Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I was going to go against my better judgment & venture into the unholy hall of horrors we call Ohio in order to spend the weekend of 7-8 May visiting Where's Teddy?, but this evening I was uninvited by text message. Why? Because there is to be a large gathering of the non-Wilson side of Where's Teddy?'s family on Mother's Day; this apparently renders the whole of the weekend & the whole of Where's Teddy? off-limits to me. I replied, "Hey, no worries, family has to come first," to which the laughable response was "You're family, too, dude." If that was even remotely the case, why would only one side & always the same side of the family perpetually wind up with the short end of the stick? But what else would you expect from Buckeyes?

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

This Week in Motorsport
Another twist in the odd war twixt the two Lotuses ("The Lotus Eaters"): Sevenlink. I bear Lotus Renault no ill-will as a result of the battle between Group Lotus the auto manufacturer & Team Lotus the F1 constructor (& as we will explore in the forthcoming "The Saga of 'Quick Nick,' Part Deux," this year there is much reason to cheer for Lotus Renault), but there should be no doubt that I am a true blue—or perhaps that should be "true British racing green"—Team Lotus man. I have quite the man-crush on Tony Fernandes, the Team Lotus supremo. (I also adore that he is a Malaysian man named Tony Fernandes.) I wouldn't even fit into a Caterham 7, but I'd surely love the chance to fail.

In the wake of Williams (Cosworth) selling its soul to Hugo Chávez, "my" trio of teams have been pared down to a dynamic duo, Red Bull (Renault) & Team Lotus (Renault). I am looking to adopt a third team & I hereby affirm that I shan't be basing that decision on fair-weather considerations like who is most likely to win any particular grand prix. I want my teams to win, but I won't back a winner simply because they are a winner.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Go-Go 13, "Idiot Box" from Rice Capades (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Idiot Box" was written by Go-Go 13, & twice released by The Aquabats!, retitled "Idiot Box!" to fit in with their song-naming conventions, on the albums The Return of The Aquabats! (oddly enough, their debut album) & The Fury of The Aquabats! I finally heard the Go-Go 13 version with the release of the compilation Rice Capades, prefaced by "The Aquabats! and Horchata Records present…." The comp. contains two Go-Go 13 songs, "Idiot Box" & "Espionage." "Espionage" would have fit in better with "The Queue" above, but "Idiot Box" was one of the first songs I picked when I was choosing the SKApril R.B.D.S.O.T.D.
The Queue
I've been reading the Bernard Samson trilogy of trilogies since September of last year, seven full months. (Wayback Machine.) The saga concluded as it should have, with an emotionally draining ending that the reader should have seen coming, had he not allowed himself to be blinded by the hope that somehow, someway, everyone would live happily ever after. But that ending would have been a betrayal of everything that had come before, as this reader grudgingly admits. Len Deighton does not given his brilliant, taut, ten-volume tale of espionage, family, love, loyalty, & bloodshed a Hollywood ending; he gives Charity the ending that feels entirely consistent with the beginning of Berlin Game. And now a word from Deighton himself, the author's note from Charity (all titles sic):
The first three books of the Bernard Samson story, Game, Set, and Match, are set in the Cold War period from spring 1983 to spring 1984.

Winter: A Berlin Family 1899-1845 was the next in order of writing. The same places and the same people are to be found in it.

Hook and Line take up the story from the beginning of 1987 and through the summer of that same year. Sinker uses a third-person narrative focusing on Fiona Samson. It tells the story from her point of view and reveals things that Bernard Samson still does not know.

Faith, Hope, and Charity continue the story. Faith starts in California as Bernard's terrible summer of 1987 turns cold. Hope follows it into the last week of 1987. Charity begins in the early days of 1988.

Like all the other books, Charity is written to stand alone, and can be read without reference to the other stories.

I thank my readers for their kindness, their generous encouragement, and their patience. Writing ten books about the same group of people has proven a demanding labor but certainly a labor of love.

—Len Deighton
Portugal, 1996

Berlin Game (1983)
Mexico Set (1984)
London Match (1985)
Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family (1987)
Spy Hook (1988)
Spy Line (1989)
Spy Sinker (1990)
Faith (1994)
Hope (1995)
Charity (1996)

I'm going to tackle take at least a few days' sabbatical from books before returning with a bit of light fiction & the non-fiction of The Mechanic's Tale (Formula fun!, perfect summer reading) & a bit of light fiction before delving back into the shadowy world of spies & saboteurs.

Len Deighton, Faith
Len Deighton, Hope
Len Deighton, Charity

vacation from books
Steve Matchett, The Mechanic's Tale: Life in the Pit-lanes of Formula One

Karen E. Olson, Driven to Ink
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy
Len Deighton, XPD

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Slow Gherkin, "Shed Some Skin" from Shed Some Skin (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: For many of SKApril's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. I've chosen lesser-known, arguably more idiosyncratic songs from various bands' repertoires. Not so with Slow Gherkin. Maybe "Trapped Like Rats in Myers Flats" or "How Now Lowbrow" are better-known than "Shed Some Skin," but neither song—indeed, no song—is more quintessentially Slow Gherkin. There is a frenzied pace & driving energy to "Shed Some Skin" that makes me lament having never seen Slow Gherkin live on stage. Alas! Their best album title? Run Screaming. I'm going to get all weepy & mopey as SKApril draws to a close, aren't I? I pray not, that would be wicked annoying. Let's skank!

Monday, April 25, 2011

This Week in Motorsport
I used this weekend to catch up on all the racing I missed last weekend due to the Project MERCATOR activities about which I have yet to bloggy blog. (Soonest!) The F1 Chinese Grand Prix was run on Sunday, 17 April while the A.L.M.S. visited the streets of Long Beach, California on the previous day, Saturday, 16 April.

Formula Fun!
The lesson of the Chinese Grand Prix? Drive angry. '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton (№ 3) of McLaren (Mercedes) was the first man to win a grand prix in 2011 besides reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel (№ 1) of Red Bull (Renault), but without question the best drive of the day belonged to Red Bull's Mark Webber (№ 2). Murphy's law came down like a tons of bricks on Webber during Saturday's all-important qualifying, knocking him out of contention after the first of the three qualifying sessions (Q1). While the grizzled Australian has been slower than his youthful German teammate, Webber still has one of the fastest race cars on the grid & it was shocking to see him eliminated in Q1 alongside the six cars from the three newest & lowliest teams in F1, Team Lotus (Renault), Virgin (Cosworth), & Hispania (Cosworth). Starting from eighteenth, Webber drove furiously, executing pass after pass as he stormed his way through the field. He didn't just have a chip on his shoulder, Webber drove like a man possessed; I'd not before seen the like. On the grand prix's final lap, Webber passed '09 World Champion Jenson Button (№ 4) of McLaren to finish third in the race. On the podium! From eighteenth to third! There is no doubt in my mind that if the race had been longer Webber would have mercilessly chased down both Vettel & Hamilton to claim the victory himself. Previously, the most impressive making-up of positions I'd seen was in '09, when Button (then driving for Brawn [Mercedes], since bought by those Kraut bastards & renamed simply Mercedes) clawed his way from, I think, twelfth to fifth at Brazil to secure his drivers' world title, but even that pales compared to Webber's run from eighteenth to third. Third! If Webber always drove with that kind of fury no man—not Vettel, not Hamilton, not '05 & '06 World Champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari—could deny him the World Drivers' Championship. John Dryden wrote, "Beware the fury of a patient man." More than that, beware the fury of an Aussie in a hurry.

By Endurance We Conquer
Most of my fears about the streaming online "broadcast" of American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.) races on the website were realized when I watch the Long Beach race on Saturday. The streaming image froze up four times, though the audio commentary continued even while the image was accompanied by the gaily-colored pinwheel of frustration, my Macintosh's "busy" signal. I was helpless during these periods, with the "escape" command that was supposed to deactivate the full-screen image being non-responsive. The Macintosh was, in those moments, effectively a radio with a framed picture of a pixelated race car. The pixelation was a recurrent phenomenon, occurring with no discernible pattern. The moving image was smooth & clear more often than it was jerky & pixelated, otherwise I would never have made it through the whole race. That wasn't even the worst of it. In order to watch a race on, I must sit at my desk with an open internet browser; this is to me an irresistible temptation. Despite my interest in the race, as various thoughts passed through my head I'd wish to follow-through on ye olde interweb. It is important to note that Long Beach is the briefest race on the A.L.M.S. calendar, at two hours in length. There is simply no way I could sit at my desk through the six-hour race at Laguna Seca or the ten hours of the Petit Le Mans; with the constant tantalization of the bottomless tubes of ye olde interweb to explore I'd expire of old age before getting through either race.

So what in the Sam Hill am I supposed to do? I've learned over the last two years that I love endurance racing, but the sacred 24 Heures du Mans comes only once a year. I need my fix more often than that. Because of the extensive break to allow teams to compete at Le Mans, the next A.L.M.S. race isn't until early July. I'm going to violate my principles & watch the cut-down race edit on E.S.P.N. 2 the day after the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park; I watched a cut-down race edit on C.B.S. last summer & found it a thoroughly distasteful alternative to watching a race in its entirety on Speed, but with the full races no where to be found on T.V. this year & the full coverage on having been deemed wholly inadequate, the time has come for desperate measures.

In happier news, Easter Sunday was the official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe, immortal home of the Le Mans 24 Hours. 11-12 Juin approaches as rapidly as a Peugeot 908 with the pedal to the floor! Make ready! Make ready! The 24 Heures du Mans is coming!

