Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(No. 12) Purdue 80-57 Michigan
10-3, Big Ten 0-1

Sweet merciful crap! As painful as yesterday's drubbing was, 'twould be inaccurate for me to say it was no fun at all. The ill-starred Boilermakers beat the tar out of us at the top of the game, being on pace in the first five minutes to score a century, but this was followed by rising elation as the valiant Wolverines came roaring back & a moment of pure bliss when the score became, for one too-brief moment shortly before halftime, Michigan 26-25 Purdue. And then the roof of Crisler Arena might as well have collapsed. We were unable to muster any defense in the second half as Purdue scored an obscene 50 points; our offense output in the second half slightly exceeded that of the first half, but 'twas all for naught in the face of the ill-starred Boilermakers' onslaught. "Misery, misery, misery," compounded by my father's giddy cackling throughout the second half. (He is an alumnus of Purdue University.) I didn't expect the valiant Wolverines to triumph, but neither did I expect such a shellacking in our own facility. I'd rather such an embarrassment had taken place inside the "Black Hole of Calcutta" instead of the "House that Cazzie Built." Alas! Woe! Doom!

On the other hand, there's no time to dwell on the loss, for Big Ten play's just getting started. Next up: the valiant Wolverines host the ferocious Nittany Lions of Penn State on Sunday afternoon (2 January, 4:00 P.M.).

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Fifth Day of Christmas
Bing Crosby, "Hark! The Herald Angel Sings" from Christmas with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, & Dean Martin (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Loot
…is late. Patience is a virtue. I've got a lot not going on right now; so, there is much sloth that must be overcome before a serious dent might be made in the backlog. In the meantime, here's a pretty interesting poster from the non-personal blog The Art of Manliness, based upon Kipling's timeless poem "If—":

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Fourth Day of Christmas
The Puppini Sisters, "O Holy Night" from Christmas with the Puppini Sisters (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCXV - Admiral Hyman Rickover, U.S.N. (1900-1986), "Father of the Nuclear Navy."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Third Day of Christmas
Duvall, "Angels We Have Heard on High" from O Holy Night (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Christmastide is now upon us & in jubilation all R.B.D.S.O.T.D. will be centered around the joyous Nativity of the Christ, the birth of our Savior, the wee baby Lord Jesus. In nominating songs to be the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., please check that they be of an explicitly religious character. Secular R.B.D.S(s).O.T.D. will return after the Epiphany. Rejoice, the Christ is born! Merry Christmastide!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Saint Stephen's Day
Mu330, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas" from Winter Wonderland! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Words by Longfellow, from his poem "Christmas Bells."

"And in despair I bowed my head,
'There is no peace on Earth!' I said,
'The hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men."
And pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead not doth He sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men.'"

Excerpts of the poem, not, alas, the Mu330 song, were read aloud by Father Steve at the end of today's five o'clock Mass, which I attended because I slept-in too late to make the eleven o'clock.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Christmas Day
Sarah McLachlan, "Silent Night" via iTunes, (free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)


"Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth."
Urbi et Orbi
I am newly returned from Midnight Mass, & as usual after such occasions I really with the Church would use incense more often throughout the year. The holy smoke adds quite a bit to the theatricality of the Mass; that is in no way a bad thing, as ceremony & ritual are central to any important occasion (& every Catholic Mass is important, as each features the miracle of transubstantiation). Midnight Mass: absolutely the best way to kick off the Christmastide.

Merry Christmas to all, the Christ is born!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Where's Teddy? cannot yet say The Squeak's given name (not her Christian name, because she's not been baptized), but he says a version of her name, & with great affection; he misses his cousin "Na." The K sound is yet beyond the lad, but he knows his favorite uncle's Christian name, or at least a version of it: "Mi." He knows my name better than most! It's adorable the way he so elongates the E sound at the end of "Mommeeee" & "Daddeeee," his parents.

I freely admit that I'm in love with mine own voice, but it's not the only voice I love. Merry Christmas, Teddy! Uncle Mi(ke) is your favorite.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Christmas Eve
Séan McCann, "Merry Christmas, Everyone" courtesy Séan McCann's website, free download (The Watergirl)


"A child is born, forever,
A child is born, for everyone,
Lift up your hearts
And hear His laughter."
Not having a best friend rots, it rots profoundly.

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned."
—William Congreve

Pray forgive my whining.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

If I might indulge in the third person for a moment, Uncle Mike is gifting his wee nephew Where's Teddy? with a whale of a present. Behold! the Radio Flyer Retro Rocket (purchased at a deep discount because the box had been somewhat abused), appropriate for ages 1-3:

Remember, Theodore, Uncle Mike is your favorite!

The Squeak was gifted a stuffed animal bigger than her tiny person, a monkey, because there's no better word in the English language than "monkey;" that was her birthday present, mirroring the giant stuffed animal elephant Where's Teddy? was gifted when he turned one. For Christmas, The Squeak was gifted an adorably small pair of snow boots. Duly noted for the future: shopping for babies is more fun than shopping for adults.

Remember, Natalie, Uncle Mike is your favorite!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "I Want an Alien for Christmas" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc Two (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: The flood of R.B.D.S.O.T.D. nominations has been gratifying & overwhelming. Keep 'em coming! The Secret Base is my blog, but it doesn't mean anything without you, treasured readers. Let's make the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. as communal an experience as we can. I thank you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I acknowledge 'tis a scant three days 'til Christmas Day, but yesterday I finished all my Christmas shopping & today I finished all my wrapping, & by my standards both tasks were completed well ahead of schedule. Hip hip, for me!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York" from The Best of The Pogues (The Guy)


"The boys of the N.Y.P.D. choir still singing 'Galway Bay,'
And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A fortnight hence, President Obama made a guest appearance on one of my favorite television shows, MythBusters. The president gave Adam & Jamie a special assignment to work with a group of schoolchildren to put a myth to the test. I found it deliciously apropos that the myth President Obama asked the MythBusters to bust was the Archimedes heat ray… a myth MythBusters had busted conclusively before, not only once, but twice! That is Barack Hussein Obama's presidency in a nutshell: neither the "hope" nor the "change" he promised, only a recycling of the same tired ideas that have failed conclusively & spectacularly time & time again. Of course, for the third time out of three tests, the Archimedes heat ray was busted comprehensively & thoroughly. I thank our charlatan president for such striking, if specious, proof of his own failures.

How are you liking the parade of horrors?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Guster, "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: I'm persnickety, even during the holidays: the title should be "¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?", because Spanish requires an upside down question mark at the beginning of an inquisitive statement. I am also reminded of my Guster T-shirt, which is emblazoned (correctly), "¡Me gusta Guster!" At a deli in Old New Amsterdam, several years hence, the Spanish-speaking staff stared at the T-shirt in confusion & consternation until one of them asked me, in English, what "Guster" meant, or was supposed to mean, in Spanish. I explained that it was a proper noun from English, the name of a band.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I had the supreme joy of seeing both Where's Teddy? & The Squeak this past weekend as the clan gathered in the District of Columbia for a joint celebration of The Squeak's first birthday (a few days late) & Christmas (a few days early, because none of the three family units that converged will be together on the sacred 25th). Presents—both physical & from the heart—were exchanged, a great many laughs were had, & a gay, grand, & jolly time was had in the company of nine people (six of them Wilsons by birth, two by marriage, & one surnamed McCormack) very near & dear to my heart. This is my family, distinct from my kin, which consists of my dear aunts, uncle, cousins, & sole remaining grandparent; my family once consisted of five members (yours truly included), but has now expanded to nine (same), with this weekend including much joyful conversation of when The Squeak & Where's Teddy? will have siblings. Being an uncle is astonishing, & I look forward eagerly to having even more nieces & nephews.

