Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
She & Him, "Ridin' in My Car" from Volume Two (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 30 Juli
Europe, "The Final Countdown" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "The Final Countdown" would be vastly superior as a purely instrumental song, and were it considerably shorter.

Donnerstag, 29 Juli
Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London" via iTunes (The Watergirl, after a fashion)

Mittwoch, 28 Juli
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "The Hot Situation" from Jalopy Go Far (T.L.A.M.)

Dienstag, 27 Juli
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Wasted Summers" from Pin Points and Gin Joints (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 26 Juli
Barenaked Ladies, "Another Heartbreak" from All in Good Time (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I've forced myself to listen to All in Good Time several times through, something that listening casually to the album had never inspired me to do, and it's a tremendous bore. I find it impossible to pay attention to the entire back half of the album. The central purpose of rock & roll is to entertain, and in this All in Good Time fails. But for all that I'm not quite ready to give up on Barenaked Ladies as a quartet. Here's hoping for better things to come. How apropos:

"Hold on, here comes another heartbreak,
Hold on, here comes another heartache,
Too bad, but it's still a chance I had to take."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today is hot & muggy. The high-fives the use of that phrase, "hot & muggy," requires are just about the only positive to be derived from weather such as this. Ick.

31/29: The Loot
This small size of this year's haul should not be misconstrued as slim pickings, for this is clearly a case of quality over quantity. Where's Teddy?'s parents forgot to bring my gifts, leaving them behind in *shudder* Ohio, further exaggerating the minuteness of the loot; I shall be given the presents when next I suffer the indignity that is setting foot inside the State of Ohio, the place where happiness goes to die.

{1} Burn Notice season three D.V.D. boxset
{2} Lego Ferrari Truck (set no. 8185)
{3} a suit (ready-to-wear, neither made to measure nor bespoke; yet to be purchased)

The Ferrari Truck—the set consists of an F2008, the car with which Ferrari won the 2008 F1 World Constructors' Championship, the titular truck for ferrying the car from race to race, and sundry crewmembers and equipment—is the first toy I've been given in far too many years and was a particularly auspicious gift on the day when Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro finished one-two at the Grosser Preis von Deutschland. Is a thirty-one-year-old man too old to receive toys for his birthday? I refer you to the words of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, "The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."

I will report again once I have collected the rest of this year's loot.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome to Section 31.

The Explorers Club
No. CLXXV - The Shadow.

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

"The weed of crime bears bitter fruit."

"Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows!"

Actor Orson Welles, an early radio voice of The Shadow.

I'm not a fan of Howard Chaykin's attempt to bring The Shadow forward in time to the then-contemporary '80s, but I do love the line splashed across the bottom of the above cover.

I've listened to so many old radio episodes of The Shadow that this episode of "The Explorers Club" wouldn't be complete without at least one mention of Blue Coal.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of My Birthday
The Ataris, "Summer '79" from So Long, Astoria (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Too predictable?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

31/29: -1
In the summer of '09, I titled my birthday wish list, "M.P.W. at XXX." On this ultimate day of my thirtieth year, allow me to present a poem by Rudyard Kipling, a poem with only a slight connection to the number thirty, but a connection I've always enjoyed nonetheless.

"A Song to Mithras
(Hymn of the 30th Legion: circa A.D. 350)"

Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
"Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!"
Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,
Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!

Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat.
Our helmets scorch our foreheads, our sandals burn our feet.
Now in the ungirt hour—now ere we blink and browse,
Mithras, also a solder, keep us true to our vows!

Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main—
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn!
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!

Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull dies,
Look on thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice!
Many roads thou has fashioned—all of them lead to the Light:
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dan Potthast, "Tornado Joe" from Sweets and Meats (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Where's Teddy?'s real world nickname has been, from almost the moment he was born, "Bear." He has received as presents both numerous teddy bears and teddy bear-themed clothes; since his name is Teddy—with Theodore only a formality—this is neither unexpected nor improper. Today, though, I heard that's he's acquiring a new nickname, "Tornado Ted," inspiring today's pick of the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Bog help us if ever he earns the combination of his two nicknames, for no force of this earth could stand against the Tornado Bear.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Today was a nightmare. Or maybe more of a caricature of a nightmare. There was a brief stretch in the afternoon, maybe two and half hours, that wasn't so bad, but the remainder of the day was an unremitting horror show. Tomorrow cannot arrive too swiftly.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Forces of Evil, "Worst Day" from Friend or Foe? (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This wasn't the worst day of my life, not by a mile, but it was a thoroughly crummy day nonetheless.

"All the second prizes,
All the compromises,
Slowly realizing
Something's wrong and I don't know why.

This is the worst day,
This is the worst day,
This is the worst day,
This is the worst day,
This is the worst day of my life!
(Whoa whoa)
This is the worst day of my life!
(Yeah yeah)
The worst day!
(The worst day!)
The worst day of my life!
Yeah yeah,
Oh whoa!"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXXIV - The life & art of Ichiyusai Hiroshige (1797-1858).