I was watching the V8 Supercars race on Sunday (a delayed broadcast of the races from the Hamilton Street Circuit in verdammt New Zealand on Saturday & Sunday, 16-17 April) when the Jack Daniel's-sponsored cars caught my eye. There, emblazoned in huge white letters across the black hood (bonnet, as they'd say) & doors of the Holden Commodores, were the words "Jack Daniel's." In Formula One, McLaren is sponsored by the Diageo conglomerate, with Johnnie Walker whisky prominently advertised on both Lewis Hamilton's & Jenson Button's cars. The Force India (Mercedes) cars sport Whyte & Mackay branding on their flanks. I've no objection at all to alcohol sponsorship, especially since auto racing's richest traditional source of sponsorship revenue, tobacco, dried up in the mid-'00s thanks to draconian E.U. regulation, but there is something delightfully macabre about giant alcohol adverts on race cars when everyone knows that drinking & driving do not go well together. The grim joke has legs: Grand-Am's Rolex Series is bracketed by dual title sponsorships, being the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask № 16; the A.L.M.S. is formally the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. The gorgeous black & gold livery currently gracing the Lotus Renault cars in F1 is patterned after the John Player Specials cigarettes liveries (original) Team Lotus cars sported back in the 1970s & '80s, which begs the question: Which seems more ill-advised, driving a Lotus Renault while smoking a pack of John Player Specials or driving a McLaren while drinking a bottle of Johnnie Walker?

V8 Supercars is a principally Australian touring car series which features a fierce rivalry twixt Holden (General Motors) & Ford Australia. Unlike the "space frame" silhouette cars used in the D.T.M. or the ridiculous & utterly non-stock "stock cars" used in the abominable N.A.S.C.A.R., the V8 Supercars start life as more-or-less normal Holden Commodores & Ford Falcons & are then retrofitted to be safer, faster race cars. I don't understand silhouette cars at all. If you're going to build a pure race car, build a pure race car, like a Le Mans Prototype or an F1 rocket. If you are an automobile manufacturer looking to show off your products & prowess, modify a production car, as is done in V8 Supercars or the G.T. classes at Le Mans. But to build a pure race car & then hamstring its aerodynamic potential by putting a road-car shell around its innards, as is done in the D.T.M.? Nonsense, bloody nonsense.

I didn't wear a hat to Mass yesterday. A gentleman generally removes his hat indoors, & I'd certainly do so—as I have done—upon entering a church, but I didn't bring one for the walk from Lumi to the church's threshold even though that walk was, due to the Christmas-&-Easter Catholics flooding the parking lot, the longest of the year. Why? Because during Mass there's nowhere to put a hat but beside me on the pew, & with the Easter crush I knew there wouldn't be a square foot to spare for my headgear. If you're puzzled as to why I couldn't put my hat on the floor beneath the pew then you've clearly never seen a Catholic Mass: under the pew is where my legs go during the frequent bouts of kneeling that punctuate the celebration of Mass. To my good fortune, neither rain nor bright sunshine bombarded me during the treks from & to Lumi.

After Mass, my father used the X-700 to take a series of snapshots of me in my growing collection of hats, both with & without my newish spectacles. I left the house today without the roll of film, which I'd set on the front table specifically so I'd remember it, but tomorrow I will try again to drop the film off for developing. The photographs will be posted to the FaceSpace by the end o' the week if not sooner.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Toasters, "2-Tone Army" (live) from Live in London (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The obvious choice from The Toasters would be their most famous song, & one which I support wholeheartedly, "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down," but "2-Tone Army" is more in keeping with the overriding spirit of SKApril, & indeed the Eastertide. I've only one non-live Toasters song in my library, "Pendulum" from the third Asian Man Records Mailorder compilation, Mailorder for the Masses. I don't I've ever seen The Toasters live on stage, but I know that somewhere around here I've got a Toasters patch; where else could I have acquired such a thing if not at a Toasters show? I've been to so many shows over the last thirteen years that I readily admit having some trouble recalling which bands I saw with which other bands, accompanied by which friends, at which venue. At the time, each time, I was more concerned with having a ball than with keeping a comprehensive chronicle; sue me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXXXII - The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient clockwork computer.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day: SKApril
Skankin' Pickle, "It's Margaret Cho" from Sing Along with Skankin' Pickle (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: No, not that Margaret Cho. There are more ska bands in my library than there are days in April, meaning there simply won't be room for all of them during SKApril. So, why have I chosen Skankin' Pickle in addition to two other Mike Park ska bands, The Bruce Lee Band & The Chinkees? Three reasons: {a} The Bruce Lee Band, The Chinkees, & Skankin' Pickle each have a unique sound, allowing each to stand on its own merits quite apart from Park's involvement. {b} Mike Park is an awesome, inspirational chap & I am pleased to promote him & his endeavours whenever I can. {c} "It's Margaret Cho" is a great ska song, plain & simple. Okay, I suppose that's only two reasons, since {c} is largely a restatement/example of {a}. Still, those are two solid reasons on which I'd hang my hat any day of the week.

Samstag, 23 April
The Skatalies, "The Guns of Navarone" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: With the exception of a brief introduction, "The Guns of Navarone" is SKApril's second instrumental R.B.D.S.O.T.D., after Unsteady's "Tokyo." Like its voiceless brethren, "The Guns of Navarone" is over five minutes in length (6:23 for those interested in precision). Of the three Skatalites songs in my library, two are lengthy instrumental renditions of motion picture music, "The Guns of Navarone" & the "James Bond Theme." I really must make a greater effort to be more familiar with The Skatalites' original music before SKApril '12. (This has been & continues to be so much fun that of course it must become an annual event. Yippee!)

Friday, April 22, 2011

An idea, & indeed much of the story, for a movie sprang into my mind as I read this article: riotlink. (A motion picture instead of a book because of the magnificent visual potential.)

I've been going to the gym with Nick Andopolis this last week, & I am conflicted. He's an excellent fellow, supremely friendly & a straight-shooter, & I enjoy our grumbling, supportive banter. Yet, I'm me: there is a significant faction within me that would really rather be flying solo. This faction has been ignored, though, because coordinating gym times with Nick Andopolis makes it impossible for me to weasel out of going; so, for the nonce fellowship & ruthlessness are conspiring to trump my unsociable instincts. Only the dietary half of Operation ÖSTERREICH today, no exercise: a day of fasting & abstinence isn't the best time to be pushing my elephantine bulk to its limits. The Rec. Center is closed on Easter; so, Saturday draws the short straw.

I'm going to have to stop drinking pop if I want to lose eleven stone, aren't I? Scheiße! Would such a lifestyle even be worth living?

Objective SCHWEDEN
Four months until I "run" the Crim for the second time. Viewed another way, eight months have passed since I "ran" the Crim for the first time, thus completing Objective FINNLAND. (I haven't yet decided if the '12 Crim will be Objective NORWEGEN or Objective DÄNEMARK. Probably NORWEGEN in '12 & DÄNEMARK in '13.)

Urbi et Orbi
I wept on Sunday during the Passion play, I wept today during the old Negro spiritual "Were You There." Signs of devotion, or have I become a basket case and/or pansy? I earned a plenary indulgence by exercising the Stations of the Cross today, but I'm pretty sure I never successfully completed the vague, squishy penance Father Steve assigned me the last time I gave confession; so, apply the indulgence to that penance & it's a wash. (Father Tim's penances were explicit: x number of "Hail Marys" & "Our Fathers.") Side note: I really should partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation far more regularly.

The last week has been unseasonably cold & gloomy, which I have enjoyed very much, but it has also been persistently rainy & windy, which I have enjoyed much less. I have found that my fedora is magnificent protection against the rain, with the caveat that the broad brim which so effectively thwarts the rain is particularly vulnerable to the wind. Once, back in February or March, the fedora was blown off my head; that hasn't happened during the last week, but more than once I've put a gloved hand atop the fedora's crown to make sure it stayed put. Yesterday was cold, but so sunny that the mind thought the temperature was higher than the wind-chilled skin insisted; befitting the lightness of the day, I eschewed my heavy-duty felt fedora for the linen trilby I intend to wear until it becomes truly hot enough for this year's straw trilby. I hope to have hat & spectacle snapshots taken this weekend, swiftly developed, & posted to the FaceSpace by next weekend.

In the continuing search for the proper maintenance length, I've let my beard grow for a few weeks longer than I normally & discovered that I desperately need a trim. The case may simply be the same as with my head hair: I have to cut the beard slightly shorter than I'd like & wait a week or more before it looks its best. I'm off to trim it now.

Addendum: "Success! Success! They've done it! They've done it!"

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day: SKApril
Five Iron Frenzy, "Far Far Away" from Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There isn't a great deal of popular music dealing with Easter, much less Good Friday specifically, & ska proves no exception to this dearth. How best, then, to mark the holiest day of the year, the day upon which the wages of sin were paid in full by the Christ? Why, with Five Iron Frenzy, one of only two explicitly Christian ska bands in my collection, of course! (The other is the awfully-named The Insyderz.) "Far Far Away" makes specific mention of Saint Peter & Saint Paul & Judas the betrayer.

Donnerstag, 21 April
Edna's Goldfish, "Veronica Sawyer" from The Elements of Transition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The curious case of "Veronica Sawyer": The Reel Big Fish covered Edna's Goldfish's most famous song on R.B.F.'s album of covers, Fame, Fortune, and Fornication. R.B.F. are noted for their excellent covers of 1980s standards such as "Take on Me" & "Kiss Me Deadly," songs they improved immensely. The same does not hold true with their version of today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. There's nothing per se wrong with R.B.F.'s "Veronica Sawyer," but neither is there anything particularly right. It's a ska song… played as a ska song. I've always thought it a curious choice. Maybe it's a lament for the too-brief careers of Edna's Goldfish, a tip o' the hat, as it were? Edna's Goldfish might have been broken up by the time I became aware of their music, sometime around the turn o' the millennium. If they weren't already kaput by then, they were soon after. Some of Edna's erstwhile Goldfish formed a band—What would I call that genre of music? Indie rock? What in blazes does that even mean?—a non-ska band called The Reunion Show, but it wasn't as much fun as Edna's Goldfish. Why? (Come on, folks, this is SKApril, surely you can guess the answer.) Because nothing else is as much fun as ska!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tonight's last "monthly" Economics Club dinner of the year was a great success, as much a celebration of the coup d'etat that brought me to power last month as the end o' the 2010-11 academic year. There's good news & bad news, in that order: I had an hours-long discussion of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with a lass; alas, she's a vegetarian who admires the moral position of vegans. Easy come, easy go.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Madness, "Night Boat to Cairo" from One Step Beyond… (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There is ever so much more to Madness than just "Our House" & "One Step Beyond…" (the song).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXXXI - The E.N.I.A.C. (Electronic Numeral Integrator And Computer), or "Giant Brain."

