Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A whale of a tale: Leviathan melvillei.


The Queue
As astounding a find as the Leviathan melvillei is, I'm not quite ready to resume Moby-Dick: or, The Whale by the fossil's namesake, Herman Melville.

Ian Fleming, Octopussy & The Living Daylights
Sebastian Faulks, Devil May Care
W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: or, The British Agent

Len Deighton, Horse Under Water

Christopher Andrew, Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
Len Deighton, ?

After Pretty in Ink, I'll probably read more Deighton, either the other novels starring the nameless protagonist (and first-person narrator) of Horse Under WaterThe IPCRESS File, Funeral in Berlin, & Billion-Dollar Brain—or the first of the Bernard Samson trilogy of trilogies, but I'm thinking it will take me quite a while to get through Defend the Realm, leaving me with plenty of time to decide which way to jump.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "You Left Right?" from Pin Points and Gin Joints (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I'm so happy that The Bosstones are back.

"Are you regretful?
(Are ya?)
Are you remorseful?
(Are ya?)
Are you successful?
(Well, are ya—)
Just trying to make it through?
Did your whole world just shatter?
Are you happy or sadder?
Does it really matter?
Did I matter to you?

And did I ever matter to you?"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

After the Malarkey
It's still early days, yes, too soon to draw any conclusions or make any decisions, but at this moment I cannot deny that I miss my moustache. Two days on, my shorn face doesn't look right, even though it's the face that stared back at me from the mirror up until six months ago. Has a bridge been crossed? Is there no going back? Am I a facial hair guy now? (Not referring to the imperial that I've sported beneath my lower lip for most of the last dozen years.) Early days, early days. Or, in the words of the supervillain Deadshot from Keith Giffen's brief, brilliant Suicide Squad, "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it." (Quite coincidentally, because I've loved that quote since first I read it seven or eight years ago, Deadshot, real name: Floyd Lawson, sports a pencil moustache underneath his costume's full face mask.)

I'm not including the snapshots taken on Day 49 (a week hence), because my mother chose not to focus the X-700 during that series and the photographs are quite blurry. I'm assuming this was an artistic choice on her part, not simple negligence. (Those wishing to see those photos may find them on the Farcebook.) For the photographs posted below, taken on Day 54, the end of the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey, I angled the X-700's flash by forty-five degrees. This made the shadows cast by the flash much less harsh and also more accurately captured my hair color; with the straight-on flash, my hair appeared much darker than true. The downside of this accuracy is that the pencil moustache is not as distinct as it would have been with the artificial darkening of the previous flash setting. That's a shame, because the pencil worked much better than I'd thought it would. Behold!

And now, the moustache wax.

The "cop" moustache, seen by society as reasonable, even though it is almost intolerably dull.

I was confronted with a choice. I could experiment with either the pencil moustache or the toothbrush moustache, but not both. No offense to Charlie Chaplin, but I went with Errol Flynn.

And a little bit of pith helmet-style fun with the straw Trilby I've been using to defend myself against the onslaught of the Accursed Sun.

And then, the party was over. Six months to the day after the beginning of the Banzai Beard Bonanza II, the curtain fell on the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey.

I used not to have a widow's peak, but with my receding hairline I'm beginning to look like Doc Savage. Mike Wilson, the Man of Bronze?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey, the epilogue to the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge, a bit of tomfoolery five years in the offing, a six-month run of biological process and grooming as performance art. I hope you enjoyed the show; myself, I had more fun than was allowed by law in Salazar's Portugal. Thank you for your interest, for your comments, and for your kind attention.

What does the Japanese word banzai mean? "Ten thousand years." In Western culture, we'd render the meaning as "long live." Long live the Bonanza, long live the Malarkey, long live my beard, long live my moustache. Banzai.


The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "You Gotta Go!" from A Jackknife to a Swan (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 28 Juni
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Over the Eggshells" from Pay Attention (T.L.A.M.)


"I don't give a fuck about the apple cart,
I'll upset everyone."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Magnificent Moustache Malarkey
Day 54: Today, six months to the day since commencing the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge, I marched my moustache out into the the courtyard, allowed it to smoke one last cigarette while the firing squad mustered, tied a blindfold behind its head, and then raised my sword and ordered my men to fire. My moustache, itself a fan of the late actor Edward Woodward, uttered as its last words the last words attributed to "Breaker" Morant by the film Breaker Morant (with Woodward in the titular role): "Shoot straight, you bastards! Don't make a mess of it!" I like Breaker Morant very much, but I wish it hadn't said what it did, as I was trying to foster more of a Beau Geste/French Foreign Legion motif.

