Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXVIII - Ecurie Ecosse ("Team Scotland"), the little team that casts a disproportionately long shadow.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day: SKApril
Prince Buster, "Al Capone" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Horns by The Skatalites.

Montag, 29 April
Mad Caddies, "Popcorn" from Duck and Cover (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A self-affirming counterpoint to L.T.J.'s self-effacing "The Science of Selling Yourself Short."

"Believe I've got another chance
To say, 'I'm gonna make it today,'
To say, 'I'm gonna make it today.'"

Sonntag, 28 April
Mu330, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas" from Winter Wonderland (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I know 'tis SKApril, not SKAcember, but ska bands are a heathen lot, or at least secular, & I was very much digging the selection of sacred ska songs on Sundays. Mu330 are not a particularly pious, but there's no avoiding the Almighty during the Christmastide, even with as secular an album title as Winter Wonderland. Lyrics by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

"And in despair I bowed my head,
'There is no peace on Earth!' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks with song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men.'

"Then peeled the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on Earth, good will to men."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Loose Ties, "Let's Go Out Drinking" from Champ of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: In the SKApril version of a "Festivus miracle," The Loose Ties played a show tonight despite lead singer & guitarist Phil being in Florida, a circumstance that was expected to put the band on hiatus 'til at least the fall. Trombonist & back up singer Dick took over lead vocals, ably assisted by bass guitarist & back up singer Jameson. It is improbable enough that there is a vibrant ska band as a going concern in Flint, but it beggars credulity that they would then reunite for a show minus their front man (thanks to Seth for filling in for Phil on guitar, or "Philling in") & squeeze that show in under the SKApril wire. "It's a Festivus miracle!"

Champ of the Week is The Loose Ties' first full studio album. It is missing many of their best live songs, covers of other bands' tunes, but their own stuff sounds fantastic. For once, I can understand more than fifty per cent of the lyrics!

In a similar vein to "Let's Go Out Drinking": Whisky galore-link.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Dance Hall Crashers, "Pick Up Lines" from The Old Record: 1989-1992 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: D.H.C. was less ambiguously a ska band in its earlier days. "Pick Up Lines," as a random exemplar, features both "ska guitar" & integral horns. D.H.C. is most noted for its dual distaff singers & their intoxicating harmonizing & the ladies, Elyse Rogers & Karina Deniké, are at the top of their form on "Pick Up Lines."

"Over in the corner I saw this one all alone,
Looked like Mr.Natural, the kind you would take home,
Not like any of the others, this one seemed benign,
At least until he opened his mouth, 'Hey, babe, what's your sign?'

"We've heard one too many overused pick up lines,
Give us some credit, we're not sleazy, dumb, or blind.

"Got fed up, decided to leave after one last drink,
Felt a tap on my left shoulder and started to think,
I can't take this anymore, what will this line be?
That's when he let his line fly, 'Hi, my name is Steve.'

"Where have you been all of my life, sweet thing?
Can I buy you a drink? Marry you? Anything?"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Less Than Jake, "The Science of Selling Yourself Short" from Anthem (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I could teach graduate-level courses in the science of selling yourself short.

"And so I sit and wait and wonder,
Does anyone else feel like me?
I'm so overdosed on apathy
And burnt out on sympathy.

"(I'll sing along),
Yeah, with every emergency,
(Just sing along),
I'm the king of catastrophes,
(I'm so far gone)
That deep down inside I think it's fine by me,
I'm my own worst enemy.