As a lad, E.N.I.A.C. was described to me as simply "the world's first computer" & will always remained fixed in my brain as such.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
King Apparatus, "King Apparatus" from King Apparatus (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: King Apparatus is the most direct inspiration for SKApril, because I was listening to them when the thought passed through my mind, something along the lines of "Sweet fancy Moses, I love ska!" (Wayback Machine.) Thence, 'twas only a matter of time before both the plan & the name o' the plan were formed. I wish that "SKApril" worked when spoken aloud, but it just doesn't. However, it works so well in writing that I dared not even contemplate resisting. SKApril is going to be an annual tradition here at The Secret Base. At first, I didn't know if I'd have enough music not to repeat any bands over the month's thirty days, but as I combed through my catalog I discovered gem after gem, so many that SKApril '12 will feature bands for which there just isn't room in SKApril '11! Fear not, by no means does that mean ska songs won't remain a regular fixture of the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. throughout the other eleven months of the year. Is there such a thing as too much ska? Not in my experience, but let's go for broke!

As for the troika of "King Apparatus" by King Apparatus from
King Apparatus, well, surely you'll concur that the opportunity was too precious to let pass.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Weekend of 8-10 April
On Friday (8 April), I celebrated the first weekend since the end of the enlightening but arduous spring traveling season by reentering my life. What better way to do this than by seeing The Loose Ties at that increasingly dank & sketchy hole in the wall, Woobie's? I arrived strategically late & was greeted in the parking lot by my old chum Ska Army, who was fetching something out of his motorcar & of whom I had of late seen far too little. He told me that the band would be going on in mere minutes. Talk about timing! I entered through the front instead of sneaking in through the back & paid the cover (I loathe covers), figuring that doing so would encourage the owners to more often invite musical acts such as The Loose Ties to use the bar's performance space. I could say that I did it out of a respect for property values, but that's bollocks, I did it to support The Loose Ties. I did, however, buy a drink; I'm not claiming that I imbibe only as a way of paying my fare, because that's clearly not true, but that is a component of the calculation. On road trips, if I stop at a restaurant or a filling station to use the water closest I will also make a small purchase, my own way of compensating the water closet's owners for the use of their facility's facilities. Similarly, buying a drink is my way of paying the owners of a bar for my use of their facility (and, if I'm going to be there for several hours, almost certainly its facilities). I greeted those members of the band I saw & then made a pit stop. After that, I made for the bar, where I encountered Farr Afield. She squealed with delight & wrapped her arms around my neck. This is less an indication of any fondness she feels for me—though of course I am universally adored by The Loose Ties, having successfully if unwittingly made the jump from ardent fan to pal-of-all—than a clear sign that she was already three sheets to the wind.

The Loose Ties began their set as I was drinking the worst gin & tonic I've ever had, the last cocktail—or indeed the last non-prepackaged drink of any kind—I'll ever order at Woobie's. (There's no way they could screw up bottled beer, is there?) With my weak, sickly drink in my hand, I didn't skank through the first few songs. This is par for the course, as I it always takes a few songs for the rhythm to really grab me—the entire reason behind opening acts—, but this time holding off for a few songs afforded me the rare chance to have a drink in my hand when they played their ode to libations, "Let's Go Out Drinking." The pathetic G&T finished & an appropriate song on offer & I commenced the skanking that made me the band's first Super Fan. No sooner was that song concluded, however, than Phil the front man announced they had only more song to play that evening. I danced my heart out, but was still left feeling as if I was all dressed up with no place to go (in this case, dressed up in sweat). After the fireworks, I congregated with Nick Andopolis & Dick, the trombonist; Dick attends university in the Canadas & we engaged in a merry round of Canuck-bashing. (I do so hate our benighted neighbors to the north). This continued until the cacophony from the metal band that came on after The Loose Ties became too much to take, at which point I bade all farewell & disappeared into the night. I'd missed not one by two Loose Ties shows three weeks earlier (see: the forthcoming "Master Debating, 3 of 4: Wesleyan") & 'twas glorious to rejoin the preposterously fortune state of having regular access to live ska shows.

The next night (Saturday, 9 April), I attended Nick Andopolis's birthday party at the apartment of a married couple with whom he is close friends. The party was a beer tasting & the invitation invited invitees to bring a "unique beer to pass." I took advantage of my home's proximity to Oliver T's at brought a bottle of Delirium Nocturnum. (I was a little more impressed by Nocturnum than I was by its sister, flagship brew, Delirium Tremens, but I don't rate either very highly. To my palate, the Dutch still hold serve against the Belgians.) As is my custom in a group largely composed of strangers (a custom by both habit & inclination) I was quiet at first, trying to gauge the tenor of the conversation, but I soon tested the waters with a few sly, reactionary quips which received a very positive response. After that, my style properly attuned, I was humorous & charming. In addition to Nick Andopolis, I also knew Kevin—who once displaced me as Super Fan to The Loose Ties (though some in the band dispute that) before I won the title back with authority—& his longtime girlfriend Edina, & later arrival Ska Army. I met Ska Army's girlfriend Aja (read: Asia) for the first time & found her to be lovely company, quiet but funny. I was there for hours & had a good time, but not long after midnight the party seemed to be preparing to go all night long & I knew that wasn't in the cards for me. Not long after people began playing a dancing video game involving truly horrifying music I had the good fortune not to hear before (apparently, the top of the pop charts in recent months & years), I again wished Nick Andopolis a happy birthday, thanked my host & hostess for their hospitality in my own perhaps overly formal way, made my goodbyes to the rest of the company, laced up my Chuck Taylors, & ventured out to Lumi for the short drive home.

The Queue
The first of Len Deighton's novels I read was his sophomore effort, the disappointing Horse Under Water, starring the unnamed protagonist who was given the name of Harry Palmer in the films based on his literary exploits. But so full of promise was the heap of praise piled upon Deighton that I gave him a rare second chance, choosing Berlin Game precisely because it was not in the "Harry Palmer" series. Berlin Game was the first of the ten-part Bernard Samson series, the tenth of which, Charity, I have recently commenced. Deighton has more than proved his worth & I am eager for more, yet burned as I was by Horse Under Water I am reluctant to return to those earliest novels. So, I have selected XPD, which along with Horse Under Water & the alternate-history SS-GB deals with the legacy of the invasion scare of 1940, when Hitler's war machine had conquered Western Europe seemingly at a stroke & busily prepared to jump the English Channel & bring the Blitzkrieg to Britain. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. XPD is only third on the "Presently" list, after the third installment in the Tattoo Shop Mystery series & le Carré's supposed masterpiece. (I adore the television adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy & Smiley's People—starring the late Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley—, but I remain deeply antagonistic toward the author's viciously anti-American political views.)

Stella Rimington, Illegal Action
Len Deighton, Faith
Len Deighton, Hope

Len Deighton, Charity

Karen E. Olson, Driven to Ink
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy
Len Deighton, XPD

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day: SKApril
The Specials, "A Message to You Rudy" from The Specials (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The overwhelming majority of my ska collection is by third wave "ska-punk" bands, mostly Americans recording in the late '90s & early '00s, but I do have a little music from the second wave of ska, "2 Tone," which was the revival of the original '60s Jamaican ska by British kids in the late '70s & early '80s. Ska didn't originate with 2-Tone, but Great Britain has much closer ties to Jamaica than does America; without the commercial success of 2 Tone bands such as The Specials & Madness far fewer Americans would ever have heard of ska & ska-punk might never have arisen. Original Jamaican ska was, like Jamaica itself, almost exclusively black; it was 2 Tone that gave the genre the biracial/multiracial face that has become so characteristic. Also, note the sociopolitical themes that are more prominent in 2 Tone than in either original flavor or ska-punk: "Rudy" isn't necessarily any specific individual, but any or all "rude boys" out there.

I can't let it pass: the title should be "A Message to You, Rudy." The comma is not optional!

Sonntag, 17 April
Unsteady, "Tokyo" from Mailorder is Still Fun!! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Tokyo" is an instrumental piece, to my recollection the first of SKApril. The selection of "Tokyo" is by no means a slight against Unsteady's anything but unsteady vocals. I was sorely tempted by their song, "Stop Looking at Me (" from the album Double or Nothing, & it would have been a choice more representative of the band's body of work, but "Tokyo" was simply the right R.B.D.S.O.T.D. for Sunday.

Samstag, 16 April
Goldfinger, "Superman" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Goldfinger haven't been a ska band since the turn of the millennium, being one of the earliest bands to abandon their ska sound. This was a shame, but not a great loss, as "Superman" was far & away their best song. Goldfinger's is one of three separate songs I own titled, "Superman"; contrast this with not a single non-soundtrack song titled, "Batman." The Caped Crusader may sell more comic books, but the Man of Steel seems to have broader pop cultural resonance. The Loose Ties play a pretty bitchin' cover of "Superman," but 'twas not in their set this past Saturday night.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Coming Attractions
My apologies for the delays to "Master Debating, 2 of 4: Portland." A contributing factor to the delay has been Operation ÖSTERREICH, a valuable & necessary effort but undoubtedly also a drain upon my time &, in these early days before the pain starts to translate into gain, vim. I shan't have any time of my own tomorrow & Sunday will be quite busy as well, both days being chockablock with Project MERCATOR's high jinks. Which reminds me that I owe you a "Project MERCATOR" post about last weekend's festivities. Also, at some point, an update on the stalled state of Project PANDORA. The past week's flurry wasn't a fluke, dear readers, The Secret Base is back in business.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Johnny Socko, "They Know Us at the Spa" from Full Trucker Effect (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The only song with which I am familiar that contains the lyrics "Croatian beer." Raise your glass to Johnny Socko's originality.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXXX - Konrad Zuse's Z3, a casualty of the Second World War, but since resurrected through re-creation.

