends would share my birth year, but it is a wee but spooky that these four - Mrs. Blinky, Mrs. Sacramento, Skeeter, and The Watergirl - were born in a ten-day span. And now that I think of it, do I have any other distaff friends born in 1979? None spring to mind. The Girls of September '79, spooky but undeniably awesome. Thanks for your friendship, girls, and I wish each of you nothing but the best for Earth's next trip 'round the Sun.

Until next year, this has been "The Girls of September '79." If you're a cool girl who was born in September '79 drop me a line and maybe we'll become friends. Fair warning, though, the bar's been set pretty high. Good luck.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Elvis Costello, "Spooky Girlfriend" from When I Was Cruel (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XLIII - The life and times of Jack Webb and the fascinating history of his most famous creation, Dragnet.

Remember, kids, Jack Webb smoked and so should you.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Josie and the Pussycats, "You Don't See Me" from Josie and the Pussycats - Music from the Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This is the one album in my soundtrack collection for which a convincing argument might be made for filing it alphabetically in the rock 'n' roll section alongside Fountains of Wayne and, most appropriately, Letters to Cleo.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There's been so much posted since Friday afternoon that I think I'll hold off on "The Explorers Club" until tomorrow. I didn't intend the Polis post to be so long, but what can I say? I love Job "Snow Job" Snow and the world he inhabits.

Polis - No. 3
Job Snow was a clever, lonely boy who felt a great obligation to serve his Polis, but who also yearned for a life of adventure. So, at age seventeen he joined the Foragers, the Bailiwick of Commerce's Forager Corps, a body that promised both civil fealty and heaps of adventure. He was, as might be expected, terrified the first time a training mission removed him from the comfortable familiarity and security of the urban jungle of the Polis and forced him to confront Man's primordial enemy, a dark and foreboding wood. Yet he discovered within himself reserves of courage to match his agile mind and soon discovered himself well-suited to the life of a Forager, full as it was with peril and deprivation. His bravery and intelligence were recognized and the lad was commissioned as an officer on his nineteenth birthday, as early as protocol permitted.

Upon returning from a long-range foray south of the Pale of Toledo, the young Lieutenant of Foragers was informed that his father, a civil engineer with the Bailiwick of Light & Power, had died peacefully in his sleep. Jonah Snow had raised young Job all by himself once the boy's mother, Jezebel, and younger brother, Eli, had perished, alongside so many others, in the icy waters of Lake St. Clair in the infamous White Ship disaster. Alone now without any family, without anyone, Snow - just Snow, his father had been the last one alive to call him Job - made the Foragers, and by extension the Polis, his whole life. It was a good life, a life with purpose, and he reckoned himself both fortunate and happy.

When Snow was twenty-three and in his sixth year as a Forager, a routine foray beyond the Pale went dreadfully wrong. Pirates fell upon the caravan, murderers and thieves who were not just aided but seemingly led by a traitor under Snow's command. The exact sequence of what next occurred has never been satisfactorily determined, but when a distress call was finally sent two days after the initial attack a rescue party from the Bailiwick of Reprisal found the corpses of eleven pirates, all of whom had died suddenly and violently, and Lt. Snow watching over the only other survivor from his command, a gravely wounded rookie Forager 3rd Class named Rupert Smithson. Smithson was in a bad way, but the surgeons would later confirm that his life had been saved by Snow's ministrations. Snow himself had been shot, stabbed, and presented no fewer than three cracked ribs, a broken nose, half a dozen fractures in his left foot, and a pulverized right eye socket. He would not let go of his pistol until sedated by the medics.

Overnight, the young lieutenant became a hero and sensation throughout the Polis. The Coleman, the Bailiff of Commerce, and seemingly half the Senate visited his hospital room, all of them eager to have their picture snapped with the young hero for the Free Press. The scandal of a traitor within the ranks of the Foragers rocked the political establishment. Hearings were held; heads rolled, administratively speaking; and those seeking political cover again held up "the heroic Leftenant Snow" as proof of the unspoiled virtue of the Polis's men and women in uniform. Over the course of months the hubbub died down, other stories grabbed the headlines, and mercifully few were paying attention when Snow was discharged from both hospital and the Forager Corps.

