Monday, October 31, 2011

Operation AXIOM
Happy Halloween! I'm a terribly glad that I decided to reengage with Halloween from '09 onward. I'm well-pleased by the now annual tradition of a week of R.B.D.S.O.T.D. dedicated to the spookiest time of the year, though less pleased by the fact that I just don't get invited to Halloween parties. (I recognize the contradiction of my position, that in the main I am glad not to be invited to most parties, even though it handcuffs me regarding Halloween. I've yet to devise a workaround, aside from the risible option of hosting mine own Halloween party.) Mayhap next year I shall set aside my own distaste for "haunted houses" & organize an outing around patronizing one. The pumpkins are carved & the candy is ready to be dispensed to suitably attired trick-or-treaters. Let the ghoulish festivities begin!

You know, in all these years I've never cut eye-holes in a sheet & worn that as a ghost costume. It's crummy, sure, but also a kitschy classic. Boo!

Operation AXIOM | Project PANDORA
I need to meet a girl who could pull off this as a costume:

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Halloween
Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London" courtesy of The Watergirl (T.L.A.M.)


"He's the hairy-handed gent
Who ran amok in Kent.
Lately, he's been overheard in Mayfair.
You better stay away from him,
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim!
I'd like to meet his tailor."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLIX - Igor Gouzenko (1919-1982) & the Gouzenko Affair (1945), described by some as marking the beginning of the Cold War.

Urbi et Orbi
I had a jones to watch the videotaped inaugural Indian Grand Prix this morning, & did so in lieu of attending Mass at eleven o'clock. I paid a hefty price for attending the five o'clock Mass: the "contemporary" music, featuring no use of the usual hymnal. I always forget just how much I loathe that acoustic guitar-driven, too-hippie-by-half cacophony. Let us hope this time I've learnt my lesson. Achtung, Dummkopf! Verboten!

The Savage Wars of Peace
The tyrant is dead—& three cheers for that—but 'twould be an error to end N.A.T.O.'s mission in the Libyan skies when the future of that benighted country is so very much up in the air: cut & run-link. American leadership in this instance could turn the tide, but President Obama, "leading from behind" as ever, will be eager to beat a hasty retreat, just as he has in Iraq, where his administration's failure to negotiate in good faith with the Iraqi government has lead to the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Mesopotamia, which might yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Crossing our collective fingers & hoping for the best is neither a foreign policy nor a national security strategy.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Orson Welles & the Mercury Theatre on the Air players, The War of the Worlds from The War of the Worlds: Original Radio Broadcast (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Broadcast seventy-three years ago to the day, 30 October 1938. At fifty-seven minutes in duration, this is far & away the longest yet R.B.D.S.O.T.D.

"This is Orson Welles, ladies & gentlemen, out of character to assure you that
The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be, the Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet & jumping out of a bush & saying, "Boo!" Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows & steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night; so, we did the best next thing: we annihilated the world before your very ears & utterly destroyed the C.B.S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, & that both institutions are still open for business. So, goodbye, everybody, & remember, please, for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, & if your doorbell rings & nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Champions of Breakfast, "Tame the Wolf" from Pleasure Mountain (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Wolf, as in werewolf. The lyrics include what appears to my ears to be a reference to An American Werewolf in London. Wishful thinking on my part? I know both members of Champions of Breakfast; so, I'll have to ask them one day, if I remember.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What an altogether awful day! The misery was self-inflicted in that I once again, despite repeatedly learning the hard way the lesson that no good deed goes unpunished, lent a hand to a worthy undertaking. Were it not for my conscience, founded in my faith in the Christ, I'd be a complete bastard, one with a stone heart, cold & immune to idiots' cries for assistance. There are days when I envy that hypothetical bastard, & only with adequate temporal distance do I regain the perspective to realize that for all the worldly suffering of the day, I've the far better lot than he. The poor devil triumphs in the moment only to perish in the long run. To sleep, & thus to put this horrid day in my rear view mirror, will be a great relief.

The Psych watching party on Wednesday last went well. I caught glimpses of the old annoyances, but the initial sources of fondness were more often & thoroughly evinced. As a bonus, the new episode of Psych, "This Episode Sucks," was a hoot, even by the high standards of Psych's usual brilliance. I am well pleased by how the reunion-esque shindig fared.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dr. John & The Blues Brothers Band, "Season of the Witch" from Blues Brothers 2000: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Beatniks are out to make it rich."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers, "Monster Mash" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A standard without which no Halloween party is complete.

"Out from his coffin Drac's voice did ring,
Seems he was troubled by just one thing,
Opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, 'Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?'"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am hosting "the old Econ. Club gang" tonight, for what has been named a Good Old-fashioned Psych Watching Party. The Cowgirl cannot attend, but I am expecting The Most Dangerous Game, The Impossible Ingenue, Vitamin H., & their old hometown chum, with whom I have interacted on many occasions when at The Game's & The Ingenue's parents' home, High Functioning. An occasional Econ. Club member, who has never been code named, Carmelle, is also expected. I am torn between a desire to recapture the good old days—these are the girls who gave Project MERCATOR almost all its start-up capital, at a time when I was isolated & lonely—& a dread that this night will be a microcosm of all the reason why I've not spent nearly as much time with them over the past year. Of course, given my hermitic nature, that tension is historically commonplace.

Code Name: CHAOS
High Functioning's brand-new code name derives from the fact that he's an odd young man, intelligent & beset by all manner of odd mannerisms. In our diagnosis-obsessed culture, it is no longer acceptable just to be weird or different; that weirdness must have a name, the difference must be explained by a chronic medical condition. In my head, I've jested that High Functioning would be described as being on the high functioning end of the "autism spectrum," probably to be diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. This is nothing but a joke in bad taste on my part, I do not suspect there is anything amiss with High Functioning; he's just an odd duck. I'm an odd duck myself, & Bog only knows what the hysterical physicians & parents of today would say about the late-'80s me, in all his glorious oddity. Later, in the '90s, I used to ask, "Mike Wilson: Bizarrely honest or honestly bizarre?"

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising" from Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Online sources give the last line of the second verse as, "…I hear the voice of rage and ruin," but I've always heard it as, "…I hear the voice of raze and ruin." Did I err? Of course, when consulting online sources, it is always a hazard that multiple sources are simply repeating stations one for another; so, fifty websites might give the same erroneous information, each perpetuating an earlier mistake. I could just as easily me wrong, but to my mind raze is a more fitting companion for ruin than is rage. I do not claim to be unbiased.

"Don't go 'round tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Wednesday of the week before last & the Monday of last week, after two consecutive debate practices, I dined out with Ska Army. Too Sly joined us on the first occasion, in what had to one of the most bawdy conversations to which I've been a party. I was the chief instigator of the bawdiness. I don't know precisely what was the source of my odd humor, if I simply surrendered myself to the sports bar atmosphere in which we had placed ourselves (the Detroit Tigers were still playing then, battling on a number of exceedingly large television screens against the Texas Rangers), but I was of a very peculiar mood & launched into what was, by my prim standards, some very raunchy talk. Girls were more prized for their physiques than their intellects in our discussion, & the nation's distaff debaters were cited as one of the activity's principal charms. The following Monday, when Ska Army & I dined downtown, I could not help but see myself mirrored in the lad; he is desperately infatuated with an old friend of his, the newest master debater, & hasn't the slightest inkling of how doomed his hopes are. I freely admit to my ineptitude in reading persons, their intentions & desires, but I'd wager my last pfennig that the lady has no romantic interest in Ska Army. His ardor is genuine, but doomed nonetheless. I see in him the same madness that seized me during my forlorn, distasteful longing for The Impossible Ingenue, of which I remain deeply ashamed. His pursuit, unlike mine, is age-appropriate. Like me, though, there's no talking any sense into him; he'll not accept the sad truth of his situation 'til he stumbles upon it himself. I hope for my friend's sake that I am wrong, but know that I am not. Doom, doom, doom.