Bonus: Zuse's Z1, Z2, & Z4 (neither the Z3 nor the Z4 should be confused the the B.M.W. Z3 or Z4 roadsters).

If you want to get rid of sore muscles, lift more weight! My chest muscles had been sore & tight since Tuesday, but I powered through the pain today & now my condition is much improved. My right shoe wasn't anchored tightly enough to my foot during today's jaunt on the treadmill; I worked up a wee blister on my heel, but I've got padded bandages designed for just such occurrences & will be back on the horse tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I'll be lifting with Nick Andopolis (the brand-new code name for Matt, the drummer for The Loose Ties, fast becoming a pal o' mine), who has kindly offered his support & encouragement to my effort to lose a staggering eleven stone (don't hold your breath for those results).

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Hippos, "Don't Worry" from Forget the World (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The lyrics of "Don't Worry" posit a world in which ska is too popular, too successful. Even in those halcyon days of & after the Summer of Ska, ska kids were always few & far between. Was this perhaps not the case in Southern California? Was that hotbed of ska that spawned so many bands, The Hippos among them, so hip that posers & selling out were genuine problems? Holy smoke, if that was true….

"So you know that everybody's going to
The ska shows when it used to be just you,
You feel betrayed, alone, left out,
All your favorite bands have all sold out.

And now you see them on M.T.V.,
Now way they'll ever remember little old me.
What's become of your ska scene?
All the bands want money, and all the bands are mean.

So please come to the show tonight,
I promise everything is gonna be alright…."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

During the winter, I would step over the threshold into the biting chill already wearing thick gloves with which to clear the snow and/or ice off of Lumi. My driving gloves, sitting as they had been all night in the glove box, would be quite cold; I drove wearing my thick winter gloves. Now that the weather has warmed & gloves are no longer necessary at all times out of doors, I am rediscovering just how very much I love my driving gloves. What care I for the extra seconds they add to the beginning & ending of every drive? It's not as if I'm not in any hurry.

Next time: I know, I still owe you my tale of hat-inspired hypocrisy & douchebaggery. Cut me some slack, I've been very good about bloggy blogging over the past week.

The Winged Wheel
I cannot get excited about the commencement of the marathon Stanley Cup playoffs, not so long as the monster Bertuzzi is a Red Wing. When o when will I be able to "Believe" again?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Slapstick, "There's a Metal Head in the Parking Lot" from Mailorder is Fun! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Not to be confused with Less Than Jake's "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads." Mailorder is Fun! is not a proper album, but a compilation of many ska & punk bands put out by Asian Man Records. I've wanted to hear more from a goodly numbers of those bands, but even armed with unlimited funds with which to sample the musical waters there are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy (Belated) Birthday!
Happy birthday—a day late—to K. Steeze, fearless leader of Blue Tree Whacking! Steeze is bar none the most relentless & creative person it is my privilege to know. His drive is infectious, his leadership inspirational. From the Smith and Winkler films to the Real Can of Yams albums to Projects TROIKA & PALINDROME, the only creative works I've been a part of that have gotten past the planning stage have owed their realization of K. Steeze. Were he just a collaborator, he'd by one of the most important people in my life; that he is also my dear friend is a joy that knows no bounds. And one of these years I might even remember his birthday on his birthday. Happy birthday, Kevin!

Operation AXIOM
One hundred fifty years ago to the day, 12 April 1861, the traitors & slavers of the self-proclaimed "Confederate States of America" fired the opening shots in the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history. Nothing less than the fate of representative democracy hinged on the fulcrum of that war that pitted brother against brother. The bombardment of Fort Sumter no more caused the Civil War than the assassination of Franz Ferdinand caused the Great War, but every war begins somewhere, sometime, & the War of the Rebellion began in the bay of Charleston, South Carolina on this day in the Year of Our Lord 1861.

Fifty years ago to the day, 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) became the first human being to sunder the veil of the heavens & enter the airless realm of outer space aboard the spacecraft Lastochka. Thus began the era of manned spaceflight. That Gagarin was a propaganda tool of the blood-soaked abomination that was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in no way diminishes his achievement; Gagarin served Godless Soviet Communism, but his feats were a service to all Mankind.

Thirty years ago to the day, 12 April 1981, John Young—ninth man to walk on the Moon, during Apollo 16—& Robert Crippen sundered the veil of the heavens & rocketed into the airless realm of outer space in the Space Shuttle Columbia (not to be confused with the Columbia, the Apollo 11 Command Module). Young & Crippen's mission, STS-1, was the first spaceflight of America's iconic new spacecraft. STS-1 marked a new era for American manned spaceflight after a decade of post-Apollo malaise.

The Stars My Destination
Quite appropriately, N.A.S.A. chose this date to announce the disposition of the four extant Space Shuttles—the Discovery, the Atlantis, the Endeavour, & the purely atmospheric Enterprise—after the imminent retirement of the Orbiter fleet. Pasturelink. Let us hope & pray that the last Space Shuttle flight does not mark the end of American manned spaceflight.

I'm not as impenetrable an enigma as I like to pretend: if I haven't groused about Operation ÖSTERREICH for a spell the odds are that my lazy bum hasn't been dragged to the gym in far too long. As usual, I'm having a miserable Lent; by this I do not mean that my Lenten sacrifices are leaving my life a misery, but that I've done & am doing a miserable job of keeping those sacrifices. I aimed this year to give up sloth & gluttony. Gluttony has not been as successfully resisted as I'd have liked, but I have reined in my caloric intake quite a bit. Up until today, though, sloth's dominion had been limitless. At the Rec. Center I saw both Too Sly, my debate partner, & Professor D., one of the two Econ. Club faculty advisers, & thrice my professor. Perhaps I can convince myself that they'll think less of me if they don't frequently see me at the gym. At this point, I'll try anything in order to establish & then adhere to an exercise regimen. Nth time's the charm?

Fielding Yost's ghost, I'm going to be sore in the morning.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Mustard Plug, "Thigh High Nylons" from Skapocalypse Now! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There are more ska bands in my music library than there are days in April; so, no band will have more than one song selected as a R.B.D.S.O.T.D. during the celebration that is SKApril. Choosing a band's one & only song can be difficult. Do I choose something that is in some way representative of their body of work? Or pick a song that has some idiosyncratic appeal to mine ears? Most certainly the latter in the case of Michigan's own Mustard Plug. More representative choices, right off the top of my head, would have been "Miss Michigan" or "Throw a Bomb," & both are great songs, but the R.D.B.S.O.T.D. is the song of the day, & today there simply was no other choice but "Thigh High Nylons."

The Loose Ties, possibly in their earlier iteration, Another Misprint, once played a show with Mustard Plug; some bad blood still exists, thought I've not gotten the whole story out of any of them. Intrigue!

Monday, April 11, 2011

We are in uncharted waters. My beard surpassed the duration of the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge not long after the New Year; my moustache surpassed the combined total of the B.B.B. II & the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey is early March. The beard's are, perhaps, not really comparable. I've had this beard for seven & a half months, nearly twice the interval of the Bonanza, but I've also trimmed is thrice. I have yet to establish a comfortable trimming schedule or the kind I've enjoyed for the head atop my lead for lo these many years. It is far more difficult to trim my beard than to trim "my hair," both due to the vagaries of my cheeks & chins & to the fast that I'm trimming the beard hairs to a length than the top hairs have not reached since I was a very small child & my mother determined by haircut. I haven't yet acquired the knack, though I still trust that this will develop over time. I'm curious to see how the beard will fare over the summer, the one season of the year that was totally untouched by either the Bonanza's experimental beard or the current sustained beard: I shaved the beard in early May for "Cinco de Moustache," was cleanshaven for the realization of Objective ZED ALPHA, & stayed cleanshaven throughout the rest of the summer as an Objective FINNLAND gift for Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. Will the "summer beard" be shorter? It's hard to imagine that I'll find it so arduously warm that I'll go back to the drudgery of *shudder* shaving.

As to the moustache, whatever problems I'm encountering are much like those of the late Malarkey. Symmetry continues to prove elusive, as the right-hand & left-hand handlebars evidence differing characteristics. I am chagrined whenever I must clip the far end of a hair simply because it is so far outpacing all of its neighbors; this goes against all of my instincts, but moustache hairs are much like drivers on the highway: they all have to work together harmoniously if everyone is going to get home alive. An interesting phenomenon I've noted is the tendency of hairs simply to go rogue. Every now & again a hair will simply have reached its breaking point I will no longer respond to the gentle persuasion of the comb. These hairs stand out at odd angles, won't follow the gradual curve of their fellows, & in many cases appear to be bent in multiple places. I try to comb these fellows back into place in the hope that they were slept on oddly & will behave if given the chance, but in almost every case the hair must be clipped off as near to the root as I can manage. I've kept my hair very, very short for the last half of my life & these are things I've never before encountered.

Everybody on the master debating circuit knows my moustache; if nothing else, it is very distinctive. But these does seem to be something else to it, for the compliments come fast & thick. Much of this is envy, as I am among the eldest debaters & even I, who can now clearly grow quite the moustache, could do no such thing when I was in my early twenties.