No bother. I am now clean-shaven, which after six months of the Bonanza & the Malarkey looks exceedingly peculiar. I certainly look younger, though at my age I wonder if that's not undesirable. Photographs are forthcoming, they shall be deposited at the drugstore first thing Monday.

The Explorers Club
No. CLXVII - The Pergamon Museum, Part III: The Market Gate of Miletus & Berlin's Museum Island.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Impression That I Get" from Let's Face It (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: No retrospective would be complete without The Bosstones' greatest commercial success. As Dicky Barrett says by way of introduction to "The Impression That I Get" on Live from the Middle East, "I think we know this fucking song."

"I never had to knock on wood,
But I know someone who has,
Which makes me wonder if I could,
It makes me wonder if I—
Never had to knock on wood,
And I'm glad I haven't yet,
Because I'm sure it isn't good,
That's the impression that I get.

I'm not a coward I've just never been tested,
I'd like to think that if I was I would pass.
Look at the tested and think,
'There but for the Grace go I,'
Might be a coward, I'm afraid of what I might find out."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Queue
Reading Ashenden is a sheer delight after the drudgery of the latter stages of the Fleming canon and the unadulterated horror of Faulks's hackery. Also, I've jumped ahead and sneaked a peek at the first ten or so pages of Horse Under Water and am already enamored of Deighton's prose. There are good days ahead, at least in the literary realm.

Sneak is an excellent word that I should more often use. Sneak, sneaked, sneakers. Fun for all ages.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Toxic Toast" from Question the Answers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Toxic Toast" is the ugly, though one must assume personally meaningful to the songwriter, title of a beautiful song of nostalgia and the halcyon days of yore.

"Someone's always up to something,
One thing's always understood,
If nothing happened in a minute,
Wait another, something would.
Avoid the landlord, spent the rent,
Raising hell with reckless style.
And sure our time was poorly spent,
But 'toxic toast' still makes me smile."
Par for the course, both today and tonight the skies above sacred Michigan are forecast to be "mostly cloudy," possibly or probably obscuring the Lunar eclipse: Moonlink. But at least there's a chance! (I always mean to be more stargazing, to pay more attention to the heavens, but I never do, curse my bones.)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Wimbledon's marathon men: in progress and when it came to an end. All good things come to an end. Who doesn't love this story? Communists, that's who.

I really must pay more attention to tennis, especially since the Red Wings have retained the services of the monster Bertuzzi, quelling any enthusiasm I have for the N.H.L. for at least the next two years. "The Winged Wheel" continues, however infrequently; will I ever be able to "Believe" again?

The Most Dangerous Game invited herself over to my house last night to watch Burn Notice. A little rude, but her apartment doesn't have cable and we hadn't seen each other all week; so, it's fine. But as soon as she arrived she launched into a vicious and entirely unprovoked assault on my father's congressional campaign. I was frankly appalled. It's not even a no-one-beats-up-my-little-brother-but-me situation, because I'm always up for a little good-natured fun at my dad's expense. But there was something absolutely beyond the pale in the nonchalant way she sat in the man's house and made use of his indirect hospitality—basking in his air conditioning, sipping a beer purchased as part of his grocery bill, beer chilled in his refrigerator—while subjecting his greatest ambition to the most unfair ridicule and abuse. Adding insult to injury, she text messaged throughout Burn Notice instead of watching; 'twas a relief when she announced that she had to depart before the episode had even ended. I was fomenting in my little mind a notion to have the whole gang over to the house in just under three weeks' time for the season premiere of Psych, but last night's debacle has thrown the whole scheme into doubt. Appalling, just appalling.

This Week in Motorsport
Lotus Racing is a brand-new squad, but one proud to carry on the name and celebrate the heritage of the original Team Lotus (1954-94). The current Lotus has made it clear that when (if, because Formula One is brutal) they win their first grand prix, it will not be their first victory but Lotus's 80th. In the same vein, this weekend's European Grand Prix (at the Valencia Street Circuit in perfidious Spain), the ninth round of the 2010 World Championships—and thus the new team's ninth race—is being celebrated as Lotus's 500th race. Neat!

The F.I.A. has imposed something similar to the N.C.A.A.'s little used "death penalty," beating the dead horse of USF1: L'Américain.

This Last Week in Motorsport
All of the cars at Mid-Ohio seemed to be moving in slow motion. Perhaps the camera angles were playing tricks? Perhaps it's a lemon of a circuit? ('Tis in *shudder* Ohio, after all.) I plan to watch the next Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race, to be held next weekend, in part just in case last week's race was a dull-as-watching-linoleum-peel aberration but mostly because there's no other race that weekend. I can't wait for the next American Le Mans Series race in a fortnight's time.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Illegal Left" from Don't Know How to Party (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The premise of "Illegal Left" is that the protagonist stands on a street corner, waving a warning to motorists so that they do not make an illegal left turn. A motorcycle-borne patrolman in waiting in ambush to catch motorists making the illegal left and issue them traffic citations and is not at all amused by the protagonist's actions. The protagonist, meanwhile, muses on what murders, thefts, and other serious felonies must be going unpunished while the patrolman spends his time trying to issue traffic citations. The Bosstones are well known for their socially conscious songs and "Illegal Left" is under appreciated as part of that repertoire.