It is flabbergasting how much Where's Teddy? has changed in his nineteen months since birth, & how much The Squeak has changed in her twelve. Compared to his immobility o this time last year, Where's Teddy? seems more like a little kid & less like a baby. However, present at The Squeak's birthday party on Sunday were three of her cousins, three siblings, a four-year-old girl & two-and-a half-year-old twins, a boy & a girl, & compared side-by-side with their strength, speed, dexterity, & independence Where's Teddy? is skill very much a baby. The Squeak's development since I met her last spring boggles the mind. She's a baby, but she moves so well & is tremendously interactive, very much more then the adorable little lump I first met. These are rare & precious occasions, for soon, very soon they will be babies no more & never again. It is fascinating watching them grow, & their Uncle Mike cannot wait to meet the people they will become & are already becoming.

Damnatio Memoriae
I saw the stand-up comedy special Out of England 2 this weekend, & was appalled by the lack of hilarity therein. As a result, Ricky Gervais is dead to me. I've not yet taken the decision to divest myself of The Office & Extras, but never again will I support any of his endeavours, neither monetarily nor by word of mouth; it has been my habit, when mention is made of the American television series The Office to pipe in with a plug for the British original, but this is now at an end. There's no coming back from something like this, & to that rat bastard's ill-begotten work I say good riddance!

The Last Angry Mane has been growing wild for almost four months now, restoring it to much the same condition seen in the latter days of the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge. But it must soon be tamed, for two reasons. {a} The lack of ease of maintenance. One of the great benefits of growing a beard is an end to the tyranny of shaving. Yes, I must still abate the few misfit hairs on my cheeks that mock The Last Angry Mane's inability to provide full coverage, but this is as nothing compared to the wearying routine of shaving my entire face in the morning. But at its present length The Mane must be combed to look its best, & combed again & again throughout the day to keep it looking its best. Avoiding just that type of constant maintenance has been the paramount reason I've kept my hair as short as I have for the past decade and a half. I shall have to experiment to find the ideal length, but I know that it is shorter than the current state. I am curious to see what The Mane would look like with six or eight months of growth, but not so curious that I'm willing to endure the maintenance demands that would surely accompany such additional growth. {b} The untamed power of The Last Angry Mane is overshadowing the magnificence of The Last Angry Moustache. The handlebars are really coming into their own now, the natural curl is taking full effect, but The Mane remains the primary conversation piece. This cannot stand. In the immortal words of The Dude, "This aggression will not stand, man." So, The Mane must be trimmed back while The Moustache grows to preposterous proportions. Onward & upward!

The Queue
I ran into Ska Army last week whilst shopping at a local chain bookseller & was pleasantly waylaid for several hours as he treated me a hot chocolate & we talking about nothing at all & everything under the Sun. Despite my loud denunciations of the rubbish that is the Star Wars Expanded Universe, he insisted on purchasing for me Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn as a Christmas present. Ska Army vouched for Karpyshyn's powers as an author, citing him as the principal writer of the seminal video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Path of Destruction is either further subtitled or at least badged as "A Novel of the Old Republic," possibly to foster a connection to the game). I've no wish to read Path of Destruction, but I feel obligated by Ska Army's action; I cautioned him that the queue is quite long & it might be some time before I got to read his gift.

After the "Hook, Line, & Sinker" trilogy I'll take another break from Deighton before reading the third of his Bernard Samson trilogies. Already in line for after Spy Sinker is the third Tattoo Shop Mystery, Driven to Ink; possibly more Kipling (I've on hand two volumes of prose, The Jungle Books & a collection, The Man who would be King and other Stories), possibly some Saki (specifically, When William Came), possibly some non-fiction. There is so much to read & so little time, alas. Alas! Alas!

Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Len Deighton, Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family

Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line
Len Deighton, Spy Sinker

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Aimee Mann, "Calling On Mary" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: Nominate an Advent/Christmastide/"holiday season"-themed song today & it might just be tomorrow's R.B.D.S.O.T.D.! Nominate any old song & it might be the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. once we return to normal programming after Epiphany concludes the Christmastide. Nominate early & often!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCXIV - Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., U.S.N. (1918-2002), skipper of the U.S.S. Triton during Operation SANDBLAST & best-selling author of both non-fiction & novels such as Run Silent, Run Deep.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: 'Tis the fourth & final Sunday of Advent. The Christmastide is nigh! Today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is the 4:00 version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," an exceedingly beautiful rendition of an already beautiful song.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Get Behind Me, Santa!" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Eartha Kitt, "Santa Baby" from Elf: Music from the Major Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Puppini Sisters, "Santa Baby" from Christmas with the Puppini Sisters (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Birthday!
Happy first birthday to The Squeak! The most important lesson learned during my wee niece's first year of life is that Uncle Mike is indeed her favorite. No matter how many times I have to tell her that. Happy birthday, Natalie!
I'm at an awkward size vis-à-vis my belts, my girth falling between two eyelets. The eyelets I've been using no longer afford proper support of my trousers, leaving me constantly to hike up my waistband lest my boxer shorts be exposed, & yet the next smaller-size eyelets makes the belts' fits too tight, especially in a seated position. The solution for this is to tough it out until I shrink down to that next eyelets, but the holidays are upon us, & along with them ample opportunities to snack. Hard as this may be to believe given my elephantine bulk, but I always put on weight between Thanksgiving & the New Year. So, caught between active efforts to shrink & the inevitable reality of growth, it seems I'll be caught at this awkward size at least until sometime in the latter parts of January, or February. Still, I will harness all of ÖSTERREICH's energies towards arresting that annual swelling & not only continuing but accelerating the CADMUS-mandated reduction in my person.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
K. Steeze & the Brothers Mace, "Santa Baby" courtesy of K. Steeze (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Truly one of the worst recordings ever made. Just horrible. A time-tested dictum of B.T.W. is "Alienate the audience;" with this precept in mind, I shall be lobbying for "Santa Baby" to be included as a bonus track on the forthcoming Real Can of Yams E.P. If this awful rendition of "Santa Baby" doesn't alienate the audience, nothing will.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Eddy Arnold, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" from Elf: Music From the Major Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Susan Egan, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" from Winter Tracks (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCXIII - The U.S.S. Triton SSRN-586 & Operation SANDBLAST, the first underwater circumnavigation of the globe.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: 'Tis the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, and just as the rose-colored candle differs from its three violet fellows, so too shall the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. differ from Sufjan Stevens's three brilliant versions of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I hope one & all are enjoying a jubilant, strengthening Advent, & looking forward to the Christmastide with joyousness & mirth.

Samstag, 11 Dezember
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "I Can't Turn You Loose" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I'm not complaining, but at one point during The Big Chill at the Big House the Michigan Marching Band had played "I Can't Turn You Loose" for so long I turned to my companion & asked if he thought they were trying to set the day's second Guinness World Record, for longest continual performance of "I Can't Turn You Loose." As if on cue, they then ceased, leaving me somewhat chagrined.

Freitag, 10 Dezember
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "You Can't Win" from A Jackknife to a Swan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: What an altogether awful day!

"You can't win, no, you'll never win!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This week has pummeled the ever-loving piss out of me. And the hits just keep on coming.

The Queue
Just a wee bit of housekeeping: As Winter—an in-universe-but-not-direct prequel to the Bernard Samson trilogy of trilogies—was written & published before the "Hook, Line, & Sinker" trilogy, I've decided I should read it before embarking upon Spy Hook. Thus far, Kim is fan-bloody-tastic!

The History Club, to which I am secretary, held a used book sale over the last two days. For a monetary cost of $6, I acquired nine books (in order, alphabetical by author):

Jim Clark, Jim Clark Behind the Wheel
Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence
Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Perjured Parrot
Orrie Hitt, Summer Hotel (smut!)
Michal P. O'Bryan, editor, The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, Volume VI, Number 1
A. M. Pennell, A Hero of the Afghan Frontier
Emily Post, Etiquette
Joseph Newman, editor, Famous Soviet Spies

Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War (abandoned, XPD)

Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Len Deighton, Winter
Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Creedance Clearwater Revival, "I Put a Spell on You" from Chronicle (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Because tonight on Conan She & Him performed "I Put a Spell on You," & it seemed too easy to pick a random She & Him song.