Mad as a Hatter
The more I wear a hat the more uncomfortable I feel when I'm not wearing a hat. Even on warm days something within me just insists that a man should wear a hat… something visceral & quite far removed from the practical arguments about wearing a hat so as to fend off the death rays from the Accursed Sun. Michigan's weather is so mercurial that I don't think a bright-line Straw Hat Day of the old style is feasible, but as soon as is convenient I should put away the flat cap that I wore throughout the winter (sporting my fur ushanka on only the most bitterly cold of days) & dig last summer's pioneering straw trilby out of its ad hoc hat box. I would be on the lookout for an inexpensive boater, but I never dress up enough in the summer to warrant such a hat. I'll try to have some new mugshots of me in my spectacles & hats taken soon & shortly thereafter posted to the Farcebook.

My Card
I am intrigued by the idea of carrying calling cards (I'm not yet in business, what business would I have having business cards?), but how would I describe myself? "Distinguished gentleman" seems indefensible. I do not mean to boast by writing this, but I am told with wearisome regularity that I am a gentlemen; I insist that I am not as strenuously as courtesy permits, that I am a boor & a blackguard if only they knew me better, but they insist. So, gentleman, fine, by popular acclimation if not actual gentlemanly conduct, but distinguished? In what way have I ever distinguished myself? As a louse & a failure? (A failure not for having not succeeded, but for having failed even to try.) Distinguished gentleman? Is it to laugh. Wait, a brainstorm! Yes, I've got it: M. P. "Mike" Wilson, moustachioed gentleman. Now we're cooking with gas.

Next time: your humble narrator learns a valuable lesson about being a hypocritical douchebag & vows to change his ways.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Potshot, "Mu330" from Potshot A Go Go (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It is difficult to overstate how much I love the band Potshot. They don't mean as much to me as, say, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Reel Big Fish, but that is in large part because their lyrics, sung with gusto in broken "Engrish," are mostly unintelligible. (I'm not not criticizing—Potshot's English is a hell of a lot better than my Japanese—that's just the way things stand.) There is a vim to Potshot that I've not heard matched by any other band, not even the human dynamos in Less Than Jake; this is a verve that I find irresistibly appealing. I own five Potshot albums & can barely discern a word of them, but I can listen to Potshot for hours & hours & hours & never have my smile fade. Play on, you splendid maniacs!

This Week in Motorsport
Two months 'til the "Grand Prix of Endurance," the world's greatest test of man & machine, the sacred 24 Hours of Le Mans! I suggest a two-stage preparatory regime: {1} watch the documentary Truth in 24 & {2} watch the Steve McQueen film Le Mans. The 24 Heures du Mans is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sport, a tradition almost ninety years in the making. Now's your chance to join the excitement!

"Chaque seconde est une nouvelle emotion."
"Each second is a new emotion."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXXIX - The Harvard Mk. I/I.B.M. Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.

Bonus: The I.B.M. Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator & the Harvard Mks. II, III, & IV.

The Victors: Maize & Blue & Red
Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 Michigan (O.T.)
29-11-4, C.C.H.A. 20-7-1

We fell one goal short of our tenth National Championship, but the 2010-11 valiant Wolverines have much of which to be proud. Overtime time! Good on you, boys! You are a credit to the University of Michigan. I extend my congratulations to the epithetless Bulldogs of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The valiant Wolverines will be members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (C.C.H.A.) for only two more seasons, 2011-12 & 2012-13, for in 2013 the Big Ten will begin six-team conference play of ice hockey: Michigan, Michigan State, & Ohio State will leave the C.C.H.A.; Minnesota (the luckless Golden Gophers of the Twin Cities, not the Duluth Bulldogs) & Wisconsin will leave the W.C.H.A.; & Penn State will elevate its club teams to N.C.A.A. Division I status. I can't say I like the idea of the increasingly-inaccurately named Big Ten fielding such a pint-sized conference, but what does that matter since the Big Ten doesn't care a wit what I think? Fatalism is the only sensible approach here; whatever will be will be.

I once had a one-on-one meeting with the Michigan's then-Athletic Director, Bill Martin, a meeting held at his initiation. The subject was Yost Ice Arena, specifically the student seating area. It was a gloriously ridiculous circumstance, one I'll recount someday when I suspect we're all in need of a good laugh. For the nonce, Red's valiant Wolverines did a grand job representing the Maize & Blue, & I for one vow to pay much closer attention to Michigan hockey in the years ahead; a mini-Project OSPREY for collegiate hockey, if you will. It is more important to support your team after a loss than after a win; so, tomorrow I will wear my battered old 1998 N.C.A.A. Men's Ice Hockey National Championship T-shirt in solidarity with our returning victors valiant, defeated but unbowed.

Addendum—Monday morning: Please excuse my language, but I know of no other way to express precisely what I am thinking. Fuck Brian Cook of MGoBlog & his jihadist-level hatred for the Michigan men's ice hockey team. Fuck him & his relentless pessimism, fuck him & his "everything that happens is the end of the world" whining. Fuck him & the horse he rode in on. Here's hoping the miserable fuck gets crushed by a bus & rediscovers hope whilst encased in a full-body cast recovering. Fuck him & his fucking website, the hyperlink to which has just been deleted from my "bookmarks." Fuck you, Cook.

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
Sweet fancy Moses, the Malaysian Grand Prix was thrilling! Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel started from the pole position & won the race, but the multiplicity of pit stops meant that he did not continuously lead the grand prix from green flag to checkered flag, though he was not seriously challenged, not even by the mighty McLaren duo of '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton & '09 World Champion Jenson Button. The same three teams sat atop the podium as at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix & in the same order—Red Bull first, McLaren second, & Lotus Renault third—though two of the three teams were represented by different drivers.

Australian Grand Prix | 27 March 2011
{1} Sebastian Vettel (№ 1), Red Bull ("Infiniti" [see below])
{2} Lewis Hamilton (№ 3), McLaren (Mercedes)
{3} Vitaly Petrov (№ 10), Lotus Renault

Malaysian Grand Prix | 10 April 2011
{1} Sebastian Vettel (№ 1), Red Bull (Infiniti)
{2} Jenson Button (№ 4), McLaren (Mercedes)
{3} Nick Heidfeld (№ 9), Lotus Renault

To Infiniti… & Beyond!
Red Bull uses the same Renault-produced engine as both Lotus Renault (the former Renault factory team) & Team Lotus (the former Lotus Racing). Why do their firesuits & the RB7's livery then carry the Infiniti logo & name? There is a significant corporate alliance between Renault & Nissan, an arrangement in which Renault owns a large share of Nissan & Nissan owns a much smaller share of Renault; Infiniti is of course Nissan's luxury marque (Infiniti is to Nissan as Lexus is to Toyota or Cadillac is to General Motors). Reigning World Constructors' Champions Red Bull's engines are branded "Infiniti" purely as a marketing maneuver, not because they technically differ from those powering the four feuding Lotuses. I'm caught twixt competing impulses: on the one hand, I want to type "Red Bull (Infiniti)" because I respect marketing & capitalistic self-interest; on the other hand, I want to type "Red Bull (Renault)" because that's what kind of an engine it truly is. Henceforth, I'm pretty sure I'll type "Red Bull (Renault)," in the interests of calling a spade a spade.

Last season, Cosworth, in its return to F1, supplied a third of the grid; this year, the distribution is an even four-way split. Power by:

Red Bull
Lotus Renault
Team Lotus

Toro Rosso


Force India

Bolivarian Imbroglio
I no longer support Williams (Cosworth). The highlight of Williams's 2010 campaign was rookie Nico Hülkenberg's pole position in the penultimate grand prix, Brazil; at the final round of the season, in Abu Dhabi, Hülkenberg was unceremoniously let go. I was irked by this decision, but I can well understand why Williams did it. The principle obstacle, it is thought, to Williams resuming their traditional place atop the F1 world—alongside their long-time rivals Ferrari & McLaren—is the team's relatively meager funds. "The Hulk" is considered one of the most promising young drivers out there, but he does not carry nearly as much personal sponsorship as some other young drivers. Williams had little choice, one could argue, but to replace Hülkenberg—who had nothing to offer but his prodigious talent—with a so-called "pay driver"—one with deep pockets behind him. Pay drivers are nothing new in motorsport & nothing new to F1; running a top-flight racing organization isn't cheap. (A joke: How do you make a small fortune in Formula One? Start off with a large fortune.) Somebody has to pay the fare, somebody has to foot the bill. Though disappointed that Hülkenberg was to be replaced by a pay driver, that alone was not enough to cause my breach with the team.

The driver Williams selected to replace Nice Hülkenberg was 2010 GP2 (a feeder series meant to identify the F1 stars of tomorrow) champion Pastor Maldonado. Hülkenberg was the '09 GP2 champion; so, Maldonado would seem to be a worthy successor. However, that assumption doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Hülkenberg was in GP2 for one full season, at the end of which he won the championship, thus prohibiting him from further GP2 participation. 2010 was Maldonado's third full year in GP2, giving him experience at all the tracks that his often rookie competitors could not match. In 2009, Hülkenberg & Maldonado were teammates, driving identical vehicles backed by the same pit crew: Hülkenberg outscored Maldonado by leaps & bounds, winning the title while Maldonado finished sixth. I have nothing against Pastor Maldonado personally, he's a young driver (though two years older than Nico Hülkenberg) trying to make his way in the world of open-wheeled racing, & as I always want the best man to win I wish him well if he's the best man. But any sort of objective analysis indicates that he's not the same caliber of driver as Nico Hülkenberg.