"He told me I should move along,
I said, 'You got the whole thing wrong,
I'll stay here, I got the time,
And you can deal with real crime.'
He didn't like what I was sayin',
Not at all, no, not one bit.
I didn't see the point in stayin',
It was fun, though, I'll admit.

Maybe I should mind my own,
And maybe it's not my concern,
But somewhere someone's suffering
And this is an illegal turn."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXVI - The Pergamon Museum, Part II: The Ishtar Gate.

Bonus: the sirrush, the mythical creature depicted on the Ishtar Gate alongside very real beasts like lions and aurochs, is thought by some to be the "dragon" from Chapter 14 of the Book of Daniel, "Bel and the Dragon," which our heretical Protestant brethren consider, in their folly, to be Apocryphal.

I strive not to use the same photographs as the Wikipedia, but in some instances, and this is one, those photos are simply the best available. And "The Explorers Club" deserves the best.

"Hindustan" is a new occasional feature devoted to the Sub-Continent, in the spirit of of such long established, occasional Secret Base stalwarts as "Proud Europa" & "Under the Rhodesian Sun." Our first episode is a troubling one: perhaps echoing those that arose during the Great War and the Second World War, a Hindu-German conspiracy for the 21st century? Führerprinziplink.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I read Mein Kampf, translated into English, in the 9th grade, for an Honors English 9 project that required us to read a biography or autobiography and then make a presentation in character as the subject. The book was of my choosing, and I had to get permission from my teacher, because I wished to gain some insight into how a man could perpetrate such profound evil. What I learned instead was that Adolf Hitler could neither write coherently nor think logically, and evil remained as opaque as it had been before. I am not opposed per se to the reading of Mein Kampf, my concern is with the foolhardy and dangerous attempt to find the "positive" side of Hitler. Evil is seductive, and is rarely kind enough to announce itself as evil; once you try to use evil as the means of accomplishing some good end, "forever will it dominate your destiny."

The Jolly Roger
Again, the pirate is hostis humani generis, the enemy of all Mankind, able to be tried in any court, anywhere. Piracylink. The only part of the article to which I've hyperlinked that makes sense is that the Kenyans don't wish to bear the costs of these piracy trials alone. But why are so many pirates being tried in Mombasa? Why aren't they subjected to drumhead trial aboard whatever warships interdict their raiding? Or tried back in the home countries of those warships? Piracy is one of the oldest and most awful crimes to plague Mankind; I am staggered and not a little embarrassed that we who fancy ourselves so sophisticated here in the 21st century seem scarcely able to cope with this ancient scourge.

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

Commentary: "They Came to Boston" is a rant against tourists visiting and college students residing in Beantown. I've only ever been a visitor to Boston, The L.A.W. went to law school in nearby Cambridge, and Brother-in-L.A.W. spent his undergrad career at the same institution; so, I suppose this song is directed against my family. My friends are a more mixed bag. The Gal went to Northeastern and then left, but The Watergirl appears to be a lifer, a Bostonian. Sorry, Dicky?

"I was here before they came,
I'll be here long after,
Don't wanna share but it seems clear
That I'm gonna have ta."

I'm so overjoyed by the return for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones that I've decided to dedicate the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. for the remainder of June to their catalog, drawing one song from each album, retroactively designating "Howwhywuz, Howwhyam" from Tuesday as the representative of
Devil's Night Out. Consider this my own pale imitation of the Hometown Throwdown.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Our charlatan president is a fanatic, a foe of both science and space exploration, but even his egomania was not able to stop the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (L.R.O.), now celebrating one year in orbit of the Moon on its mission to survey the good Earth's only natural satellite in greater detail than ever before and identify sites for future Lunar landings and bases. President Obama hates the Moon, but we here at The Secret Base love it:, titled by the glorious nerds at N.A.S.A., "Ten Cool Things Seen in the First Year of L.R.O." I particularly like the sly reference to the White House in the ninth cool thing, "Lunar Pits."


K. Steeze wasn't able to make last Sunday's scheduled webcam story conference for the best possible reason: he was out and about, squiring a young lady to the ballpark and the bar. Neatly done, old sport. Keep up the good work! PALINDROME continues apace, though I freely confess I am still distracted by thoughts of Project TRIANGLE and the broader world first created for Project TROIKA.

