Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Explorers Club | Operation AXIOM
More celebrations were planned, but they've been cancelled due to a complete lack of audience interest. Someone remind me to board up The Secret Base before burning it to the ground for the insurance money.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Knickerbocker Four, "In My Merry Oldsmobile" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My thought, quite naturally I should think, upon reading the words, "What Your Favorite Map Projection Says About You," was to query my Registry as to my favorite map projection. The answer came back, Globe. Supplementary query: Is a globe really a map projection, or are those limited to two-dimensional representations? On this the Registry was silent, though I thought I could actually hear their eyes rolling. Only then did I read on & scroll down: niner-seven-seven-link.

The Queue
There has been movement on neither Bloodsucking Fiends nor The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; the G.D.L. is normally a tighter ship than this. So, a brief tangent away from both the espionage & vampire genres, to the corner of fantasy & sci-fi (distinct from science fiction [S.F.]).

Recently
John Marks, Fangland
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence
John le Carré, Call for the Dead

Currently
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars

Presently
Christopher Moore, Bloodsucking Fiends
John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
David Ignatius, Body of Lies
Len Deighton, City of Gold

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Senator & The New Republic, "Intermission" via iTunes, Free Single of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

He's Dead, Jim
Yesterday, I applied Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream for the first time this season, in response to a rather sudden chapping & cracking of the skin across my knuckles. I propose to establish a regular schedule of Norwegian Formula moisturizing, to transform what has always been a potent curative into a potent preventative. My skin didn't dry out like this until my mid-twenties, surely a sign of aging. I've lost the flower of youth, but that doesn't mean I've lost of love of winter & the bitter, accompanying cold.

Science!
There's good news & there's bad news regarding the launching of robotic probes to the Red Planet. The good news first. After many delays, the massive Curiosity rover has been launched along with the rest of the Mars Science Laboratory mission: Red Planet-link. Hooray! Here's a closer look at the M.S.L.: Mission to Mars-link. Curiosity is a beast, massively larger than the gallant duo of Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit (R.I.P.) & Opportunity, which began their explorations of Mars in '04, & which were themselves massively larger than N.A.S.A.'s original Mars rover, the wee Sojourner that landed with the Mars Pathfinder mission way back in '97.

The bad news is that the latest Russian Mars probe remains stuck in Earth orbit & chances that it will be able to complete its planned voyage to the Martian moon of Phobos are slim: Ghosts of Mars-link. N.A.S.A. has suffered a goodly number of Mars mission failures, but the Russians' record is truly deplorable. The silver lining to those dark clouds is that the almost-certain failure does not mean that our manned spaceflight "partners" (we are beholden to the Russians to ferry our astronauts to & from the International Space Station, thanks to President Obama's abandonment of American manned spaceflight) are not yet ready to give up on their plans for more robotic probes to plumb the mysteries of the Solar System: Aelita: Queen of Mars-link.

The key to spaceflight, both manned & robotic? Persistence, the refusal to be deterred by repeated failure. The Red Planet is a prize precisely because the voyage across the heavens is so perilous. Go forth, faithful robot minions, & make your human masters proud! We shall follow you in due time.

The Queue
Call for the Dead read like le Carré, but clearly preliminary le Carré. The book is brief, the plot straightforward & the characters few in number compared to his later works. I've decided to skip le Carré's second novel, A Murder of Quality, & move on to this third—& first bestseller—The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

A Princess of Mars might jump the queue if necessary to be read before the release of the motion picture John Carter (which really should be titled John Carter of Mars).

Recently
John Marks, Fangland
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence
John le Carré, Call for the Dead

Currently
(waiting for the library to get its act together)

Presently
Christopher Moore, Bloodsucking Fiends
John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
David Ignatius, Body of Lies
Len Deighton, City of Gold
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Cars, "Just What I Needed" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLXIII - Ivrea's annual Battle of the Oranges.









The Explorers Club | Operation AXIOM
Five years ago to the day, 27 November 2006, a new feature was added to The Secret Base, an educational series fancifully titled "The Explorers Club." Each of the hyperlinks below works, allowing any interested Club member (for our purposes, anyone reading these lines is a member of the Explorers Club) to peruse the five years of "Explorers Club" episodes without plumbing through The Secret Base's archives. I wish I'd been able to take more time to explore The Secret Base of years gone by, but with over two hundred sixty hyperlinks to construct & enable, there was precious little time for sightseeing. I hope you enjoy our retrospective, & more importantly that your appetite to learn is continually whetted by "The Explorers Club."

№ I - The Fairey Rotodyne.

№ II / № III / № IV / № V / № VI

№ VII / № VIII / № IX / № X / № XI

№ XII / № XIII / № XIV / № XV / № XVI

№ XVII / № XVIII / № XIX / № XX / № XXI

№ XXII / № XXIII / № XXIV / № XXV / № XXVI

№ XXVII / № XXVIII / № XXIX / № XXX / № XXXI

№ XXXII / № XXXIII / № XXXIV / № XXXV / № XXXVI

№ XXXVII / № XXXVIII / № XXXIX / № XL / № XLI

№ XLII / № XLIII / № XLIV / № XLV / № XLVI

№ XLVII / № XLVIII / № XLIX

№ L - The last will & testament of Cecil Rhodes.

№ LI / № LII / № LIII / № LIV / № LV

№ LVI / № LVII / № LVIII / № LIX / № LX

№ LXI / № LXII / № LXIII / № LXIV / № LXV

№ LXVI / № LXVII / № LXVIII / № LXIX / № LXX

№ LXXI / № LXXII / № LXXIII / № LXXIV / № LXXV

№ LXXVI / № LXXVII / № LXXVIII / № LXXIX / № LXXX

№ LXXXI / № LXXXII / № LXXXIII / № LXXXIV / № LXXXV

№ LXXXVI / № LXXXVII / № LXXXVIII / № LXXXIX / № XC

№ XCI / № XCII / № XCIII / № XCIV / № XCV

№ XCVI / № XCVII / № XCVIII / № XCIX

№ C - William Wilberforce (1759-1833).