Mittwoch, 8 Dezember
Christina Perri, "Jar of Hearts" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Tuesday's musical guest & performance on Conan. Thanks, Conan!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" from Barenaked for the Holidays (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I don't want to deluge you, gentle readers, with Christmas music, but this rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings," one of my absolute favorites, was featured on tonight's episode of the delightful Raising Hope & I felt not the slightest inclination to resist the temptation. (Fair warning, next week is Santa Claus week for the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.)
Operation AXIOM
Sixty-nine years ago to the day, 7 December 1941, "the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The United States did not spark the Second World War. Our lamentable & persistent isolationism being then in full bloom, the United States wanted no part of the Second World War. But once the Second World War came home, once it could no longer be ignored, the United States harnessed the energies, talents, & industry of her people to forge the most powerful fighting force the world had yet known, a martial colossus that beggars credulity. "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory." The United States has never again retreated from the world stage as before that "date which will live in infamy;" the world we know is unimaginable without the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Addendum—8:12 P.M.: I was shocked & outraged by how little attention was paid to Pearl Harbor Day at tonight's History Club meeting. It's nothing short of scandalous.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Michigan 86-65 Concordia
6-2, Big Ten 0-0

At various points during tonight's contest, the valiant Wolverines couldn't buy a basket. The Cardinals pulled to within five one at least two separate occasions. Despite the eventual twenty-one-point margin of victory, the game was much closer than it ever should have been. What's life without a little excitement, eh? Here's hoping that the boys in Maize & Blue were simply playing down to the level of their competition, not signally that the close loss to (No. 9) Syracuse & the solid victory over Clemson were aberrations.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Susan Egan, "Cold Enough to Snow" from Winter Tracks (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The cold in "Cold Enough to Snow" is metaphorical. The cold of this morning, this afternoon, & this evening was all too gloriously real. And, hooray, it was indeed cold enough to snow!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The publication of this post was delayed by failure of our home's internet access. This is what I've never understood about the appeal of V.O.I.P.; our house's internet access fails with far greater regularity than the house's landline ever has. If in this age of mobile telephone ubiquity one of the arguments in favor of retaining a home telephone is reliability, how could anyone be fool enough to trust the internets to be there in an emergency?

The Explorers Club
No. CCXII - The U.S.S. Nautilus SSN-571, the world's first nuclear-propelled submarine.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Michigan 65-62 Harvard
5-2, Big Ten 0-0

I don't bear Harvard's head coach Tommy Amaker any particular ill-will over his largely unsuccessful tenure as our men's basketball head coach from '01-'07, but it is important symbolically for a team to best a former head coach's new team. Kudos to the valiant Wolverines for doing just that against the annoyingly-nicknamed Crimson. Also, I've written this before & assuredly I'll write this again: any win Michigan can walk away with is good enough for me. I wished I'd recalled earlier that the game was on, because by the time I flipped over to the Big Ten Network half of the second half has already elapsed. Still & all, I was satisfied with what I saw.

Go Blue!

Project OSPREY
I vaguely wanted to see the (No. 1) Duke-Butler game, but for efficiency's sake I combined the running of some errands with my partaking of confession, fetching my dry cleaning & returning some bottles & cans for deposit before going to church & getting right with the Lord Almighty. Consequently, I missed Duke's 82-70 victory; worth a "rats," but not a "drat." Rats!

Both of the games mentioned above were played on Saturday, 4 December.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: 'Tis the second Sunday of Advent; I hope your season of penitence & preparation continues apace. The R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is the 1:04 rendition, which contrasts with both last Sunday's instrumental "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" & the upcoming highly vocal "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by featuring but a single vocal line:

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Gump" from Bad Hair Day (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 3 Dezember
Less Than Jake, "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads" from Hello Rockview (T.L.A.M.)


"Do you know about his strength and conviction?
Or how she puts all her faith in religion?
Dis you take the time to really discover
How little we know about each other?"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Chanukah Under the Stars" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc Two (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I know that Hanukkah began yesterday at sundown, & I apologize for the tardiness of this R.B.D.S.O.T.D., but I could not allow the first snowfall of the year, especially on so auspicious a date as the first of December, pass without commemoration. I hope for a happy & holy Hanukkah for all concerned.

"And have a swingin' Chanukah under the stars!"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Too Sly & Sugar were quite insistent that after debate practice we go, along with Sugar's boyflesh, to a relatively late IMAX screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. We stopped off for a quick bite at a chain restaurant (wings & sports bar) near the cinema, where our waitress recognized me by my moustache from the last time we were all there as a group (which must have been during the Malarkey [Wayback Machine says June]). I've seen the first five Harry Potter films, but not yet the sixth, …and the Half-Blood Prince; compared to …and the Sorcerer's Stone, …and the Chamber of Secrets, …and the Prisoner of Azkaban, …and the Goblet of Fire, & …and the Order of the Phoenix, …and the Deathly Hallows, Part I was really rather dull & lifeless. I see exactly what K. Steeze meant when he described the book as little more than one hellaciously long camping trip. You would have to be enormously emotionally invested the characters, as are Sugar & Too Sly, not to have been bored to distraction.

Project OSPREY
I saw a little bit of the Purdue-Virginia Tech game at the chain restaurant prior to the overpriced cinematic boredom; I wish I could have seen more, bu the rules of Project MERCATOR are strict. There are two important things to note about this year's A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge: {a} The Big Ten won, 6-5! That's two in a row for the Great Lakes over the Eastern Seaboard! Woo hoo! {b} The dastardly Spartans, nominally of the Big Ten, lost, overcome by the A.C.C.'s Duke Blue Devils! Learned humility triumphed over prideful ignorance! Huzzah!

I love Project OSPREY.

The 38th Parallel
The Republic of Korea's (R.O.K., South Korea) intelligence services believe that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K., North Korea) is likely to strike again, a week after the bombardment of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong: The Amazing Kreskinlink. Wow! That's an astonishingly bold prediction in light of the aforementioned shelling... & the sinking of the Cheonan (which would have been an act of war if the two Koreas weren't already formally at war)... & the North's long history of belligerence. Predicting that North Korea will launch more unprovoked attacks against South Korea is about as bold as predicting that the Earth will continue turning. Of course North Korea will attack again! The only thing that will prevent continued North Korean aggression is a preemptive attack by the United States & South Korea (supported, it would be hoped, by long-standing U.S. allies like Australia & Japan). The D.P.R.K. is the most rogue of all rogue states, a Stalinist nightmare where black is white & day is night, a monstrosity as surreal as Airstrip One from Nineteen Eighty-four. There is no way to reason with the D.P.R.K., it must be isolated, weakened, & in time overthrown, in order for its population to be liberated &, 'tis hoped, reunified with the liberal & capitalist South.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Meghan Smith, "It Snowed" via iTunes, (free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The first snowfall on the first day of December. Perfect.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Michigan 69-61 Clemson
4-2, Big Ten 0-0

The nice thing about building up a sixteen-point halftime lead is that it gives you a cushion to withstand your opponents' comeback attempts. I was impressed by the nice shooting exhibited by the valiant Wolverines, but even more by their energetic, harrying defense. I'd never before heard of this Smotrycz kid, but I like the cut of his jib. A minor complaint: Is it really necessary to have "Hardaway, Jr." emblazoned on the back of Tim Hardaway, Jr.'s jersey? Is there another Hardaway on our roster with whom he is likely to be confused? (No, there's not. I checked.) I always love a win, especially a win over those arrogant punks in the A.C.C.

Go Blue!

Project OSPREY
Illinois 79-67 North Carolina

During the commercial breaks in the Michigan game, I flipped over to the other E.S.P.N. & saw Illinois come back from an early deficit against the Tar Heels. I like the way the A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge is shaping up: in addition to Michigan's & Illinois's triumphs, Ohio State prevailed over Florida State & Northwestern trumped Georgia Tech, though I must also acknowledge that Iowa fell to Wake Forest. What are Michigan State's chances tomorrow against Duke? Big Ten loyalty has never & will never extend to our cretinous little brothers in East Lansing, whose institution quite honestly does not live up to the academic standards of the rest of the Big Ten; so, I freely admit that I'll be pulling for the Blue Devils to wipe the floor with the dastardly Spartans. (My paternal grandmother graduated from Duke, allowing me to lay claim to some familial loyalty.) Get 'em, Coach K.!
The Victors: Project OSPREY - Halftime
Michigan 40-24 Clemson

I'm watching the A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge, & I can hardly believe my eyes. In the John Beilein era, & note that I'm a big fan of Coach Beilein, I've seen the valiant Wolverines (men's basketball edition) win & lose games forty-something to forty-something-slightly-less. Michigan scoring 40 in just one half? Incredible! Here's hoping the domination continues in the second twenty minutes.