Grow or die.

Pseudo-Project PANDORA
Note to self: become Prince of Monaco: hullabaloolink. I remember the sage words of Coach Oldham, "Boys, there is nothing finer in this world than a fit female swimmer."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Royal Oil" (live) from Live from the Middle East (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Dicky Barrett says before beginning the live rendition of "Royal Oil," "This song's called 'Royal Oil' and it goes out to the people who've supported The Bosstones for all these fucking years." These words seem now of even more importance than ever before as just today I learned the joyous news that The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are not only back in business, once again a going concern, but they also released a new album at the end of last year. I didn't dare hope for such extraordinary news!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Magnificent Moustache Malarkey
Day 49: The most significant problem I am having at present is with that old bugbear of my asymmetrical mug, symmetry. You can already see the issue I am having in the now iconic Farcebook profile picture: the hairs at the left-most extremity of my moustache do not wish to curl as much as do those on the opposite extremity. The leftward hairs flair out along a more lateral line while their rightward counterparts curl up almost to the vertical. This imbalance manifests itself in both the waxed and natural states. Constant coaxing is required to maintain the desired uniform appearance.


The most significant non-moustache asymmetries on my face are that my right eyebrow sits higher above my right eye than does the left eyebrow in relation to that eye and that my right earlobe is larger than its counterpart on the left. The tops of my ears appear to be symmetrical, but the right ear seems to hang down lower than the left. As a result, in order for my beloved sideburns to be symmetrical, they must be trimmed to different places in relation to their proximal ears; if the right sideburn is trimmed to line up with the bottom of the right earlobe, then the left sideburn must extend below the left earlobe. Vanity is such a bother, which may explain why I do not more often indulge in its exercise.

Moustache Hero
I would like to think that anyone who knows me well and had thought about it would have seen this week's choice coming. Tom Selleck would be a thoroughly laudable and admirable fellow even if his most famous character wasn't known for wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap and loving the film Stalag 17. He's a man's man in the best possible sense. Ladies and gentlemen, the moustache of Tom Selleck. Behold!

What confuses me about most about the Somali piracy imbroglio is that it is an imbroglio at all: submarinelink. The pirate is the original hostis humani generis, the enemy of all Mankind. Whomever encounters a pirate, if the cutthroat is not killed outright, should capture him, subject him to only the most cursory of trials, and execute him. Piece of cake, easy as pie. If we as a society cannot grasp the simple truth of these principles, then the 21st century will be most unkind to our culture.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Howwhywuz, Howwhyam" from Devil's Night Out (T.L.A.M.)


"The years went past
So God-damned fast,
You know I've left a lot behind."
Operation AXIOM
Sixty-nine years ago to the day, 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation BARBAROSSA, one of the most important fulcrums on which the 20th century hinged. Names and dates are crucial to the study of history, lads and lasses, for without them we lose all context. We neglect the study of history at our boundless peril.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Operation AXIOM
The one upside of the summer solstice? From here on out, the hours of sunlight become fewer and fewer. The Accursed Sun's dominion grows shorter and shorter until, at long last, moonlight gains the upper hand after the autumnal equinox. (Yes, I am well aware that "moonlight" is the same light as sunlight, merely reflected off ye olde Moon. The same light, but the effect is quite different.) Less and less daylight with each passing day, take solace in this as the heat of that pitiless star burns your skin, makes a convection oven of your parked motorcar, and threatens to rob you of your very reason. Tomorrow will be shorter than today, and each today hereafter shorter than the yesterday that preceded it; things are looking up.

Yesterday 'twas Father's Day. We celebrated at my house, but of greater importance is that Brother-in-L.A.W. celebrated his first Fathers' Day as father to The Squeak. Congratulations, Bro!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)


"Hot town, summer in the city,
Back of my neck gettin' dirt and gritty.
Bend down, isn't it a pity?
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city.
All around, people lookin' half dead,
Walkin' on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head.

But at night it's a different world…."

Remove the oppressive influence of the Accursed Sun and life becomes enjoyable again. There's wisdom in "Summer in the City," not just a catchy opening hook.
The Explorers Club
No. CLXV - The Pergamon Museum, Part I: The Pergamon Altar.

The Queue
Sebastian Faulks is a hack extraordinaire and Devil May Care is dreck almost beyond imagining, worse even than The Spy Who Loved Me. I pushed myself all weekend to get through it just to be done with it, to be rid of it so as never again to pollute my mind with Faulks's pap.

With Defend the Realm, originally published in the U.K. as The Defence of the Realm, I am not deviating from the espionage/counterespionage genre, simply stepping for a spell over the line into non-fiction. Fear not, plenty more spy fiction will be waiting for me when I get back.