№ CI / № CII / № CIII / № CIV / № CV

№ CVI / № CVII / № CVIII / № CIX / № CX

№ CXI / № CXII / № CXIII / № CXIV / № CXV

№ CXVI / № CXVII / № CXVIII / № CXIX / № CXX

№ CXXI / № CXXII / № CXXIII / № CXXIV / № CXXV

№ CXXVI / № CXXVII / № CXXVIII / № CXXIX

№ CXXX - The Falkirk Wheel.
The most popular episode of "The Explorers Club," bar none.

№ CXXXI / № CXXXII / № CXXXIII / № CXXXIV / № CXXXV

№ CXXXVI / № CXXXVII / № CXXXVIII / № CXXXIX / № CXL

№ CXLI / № CXLII / № CXLIII / № CXLIV / № CXLV

№ CXLVI / № CXLVII / № CXLVIII / № CXLIX

№ CL - The H-4 Hercules, a.k.a. the "Spruce Goose."

№ CLI / № CLII / № CLIII / № CLIV / № CLV

№ CLVI / № CLVII / № CLVIII / …

Unforgivable months of silence.

… / № CLIX / № CLX

№ CLXI / № CLXII / № CLXIII / № CLXIV / № CLXV

№ CLXVI / № CLXVII / № CLXVIII / № CLXIX / № CLXX

№ CLXXI / № CLXXII / № CLXXIII / № CLXXIV

№ CLXXV - The Shadow.
A birthday present from the author to himself.

№ CLXXVI / № CLXXVII / № CLXXVIII / № CLXXIX / № CLXXX

№ CLXXXI / № CLXXXII / № CLXXXIII / № CLXXXIV / № CLXXXV

№ CLXXXVI / № CLXXXVII / № CLXXXVIII / № CLXXXIX / № CXC

№ CXCI / № CXCII / № CXCIII / № CXCIV / № CXCV

№ CXCVI / № CXCVII / № CXCVIII / № CXCIX

№ CC - Neanderthal Man.

№ CCI / № CCII / № CCIII / № CCIV / № CCV

№ CCVI / № CCVII / № CCVIII / № CCIX / № CCX

№ CCXI / № CCXII / № CCXIII / № CCXIV / № CCXV

№ CCXVI / № CCXVII / № CCXVIII / № CCXIX / № CCXX

№ CCXXI / № CCXXII / № CCXXIII / № CCXXIV / № CCXXV

№ CCXXVI / № CCXXVII / № CCXXVIII / № CCXXIX / № CCXXX

№ CCXXXI / № CCXXXII / № CCXXXIII / № CCXXXIV / № CCXXXV

№ CCXXXVI / № CCXXXVII / № CCXXXVIII / № CCXXXIX / № CCXL

№ CCXLI / № CCXLII / № CCXLIII / № CCXLIV / № CCXLV

№ CCXLVI / № CCXLVII / № CCXLVIII / № CCXLIX

№ CCL - Giorgio Perlasca (1910-1992).

№ CCLI / № CCLII / № CCLIII / № CCLIV / № CCLV

№ CCLVI / № CCLVII / № CCLVIII / № CCLIX / № CCLX

№ CCLXI / № CCLXII

№ CCLXIII - Ivrea's annual Battle of the Oranges.



Whew! That took forever. Someone remind me never to do this again; or, rather, to find a more efficient way to commemorate future anniversaries of "The Explorers Club."

Urbi et Orbi
'Tis the first Sunday of Advent. The Nativity draws near. Soon all of Christendom celebrates the birth of the Christ. Rejoice! Make ready! The Christmastide approaches, the season not for consumerism & neo-pagan malarky about the Winter Solstice but for joyous reflection upon the Incarnation. Advent, adventus, "coming." The Christ is coming, all the almighty power of God & all the frailty of a man in a single being, a babe as given to drooling & burping as any other. Rejoice! The anniversary of something truly wonderful draws near.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
William Shatner, "Has Been" from Has Been (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I'm not sure if I should divide the "spoken word" bits of "Has Been" into lines & stanzas like proper lyrics, but I've chosen to do so for clarity's sake.

"I've heard of you, the ready-made connecting with the ever-ready,
Yeah, 'Never was' talking about 'Still trying,'
I got it, 'Forever bitter' gossiping about 'Never say die.'

What are you afraid of, failure? So am I.

'Has been' implies failure. Not so.
'Has been's' history. 'Has been" was.
'Has been'… might again."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Victors
(№ 17) Michigan 40-34 Ohio State
10-2, Big Ten 6-2

I was an emotional wreck throughout, careening 'twixt exultation & desolation during the second half after doing a reasonably good job of keeping myself in check for much of the first. I am an unsociable brute during big games, swearing like a sailor & raving like a madman. The ice-thin veneer of my reserve was cracked by my mother's infuriating, plaintive cries of "Oh, no" whenever anything would go the way of the hated Buckeyes. I love her dearly, but in my fragile state her attempt at partisanship was a provocation I could resist for only so long; having no wish to hurl invective at the poor woman, I decamped from the family room, where I'd been watching alongside her & my father, to the splendid isolation of the living room. I lived & died with the valiant Wolverines' rising & falling fortunes, 'til at last a savage bellow of triumph escaped my lips when the hated Buckeyes' last chance ended in an interception. Victory!

Rightly or wrongly, today's game has exorcized many of the ghosts that have haunted the Maize & Blue soul since the death of our great hero, Coach Glenn "Bo" Schembechler, on the eve of the '06 game. The '11 valiant Wolverines are probably the worst ten-win Michigan team I've seen, but they are a ten-win team all the same; let's us not allow the better to be the enemy of the good. The true mark of the champion is not whether they win pretty or win ugly, but that they win, that they carry the day whatever the circumstances. The valiant Wolverines are not yet champions, but of them Schbechler's immortal words can rightly be uttered, "Those who stay will be champions."

There is surely more to say, but for the nonce let this suffice: Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Temptation" from Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "You can't have one without the other. Ladies & gentlemen, the 'Hawaiian War Chant.'"

The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Hawaiian War Chant" from Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

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

Commentary: I intended to choose the album version from More Noise and Other Distrubances, but it found itself outclassed by the live version, per usual. Live from the Middle East is an exceptional live album, the gold standard of my collection.

