Friday, October 31, 2008

For the nonce, the effort to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope, which has already exceeding expectations in both astronomy and longevity, shall remain under "Science!" But once astronauts have blasted off to challenge the final frontier and perform delicate surgery, or a sort, in hard vacuum, we'll be under the rubric of "The Stars My Destination." But, let's not get ahead of ourselves: the trouble with Hubblelink.

And speaking of "The Stars My Destination": the Endeavourlink.

Jumping back to "Science!" and our robotic minions throughout the solar system, there is new evidence of the persistence of water on the Red Planet: opallink. Also, the MESSENGER* probe grows ever closer to orbiting sun-drenched Mercury: bigger than South Americalink. Thursday, I heard a B.B.C. radio piece about the seventieth anniversary of Orson Welles's famous broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the ensuing panic. Immediately and involuntarily, my mind's creative department began preliminary brainstorming on a Martian Manhunter story called "The Mercury Theatre." Then this afternoon, on Talk of the Nation: Science Friday, I heard about the latest MESSENGER developments, the inspiration for the above hyperlink. Boom times for Mercury.


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Michael Jackson, "Thriller" from Thriller (T.L.A.M.)

*More properly, though indisputably awkwardly, the ME.S.S.EN.GE.R. probe. Honestly, I don't know why they didn't just give up on the acronym and call the thing "Messenger." It's not like the names of the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager probes were acronyms.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ricky Fitness
Due to a string of inconveniences, today marked the first time I'd exercised in ten days, curse it all. But, at least it was ten days, not eleven, twelve, or more. Also on the bright side, I've lost three or four pounds since the last I was weighed. Not much, 'tis true, but still the first weight I've lost, at least documentably, since returning from Texile. Woo and hoo.

Now to celebrate by eating every slice of a large pizza and an entire chocolate cake!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the day
The Littlest Man Band, "Happened Again" from Better Book Ends (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Not enough lyricists make use of the fabulous phrase "the living end," but you can count on The Littlest Man Band to help pick up the slack.

"And they'll say it's gonna happen again,
Over and over 'til your livin' end."

Mittwoch, 29 Oktober
Moxy Fruvous, "King of Spain" (live) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Explorers Club
No. C - The extraordinary life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the man who ended slavery in the British Empire.

And I am quite enthusiastic about this last picture because of the shocking reality that I - I, the student of history; I, the unrivaled master of Trivial Pursuit - was almost entirely ignorant of Mr. Wilberforce's staggering contributions to Mankind until the film Amazing Grace, starring Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce, prompted me to investigate this saintly man's life and career.

Project TROIKA
During Sunday's confab, Steeze and I decided - or, more accurately, he decided and I assented - that at this stage our top priority should be to collate all the disparate scraps of paper and electronic flotsam and jetsam on which resides the lion's share of Project TROIKA. And once collated, to compile the "Bible" that will serve as The Professor's principal source during the novelization of our year-long brainstorming. I don't at all mind pouring through my Project TROIKA notebook, looking at all the false starts and wrong turns taken since last November, but I dread the prospect of having to scour all the emails we've exchanged in that time. Beholding paper is ever so much more enjoyable than staring at a H.A.L. screen. (And, yes, I know very well that I could produce paper copies of all those emails through my printer, but that seems terribly wasteful.)

Grow or die.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, "Amazing Grace" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 27 Oktober
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard" from Have a Ball (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

If you missed them over the weekend, there were a boatload of space-themed links posted on Friday.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament begins on Armistice Day, with the Big Ten/A.C.C. Challenge to follow in early December. Make ready. And unlike last year's first edition of Project OSPREY, this time I'm getting in on the ground floor, before the end of the (what is turning out to be a ridiculously crummy) football season. And I must say, I rather like the cut of John Beilein's jib.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
They Might be Giants, "Whirlpool" from the Why Does the Sun Shine? E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 25 Oktober
MxPx, "Sad Sad Song" from Secret Weapon (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Despite the title, "Sad Sad Song" is in fact more of an angry song than a sad song. To wit:

"You get a good thing going,
Then you turn it around.
I'm beginning to think you went nuts.
To tell you the truth, I don't really care.
Okay, I really hate your guts."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Victors: Halftime - Michigan 14-14 Michigan State
I've seen enough to judge and I have made up my mind. I will not waver and I will be steadfast in this belief to the bitter end: I believe in Rich Rodriguez.

Go Blue!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Stars My Destination
A hyperlink clearinghouse to keep you updated on the latest and greatest events in Man's continuing quest to conquer the stars, in descending order from most to least manned.

The Endeavour prepares to once again challenge the final frontier: STS-126link.

The safe return to the good Earth of two second generation astronauts: space touristlink.