Objective FINNLAND
Preparations are underway for Objective FINNLAND, a division of Operation ÖSTERREICH. The objective of FINNLAND? The Crim. Mrs. Skeeter, Esq., asked if I was interested in running the ten miles of the marquee event of the Crim Festival of Races alongside her; as I could not think of a decent reason to refuse, I agreed. I then jested that running the Crim would be a great way to get my first heart attack out of the way, which she took to mean that I was declining her invitation. We've sorted out the confusion and training has begun for what will probably be my swan song/death march. I've put in a lot of miles on the treadmill over the years, but to train for an outdoor event I thought it best to train out of doors. The previous fortnight was a disaster, with too much heat and humidity for any kind of physical exertion, but the cooler temperatures of this week have helped me get back on track. Suddenly, the stultifying weariness by which I've been hamstrung all week seems not so mysterious after all.

There is approximately one month remaining to me to prepare for Objective FINNLAND. Will I survive? Of greater import, will I endure? I'll let you know in approximately one month.

I want to the Flint Institute of Arts today to see several exhibitions, shows that I'd been meaning to see for months, before they left town after the upcoming weekend. I was flying solo, but that's probably a good thing, because once I was inside I saw everything. I lingered through the Tiffany lamps and Lino Tagliapietra's mindboggling glass masterpieces, stared at length at the Japanese prints… and then decided that as long as I already had my fancy little F.I.A. badge attached to my collar, I might as well push on through all the permanent collections. How does an afternoon spent in solitude at a museum fall under Project MERCATOR's brief? Socialization & friendship have become the hallmarks of MERCATOR, but at its heart the project is about seizing all life has to offer, of fighting my instinctual hermitage, of getting off my arse. A peculiar set of historical circumstances gifted Flint with an art museum and a variety of other cultural attractions worthy of a city many times its size, and it would be inexcusable to let that historical oddity go to waste.

Wee Where's Teddy? arrives tomorrow evening (Woot!) and all weekend the thunder will be stolen from my birthday by the need to entertain certain other self-invited guests (Drat!). My opinions are so unwelcome anywhere in their presence that I'll scarcely say anything all weekend; until certain machinations have borne fruit, it's just not worth the hassle. One day, my birthday will be my own again.

"That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."
—Wm. Shakespeare

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg, "Still D.R.E." via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Why have I always loved "Still D.R.E.," even though I've never been a fan of rap, often actively deriding the genre and its conventions? A few simple words:

"Taking my time to perfect the beat,
And I still got love for the streets."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "A Fine Day for a Parade" from Utopia Parkway (T.L.A.M.)


"She knows enough to worry,
But what does she know about crime?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Operation AXIOM
Forty-one years ago to the day, Man first set foot on the Moon. Consult the archives to see the hullabaloo it was my pleasure to make of last year's fortieth anniversary.

Apropos of nothing, here's the alternate flag of the old Kingdom of Bavaria. Pretty, no? Respect the lozenge.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Save Ferris, "Angry Situation" from Modified (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "How will you end your pain?" Pain is a natural part of life. Pain is a necessary part of life. To quote the very best part of Star Trek V, "I need my pain!" Or as we used to say on the swim team, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever." W.D.F.A.

Monday, July 19, 2010

None of my moral principles are borrowed from Dan Rydell, a fictional character (played by Josh Charles) on the long lost television series Sports Night, but show creator and head writer Aaron Sorkin's skills as a wordsmith are indisputable and many of his best words, especially those that espouse* moral principles with which I hold, often end up coming out of Danny's mouth. The issue before us today is the ethics of stealing another chap's girl, and a good starting point is the following line, said by Dan to his almost-girlfriend Rebecca Wells (played by Teri Polo) in the episode "Ordnance Tactics":
I will absolutely not stand in the way of another man's marriage.

Matrimony is a bond, sacred and inviolable. Such is its gravity that marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. As Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. recently articulated to my complete agreement, to accord similar status to any other type of relationship is to cheapen the bond of marriage. The raison d'être of marriage is to be substantively and demonstrably different from all other romantic entanglements. So, outside of marriage, boys and girls, all's fair in love and war.

That's an indefensible oversimplification, but very nearly all's fair, and there's not a thing wrong with being rather ruthless and cold-blooded about the whole business. Cheating on your girlfriend? That's wrong, and only a cur would behave in such a reproachable fashion. Unceremoniously dumping her and immediately moving on to the next girl? That's fair and right, because it's not like you were married. Care should be taken whenever possible to spare the feelings of others, and there's no reason for cruelty, but the fact remains that those not in a marriage are bound by neither oath nor obligation; if a lass feels that she should move on to other relationships, that she might find greater happiness with a different lad, it is probably best for all concerned that she does so. Participating in a girl cheating on her boyfriend? That's not strictly wrong, not on your part, but you're playing with fire, old son. I have long contended that if you can break up a couple, those two persons shouldn't have been together in the first place, or would certainly have no business staying together after such an imbroglio. But don't forget that you're playing with fire, and could very well face Benedict Arnold's problem: after he turned traitor, his redcoat colleagues never trusted him, their thinking proceeding along the lines of "once a turncoat, always a turncoat." If the gal was willing to cheat on her fella with you, how could you possibly trust her not to cheat on you with another fella?