In a happenstance that would have an immeasurable effect upon the course of Snow's life, one of the few who noticed was a grand old dame of the Polis's high society (I have not bothered to name her). She earned Snow's devotion by praising his intelligence in outwitting his would-be-murderers, whereas most observers had gone on at length about only his courage. His own appraisal of the ordeal mirrored hers, and he saw in her much he could admire, a welcome change from the throngs of glad handers. She offered him a job as her private secretary and protégé; she had inherited a large business empire from her dearly departed husband, but as her only son, of whom she was greatly reminded by Snow, had recently died, she had no one to whom she could entrust the future of the enterprise. Much flattered and somewhat lost without the military discipline of the Forager Corps, Snow accepted, once again reckoning himself fortunate and with decent prospects of again being happy.

'Twas not to be so. The old bitty was a criminal mastermind, her dearly departed husband dead by her machinations, his legitimate fortune bent to her insidious purposes, her dead son - an unacknowledged bastard - the traitor in Snow's Forager patrol and recently deceased by Snow's own hand (at that precise moment, Snow hadn't had time to reload his pistol and was forced to throttle the brigand with his own mittened hands). She could have easily had Snow killed, but her mind was clouded by grief for her slain son, the only human being she'd loved in her whole wicked life, and she'd wanted to keep Snow close at hand, to frame him for her son's crimes and tarnish his gleaming reputation before inexorably leading him to slaughter. But he was clever and wary after his ordeal in the forest; he smelled a trap, thwarted her scheme, and turned the tables.

After the loud bit was over and he had triumphed, she and he had a brief but invaluable conversation about the dark underbelly of the Polis. She spat at him all the venom and invective in her black heart, but between the insults he felt he came to see and understand her true nature. He stared at her, into her, recognizing in her something dark and malignant that he'd hated his whole life as if by instinct but never before consciously identified. She screamed at him as the top of her lungs, berating him for that maddening stare, cursing him for lacking the decency to spare her the public spectacle of arrest and trial. She paused from her baleful tirade just long enough to gulp a lungful of air; in a single smooth motion, he raised his pistol and shot her twice between the eyes. He placed a pistol in her hand and when the Criminal Police arrived told them she'd forced him to shoot, used him to commit suicide-by-proxy.

Snow was once again a darling of the Polis's press corps, but this time the editors felt no need to restrain themselves; the documented heroism of Job Snow gave way to the legend of "Snow Job," ruthless foe of all those who sought to harm the Polis. But beneath the bombast the bastards of the Fourth Estate had stumbled upon a nugget of truth. He'd murdered a defenseless crone in cold blood. She'd been a vile, horrible thing, true, and certainly deserved her fate, but he could have just as easily turned her over to the police. All the bribes in the world could not have kept her out of prison. But she'd been a vile, horrible thing and he slept the sleep of the just. He dreamed not of her, not at all, but if he had a slight, sly smile might certainly have pursed his lips. No, there really was something to this Snow Job malarkey after all, something wonderful and frightful. To borrow a line from the cover of The Shadow No. 1 by Howard Chaykin, "He's back... and God help the guilty."

To be continued...

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Bruce Lee Band, "She's An Angel" from The Bruce Lee Band (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Madcap mayhap mishap!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "She's An Angel" from Severe Tire Damage (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Chosen in honor of last night's episode of Doctor Who, "Blink," that I watched this evening. The antagonists, murderous beasts known as the Lonely Assassins, appeared principally in the guise of stone angels, such as one finds adorning churches and graveyards. The song makes for an oblique reference, I know. Mayhap tomorrow I'll choose The Bruce Lee Band's version of "She's An Angel," just to make sure the obscure and oblique is carried to ridiculous lengths. Mayhap.

There was more here, much more, but upon further reflection it was recognized as both ill-advised and, more unforgivably, poorly written. Self-censorship is more art than it is science, and one must learn to trust one's instincts rather than rely on any strictly defined criteria. After much bitter experience and many hurt feelings, I have learned to, in most instances, heed the counsel of my instincts.
The Girls of September '79
Happy birthday to Skeeter! 'Twas one of the dearest compliments of my life when she decreed me her "soulmate," and though I know myself unworthy of such praise, I have ever been grateful for it all the same. Also, Skeeter is enchantingly inscrutable. Happy birthday, Julie!

The Victors
Both my valiant Wolverines and the vile Fighting Irish are sorry, pathetic shades of their former glory this season; so, enthusiasm has been in short supply. Still, this is Notre Dame, the sin of pride incarnate, and they must be repelled for the good of all Mankind. Charlie Weiss did not, as many ND fans insists, invent football! The New England Patriots have prospered without him more successfully than he's prospered without them! Time for Rudy to slink back to South Bend with an 0-3 record! Go Blue! Destroy the Irish! Go Blue!