For reasons to be discussed later, my sense is that today the best thing to do is celebrate life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Operation AXIOM
Happy Thanksgiving, beloved readers! I hope that this Thanksgiving finds you in the warm embrace of kith and/or kin, hail & hearty, safe & sound, with naught to do all day but bask in the traditions old & new: the Macy's Day parade, the Detroit Lions' professional football game, slaving away for umpteen hours to prepare a meal that your kith & kin will devour with all the delicacy of laughing hyenas on a putrid wildebeest carcass. We are all so profoundly blessed, yet so many of us, your humble narrator foremost, are so often so willfully blind to just how fortunate we are. How right & proper that as a culture we should set aside one day of the year simply to give thanks for all that we have. Give thanks to the Creator. Give thanks to one another. Give thanks to our forefathers, who tamed this wild continent & secured for us the blessings of liberty. Give thanks to the turkeys who gave their lives for our nourishment & enjoyment. Give thanks to the invisible hand. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Thanksgiving Day
Mike Park, "Thankful All the Same" from For the Love of Music (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Victors
I wasn't able to see either game, the victory over the feisty Fighting Illini due to a History Club trip to the Henry Ford Museum—the scheduling of which for a Saturday in the fall I argued against vigorously & viciously—& the victory over the unwelcome Cornhuskers due to a debate tournament in the Canadas (to be chronicled in a forthcoming "Master Debating" post). I saw a bit of the third quarter of the Nebraska game on a laptop in a lecture hall on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University, at which point the score was valiant Wolverines 17-10 unwelcome Cornhuskers, though by text message my father informed me that the game wasn't as close as that score indicated; the final score would seem to vindicate his analysis. I had two spirited discussions about Shoelace, one with the Regis coach who is critical of young Mr. Robinson's throwing ability, or lack thereof, & the other with an Alaska debater—from a family of Wolverines—who loves "D-Rob's" unconventional play-making ability. Good times. Not as good as being able to watch the games & thus comment intelligently upon them, but good nonetheless.

Saturday, 19 November
(№ 20) Michigan 45-17 Nebraska (№ 17)
9-2, Big Ten 5-2

Saturday, 12 November
(№ 22) Michigan 31-14 Illinois
8-2, Big Ten 4-2

Next up: The Game, the annual war against the hated Buckeyes. There is no love lost between the states of Michigan & Ohio, nor 'twixt the University of Michigan & THE (Ohio State University). Go Blue! Beat Ohio!

Go Blue!

Obamboozled | All the Russias | Atlanticism
Cast your mind back to the early days of the Obama Administration, when President Obama & Secretary Clinton talked up a "reset" in Russo-American relations. If only the United States turned her back on ballistic missile defense & left our stalwart Czech & Polish allies, who had angered Russia by agreeing to host radar sites for the under-construction American missile defense umbrella, twisting in the wing, then the Russians would be our friends again & everything would be loveliness & roses. The White House kowtowed to Moscow's demands & scaled back our missile defense plans to the point of uselessness, so now the Russians are threatening to put offensive missiles in East Prussia (the spoils of war that they call Kaliningrad) unless we cancel the feeble efforts still underway: Kremlinology-link. President Obama's reset is awesome! The best part is that our response has come from neither the Department of State nor the National Security Council, but from N.A.T.O. Leading from behind: it's like a dream come true.

This steady retreat in the face of Russian truculence/belligerence is precisely what you voted for in '08, if you voted for Obama-Biden: Wayback Machine (scroll down to "Obamboozled" for more examples of the success of the "reset" policy). The parade of horrors continues unabated!

Coming Attractions
{a} The intersection of "The Explorers Club" & Operation AXIOM, a post on which I spent a good deal of time this afternoon, a mammoth job that I am spreading over several days; due Sunday.
{b} "Master Debating": The Air Force Academy at the end of September/beginning of October & Wilfrid Laurier (in the Canadas) last weekend.
{c} "Project PANDORA": OkCupid?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mark Ronson featuring The Daptone Horns, "God Put a Smile On Your Face" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLXII - The bucentaurs, the state galleys of the Doges of Venice.







We here at the Explorers Club prefer not to use the same images as are found on the Wikipedia, but the model of the last bucentaur's figurehead really has to be seen & we could find no rival to the above photograph, courtesy of the Wikipedia.

Coming in five days, a very special "Operation AXIOM" commemoration of "The Explorers Club."


The Queue
The Craft of Intelligence is a good, thorough introduction to the world of espionage, a book best read before such in-depth examinations as Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of M.I.5* & The Secret History of M.I.6: 1909-1949. Still, interesting to read the thoughts of a longtime head honcho of the C.I.A.

Recently
Kim Newman, Dracula Cha Cha Cha
John Marks, Fangland
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence

Currently
John le Carré, Call for the Dead

Presently
David Ignatius, Body of Lies
Len Deighton, City of Gold
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Dance Hall Crashers, "Triple Track" from Short Music for Short People (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Selected in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Cecilia, patroness of musicians. As I was selecting today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D., I was struck by how many songs on the compilation Short Music for Short People are about the act of musical composition. The runner-up was "The Miracle of Music" by Bog & Doug McKenzie, from their comedy album Great White North.

"Got in a fight with Fat Mike when he called and told me
To write a thirty-second song for his little C.D.
Tried to explain that I needed more to go on,
What motivation? Where is he coming from?

So I distract with a triple track of 'Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh,'
Get to the end with my good old friend, the 'Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh.'"

This album version of "Triple Track" clocks in at a hefty thirty-three seconds. The even faster live version from D.H.C.'s
The Live Record, in twenty-nine.

Monday, 21 November
Lily Allen, "LDN" from Alright, Still (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice,
But if you look twice
You can see it's all lies."


*Note my inconsistency, using the American title Defend the Realm instead of the original British The Defence of the Realm, while in the same breath using the original British title Dracula Cha Cha Cha instead of the American Judgment of Tears. I should be a happy boy indeed if inconsistency was the gravest of my sins.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Trey Parker, "America, Fuck Yeah" from Team America: World Police: Music from the Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Liberty! (Fuck yeah!)"