Go Blue!
Master Debating
Samuel Clemens wrote (or said, I am unsure which), "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." That is as true in the weird subculture of debate as in the society at large. In the world of I.E. (Individual Events), the "speech" half of the former Speech & Debate Team, now just the Debate Team, suits are the order of the day for the lads. A suit, not trousers & a sportcoat. Waistcoats are fine, but you must be very careful about removing your suit coat; judges have been known to take a very dim view of any deviation from the traditional uniform. The dress code for the lasses permitted much more freedom of maneuver, as it does in all such cases involving business attire. The form of debate most closely tied to I.E., N.P.D.A., followed its sister competition's lead, & suits were all but mandatory.

Worlds-style debate is an entirely different & more anarchistic beast. Not knowing our way around the block last spring at Nationals (our first competition, at the University of Denver, infuriatingly & nonsensically initialized as "D.U." That's right, D.U., the University of Denver. Illiterate cretins.), we wore our standard I.E. garb. We quickly discovered that by and large we were overdressed. Now, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed, but consensus was swiftly reached that the suits were no longer necessary. Our fellow competitiors wore everything under the sun, from three-piece suits on one extreme to jeans, T-shirts, & sneakers on the other, with the big meaty part of the curve attired in the realms of smart casual & business casual. I wore my suit on the second day simply because I did not have any over pants that weren't blue jeans, & it would have looked odd to wear my suit pants & braces without the accompanying suit coat. But Too Sly ditched his jacket (he holds his suit pants up with a belt, not braces) & his partner at the time, the loathsome Warren, ditched his suit entirely, wearing a collared shirt & loosened tie with jeans, a ghastly hybridization to mine eyes. What we have worn since has varied & will continue to vary by venue.

At Claremont, my first competition partnered with Too Sly, we decided beforehand not to wear our suits, but to maintain a modicum of formality by wearing collared shirts & ties with trousers & dress shoes. We made this decision in part because we wished not be encumbered by coats in the pseudo-desert climate of far inland Los Angeles County. Over the course of the competition Too Sly came to feel somewhat vulnerable without his suit coat; so, debuting at Hart House (*shudder*) & continuing more recently at Adelphi, he has worn his suit & a collared shirt, but no tie. I attribute this partially to his very heavy background in I.E. At Claremont, even without coats, we were on the more formal end of the spectrum of attire. By contrast, Adelphi featured a higher percentage of full suits than any previous Worlds tournament. I think we can all deduce from this entirely expected cultural differences between the East Coast & the West Coast. As with every other part of the Horror of Hart House, nothing useful could be deduced from the attired donned by the competitors; the Canadians were a savage, unruly rabble, & as many of them wore filthy, holey T-shirts as starched collars & bow ties.

The guiding principle going forward: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The next time we go out west, I might very well leave the ties at home & go in true business casual, & even then I'll be far from the most informal cat in attendance. By the same token, the next time we go back east, I will almost certainly wear one or both of my new suits (belated birthday gifts; so, I suppose I should call them my birthday suits), because I know that's how our Ivy League competitors will be attired. During a round, what we wear is not nearly so important as what we say, but what we wear also says something about what we'll say & how seriously we take the whole enterprise. We've got a long way yet to go, but we're in it to win it, and that includes dressing the part.

The Last Angry Moustache & The Last Angry Mane
I don't know if the planned Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Third Time's the Harm (2014-1015) & Banzai Beard Bonanza IV: Four For Forty (2019-2020) will be necessary, because I enjoyed the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge & Magnificent Moustache Malarkey so much that I ceased shaving as soon as I completed the Crim Ten-Mile in late August. (Being cleanshaven was my little gift to Mrs. Skeeter, Esq., who urged me to run the Crim & who hates my moustache & beard like cancer.) I am terribly fond of how I look with a full set of facial hair, so much so that not having to shave is simply a bonus, not a higher-order motivation.

The one modification I've made since the B.B.B. II is shaving the pathetic linkage between my moustache & my beard. I will never be able to sport a properly villainous Van Dyke, what we mistakenly referred to as a "goatee" in the '90s, because I don't have a thick enough bed of hair connecting my moustache & my goatee (that hair which grows on the chin). And those too few hairs detracted from the clean line of my, if I may be immodest, magnificent moustache; so, I've carefully shaved them away, just as I do with the too few hairs on my cheeks. Bridging the gap between my moustache & my beard now is my imperial (or soul patch), fully integrated into the beard. I only shaved those hairs on Sunday, but already I'm pleased with how their absence has enhanced the "pop" of my swiftly curling moustache.

I've been letting my facial hair grow for three months now, a full month shy of Bonsai's Revenge; so, I cannot yet say with any certainly how long I'll let it all grow & at what length it will eventually stabilize. For the moment, banzai!

Mad As a Hatter
I've added a tweed flat cap to my wardrobe, the thought being that it will help provide warmth during those cold winter days & nights when it is not quite apocalyptically cold enough to necessitate wearing my ushanka.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
MxPx, "Lonesome Town" from the Renaissance E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Project PANDORA: Love/Hate
Many were the occasions during days past when I was too timorous to pursue the objects of my affection. Temerity is now the order of the day, replacing timorousness, but the results have yet to be substantially different. In the case of Love/Hate I did everything correctly in the pursuit of the object of my affection except for the single most basic action: I chose poorly the object of my affection.

I flirted with Love/Hate very, very well. From the first, I made clear my interest, not repeating the past mistake of "playing it cool" for so long that I never acted. I correctly inferred her interest, not repeating the past mistake of being oblivious 'til long after her interest has passed. (She made this easy during debate practices by asking to wear my straw trilby, a fairly obvious gesture.) Yet I did not rush, I took the time to scout out that she had a boyflesh, flirting all the same & doing what little undermining I could given that the relationship was already failing. I spoke to her of the Sixty Days of Healing; when she poo-pooed the notion, saying that she'd already been going through the process of recovery even before putting the past relationship out of its misery, I took her at her word. After all, her emotional health is her responsibility, not mine. She made the decision to be free of him & finally pulled the trigger, & I waited just a little while to make sure the break-up stuck. I asked her out on an old-fashioned date because I am an old-fashioned fellow, & that's when it all started to go wrong. But not in the way you're probably thinking.

I rang up Love/Hate & asked if I could take her out on a date, dinner & an exhibit at the F.I.A. She replied that she didn't think that was a good idea. Disappointing news, but simple to understand. And that's things took a turn toward the bizarre & the inexplicable. She didn't think I should take her out on a date, but countered by suggesting that we do the exact same activity that I'd suggested, at the same time as I'd suggested, just not as a date. Wait, what? At this point, the notion flitted crossed my mind that Love/Hate might be a psychopath. You won't go out with me, which must be a blow to me since I like you enough to have asked you out, but you want to do exactly what I'd planed for us to do on our date, except that it wouldn't be a date? Definitely a psychopath. Tut tut, another faction of my mind interjected, she might not be a psychopath, she simply might be so conceited as to think that I'd consider any time spent in her presence a gift, even if it wasn't exactly as I'd hoped. That's hardly any better, the Dark Bastard opined. The "conceited" faction replied defensively that it wasn't trying to make anything better, it wasn't looking for the most accurate theory for her bizarre behavior… but before the wrangling got any more farcical the moderator stepped in & reasserted the primacy of the matter at hand. I declined her perverse counteroffer, explain to her as if she was a particularly dimwitted child that it would be too weird for me to be on our exact date without it being our date. She once again signaled her complete failure to understand human emotion by being surprised that I declined her twisted counteroffer. I went to the F.I.A. by myself during the same time I'd planned to take her, because I really wanted to see the two temporary, traveling exhibitions on glass (Wayback Machine, "Project MERCATOR"); so, I still accomplished one of my two objectives for that particular outing. All things considered, far from the worst possible result.