Go Blue!

Friday, September 14, 2007

My sentiments exactly.

Article I

Ricky Fitness
I exercised today for the first time in approximately five weeks and discovered something quite perplexing: I have lost five pounds since August 1, the last time I weighed myself. I have exercised only sporadically in that period and eaten, as happens when one is traveling and otherwise in upheaval, way too much greasy fast food. Great jumpin' jelly beans, how did I lose five pounds? I see two possibilities. a) I have lost far more than ten pounds in muscle mass and gained several pounds in fat from the fast food, for a net loss of five pounds. Muscle does weigh more than fat. b) The scale in the exercise room at my old apartment complex was, as I always suspected, of dubious and variable accuracy. So, I have no way to know how much weight I have either gained or lost since last I was weighed. or, you know, maybe I did, through some mechanism that may never be revealed, manage to lose five pounds. I have been eating irregularly since I got home, rarely eating three meals in a day. In any event, woot! Five pounds! Woot!

Dear Bog, my stomach muscles are sore. Lousy crunch machine. Of course, the pain means it's working... curses!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Dopeman (Remix)" from Goodbye Blue & White (T.L.A.M.)
The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony: The Wedding Album, Part 2
From my point of view, midnight is meaningless. Days begin when you wake up and end when you fall asleep. So, Friday began when my mobile woke me to go and pick up K. Steeze and The Professor from the airport. But, as Friday wore on and on and on - by the time I fell asleep I'd been awake for twenty-three glorious, fun-filled hours - it was harder and harder to believe that The Guy and I had fetched them from the airport on that same day. Of course, time twists and turns and betrays us all on these sorts of momentous weekends. The seeming dividing line between Thursday and Friday? Breakfast.

The Guy and I returned to The Shire with our precious cargo or The Professor and Steeze and found the Mountain and Seth roused and ready to get some eats, just as we'd agreed the night before. Seth and the Mountain in the Senator's Daughter and the same four of us in the Gal's auto, we left in a caravan for a local mall. Now, The Guy is capable of driving The Gal's car, which features a manual transmission, but by his own admission he is not yet the master of driving stick. He's good enough, but he's not yet comfortable. No problem, thought we, the Mountain is now a resident of greater *shudder* Columbus and as he had selected the diner at which we would be dining, and we got to the mall and diner just fine.

The Mountain knew exactly where he was going. That kid is like a human GPS machine. In no time at all were were parking before a sign identifying the First Watch diner. Is it just me or it First Watch a genuinely bizarre name for an upscale greasy spoon? First Watch? For what are we watching that will require us to work in shifts? Ohio isn't a land of a thousand mysteries, it's a land of a thousand miseries. Harnessing the power of the cell phine revolution, I rang the Mountain and told him we'd arrived. He said he's join us shortly. We ate many lovely breakfasty type things like eggs and bacon and sausage (I had both bacon and sausage), and much coffee was consumed by those of a disposition to drink that poison.

As we were in Ohio, I was wearing a T-shirt declaring my fealty to the august and peerless University of Michigan. The middle aged, business-suited gentleman in front of me in line to pay the cashier surprised me. First, he remarked that it was quite brave of me to wear such a shirt so close to the lion's den (my words), which I have heard in one or another variation almost every time I have worn a Michigan shirt in benighted Ohio. He then expressed his sympathy with our lose to Appalachian State (this was Friday; so, we had not humiliated ourselves against Oregon), and kindly offered that the hated Buckeyes (again, my words) could just have easily fallen afoul of Youngstown State in their season opener. Fans of the hated Buckeyes are rarely noted for their empathy, and unlike the false sympathy offered by that archfiend Tressell I sensed genuine goodwill from the man before me. I thanked him for his kindness and wished him well, paid the clerk, and departed to rejoin my fellows.

Risky Business
As he was one-day away from becoming a groom, the Mountain was quite busy and left on some or another errand almost as soon as we returned to The Shire from breakfast. What happens when Blue Tree Whackers get together? We play Risk. It was soon obvious that Seth was quite tired and would be best served by going back to bed. Steeze and The Professor had taken a red eye flight from LA (ask The Professor about the LAX control tower sometime) to *shudder* Columbus, catching essentially no winks, much less the requisite forty. With only minimal bullying, both Steeze and Seth sacked out for a few greatly needed hours of sleep. The Guy, The Professor, and I began to play the game of global domination, our favorite pastime.