The old warhorse, from whom Opportunity and Spirit draw their inspiration to endure, just won't die: Hubblelink.

A frustrating delay in the launch of a super cool project: gravitylink.

A pair of hyperlinks about India's first lunar probe: countdownlink and blastofflink.

Also, if this isn't the most astonishing picture I've ever seen, it's in the running. That crane is awesome!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Green Day, "Extraordinary Girl" from American Idiot (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I under the whole concept album idea, I do, and I see "Extraordinary Girl"'s importance to the story of American Idiot, but the song is strong enough, and for my money would be improved by being allowed, to stand on it own.

Donnerstag, 23 Oktober
They Might be Giants, "No One Knows My Plan" from John Henry (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Words to live, scheme, and plot by.

"I was careless,
I can see that now.
I must be silent,
Must contain my secret smile."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two
Individualized scoring may be found in the commenting section of this post. My thanks to all who played and my compliments on your audacity! Good on you.

Round Two Answers
1) Korea - Japan
2) Sri Lanka - Portugal, The Netherlands, & Great Britain
3) Cambodia - France
4) Brunei - Great Britain
5) Taiwan - Spain, The Netherlands, China, & Japan
6) India - Portugal, The Netherlands, France, & Great Britain
7) Papua New Guinea - Germany, Great Britain, & Australia

Round Two Scoring
The Guy 7:7 = 100%
Skeeter 6:7 = 86%
C. 3 1/2:7 = 50%
Dr. Hee Haw 3:7 = 43%

The scoring for this round was the most complex in the history of "Who Used To Own It?" and, as always, in the end it came down to judgment calls by yours truly. I awarded a standard point for Great Britain as the suzerain of India, and added a half-point for each additional colonizing country. All four players, to whom I am one and all grateful, correctly identified Great Britain, but only The Guy took the additional step of naming The Netherlands. (Though I was tempted to subtract half a point because he called The Netherlands the "first," when in fact the Portuguese arrived ahead of the Dutch.) Additionally, though Great Britain was a correct answer for Papua New Guinea, I awarded it only half a point because I was more interested in the more exotic answers of Germany and Australia. Cry foul if you wish, but I am confident the "Tricky" label shields me from any charge of capriciousness. Had a full point been awarded for Great Britain as a suzerain of Papua New Guinea, C.'s score would have been 4 of 7, or 57%, and Skeeter's would have been 6 1/2 of 7, or 93%.

As a last point on scoring, I substituted The Netherlands, a nation-state, for territories that were in many cases actual possessions of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.), and never formally the Dutch state (in its many different forms). This was done for simplicity's sake, and reasonable as the V.O.C. was chartered by the Dutch parliament. Similarly, Britain's conquest of the Indian Subcontinent was pioneered by the Honourable East India Company, a chartered company not dissimilar from the V.O.C., and direct rule by the British government only came about after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857-58. I awarded Skeeter a bonus half-point for her mention of the British East India Company.

I thank you all for your participation over the seven games of "Who Used To Own It?" I had a whale of a time, and 'tis my hope that we've all, myself most especially, learned a good deal more about the history of colonialism, and what this teaches us about both the colonized and the colonizers. I have clutch of ideas for other quizzes and your feedback would be most warmly greeted. Is this the sort of thing of which you'd like to see more at The Secret Base? Less? And bear in mind my general boorishness, good people. For me to solicit your opinions in this way is rare indeed.

The world is full of both woe and wonder, and in the wonder there is often much woe and in the woe much wonder. I do not deny the woe, but I prefer to ponder the wonder. "The world is just awesome."

Phoenix lander was never intended to survive a winter in the Martian polar north, and now 'tis but a matter of time until the end: Winterlink. Thank you for your service, friendly robot minion, your human masters are proud of you.


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "I'll Do the Driving" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Nothing exasperating happened today, I didn't have a run in with a particularly dimwitted girl or anything, but from the time I woke up I knew "I'll Do the Driving" was the Song of the Day.

"She knows nothin' at all about nothing,
The moment I saw her was something
That I found alarming,
That certain nothing behind her eyes."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Answers and scoring will be posted tomorrow evening. This is your last chance to play the last round of "Who Used To Own It?," specifically "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two." Act fast!

The Explorers Club
No. XCIX - The notorious and wholly unsavory life of the slaver and explorer Tippu Tip (1837-1905).

Zanzibar is such a pretty word for an island with such an ugly history. But then I suppose danger and immorality are part and parcel of the mystery and the appeal of the exotic.