Last Friday, I paid my first visit to The Machine Shop, Flint's far-famed heavy metal/hard rock club. It is the metropolitan area's premier musical venue, but, again, 'tis a metal club; why would I ever go to such a place? To see The Loose Ties, of course, playing a gig where they were out of place, because in these desperate days‚stretching back a full decade—a ska band is always out of place. I escorted my new pal Jojo, with whom I'd made plans to sped the evening before I learned of the show (The Loose Ties were an eleventh-hour replacement); once I learned of the show, the two engagements dovetailed nicely. The worst bit of a night was an adoring fan… of mine, a vague acquaintance from campus, one of that puzzling throng who seem to think I'm some manner of guru. Honestly, kid, I have no interest in hearing about your latest visit to, as they call it in Saint Louis, the titty bar, except to say that you should never again defile yourself by visiting a house of iniquity. Conversation with Jojo was difficult due to the combination of the gadfly & the canned music coming through the speakers, but I had previously introduced Jojo to Farr Afield, who in turn introduced her to The Redhead, & the three of them gabbed at great length. The Redhead & I tried to teach Jojo how to skank during The Loose Ties' set, with only a little success. Still, enthusiasm is more vital than physical coordination, & was in no short supply.

We left The Machine Shop at the same time as Ska Army, who was very excited to share with me the fruits of his first foray into the home-brewing realm. I accepted four bottles of his home-brew (I have since drunk two of the bottles & yet retain my eyesight, always a concern when moonshine is involved). After I'd let Jojo into Lumi the Snow Queen's passenger seat & closed the door, Ska Army made am obscure gesture, one could even call it an inside joke, which he coupled with the raised eyebrows of a query. No, I told him, I had no amorous designs on Jojo, she's too young for me/I'm too old for her. (Jojo is older than The Impossible Ingenue, but still falls foul of the "half your age plus seven" rule of thumb, which I now follow in the interests of propriety.) She was hungry, so we repaired to the Firkin & Fox, an establishment of which everyone seems inordinately more fond than I. We shared "Irish nachos," which turned out to be waffle fries (always a plus) with green onions, bacon, & a white sauce I can't quite identify, but was nothing too exotic. Jojo wished to go on, but by this point in the evening it was too late to go anywhere but a bar & too late to go back to one of our places & just hang out (the calculation might well have been different if making out had been in the offing); so, I drove her home, received a parting hug, & motored home.

I had not skanked for months, & the next morning my calves were no fans of my reckless enthusiasm. I'd say I was getting to old for this #%*@, but I already got too old for this #&*@ quite a while ago. To quote a pair of Jamaican chaps I met last spring in Burlington, Vermont, "Ska, ska, ska."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "The Thing on the Bass Amp!" from The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death! and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary: Welcome to our second annual R.B.D.S.O.T.D. celebration of Halloween. "The Thing on the Bass Amp!" has nothing specifically do to with Halloween, but it well-suited to our purposes because it describes a creepy monster, an insidious presence in the midst of the unsuspecting. It also includes the lyrics, "It's alive!" and sinister cackling. By contrast, "Fashion Zombies!," from Charge!!, has a good Halloween-appropriate title, but is about the real definition of zombie, someone who has surrendered their will to another & acts as a mindless automaton (in this case as a slave to fashion), not the brain-devouring "zombies" of popular culture—which more closely resembles the vampire of Balkan folklore than do the sparkly, tormented hero "vampires" of modern pop culture. Back to "The Thing on the Bass Amp!":

"The thing… that climbs into your head at night,
The thing… with selfish teeth and greedy eyes,
The thing… that helps you escape your mistake,
The thing, the something else that you can blame,
The thing in the bass amp!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

There's nothing about Netflix's recent trouble that I don't enjoy: Qwikster-link. A little while back, halfway between the announcement of the spin-off of the D.V.D. rental business as Qwikster & the boom being lowered on that ill-conceived idea, I was engaged in a rather heated argument on this topic. My conversational partner was of the view that it was good to separate the streaming & D.V.D. options, & that Netflix's customers should quit their whining. I replied that I had no objection per se to the new billing plan, but that the public relations hadbeen bungled so terrifically as to taint the very idea of the plan; I also added that I thought spinning off the D.V.D. rentals into a whole different company, especially one with as awful a name as Qwikster (What year is this, 1999?), was a mistake that would terribly damage the Netflix brand. He reasserted that whatever Netflix did was fine & dandy & the subscribers should be glad the service existed at all. I know, I can't believe I was suckered into such a discussion, either, but at least it wasn't with anyone whose opinion I respect or value. I am also pleased that the management of Netflix have come around, to a degree, to my way of thinking. Qwikster? I scoff at "Qwikster."

This Week in Motorsport
This weekend saw the second live broadcast of a V8 Supercars race on Speed. The more I see of the V8 Supercars, the more I like, especially the live (complete) coverage, rather than the edited races usually presented. The argument here is similar to that made against the Entertainment & Sports Programming Network's canned coverage of the American Le Mans Series: seeing a race live, as it happens, is fun, but not as important as seeing a race in its entirety, from green flag to chequered flag. Seeing a race edited takes away much of the sense of the ebb & flow of the race that makes watching so interesting. An edited race is like a painfully long highlight package; I enjoy highlights as much as any other chap (& how I long for C.S.C. to be a real channel, with Sports Night as its flagship program), but they should be highlights, not the whole event with just enough of the liveliness ripped out of it to destroy the sporting value. I'll watch edited V8 Supercars races if that's all that's on offer, but it'll be hard to go back now that I've seen the vital, thriving sport live. (Can I go back to the farm now that I've seen gay Paris?)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Cardigans, "Carnival" from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Original Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLVIII - Lionel Crabb (1909-1956?), frogman extraordinaire, & the Crabb Affair.

Urbi et Orbi
Adjusting to the new Roman Missal, Third Edition is a curious experience. I support the new translations, meant to make the English more accurately reflect the Mass's original Latin—& thus the Mass's original intent—, viewing them as a tacit acknowledgement of what we all intuit, viz. that the Vatican II reforms went too far. The wrinkle is that the changes are to the parts of the Mass that every Catholic knows by rote, & overcoming decades of memorization is difficult. A complicating factor is that the last two Sundays' Masses have each involved a baptism, which takes the place of the Nicene Creed, depriving us of two more chances to practice the revised wording of the Creed. The most frequent change is the following common exchange:

Old version:
Priest: "The Lord be with you."
Parish: "And also with you."

New version:
Priest: "Th Lord be with you."
Parish: "And with your spirit."

My mother notes that "and with your spirit" seems to her much closer to the Latin of her youth, "et cum spiritu tuo," which is awesome, but that doesn't make the changeover any easier. It took the congregation three tries to get it right today at the end of Mass. Father Steve said, "The Lord be with you," & most of us—but not your humble narrator—replied, "And also with you." He paused & didn't correct us, but gave us a kindly look & said, "The Lord be with you." This time, a far larger number said, "And with your spirit," but a great many again said, "And also with you." Here Father Steve reminded us of the new wording & said again, "The Lord be with you." This time, "And with your spirit" rang out in the unanimity that is such a hallmark of the Mass. This is going to take some time to get right.

I can only imagine what it was like switching from the Latin to the vernacular in the mid-'60s after the Second Vatican Council. I would never have turned my back on the Holy See like those heretical bastards in the "Traditionalist Catholic" movement, but I would not have reacted well to the change. There would have been many dark mutterings under my breath, but I would have fallen in line in time; after all, who am I to oppose Holy Mother Church? (Hey, "Traditionalists," rejecting the ecclesiastical authority of His Holiness the Bishop of Rome is rather the operational definition of Protestant, so kindly stop calling yourselves "Catholic," because you aren't anything of the sort. Christians most assuredly, members of the catholic Church Militant, but not Catholics.)