Steal not from kith & kin, but everyone else is fair game. You don't steal a girl from a friend because to do so is to announce in no uncertain terms that you are friends no more. Uncertain, no, but, most unambiguously underhanded, yes. Then, not only do you have to wrestle with the certitude that you're a faithless knave, but you've also got to keep your new girl happy whilst defending yourself against the righteous vendetta of your erstwhile friend/her erstwhile paramour. It's not only wrong, it's messy, and ultimately unsatisfying. But stealing a girl from some dude, some guy you don't like, dislike, or don't know from Adam? Well, good on you, keep up the good work. After all, it's Hobbes's bellum omnium contra omnes out there, "the war of all against all." You and your boon companions are bound by the social contract of fellowship; you and some dude are bound only by the more limited social contract of citizenship. If you want her, and you can steal her from him, do so. The fact that you can shows that she thinks she shouldn't be with him, that she's willing to take the chance on being happier with you. What some dude wants doesn't even enter into consideration.

The some dude with whom we are concerned, or rather unconcerned, is Love/Hate's ex-boyfriend. He is to me just some dude I've never even met, someone to whom I have not the least obligation, someone whose girlflesh I am at liberty to pilfer. Or, he was. I learnt on Saturday that Love/Hate's relationship with him was kaput; I know no more about the particulars of the end of the affair. So, if I am not to pursue Love/Hate, I need not bother about the ethics of stealing another chap's girl. Still and all, it's good to review things like this every now and again, to double check that one's conduct is upstanding and forthright, that one comports oneself with dignity and honor.

We close with a further excerpt from Dan's conversation with Rebecca, with whom Dan is smitten, but whom Dan has learned is in fact only separated from her sleazebag husband, not divorced as she had previously claimed:
Dan: "…but I reaffirm my position that I'm here for you. It would be wrong for us to date, but it should be noted that I'm here for you."
Rebecca: "Where?"
Dan: "Here."
Rebecca: "So, your strategy for this is to be wonderful."

*Like the pun?

This Week in Motorsport
To the delight of some of The Secret Base's readers, I am dreadfully far behind. I've two F1 grands prix and an A.L.M.S. "sprint race" about which to opine, with further rounds of the Formula One World Championship and the American Le Mans Series to be contested this upcoming weekend. To the dread of some of The Secret Base's readers, I should be delighted to catch up sooner rather than later.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, "El Matador" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXXIII - The Yellow Kid.

This episode of "The Explorers Club" was inspired by today's Frazz. Auspiciously, this was the first time I'd read the funny pages in months.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Atomic Fireballs, "Mata Hari" from Torch This Place (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 17 Juli
Catch 22, "Wreck of the Sloop John B." from Alone in a Crowd (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm still awake, even though it's almost morning. I was looking for a specific line from Sports Night for a post I hope to publish tomorrow (Saturday) and the internet search engines were no help. I had misremembered the exact working; so, it's no wonder my searches for the wrong words didn't result in finding the right words. I decided to go to the source material, and winnowed the field down to the most likely episode. Fortunately, the episode I guessed featured a "previously on Sports Night…" montage that indicated I'd gone at least one episode too far. Sure enough, I went to the previous episode and found that for which I'd sought. Of course, Sports Night being Sports Night, I watched the episode. And then the following episode that was the first place I looked for the line in question. And then the two episodes after that. And then I circled back to the episode before the episode with the sough-after line. I kid you not, for the next several days I'm going to be locked in a battle of wills to resist the urge to go back and watch Sports Night from beginning to end, for the fifth or sixth time. It's very dangerous for me to watch even a single episode of Sports Night, because once I do, it's very hard to keep the floodgates from opening.

Anywho, I got the line, and I hope to put it into context for you soonest. Good morning, all, it's finally time for me to hit the hay.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXXII - Lon Chaney, Sr. (1883-1930), "The Man of a Thousand Faces," & Lon Chaney, Jr. (1906-1973).

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker" from Medium Rare (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: *sigh* I am very weary of having to do this, but must persist, for the opponents of proper grammar are counting upon the apathy of those who know better. The title should be, "Don't Worry, Desmond Dekker"; the comma is not optional.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A gust of wind made modern art out of my umbrella late this afternoon. Not only did I get soaked, but I've a sneaking suspicion raindrops will again fall on my head before I'm able to acquire a new bumbershoot.

Fear not, I can find a way to blame this on the Accursed Sun: Where was the Sun when I needed it? That's what I'd like to know.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
New Found Glory, "It Ain't Me Babe" from From the Screen to Your Stereo, Part II (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: {a} New Found Glory's name was better when it was the more distinctive A New Found Glory. {b} The title should be, and, yes, I'm giving the faux-word status of ain't a pass, "It Ain't Me, Babe." That comma is not optional, not unless you're a Philistine.

"I'm not the one you want, babe,
I'm not the one you need."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Holy Mother Church
My parish, Holy Redeemer, has a new pastor. Father Tim McDonald, who rescued Holy Redeemer from some very hard times—crises that could well have led to the dissolution of the parish—has been assigned to head a parish near Jackson. Father Tim is only a few years older than me, one of that generation of youngish old-school priests inspired by the conservative dedication to Church tradition of the late Pope John Paul II. He was a rock exactly when Holy Redeemer needed one, and he will be sorely missed. I join my fellow parishioners in wishing him well in all his future ventures.