Ian Fleming, The Man with the Golden Gun
Ian Fleming, Octopussy & The Living Daylights
Sebastian Faulks, Devil May Care

W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: or, The British Agent

Len Deighton, Horse Under Water
Christopher Andrew, Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Sonntag, 20 Juni
Elvis Costello, "Daddy Can I Turn This?" from When I Was Cruel (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This Fathers' Day, I discovered there are precious few songs in my library about fathers and fatherhood. Not nearly so many as about mothers and motherhood, at least not by title.

Samstag, 19 Juni
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Traffic Jam" from Alapalooza (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Saturday afternoon, Dr. Hee Haw and I met at the Traffic Jam & Snug restaurant in downtown Detroit for a lovely, leisurely lunch. In spite of both the eatery's name and the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., the drives to and from Detroit were swift and uneventful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bonfire scorecard: 1 for 3. I did not attend last Saturday's (12 June) bonfire because I was still in the clutches of the dreadful sick, my second bout in as many weeks, this time acquired from my mom's boss's kids via my mom; I dared not pose the obvious threat of contagion to my fellows. Staying awake all night watching the 24 Heures du Mans while still nursing a cough and runny nose was not my smartest move, but Le Mans comes only once a year and anything that spectacular requires dedication, even sacrifice. Tonight's bonfire was cancelled shortly after I arrived at the host's house due to a line of thunderboomers moving through southeast Michigan. The Action Hero (Kevin, introduced into the gang by way of The Cowgirl) was struggling to light the fire, I stepped into the house to use the water closet, and when I emerged he was dosing the now-roaring fire ahead of the coming storm. At that moment, The Cowgirl arrived and the three of us repaired to the Action Hero's garage to sit and drink Woodchuck while watching the rain fall. Tuesday's (15 June) bonfire was a success, though not as much fun as Saturday's or tonight's bonfires would have been because I knew only one person there.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "Mean Old Coot" from Jalopy Go Far (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Because Love/Hate likes to make fun of how much older than her I am (30 to her 22).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXIV - Beau Brummell (1778-1840), the dandiest dandy.

I've decided to give this intriguing new girl the Secret Base codename Love/Hate because her surname is the German word for "hate," something she brought to my attention. My original thought was to call her The Hater, and then switch to Love/Hate if anything romantic developed between us, but that now strikes me as pointless. From the first time we met approximately a month ago, we've been flirting. Initially, I thought of this as faux-flirting, little more than repartee bolstered by an undeniable, instantly formed rapport, but as soon as that thought had formed in my head I began to ask how much was faux and how much was genuine flirting. Love/Hate it is, regardless of what happens next.

I suppose I took the first small, very small step toward moving us beyond being only speech & debate teammates when, after she missed practice last week, I sent her a text message saying I was chagrined at having been deprived of her company. But she really initiated things when she invited me to accompany her to the bonfire on Tuesday. She asked if she should also invite our speech & debate teammate The Most Dangerous Game; by no means did I say no, but my effort to communicate my lack of enthusiasm for that suggestion was successful. Love/Hate leveled the friendly accusation that I just wanted to be alone with her, to which I replied that she'd discovered my "not-so-secret secret plan."

She has a boyfriend with whom she is not contented and we have discussed openly the idea of she and I dating, as we each admit to be strongly attracted to the other. Two sticking points: {a} I am a practicing (though wicked & sinful) Catholic, while Love/Hate is an atheist. My Catholicism is not itself a problem for her (so she says) nor is her atheism a problem for me (as Puddy said to Elaine, "I'm not the one who's going to Hell."), but Tuesday night ended on something of a down note, as in our discussion of religion (at her insistence, I'd have rather not) I apparently said something that made her feel "looked down upon" and "defensive." I have apologized, because such was certainly not my intent, but we shan't have the chance to discuss what went wrong before she departs for a lengthy holiday. {b} She's knows that I'm a religiously-motivated virgin and I've told her I will do my level best not to sleep with her, however much I want to. (And I've admitted to her, "I want to have lots and lots and lots of sex with you.") Love/Hate views virginity as a sociological construct with no medical basis; I don't dispute that, but we place exactly opposite emphasis on the importance of that sociological construct. But even with all that, I'm still tremendously tempting to her. And she to me.

Updates as events transpire.

Coming Project PANDORA Attractions
"The Other Woman, Part Deux"
Whatever happened to The Impossible Ingenue?
Who is Comrade Coquettish?
The ethics of stealing another guy's girl.