The entirety of the latest issue of Faith magazine, published by the Diocese of Lansing, is devoted to the new Roman Missal; I hope to make the time to read what's been put on offer.

The third… fourth… fifth… nth time's the charm! This time the governments of Europe will take the "decisive & effective" action needed finally to solve the rolling, roiling European debt crisis: euro-a-go-go-link. There is concern in Euroskeptic circles that this crisis will be seized upon as an opportunity to once again expand the E.U.'s transnational powers at the expense of the powers of the twenty-seven constituent E.U. member nation-states. I regard this concern as well-founded, while still disagreeing with the skeptics' premise of inveterate opposition to European integration. Liberal democracy is fun because finding & maintaining the proper balance is a constant struggle! Tyranny is easier, but vastly more unpleasant. But I digress. Let us hope the prime ministers & presidents & chancellors, & ministers of finance & Presidents of the E.U.'s byzantine institutions & chancellors of the exchequer, are able this time to restore confidence to the timorous markets, lest fear spread like wildfire & drag us into a repeat, small-scale or otherwise, of the Panic of '08. Cross your fingers & keep smiling.

Elsewhere in Europe (Switzerland being one of only two nations in Western, Central, & Northern Europe not to belong to the European Union, Norway being the other), the single-issue Swiss People's Party's (S.V.P.) share of the vote has fallen: Swiss-link. The S.V.P. remains the largest single party in the Parliament, & should retain both its seats on Switzerland's weird, consensus-driven Federal Council, but it's taken a step back after recent successes in referenda. While I wholeheartedly agree that the consent of the body politic* is the only legitimate basis for any polity, the Swiss ban on minaret construction—an appalling violation of what should be the universally inalienable right to freedom of worship—is a sobering illustration of the need to constrain the in-the-moment will of the mob within carefully considered constitutional limits. (I freely admit that my bias toward written, codified constitutions is influenced by my patriotism & reverence for the U.S. Constitution, but I maintain that this in no way discredits my arguments.) The S.V.P. is not evil, & it has every right to argue for radical change to Switzerland's immigration laws, but it would do well to be more conciliatory in its rhetoric & less single-minded in its program. Now, how do we go about getting the distasteful minaret-construction ban repealed?

*I attempt to avoid the words "the people," since so many tiny slices of the populace attempt to justify themselves as speaking for "the people." In my estimation, "body politic" encompasses all the people whilst sidestepping the minefield of "the people."
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers!" from The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death! and Other Amazing Adventures—Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary: Mr. Bonkers is a pet scorpion with grandiose ambitions.

"No proboscis here!
It's Mr. Bonkers's year!
He's sick sick sick
With the bicycle kick,
You can't see his eyes from here!
Wo yeah yeah, wo yeah yeah,
Can you see him tonight?
Wo yeah yeah, wo yeah yeah,
Under the hot rock light?"

The Secret Base is now accepting nominations for our second annual, expanded R.B.D.S.O.T.D. celebration of the spookiest time of the year, Halloween. The series will begin on Tuesday. The more the merrier! Er, the more the scarier?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Success!… & yet, trimming my beard remains far less emotionally satisfying than cutting my hair; whereas with my head hair I can see a clear difference from the word go, the results of beard trimming don't really reveal themselves 'til after I've showered & dried. The reveal doesn't have the same emotional heft. Nonetheless, the beast has been tamed & my beard appears once again as I wish it to appear.


The Queue
Saving the Queen is the worst book I've ever read. I will shoot myself in the head before ever reading another book authored by the odious William F. Buckley, Jr., fiction or non-fiction. If ever the opportunity arises, I will desecrate Buckley's grave.

John Buchan, The Thirty-nine Steps
Keith Jeffery, The Secret History of M.I.6: 1909-1949
William F. Buckley, Jr., Saving the Queen

Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence

David Ignatius, Body of Lies
John le Carré, Call for the Dead
Joseph Newman, editor, Famous Soviet Spies: The Kremlin's Secret Weapon

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates!" (live) courtesy of the YouTube (Nick Andopolis)

Commentary: Ahoy!-link, 7:19 seconds of live-in-concert awesomeness, brought to us by Nick Andopolis, my pal, a home-brewer, & the oft-shirtless drummer of The Loose Ties, whom I had the privilege of seeing live on stage last night. Let me also recommend for your aural-visual stimulation the following, also courtesy of the YouTube, combining "Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates!" with the pirate-themed anime One Piece: pieces of eight-link. Ahoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Operation AXIOM | Objective ZED ALPHA
One year ago to the day, 21 October 2010, the episode of Jeopardy! on which I appeared as a contestant was broadcast in syndication from coast to coast. The episode, as well as the four other episodes broadcast that week, was taped in August, but I thought it would be more fun for all involved if I didn't reveal anything about the game's outcome until my episode aired. Everything about my experience on Jeopardy!, from taking the online quiz to auditioning in Chicago to that amazing day on the Sony Pictures lot, was absolutely outstanding. Let me repeat that, outstanding; I cannot speak highly enough of everyone involved (except Alex Trebek, with whom I have a small beef, but that will keep for another time). Jeopardy! was amazing from start to finish, & I urge everyone reading this to sign up for the Jeopardy! online quiz, the first step to being a contestant. You've nothing to lose & so very much to gain.

Allow me to correct one common misconception. Most inattentive viewers assume that all contestants on Jeopardy! take home as must money as they've "won" during the course of a game, regardless of whether that contestant wins the game. Hogwash, only the daily champion keeps her winnings. A second-place finish wins $2,000, third-place wins $1,000. If the champion finishes with $20,002, second place with $20,001, & third place with $20,000, the champion walks away with $20,002, second place with $2,000, & third place with $1,000. Bet the farm on Final Jeopardy!, because if you don't grab the brass ring you won't be able to keep it anyway.

I finished Double Jeopardy! in third place, with $8,600 to the returning champ's $12,400 & the other challenger's $12,800 (I was the only one of the three not to hit any of the three Daily Doubles). I bet it all & lost, finishing with $0, but won $1,000; had I bet it all & been right, I would still have finished second, as the other challenger got it right & bet nearly everything. Had I bet less & been right, I might still have gotten second, but I might also have still finished third. Betting everything was my only chance to win the game. Had I bet everything & been right, I would have finished with $17,200 & won $2,000; as it happened, I'm good with finishing with $0 & winning $1,000. Shortly after my episode aired one year ago, I received a telephone call from one of my mother's pinochle friends. She harangued me for betting everything on Final Jeopardy!, reasoning that if I'd bet nothing I'd have won the $8,600 with which I finished Double Jeopardy! She was honestly mad at me. We had a number of my parents' friends over to the house to watch the episode; I was playing host, & feeling touched by their outpouring of support, & also embarrassed over my failure to win the game, & pleased & thrilled by the whole fantastic Jeopardy! experience, & a woman I know only as an acquaintance, my mother's friend not mine own, was yelling at me over the phone. Adding insult to injury, she was yelling at me because she had her basic facts wrong. I was quite rude in what I said back to her, explaining with no delicacy that she was incorrect, that she had her facts wrong & didn't know the rules of the game. I then hung up on her, ringing off without saying a proper goodbye. I don't care that she's my mother's friend, that harridan can go to blazes. The moral of the story? Make sure you have your facts right before intruding yourself into the lives of others. Also, don't be a shrew like that horrible crone.

Another common misconception: they no longer award copies of the home game, not even to the champion. What a gyp!