Samstag, 19 November
Barenaked Ladies, "If I Had $1,000,000" from Gordon (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: She's cute, not beautiful, but has "huge… tracts of land." No joy, but all data are useful for Project PANDORA.

Freitag, 18 November
Great Big Sea, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" from Play (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I greatly impressed one of the Canuck judges by knowing that Newfoundland had not become a part of the Dominion of Canada 'til 1949. As I said to him, "I know what's what."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ben Harper and the Relentless7, "Fly One Time" courtesy of The Watergirl (The Watergirl)

Commentary:

"There's no fighting back the years,
So hard to unlearn fears."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Week in Motorsport
On Friday, Armistice Day, I was able to watch the Rally Catalunya, recorded the previous Sunday & run two to three weeks before broadcast. 'Twas bughouse even by the standards of the other W.R.C. rallies I've seen. Woo hoo! Rallies are run in timed stages; each car drives the same course, leaving at different intervals; the cumulative times are added up & the lowest time, the quickest car, carries the day. On gravel, or other "loose surface" stages, the first car is at a disadvantage, because it is driving on more loose material than any other car; it's passage will "sweep" the road for the following cars, giving them greater grip, allowing them to take corners at higher speeds. Not so the case in Spain. The first car was reigning World Champion Sébastien Loeb, of Citroën. While his run did sweep the road for the trailing cars, it also threw up a huge plume of dust that he not yet settled to earth by the time Ford's Mikko Hirvonen began his run. Hirvonen ran in almost zero visibility at some points along the stage, severely compromising his pace. Hirvonen's dust mixed with Loeb's, making visibility even worse of the third car, the Citroën piloted by Sébastien Ogier. Rally cars go too fast for the driver to navigate his way without pace notes even under the best of circumstances. In the dust cloud, the situation was all but hopeless.

The dust situation did not persist beyond the first few stages, but by then Loeb had an enormous lead as they heading into the next two days stages, which would be almost all run on tarmac (streets). Loeb is the undisputed master of tarmac. Some stages had both gravel & tarmac portions, which played hell with the cars' performance. The ride height of the cars is set as low as possible on tarmac, & tire pressure is increased; the cars are raised up on their suspensions on gravel, & run on soft, low-pressure tires. It was wild to see the compromises struck to try & balance the variable conditions.

The more I see of the World Rally Championship, the more I like it. A developing issue is that I like both of the Ford drivers, a pair of flying Finns, the aforementioned Hirvonen & the youthful Jari-Matti Latvala. Yet I remain implacably opposed to the Ford Motor Company, for which they race, creating quite the conundrum. In my first year of watching F1, I didn't take sides, I just watched the races. Such has been the case this year in the W.R.C. Can that neutrality persist? I am doubtful, I think it not in my nature. In the accusatory words of Zapp Brannigan, "What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"

Next up: the race run this past weekend, the Wales Rally G.B., the season finale, to be broadcast the weekend after Thanksgiving.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Antje Duvekot, "Merry-Go-Round" courtesy of The Watergirl (The Watergirl)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLXI - The Messerschmitt KR175 & KR200.









Armistice Day
One of the things I find puzzling about mine own culture is our strong preference for early celebrations over late celebrations. For example, Ska Army, a saxophonist in a U.S. Army band, marched in a Veterans Day parade on Saturday, 5 November, six days ahead of Veterans Day/Armistice Day/Remembrance Day. Why not on Saturday, 12 November, only one day late? Would not the parade have been all the better for its proximity to the sacred anniversary? This is prelude to a pair on hyperlinks, one about the Queen honoring her subjects, the other a series of photographs from Remembrance Sunday, which is celebrated on the closest Sunday to Remembrance Day, be that Sunday afore or after 11 November (in 2011, after, on 13 November): Dieu et mon droit-link & photo-link.

Project MERCATOR
The late weekend was a social one for your humble narrator. On Friday, I attended the wedding of Dick & Cassie, the lovebirds of The Loose Ties, with Jojo as my date. The wait twixt the wedding & the reception was interminable as the reception was held in the church basement below the chapel in which the wedding was held, thus eliminating the lovely time-consuming commute from site to site. Not knowing either family, except for an acquaintance with Dick's brother Jon, a fill-in "utility" member of The Loose Ties, Jojo & I sat with the band. After some canned (laptop-based) music, The Loose Ties performed, including Cassie in her gown & Dick in his tuxedo; I'd not before skanked in a suit, & found that braces are far better at holding pants in place when the legs inside those pants are not being rhythmically thrust into the air. Glow sticks were to be had, though fortunately the accompanying techno music was no where to be heard. Emerging from the basement to stand in the cold night air & cool down, I was engaged in conversation by two of my fellow guests, a couple, strangers to me. I recounted a brief history of ska & attempted to teach the lady how to skank, a process complicated by her heels though facilitated by her mild intoxication. At Dick's request, I took home a clutch of the cupcakes that were served in lieu of a wedding cake & shared them with my folks.

Despite the late night at the wedding, I was up bright & early on Saturday to join my fellows in the History Club for an excursion to the Henry Ford Museum, which I had not visited since I was a wee bairn. What an extraordinary place! I am still staggered by the size & majesty of 1601, the articulated Allegheny locomotive; suddenly, steampunk seems a far more interesting, not just as a genre of fiction but possibly as a subculture. The automobile collection, by far the largest exhibit, is undergoing renovation, to reopen next year, but we were still able to gape at a goodly number of vehicles, including a variety of presidential limousines (the most infamous being that in which President Kennedy was assassinated); an impossibly extravagant Bugatti Royale (chassis № 41.121); a Ford-powered Lotus Formula One car from the 1960s, though as the plaque was inaccessible I cannot tell you more about the provenance of the beautiful green & yellow machine; & an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Weinermobile! I marveled at the collection of 18th & 19th century steam engines; that William Blake described these monuments to Man's ingenuity & eventual creators of unprecedented prosperity as the engines of "dark Satanic Mills" tells you everything you need to know about the disdain with which I regard Blake's tripe. I repeat, what an extraordinary place! We did not tour Greenfield Village, nor the Automotive Hall of Fame, & as aforementioned the car collection was largely inaccessible; so, a return trip is most certainly in order.