Our new pastor is Father Steve Anderson… who has a wife and kids, and an infant grandchild. Father Steve is a convert to Catholicism, having joined the Church in 1999 and been ordained as a priest in 2003. Prior to this, he was a minister in some heretical fringe denomination called the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which of course isn't a church at all, but like all Protestant "churches" only a denomination. This means that prior to 2003 Father Steve wasn't in any way a man of the cloth, he was just another jumped-up layman like all Protestant clergy. As a Charismatic Episcopal "priest," he took a wife and sired children. Eventually, he recognized the heresy inherent to the Protestant creed and sought to join Holy Mother Church. Special procedures set up on instruction of John Paul II by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the prefect of which was then-Cardinal Ratzinger—today His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI—allowed Father Steve to be ordained as a priest while preserving the sanctity of his marriage. I know so much about Father Steve's road to Holy Redeemer because he described his journey in detail in a letter in the bulletin his first week at the parish. He, Mrs. Anderson, and the children were all treated to a round of applause upon introduction to the parish. It's weird having a married priest, but of far larger concern is the shaky quality of Father Steve's homilies. Here's hoping he'll improve rapidly.

"If I promise to go to church on Sunday,
Will you go with me on Friday night?
If you live with me I'll die for you,
And let's compromise."
—Green Day, "Church on Sunday" from Warning

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXXI - Doctor Sir Richard Croft (1762-1818), Princess Charlotte (1796-1817), & the "triple obstetrical tragedy."

Try as I might, I could not locate an image of the good doctor. Instead, the internet search engines fed me a steady stream of photographs of the tomb of one of his ancestors, also a Sir Richard Croft, and the tycoon Sir Richard Branson. So much for our vaunted "Information Age." Pictures of the doctor's familial home, Croft Castle, and the royal residence that saw two of this episode's three deaths, Claremont, seemed insufficiently specific and thus inappropriate.

Project PANDORA: The Other Woman, Part Deux
'Twas early December of '09, the year just past, and I'd planted a romantic (or at least lustful) kiss on a girl for the first time in, literally, years. (Wayback Machine.) I was well pleased by this turn of events, though I was unsettled by one nagging detail. I'd kissed the Other Woman; I'd pulled her body toward mine as we kissed, wrapping my hands not around her shoulders or her waste, but her arse; I'd even rested a hand atop her right breast shortly before our embrace ended; and I'd done all this without ever having a real conversation with the Other Woman, and that didn't sit right with me. I thus resolved to take her out on a proper date for two reasons, accorded equal weight by my reckoning: {a} I wished to see her again, based on her instant crush on me on the night of our meeting and the desire in her eyes on the night of her birthday, and see if I returned any of her obvious affection, and {b} I'd done things all out of order, I'd engaged with her physically before knowing much of anything about her, and I felt obligated to remedy this to some small degree by getting to know her.

To this point, the initiative had belonged exclusively to the Other Woman. She had let The Cowgirl know that she had a crush on me; she had, it can be presumed reasonably, arranged for me to be invited to her birthday festivities; and she had made sure that we had the moment alone at the end of her birthday, the moment in which we kissed. But now I was determined to take the lead. A date, a proper date, that was what was needed. By Jove, that was the ticket! So, I contacted the Other Woman to arrange a date.

This turned out to be a far trickier business than might have reasonably been supposed. She was, it seemed, quite busy. It was getting on to be the end of the semester, after all. Fair enough, thought I, I shall woo her in the new year. She was to be, it seemed, quite busy in the new year. The Other Woman is a theatre major and was to participate in a team-based competition that is a big to do in the collegiate theatre world. She insisted that she did want to see me, but simply had not the time, a topic to which we will return presently. She scolded me for having abysmal timing; scolding is rather often delivered in a playful manner, and when so administered can be awfully endearing. The Other Woman's scolding was curiously humorless, leaving the impression than she was in earnest, that I was being genuinely scolded. I asked her if she would like to see me and when she said she could not I asked her to contact me when she might be available. But she would not allow me thus to turn the tables, and repeatedly insisted that I persist in my inquiries.

Here a train of thought, defensive and suspicious, began marshaling itself amidst my little gray cells. The Other Woman was very busy, I could well understand that, but the dual assertions that she both wished to see me and yet could not spare the time to do so rang false. If she wanted to see me, would she not, in the vernacular, make the time? As The Proclaimers tell us, "love can move mountains." This was not love, but I was not asking her to move mountains. I was asking for a few hours of her time, hours she said she wished to spend with me. And why was she so adverse to ringing me when a hole opened in her busy schedule? Why was it so vital that the requests always come from my end? So that she could be the one always to say, "Sorry, no." She wanted to keep me dangling, she wanted the flattery and ego-massage of being pursued. I am open to alternative explanations, dear readers, if you've any to offer, but I've thought about her pattern of behavior as dispassionately as I am able and this is the only answer that holds any water. My ire was roused, my pride was wounded, and I was prepared to wash my hands of The Other Woman.