I attempted to trim my beard this morning, only to discover that my rechargeable battery-powered beard-trimmer was out of juice. Out of juice? "By Lucifer's beard!" Recharging the blasted thing takes forever & day. I hope to finally tame the beast first thing tomorrow.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "I Lost on Jeopardy!" from In 3-D (T.L.A.M.)


"I was there to match my intellect
On national T.V.,
Against a plumber, oh and an architect,
Both with a Ph.D.

"That's right, Al, you lost!
And let me tell you what you didn't win:
A twenty-volume set of the Encyclopedia International,
A case of Turtle wax, and a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni,
The San Francisco treat!
But that's not all,
You also made yourself look like a jerk in front of millions of people,
And you brought shame and disgrace on your family name for generations to come.
You don't get to come back tomorrow,
You don't even get a lousy copy of our home game,
You're a complete loser!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vote for Kodos
A worthwhile, rightly sympathetic portrayal of Alec Baldwin, a man who makes no bones about his political leanings, being harangued by the nauseating lunatics of the Ron Paul/anti-Federal Reserve camp, a large percentage of whom are hardcore far left-wingers: walk in the park-link. (Representative Paul is so far from the center of the American body politic that he occupies that fringe era where far right-wingers & far left-wingers have come so far around the political spectrum that they've found common cause.) I've been mildly annoyed by Mr. Baldwin all the past week as he shilled for Michigan Radio's N.P.R. pledge week, giving a pitch modeled after his character's notorious "Always Be Closing" speech from the motion picture Glengarry Glen Ross, but I suppose I should not complain since if I got my way N.P.R. would operate without taxpayer largess, & thus depend even more on listener pledges. I do not deny the necessity of pledge week, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Anywho, my recent annoyance with Mr. Baldwin was quite trivial, & pales before the kudos I give him for keeping his cool when confronted by the lies & half-truths of malignant nimrods. (In his shoes, I likely would have blown my top.) Well done, sir!
The Savage Wars of Peace
Regarding the death of Colonel Qaddafi, let us begin with a classic (from classical civ.): Sic semper tyrannis. 'Tis true that it would have been emotionally satisfying to see Qaddafi dragged into a court in chains & put on trial by the Libyan populace he so long oppressed, but is there any genuine doubt that the proceedings would have been anything other than a kangaroo court, & that his eventual execution was foregone? President Obama could take some public satisfaction in the colonel's downfall & well-earned demise, if only regime change had been N.A.T.O. policy, which 'twas not. Of course, if regime change had been our objective, surely more would have been done & Qaddafi would have been killed or captured that much sooner. Still, with the death of monsters such as the former dictator of Libya, late is indeed far better than never.

My congratulations to the Libyans. Long may they enjoy the fruits of liberty!

I need to trim my beard this weekend like nobody's business! I considered doing so last weekend, but opted against action; this was clearly a mistake. The only upside of that mistake being a renewal of my faith in fortnightly trims at Level 9, after a summertime period of experimentation with trimming at Level 7 overall or varying Levels 7 & 9 depending on the area of the beard. That is at an end.

This does raise some questions about a project I've considered for "someday" in the future: the year beard, or "yeard." My current whiskers grew out of the runaway success of the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge. Already during the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey & then the clean-shaven summer that followed, punctuated by Objective ZED ALPHA (the anniversary of which approaches rapidly) & Objective FINNLAND, I was looking forward to the Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Third Time's the Harm & the Banzai Beard Bonanza IV: Four For Forty. The initial Banzai Beard Bonanza took place when I was twenty-five, & Bonsai's Revenge when I was thirty; the B.B.B. III was to be at age thirty-five, with Four For Forty at the obvious age. Now that whiskers have become a way of life, one which I enjoy immensely, the boom would seem to have been lowered on Third Time's the Harm & the B.B.B. IV. I have thought about one thing I could do, & that is grow my beard for a full year, an entire revolution around the Accursed Sun. To do this right, I would have to shave (which defeats half the point of having a beard), but after that I'd let my beard run wild for that whole year. (I would retain my moustache throughout.) My beard is not nearly as long now as it was during the B.B.B. II; so, if this length bugs me, how could I possibly put up with the untamed fury of the yeard? I think 'tis a question of attitude: during Bonsai's Revenge, I reveled in the length of my beard, each day exploring new limits, a new grandeur. In the present, I have a very specific aspect in mind for my beard, one undermined by the currently excessive length. During the proposed Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Year of the Beard, I believe I would successfully embrace the pioneering spirit of the second bonanza. How huge would my beard become? What new heights (or depths) of Grizzly Adams wildness would it reach (or plumb)? The yeard will require suitable circumstances & might well have to wait quite some time. Nevertheless, I'm excited to explore strange, new beards. To seek out new whiskers, & new moustaches. To boldly go (sic) where no beard has gone before! (I miss Star Trek every single day.)

The Banzai Beard Bonanza
The Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge

The Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Year of the Beard (or "Beard of the Year"?)
The Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Third Time's the Harm
The Banzai Beard Bonanza IV: Four For Forty

In hat news, the straw trilby Mk. III & the linen trilby have been put away with the changing of the seasons, while the fedora & the flat cap have been dragooned back into regular service. I hope this winter will be cold enough for me to wear my ushanka. ('Tis from Finland, not Russia.) Even though the sky was overcast, I did have occasion to wear my pith helmet on Tuesday, to prevent falling branches from braining me whilst I was pruning a neighbor's overhanging tree with my dad's pole-mounted chainsaw. Nothing else says peril & excitement quite like a pith helmet!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "Death or Radio" from Schematics (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Let's hold hands and listen to shitty bands."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might be Giants, "The Mesopotamians" from The Else (T.L.A.M.)


"We've been driving around,
From one end of this town
To the other, and back,
But no one's ever seen us,
(No one's ever seen us)
Driving our Econoline van,
(And no one's ever heard of our band)
And no one's ever heard of our band,
We're the Mesopotamians!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A bit of advice from the useful blog The Art of Manliness: toastmaster-link. I've given one best man's toast, in '07, & without having read "10 Steps to the Best Best Man's Speech" adhered to rules №s. 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, & 10. I adhered to rule № 5 in that I didn't mention any embarrassing anecdotes, but I violated it in that my best man's speech was nothing more than a thinly-veiled—I thought—insult to the bride & bridegroom. The veil must have been thicker than I thought, because I received several compliments on the speech. Of course, those might have been pro forma, or it could just be that they were grateful that my remarks had lasted less than a minute, but I sensed authenticity. The insult was cunningly devised, if I do say so myself, one that I spent weeks crafting. I'm quite proud of the end product, though I fear it might have been too clever, clever enough to have gone over the heads of its victims. Alas! I should have loved dearly to deliver an earnest, affectionate best man's speech, but 'twas not to be. To do other than I did would have been a profound betrayal of myself & all for which I've ever said I stand. Mayhap Providence will afford me another chance, but I shan't hold my breath.

The Queue
I am open to the idea that comparing Keith Jeffery's The Secret History of M.I.6: 1909-1949 to Christopher Andrew's Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of M.I.5 might be unfair, but I would reply that even Dr. Jeffery would concede the comparison is in any event inevitable. The spy agencies that became the Secret Intelligence Service (M.I.6) & the Security Service (M.I.5) were founded in 1909 as one department, the Secret Service Bureau. The two services were born together; have fought alongside each other for over a century, through two world wars, a cold war, & the war on terror; have resisted several attempts to recombine them into one agency; & unto the present day cooperate & coordinate so as best to serve H.M.G.'s policies. The Secret History of M.I.6 suffers from covering only the first forty years of the S.I.S., compared to Defend the Realm's century. Even compensating for this, methinks that Dr. Andrew has the more engaging writing style & the overall better book. That is not to say that I did not thoroughly enjoy The Secret History of M.I.6, because I did, very thoroughly.