A week later, Love/Hate seemed to change her mind. She suggested we "hang out" after she got out of work, & when we met she was wearing a very flattering short black dress. (Love/Hate is a very jeans-and-sweater kind of girl.) We repaired to the F.I.A., because she wanted to see the exhibitions I'd intended us to see on our proposed date. We went through the museum paying far more attention to each other than to the art. My sense of things, both at the time & today, knowing all that I now know, is that she thought we were on a date. After the museum, we had a quick dinner & stopped by Ziggy's for comically large cones of ice cream; this was July, & hilarity ensued as we fought losing battles against time & our swiftly melting ice cream. We came laughing into debate practice together, & afterwards repaired to Blackstone's for drinks with the rest of the team. A short while later, Love/Hate had had too much to drink to be able drive & suggested that I leave my motorcar, Lumi, on campus & drive her back to her apartment in her motorcar; in the morning, she'd drive me back to Lumi on her way to work. The mechanics of the thing be damned, the point is that she wanted me to spend the night at her place, even knowing my stance against pre-marital sex. (Perhaps hoping to entice me into abandoning that stance?) We will never know, because—Did I say "mechanics"?—Lumi picked that moment to suffer a mechanical failure & do what the Mousemobile never did: leave me stranded on the side of the road (Wayback Machine, "Autobahn"). She & The Most Dangerous Game, who was going to ferry Love/Hate to where I parked Lumi on campus & then ferry us both to Love/Hate's automobile, stuck around waiting with me for the wrecker to fetch Lumi. By the time my turncoat motorcar was all hooked up, & I'd made it clear that I could not abandon my vehicle, Love/Hate felt sobered up enough to drive herself home (casting her story into an even more dubious light, making it seem all the more a ruse to get me back to her place & recapture the opportunity she'd let slip a week earlier).

By this point, I had no idea what to think, though going off in the back of my mind were the "bells & a siren" Jeremy told Casey would alert them to any important changes in the Continental Corp. stock price in the days before C.S.C. was put up for sale (eventually to be bought by Calvin Trager's Quo Vadimus). The day after our "date" & aborted night together, I helped Love/Hate look at new apartments closer to campus than her then-current digs. We constantly exchanged text messages & had lengthy telephone conversations, but I never again asked her out on a date. I've ignored my "gut" instinct & come to grief more times than I can to recall, & was determined not to do the same here. I'd taken my shot at Love/Hate & been unceremoniously rejected; her continued overtures tripped the "Red Signal" Dame Agatha warned must be heeded. If she thought she'd erred & wanted a second chance, it was incumbent upon her to say so explicitly. Or at least to say something, to say anything (*wink*).

With the arrival of the fall, Love/Hate brought a prospective teammate to debate practice, the Dragonslayer, & Too Sly, Sugar (formerly code named "The Regina"), & I knew it was only a matter of time before they began dating. Love/Hate hosted the whole team at her apartment (she eventually settled on a unit in the same suburban complex where she already lived) to watch episodes of the television series Ghost Adventures, which she rather disturbingly believes provides clear evidence of ghosts & spectral activity. When I left, only she & the Dragonslayer remained, & she joked that they were now going to start making out. There's no reason to think that life didn't imitate art. Whilst out in La-La-Land, Love/Hate found a moment to isolate me from the group as a lioness isolates a wildebeest & told me that she was dating the Dragonslayer (Wayback Machine, "Master Debating"). Well, duh. She said this as if it would be I wouldn't have already known, as if they hadn't already been holding hands as they left practice for at least a fortnight. I said I knew, using my most gentle tone. She shifted nervously & said that she wanted me to know, "because we (she & I) were supposed to date." "Supposed to date"?! You flatly rejected me, you lunatic! But because she's young & I was ever-more convinced that I'd dodged a bullet, I said in the gentle, reassuring tone, "I want you to be happy." Her relief was apparent & her expression betrayed considerable gratitude, for what I'm not sure. Because I hadn't erupted into a fury? Over what, someone else having her? Every time I think she couldn't be any more conceited… no, none of that, there's no profit in such speculation.

Skip ahead to early this month. After Claremont & Hart House, all-expenses-paid trips to Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. & Toronto, Ontario, the Canadas, Love/Hate had discovered she was "too busy" (& winning was too hard) to continue on the team. The Dragonslayer informed us shortly before our all-expenses-paid trip to Toronto that he was graduating in December & wouldn't be continuing after that weekend. It looked an awful lot like U. of M.-Flint had gotten played by some rather crafty students, though that devious explanation need not necessarily be true. Sugar was describing to Too Sly & your humble narrator the manner in which dating the Dragonslayer had changed Love/Hate's behavior as Sugar's friend, & not for the better. Sugar casually mentioned that over the summer Love/Hate had been interested in me, & spoken openly of wanting to date me, even before she'd ditched her then-boyflesh. I feigned surprise in a ruse to draw more out of Sugar. Too Sly added that he, too, had known Love/Hate liked me. Sugar reiterated Love/Hate's interest, but wouldn't cut to the chase; so, I had to ask, "So, why'd she turn me down when I asked her out?" Sugar hemmed & hawed about my Catholicism & Love/Hate's purportedly broadminded atheism. (Love/Hate makes loud noises denouncing "tolerance," saying it isn't enough for people to tolerate each other, they must "accept" each other.) I again had to eschew subtlety, "Because she knew I wouldn't fuck her?" (Mayhap I should have said, "Because she knew I wouldn't have sex with her?") According to Sugar, it was not my desire to be chaste specifically, but my Catholicism generally that gave Love/Hate pause. Long before I asked her out, she groused "If only he wasn't Catholic!" I've rarely faced such open discrimination against my religious beliefs. One might even say I was persecuted for my faith?

So, that's how I was attracted to & wanted to date Love/Hate, she was attracted to & wanted to date me, & we wound up not dating. She's still with the Dragonslayer & expends a good deal of energy complaining about her life. In a recent I.M. chat, I asked her how all was faring; she replied, & pardon the French, "shitty." By contrast, I'm rather pleased with how my life is faring. I've complaints, of course, but they're mere trifling inconveniences. (And I do hail from a family of dedicated & imaginative grousers; so, if I didn't have anything at all about which to complain I'd complain about that inability to complain. Wilsons, we're resourceful!) So, though of course it is in my self-interest to put the most positive spin on these events, that self-interest doesn't require any chicanery or skulduggery. There was a time when I wanted to kiss Love/Hate. That time has passed. In retrospect, she runs afoul of the Hot-Crazy Scale, being not nearly hot enough to offset her possible psychopathy.

Project PANDORA persists.

The holiday weekend was huge for MERCATOR, with The Loose Ties, cross-references into non-Love/Hate chapters of Project PANDORA, the cinema, & a very special guest appearance by my boon companion The Guy. Watch this blog for further details!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Proclaimers, "It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)" from Notes & Rhymes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love sad country songs by non-country bands.

"It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman,
'Til I started looking for mine."

Consistent progress is being made toward fulfilling a now month-old "to do" list (Wayback Machine, "Coming Attractions"). Bully! Slow & steady wins the race.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This episode returns "The Explorers Club" to weekly publication, as we have successfully caught up from the rueful December '09 to May '10 silence. "And there was much rejoicing."

The Explorers Club
No. CCXI - Operation MINCEMEAT, a masterstroke of deception & the basis for the book & motion picture The Man Who Never Was.

The Victors
(No. 8) Ohio State 37-7 Michigan
7-5, Big Ten 3-5

The bad news: The worst part of yesterday's game is that we really, truly had a chance. If we hadn't made so many mistakes—for example, if Roy Roundtree hadn't dropped so damned many passes—we honestly could have beaten the hated Buckeyes. That would have been an enormous step toward restoring our national prestige, which has taken a drubbing the last four years (it all started under Coach Carr, with the loss to Appalachian State), but especially over the last three. But we didn't take that step, instead we practiced the same lamentable self-sabotage that has been, as much as anything else, the hallmark of the Rich Rod era. Drat! Drat! Drat!