Project GLOWWORM
In the aftermath of the evening, I am having the devil of a time getting my braces cleaned, both of my usual dry cleaners being scared off by the leather bits that houses the holes through which are slipped the pants' buttons, attaching the braces to the pants. I'd not foreseen this difficulty, & shall have to consult my clothier for cleaning advice.

The fellow to whom I recounted the brief history of ska made a big deal of my moustache & seemed quite impressed that I'd been growing it for fourteen months. He, like his lady, was mildly intoxicated.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lily Allen, "Cheryl Tweedy" from the Smile E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"I wish my life was a little less seedy.
Why am I always so greedy?
Wish I looked just like Cheryl Tweedy,
I know I never will,
I know I never will."

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Queue
Fangland is a fraud, the book is not the "re-imagining" of Dracula it purports to be. Instead, the hack uses the basic framework of Bram Stoker's immortal novel—an innocent is lured to Transylvania under false pretenses by a fiend who eventually travels to the dupe's home metropolis—to tell a ponderous & pretentious ghost story. Worst of all, the hack commits to sin of recycling one & only one character name from Dracula: the protagonist's surname is Harker. Use all, or at least most, of the character names from Dracula, or use none of them. To use only one betrays a base attempt to cash in on a better author's efforts. (See Kim Newman's Anno Dracula to see how a writer pays homage to his better.) The book, a bloated, self-important mess from beginning to end, is a crying shame. The title is rubbish, the "vampire" doesn't have fangs & isn't a vampire at all.

Recently
William F. Buckley, Jr., Saving the Queen
Kim Newman, Dracula Cha Cha Cha
John Marks, Fangland

Currently
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence

Presently
John le Carré, Call for the Dead
David Ignatius, Body of Lies
Len Deighton, City of Gold

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Paul McCartney, "Live and Let Die" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Extraordinary circumstances are required for me to endorse the work of Sir Paul McCartney, & today was Bond-heavy enough to qualify. Early this morning I traded in a book I didn't want for a good-as-brand-new copy of Live and Let Die, the second 007 novel, & after a television advertisement for Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol prompted a mocking discussion of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, I was able to give my pop the mixed news about the next Bond picture, Skyfall: Daniel Craig returns as Bond, but the film is to be directed by the dreadful Sam Mendes. I live in hope.

"What does it matter to ya?
When you got a job to do,
You got to do well,
You got to give the other fella hell!"


Sonntag, 13 November
Queen, "Somebody to Love" from Greatest Hits I (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Can anybody find me somebody to love?" I have my doubts.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

For The Secret Base's last word on Armistice Day 'til next year, There are some lovely photographic remembrances of Remembrance Day observances herein: 93rd-link.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Spiralling Shape" from Factory Showroom (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, November 11, 2011



Armistice Day
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Anno Domini 1918, the guns fell silent on the Western Front; the Great War, the First World War, was ended. The Great War seems terribly far away from our world of iPads & the eurozone crisis, & indeed it grows more distant year on year: the last survivor of the American Expeditionary Force, Frank Buckles, perished in February of this very year; the last combat veteran of the war, Claude Choules of the Royal Navy & the Royal Australian Navy, met his demise in May '11; there is only one known living veteran remaining, Florence Greeen of the Women's Royal Air Force, born 1901. When she passes, a link will be severed. The duty will fall to us, the children, grandchildren, & great-grandchildren of those who knew the glory & the folly of the Weltkrieg, to remember the triumphs & the tragedies of 1914-1918; lest we fall prey to the same vainglory, the same misjudgments & errors, lest it all happen again. Lest we forget.

I encountered a Canadian fellow on Sunday, after Mass when Mother & I motored to the mall to find the new winter coat I'd requested as a Christmas gift. He was getting into his motorcar & we exited hers, & I spied a Remembrance Day poppy on his parka. I'd desired such a poppy pin, much like the one seen above, for several years, but had not found a way to acquire one here in the States, & only last year did I acquire the enhanced operator's license now necessary to cross the American-Canadian frontier (by land or sea, but not by air). I smiled as I approached his vehicle & gently knocked on the driver's window. He lowered the window & I begged his pardon, asking him where he had acquired his Remembrance Day poppy. He replied that they were easy enough to find, he'd acquired his from the Legion, for a charitable donation. I grasped his meaning, the Royal Canadian Legion—their leading veterans' organization—& thus divined his origin; of course, I replied, in the Canadas. Canada, as part of the British Empire, joined the mother country, Great Britain; her fellow dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, & South Africa; & India & the rest of the colonies in fighting all four years of that unremitting nightmare, & unto the present day commemorates the Armistice with Remembrance Day, the remembrance of the glorious dead. I was about to thank him for his time, & bid him a good day & a safe journey, when he caught me off guard by offering me the poppy pin. I asked if he was sure, which he was, & thanked him as he handed over the small badge, thin plastic covered with felt or some approximation. I thanked him again & we came to the parting of the ways; I've worn the poppy since, explaining its significance when asked, which was not as frequently as I'd hoped. I'm obliged to the gentleman, an exemplar of his country's renowned politeness.

As ever, my reverence for Armistice Day at the expense of Veterans Day* is not intended as a slight against those still living who have fought on my behalf in all of America's wars, both hot & Cold. But I hold that we forget the specific lessons of 1914-1918, of trench warfare & the Chemists' War, at our grave peril. The Commonwealth's commemoration of Remembrance Day is, for that purpose, better suited than our Veterans Day. (It may be tiresome to regular readers that I repeat this apology every Armistice Day, but I am desperate not to be misunderstood.) Lest we forget. War on a large scale, war that engulfs nations & lasts years or generations, was a distant memory to the Europe of that fateful summer of 1914, just as it is to the Europe of the restless fall of 2011. Lest we forget. Lest the bane of internecine war again befall the Western liberal democracies. When we assume that the potential for such warfare is no longer in our midst, then are we most vulnerable to its pernicious influence. Lest we forget.