Having just finished a large non-fiction tome, Saving the Queen has jumped the queue, a bit of spy fiction before plunging back into the fascinating world of spy non-fiction. The path after that is less clear. If Saving the Queen works out as I hope 'twill, more of Buckley's fiction will follow, probably immediately. I am also intrigued by David Ignatius, & refuse to let the wretched scribblings of Dame Stella Rimington & Charles Cumming make me gun-shy about contemporary spy fiction. Sooner or later (probably sooner), I'll tackle le Carré's debut, Call for the Dead. At some point I should probably read something by Graham Greene, at least one of his "entertainments."

Robert M. Soderstrom, The Big House: Fielding H. Yost and the Building of Michigan Stadium
John Buchan, The Thirty-nine Steps
Keith Jeffery, The Secret History of M.I.6: 1909-1949

William F. Buckley, Jr., Saving the Queen

Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence
David Ignatius, Agents of Innocence
John le Carré, Call for the Dead

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "Don't Mope" from Jalopy Go Far (T.L.A.M.)


"So how about we hang out,
A little more than we should,
And I wouldn't worry much about much."

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Neil Patrick Harris, "Brand New Day" from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: If you have not seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I recommend it highly. It's… it's really something.

"It's a brand new me,
I got no remorse,
Now the water's rising,
But I know the course.
I'm gonna shock the world,
Gonna show Bad Horse,
It's a brand new day!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLVII - The Hollow Nickel Case (1953-1957) & the Soviet spy Vilyam Fisher, a.k.a. Rudolf Abel, (1903-1971).

This Week in Motorsport
Let Us Drink Milk
The motorsport story of this weekend is the death of driver Dan Wheldon in the IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas. I considered watching the race, but tuned in to find A.B.C. giving a pre-race retrospective on the mostly futile career of Danica Patrick, who is moving to N.A.S.C.A.R. full-time next year, which immediately soured the proceedings. (We will discuss why I hate Patrick at another, more appropriate, time.) I'm very glad I did not see the massive, multiple car shunt that killed Wheldon. I accept witnessing on-screen the death of a driver in a race I'm watching as a possible—& on a long enough timescale, inevitable—consequence of my two-year-old love of motorsport, but that doesn't mean I'm in any hurry to see such a ghastly happenstance.

Dan Wheldon (1978-2011), 2005 IndyCar Series champion & twice winner of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, resquiescat in pace.

Formula Fun!
{Round 15: Japanese Grand Prix - 9 October 2011}
Mighty Suzuka is one of the great grand prix circuits, in the company of Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, & Monza. It's flowing "Esses" & the sweeping 130R are amongst the best, most distinctive features of any track on the Formula One calendar. Honda shut down its factory team after the '08 season, Toyota withdrew from F1 after '09, & Bridgestone ceased being the official tire supplier after '10; there is only one Japanese driver currently in F1, the fearless Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber (Ferrari); yet the massive crowds at Suzuka attest that Nihon still cares about the sport. After the earthquake, tsunami, & radiation scare of the spring, it was also important that F1 showed it still cared about Japan; numerous charitable functions were organized around the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, foremost amongst them the gesture by F1 "supremo"-cum-Bond villain Bernie Ecclestone, who spend £1,000,000 of his own money to buy tickets for 3,000 residents of the radiation-afflicted Fukushima Prefecture. Having always been very fond of Japan & the Japanese myself, it is very endearing that the F1 circus always treats the Japanese round of the World Championships as something special. Mighty Suzuka!

Reigning World Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull (Renault) became double World Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel with a third place finish, his fourteenth podium finish in the 2011 season's fifteen grands prix (his only non-podium finish was fourth at July's Grosser Preis von Deutschland, his home grand prix). '09 World Champion Jenson Button of McLaren (Mercedes) claimed the victory, followed by '05 & '06 World Champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Vettel started from the pole position, Red Bull's fifteenth pole out of fifteen grands prix, but hire tire degradation allowed him to be overtaken by Button during the first pit stop rotation & Alonso during the second. Vettel was gaining on Alonso in the closing stages of the race, but the team advised him not to try anything too brazen to pass the Spaniard, as the third-place points haul would be enough to garner the young German his second World Championship. Vettel became the sports second-youngest champion, second only to himself in 2010, & the youngest-ever double champion; Vettel is only twenty-four, having been born in July of bloody 1987.

In news of "my" other team, Team Lotus (Renault), for the first time since the return of the Lotus name to F1 neither car was lapped, finishing the race on the lead lap. Team Lotus has not made as much progress this year toward the midfield as many had expected, but their are clearly head & shoulders above the other two second-year teams, Virgin (Cosworth) & Hispania (Cosworth). Baby steps, baby steps.

{Round 16: Korean Grand Prix - 16 October 2011}
The Korea International Circuit is my least-favorite venue on the entire F1 calendar. (Though to be fair I've not yet seen the Buddh International Circuit, site of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, to be held in a fortnight's time.) It's a disgrace. Every F.I.A. rule in the book was broken last year as they rushed to finish the track ahead of the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, every supposed "deadline" relaxed at the behest of the shady organizers. The track surface had barely cured before Friday practice, & all throughout the weekend oils & sediments oozed out of the tarmac, making racing conditions incredibly hazardous. It rained cats & dogs during last year's grand prix, so heavily that the race was red-flagged for over an hour, but that can hardly be blamed on the circuit; I love that F1 races in the (reasonable) rain, unlike those pansies in N.A.S.C.A.R. The long & short of it is that the circuit wasn't ready for last year's race, which should not have been held.

For this year, the track was in better shape, with the most dangerous corner having been reshaped to improve the drivers' sight lines, so as to be less of a plunge into the unknown. The pit lane entrance & exit are still the worst & most dangerous in F1, the clear cause of at least one perfectly avoidable shunt during practice & more heart-stopping near collisions than I could count during the race. It's as if the track was designed & built by amateurs, a fundamental design flaw that simply finishing the track could not fix. Something must be done before next year, before there is a more serious coming together of two or more cars.

As to the action, '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren earned the first non-Red Bull pole of 2011 with an electrifying performance in qualifying. Vettel started from second, passed Hamilton on the first lap, & lead the rest of the way, finishing twelve seconds ahead of Hamilton in second place. It was Vettel's tenth win of the season, compared to six cumulative victories for the rest of the field. Mark Webber of Red Bull finished third, while Button finished fourth, & the two podium places earned enough points to give Red Bull its second consecutive World Constructors' Championship! Vettel in '10 & '11, Red Bull in '10 & '11! Woo hoo!

Rally Monkey
I watched the Rallye de France this afternoon as soon as we returned home from Mass. Watching the W.R.C. is much like watching Formula One in '09: without a team to root for or against, I find myself wishing every competitor to do his or her best. I am simply fascinated by the activity itself. The more rallying I watch, the more I like what I see. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world!

Beyond Thunderdome
Since the summer of '10, I've watched a few races in the Australian V8 Supercars series, my interest being quite casual. (The name is atrocious, I know.) V8 Supercars is a touring car series, using heavily-modified versions of what were originally street cars. Last weekend I watched live coverage of V8 Supercars's signature event, the Bathurst 1,000, a six-hour endurance race up & down the insanely steep gradients of Mount Panorama in Bathurst, New South Wales. Everything about V8 Supercars—especially the Bathurst 1,000—screams "Aussie," Australia being a continent-cum-country of barking mad lunatics for whom devil-may-care would be a cautious, timorous attitude. Mad Max after all, was set in Australia.