Honolulu Blue Nevermore
I am not a fan of the N.B.A., nor of the Detroit Pistons (of Auburn Hills), but I want the Pistons to do well because it's good for Detroit and good for all of sacred Michigan. I despise baseball and am a fan of neither M.L.B. nor the Detroit Tigers, but I want to Tigers to do well because it is good for Detroit and good for all of sacred Michigan. (This past year was an exception, as I cackled with glee of every time I read of the Tigers' misfortunes, but not without cause. In the Winter, before a single inning had been played, a great arrogance swept through the Great Lakes State and one and all, lead by the nose by the sports columnists, declared that this year's team would be the greatest Tigers of all time, bar none. The 1968 World Series winners? Chumps. The '84 World Series champs with Sparky, Gibby, Trammell, and "Bless You Boys"? Bums. All would bow before the divine right to victory of the '08 Tigers! So, I loved watching those knavish braggarts finish the year below .500 as one and all hereabouts ate crow. Bwa ha ha ha ha!) I affection for both ice hockey in general, the N.H.L. specifically, and the Detroit Red Wings in particular is a matter of record. I support Detroit; so, I support Detroit athletics.

I was raised as a fan of the Detroit Lions, and counted myself as such until 2007. Detroit and all of sacred Michigan would profit were the Lions to be well, yet I cannot bring myself to desire such a circumstance. I want to the Lions to stink and to be perennial cellar dwellers until the fiendish Ford family finally frees the franchise of their foul malfeasance. I want the Lions to continue as possibly the worst franchise in all of American professional athletics under someone, anyone, can answer for me one simple question: Why is 31-81 a good enough record to pay a man millions upon millions of dollars a year to run a team, but 31-84 is somehow so much worse that that same man's employment is terminated effective immediately? And by this I am not criticizing the firing of the devil Matt Millen, I am questioning why on Earth he was retained and continued to collect an enormous salary for the whole length of yet another off-season.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Blues Brothers, "Soul Man" from Briefcase Full of Blues (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Make haste! Make haste! The window in which to play "Who Used To Own It?" grows short! Wednesday night approaches swiftly! Make haste!

Scroll down or use this handy hyperlink: handylink.

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day
K. Steeze informs me that The Happening is to be among the trio of travesties he and The Professor will watch during the next "Bad Movie Night" at B.T.WesTwo (pronounced "B-T-W-West-Two"). While The Happening isn't the worst movie I've ever seen... no, that's the best thing I can say about it. It's completely terrible, unredeemably awful from start to finish, but, sadly, it isn't the worst movie I've ever seen.

Gosh, she's pretty.

Scroll down or click here to play "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two"! Only two days left to play! Answers and scores will be posted on Wednesday! Make haste! make haste!

Only two days left!

Vote For Kodos: Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
Why is it that during elections cycles in which Republicans raise more funds than Democrats (as happened throughout the 1980s, '90s, and into the 2000s), our self-appointed tribunes spoke ad nauseam about "the corrupting influence of money on politics," but now that Senator Obama, having broken his solemn pledge to use only public funding during the general election, has purportedly raised more money than any other candidate in history (at least in nominal dollars, I have no idea about real dollars), the "objective" Fourth Estate speaks of naught but his "mass appeal" and "broad base of support"?

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "S.R. (the many versions of)" (live) from Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album, Disc 1: More Shtick Than You Can Shake a Stick At (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "S.R." is a Reel Big Fish standard about the short-lived, highly regarded O.C. ska-punk band Suburban Rhythm, for whom a nascent R.B.F. opened in the early '90s. After a fairly standard, and thus completely awesome, rendition of "S.R.," front man, lead singer, guitarist, and honcho Aaron Barrett declares, "You know, something has always bugged me about that song. I think it's the fact that that is a terrible song."

Trumpter, backup singer, guitarist Scott Klopfenstein: "It might be that it's a terrible song."

Aaron Barrett: "It's just really stupid, the words are stupid..."

Trumpter John Christianson (?): "We should play a version that kicks more asses."

Aaron Barrett: "We should totally play a version that kicks more asses! What if it was like punk rock? What if it was punk rock? That would totally kick more ass. And maybe make it a better song, for everyone."

Scott Klopfenstein: "It's possible."

The Reel Big Fish then proceed to play truncated versions of "S.R." that conform to the following genres: punk rock, the blues, disco, country, garage rock, old school rap, death metal (Scott Klopfestein: "That's terrifying."), and emo.

The whole exercise lasts nine and a half glorious minutes (9:28).

Sonntag, 19 Oktober
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Young, Dumb & Ugly" from Alapalooza (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Just the title "Young, Dumb & Ugly" has always been reminded of Dean Wormer's line to Flounder in Animal House, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." Should the title be "Young, Dumb, & Ugly"? Methinks yea.

"We got three-day stubble
An' it spells trouble,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scroll down or click here to play "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two"! Only two have thus far tried their luck, be the third because "third time's the charm!"