Three-man Risk is probably the most common kind we play, but it is also my least favorite. I played Pinochle with Pinochet, but was hamstrung by The Professor's irrational fixation on the North American Dream. The North American Dream is IMPOSSIBLE. North America is too valuable for any other player to allow you to hold it through a turn. It is a road to self-destruction, a road he walks damn near every time we play. Long story short, The Professor was the first one knocked out of the game. The Guy triumphed, but I never had a chance. He was able to turn in cards - in part because he annihilated Jon and took his cards - on three consecutive turns. Like Admiral Ackbar facing the second Death Star, I just couldn't repel firepower of that magnitude. And with no Lando Calrissian to pull my fat out of the fire, I never had a chance.

Cosplay & The Penguin Dance
I forget the exact order of events, if we roused Seth and His Steeziness because the Mountain reattained The Shire or in anticipation of his arrival. It matters little. They were tossed out of Somnus's embrace, the Mountain was again among us, and the six of us traveled to a different mall to the local purveyor of rented raiment. All was as normal as could be until we set foot within After Hours Tuxedo and we set eyes upon the shortest of the three attendants. She was cute more than she was pretty with possibly dyed orange-blonde hair and, wait for it, wearing a school girl costume. Seriously. She had the whole nine yards, white collared shirt, tie and miniskirt in matching plaid, knee socks, and the proper shoes. It was... was... I don't know what the hell it was. She could have stepped straight out of an anime, or could have stepped right on stage and competed in a cosplay contest at any anime and manga convention anywhere in this country or across the seas in Nihon.

I was taken aback. I love knee socks and short skirts as much as the next guy, but I knew not what to make of this. That is not appropriate attire for work! Unless you are a "hostess" at certain kinds of Japanese bars, but the less said about those the better. My outrage and arousal both took a back seat to bewilderment, and the entire episode assumed a surreal quality. Later on, the consensus was that the resultant hotness outweighed the inherent weirdness, but I don't know. The whole affair was profoundly weird; in such instances, I greatly prefer to be the one providing the weirdness.

The fitting of our tuxedos went off without incident. By turns we were called by name, issued a shirt, pair of pants, and pair of shoes and sent into individual dressing rooms. Once we had shed our own clothes and donned what we had been given, we each stepped out into the main chamber. At this point either the cosplay girl or her less provocatively dressed distaff compatriot fitted us each with a vest, clip-on bow tie, and jacket. The lone male of the trio of attendants handed items to his colleagues, but did none of the dressing himself, even though both The Guy and I were considerably taller than either of the women. Instead, he made an off-color joke about Barbara and another perfectly normal name sounding "like stripper names." Oh, there is nothing else I "enjoy" so much as porn chic. *grumble grumble* This is no way to run a civilization. For crying out loud, you're a clerk in a tuxedo shop! I'm wearing slacks that are not my own! In a few more moments I'll be back in the dressing room wearing naught but socks and my boxers! Is a little decorum really too much to ask? Jackass guys and girls dressed for a night of clubbing. In what shady enterprise had we become ensnared? Alas, or perhaps all to the good, no answers were forthcoming. Bags of fancy duds in hand, we reentered the mall concourse and debated our next move.

The logical course would have been, even if we wanted to do more shopping, to drop out tuxedos out at the cars and then wander around unencumbered. This we did not do. Not that a rented tuxedo and shoes combination is heavy, but it is heavy enough when you're carrying it at an odd angle by thin metal hangers that slowly but surely burrow into your hand. We searched in vain for a belt for Seth, of whom I am terribly fond but with whom I wish never to go shopping again, at least not without proper warning and time to prepare myself for the ordeal. I bought a pair of hideously loud trunks for $5 at Sears, thus enabling myself to take advantage of The Shire's hot tub, about which we will hear more later. The clerk at Sears identified herself as a student at THE Ohio State University and directed a series of lame and predictable insults at my shirt. I was ever so glad to learn that the kind man at the diner had not been the start of a trend.