"The Anxious Dead"
by John McCrae

O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on;
(These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

Tell them, o guns, that we have heard their call,
That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
That we will onward till we win or fall,
That we will keep the faith for which they died.

Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep.





"Corporal Stare"
by Robert Graves

Back from the line one night in June,
I gave a dinner at Bethune—
Seven courses, the most gorgeous meal
Money could buy or batmen steal.
Five hungry lads welcomed the fish
With shouts that nearly cracked the dish;
Asparagus came with tender tops,
Strawberries in cream, and mutton chops.
Said Jenkins, as my hand he shook,
"They'll put this in the history book."
We bawled Church anthems in choro
Of Bethlehem and Hermon snow,
With drinking songs, a jolly sound
To help the good red Pommard round.
Stories and laughter interspersed,
We drowned a long La Bassée thirst—
Trenches in June make throats damned dry.
When through the window, suddenly,
Badge, stripes, and medals all complete,
We saw him swagger up the street,
Just like a live man—Corporal Stare!
Stare! Killed last May at Festubert.
Caught on patrol near the Boche wire,
Torn horribly by machine-gun fire!
He paused, saluted smartly, grinned,
Then passed away like a puff of wind,
Leaving us blank astonishment.
The song broke, up we started, leant
Out of the window—nothing there,
Not the least shadow of Corporal Stare,
Only a quiver of smoke that showed
A fag-end dropped on the silent road.





*I prefer the spelling Veterans' Day, regarding it as more apropos, but the official government designation of the holiday is Veterans Day. I bow to officialdom, the authorized executors of the electorate's will.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Armistice Day
Great Big Sea, "Recruiting Sergeant" from Play (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"…
Enlist, ye Newfoundlanders, and come follow me.

And it's over the mountains and over the sea,
Come, brave Newfoundlanders, and join the Blue Puttees,
You'll fight the Hun in Flanders, and at Gallipoli,
Enlist, ye Newfoundlanders, and come follow me."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Operation AXIOM
Thirty-six years ago to the day, 10 November 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, at the time of her construction the largest "boat" on the Great Lakes, sank beneath the waves of Lake Superior, claiming all twenty-nine souls aboard. Your humble narrator has spent most of his life in sacred Michigan, but remains very much a landlubber. 'Tis so easy to take our Great Lakes for granted, to imagine them as mere lakes, really just exaggerated ponds, rather than the inland seas they really are, fraught with peril & myriad ways for a man to meet his demise.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Like everyone else, I'd have only the vaguest awareness of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald without "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Mittwoch, 9 November
MxPx, "Emotional Anarchist" from Panic (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The liner notes to Panic use the archaic spelling "pist" for the word latterly rendered as "pissed." Fascinating.

"You're an emotional anarchist,
You're pist 'cause you never been kissed,
You're drowning in a sea of anarchy,
With your heart upon your patches
And no faith in democracy."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pray pardon the paucity of posts, but I've been blindsided by a most uncharacteristic heat wave, utterly unacceptable for November. The temperatures are only in the mid-60s, but the effect is amplified because ever building still has its central heat cranked up as it the afternoon highs we in the 40s. Additionally, it's humid, humid like August is humid. It's muggy. It's hot & muggy (high fives all around) in cotton-picking November & the furnaces are blasting away. Pardon my language, but this is a clusterfuck.

"This aggression will not stand, man."

Project GLOWWORM
I woke up early this morning & trimmed by beard, which I was supposed to do last Friday. One again, I trimmed it too short. Late & too short! Have I learned nothing? Late & too short, & for no good reason. Great Caesar's ghost, Mike, get your head in the game! Jackass.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ben Folds featuring Regina Spektor, "You Don't Know Me" from Way to Normal (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A burned C.D. of Way to Normal was given me by a relative much more fond Ben Folds than I. I did not ask for this album, nor the other Ben Folds albums he's gifted me, but it's unpardonably rude to refuse a gift; there's nothing for it but to smile & say, "Thank you." I junked more than half of the songs, but retained a handful, including, as you might have guessed, "You Don't Know Me."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Autobahn
I saw a vanity license plate this afternoon about which I've not yet decided on an opinion. The motorcar was a B.M.W. 550i with the plate BMW550I. The plate is not clever, but the question is whether it is obnoxiously dull or so intentionally dull as to come all the way around the horn & become amusing. I am, as aforementioned, undecided. Thoughts?

This Week in Motorsport
Velocity, the automobile-themed name by which Discovery's H.D. Theater channel has been re-branded, aired the Rally Catalunya (Rally de España) this weekend, but I've not yet had the chance to watch the rally, which was run a fortnight hence. Rallying: Embrace the madness.

Rally monkey!

The Rebe Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "I Palindrome I" from Apollo 18 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"Someday Mother will die and I'll get the money,
Mom leans down and says, 'My sentiments exactly,
'You son of a bitch.'"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Explorers Club
№ CCLX - Simo Häyhä (1905-2002), "the White Death," sniper extraordinaire, with over five hundred confirmed kills in fewer than one hundred days of combat.







The subject of this episode of "The Explorers Club" was nominated by The Watergirl, this blog's most active audience contributor. Your humble narrator owes her a great debt for her continued enthusiasm & participation. The White Death!

The Queue
The Craft of Intelligence was briefly suspended whilst a sated a jones for the third, & thus far latest, volume in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series. Dracula Cha Cha Cha had a better ending than either Anno Dracula or The Bloody Red Baron, the very thing that spoilt both earlier efforts, though it could just be that I am now more accustomed to the way in which Newman's books don't so much conclude as just end. After my time amongst the vampires, I'm back to the world of spies & saboteurs with Mr. Dulles, though we both know I'm not yet done with the undead.