The Victors: Penn State 46-17 Michigan
2-5, 1-2 Big Ten

In all frankness, this morning I thought there was a frightening good chance the valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan would be shut out by the ferocious Nittany Lions of Pennsylvania State University; so, though we were shut out for the whole of the Bogawful second half, I was mightily pleased by our two good, long touchdown drives in the first. And, despite myself, I was even a little encouraged. Silly, really, optimism has no place in the season that saw the end of the longest bowl streak in history, a season that seems all but guaranteed to be the first losing campaign in almost two generations. But, such in my faith in the valiant Wolverines, even these hapless, lackluster valiant Wolverines, that for a few moments, until the Penn State touchdown drive at the end of the first half, I allowed myself to think that we might make a real game of it. I never entertained the thought of victory, but I thought we might lose by a touchdown or less, possibly involving some late game heroics on the part of one or another of the ferocious Lions.

Alas and alack, 'twas not so, for this is the year of our comeuppance, the year we learn that as much as we all loved Lloyd, he left the institution of Michigan football a shambles, and probably should have retired several years earlier. As I type them, those words taste like ashes, the agony transferred from my fingertips to my mouth; but, I believe them to be the truth. If Lloyd had stayed and Ryan Mallett had been our quarterback, and he'd gotten hurt, who'd be starting in his stead? Steven Threet. Would the traitor Justin Boren alone make that big a difference to the offensive line? Not that Coach Rodriguez and his seemingly ill-designed offensive scheme do not deserve piles of blame for this disaster, but increasingly it appears as if Lloyd and his staff left the cupboards quite bear when they left.

Holy moley, Michigan's season is going to come to an end with the Ohio State game. No weeks-long layoff until late December or New Year's Day. As long as I've been alive, longer, in fact, Michigan has never missed the bowl season. And now we will. This is the first time I've admitted to myself that we aren't going to a bowl. Before, I knew the chances we slim, but I thought we'd somehow pull it off, somehow earn our way to the Motor City Bowl or something. Or something. But it's not going to happen. Not this benighted year.

Those who stay will be champions. Not this year, not next year, but someday. Someday. Those who stay to the bitter, terribly bitter end... will be champions.

And even should it take a thousand years, these words will never lose their luster: Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might be Giants, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" from Flood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night!"

Is there a more appealing, more purely fun album in all the world than
Flood? If so, Bog, I hope to learn of it sooner rather than later. Someone tell Plucky Duck to grab his fez and hop to it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Scroll down or click here to play "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two"!

Two tales of robots and the Red Planet: a bitter setback for Europe (ExoMarslink), while America continues to lead the way (Mars Science Laboratorylink). And I do hope that the situation with the European rover is merely a delay, not the first step toward a soft cancellation. As Phoenix proved when it joined the plucky pair of Spirit and Opportunity, in the matter of our mechanical minions on Mars, the more the merrier! Bon chance, ExoMars.

Attention robots: Your human masters are proud of you all. Keep up the good work. (Note to humans: robots crave human approval. Give it freely and they will serve you unwaveringly.)


Ricky Fitness
I'm the cock of the walk! Over the course of this week, for the first time in an age, I was able to adhere to my schedule: I exercised... fourthly? (Bog, how I wish there was an adverb form of four more in keeping with once, twice, and thrice. "Fource"?) I ran all four days, and lifted Monday and today. I relish the prospects for the week to come.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" from Flood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Mr. Horrible!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scroll down or click here to play "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two"! Come one, come all, be the first kid on your block!

The Explorers Club
No. XCVIII - Dred Scott (1799-1858) and Dred Scott v. Sandford (sic), handed down on 6 March 1857, the darkest day in American jurisprudence.

Saturday's victory by the Red Wings, 3-2 over the Ottawa Senators, was a much needed ray of sunshine on a thoroughly miserable and darkling day. The opening night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2 exactly one week hence, was unfortunate, but not nearly as disastrous as was portrayed by the local sports press, the panicky dullards.

Last summer saw the Red Wings claim the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in eleven seasons, approximately the same interval in which I have counted myself as a fan of both hockey and the Detroit Red Wings. Though I know my heart is true, I will harbor no blame for any man who suspects me of being a fairweather fan until such time as the Red Wings endure tribulations and a period of considerable futility, and I remain loyal. 'Tis with a grin from ear to ear that I report my confidence that the hour of my trial shan't strike for some time yet. I am not so full of bravado as to predict that the Red Wings will repeat as stewards of Lord Stanley's Cup, but... yes, I am. Who dares wins. Great in '08 and just as fine in '09!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Mr. Me" from Then: The Earlier Years, Disc Two (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A great many songs have been hamstrung by their lack of harmonious whistling. Not so with "Mr. Me"!