Purchases and borrowed slacks, et al., in hand, we returned to our horseless carriages and made tracks back to The Shire, where we had several more hours to kill before the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Josh Ritter, "The Temptation of Adam" via iTunes (Skeeter)

Commentary: Just beautiful.
The Explorers Club
No. XLII – The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Alien Registration Act of 1940

I thought these two examples of civil liberties being curtailed in time of war and/or national crisis were very topical given this week's anniversary of 9/11, one result of which was of course the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, a.k.a. the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, a.k.a. the Patriot Act. Devilishly interesting stuff, but for which it is difficult to provide exciting visual accompaniment.
The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony: The Wedding Album, Part 1
This weekend, my brother, the Mountain of Love, once far-famed as the Bald Mountain, married his ladylove, Ambrosia Sue. They who once were two are now one, the Mountain of Oh and Mrs. Mountain of Oh (the Mountain and Mrs. Mountain for convenience). The following is a rambling and idiosyncratic account of the matrimonial festivities.

But first: holy moley, my brother is married! My brother is married! He has a wife! A wife! That's just... huge. Nothing larger than this has ever happened in his life and as he is my favorite person in all the world this must be marked as one of the most momentous events in The Last Angry Life & Times. Wow! I was well aware this was coming, but geez! This is huge! Wow.

Hypervelocity & Locked Doors
The weekend began on an inauspicious note. Lumi and I left Grand Blanc about three hours behind my parents, who had rolled out with a goodly supply of Bell's Amber and Oberon, which one cannot acquire in accursed Ohio, at noon. Shortly before leaving the boundaries of sacred Michigan, I received a cell phine call from the Mountain inquiring as to my estimated time for arrival. Based on my geographic locale, he guesstimated that I'd arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 PM. Lumi pulled into the driveway of The Shire at 7:45 PM and I found that no one was home.

You all know that I drive at a rapid pace, but you should not be fooled. I am not the reckless youth I once was. In the '90s, my customary highway speed was 85 miles per hour, which it must be said pushed the Mousemobile damn near the end of her ability. A series of speeding tickets doused my love of speed; so, these days I park myself at exactly five miles over the posted speed limit, whatever it may be. In Ohio then, Lumi cruises along at 70; around Fort Worthless, I drove at 65.

I am not sure if I was expected to stop along the way and spend half an hour antiquing or if I had unwittingly evaded an elaborate trap meant to slow my progress, but in what world should I have been expected at 8:30? The journey from Grand Blanc to metropolitan Columbus (specific municipality: Dublin) is not terribly long; so, given my earlier conversation with the Mountain during which I had given him my location, I do not understand why his guess as to my arrival was so far off the mark. Understandably irked (and you all know what an even tempered fellow I am), I called my brother and explained to him that I was confronted by an empty Shire, with no means of gaining entrance. He was at dinner with our parents at The Guy (good company, to be sure) and offered both profuse apologies and to come home immediately and let me in. Relishing the moral high ground, or at least the appearance of same, I told him, no, no, I wouldn't think of it, enjoy your dinner as you intended, I'll be fine here reading.

The sun had set, light was failing, and all of the comfortable chairs on the porch had fallen into shadow. I sat down on the concrete steps and began reading the small bag of new comics I had with me. New comics come out on Wednesdays, but due to Labor Day last week's books had been been released on Thursday. I'd picked up my weekly fix on my way out of town and though annoyed to find myself sitting on a porch at the end of a not insubstantial drive, I was glad for the opportunity to delve into the week's meager haul. (It is a happy coincidence that I am poor at the same time both DC and Marvel are publishing so few books worth reading.)

Soon enough, the Mountain and company arrived, the Worrywart and the Goldbricker said their goodbyes and departed for their hotel, and the Mountain, The Guy, and I retired to The Shire to discuss the ever-so-busy days to come.

An Interlude
"The Shire" is the name the Mountain gave to the house in which he and his beloved reside. The house is owned by her parents, now his in-laws, and is used by Mr. and Mrs. Mountain rent-free. All in all, a sweet deal for them. The floor plan is, as was remarked several times over the weekend by multiple Blue Tree Whackers, quite similar to my mom and dad's house here in Grand Blanc. The main difference is one of scale: The Shire is tiny. When the front door is open, it cuts off access to the foyer; so, guests must enter the front hallway to allow the door to be swung shut, and only then congregate, if they wish, in the foyer to muck about with coats and such. The hallways are, to a Wilson, small enough to border on the claustrophobic. It is for this reason that the Mountain coined the name The Shire, after the realm of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings (he has only seen the rousing movies, never read the stiflingly dull books, and thus retained intact his affection for the story).