Recently
Keith Jeffery, The Secret History of M.I.6: 1909-1949
William F. Buckley, Jr., Saving the Queen
Kim Newman, Dracula Cha Cha Cha

Currently
Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence

Presently
John Marks, Fangland
John le Carré, Call for the Dead
David Ignatius, Body of Lies

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Littlest Man Band, "Better Man" from Better Book Ends (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"Lie and cheat your friends while you still have time,
And downplay the drama while you figure out a clever rhyme,
Smile with a semi-sympathetic tone,
Can't appreciate good friends until you find your own,
And I'm just trying to be a better man.
Yeah, I'm just trying to be a better man."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Victors
Iowa 24-16 Michigan (№ 13)
7-2, Big Ten 3-2

I ask a philosophical question, What is the purpose of having instant reply when it does not overturn incorrect calls? The player had possession of the ball & his knee came down in bounds, how is that not a touchdown? I can forgive the error on the part of the on-field officials, because it happened swiftly, but the replay official calls into question the entire video review system. I do say with confidence, however, that not a single one of those officials will be deemed sufficient to officiate the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, to be held in a month's time.

Also, drat! The fault for today's loss lies principally with our own anemic offense. What madness would lead anyone, even a boob like the hateful Al Borges, to take the valiant Wolverines' greatest offensive weapon, quarterback Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, off the field? Devin Gardner played one complete series—a three & out—when Shoelace was shaken up. That is the right & appropriate rôle for your Mr. Gardner. Otherwise, inserting Gardner into the line-up at the expense of Shoelace is foolishness, as unwise as the replacement of Tom Brady—who went on to have a mildly successful career in the N.F.L.—with Drew Henson was in '98 & '99 (foolishness that directly cost us at least one loss, & contributed a several more). Why is Al Borges alone unable to see the play-making talent of your Mr. Robinson? It is sad that opposition defensive coordinators more rightly access the valiant Wolverines' quarterback's talents than does the man in charge of the valiant Wolverines' offense. Borges is a bum, & at this juncture might well be doing Michigan far more harm than good. What, if anything, will Coach Hoke do about this very unfortunate circumstance?

All that said, the tenacious Hawkeyes are, & always have been under their coach Kirk Ferentz, a very inconsistent team. The analogy of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde leaps to mind. One week, they are world-beaters, able to take even the best teams in the country down to the wire; the next, they lose to a cream puff like the luckless Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The luckless Golden Gophers prevailed over Mr. Hyde last Saturday; the valiant Wolverines succumbed to Dr. Jekyll this afternoon. Curse the luck, but that's why the play the games.

What now? Under Head Coach Brady Hoke, the valiant Wolverines' defense is much improved, but the offense is at best no better & at worst much less effective. The valiant Wolverines are able to beat up on the lesser teams in the Big Ten, such as the ill-starred Boilermakers & the luckless Golden Gophers, but are vulnerable against the better teams, such as the dastardly Spartans & the Dr. Jekyll tenacious Hawkeyes. What lessons can be draw ahead of the last three games of the year, against the feisty Illini, the unwelcome Cornhuskers, & the hated Buckeyes? I can't even pretend to have objectivity enough to comment? WHY DOES BORGES INSIST ON TAKING SHOELACE OUT OF THE GAME? IS HE INSANE?! *inarticulate grunt of frustration* Yeah, Michigan's 7-2, but of which of those seven victories are you proud? Whom have we defeated who's worth a tinker's damn? I so desperately hope my instincts about Brady Hoke are wrong.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Little Brown Jug" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I considered John Linnell's song, "Iowa," which is quite insistent on the point, "Iowa is a witch," but rejected the idea as unsportsmanlike. The tenacious Hawkeyes won fair & square.

All I can say in defense of my indefensible oversight in not selecting "Little Brown Jug" as the R.B.S.D.O.T.D. on the day the valiant Wolverines defeated the luckless Golden Gophers is that I was out of state on the day, I did not see the game, & that day's R.B.D.S.O.T.D., John Linnell's "Michigan," had been specifically & repeated sung by Ska Army & your humble narrator on the day in question. All that said, that can be no defending the indefensible. I was wrong & I am sorry.


Freitag, 4 November
The Aquabats!, "The Legend is True!" from Hi-Five Soup! (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary:

"And there across the sky
I can see what makes the legend,
The legend is true!
And it's you, yeah,
You are the legend and the legend is true!"
The Victors: Halftime
Iowa 17-6 Michigan (№ 13)

I have nothing against Devin Gardner, but I've reached the conclusion that I not only disagree with Offensive Coordinator Al Borges's tactic of inserting Gardner in at quarterback on truly random plays, but actually hate Borges. I want some thrice-damned ne'er-do-well to gut that corpulent blighter like a fish, to leave whatever remains of the remains on public display as a warning to others about the perils of being too clever by half. Under Coach Rodriguez, it seemed necessary constantly to remind him & his staff, though those reminders went unheeded, that it did not matter how well the offense played if the defense couldn't ever stop the opposing offense. It seems increasingly necessary to remind Coach Hoke & his staff that it doesn't matter how well the defense plays if the offense can't put up a reasonable number of points. Why do we continue to hire dimwits who only see one-half of what is a gloriously multifaceted game? *grumble grumble*

Go Blue!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Honolulu Blue Nevermore
This item in the sports news made me happy: $-link. I hate the Ford family & I hate the Ford Motor Company, but I don't hate the Detroit Lions; I am indifferent, not hostile. This story makes me happy because it belatedly acknowledges that which prompted me to abandon my theretofore lifelong love of the Lions, viz. the monstrous incompetence of William Clay Ford, Sr. I simply could not countenance rooting for a team that helped line the pockets of that fiend; mayhap I should reconsider my position now that Ford's almost impressively inept ownership is costing his horrible family some portion of their massive Jew-hating fortune?

I jest, of course; nevermore means nevermore. The Devil take the Fords!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Middle Kingdom
Way back in the '90s, when I was a disinterested & incompetent high school debater—partnered with The Muppet, elder brother of K. Steeze—we talked about the rise o' China & used the P.R.C.'s increasingly aggressive territorial assertiveness as an example that not everything about that rise was sunshine & rainbows. In those halcyon days, we focused on the Spratly Islands. Everything old is new again: South China Sea-link. American naval might in the western Pacific is the regional stability & the preservation of the peace. To that end, it is vital that we not make the drastic cuts to the Navy that President Obama & the distressingly isolationist elements of the Republican Congressional caucus have proposed in the name of austerity. Such proposals are penny wise & pound foolish; the price to be paid, both economic & political, from allowing Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea, & elsewhere in the western Pacific, would be staggering. American retreat is a wholly artificial phenomenon that augurs ill for all the world; I would beseech Mr. Obama to make a forceful argument for the virtues of American dominance in the western Pacific.