Most of the races I've seen have been edited presentations from Australian T.V., races on consecutive days edited down to a two-hour package. Speed's usual coverage is M.C.ed by Marcos Ambrose, a former V8 Supercars champion who now races in N.A.S.C.A.R. The Bathurst 1,000 was covered live by two of Speed's N.A.S.C.A.R. broadcasters, one of them the former driver Darrel Waltrip, who screamed something bizarre at the start of the race, something that sounded like "Boogedy boogedy, let's go racin', boys!" Byeh? (Angels & saints preserve us from the corrosive influence of N.A.S.C.A.R.) I did not watch the entire 1,000, flipping back & forth from the race to the Ohio State-Nebraska game to Comedy Central's transmission of the motion picture Sex Drive (I've a wee crush on the actress Amanda Crew), but what I saw fit in nicely with my Le Mans-inspired love of endurance racing. The third of V8 Supercars's three "season of endurance" races is to be carried live on Speed next weekend, & my intention is to again watch the fine racing that comes from the strange land Down Under.

There are plans for a V8 Supercars race to be staged in these United States in 2013. An Aussie invasion? Watch this space.

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

Commentary: I started singing "Amity Gardens" this morning in the shower. As often as not, the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is apropos of nothing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Victors
(№ 23) Michigan State 28-14 Michigan (№ 11)
6-1, Big Ten 2-1

There are a great many reasons why Michigan lost today, first & foremost that Michigan State fielded the better team. Second, the valiant Wolverines were not dressed like the valiant Wolverines, & thus did not deserve to win. I'm not jesting here, I am in earnest. Third, we blew too many offensive opportunities by inserting Devin Gardner in at quarterback even when Denard "Shoelace" Robinson was not hobbled by injury. I have never held with those who favor a quarterback rotation; a team needs to have a quarterback, a field general, & switching back & forth play after play is asking for trouble. Fourth, the fulcrum of the game, the fourth & one play that say the valiant Wolverines go for some kind of trick play involving a quarterback keeper, instead of just running into the teeth of the defense for the first down. Shoelace was sacked on that play, when the running back clearly would have gained the crucial first down, putting Michigan in position to attempt a tying score. Whomever made that call, be it Head Coach Brady Hoke or Offensive Coordinator Al Borges, should be locked in a cage with a real wolverine & incarcerated therein for at least five minutes. That level of recklessness is simply unacceptable, even if it hadn't been accompanied by incompetence. The takeaway from today's debacle in Evil Lansing? The '11 valiant Wolverines are generally improved over the hapless '08, '09, & '10 squads, but we were never the eleventh best football team in the country, whatever the polls said. We are a work in progress. It is yet to be determined if we are a crummy teams that sometimes plays above itself or a decent team that sometimes plays below its ability.

Drat. Drat! Drat! Drat! Today is a bad day, there's just no way around that. The dastardly Spartans are going to be intolerably smug, & that will continue until we can beat them on the gridiron (we've now lost four in a row). Today is a bad day, but that cannot change the fact that it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine. It's always great to be a Michigan Wolverine. It always will be great to be a Michigan Wolverine. And no matter what happens they are still our little brothers.

Go Blue!
The Victors: Halftime
(№ 11) Michigan 7-7 Michigan State (№ 23)

I do not defend the valiant Wolverines' hideous uniforms, because they are indefensible; I have long held that real men wear yellow pants, & if we lose today I will say that we deserved to lose because we were not man enough to wear yellow pants. That said, are the dastardly Spartans aware—& I only ask because you & I know that the average dastardly Spartan has barely enough cognitive power on hand to set his own couch ablaze & open his forty ounce bottle of malt liquor—that neither black nor bronze are amongst their school colors? I know that green & white is an awfully long list for a dastardly Spartan to remember, but it should be noted that neither black nor bronze are found on that two item list, green & white. The valiant Wolverines' uniforms are indefensible, but the dastardly Spartans' are inexcusable.

Go Blue!

As a side note, between the growing uniform anarchy & the conference realignment fiasco, college football will be unwatchable in five years, ten years at the outside. Enjoy it whilst it lasts, my friends, because our beloved game will be gone before you now it, & we shall be the worse off for its passing. Doom, doom, doom.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Let's Go Blue" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hold onto your socks, I'm about to praise President Obama—twice! Ein, I commend the president for going against a significant faction of the Democratic base & his own protectionist preferences in support of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, & Panama: R.O.K.-link & Gran Colombia-link. We could have had these agreements four years ago were it not for Democratic obstructionism in the Congress, illogical intransigence which President Obama was instrumental in overcoming. Well done, sir; in all sincerity, better late than never. Zwei, American "advisers" are being deployed to coordinate the end of the reign of terror of the Lord's Resistance Army: AFRICOM-link. I have long held that U.S. foreign policy should be guided in part by A.K.B.: we should we in the "arshole-killing business." Joseph Kony is an arsehole of the first order, & the world will be a better place once his poisoned soul has been dispatched to Perdition. Remind me some other time to lay out the comprehensive moral, philosophical, & economic case for A.K.B. For the time being, my thanks & congratulations to Mr. Obama for making this right call.

Let us hope these decisions are the start of a trend, so that the last year of his administration can undo some of the damage wrought over the first three.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sir David Willcocks & the Philharmonia Orchestra, "Crown Imperial" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Crown Imperial" was composed by Sir William Walton, O.M.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Awolnation, "Sail" courtesy of The Watergirl (The Watergirl)

Commentary: The Wikipedia gives the band's name as AWOLNATION, but provides no clue for what longer string of words "AWOLNATION" is an acronym or initialism; thus, I reject the all-capitals spelling as nonsense. ("A.W.O.L. Nation" would make sense, but seems not to be the case.) How do I spell E. E. Cummings's name? As E. E. Cummings, not the nonsensical "e.e. cummings." Nominations for the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. are always appreciated & (so far) always honored, but it must be said that "Sail" is quite an unfortunate song, "unfortunate" being a newly favored euphemism. Awolnation is followed in my iTunes library by Bad Religion, specifically "Los Angeles is Burning," which helps to get the "bad taste" out of my ears.

I'm now off to watch the new N.B.C. sitcom Whitney. I do this mostly out of spite. A family member is a devoted fan of the Thursday night N.B.C. comedies, but upon seeing a promo for Whitney she proclaimed that the show would be awful. As opposed to what, the sheer brilliance of Parks and Recreation? (An abomination that she enjoys thoroughly.) I do not vouch for Whitney, it might well be terrible, but I'll give it a fair shake out of spite. Spite!
The Queue
I was reading The Secret History of M.I.6 while eating my lunch the other day when a vague acquaintance asked what I was reading. As is my habit in response to such questions, I held up the book so she could see the cover. She read aloud: "The Secret History of M-16." Not "Em-Eye-Six," the British spy agency, but "Em-Sixteen," the famous assault rifle. The error wasn't her fault, not really; though I transcribe the title as The Secret History of M.I.6, it is printed on the cover as The Secret History of MI6. "MI6" is in a sans-serif font, meaning the capital I is nothing but a vertical line, indistinct from the numeral 1 or a lowercase l. Absent the foreknowledge necessary to read "MI6" in context, it might easily be perceived as "M16."

That is yet one more reason why punctuation matters, & why fonts matter. Many suffer the delusion that sans-serif fonts are "cleaner," & thus "clearer." I content, however, that serif are a useful aids to clarity, helping to distinguish, for example, capital I from lowercase l to the numeral 1. Clarity is key!

Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
N.P.R. is abuzz with incredulity about the recently revealed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States by bombing a restaurant in Washington, D.C., an attack that would likely have resulted in a high number of civilian casualties. The incredulity, which has about it the despicable the tinge of conspiracy theory, centers on how "out of character" the plot seems for Iran's dreaded Quds Force. Must I remind the pompous personages at N.P.R. that truth is stranger than fiction? In 1941, the Deputy Führer* of the Nazi Party, Rudolf He߆, embarked upon a bizarre one-man peace mission to the United Kingdom: Heß stole a Luftwaffe plane, which Hitler ordered to be shot down & destroyed; parachuted into Scotland; was promptly captured instead of greeted as befits a plenipotentiary; & spent the rest of the Second World War as a prisoner in, amongst other gaols, the Tower of London. (Heß spent the rest of his life imprisoned, remaining as the sole inmate of Berlin's Spandau Prison until his death, probably by suicide, in 1987.) Following the logic of today's N.P.R. coverage, those documented historical facts must not have happened, since it seems out of character for a high-ranking Nazi official to deliver himself so freely into the hands of his enemies. Pardon my bitterness, but I yet hew to the old-fashioned belief that reporters are supposed to report the news, not deride whatever doesn't fit into their inconsistently, arbitrarily devised standards of what's "likely."

Perchance to Dream
An odd dream from the other morning: my parents & I were on vacation in Los Angeles, except L.A. looked like a combination of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado & the National Museum of the U.S.A.F. at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. While driving to the aerodrome, presumably to catch the flight back home, were traversed a large, traffic-congested freeway that looked for all the world like a runway. Planes passed very low overhead & I, inexplicably behind the wheel of the large S.U.V. in which we were traveling, has constantly to swerve to avoid low-flying aircraft of all types. When we finally reached L.A.X., it was a madhouse that I can best describe as being a series of swooping, looping rails & handholds, somewhat along the lines of the storeroom of doors in Monsters, Inc. You would grab onto a handhold, like those you encounter on the subway, & then be lifted high into the air, rising & falling as if on a roller coaster, & hanging on far longer than I know I could in real life.

At that point, an alarm woke me up & I shambled my way to the water closest. I had a half an hour before I needed to get up & start my day; so, I laid my head down on the pillow &, rather uncharacteristically, began dreaming again. I cannot tell you where I was, but I was in the presence of my friend/former "frenemy" Frankenstein's Monster & a numer of comely lasses. For whatever reason, Frankenstein's Monster was acting like a stereotypical frat. boy, a real member of Alpha Beta (from Revenge of the Nerds). There was no discernable plot to this second go-round in dreamland.

*Heß's title is more accurately translated as "Deputy to the Führer," but is usually given in English as "Deputy Führer." But even read as Deputy to the Führer he was still a high official in the Nazi government; when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Hitler declared that if anything should happen to both him & his number two, Hermann Göring, then Heß should assume leadership of the Reich.

†Heß is often rendered into English as Hess, to avoid the German character ß. Hess is perfectly correct, as is substituting fuehrer for führer, to avoid the ü. Your humble narrator uses idiosyncratically the German characters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Operation AXIOM
Five hundred nineteen years ago to the day, 12 October 1492, a Spanish expedition under the command of Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. It is impossible to envision the last five hundred years of history without the intercourse twixt the Old World & the New World, the Eastern Hemisphere & the Western Hemisphere. Those who deny that Columbus discovered the New World preach balderdash. That balderdash normally follows one of two lines of argument. One, Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America; that is true, but their explorations, colonization, & eventual retreat had little to no effect on the world beyond the confines of the individuals involved. Two, the pre-Columbian Indian populations precluded any discovery; nonsense, because before Columbus the aged cultures of the Old World were ignorant of the New, meaning he added something (a great many things, as it happened) to their knowledge; if that's not discovery, then nothing is. The devil take federal holidays & their infernal three-day weekends, happy Columbus Day!

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

Commentary: We've come to the end of the road on our impromptu F.O.W. "planes, trains, & automobiles" R.B.D.S.O.T.D. series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Hey, any reason to listen to Fountains of Wayne is a good enough reason.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vote For Kodos
In watching the Republican presidential candidates' debate this evening, I discovered that the house's cable package includes Bloomberg. It was interesting to note Mister Cain seated next to Governor Romney in the middle of the eight candidates, the two "frontrunner" spots. The important bits about that are that the onerous Governor Perry is no longer accorded that status as primus inter pares—Huzzah!—& that Gov. Romney consistently comports himself with aplomb under that heightened scrutiny. I was reminded today of the old saw, which I suppose was originally intended as an insult, that "Republicans don't fall in love, they fall in line." Here's hoping that the air of inevitability continues to gather around the man (originally) from Michigan.

I've never read a "political" book like No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, but perhaps I should make the effort to be more of a political wonk? (In this I am undoubtedly influenced by my debate partner, Too Sly, who is a fiend for politics, with a particular mania for the United States Congress.)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Seatbacks and Traytables" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)


"Trade one town for another,
Delayed now, why did we bother?"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Operation AXIOM
Happy Columbus Day, one & all! On Wednesday, 12 October, The Secret Base will mark the five hundred nineteenth anniversary of the discovery of the New World by the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Christopher Columbus.

The Savage Wars of Peace
Tempus fugate. The United States has been ten years in Afghanistan, ten years since the never-recognized Taliban regime was overthrown, reciprocity for its support of al Qaeda. This milestone has been universally proclaimed "America's longest war," though that distinction rightly belongs to the Filipinos; yes, the Philippine War officially lasted only from 1899-1902, but the insurgency was not quelled 'til 1913, for a total span of fourteen years. Most notable to my way of thinking is that these ten years of war have been fought by an all volunteer force. We have fought a protracted land war in Asia, & even though the war has become reviled the warriors are still revered for their service. Growing up in an era when the "lessons" of Vietnam reverberated through our popular culture, I would not have thought us capable of such fortitude, of such generosity of spirit. Am I proud of how to war has always been conducted, or pleased by the elusiveness of victory? I am not. Am I proud of how we as a body politic have conducted ourselves? On the whole, I am indeed.

An acquaintance & debate teammate recently asked me if I thought we should stay in Afghanistan "forever." I replied that if given the binary choice of withdrawing all our troops from Afghanistan with all deliberate speed, heedless of the disorder left in our wake, or continuing military operations in Afghanistan on an indefinite basis, then, yes, I would favor staying "forever." Why, you ask? We left the Afghans to their fate once before, walked away as if what happened in that benighted land was no concern of ours. That neglect in no way caused 9/11, but it did facilitate 9/11. The lesson of the early 21st century is that the interconnectedness of the world means that failed states pose grave dangers far beyond their own borders. If we allow our course of action to be dictated by our fatigue, we shall be exchanging rest in the moment for suffering in the future. We must resist the temptation to embrace the folly of the 1990s, the blind faith that if we simply hum loudly enough the unpleasantness of the world will go away & trouble us no more. We must persist, we must endure.

Excerpts from "The White Man's Burden" by Rudyard Kipling:

"Take up the White Man's burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Full full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;…

Take up the White Man's burden—
Ye dare not stoop to less—
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;…

Take up the White Man's burden—
Have done with childish days—
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edge with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!"

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Bright Future in Sales" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I contend that "Bright Future in Sales" falls well within the remit of our F.O.W. "planes, trains, & automobiles" series. It might be less obviously about travel than many of the other selections, but no Fountains of Wayne song is really about the travel. Whatever the means of conveyance, the songs are all about the impact of travel to human relationships, the travails of separation & distance. "Bright Future in Sales" fits right in.

But I do concede that the series is winding down. We've had a good run. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLVI - The Berlin tunnel (Operation GOLD/Operation STOPWATCH), 1952-1956, a joint U.S.-U.K. mission blown by the British traitor George Blake.

Two of this episode's three images are courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. Your tax dollars at work!