"He ended up really, really sad."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We're late and my word stands imperiled. Wherefore? is the question of the moment. I defer to the hard-won, world-weary wisdom of Harold Macmillan. What happened? "Events, dear boy, events."

Case in point: I logged on last evening finally ready to publish this post only to be thwarted by "routine maintenance" to the Blogger website. The outage was promoted as lasting a sixth of an hour, but time and again when I attempted to publish I was told that Blogger was temporarily off-line. Prevaricating fiends! So, I am surely to blame, but I am not solely to blame.

Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition - Round Two
Individualized scoring to Round One of the East Indies Edition may be found in the commenting section of this very post. My deepest thanks to all who participated, and I humbly beseech your forgiveness for the delays.

East Indies - Round One Answers
1) Indonesia - The Netherlands
2) Singapore - Great Britain
3) Burma - Great Britain
4) Malaysia - Great Britain
5) Vietnam - France
6) The Philippines - Spain & the United States
7) Thailand - sovereign, 'twas never a colonial possession of a greater power

East Indies Edition - Round Two Scoring
The Watergirl 7 1/2/7 = 107%
Skeeter 6/7 = 86%
The Guy 4/7 = 57%
Dr. Hee Haw 4/7 = 57%

Holy Tahiti, our first score of over one hundred percent! How did it happen, you ask? Our players universally knew that Spain had been the colonial suzerain of the Philippines, but The Watergirl alone also mentioned the colonization of those islands by Uncle Sam, a curious and nearly unique chapter in our history; for this, I awarded her an additional half-point. Thank you all for playing. My thanks also to a chap named "Andrew" who provided a specific, if jaundiced, account of Indonesia's history. Lastly, my compliments to The Professor, who, having just returned from a weeks-long grand tour of Southeast Asia, politely recused himself, as would any proper gentleman. Good show, old bean.

Round Two
And now to test your mettle once again against the cunning subtleties of Round Two. And now, remember back to the distant past of the Spring and recall that "Who Used To Own It?" isn't a test, but a game of skill, a game of knowledge. A game of contextual guesses and educated inferences. As ever, "East Indies" is meant as more of a flourish than an exacting descriptor of the portion of the globe in question. And I remind you that we concern ourselves mostly, though not exclusively, with the world between the discovery of the New World and the outbreak of the Great War, rather than the pause between the wars or after the Second World War. Last in our parade of refreshers, "Who Used To Own It?" is a quiz of your knowledge, not of your ability to utilize reference materials. Please play in accordance with the honor system, or don't play at all.

I salute all those with the audacity to play, I thank you also for your participation, it is my hope that you find the experience both pleasant and enriching, and I wish you all the best of luck!

1) Korea

2) Sri Lanka

3) Cambodia

4) Brunei

5) Taiwan

6) India

7) Papua New Guinea

I would apologize for the many tricky items, but the twists, turns, and treacheries of history are the largest portion of its appeal. Just do your best and you'll be fine. There is naught at stake but pride and the chance to learn something, which is to say that there is naught at stake but the only things worth having. Bon chance!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Avril Lavigne, "Keep Holding On" from The Best Damn Thing (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "I will fight and defend."

Dienstag, 14 Oktober
The Blues Brothers, "Hey Bartender" from Briefcase Full of Blues (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 13 Oktober
Lenka, "The Show" via iTunes, Single of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I downloaded this song some months ago, whenever it was the Single of the Week, but only in the last week or so have I really fallen in love with it. A silly little song along the lines of "The world is just awesome."

Sonntag, 12 Oktober
Reel Big Fish, "Somebody Loved Me" from Cheer Up! (T.L.A.M.)


"I think somebody loved me once,
I think somebody loved me once,
I think somebody loved me once,
But I cannot remember why."

I cannot for the life of me remember why.

Samstag, 11 Oktober
Reel Big Fish, "Somebody Hates Me" (live) from Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album, Disc 1: More Shtick Than You Can Shake a Stick At (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The album version of "Somebody Hates Me," from Why Do They Rock So Hard?, was the second song of the "somebody" theme cycle; so, it struck my fancy to make it also the second-to-last.

Coming Attractions
Tomorrow, "The Explorers Club" and "Believe." Answers and scoring to Round Two of "Who Used To Own It? East Indies Edition" in one week's time.

A thought has just occurred to me: Without a certain knowledge of the life and career of Harold Macmillan, the quote "Events, dear boy, events" loses some of its cachet. Bollocks, back to the drawing board.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Our aim, dear readers, should be to have not just a civil society, but a society that is civil. Courtesy is the glue that holds us together and holds back the bellvm omnivm contra omnes, the war of all against all. We should all find our lot improved more than we might imagine if only we all paid greater attention to such quaint concepts as politeness, common decency, and, dare I say it, etiquette.