This Week in Motorsport
It's easy to be a fan of Red Bull, because when they don't shoot themselves in the foot they are the team to beat in 2010 and everyone loves a winner. I suppose it's also easy to be a fan of Lotus, because they are expected not to be even remotely competitive this year, being a brand-new team, and yet at the same time they've got the advantage of the emotional connection to the classic Lotus of old. That said, my sense is that my instant embrace of Lotus Racing is genuine, visceral and thus enduring. Reading anything about Lotus puts a broad grin on my mug: More of the Lotus Eaters.

Also, with the 78th running of the 24 Heures du Mans now a memory—a treasured memory, but a memory all the same—no Formula One grand prix this weekend, and the next American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.) race three weeks away, I shall try to watch Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race from the Mid-Ohio road course. Daytona Prototypes look preposterously blunt and bulbous compared to Le Mans Prototypes, but I'm principally curious to see how the G.T. racing compares to that found in the A.L.M.S. (G.T., Grand Touring, heavily modified versions of street cars like the Chevrolet Corvette, B.M.W. M3, Porsche 911, and Ferrari F430; very heavily modified, but not frauds like silhouette racing cars.)

The Queue
One hundred pages into Devil May Care, I can say that Faulks "writing as Ian Fleming" is utter poppycock. I understand that Sebastian Faulks couldn't write a novel exactly as Ian Fleming would have, nor would he particularly wish to, I'd wager, but his James Bond is distinct from any of the Bonds seen in Fleming's stories and the universe this Bond inhabits is far more akin to the cinematic Bond than anything Fleming concocted. "Writing as Ian Fleming" is then not the tribute one would suppose it to be given that the raison d'être for Devil May Care's publication was to commemorate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, but a crass marketing ploy, one that succeeded in hooking this particular maroon.

Also, on a trip to Barnes & Noble I perused their selection of Ian Fleming's works and was surprised to find a book titled Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories. What the hey? "Quantum of Solace" is a short story from the collection For Your Eyes Only. Of course, every Bond film has a book tie-in, usually a novelization of the screenplay, but to coincide with the 2008 release of Quantum of Solace Penguins Books decided instead to publish all the short stories in both For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy & The Living Daylights in one volume, titled, appropriately enough, Quantum of Solace. ("For Your Eyes Only," "Octopussy," & "The Living Daylights" are all individual short story titles repurposed into book titles; so, why not "Quantum of Solace," too? What puzzled me though was that at the time I was reading For Your Eyes Only and yet Quantum of Solace didn't seem very much larger, certainly not larger enough to incorporate the tales from Octopussy & The Living Daylights, too. Having now read Octopussy…, I understand. The font for the stories in Octopussy… is significantly larger than any of the other books, and yet the page count is significantly lower. "007 in New York" is only a few pages long; "The Property of a Lady" feels utterly incomplete, like a scene lifted whole from a larger work; and both "Octopussy" and "The Living Daylights" are shorter than "Quantum of Solace," the shortest piece in For Your Eyes Only. Octopussy & The Living Daylights was published after Ian Fleming's death, and I suspect solely so that all of his 007 yarns would be available in book form, not scattered in magazines and anthologies as those stories were previously published, but it is not really long enough to justify being its own book. The best course really is to combine For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy & The Living Daylights into a single volume, Quantum of Solace.

Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice
Ian Fleming, The Man with the Golden Gun
Ian Fleming, Octopussy & The Living Daylights

Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming, Devil May Care

W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden, or: The British Agent
Len Deighton, Horse Under Water
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
After quite a lull through May & June, MERCATOR is back with no small vim. After last night's weekly speech & debate team practice (more debate than speech, alas), we decamped to a late night eatery for food & fellowship. A grand time was had by all. For the second evening in a row I did not return home 'til after midnight; MERCATOR has a price, but I dare not shirk my duty. This weekend: another bonfire on Friday & lunch with Doc Hee Haw on Saturday. I do so love my life!

The Magnificent Moustache Malarkey
Day 44: As we ate our late night eats, our waitress was captivated by my moustache. At one point, as she walked by staring, she said that she wanted to reach out and then as her voice trailed off she made hand motions as if to twirl the moustache's ends. I told her that she was quite welcome to do so if she wished, but shyness or professionalism prevented her from acting on her impulse. I explained to my fellows that other girls had twirled the ends of my moustache and we always welcome to do so if they but asked. At the end of our evening, I penned on the check, "You could have twirled my moustache if you'd asked." Mike Wilson: Moustache Hero?

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "The Way It Goes" from Schematics (T.L.A.M.)