The Victors
(№ 12) Michigan 42-24 Northwestern
6-0, Big Ten 2-0

As hoped, Shoelace's successes in the second half were more spectacular than his failures from the first half. More laudable still, the defense stepped up & shut down the plucky Wildcats in a way that was simply impossible under the previous coachign staff, with its self-defeating neglect of the non-offensive phases of the game. Mayhap Athletic Director Brandon was not speaking hyperbolically when he said he wanted even the ball boy to be defensive minded?

Also, I've concluded that I dislike night games. Yes, yes, the spectacle is all well & good, but they throw off the whole rhythm of a Saturday. A creature of habit am I, I like my distinctive daily rhythms, confound it!

It speaks volumes about the trauma of Coach Rodriguez's disastrous tenure that my first thought after the victory was, "Six & oh. Good, we're bowl eligible." Before 2008, Michigan had a streak of consecutive post-season (bowl) appearances that stretched back to the 1970s, to before I was born. Qualifying for a bowl was no big deal; indeed, it was a foregone conclusion. The only question was if the valiant Wolverines would play in a "loser" bowl or a "good" bowl, the Fancy Pants Salad Bowl on Boxing Day or the sacred Rose Bowl on New Year's Day against the ancient enemy, the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12). I long for the return of those days. Two bowls in as many years, the streak begins anew.

Next up: The second (in more sense than one) of the valiant Wolverines' three rivalry games, the in-state rivalry: Michigan, № 11 in the latest Associated Press poll, versus Michigan State, № 23. The dastardly Spartans reentered the Top 25 without playing a game this past weekend, & despite another loss that dropped the opponent from their marquee win, the hated Buckeyes, to 3-3. I write the following in earnest, without a trace of irony: I love the inconsistency & arbitrariness of college football rankings. In a world that is increasingly obsessed with quantification & a metric for everything under the Accursed Sun, the Top 25 remains a black art, as capricious & flawed as anything of human device is apt to be. It is unfair in the best possible way.

Go Blue!

The Russian Federation & the People's Republic of China have vetoed the already watered-down version of a United Nations Security Council resolution concerning the rebellion/repression in the Syrian Arab Republic: the Mandate of Syria-link. The thing is, President Obama said that if the United States just gave the Russians & the Chinese everything they wanted, if we kowtowed to their wishes & acceded to their demands, that Russia & China would play ball on other issues. The U.S. bowed to the Kremlin's demand to cut back to the point of uselessness our plans for strategic missile defense, in the process leaving our Polish & Czech allies twisting in the wind; Mr. Obama & Secretary of State Clinton called this the "reset" of Russo-American relations. The U.S. sought to placate the P.R.C. by refusing to sell new F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets to our long-standing ally, the Republic of China (Taiwan)—this despite the fact that the sale would have preserved or generated hundreds of high-paying jobs for American workers at a time when Mr. Obama is haranguing the Congress daily to pass "right now" a supposed jobs bill. Where was all the goodwill these shameful capitulations bought Washington in Moscow & Beijing when Damascus came to a vote in Turtle Bay? To borrow a colorful phrase from Batman Returns, it would seem that President Medvedev & President Hu "played" President Obama "like a harp from Hell!" Oh, right, just as those of us who gaped in horror at Mr. Obama's naïveté predicted they would. Authoritarian regimes like those in Moscow & Beijing respect only strength, not the weakness & tentativeness inherent in the U.S.'s new strategic policy of "leading from behind." I would chortle in vindicated delight if the consequences of our charlatan president's naïveté were not so dire.

What exactly is your Plan B, Mr. President?

Also, dear readers, I know that many of you voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 & some of you might still believe in his administration. If my analysis of these events is wrong, please do not hesitate to inform me of in what way it is flawed or false. I would be tremendously grateful for your feedback. Thank you.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Our F.O.W. "planes, trains, & automobiles" series rolls on. I suppose that means I'll have to keep listening to Fountains of Wayne. Drat!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Victors: Halftime
Northwestern 24-14 Michigan (№ 12)

I love Denard "Shoelace" Robinson; I love the any-bloody-thing-can-&-probably-will-happen excitement he brings to the game, I love his infectious enthusiasm. I love that he is a Michigan man, through & through, but all that aside it must be said that he throws the ugliest interceptions in college football. The three he threw in the first half against the plucky Wildcats were exemplars. Not a one of those throws had a snowball's chance in Perdition of reaching a valiant Wolverine receiver. What I love about Shoelace is that everything he does is spectacular: when he succeeds, he succeeds spectacularly; when he fails, he fails just as spectacularly. However, given the spectacular nature of Shoelace's first half failures, being down ten points really isn't so bad. Let us hope the second half's spectacular successes outweigh the first half's spectacular failures.

Go Blue!

I've not commented on last week's 58-0 nothing triumph over the luckless Golden Gophers because I didn't see a lick of the game. I was in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the United States Air Force Academy (which reminds me that I owe you a "Master Debating" post).

The kibosh was put on my Saturday night plans at approximately 6:30 P.M., with regrets but no apology (explanation). Not cool, Jojo, not cool. This augurs ill for a still nascent friendship. (She is most definitely in the "friend zone"—solidly in Project MERCATOR territory—, not the more dangerous, more stimulating realm of Project PANDORA.)

I learned last night that The Loose Ties were playing a show that very evening, but fortunately I learned of the verboten location—a Kettering U. (which I will always think of as G.M.I.) frat. house—before I started to get geared up. Easy come, easy go.

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

Freitag, 7 Oktober
Fountains of Wayne, "Survival Car" from Fountains of Wayne (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "I-95" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)


"It's a nine-hour drive
From me to you, south on I-95,
And I'll do it 'til the day that I die,
If I need to just to see you,
Just to see you."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I had dinner with Jojo this evening, after which we went bowling. She is a delightfully awful bowler. She might come over to the house on Saturday night to watch a movie.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Trains & Boats & Planes" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc One (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The F.O.W. "planes, trains, & automobiles" theme wasn't planned, but now that it has come rather accidentally into being methinks I'll see it through.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Explorers Club
CCLV - The Great Seal Bug, a.k.a. "the Thing," invented by the prolific Léon Theremin & used by the Soviet Union to spy on the United States, 1945-1952.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Acela" from Sky Full of Holes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Having mentioned planes, trains, & automobiles in the context of Fountains of Wayne, "Acela" was rather predictably on my mind.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "A Road Song" from Sky Full of Holes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This weekend's travels were principally by aeroplane, but there were also daily commutes by automobile. Regardless of traverse by plane, train, or automobile, "A Road Song" was on my mind & seemed quite fitting. Man alive, I wish I had a girl for whom I could write a road song that she could call her own.

"It's a cliché, but hey,
That doesn't make it so wrong."

Sonntag, 2 Oktober
Pete Seeger & Bill McAdoo, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I know well enough to sing from memory the first & third verses of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," but for whatever reason can never recall the second or fourth. It seemed an apropos song to sing idly whilst on the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy.

"When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah! hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then,
Hurrah! hurrah!
The men will cheer, the boys will shout,
The ladies they will all turn out,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home!

The old church will peel with joy,
Hurrah! hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! hurrah!
The village lads and lasses say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home!

Get ready for the jubilee,
Hurrah! hurrah!
We'll give the 'Hero' three times three,
Hurrah! hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home!

With loving friendship on that day,
Hurrah! hurrah!
Their choicest treasures then display,
Hurrah! hurrah!
And let each one perform some part
To fill with joy the warrior's heart,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home!"

Samstag, 1 Oktober
John Linnell, "Michigan" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (Ska Army)

Commentary: "We must eat Michigan's brain!"

Freitag, 30 September
They Might Be Giants, "Road Movie to Berlin" (Ska Army)

Commentary: I love "Road Movie to Berlin," but it would be a better song without the cacophonous, incongruous bridge. Ska Army is even better at reciting They Might Be Giants lyrics than your humble narrator.