Thank you for your readership and for your participation through the comments feature.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Blues Brothers, "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" from The Blues Brothers Original Soundtrack Recording (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight. And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's law enforcement community who have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time. We do sincerely hope you all enjoy the show, and please remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive, and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same. You, me... them... everybody. Everybody."

Everybody needs somebody to love. I should probably get to work on that sooner rather than later.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Explorers Club
No. XCVII - The devşirme, the institutionalized kidnapping and involuntary conversion of Christian boys to Islam, by the Ottoman Empire, to grow up to serve in the ranks of the Sultan's elite soldiers, the Janissaries.

And, just because I think it's neat, the coat of arms of the late Ottoman Empire, the "Sick Man of Europe." Absolutely beautiful design, no?

The Stars My Destination
Painting a giant target on the Earth: sitting ducklink. I have been enamored of science fiction, of aliens and starships and strange new worlds, for as long as I can remember. And on some level I hope that sapient (which I think I now prefer over "sentient") alien life is not just the stuff of fanciful imaginings. But, think of our little blue marble among the stars as it stands today. Are we really in any shape to fend off the advanced technologies surely wielded by any spacefaring civilization?We need not presume any aliens we meet will be hostile; hell, their culture may even be so alien as to be devoid of the concept of hostility. But, is it not prudent to plan for the worst while hoping for the best? What if we do contact extraterrestrial life, and what if it is hostile? How dare these radio telescope operators take it upon themselves to play dice with the whole of the human race. If alien destroyers come to reduce the earth to ash, to leave not one stone piled upon another, will these brash fools assume the responsibility for Earth's defense?

The difference between us and Captains Archer, Kirk, Picard, and Sisko? When they went boldly, they did so packing phaser banks and shields. If a mass driver is built upon the Moon and asteroids hurled at the earth, what are we supposed to use as a defense? harsh language?

All things to all people: Althing!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Killers, "Somebody Told Me" from Hot Fuss (T.L.A.M.)
Believe: Maple Leafs 3-2 Red Wings
Drat. Clearly, though, my profound joy at the commencement of the new season trumps my disappointment at the result of the first game. Eighty-one more chances to acquit ourselves properly before the true beginning of the defense of Lord Stanley's Cup. Hip hip, hooray, hockey has returned!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Not much afoot tonight, kids. I have decided for the nonce to shed my virile, twenty-nine-years-old-is-wicked-young mindset for a stodgier persona: today was a long day - not a bad day, just a long day - and I've got a very early morning ahead. However, I can promise you brighter days are ahead. Tomorrow will see the next episode of "The Explorers Club" and Sunday will bring the dawn of the too-long-delayed final round of America's favorite quiz sensation, "Who Used To Own It?" Scout's honor. Technically, I was never a Boy Scout, I quit while still a Webelo, but I will operate on the perhaps reckless assumption that I have not fallen so far in your collective estimation that my word, Scout's honor or no, carries no weight.

And if I have fallen that far in your estimation, please work up the gumption to tell me. I have a great many personal relationships to mend and frankness must be the order of the day. The first step toward solving a problem is achieving awareness of its existence.

And on that cheery note, hey, how about a little "somebody"-themed paranoia?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Ramones, "Somebody Put Something In My Drink" from Mania (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I was going to proffer a ham-fisted parable about the ability of Joey Ramone, a dyed in the wool Democrat, and Johnny Ramone, a die-hard Republican, may they both rest in peace, to coexist and produce musical genius despite their political differences, but then I remembered who I am. Me? I live for the verbal knife-fighting. Walk into a room covered in bruises and nursing a black eye and greet the gasps of horror with a toothless, predatory grin from ear to ear, "You should see the other guy."

The hurly-burly, the low-down dirty dealing and underhanded mudslinging, is the lifeblood of our glorious democracy. The war of ideas provides the vitality of this Great Republic. Beware the snake oil of "consensus;" tumult and rancor, always in the spirit of mutual patriotism walking arm-in-arm with mutual loathing, is how the best decisions have always been made. It seldom pretty and more rarely pleasant, but it is the grandest adventure in governance in the history of the world. Sharpen your wit to a razor, make a fist augmented with a roll of quarters, and when you've summoned up the blood, let's dance.

Vote for Kodos!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vote For Kodos: Fight Night
I did not watch tonight's debate. Nor the first debate between Senators McCain and Obama, nor the debate between Governor Palin and Senator Biden. I know for whom I will vote and why, as well as why I shan't vote for the other fellow; so, forgive me if I sound cynical, but I simply see no point in watching the odd ritual of tap dancing and shadowboxing we call presidential debates. If any out there remain undecided, strange and indecipherable as I may find that position, I urge you to watch the remaining debate and explore extensively the websites and public records of both Senators Obama and McCain.