And then Brother-in-L.A.W. piped up. I must have said more than I thought I had on the Farcebook, or certainly left far more to be read between the lines than I'd intended, because in swept Brother-in-L.A.W. with a detailed analysis of the situation and advice aplenty. I was working myself into a lather, looking to make some manner of dramatic gesture toward The Other Woman to let her know that the boat had sailed. Brother-in-L.A.W. counseled against this. Why should I listen to Brother-in-L.A.W.? His codename says it all. He's my brother-in-law. By that I don't mean that his advice should be heeded simply because he's a family member. I chuckled just thinking about that sentence. No, Brother-in-L.A.W. is my brother-in-law, meaning he married my sister, and my sister is a hell of a catch. The Guy won the heart of The Gal; The Guy has much wisdom to contribute to the eventual success of Project PANDORA. Brother-in-L.A.W. won the heart of The L.A.W.; he, too, might have much to teach me. Brother-in-L.A.W. was of the opinion that The Other Woman was a timid, frightened creature, one with whom I should exercise the patience of a saint. I'm no illusions of saintliness, but I have for years been teaching myself patience, repeating as a mantra the words of Rudyard Kipling, "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting." So, I set aside my instincts—reminding myself of what Jerry had told George, "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right." I thus determined to endure with good cheer The Other Woman's slings and arrows.

After a continuation of the previous pattern, I was finally able to cajole her to agree to a lunchtime assignation. I walked to the U of M-Flint Theatre, adjacent to the David M. French Hall and wandered into the backstage labyrinth. I found The Other Woman at the appointed hour and after a short wait while she disengaged from what she'd been doing, having made no obvious effort to respect the hour of our appointment, we walked to the Buckham Alley and entered The Torch. Whatever chemistry had existed between us as we made out at the end of the evening on her 21st birthday was long gone. Cross my heart and hope to die, I made my best effort; I was funny, I was charming, I was an attentive listener, but The other Woman was standoffish and unwelcoming. We conversed awkwardly throughout lunch, paid our separate tabs, and walked together only as far as Saginaw Street before bidding each other farewell. We neither hugged nor kissed, and no commitments were made for further communication. Adding insult to injury, after being inside The Torch both my parka and treasured tartan scarf reeked of cigarette smoke, requiring laundering post haste. This was in January of this year.

The date that propriety had demanded had come to pass and, even though it was an utter debacle, at least I could now wash my hands of the filthy business and walk away satisfied that I'd made every reasonable accommodation, done all that I could. My romantic history is chockablock with opportunities missed and dates never requested; at least this time, I'd dared, I'd made the effort, and I came away with no regrets. And, it must be said, a greater faith in my own instincts. In fairness to Brother-in-L.A.W., he was shooting from the hip without a full appreciation of all the facts; his advice is broadly applicable and seemingly quite useful, even if off the mark in the case of The Other Woman. That, as they say, was that, and I went back to angling for the affections of The Impossible Ingenue and scanning the horizon for other prospects.

Except for collecting and organizing my thoughts to write the original "Project PANDORA: The Other Woman" post in February (the first ride on the Wayback Machine, above), I had rarely thought about The Other Woman until out of the blue I received a late-night text message from her in May: Wayback Machine, Mark II. (I strongly suggest reading, or re-reading, the transcript of that text message conversation before reading any further.) I admit I was caught completely off my guard. Why hadn't I called her after our date? Because, Other Woman, you'd done your level best to postpone and avoid that date for weeks, and when it finally happened you were dull and singularly not engaging. Aside from the possibility of again putting my hands on her bum, what possible motive would I have had for calling? Not so fast, I chided myself, let's not be hasty. Yes, the date had been a horror show and everything had happened out of order, but I had kissed The Other Woman, and put my hands on her bum. That was far more success than I'd enjoyed with either The Most Dangerous Game the previous summer or The Impossible Ingenue over the preceding six months. The Cowgirl had warned me from the start that The other Woman had low self-esteem, which prompts all manner of self-sabotage. Maybe I had inadvertently spooked her on our date and made a mistake in never again calling her. I was dubious about that last bit, but decided to give things with The Other Woman another go. True to my word in the late-night text conversation, I rang her mobile and left a voice message.

I entered into the enterprise with no expectation of success, which was just about right. I left The Other Woman a voicemail, to which she did not respond. I sent her a pair of texts messages about the voicemail, to neither of which she responded. I sent her an email via the Farcebook, informing her of the voicemail and text messages; she replied that she'd left her phone at her family's weekend home, to which she would not have access until the following weekend. She never directly addressed the content of the voicemail or the text messages. And then she left for South Dakota for the summer. No sweat off my back, but this time, all due respect to Brother-in-L.A.W., I'm going with my instincts. If she wants to get together once she returns to sacred Michigan, I'll be open to the prospect, but I'm done jumping through hoops. The burden of communication will be hers. She'll have to get in touch with me, she'll have to respond constructively to any communication I send. No retransmissions or second chances on my part, if she wants anything to happen she's going to have to get over her pathetic poor self-image excuse and do some of the heavy lifting.

"If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right." True enough, but not all of my instincts are wrong.