Mrs. Mountain's family, though, are all short of stature and took great umbrage to the name, thinking that the Mountain was mocking them as Hobbits, rather than pocking fun at the house itself. Even had he named The Shire as a reference to his family-in-law instead of the house, I fail to see the problem. You see, they're all short and they're all terribly sensitive about being short. That is, at the risk of being impolitic, retarded. I am fat. Strangers and near-strangers call me "big guy" all the time, becaus that is our culture's "polite" slang for fat men. Were you to call me fat to my face, I would sarcastically praise you for your command of the obvious. I'm fat? What tipped you off, Sherlock? They're short. They've had decades to get used to the idea of being short; so, if they have not and are still touchy about it, that sounds a lot like their problem and not at all like mine. In other words, tough cookies, shortstack.

The Mountain, since he lives by the largess of these people, has taken to using the utterly unimaginative name they prefer, the name of the street upon which it sits, but despite my disdain for The Lords of the Rings I shall now and forever use the name The Shire. Spite!

And now back to our narrative...

Airport Shuffle
In semi-adherence to antiquated custom, a custom of which I am quite fond, Ambrosia Sue spent the last few nights before the wedding at her parents' house in Anonymous, OH (The Brick) while the Mountain of Love stayed at The Shire in Dublin. Despite this, the Mountain informed The Guy and I that he had been summoned the The Brick and was soon to depart. We were each given keys to The Shire and the flight information necessary to rendezvous with several additional groomsmen as they arrived at Port Columbus International Airport. (Port Columbus? What port? It's in the geographic middle of Ohio, not near any significant body of water! Bog, Ohioans are dense. Also, Port... Airport? Idiots.)

As midnight approached, The Guy and I saddled up Lumi and began to traverse the semi-circle around Columbus that would take us to the airport and our appointment with destiny... in this instance represented by Seth (proposed Secret Base codename: La Forza del Destino, but referred to as Seth until the matter has been given sufficient consideration). The Eisenhower Interstate System is a true marvel of modern civil engineering that not even the cretinous denizens of Ohio can ruin, though mightily have they tried. The loop around Columbus is I-270. The problem with I-270 is that it's name shifts as often as does the wind. At seemingly random points, 270 West become 270 North. At one point, you enter the freeway with the option of taking 270 East or 270 West. Upon your return to the same point from the opposite direction, a logical part of any local journey, however, you will be offered the choice of 270 East or 270 North. Wait, what? The beauty of our interstate system is that you do not need specific directions to cross huge swaths of this blessed country, all you need to know is the general direction in which you wish to travel and the ability to read the friendly and easily interpreted overhead signs. Not so in Ohio. It's a wretched and shabby place. Despite Ohio's best efforts to waylay us, we reached the airport and, harnessing the power of cellular telephone communications, we rendezvoused with Seth and whisked him and his possessions back to The Shire without incident.

There, we faced the specter of K. Steeze and The Professor's arrival at the moronically named Columbus airport in just a scant four hours. So, we stole what sleep we could, woke long before the accursed Sun rose in the east, and my partner and I again embarked for the airport, this time in his unnamed chariot. We had each slumbered for around four hours. I can function quite well on four hours, but a couple of hours are required before I am fully awake; the secret of morning swim practice back in high school is that I was still half to two-thirds asleep whilst pounding out the morning's yards. Bleary-eyed, The Guy and I retraced our steps of the night before, parking ourselves in a more advantageous spot than during Seth's pick-up. While we had waited for Seth, we had used a tall guy and his lovely blonde girlfriend, both seemingly in their early to mid-20s, as landmarks to help guide Seth to Lumi. As we waited for Steeze and The Professor, we lamented the absence of blonde bombshells at such an early hour. Nevertheless, we amused ourselves with phone tag: I called The Professor while The Guy called Steeze, at virtually the same moment that Steeze was calling me and The Professor was calling The Guy. Soon mobile-to-mobile contact was established and we talked the boy's all the way to The Guy's car, though technically it belongs to his wife-to-be, The Gal. L.A. residents in hand, or at least in car, we all talked over each other like teenage girls and joked and laughed all the back to The Shire, where adventure and excitement awaited.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Pearl Jam, "Gone" via iTunes (Daddy Dylweed)

Commentary: I strongly dislike Pearl Jam in general and this song in particular, but I am awfully fond of Dylweed and his wife and kids. This one's for you, buddy. Don't ever do this to me again.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?
Wedding posts are coming, and your patience is appreciated. Also, because people keep asking, I must make some things clear about my feeling toward/relationship with Codename: PANDORA.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Matt Skiba, "In Your Wake" from Mailorder for the Masses (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 10 September
They Might be Giants, "Man, It's So Loud in Here" from Mink Car (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 9 September
Fountains of Wayne, "The Girl I Can't Forget" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 8 September
Less Than Jake, "Pete Jackson is Getting Married" from Borders and Boundaries (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 7 September
Spike Jones & His City Slickers, "Pal-Yat-Chee" from The Spike Jones Anthology (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Chosen to mark the death of Luciano Pavarotti, God rest his soul.