Voting is not just a right, but your civic duty.

Now, The Shadow boxing, that I'd pay good money to see. "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. The Shadow knows!"

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

Commentary: Though I've owned Snmnmnm's Snmnmnm for the better part of a decade, and ripped the album into my iTunes library over a year and a half ago, I had no recollection whatsoever of "Somebody" when I typed "somebody" in iTunes's search feature. Shortly thereafter, after a second of third listen, it dawned upon me what a bizarrely romantic little ditty it is.

"Somebody once stole my arm.
Somebody once stole my leg.
Nobody ever stole my heart,
You were the only one."

And it gets weirder from there.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Middle Kingdom
The P.R.C. is always shrieking about the U.S.'s need to respect her sovereignty over "purely internal" matters such as human rights and the manufacture of tainted consumer products; so, why are they screaming bloody murder over our arms sales to Taiwan? Under the provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is required "to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character." See, Beijing, we're not (necessarily) thumbing our noses at your blood-soaked dictatorship and its nakedly hegemonic foreign policy, we're just complying with a law, passed by our Congress, requiring action by our government. As you can see, a purely internal matter, and thus a concern of neither the People's Republic of China nor the Chinese Communist Party. But thanks for playing, and have a nice day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
James Darren, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" from This One's From the Heart (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Hello and welcome, my name is Mike Wilson and I'm nobody.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And what did you do today in the vineyard of the Lord? We got hit with the vineyard metaphor twice today, from both the Book of Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew.

The Explorers Club is now a full week behind schedule; the lost time will be make up, so keep your eyes peeled for the next episode in only four days.

The Explorers Club
No. XCVI - The Bombardment of Algiers, 27 August 1816, an attempt to end the raiding of Europe for slaves by the Barbary pirates.

This is the first in a loose series on slavery leading up to the spectacular one hundredth episode of The Explorers Club. I am very excited about the approaching No. C and I hope you are too. An arbitrary milestone is a milestone all the same.

Holy cow. Snowlink. "Frost"? "Ground fog"? Ares's blood, the Red Planet's not as dead as we thought! This is incredible! And once again, a N.A.S.A. robot intended to have a 90-sol operational lifespan refuses to go gentle into that good night. Yes, sir, our boys at N.A.S.A. sure build 'em plucky. Godspeed, Phoenix. Your human masters are deeply appreciative of your service.


The Stars My Destination
Usually, I intend the title "Proud Europa" as a cruel jest. I mean for it to have the taste of ashes, a beacon of my disdain for the moral decay and decadence of our European friends, cousins, and allies. In this instance, there is no irony, there is naught but sincere admiration. Europe should be proud of what they've accomplished over the last six months: Farewell to the A.T.V. Jules Verne. I know this bodes well for the future of the E.S.A. and its partner national space agencies. Thank you, friends and dear comrades, and job well done.

And turning to the astral aspirations of the Middle Kingdom, home are the heroes. Though I harbor great antagonism toward the bloody-handed tyrants who rule the P.R.C., I bear no ill will toward the Chinese people. And though my patriotism could rightly be described as nationalism, when it comes to the cold of outer space I wholeheartedly embrace the words of the plaques left on the Moon by our Apollo astronauts: "We came in peace for all Mankind." It is right and proper that nations should be rivals and enemies here on the good Earth, but in the vacuum of space, we are as one. Cheer for the Chinese space program and you cheer "for all Mankind."

Ricky Fitness
I "bonked" on Friday. I hate bonking. Bonking makes it all too plain to me that the man I am is not the boy I was. The S.K.P. Machine was incapable of bonking. True, he had the innate energy of a teenager, but 'twas more than that. He was me, he was fat and lazy, but he somehow transcended himself. He was a machine, "more machine now than man," only not "twisted and evil." I'm not sure how to recapture that indefatigable spirit, to become again the S.K.P. Machine, but I am resolute. I will succeed or die in the attempt.

And it is entirely possible I will spend the next thirty-one years trying to succeed, never quite, and then eventually die in the attempt. 'Twould be a good end.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "Somebody Hates Me" from Why Do They Rock So Hard? (T.L.A.M.)


"I know, no matter what,
No matter who,
No matter what I do,
Somebody hates me.
(Somebody hates me.)
Somebody hates me, somebody hates me.
(Somebody hates me.)
Somebody hates me.
Somebody hates me,
And I hate somebody, too."