All that said, Williams are free to make their own mistakes, & it was not the replacement of the talented pauper Hülkenberg with the also talented (though less so) fat cat Maldonado that caused me to cut the bonds of affection to Williams. The breach was caused by the source of the pay driver's lucre. Pastor Maldonado is Venezuelan (no, I'm not a bigot); his principal sponsor, & now a large contributor to Williams's coffers, is P.D.V.S.A., the Venezuelan state oil monopoly. Maldonado is a propaganda tool for Venezuela's strongman-cum-dictator, Hugo Chávez. This I cannot brook. Williams is a business & Chávez's money spends like anyone else's, but I simply cannot be a party to their amoral dealings with that tyrant. I can no more root for Williams than I could buy gasoline at Citgo (& I don't). It is with some glee, of an indisputably vicious character, that I report that neither Williams had yet to finish a grand prix in 2011; neither Maldonado nor Rubens Barrichello have finished either the Australian Grand Prix or the Malaysian Grand Prix. Here's hoping their rotten luck will continue unabated.

Formula fun!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Catch 22, "Keasbey Nights" from Keasbey Nights (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: All the songs on Keasbey Nights, Catch 22's debut album, were written by a chap who left Catch 22 before the band recorded it's sophomore album. That chap then went on to form a ska band called Streetlight Manifesto which years later also released Keasbey Nights, calling it "as performed by Streetlight Manifesto." I've not heard the music of Streetlight Manifesto, but the latter-day ska kids in The Loose Ties speak of them as a big influence. For an old-timer like me, I reflect with sadness that ska's position in the early '00s was weak enough even without this kind of internecine feuding. Keasbey Nights is a great album as recorded by Catch 22 & I can only imagine that it's still great as recorded by Streetlight Manifesto.

Also, an irksome bit of trivia: on the exterior artwork to
Keasbey Nights, Catch 22's name is written as Catch Twenty-two, yet on the interior art & the disc itself it is Catch 22. I use the numerical name Catch 22 because that is the name that survived to the later albums.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Queue
Part of the problem I encountered in getting through Spy Sinker, beyond the foolhardy distraction of Dame Stella's Liz Carlyle series, was the third-person narration. Winter, the fourth novel in the ten-book Bernard Samson series (a trilogy of trilogies & the prequel Winter), had third-person narration, but the first trilogy—Berlin Game, Mexico Set, & London Match—& the preceding two volumes of Spy Sinker's trilogy—Spy Hook & Spy Line—were narrated in the first-person by the irascible Bernard Samson. The narrative mode of Spy Sinker was necessary since it is the behind-the-scenes tale of Game, Set, Match, Hook, & Line & conveys much information that is unknown to & unknowable by Samson, but I still missed his jaundiced view of his world & its players. With Faith, the narrative is back inside Bernard's suspicious, cynical, & oddly idealistic mind, & 'tis a wonderful vantage from which to survey a story. As I'm sure I will repeat once I finish Charity, I heartily recommend the Bernard Samson series to all & sundry.

Len Deighton, Spy Sinker
Stella Rimington, Illegal Action
Len Deighton, Faith

Len Deighton, Hope

Len Deighton, Charity
Karen E. Olson, Driven to Ink
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy

This Week in Motorsport: Formula Fun!
The 2011 F.I.A. Formula One World Championships began a fortnight hence with the Australian Grand Prix. The season had been scheduled to begin two weeks before that, with the Bahrain Grand Prix, but that grand prix was first postponed & eventually cancelled due to the upheaval—first the peaceful protests & then the bloody crackdown—in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Is isn't that F1 is opposed to authoritarian rule, rather that it is squeamish around uncertainty & instability. But never mind all that, onward to the land Down Under! On with the show!

The 2011 campaign began as the 2010 campaign ended, with a dominating victory by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the '10 World Drivers' Champion, at 23 the youngest in the sixty-plus years history of F1. Vettel didn't just win the grand prix, he towered like a colossus over the whole weekend. He was fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying by a full second (a lifetime in F1), & fastest in the race, crossing the finish line over twenty second before the second-place runner, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel was indeed, as was oft repeated, "on a different planet" than anyone else.

A fortnight later & the Malaysian Grand Prix is upon us. Vettel was not the fastest man in any of Friday's & Saturday's three practice sessions, but today's qualifying session saw him once again earn pole position, even though he drove fewer qualifying than any of the other "heavy hitters." He pipped Hamilton by one-tenth of a second, nothing like the untouchable form exhibited in Australia, but pole position is pole position. The two Red Bulls ("Infiniti"-powered) & the two Mclarens (Mercedes) occupy the top four grid positions. The two Ferraris & the two Lotus Renaults (see "The Lotus Eaters" below) occupy the fifth through eighth spots. Those kraut bastards at Mercedes G.P. continue to lag behind the other "top" teams, so much so that they really should be regarded as a mid-field team; the '09 glory of Brawn, which has since become the Mercedes factory team, is looking an awfully long time gone. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

The grand prix will be broadcast live from Malaysia, meaning it will air in the wee hours of the morning here in the United States (specifically, Speed's pre-race show starts at 3:30 A.M.). I will watch the Malaysian Grand Prix tomorrow after recording it overnight. Videotape may be an old medium, but I'll love it until my V.C.R. gives up the ghost. (I prefer not to use my Dad's D.V.R. because that means I must watch whatever I've recorded around my his extensive T.V.-watching schedule.)

The Lotus Eaters
There are now two teams in F1 calling themselves Lotus. One is the team that last year brought the Lotus name back into Formula One as Lotus Racing, this year using the historical name Team Lotus. The other is the former Renault factory team—which was only 25% owned by Renault in '10 & is now 100% non-Renault-owned—now calling itself Lotus Renault. Last year, Lotus Racing used Cosworth engines; had that situation persisted, this year we could call them "Lotus (Cosworth)" to differentiate them from the old Renault, which now calls itself Lotus Renault. But Team Lotus now uses the same Renault engine as Red Bull & Renault, er, Lotus Renault. So, we have two teams calling themselves Lotus, both using Renault power. The Speed broadcast team & the F.I.A. avoid the confusion by calling Team Lotus "Lotus" & Lotus Renault "Renault." A clear solution, but one I cannot countenance. "Renault" aren't Renault anymore, no more than Red Bull or Team Lotus are "Renault," no more than Williams or Virgin, both of which use Cosworth engines, are "Cosworth."

There is a legal battle raging in the British courts over which team, Team Lotus or Lotus Renault, has the legitimate rights to the august Lotus name. Team Lotus (last year's Lotus Racing) bought the rights to the name from the chap who held them after the mid-'90s collapse of the original Team Lotus, & last year enjoyed the support of the descendants of Lotus's founder Colin Chapman. Lotus Renault got the name when Lotus Cars, the road-car company Chapman founded based on his success with building race cars, paid a sponsorship fee to "Renault's" shadowy owners, the investment firm Genii Capital. Which, then, is the real Lotus? It is literally a matter for the courts to decide. Here at The Secret Base we're going to call "Lotus" Team Lotus & "Renault" Lotus Renault; I have faith in the intelligence of my audience that you'll be able to discern one from the other. (Team Lotus are running in a blood-summoning green-&-yellow livery, similar to that which they ran as Lotus Racing last season. Lotus Renault's livery is a gorgeous black & gold, reminiscent of the John Player Special liveries original Team Lotus cars bore in the '70s & '80s.)

Formula fun!

This Week in Motorsport: By Endurance We Conquer
The opening round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series, the 12 Hours of Sebring, was run on Saturday, 19 March while I was busy master debating at Ohio Wesleyan University. The streaming "broadcast" of the race is still available on, but therein lies the problem. The streaming file cannot be downloaded, it cannot be rewound or fast forwarded, it can only play—all the way through—for over twelve hours. I watch the 24 Heures du Mans live on T.V., as much of it as I can, even at the sacrifice of sleep, but that's a once a year event during the less hectic month of Juin. I do not have the time to spare to watch the 12 Hours of Sebring, not all in one go. I faced a similar problem last year with the ten-hour long Petit Le Mans, the close of the 2010 A.L.M.S. How did I overcome this? Through the use of videotape. Over the weeks following the actual race, I watched it an hour or two at a time, as my schedule permitted. It wasn't ideal, but I saw all of the Petit Le Mans. Not so with last month's 12 Hours of Sebring nor, in all likelihood, with this year's Petit Le Mans. I simply will not be able, despite the availability of, be able to watch this year's longer A.L.M.S. races. That's a shame, because though I enjoy the two hour forty-five minute "sprint" races that make up the majority of the calendar, the real spirit of Le Mans is best captured in the longer, true endurance races.

I accurately foresaw the problems I am now encountering with the A.L.M.S.'s bizarre insistence that streaming the races over the internet is the exact same as broadcasting them on television. I so often hate it when I'm right. I greatly enjoy endurance racing, & the A.L.M.S. hosts the best endurance racing in America, but what good does that do me if I cannot watch the races? Curses!

Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Chinkees, "Asian Prodigy" from The Chinkees… Are Coming! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The name The Chinkees isn't racist, it's anti-racist: the second "SKApril" band from by Asian Man Records founder Mike Park, every member of The Chinkees is of Asian descent. "Asian Prodigy" is thematically similar to The Bruce Lee Band's song, "Don't Sit Next to Me Just Because I'm Asian," fighting back against even so-called "positive" stereotypes, in both cases that all Asians are high achievers who find success & fulfillment only in academic excellence & social advancement.

"Now, I don't want to be a doctor,
There are things I need to share,
And I want you to love me,
Sharing all your love with me,
Sorry I can't be your Asian prodigy.

Can you treat me like a person?
There are things I need to share…."
Vote For Kodos
Much ado about nothing: shutdown shut down. The real showdown will be over the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, due in September.