Donnerstag, 6 September
Looking Glass, "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

General commentary: Daddy Dylweed has nominated a song by Pearl Jam. I am having quite a time striking the proper balance between my affection for Dylweed, my gratitude for any and all reader nominations, and my disdain for Pearl Jam. It's a pickle.
Six years. My God. The world before 9/11, the fool's paradise of my youth, seems so very far away now, yet at the same time I boggle at how quickly the last decade (ten years since I graduated high school, a convenient benchmark) has come and gone.

Six years. Do you remember the old world? Mourn for the murdered and remember them always, but lament not the passing of time, 'tis the way of this world of woe and wonder.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Girls of September '79
Happy birthday to Mrs. Sacramento (née Never Girl)! I couldn't see it at the time, but she was right, she wasn't the girl for me. Of course, that's taking the long view (years to decades) and I still think we could have had a good - albeit temporary (months to years) - thing, but such are the vagaries of this mortal coil. We last emailed in May, on the anniversary of the day we both got inked. I hope she finds today a wellspring of joy. Happy birthday, Lindsay!

Article I & The War for Civilization
I am endorsing neither the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nor the legislative record of said government, but I do think there is considerable irony to be found in the criticism of the Maliki government's inability to pass substantive legislation by the Democratic majority in both chambers of the United States Congress. Since the Democrats took power, have they passed comprehensive immigration reform? Health care reform? Farm policy reform? Trade policy reform? Have they balanced the budget? Reduced either the national debt nor the annual deficit? Reformed infrastructure funding processes so as to prevent future sudden bridge collapses? Restored New Orleans to its pre-Katrina "glory"? The Democrats have been unable to reach any compromise on any of these issues, and no one is even trying to car bomb them on their way to work. I would like to see the Iraqi people be far better served by their government, we all would, but perhaps the Democrats should take a look at the roots of their own paralysis before using Prime Minister Maliki as their chosen whipping boy.

The Victors
It should be understood that criticism of incompetent Defensive Coordinator Ron English is secondhand criticism of Head Coach Lloyd Carr. Lloyd is responsible for hiring his own coaches, he is responsible for recruiting his own players. Therefore, he deserves the largest plurality of blame for everything the valiant Wolverines do wrong (which this year seems to be everything) and the largest plurality of credit for everything the team does right. The ultimate responsibility for everything is Lloyd Carr's.

Dear Bog, all of a sudden 7-5 doesn't look like such a disastrous campaign.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Girls of September '79
Happy birthday to Mrs. Blinky (née Ham 'n' Eggs)! I have neither seen nor heard from her since Boof Daddy's wedding two summers ago, but we were good chums first in elementary school and then again in high school and college; so, I hope she is happy and healthy and engaged in grand revelry all day. Happy birthday, Emma!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Hey Julie" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Three guesses as to in whose company I spent this evening. Bog, I love Superman ice cream.

Vote For Kodos
I missed the Republican debate, but this afternoon I did see affixed to a freeway exit crash barrier a bumper sticker featuring an elephant with a gasoline hose for a trunk and the inscription "G.O.P. Grand Oil Party." Apparently no Democrat has ever used a single ounce of petroleum. Ever. I am mightily impressed.

Behind whom do I throw my support, former Mayor Giuliani or former Senator Thompson? A puzzlement.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy birthday to Doctor Hee Haw, America's funniest physician!

Happy anniversary to my parents, the Worrywart and the Goldbricker. Thirty-six years of marriage... wow.

And coming soon, "The Girls of September '79," our annual commemoration of the birth of four lovelies, all at one time or another close friends of mine, in just one month.

The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony
Conversing with Codename: PANDORA last evening, she inquired as to any nerves on the part of the Mountain of Love. I told her that I did not rightly know, that he had mentioned to me no nervousness, but that upon nearly the eve of such a momentous occasion some degree of nerves would seem par for the course. This evening, I conveyed to the Mountain the Sardine's query and he asked me for what reason he should feel nervous. I explained to him that most people are nervous in the days leading up to a wedding and that this was perfectly natural in even those who are most eager to walk down the aisle. He never answered the question; my ignorance persists.