And I hate somebody, too.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Victors: Illinois 45-20 Michigan
2-3, 1-1 Big Ten

If I may be snarky for a moment, we might have a halfway decent football team if the offense didn't take a siesta during the entire second and third quarters. As I once suggested to former Head Coach Lloyd Carr in an admittedly rude email, next week we might try the novel approach of playing all sixty minutes, instead of thirty subdivided into a few here and a few there. Alas, we are not a halfway decent football team, we are a work in progress.

The good? Far, far fewer fumbles and a kick return game that was not a nightmare. Progress! The bad? The complete lack of offense in the second and third quarters. One step forward, two steps backwards. The ugly? The offensive line's sorry performance against a heretofore roundly lambasted Illinois defense. Our man Threet lofted some very lame ducks this afternoon, but he and the running backs also encountered a lot of Illini in the backfield.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The only other game of which I watched any substantial portion was Wisconsin's 20-17 loss to the "University of Ohio State." For the second week in a row, to mine eyes the pesky Badgers looked for all the world like a vintage Lloyd Carr Michigan team. Last week, a dominant offensive performance that yielded naught but field goals that eventually allowed the down but not out opponent to mount a late comeback. This week, the suffocating defense that was suddenly and utterly powerless in the face of a last minute, need-it-to-win drive by the opposing offense. Wisconsin contained all of the hated Buckeyes' weapons for almost the entire game, yet U.O.S.'s game-winning drive looked effortless. Boy howdy, those hated Buckeye receivers were astoundingly wide open right in the middle of the field, over and over and over again.

And, his record be damned, Bret Bielema is not a terribly good football coach. The fiasco on perhaps the most crucial play of the game, Ohio State's game-winning touchdown? That is hardly the first time Wisconsin has been caught doing something inexplicably stupid while Bielema stands on the sidelines, too slow to recognize the cock-up before his very eyes. And once again the blow proves fatal to the pesky Badgers' cause. Not that I mind a Wisconsin loss, in principle, I just hate to see U.O.S. win anything.

Also, settle in, because I won't grow tired of calling THE Ohio State University the "University of Ohio State" as long as Terrelle Pryor wears the red and silver that those dimwits insist on calling "scarlet and gray." Gray isn't sparkly, you morons! But what else should we expect? The hated Buckeyes don't even know the name of the school they nominally attend.

The defense of Lord Stanley's Cup begins on Thursday, 9 October 2008. Make ready, you darling Wingnuts!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Queen, "Somebody to Love" from Greatest Hits I (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: What do we think of a "somebody" series? It's so stupid, it'll go off like gangbusters!

Freitag, 3 Oktober
Les Italiens, "Ottomania" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Ottoman Star Empire in Man's Burden, or at least the book's universe? Mayhap.

Donnerstag, 2 Oktober
Ben Folds, "Annie Waits" from Rockin' the Suburbs (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I don't have a girl, yet I feel a great certainty that when I do I will disappoint her in much the same fashion as illuminated in "Annie Waits." This certainty of disappointment has, for some odd and ill-understood reason, engendered in me a fierce fondness for the song.

Mittwoch, 1 Oktober
Fountains of Wayne, "Sink to the Bottom" from Fountains of Wayne (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I know that when I find her, The Last Angry Bride will understand thoroughly the simple beauty of "Sink to the Bottom."

"I wanna to sink to the bottom with you,
I wanna sink to the bottom with you,
The ocean is big and blue,
I just wanna sink to the bottom with you."

Dienstag, 30 September
Barenaked Ladies, "Jane" from Maybe You Should Drive (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I unabashedly adore the name Jane. Christian name, surname, the Jane's spotting guides, whatever. My interest in the new C.B.S. program The Mentalist was piqued when I learned that the main character is named Patrick Jane. Mighty shallow of me perhaps, but there we are.

"Jane, divided, but I can't decide which side I'm on."
The Victors: Halftime - Illinois 17-14 Michigan
Everything was going fine, better than fine, actually, as the offense was humming along for really the first time all year, and then my mom arrived home with the groceries. I came back after helping her unload and the craven Fighting Illini had scored a touchdown, and then effortlessly scored another. In the immortal words of Fred Willard, "Wha' happened?" Since then, it's been a defensive stalemate, but we've got to get the offense going. Our love our boys on defense, but Juice Williams and his cohorts cannot be stopped, they can only be contained. And even then only for so long. Come back, First Quarter Steven Threet, we miss you!

Go Blue!

Also, is it just me or is this a tad early in the season for Homecoming? It's probably just me. Yeah, wow, it's already October.

Ahem, Go Blue!

Sorry, gang, I should have put this up days ago. I know that I have seriously imperiled this blog's readership level by my too long silence, and for the betrayal of your loyalty therein I am sorry. I have allowed myself to be overtaken by events, though I regard this as no excuse. All I can tell you is that I will do better.