Mittwoch, 16 Juni
The Chinkees, "Merry Mary, Will You Still Marry Me?" from Searching for a Brighter Future (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Honestly, my heart still needs some love."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Project MERCATOR & Project PANDORA
I meant to publish "Moustache Hero," "This Week in Motorsport," & the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. last night, but those plans were derailed by a rather last minute invitation to a bonfire (Yeah, on a Tuesday. I know.) by a girl who {a} recently joined the speech & debate team, though she's not yet convinced it's for her, and {b} is rather openly considering ditching her boyfriend—or "wife," as she habitually calls him—in favor of your humble narrator. I did not get home until just after 1:00 A.M., even though I'm still feeling the effects of staying up with the 24 Heures du Mans while combating a hacking cough I acquired from my mother and, more significantly, had already endured a beast of a day trying to lend a hand to some automotive troubles of The Impossible Ingenue's. I still needed to put some finishing touches on the items below and was in no real shape to do so last night; apologies for the delay, but better late than never, yes?

Moustache Hero
Inspired by the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing, there is an informal Triple Crown of Motorsport: victory in the Grand Prix de Monaco, the 24 Heures du Mans, and the Indianapolis 500. Only one man has ever claimed the Triple Crown of Motorsport. An alternate definition of the Triple Crown is winning the 24 Heures du Mans, the Indianapolis 500, and the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, but the difference be damned, because only one man, the same man, meets either criteria. That man was Graham Hill (1929-1975). Lasses and lads, the moustache of Graham Hill. Behold!

This Week in Motorsport
The Grand Prix du Canada was a mixed bag for my boys at Lotus. Jarno Trulli was forced to retire (again!) with mechanical troubles/reliability issues, but Heikki Kovalainen not only finished the grand prix, but bested the Renault of Vitaly Petrov! Yes, Petrov is a rookie while Kovalainen is a veteran who once showed enough promise to be given a drive at mighty McLaren, but Formula One is about the marriage of man and machine and to this point Petrov's machine has been demonstrably superior to Kovalainen's. So, I must agree that Lotus are showing genuine progress: The Lotus Eaters. Woot!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Dienstag, 15 Juni
Less Than Jake, "Short Fuse Burning" from Anthem (T.L.A.M.)


"Hey, everybody, don't forget me, forget me,
Hey, everybody, don't forget me,
I forgot who I used to be.
And I'm a short fuse burning,
I'm so close to exploding.
So, everybody, don't forget me,
I forgot who I used to be."

Montag, 14 Juni
The Hippos, "Asleep at the Wheel" from Forget the World (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An apropos choice for the day after Le Mans, a day that found my sleep cycle still out of kilter.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXIII - The Cadillac Northstar L.M.P. (Le Mans Prototype) program, 2000-02.

Bonus: The Diesel powerplants that are so dominant today were not introduced until Audi ran the R10 TDI in the 2006 24 Heures du Mans. So, the gasoline-fed Northstar engine was not necessarily doomed as are, say, the petrol-powered Aston-Martins of today.

This Week in Motorsport
After staying up all night to watch the 24 Heures du Mans, I could scarcely believe how brief the Grand Prix du Canada was. It was over in a blink of the eye! Having to switch gears from the ultimate endurance race to the frenzied sprint that is an F1 grand prix was not ideal, but I really should not tempt capricious fate by complaining about having too much motorsport on my plate. I'm too exhausted to comment intelligently about either Le Mans or Montreal, but will address both in greater depth later. For now, let me just say one last thing about the 24 Hours:

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Michael Giacchino, "32 Hours" from Speed Racer: Original Motion Picture Score (T.L.A.M.)

"He makes Speedy Gonzales look like Regular Gonzales!"

24 Heures du Mans - Plus 1:05:00
Last year, one of the Speed commentators exclaimed, making an allusion to Peugeot's leonine logo, "The lion has roared!" Wayback Machine. Audi's logo, based upon its formation as the Auto Union by the merger of four pre-Second World War German automakers, is four interlocking rings. What should we exclaim as an allusion to Audi's logo? The rings have… rung?

Formula Fun
Now to make ready for the Grand Prix du Canada, live from Montreal at noon.
24 Heures du Mans - 1:04:00
The No. 4 Peugeot 908 of privateer Team Oreca has been knocked out of the 24 Heures du Mans with catastrophic engine failure, apparently identical to the failure that derailed two of the three factory Peugeots. The No. 4, the last 908, was, just like the No. 1 before it, running ridiculously fast lap times, catching up with the Audis. The Oreca Peugeot had no hope of victory unless something when wrong with either the No. 8 or No. 9 R15, but at the pace they were running they were easily within striking distance of the No. 7 Audi and the third spot on the winners' podium. But by pushing so hard, just as the No. 1 had done, they pushed their engine past the breaking point. Le Mans is about more than speed. But for Audi's speed advantage in the pit lane, the Peugeots would have been comfortably in the lead. But for a spate of virtually identical engine blow-ups, the Peugeots could have sailed to victory. Endurance, not only speed, but endurance; "by endurance we conquer." Endurance is the name of the game and, with an hour yet to run, Audi appear to have endured.
24 Heures du Mans - 2:01:00
The last of the factory Peugeot 908s is out! Cheaters often prosper, but not always! The No. 1 908 was tearing around the track at blistering speeds, gaining anywhere between one and five seconds a lap on the leading Audi R15s. The Peugeot was gaining, but still trailed the leading Audi, No. 9, by almost a full lap. Over the first twenty-two hours of the race, the lead Audi held a sixteen-minute advantage in pit stops over the charging Peugeot, spending thirty minutes in the pits compared to forty-six. Despite this, so swift was the 908 that it just might have caught the R15. Except that to make up the gap, the Peugeot had to run at its very limit. The drivers pushed and pushed, and pushed some more, and in the end they pushed their Diesel engine past the brink. Loss of power. The dreaded gray smoke of catastrophic engine failure. Defeat. The Audis can back off their pace; they can for all intents and purposes cruise the last two hours of the 24 Heures du Mans and secure a one-two-three finish for Audi, the perfect answer to last year's one-two-three triumph for Peugeot.