The good news: Three of our five losses came to teams that finished tied for the Big Ten championship & ranked within the top ten in the A.P. poll. Clearly, we are not yet ready for prime time. But, against middling opposition the valiant Wolverines posted much more respectable records of 7-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten. We aren't back to being the Michigan of yore, but considerable progress has been made since the dark days of '08. If we can manage to field a defense that's middle-of-the-road as far as overall rank in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (what used to be called Division I-A) instead of perilously close to dead last, the valiant Wolverines will be damned hard to beat.

The better good news: The season isn't over in November! There is yet a bowl game for which we must prepare. It's only one of many steps to once again being the Michigan we are supposed to be, but it's one step we have taken. Woot!

The worse bad news: What do I hate even more than losing to the hated Buckeyes? Losing to the hated Buckeyes by thirty #@*%ing points. Thirty #@*%ing points!? Are you #@*%ing kidding me?! #@*%!

Coming Attractions
Rich Rod: "To be or not to be."

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: 'Tis the first Sunday of Advent. Note that there are three separate recordings of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" on Songs for Christmas; today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is the purely instrumental rendition, 1:06 in duration.

Samstag, 27 November
Reel Big Fish, "Beer" from Turn the Radio Off (The Guy & T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I had the supreme privilege of spending last evening in the company of my boon companion The Guy, & in the course of the night a strong case was made for the candidacies of "Zak and Sara" & "Rockin' the Suburbs," both by Ben Folds, but in the end it was "Beer" that we sang as walked, shivering in the winter chill, from The Torch to where I'd parked Lumi. An appropriate "Project MERCATOR" post is forthcoming.

"She looks like Heaven,
Maybe this is Hell."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Operation AXIOM: The Explorers Club
Four years ago to the day, 27 November 2006, "The Explorers Club" was added to The Secret Base's ever-evolving* repertoire. Why did I initiate "The Explorers Club"? Because nothing is more fun than learning, not skanking at a ska show, not riding on a roller coaster, not kissing a beautiful girl. Nothing. Four years &—because of the weekly publication schedule & the number of weeks in a year—more then two hundred episodes later, I've learned quite a bit. I hope you're learned much, too. The world is an almost infinite place of wonder & woe, & in our modern age not even the sky is the limit.

Thank you for your kind readership over the last four years. I look forward to the next four years… & beyond. And please do me one more small kindness, though in truth it is no small thing: never stop exploring. In the immortal words of the M.C. Bat Commander, "There's so much to learn!"

*Ever-evolving instead of "ever-expanding" because some erstwhile features of The Secret Base are, well, erstwhile, such as "Parker Posey Appreciation Day" (not that I appreciate her any less) & "Retroactively Making Star Trek: Voyager Good."

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Victors
(No. 6) Wisconsin 48-28 Michigan
7-4, Big Ten 3-4

I didn't see last weekend's crushing-but not unexpected defeat at the hands of the pesky Badgers, but I felt as if I did because while I was master debating at Adelphi on Long Island my father did leave me three voicemails, keeping me constantly updated on the Big Ten action as it happened. One voicemail isn't really necessary, as I can catch up on the scores once I'm back into my usual online routine, & three is outrageous, but I do appreciate the oddly-expressed affection behind the bombardment.

Upon the morrow, the valiant Wolverines face our most dread foe, the hated Buckeyes of THE University of Ohio State. (For crying out loud, the fiendish simpletons don't even know the proper name of their own "school"!) What need be said but "Go Blue!"?

Go Blue!

I had the first Guinness of the season this evening after a glorious dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers. "Guinness is good for you."

Climate should not be confused with weather, but the chance for snark is irresistible: Man alive, the soaring temperatures on our warming Earth are a bother! Snowlink. "The U.K. has seen the earliest widespread snowfall for 17 years."

The Queue
A Man Called INTREPID was abandoned as dreck. Were I to live a thousand years there would still be insufficient time to read everything I'd want to read; so, there's not a moment to be wasted on such claptrap. I am ruthless & fearless in selecting my reading material. A decided advantage of debate weekends: they're the only occasions upon which I can summon the vim to read The Economist cover to cover. I am still sorting out how properly to accommodate magazines both within my queue & under the banner of "The Queue."

Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War (abandoned, XPD)

Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line
Len Deighton, Spy Sinker

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This evening, I watched six episodes of the appalling, laughably bad television crime drama Criminal Minds. But, hey, at least I got to see C. Thomas Howell as a serial killer, "the Boston Reaper," one of the better screen imitations I've seen of the Zodiac Killer (though, of course, clearly not as good as the ultimate screen imitation, Andrew "plain, simple Garak" Robinson as the Scorpio in Dirty Harry). I was disappointed by the small size of Howell's role on this season (in the first half-season) of Psych; so, today's viewing was a nice, completely unexpected bit of compensation. Where was I? Right. The title sequence of Criminals Minds, which is a really, truly terrible television show, features a fleeting image of Gacy, inspiring today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Any excuse to listen to Illinois is good enough for me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCX - Major John André (1750-1780), man about town in Redcoat-occupied Philadelphia & New York, hanged as a spy for conspiring in Benedict Arnold's treason.

Master Debating
Continued from Tuesday…

Adelphi & the Oracle
As soon as Too Sly & I saw the draw for our semifinal round, we knew a certainty that we would not be advancing to the finals. It was not the competition at which we blanched, but of the the three-member judges' panel. We'd seen her before & we knew what to expect. She judged us at Claremont, & while I cannot recall precisely what ranks & scores she gave us, she did not look favorably upon our arguments. She was also the judging chairman in the fifth round at Adelphi, a round in which we though we'd earned the 1, or at worst the 2, but she gave us the 3, and atrocious speaker points to boot. I could say that she just doesn't like us, but that would be unfair as I have no idea what her personal feelings are. What I will say, though, is that she has very different ideas about what constitutes a laudable performance in a Worlds round. And I do not mean different ideas from Too Sly, The M.A.P., & I, but also very different ideas from the chairman of our semifinal round, a highly respected coach who had a team advance to the finals (from the other semifinal round, the one he didn't judge), who came up to us after the announcement & claimed that he'd fought for us in the adjudication, all for naught. Too Sly & I need to work harder to figure out exactly what she's looking for in a round, & we need to do those things the next time she's our judge, but we also need to ignore completely her critiques, because the things about our performance that she criticizes are exactly those things that other judges praise, the things that earned us one 1, three 2's, & no 4's in the six prelim. rounds at Adelphi. Of our two 3's, we solidly earned one by the one-two punch of being totally psyched out by the resolution & totally psyched out by being in a round against two of the teams that advanced to the finals, including the eventually tournament champions; we choked under the pressure of that round, there's nothing for it now but not to do so again in a similar circumstance. She, the judge in question, gave us the other 3, the only one of our scores—including our failure to advance out of the semifinal round—with which we flatly disagree.

She also gave me my lowest speaking score of the tournament; speaking scores aren't as important as ranks, but they act as the tiebreaker when it comes time to break, & individual speaker awards are handed out prior to the final round. My scores through the other five prelim' rounds were 76, 77, 77, 77, 76. She gave me a 74. She also gave a kid we saw in at least three of our rounds, from a partnership that also broke, with the eighth seed, losing in the other semifinal, a 78. And his team got the 1, while we got the 3. When speaker awards were awarded, he was in a two-man tie for tenth place. I finished twelfth, three points behind him, 457 to his 460. That 74 killed my chances, just as that 78 saved his. His highest score, my lowest score. Like I said, she's ranking & scoring by different criteria than the other judges. Neither Too Sly nor I got a 78 in the round in which we "one'd," though to his credit he did earn a 78 in one of our numerous 2 rounds. Too Sly finished in a three-way tie for seventh, with 461; good for him, we didn't walk away empty-handed. (Of course, we earned a framed certificate from our semifinal round; so, even without Too Sly's speaker plaque we wouldn't have walked away "empty-handed," but he truly deserved that plaque, soon to go into the trophy case The M.A.P. is setting up to show off our "hardware.")