Codename: CHAOS
The secret behind all my dealings with The Other Woman is that she doesn't like me. Or, she might like me a little, but not enough to break through all the rubbish in her head, not without a chemical assist. (As the old, oft-misquoted corporate slogan ran, "Better things for better living… through chemistry!") The Other Woman only likes me when she's imbibed, fortified herself with the old liquid courage. This, plus my fondness for how "O.W." looks in the transcript of our late-night text confab, has prompted a change in her codename. Should she ever again contact me, she'll be known as "The O.W.L.," for "The Other Woman… & Liquor." The Other Woman doesn't have time for my idiosyncratic charm, but The O.W.L. thinks it's important that I know when she's horny and drunk.

On Thursday night, I went to a midnight screening of Despicable Me, in loathsome 3D. I had no particular desire to see the film, and having seen it I am unsurprised to report that it was relentlessly derivative of Pixar's plainly superior films (and I say that not because it was computer animated), but I had not been a midnight film in ages and I salute the Action Hero's efforts to drag MERCATOR out of the midsummer doldrums. As the Action Hero, a distaff acquaintance from school named Jamie, and I chatted in the lobby, I came to the realization that if I'd seen a midnight movie since Revenge of the Sith—an unbelievable five years ago—it had slipped my mind. Despicable Me was cute, but the heartwarming bits between the despicable protagonist and his orphan charges were formulaic beyond all credulity, the supervillain-y (not be be confused with noun supervillainy) bits were pale stylistic imitations of The Incredibles, and the chief source of laughs (or at least intended as such), the yellow minions, were equal parts Jawas & the Squeeze Toy Alien triplets from the Toy Story trilogy. If there was an original idea in Despicable Me, it was so cleverly disguised as to escape detection.

The Impossible Ingenue sent me a text message today, reminding me that the Psych season premiere is tomorrow and saying we should watch it together. One of the inferiorities of text messaging is that I cannot know to how many other people she transmitted the same text. I texted back "What venue do you propose?", hoping she'd suggest her own house but expecting that she'd write something along the lines of "Your house?" Instead, though it didn't come as any surprise, she replied, (sic) "Someone with a tv? Lol." (More on that below.) I admit that I'd rather watch Psych by myself; the gang talk too much during episodes, and with an eye toward being the Host with the Most, I must divide my attention between my guests and the episode, even though I hold that Psych deserves my full attention. On the other hand, the whole point of MERCATOR is to fight my reclusive instincts, instincts that lead to isolation and decreased happiness. On the gripping hand, and this is the argument that has carried the day, if I invite The Impossible Ingenue and the gang over to watch Psych, as I did several times throughout the fall and winter, good form will require that I invite The Most Dangerous Game; after the misadventure of her last visit to the house (Wayback Machine, Mark III), I frankly do not want her over here. My father's campaign materials are strewn all about the house and Bog only knows how boorishly she'd again act. 'Tis a risk of unpleasantness I am unwilling to venture. My strategy then is to stick my head in the sand and hope tomorrow evening passes in blissful isolation.

Project PANDORA: The "Unpossible" Ingenue
The above exchange is not why my romantic intentions toward The Impossible Ingenue have faded past the point of vanishing, but is it emblematic. The Ingenue is constitutionally unwilling to give a straight answer to any question. This has been the case as long as I've known her, but in one moment, without any warning, that habit ceased being cute and became wearisome, even repulsive. Much of her behavior is driven by her desperation to be treated as being older than she is, and that I can forgive. But her ceaseless evasiveness makes me question what kind of friendship this is, utterly precluding any notions of romance. If she's always playing some or another game, are we even friends?

So, I'm not going to achieve the impossible. Even were it possible, I've lost all interest. This is not impatience speaking, this is the realization that there's nothing here worth the wait. The Impossible Ingenue was the whole reason The O.W.L. was regarded as an other woman, but now that both ventures have come to naught your humble narrator has moved along to greener pastures.

Project PANDORA Backlog Checklist
"The Other Woman, Part Deux"
nevermore The Impossible Ingenue
Stephanie & Amy post script

fun & games with The Trollop
Comrade Coquettish & From Russia, with Love

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Huey Lewis & The News, "The Power of Love" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)


"The power of love is a curious thing,
Make a one man weep, man another man sing."

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Queue
Like a doomed motorcar attached to a tow rig on MythBusters, Horse Under Water came loose toward the end and started swerving all over the course. So, though I am going to give Deighton another go, I've decided to try his Bernard Samson character, rather than take a second crack at the unnamed protagonist of the "Secret File" series. Berlin Game is the opening chapter of the "Game, Set, Match" trilogy—Berlin Game, Mexico Set, & London Match—which is itself the opening threesome in a trilogy of Bernard Samson trilogies.

Of course, Defend the Realm is an eight-hundred-plus-page monster, dense nonfiction as compared to the breezy fictional fare on which I've been steadily grazing lo these many months, and I'll be forever getting through it; so, I expect it to be some little while before I get to Pretty in Ink, much less what lies beyond.