The Victors
Even in these darkest of days (I beg that these are the darkest days), it is yet, as the chant insists, great (pause) to be (pause) a Michigan Wolverine. We are shamed, but we are unbroken. Go Blue!
A note on today's Iraq progress report by the GAO: the Government Accountability Office, originally the General Accounting Office, once described the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the most devastatingly effective tank in the ninety-year history of contemporary armored warfare, a weapons platform that has been the undisputed king of every battlefield on which it has ever been engaged, a "deathtrap" that would fail in combat against the Soviet tanks it was designed to slay and serve as a expensive tomb for the brave U.S. Army tankers within. The GAO's report to Congress literally used the word "deathtrap" to describe the Abrams. Just something to bear in mind when considering whether or not the GAO knows what it's talking about in Iraq. Knowledge is power.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Karpet King" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 3 September
The Aquabats!, "Hot Summer Nights (Won't Last Forever)!" from Charge!! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I hope each of you had a grand Labor Day and properly bade adieu to another spectacular summer.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Run! Don't Walk!
Quickly, man, spring into action and avail yourself of MGoBlog's reaction to Saturday's debacle before the site reverts to its usual maize and blue splendor! One word: kittens.

Go Blue!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Explorers Club
No. XLI - The W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i

And as a firm believer in both capitalism and charitable contributions for the furtherance of science, I would also invite interested readers to learn more about the life and times of William M. Keck, after whom the telescopes are named and whose eponymous foundation generously funded their construction.

The Irrevocable Shackles of Matrimony
It is truly odd to think that by the end of the week my brother, the Mountain of Love, will be girded in the irrevocable shackles of matrimony. And once this weekend passes, we begin the countdown to next May, when The L.A.W. will become irrevocably shackled to The Maine Man (thus making him Brother-in-L.A.W.) and The Guy will finally make an honest woman of The Gal. Matrimania!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Hippos, "Summertime" from The Hippos (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Tomorrow's Labor Day, me buckos, the last day of summer. Let not the opportunity slip through your fingers, seize the day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Victors
Well, fuck. At moments like these, moments when we have made asses of ourselves in a most public manner, dire forecasts of future events are exquisitely tempting. Bullroar like "Henne and Hart are forever going to be remembered as losers" or "The season is essentially over, I guarantee at least four loses, probably five" can prove very cathartic. But, though I reject Stoicism as inhuman, I do seek to gain a measure of mastery over my emotions; so, catharsis be damned, I shall not give in to the temptation of self-pitying prognostications of doom and gloom.

Though I did not see today's game due to the evil machinations of those greedy bottomfeeders behind the abominable Big Ten Network, I feel confident in both the assertion and the question to follow. The assertion: Coach Carr is a miserable failure in summer practice. he always has been, he always will be. We normally get through the non-conference portion of the schedule by the very skin of our teeth. Lloyd and his staff never figure out how to teach any given group of players until the tail end of September, sometimes not even until October. I suspect the same held true this summer, and after a number of narrow escapes we finally confronted a team in the feisty Mountaineers that was just hungry enough to prevent us from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. (Though, it must be said that we were also undone by our own hubris. Had we kicked the extra points after our last two touchdowns, instead of arrogantly going for two in a too-clever-by-half ploy scheme to finesse the score, Appalachian State's final field goal would have sent the game into overtime, rather than securing for them the well-deserved win. Pride is the costliest of all sins.)

The question: why in the name of Bennie Oosterbaan's colon does Ron English still have a job? The man is monumentally inept. We might as well not even have fielded a defense last season against the hated Buckeyes and the relentless Trojans, and again this afternoon against the feisty Mountaineers.

The only succor to be found on this horrifically embarrassing day is in the defeat of the vile Fighting Irish. Unfortunately, their pre-season prospects were not regarded as highly as ours; so, our defeat will undoubtedly be the college football story of the week. Drat and curses!

Reminders of protocol: "the valiant Wolverines" win, "we" lose. And the most noble time to honor one's team is in its darkest hour; so, following today's defeat I will be wearing a Michigan T-shirt tomorrow. And also hoping we get our heads out of our arses before next weekend; I'll puke is we lose to those Pac-10 bastards from Oregon.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Hoover Street Rag" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)