"The cruel, hot summer
Led into the long, hard fall…"

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Victors: Maize & Blue & Red*
I shan't pretend that I've been paying close attention to the ice hockey team's fortunes throughout the year. Except for the Big Chill at the Big House in December, I haven't seen a college hockey game in person since '02 or '03. That said, I was once a regular at Yost Ice Arena; I have the ticket stubs & I know the filthy chants to prove it. I have been irked all year by MGoBlog's hostility toward this year's valiant Wolverines, the bizarre insistence that this team just isn't any good because it isn't as flashy as teams past. The valiant Wolverines defied expectations, earning a spot in the N.C.A.A. Tournament—extending the record-setting streak of twenty consecutive tournament appearances—& playing their way into the Frozen Four, the semifinals of the championship. On Thursday, Michigan beat North Dakota, the top-seeded team in the whole tournament, for a berth in Saturday's national championship game. The valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan are sixty minutes of game time away from their record-extending tenth National Championship. If that's not a reason to get excited, I don't know what is.

Go Blue!

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Debate does not like basketball. The Ohio Wesleyan tournament (the forthcoming "Master Debating, 3 of 4") took place during the first weekend of the Big Dance, the frantic four days that whittle a field of sixty-four down to the Sweet Sixteen. Nationals at Vermont, a fortnight later, overlapped with the Final Four; I was home in plenty of time to watch the national championship game on Monday night (4 April), but by the time the game tipped-off I was beat after the emotional stress, sleep deprivation, & hit-or-miss diet of the weekend & not in much of a mood for the game. Shame about Butler's collapse, but having seen Kemba Walker's clinic in domination at the Maui Invitational back in November I can hardly say I'm surprised that UConn won it all.

Sunday, 20 March - N.C.A.A. Tournament "3rd Round" (Rd. of 32)
(№ 3 overall, № 1 seed) Duke 73-71 Michigan (№ 8 seed)
21-14, Big Ten 9-9

We learned that Michigan was making a game of it just as we were going into the final round at the Ohio Wesleyan tournament; that the valiant Wolverines were making a game of it against the diabolical Blue Devils was tremendously uplifting; that the game came down to the very last shot was a thrill that no one could have predicted coming into this season. I've rarely been so excited & joyous after a loss. To those who dismiss the notion of moral victories, I submit Michigan's loss to Duke as Exhibit A in favor. Wow, what a team!

Friday, 18 March - N.C.A.A. Tournament "2nd Round" (Rd. of 64)
(№ 8 seed) Michigan 75-45 Tennessee (№ 9 seed)
21-13, Big Ten 9-9

The game tipped-off at 12:30 P.M. & we departed from campus at 1:00; I was motoring to Delaware, Ohio for a debate tournament during all the action. It was thrilling to learn that we hadn't just advanced in the Big Dance, but had done so at the expense of that sleazebag Bruce Pearl & in such spectacular fashion. This was Michigan's second N.C.A.A. Tournament berth in three seasons, & second opening-game victory in those two berths. Thank you, John Beilein!

Saturday, 12 March - Big Ten Tournament Semifinals
(№ 1) Ohio State 68-61 Michigan
20-13, Big Ten 9-9

The valiant Wolverines played the hated Buckeyes, the best team in all the land, even for thirty-five minutes; unfortunately, for five minutes starting halfway through the second half, we stopped playing both offense & defense, allowing our hated foes to jump out to an ultimately insurmountable eighteen-point lead. Blast!

Friday, 11 March - Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals
Michigan 60-55 Illinois
20-12, Big Ten (regular season) 9-9

The feisty Fighting Illini lead for almost the entire game, but the valiant Wolverines lead when it counted. I was terrified that the Maize & Blue would drop another close contest, as we had against Illinois in February, but there was a discernible confidence in the valiant Wolverines' body language that buoyed by spirits even before they captured the lead. As the № 4 seed playing the № 5 seed, Michigan had the toughest quarterfinal in the Big Ten tourney, but struggled far less than the higher-seeded pesky Badgers & ill-starred Boilermakers. Woot!

Saturday, 5 March
Michigan 70-63 Michigan State
19-12, Big Ten 9-9

I spent the whole of that Saturday master debating in Portland, Oregon. A month later, I can still scarcely wrap my mind around the enormity of it: a season sweep of the dastardly Spartans. A season sweep of the dastardly Spartans! That ridiculous count of days that those illiterate pyromaniacs kept (just because they don't know their letters does not necessitate that they don't know their numbers), shoved back into their scavenger faces! Beating them in their own house, & then finishing the season by holding serve in the House that Cazzie Built! Besting that asshat Izzo not just once, but twice! Bwa ha ha ha ha! We've been so mired in basketball futility for so long that I'd essentially ceded that ground to our devious brethren in Evil Lansing. No more, because the valiant Wolverines swept the dastardly Spartans! Ha! Put that in your pipe & smoke it, you cretins.

Saturday, 26 February
Michigan 70-63 Minnesota
18-12, Big Ten 8-9

I spent the whole of that Saturday master debating in Danbury, Connecticut. (Scroll down to the recent "Master Debating, 1 of 4: West Conn.") I have great respect for Tubby Smith, the head coach of the luckless Golden Gophers; so, I'm always pleased by a win over his squad. I find having missed the game vexing.

Wednesday, 23 February
(№ 12) Wisconsin 53-52 Michigan
17-12, Big Ten 7-9

I missed the tight loss to the pesky Badgers because I was still slightly ailing & using all my meager strength to play catch-up after losing a week to the dreadful sick. Plus, watching the pesky Badgers is usually akin to Chinese water torture: it sounds kind of interesting, but soon becomes monotonous & disheartening.

Sooner rather than later, I will put down a few thoughts on the season as a whole & what it may mean for next season. In six seasons in Ann Arbor, Tommy Amaker never took the valiant Wolverines to the Big Dance, something John Beilein has now done in two or his four seasons. This season, Michigan's roster didn't boast a single senior. Wonder of wonders. Will all the discord of the Rodriguez era & all the uncertainty yet surrounding Hoke, these so young valiant Wolverines & their wild ride through the season were exactly what the Michigan Nation needed. To borrow a line from the Detroit Tigers, Bless you, boys!

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Chris Murray, "Let There be Peace" from Plea for Peace (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Last weekend in Burlington, Vermont, a very "crunchy" burg, a fellow defined the difference twixt ska & reggae thusly: "In ska, you just get drunk & have fun. In reggae, you get high & try to change the world, except you don't accomplish anything because you're high." Heh! I quite enjoyed that. Reggae grew out of ska, the original Jamaican ska, but by no means does reggae have a monopoly on a social conscience. Never forget that not too many years ago a multiracial band, as many ska bands have been going all the way back to 2-Tone (the second wave of ska), was an unusual sight, pioneers in the normalization of race relations. The symbolism of the black & white checkerboard pattern isn't subtle, nor was it supposed to be.

*Maize & Blue are Michigan's colors. Red? That would be Michigan's head coach, Gordon "Red" Berenson, All-American player in college & Stanley Cup winner in the N.H.L., under whose leadership the valiant Wolverines won National Championships in 1996 & 1998. Red is a legend in his own time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Last week, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Ph.D. visited campus for, amongst other functions, an "open forum" (a Q&A session). This morning, as part of the same speaker series & in another open forum, the campus hosted the P.B.S. NewsHour's Gwen Ifill. In both instances, I was the first person to walk up to the audience microphone & pose a question. On neither occasion had I any real wish to do so, but a great many people seem to believe that microphones are unaccountably lethal & will not approach them until they have successfully failed to kill another human person (thank you, Shawn "Sean" Spencer). The Lord only knows how long we would have sat there, increasingly embarrassing ourselves in front of our guest, before someone else had taken any action. If not me, who? If not now, when?

I know, I know, what a sorry state of affairs.

Master Debating, 1 of 4: West Conn
Ours is a minute debate team, & ad hoc to boot. At other, more traditional colleges, debate is a longstanding tradition, steeped in institutional comfort & stability. Not so with our strange little troupe, which has taken six different debaters ('twas supposed to be seven before one chap—an awful, inarticulate brute of whom we were all pleased to be rid—bailed the very morning we departed for Claremont, back in September) to seven different tournaments, with only one stable duo: Too Sly & your humble narrator. And we had to scrape together those six debaters with bailing wire & insincere smiles; by contrast, Cornell brought eleven teams to West Conn (twenty-two debaters), plus sundry coaches/judges & spare debaters, with all indications that there were yet another horde available back in Ithaca. But we have aspirations of building a program that will outlast our tenures, & as such have recently taken to decision to give our debate squad a formal name in the traditional style. Having previously described ourselves as the "debate team" & the "debate squad" (before April '10 the "speech & debate team"), we are now the U.M.F. Debating Union. We hope to print T-shirts or hooded sweatshirts one of these days.

Western Connecticut State University
Danbury, Connecticut
25-28 February 2011

West Conn was the first debate trip since the inaugural tournament at Adelphi University (on Long Island) in November '10. Only a trio had made the Adelphi trip, our coach: The M.A.P., Too Sly, & me; West Conn was our first trip with the broader team since the Horror of Hart House in October. Love/Hate (now reviled within the team as "The Hasshole") had been a complete disaster, haranguing her partner & fellow novice, Sugar, whenever they didn't win a round, willfully ignoring our patient explanations that winning a Worlds round is no easy feat. It was not as if Love/Hate was the world's most luminously brilliant debater & Sugar a millstone around her neck; they were both novices with much to learn before they had any right to expect success. With The Most Dangerous Game absent a partner (the aforementioned brute), at Claremont The M.A.P. had rotated the three girls so that each got at least some experience. At Hart House, The M.A.P. allowed Love/Hate's boyflesh (almost uniformly derided as her "beard") to debate, his first & only time, partnered with The Most Dangerous Game. West Conn would be the debut of the new, stable partnership of The Most Dangerous Game & Sugar.