The Horror of Hart House
The organizers of the Hart House Invitational proudly call their event the H.H.Iv., though of course in the modern fashion they render it without the necessary periods as "HHIV." I could not look at this without wondering what exactly the extra H in "H. H.I.V." stood for. "Hyper H.I.V."?

That bit of careless blundering aside, there is some question as to which part of the Horror of Hart House was most offensive: the not-quite-naked-but-hardly-subtle bias against Americans or the piss-poor organization. My apologies, that's not quite fair. The vast, vast majority of the Horror was dreadfully disorganized, but a few portions were superbly planned & executed. The rounds themselves were a shambles. The organizers had booked rooms that were entirely unsuitable to holding a Worlds-style debate, especially the rooms within Hart House itself; this was especially irksome as the organizing body was the Hart House Debating Club. Was it really too much to ask for the Hart House Debating Club to be familiar with the premises of Hart House? The rooms outside the architecturally charming Hart House were universally quite sufficient, but for the trifling detail that they were located halfway across the vast University of Toronto campus. Worlds works like so: all the competitors gather in a single room, some manner of auditorium be preferable, for topic announcement. After the round's resolution has been read aloud several times for everyone to jot down, a fifteen-minute countdown begins. Once that period has elapsed, the Prime Minister must make his proposal in support of the resolution, "in a speech not to exceed seven minutes." Partnerships disperse to prepare away from the prying ears of all their rival partnerships. Those fifteen minutes of preparation are rather more difficult when you must schlep across the U. of T. campus for ten minutes to find your room. Why did we return to Hart House after even round when the majority of debaters would just have to take the long walk again at the beginning of the next round? Why wasn't topic announcement over in that faraway building, where most of the competition took place?

The wait between rounds was interminable. Over the course of Friday & Saturday, five rounds were held. For comparison, eight rounds were held in an equivalent span of time at Claremont, & Claremont was organized by Californian hippies; last weekend at Adelphi, we did five rounds in a single day. There was no reason for the Horror's elongated schedule, especially as it left us spending an inordinate amount of time just sitting in the Debates Room, the quasi-auditorium that hosted topic announcement. In his poem "If—," Rudyard Kipling counsels, "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…." I strove mightily, but fighting the fatigue imposed by boredom left me vulnerable to creeping bitterness over the injustice being visited upon Too Sly & me by the Canadian judges. I could fight boredom or bitterness, but not both; so, by the end of the third round I had entirely ceased caring about the outcome of our debates. I continued to strive mightily, but only out of self-respect. I had resigned myself to the inevitability of low scores, regardless of how well or how poorly I debated. My fatalistic attitude was shared by Too Sly, normally the soul of cockeyed optimism & boundless positivity. His discouragement shook me far more than did mine own.

The resolutions, also, were awful. The rooms were insufficient or ludicrously distant; the wait between rounds was so atrociously long that the organizers felt it necessary to take attendance before each topic announcement, just in case, I suppose, someone had given up in frustration & gone back to their hotel; and the resolutions were laughable. But what of the superb organization cited above? The tournament was indefensible rubbish, but the "extracurricular" social activities were planned to the last detail. They didn't know the layout of any of the rooms in Hart House, rooms right around the corner from the Debates Room, I must add, but the first announcement after welcome on Friday was which campus bar would be playing host to the official unofficial H.H.Iv. bacchanalia that evening. Saturday night featured a rubber chicken dinner in the ornate Great Hall of Hart House. All were invited to "dress to the nines;" I went in a T-shirt & blue jeans. Spite! Some of you may be thinking that the night's drinking should be the most important part of any debate tournament, right? Let me suggest that such an attitude would have served you well during rush at your frat. A garbage tournament with well-coordinated nightly drinking is much like having an automobile with neither an engine nor seats, but a bitchin' sound system.

There is, even after all this, yet one more thing to detest about not just the Horror of Hart House, but the horror of Hart House. On the exterior of the building, hanging over the main entrance, is a large neon sign of a heart. The elevators inside are etched with harts, a delightful play on the name of Hart Massey, after whom Hart House is named, but the exterior sports not a hart, but an insipid heart. Education & the cultivation of intelligence must lie rather far from the University of Toronto's core mission.

As long as I live, I hope never again to suffer the insult that is inherent in crossing into the wretched, despicable Canadas.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Thanksgiving Day
Susan Egan, "The Turkey and the Stuffing" from Winter Tracks (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: If our laws permitted such unions, I'd marry Susan Egan's voice tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Project OSPREY
Connecticut 84-67 Kentucky (No. 9)

This evening, in the championship game of the Maui Invitational, I watched UConn dismantle Kentucky with clockwork precision. I've no particular affection for the Huskies, nor any specific long-term animus toward the Wildcats, but I do so enjoy seeing any John Calipari-coached team lose. And better yet if they lose by a margin such as tonight's. If only I'd had the foresight to watch Tuesday's UConn-Michigan State (No. 2) game, another upset win over a top-ten team by the unranked Huskies!

Tonight's game was a splendid way to inaugurate the 2010-2011 edition of Project OSPREY; it's going to be a gay old time between now & the Madness. Woot!

I'm almost done with the Beck's I picked up in response to Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.'s challenge to break away from my usual spring-and-fall Dutch beers, Grolsch & Heineken (necessary because very few pubs serve the superior Grolsch), & try some Belgian & German beers. The first round of experimentation went so poorly for Belgium that I haven't held a second; the weather has at long last grown cold enough for Guinness (Hooray!), but I might give the Belgians a chance to redeem themselves after the spring thaw. In the meantime, a question: What about Boddingtons? Winter's the season for the brews of the British Isles, is Boddingtons worth a test drive?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ivy, "Ocean City Girl" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It's not a Fountains of Wayne song, but it's sort of a Fountains of Wayne song. I must make a point of looking further into Ivy's music.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Master Debating
I spent the majority of the weekend immediately past on Long Island, with a unexpected & most unwelcome stay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin tacked onto the end. After the horror of Hart House, there were not intended to be any more debate team travel until February, but those plans were changed by a brainwave that came to The M.A.P., our coach. Too Sly, my partner, & I had been partnered (sundering my previous debate partnership with The Most Dangerous Game) by The M.A.P. specifically because we are the two most talented master debaters on our squad. Having demonstrated some degree of talent not just in practice but also in anger at Claremont (Wayback Machine [scroll down, jolly hyperlinkers]) & Hart House, The M.A.P. reasoned that we were worth his while; so, he'd coach us up as best he could, demanding certain performance goals from us instead of just acting as a cheerleader to keep us on the team. Thus, instead of meeting each week for a rather dismal practice round (no offense is intended to the others, but my partner & I don't derive much benefit from shellacking them week after week), we'd meet in what we quickly dubbed "salon" for more in depth indoctrination in philosophy & argumentative theory. The second part of this plan was to travel with a smaller squad to more frequent tournaments. This weekend's foray into the inaugural Adelphi University Brown & Gold Debates was the first competition under the new strategy.

The big news out of Adelphi is that Too Sly & your humble narrator "broke," meaning we advanced out of the preliminary rounds into the elimination or "out" rounds (the playoffs), for the first time! At Denver (last spring), Claremont, & Hart House, no U of M-Flint team had broken. However brief that history may be, we made program history! Adelphi was a smaller tournament that the other three we'd attended, but there were still plenty of heavy-hitters from Portland State (Oregon), St. John's (N.Y.C.), & Seattle (no specification needed, right?) in attendance. Of the twenty-four two-man squads in competition, eight broke into the semifinals. After what Too Sly & I thought was an unfair 3 in the last preliminary round on Saturday (there was one more prelim. round on Sunday), we did not think much of our chances of breaking; but, we were determined to do our best in Sunday morning's lone prelim. round, however forlorn the cause. We earned the 2, & were apparently in contention for the 1. Neat! When the break was announced, we were solidly in fifth place; we'd thought we might just squeak in as the eighth seed. I love it when I'm wrong.