The Stars My Destination
The return of the faux-cosmonauts of the Mars-500 project: not quite the Red Planet-link. A manned mission to Mars is within our technical abilities, we need only commit the resources. Would not the sight of men walking on Mars be more inspirational that N.A.S.A.'s current, fuzzy plans to "land" astronauts on an asteroid? I'm all for exploring & even mining asteroids, but after three decades of low Earth orbit malaise what the world's collaborative space programs need is a "Wow!" moment, such as a Mars landing. Let us hope Mars-500 has contributed to making the argument for the feasibility of conquering the Red Planet.

This is not the first mention of Mars-500 here at The Secret Base: Wayback Machine.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lalo Schifrin, "Mission: Impossible (Main Title)" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: From my playlist "Spy" in honor of the new season of Burn Notice. Welcome back, Miss Glenanne & Messers. Westen, Axe, & Porter!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Go Sailor, "Windy" from Go Sailor (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary:

"So, go ahead and marry her,
And don't mind me,
That's what I get for being blind.

So, go ahead and marry her,
It's what you want,
I hope that your forever stays,

So, go ahead and marry her,
She's really nice,
She's everything that I can't be.
I just hope that somewhere in your wedded bliss
You find the time to think of me,
I hope you think of me."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Particle Man" from Flood (Red Patton)

Commentary:

"Is he a dot or is speck?
When he's underwater does he get wet,
Or does the water get him instead?"


Code Name: Chaos
"Red Patton" is the new Secret Base code name of my pal Tony, a great admirer of General George Patton, who also happens to be politically left-wing. Tony is a World War II buff, & I considered giving him the code name "Patton > Eisenhower," but deemed it too cumbersome. If circumstance ever affords you the opportunity, provoke Red Patton into a rant about President Eisenhower, who he argues not only wasn't a particularly good general, but "wasn't really a general" at all. Hilarity for history nerds!
Operation AXIOM | Urbi et Orbi
'Tis All Saints' Day, 'tis a holy day of obligation. (This is why Hallowe'en is called Hallowe'en, "All Hallows' Eve.") May all the saints of the Church Triumphant pray for those of us yet in the Church Militant & the Church Penitent, as we are all one in the Christ.

Atlanticism: Maghreb Edition
Count me an enthusiastic supporter of Tunisia's post-dictatorship prosecution of corruption: warrant-link. If the widow Arafat was anything like her late, unlamented husband—both a Nobel Peace Laureate & an unrepentant supporter of suicide bombings to the day he died—then she must be guilty of staggering corruption, avarice beyond conception. May she face swift & sure justice.

This Week in Motorsport
The Buddh International Circuit is magnificent, as was the inaugural Indian Grand Prix! Respects were paid to the tragedies of the late fortnight: the death of driver Dan Wheldon in the IndyCar fiasco at Las Vegas & the death of rider Marco Simoncelli in a Moto G.P. race in Malaysia. I am very glad that these are not the bad old days, when deaths in motorsport were commonplace, but the mere fact that today's grand prix was held confirms that, in John Hodgman's memorable words, "we will not be cowed by death." They were not the first to die, &, alas, they shan't be the last. That they were willing to risk life & limb signals, me thinks, that they would want the races to continue. Messers. Simoncelli & Wheldon, requiescat in pace.

Reigning double World Champion Sebastian Vettel completed what Speed's commentators—the collective "Ben" Kenobi to my F1 Luke Skywalker; it is difficult to overstate how influential Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Will Buxton, & Peter Windsor have been in fostering my understanding of Formula One—described as a "grand slam": start from pole, lead every lap, set the fastest lap, & win the grand prix. With the pole, Vettel's thirteenth on the year, Red Bull set a new team record for the most poles in a season: sixteen. The previous record, fifteen, held by McLaren, was set during a sixteen-round season; so, while Red Bull have claimed the record, they need to earn the pole in both of the remaining grands prix to equal McLaren's achievement of all-but-one over the course of a season. The thirteenth pole also tied Vettel for second, with triple World Champion Ayrton Senna ('88, '90, & '91) & quadruple World Champion Alain Prost ('85, '86, '89, & '93), for numbers of poles in a season; one more is required to tie '92 World Champion Nigel Mansell's record of fourteen. These are heady times for those of us who jumped on the Red Bull bandwagon. Woo hoo! (We shall save any wide-ranging philosophical discussions of fandom & reflected glory for another occasion, thank you very much.)

There does not appear as if there will be as much activity in the market for drivers between '11 & '12 as there was 'twixt '10 & '11 or '09 & '10, but there might yet be some moves. Lotus Renault have four drivers in the frame, including reigning GP2 Champion Romain Grosjean, who drove for Renault in '09, before he was ready & when the Renault car was hapless (even in the hands of double World Champion Fernando Alonso). Force India (Mercedes) might give Adrian Sutil's seat to '09 GP2 Champion Nico Hülkenberg, who drove for cash-strapped Williams (Cosworth) in '10 before the team sold its corporate soul for Hugo Chávez's petrodollars. Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in F1 history, might not have a drive, since both he & Williams seem eager to part company. (Williams will switch to Renault engines next season.)

The United States Grand Prix is to return next season, at the brand-new, purpose-build Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, Texas. It was announced this week that in '13 the U.S. will host a second F1 grand prix, the "Grand Prix of America" in New Jersey, on a street circuit opposite the New York City skyline. Holy moley! The best part of this news is that is resolves a personal dilemma: I want to see F1 grow in these United States, & so wished to attend next year's U.S. Grand Prix. At the same time, though, I wish sincerely never again to debase myself by setting footing in the State of Texas. With the Grand Prix of America at the Port Imperial Street Circuit, I can have my cake & eat it, too, both supporting F1's presence in the land of the free/home of the brave & not subjecting myself to those jerks in the worst state in the Union! Win-win!