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, Berlin Game

Len Deighton, Mexico Set
Len Deighton, London Match
John Toland, The Great Dirigibles
Rudyard Kipling, Kim

After the Malarkey
I find myself once again weighing two evils to determine which is the lesser: the wearying bother of shaving or the unsightliness of scuzzy stubble? I miss my moustache, I miss combing my beard. A fortnight on, I'm no longer surprised to see my philtrum, though I am always slightly chagrined. Of course, due to certain recent events, and the several months necessary before the beard starts living up to its potential, I shall have to remain cleanshaven for at least another month.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Johnny Socko, "Full Trucker Effect" from Full Trucker Effect (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Full Trucker Effect" is the best kind of ridiculous, and I wish Full Trucker Effect was the soundtrack to a trucker film that it purports to be.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXX - The 1999 24 Heures du Mans, Part II: The flight of the Mercedes-Benz C.L.R.

Notice the B.M.W. V12 L.M.R. (car no. 15, in white).

Bonus: The "pilot" of the flying Mercedes-Benz? Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Denise" from Utopia Parkway (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 10 Juli
The Puppini Sisters, "Tu Vo Fa L'Americano" from Betcha Bottom Dollar (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Thus concludes The Secret Base's extended musical celebration of Independence Day and the good ol' U.S.A., and quite appropriately as The Puppini Sisters' rendition of "Tu Vo Fa L'Americano" includes a snippet of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spy v. Spy
The final acts of what was a grand adventure of the old style, a lovely demonstration that the new is not better than the old simply by virtue of being more recent: groundwork and fait accompli.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
John Linnell, "The Songs of the 50 States" from State Songs (T.L.A.M.)


"I'm not gonna say they're great,
I ain't gonna say they ain't."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Love/Hate's been out of state for the last three weeks, having some manner of cranial surgery and recovering from same. Flirtatious, salacious text messaging continues, with an eye toward stealing her away from her current boyflesh. I'm playing for keeps, but even if I lose Project PANDORA wins, because it's all experience, it's all practice, it's all honing my skills and sharpening my game.

I'm a big fan of solar power, because to my mind it is a way of enslaving the Accursed Sun, bending it to our purpose. To wit, an aeroplane that uses the light of the Accursed Sun to fly through the dark night: light flightlink.


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dance Hall Crashers, "American Girl" (live) from The Live Record: Witless Banter and 25 Mildly Antagonistic Songs of the Love (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love the subtitle of The Live Record. Is it that I believe songs of love should be mildly antagonistic, or that love should be mildly antagonistic? Both, I suspect.

"After all, it was a great big world,
With lots of places to run to.
Yeah, and if she had to die trying
She had one little promise she was gonna keep."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A thousand pardons for the snail's pace of this week's posting. The lethargy is at least partially due to the heat, which even central air only barely holds at bay.

The Explorers Club
No. CLXIX - The 1999 24 Heures du Mans, Part I: The B.M.W. V12 L.M.R., overall winner of the 67th running of the "Grand Prix of Endurance."

Bonus: the B.M.W. tradition of the Art Car.

This Week in Motorsport
The second experiment with the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 (I'm not joshing you, fair readers, the series has two title sponsors, neatly bracketing the almost forgotten racing part of the enterprise) has proven that it's not for me. Saturday's (3 July) race from the Daytona International Speedway was the first I'd ever seen from that famous raceway, and, if I have any say in the matter, the last. Either the bore that is Daytona or the equally dull "oval" of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the spiritual home of American motorsport? No wonder I favor the intentionally international flavor of Formula One & the 24 Heures du Mans. My country, right or wrong*, but in racing we've definitely got it wrong.

On Sunday (4 July), I watched my second IZOD IndyCar Series race (Maybe they have only a single title sponsor because they race single-seater cars?), after the '09 Indianapolis 500 proved no match for the excitement and glamour of that year's Grand Prix de Monaco, my introduction to F1. As Herman's Hermits sang, "Second verse, same as the first." No excitement, no allure, and not for me. The IndyCar Series is a "spec" series (as opposed to a "formula" series), meaning all the cars are identical: a common chassis design, by the Italian firm Dallara, is used by all the teams, as is a common engine design, by the Japanese firm Honda. Maybe so much of what I like about F1 is that each team must design its own car from scratch, pit its own technical prowess against its rivals' innovations? Maybe. Also annoying about IndyCar? The constant attention paid to Danica Patrick, even though she's a back of the pack driver, a mediocre talent at best. (F1 pays the same annoying, non-performance-based attention to middle-of-the-pack driver Michael Schumacher, but that's because he's a seven-time World Champion—genuinely comparable to Michael Jordan—returned to the sport after three years in retirement, not just a media darling with a lot of personal sponsorship.) I gave the IndyCar boys & girls a second chance and again they failed to make a favorable impression. I doubt they'll be gifted a third chance to make good.

Medicine is not a field that lights my fire, but this could not be ignored: the marvel of modern medicinelink. No fire-related pun intended, but holy smoke.


The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Jonathan Winters, "Ross Perot Calling Every American" from Crank Calls (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Crank Calls is a collection of answering machine messages left by Winters for his friend J. B. "Jim" Smith. It's a fascinating, horrifying study in impromptu comedy.