The much-desired stability was not in the cards, I'm afraid. After the second round on Saturday, Sugar, in great pain, asked to be taken back to the hotel to rest. Some time later, she began inundating my mobile with calls, as she did not have The M.A.P.'s mobile's number. I couldn't check my phone during rounds, but in between I heard her plaintive cries to be taken to hospital. Holy cow! I relayed this dire message to The M.A.P., who dashed off to the rescue. By the end of the day's four rounds, Sugar was in Danbury's hospital with The M.A.P. at her side, her physicians still attempting to divine her ailment. More than that we would not know until late at night.

I suppose I was tasked with leadership because of the seniority of my age; my first problem was to get Too Sly, The Most Dangerous Game, our two foster teammates from Regis University (Denver), & me from the West Conn campus to our hotel, & thence to procure dinner. The M.A.P. had suggested that we bum a ride off the gigantic St. John's team, but St. John's had enough personnel to fill both their eleven-seat vans. Their coach noted with some concern that he'd be willing to come back for us after he'd dropped his own team off at their hotel, but then seized on an alternate idea & asked me to hold on for just a sec. He asked an independent judge, but with some affiliation to St. John's, to give us a lift; the kind fellow agreed. There were five of us to transport, plus the judge, in his four-seat sedan. The Regis coach had not made the trip from Colorado to Connecticut, entrusting his two lads, The Beanpole & Meathead, to his good pal, The M.A.P. With The M.A.P. ministering to Sugar, the Regis boys became my responsibility. I thought it best to get them & The Most Dangerous Game back to the hotel as soon as possible, & volunteered Too Sly to stay with me on campus until the second shuttle run. I instructed The Game to order pizza as soon as she got back to the hotel, & subtly tasked Meathead & The Beanpole with her protection. Off they drove into the cold, dark Connecticut night with a man we didn't know from Adam.

Too Sly & I waited outside, in the cold, so as to be sure not to miss our rendezvous. As is so often the case in situations where the interval passed might prove interesting knowledge, I forgot to mark the time at the beginning of our wait; I'd hazard a guess that we stood there for twenty-five minutes, on a five-minute one-way drive to the hotel. We reviewed the events of the day & worried about Sugar, cracked jokes & gossiped about our chances of being socially accepted into "the circuit," a subject of great concern for Too Sly. In the fullness of time, our ride returned. The very kind judge, who was going out of his way to aid us, told us that they had gotten lost on the drive back to the hotel, to be rescued by the satellite navigation on The Most Dangerous Game's smart phone. (We live in such an age of marvels that we take them for granted.) We stopped at a filling station on the way, but were soon back at the Holiday Inn, where the judge was also staying. We thanked him for coming to our rescue & went to find our fellows. They regaled us with a tale of the judge's insistence that The Most Dangerous Game share a meal with him at a Chinese buffet along to route twist the campus & the hotel. Was his plan to leave The Beanpole & Meathead to wait in the car whilst he & she ate? I was glad the boys had been there to watch over her. I was less pleased to learn that she hadn't yet ordered the pizza. They could have ordered in the fifteen or twenty minutes during which the judge motored back to campus, picked us up, stopped to fuel his motorcar, & finished motoring to the hotel. Why hadn't she? She didn't know what we wanted on our pizza. Why hadn't she called either of our mobile phones to ask? She shrugged. The Most Dangerous Game' most infuriating character defect is her petulant insistence that no one may be in charge but her, exacerbated by her paralysis & inability to make a decision once in command. (This trait would have dire consequences for the Econ. Club, as I shall chronicle soonest.) Soon enough we had pizza in our bellies & anxiety for Sugar in out hearts, & all retired fairly early.

Very late, but not yet early, The M.A.P. contacted me: Sugar was afflicted with multiple kidney stones. This was quite a relief. When I was a lad, I woke up one day at my maternal grandparents' house to find that my mother had been whisked to the hospital with kidney stones. This was stupefyingly terrible news to my young self, but by the next day Mom was returned from the hospital & I learned the lesson that kidney stones have a worse bark than they do bite. Not so the case with Sugar, who has more health problems than I could chronicle even were I to devote the whole of The Secret Base to that effort, & who is still afflicted with at least one remaining kidney stone over a month later, but we knew none of this then. After the conclusion of Sunday's debates, we trucked over to the hospital & greeted a very drugged-up Sugar as she was released. We shepherded her back to the hotel, where she was soon asleep, & were able to get her on & off the aeroplanes on Sunday without serious incident. She enjoyed being wheeled through the terminals at Detroit Metro & Flint Bishop in her wheelchair, but really at that point she was so high on a cocktail of pain medications that she enjoyed everything. Her mother met us at the Bishop baggage claim & thanked The M.A.P. profusely. We all wished Sugar, who really is the sweetest girl in the world, a swift & full recovery.

As for the debating, the purpose of the journey to the westernmost extremes of Connecticut, that went pretty well. As at Adelphi in November, Too Sly & I "broke" into the "out rounds," the tournament portion of the weekend's debate tournament. At Adelphi we had broken as the five seed into semifinals (№ 5 of 8, out of a total field of 24). At West Conn we did proportionately better, breaking as the eight seed into quarterfinals (№ 8 of 16, field of 52). Alas, also as at Adelphi, we didn't advance beyond the first out round. We "hit our heads" on a ceiling; we're better than most of our fellow debaters, but we're not yet an elite duo. We experienced this in an earlier round where we debated fairly well, but were still clearly the 4. But it was some consolation to see that one of the two semifinal rounds was exactly the same as that preliminary round, except for us. We sometimes get our arses kicked, but only by the best. Still, The M.A.P., who is not profuse with his praise, expressed pride in the pace of our development; by only our fifth overall tournament, just over a semester's worth of experience, we had proven ourselves a consistent break team. Too Sly & I were eager to fly to Portland the following weekend for the next test of our steadily-increasing skill. The Most Dangerous Game was sanguine, too; the hybrid partner St. John's had supplied her as a replacement partner (producing a hybrid of two different schools, & thus the term) proved both competent & kind.

Socially, the weekend also saw our cause advanced. As aforementioned, Too Sly is obsessed with being "accepted" into "the circuit." We had our first interactions with the Ohio Wesleyan (O.W.U.) debaters, our nearest Midwestern neighbor, who were due to host their own inaugural tournament in three weeks' time. Unlike us, theirs is a student-led program. The M.A.P. is a communications professor, he teaches a variety of courses within the Comm. Department, but part of the reason he was hired as opposed to some other candidate is his extensive debate background. Running the now-Debating Union is part of his official duties, & because of his love for debate he was only too eager to ditch the "speech" part of the old "speech & debate team" in favor of devoting our energies entirely to B.P./Worlds debating. The O.W.U. kids are lead by a blonde whirlwind, the irrepressible Miss Alaska (after her comeliness & home state). She is the driving force behind recruitment & the principal driver of the van (also unlike us, they do not have the budget for air travel). We saw Miss Alaska last year at Nationals (April '10, both ours & The M.A.P.'s first Worlds tournament, in Denver, co-hosted by Regis University & the University of Denver), but had no real interaction with her or her then-partner, now moved on to another school. We hadn't seen them at any of the fall's tournaments—Claremont, Hart House, & Adelphi—due to their scarce resources, but now the moment to bond had arrived & it went swimmingly auguring good things for the fast-approaching Wesleyan tournament. We were also warmly greeted by everyone we met from Cornell (Wayback Machine.*), including a really good team who handed us our heads in the aforementioned hitting-our-heads-on-the-ceiling round. We saw them twice, in that preliminary round & again in our quarterfinal. They were especially complimentary after that second encounter. I mention this because ti is unusual; previously, the best teams, the teams capable of walloping us, had been standoffish, in some cases even condescending. (As in all things, debate has its share of jerks.) The representatives treated us with more warmth than we had experienced from any similarly skilled team, & for that we hold them in high esteem.

Though we did not advance out of the quarterfinals, Too Sly & I had broken in our second consecutive tournament, thus collecting another piece of hardware for the Debating Union's rapidly-filling trophy case on the fourth floor of the White Building, outside of the Communications Department. And I collected a speaker award, finishing № 7 out of a field of 104 speakers. More importantly, I drew even with Too Sly, who had drawn first blood at Adelphi by collecting a speaker award while I was edged out by some ridiculous novice who was the beneficiary of "speaker fairy dust," an unreasonable inflation of his speaker points.

In the dollhouse-sized aerodrome in White Plains, New York, Too Sly & I found ourselves sitting across the aisle from an amusing fellow named Mike. He was a living caricature of a working-class New Yorker, though my knowledge of New Amsterdam is not sufficient to parse whether his accent indicated a Queens or Brooklyn upbringing. He had wonderful stories of not taking crap from anybody, his sainted mother, & the love of cooking he'd discovered only in middle age. Neither of us will ever forget the way in which he said "chicken parm," though I confess that Too Sly's imitation is more spot-on than mine. Otherwise, our return from the Nutmeg State (by way of the Empire State) was unremarkable.

Next time: West Coast v. East Coast, Niflheim, & Comrade Coquettish!

I saw more Fiat 500s in formation today, this time a trio of them instead of a pair. Jumpin' Jack Pratt, those things are barely bigger than a breadbox!

*I've recently learned that the time machine from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was called the W.A.B.A.C. Machine, not the Wayback Machine. "Wayback Machine" hyperlinks on The Secret Base have always been intended as a reference to Sherman & Mr. Peabody's voyages, not specifically the internet archive the Wayback Machine (itself a reference to the W.A.B.A.C. Machine). Should I continue to call those hyperlinks "Wayback Machine" or switch to the more accurate but less visually pleasing "W.A.B.A.C. Machine"? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated, dear readers.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Save Ferris, "The World is New" from It Means Everything (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Save Ferris's Monique Powell has the most intoxicating voice this side of Kay Hanley. Her onstage persona, however, is the perfect antidote. Save Ferris was one of the first ska-punk/third wave bands to start shedding their ska sound; more's the pity, their mostly non-ska sophomore album, Modified, is dreck.