To be continued…

The Horror of Hart House
Alas, I might never get to a proper recounting of the horror of Hart House. I hope that some succor might be taken from this excerpt of an email written to Comrade Coquettish shortly before her team departed for a tournament at the University of British Columbia.

I first caution that we were at Hart House at the University of Toronto, in the heart of Canada's population centers; British Columbia is quite a ways from the shores of Lake Ontario & attitudes & customs in the Canadian west might be very different from those in the Canadian east. That said, were we doomed from the word go because of two interrelated factors: {a} We were Americans & {b} We were outsiders to the clubby & cloistered Canadian debate culture. Perhaps 2/3 of the teams were from Canadian universities, with 1/3 from American colleges, yet only one American team broke from quarterfinals into semifinals, compared to seven Canadian teams. I am by no means saying that as Americans we had a right to advance, but the prevailing impression left by the Canadian judges was that as Americans we had no right to advance. American teams that we saw excel at both Denver (Nationals) & Claremont could get no traction at Hart House; so, at minimum the Canadians judge rounds based on considerably different criteria than are used in the States. Though you attend an American school, my hope for you is that because neither you nor your partner are American the location of Willamette will not be held against you.

In the first three rounds (with open adjudication), my partner & I earned three consecutive 3's. None of the judges were able to articulate why we'd gotten the 3, they just felt that the Canadian teams with whom they were on a first-name basis deserved the 2's & 1's. I know that my partner & I still have a lot to learn about Oxford-style debate, & Hart House was only our third tournament, but across all five rounds at Hart House the adjudicating process was vastly different than what what we saw in six rounds at Nationals & in eight rounds at Claremont (only a fortnight before Hart House). The two 4's that my partner & I received at Claremont were two of the most instructional rounds we've seen; both times, the chair clearly illuminated our faults, spelled out our shortcomings, & gave us a roadmap to future improvement. I put forth a mighty effort to discern by what criteria we were judged at Hart House, but I came away absolutely clueless. Our trip to Toronto had no pedagogical value, and that's just sad. (We do not know the results of the last two rounds, which featured closed adjudication so that breaks would be a "surprise." Almost two weeks later, the ranks from the last are still not available.)

Of the three elements that are supposed to matter in Oxford-style/Worlds debate—matter, manner, & role fulfillment—the Canadians don't care a whit about role fulfillment. Whips gave Member speeches, Member speeches were 100% rebuttal & contained no new matter, P.M.s weren't punished for leaving behind them a muddle in which no one knew what precisely was being debated, it was bedlam. Manner was also of no importance, and having an organization to your speech was viewed with some scorn & venom. All that was left was matter, but even then it did not seem as if there was any concern over how well analyzed or supported an argument was, all that mattered was whether the judge personally agreed with it. I am the first to admit when I have fouled up in a round, & to admit that I still have lots to learn about what judges are looking for, but I have absolutely no clue what my partner & I could have done differently to produce different scores. My question is why we were even invited if we weren't to be afforded a fighting chance?

I sincerely hope that your experience in British Columbia is nothing like my experience in Ontario. You have my apologies for the bitter tone of this email, but I could not in good conscience have presented the whitewashed version of events. Best wishes.

Never again will I look upon the Canadas as "the Great White North," a land of boundless cheer & friendliness. I now know better. The Canadian soul is dark & hostile &, above all else, petty. The Canadas are an awful, cursed place, a place I despise & to which I sincerely hope never to return.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Wally Dogger, "Never Let the Good Times End" from I Surrender, When Do I Start? (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A guide to the proper use of irony.

Montag, 22 November
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" from Straight Outta Lynwood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I was not trapped in the drive-thru line, but I was trapped at the Milwaukee airport & going nowhere fast.

Sonntag, 21 November
Fountains of Wayne, "No Better Place" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I had the supreme pleasure of seeing Mrs. & Mr. Skeeter, Esqs. on Sunday evening, & I thought they'd appreciate the condemnation of my failure thus far to relocate to the Big Apple that can be inferred from these lines:

"And now you're leaving New York
For no better place."

Samstag, 20 November
Vampire Weekend, "Walcott" from Vampire Weekend (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 19 November
Reel Big Fish, "New York, New York" from Cheer Up! (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCIX - Nathan Hale (1755-1776), "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

A rather appropriate subject for a day that finds me quite near, & at some point possibly within the boundaries of, Old New Amsterdam.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCVIII - Francis Gary Powers (1929-1977) & the U-2 Incident.

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


"Well, he showed up at the house again,
And I knew in that instant it was the end
Because he brought along the Skipper and his navy friends.
And they grabbed me by my arms and my legs,
Then they tied me up and shoved me in a beer keg,
And set me out to sea, never to return.

Don't leave me all alone,
Who knows what I'll do?
All this time, I never knew!

My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan, yeah, Gilligan,
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
Yeah, Gilligan.
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan, yeah, Gilligan,
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan.

Honey, baby, sugar pie,
Why'd you leave me for the little buddy?
What is it about this guy that you think is so rad?
Is it his white hat? Is it his red shirt?
Or is it his love for coconut cream pies?

Don't leave me all alone,
Who knows what I'll do?
All this time, I never never knew!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am so sick of visiting the Wikipedia & seeing the banner ad, "Please Read: A personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales." I have! And until far more progress is made toward the completion of Project RADIANT, I am not going to make a donation. They can't expect me to feel pangs of guilt over being a freeloader, can they? The name of the bloody thing is Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Free! This is even more annoying than N.P.R. pledge drive week.

Fortune favors the bold.

Apologies, no time today to finish "Say 'Aloha!' to Ska," nor to recount the last two roller derby bouts. As soon as possible, but I traverse vast distances this weekend.

The Queue
A Man Called INTREPID is off to a disquieting start. I understood going in that author William Stevenson was very sympathetic toward his subject, the spymaster Sir William Stephenson, but the figure I am being presented with in the book is not merely heroic but superhuman. A superman, or possibly Superman; Theseus, Daedalus, & Adonis rolled up into one too-perfect man. Maybe I've a nasty, suspicious mind, but I smell a rat.

Len Deighton, Mexico Set
Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink

William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War

Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line

Lumi is in the shop, where the mechanics are chasing down a coolant/anti-freeze leak that is causing a variety of malfunctions. It is refusing adamantly to be located, the coward. In the meantime, my father has been kind enough to permit me to drive his Impala. Interesting this about that car: it's not just one Impala, but two. My father has spend years "tuning" his Impala into a performance machine, including lowering the suspension to the point that the wheels rub up against the wheel wells. (If my father was half as clever as he thinks he is, he'd possess a truly formidable intellect; as it is, like me, he's just smart enough to get himself in over his head.) While poking around the Impala, his favorite mechanic discovered that the frame was rusted to a perilous & shocking degree. So, last Christmas, we drove to the far side of Cleveland where he bought a second, nearly identical Impala on the (relative) cheap. But my father didn't just replace the first Impala with the second, nothing so mundane, he's having the aforementioned favorite mechanic & his minions take the best bits from each motorcar two create two bizarre hybrid automobiles, & not in the popular "green" sense. I've dubbed the current vehicle, more the second Impala than the first, the "Frankimpala" or "Frankenpala" (I've not yet nailed down the spelling), a portmanteau of Frankenstein—though of course I mean not Frankenstein but his Monster, not to be confused with my friend-again Frankenstein's Monster—and Impala. But I should not complain, beggars cannot be choosers; the ongoing repairs to Lumi are not yet essential, but they would have been sooner or later, & in such situations the earlier 'tis caught the cheaper 'tis to repair.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Four Tops, "Reach Out I'll be There" from Motown 1's (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Either "Reach Out, I'll Be There" or "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" would be acceptable, but "Reach Out I'll Be There" is a mess. Damned fine song, whatever the title.

"I'll be there,
To give you all the love you need.
And I'll be there,
You can always depend on me."