*"Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!"
—Commodore Stephen Decatur

"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."
—Senator Carl Schurz

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
MxPx, "Kids in America" from On the Cover II (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 5 Juli
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Coming to America" from Have Another Ball (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I should have observed the 4th o' July with more ballyhoo; so, I'm dedicating the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. for the rest of the week to the good old U. S. of A., the beacon of hope is this benighted world for two hundred thirty-four years and running.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wow, last year I really went whole hog in making a spectacle of the Fourth of July: Wayback Machine.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Independence Day
Green Day, "American Idiot" from American Idiot (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Fair's fair. Given my winking mockery of our Canuck cousins on Dominion Day, I thought it only sporting to assign "American Idiot" as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. on this 4th of July.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another refusal: I have declined an invitation to a World Cup Final viewing party. Ye gods. I am as patriotic an American as the next guy, but I grinned with joy when the United States was knocked out of that nonsense in South Africa for the simple reason that at a stroke that nonsense in South Africa became a lesser part of America's daily discourse. Team U.S.A.'s defeat is the means to an end, about which I feel not the slightest wisp of guilt. Good riddance to this quadrennial boondoggle.

For more on my attitude toward soccer, I refer the curious to Sports Night, specifically the character of Dan Rydell, played with phenomenal skill by the actor Josh Charles. "We'll bring you the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and, because we've got soccer highlights, the sheer pointlessness of a zero-zero tie."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "The Tears of a Clown" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Note to self: Request some manner of ultimate Motown compilation as a Christmas present.

"Now if there's a smile on my face,
It's only there trying to fool the public,
But when it comes down to fooling you,
Now, honey, that's quite a different subject.
Well, don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression.
Really, I'm sad,
Oh, sadder than sad,
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad,
Like a clown I pretend to be glad.

Now there's some sad things known to man,
But ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there's no one around."

Friday, July 2, 2010

This week, I declined the two social invitations I received. I am terrified* of returning to my former hermitage and with the aim of preventing that sorry fate I keep a weather eye open† for signs of backsliding into the bad old ways of the bad old days. Both of this week's refusals pass muster: one was a lucky escape and the other was a necessity. On Monday, I was invited by The Cowgirl to a screening of the film Killers; at the risk of seeming a snob, I'd rather be caught in a bear trap than see that particular motion picture. I was invited down to The Impossible Ingenue's house on Wednesday for a round of recreational shooting. I had planned to attend before I learned the time of my father's return to Bishop International Airport; it was only fair that I pick him up since my mom had dropped him off at Bishop early on Saturday morning. I would have been able to both pick him up and still make the long drive to The Ingenue's house in B.F.E. were it not for the already scheduled speech & debate team practice. I could have made any combination of two of those three activities work, it just so happened that the odd man out was the fun with firearms. Side note: I've still never fired a gun.

*Remember the wisdom of Dune, "Fear is the mindkiller." Fear has a power to rob us of our reason, and must always be checked by courage. That said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" is indefensible claptrap; I like the superhero Daredevil, but a "Man Without Fear" is plainly insane. Fear is essential to the survival instinct. In the words of Ben Sisko, "Nothing keeps me alert like a healthy fear of death." As with most things, fear is profitable and useful in moderation.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I no longer have a best friend to stand watch over my state, mental & emotional; so, though the arrangement is less than ideal, I must act as my own Argus Panoptes.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "'92 Subaru" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Lumi, a '95 Chevrolet, is fifteen years old, the same age the Mousemobile was in 2001. Holy smoke!

"This thing is a beast,
Value will only increase."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CLXVIII - The "Caspian Sea Monster."

And as long as we're already thinking about those nefarious Ruskies…

Spy v. Spy
I love absolutely everything about this Russian spy hullabaloo.

In the First Chief Directorate, the revelation of the plot: Spies Like Us. In the Second Chief Directorate, the expected Soviet Russian doubletalk: From Russia with Love. In the Third Chief Directorate, the wheels of justice begin to turn: The Quiller Memorandum. In the Fourth Chief Directorate, there is an intersection of the sublime and the absurd: Get Smart. In the Fifth Chief Directorate, there is an escape more tragicomic than dramatic: Three Days of the Condor.

The Republic of Cyprus has shown itself to be a fierce enemy of the United States by essentially helping the eleventh Russian spy, the only one to evade the F.B.I. and successfully flee this country, escape. Many commentators are allowing the Cypriots to hide behind the excuse of incompetence, but I don't buy it. The man was suspected of operating as an intelligence agent under a variety of assumed names and identities, and yet the Cypriot judge honestly believed that making him surrender one of his multiple, multiple sets of travel documents would somehow stop the man from fleeing Cyprus? No one could possibly be that stupid and survive into adulthood; I thus suspect the Cypriots to be in cahoots with the Russians. We should let the Greek Cypriots know that they have made an enemy of the United States, and feed them to the rapacious Turkish Cypriots.

I'm not in the least mad at the Russians, because they are behaving exacting as one would expect. Of course they're actively trying to spy on us, what else would they be doing? Only someone as arrogant, ignorant, and naive as President Obama could be surprised by Russia's ongoing skulduggery. Hours before the arrests, our charlatan president was conducting "burger diplomacy" with the President of the Russian Federation (whose surname is "Whatever" according to our bogglingly inept Secretary of State). President Obama's appeasing attitude toward Russia can best be summarized by Edward Furlong's line from T2: Judgment Day: "…Russia? Aren't they our friends now?"

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Canada Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Canadian Idiot" from Straight Outta Lynwood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Happy Dominion Day, you hosers!