Of his forcing the Corvette CR6 to crash out of the race, Peugeot driver Anthony Davidson said that the Corvette driver had deserved it, that Davidson had done nothing wrong. Peugeot aren't cheaters because of Davidson's recklessness; onerous as that little cunt might be, he's guilty of overly aggressive and unsportsmanlike driving, not rule breaking. No, Peugeot are cheaters because for most of the last two hours the No. 1 908 was running with a significant piece of bodywork missing from the left side, even though the rules clearly state that any bits & pieces of the car that fall off over the course of the race must be replaced. Peugeot were so focused on catching up to the Audis that they didn't take the time to tack on new bits on any of their numerous pit stops. One of the worst lies we tell our children is that cheaters never propser, when they very often do. But not always. Between Davidson being Davidson and the case of the missing bodywork (and one might suspect some Gallic skulduggery about, the French race stewards being perhaps unwilling to call to task a French team for a rules infraction, if one were of a suspicious bent of mind), this shambles is nothing less than the comeuppance earned through Peugeot's pride and pomposity. Hip hip. Hooray.
24 Heures du Mans - 5:07:00
By Lucifer's beard! The sole remaining factory Peugeot 908 was tearing around the Circuit de la Sarthe with reckless abandon, desperately trying to close on the two leading Audi R15s, when the driver, Anthony Davidson, forced the No. 64 Corvette CR6—the G.T.2 leader—off the track and into the crash barriers. The Peugeot made the Corvette crash! The 'Vette limped home with a completely smashed rear end, so thoroughly smashed that I thought their day was done, that once rolled into the garage the mechanics would take a look at their wounded car, realize the cause was hopeless, and reluctantly throw in the towel. Not so. The Corvette racing mechanics worked like fiends to replace the entire front end of the CR6, replacing not just bodywork elements, but substantial drivetrain components, and hammered the twisted frame back into shape. Withing an astonishingly few minutes of limping into the pit lane, the Corvette was back in the race, albeit well down in the G.T.2 field. Alas, the damage was ultimately too much for the CR6 to continue, and after a few valiant laps the poorly abused car began belching the gray smoke that is the unmistakable sign of catastrophic engine failure, very possibly, if not probably, the result of damage done while limping back to the pit lanes, when the smashed rear end caused most of the car's oil to leak out, leaving the engine dangerously bereft of lubrication. Corvette Racing's day is done, their race is run. Curse the luck!

I admit to a certain affection for Audi fostered by the documentary Truth in 24, but I've remained rather neutral between Audi and Peugeot, having no strong feelings, neither love nor hate, for either squad. But as a result of the Peugeot's sabotage of the Corvette's race, I am now and forevermore vehemently against Peugeot. Down with the lion! Let's go Audi! Crush those rat fink frogs!

24 Heures du Mans - 7:49:30
The leading Peugeot 908 just suffered catastrophic engine failure! That's two Peugeot retirements, with Audi R15s now running one-two. There is a long way yet to go, almost a full third of the race remaining, but at the moment it appears that the reliability of Audi trumps the pure speed of Peugeot.

Also, I freely admit that I'm infatuated with Vanina Ickx, one of the drivers of the No. 008 Lola-Aston Martin (the non-Gulf Oil liveried Aston).

In the G.T.2 class, Corvette Racing still hold the lead. They were running one-two, but the leading Corvette CR6 suffered what appeared catastrophic engine failure mere seconds after the front-running Peugeot gave up the ghost. The second place Corvette is now your G.T.2 leader, though the Porches are still doing all they can to close the gap. It's been a bad day for B.M.W. Motorsport (the Schnitzer squad) and the Ferraris of Risi Competizione.

Anything can yet happen!