"Let the meaning slip away,
Lost my faith in another day,
Self-deprecation seems O.K.,
I never thought I'd make it anyway…"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hello, Kitty
I took Diva to her annual veterinarian appointment last week. My father reported that the last time he took Diva to the vet she had not wet her cage (they call it a "carrier," but let's call a spade a spade, shall we?); alas, this did not prove to be the case on this occasion. She made quite the mess of herself, but that's not unusual, especially for indoor cats like Diva who are almost never out-of-doors, much less locked in plastic & metal cages & loaded into motorcars. Diva is one pound heavier than she was last year—this worried the vet, but it made my heart sing. I've wanted a fat cat my entire life. Sam was long & lean, a leopard in miniature; Tiger arrived fat, but nervous, & slowly but steadily lost weight until her premature demise, the stress of her former captivity having taken years off her life; Diva is pleasantly plump, at long, long last. The vet, replete with the improbable but apropos surname of Fox, wishes for Diva to get more exercise & to be fed on a rigid schedule, instead of "openly fed" with a bowl of food ever at her disposal. I've tried to engage Diva with her toys, both the mouse-shaped laser pointer & the "fishing rod" thingies, but the pattern is as it ever was: Diva engages for a few minutes, then sits down & follows her quarry with her eyes only. What am I to do? As for ending the open feeding, hardy har har, it is to laugh. Diva's name is fitting, as I explained to a kindly old lady in the lobby who asked if Diva was always so vocal: "There's a reason we named her Diva." I want a fat cat, yes, even if it takes years off the end of Diva's life; the years she has will be grand years, with her every want satisfied. Besides, the vet would not have to put up with the pathetic, plaintive meows of a Diva suddenly put on a strict diet. Diva would not understand why she was being deprived of food, she would only know that she's hungry & not being fed. The cat stays fat.

The big news, though, is Diva's new cage. It is a top-loader! Instead of coaxing & forcing Diva through the front door & swinging it closed behind her, now I can simply lower her into the cage & seal it up atop her. Gravity lends an assist & the top opening it too wide for her legs to get proper purchase, reducing her ability to fight back. it's just that easy! I've wanted a top-loading cat cage for years, decades almost, & suddenly there it was before my disbelieving eye. A top-loading cat cage is the proverbial better mousetrap.

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

Commentary: Slow Gherkin aren't one of the big names in third-wave ska, but they're solid. They are akin to a sports club that doesn't seem terribly impressive & yet is ahead at the end of nearly all its games, somehow flying under the radar by never be acknowledged as being as good as they are. To no one's greater surprise than mine, Slow Gherkin belongs to the "all-stars," that elite corps of bands who have been featured in every SKApril to date. As has been said of many of underrated athletic club, all they do is win.

"You know, I haven't slept in days,
But I've never felt this giddy before…"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Mustard Plug, "Throw a Bomb" from Pray for Mojo (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Is the selection of "Throw a Bomb" insensitive in the face of last week's bombing of the Boston marathon? I have two responses. One, I will not suffer the course of our culture to be dictated by terrorists & outlaws—by hostis humani generis, the enemies of all Mankind. Two, "Throw a Bomb," as made clear by the bridge, does not advocate bomb-throwing but rather lampoons those who seek to effect political change via bomb-throwing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

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

Commentary: One of the distinctive features of third wave "ska-punk" was a delightful plethora of covers of '80s hits, "Come on Eileen" being counted amongst the very best. Their cover of "Come on Eileen" was Save Ferris's biggest hit, & the lyrics even furnished the title of their best album, It Means Everything.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXVII - Felix the Cat & his disputed creation.

Operation AXIOM
Two thousand seven hundred sixty-six years ago to the day, 21 April 753 B.C., the city of Rome was founded by the foundling twins Romulus & Remus, at least according to the Romans' founding myth. Even unto the present day, Rome towers above our world like a colossus; even setting aside Holy Mother Church, with her headquarters & spiritual center in the Eternal City, we live—every one of us, every day of our lives—in the shadow of Rome. Our laws, our ideas, the very words by which we define & express ourselves, were bequeathed to us by the Senate & the Roman People (Senatus Populusque Romanus, S.P.Q.R.). A world in which there had never been a Rome would be a world alien beyond imagining. The glory that was Rome, founded two thousand seven hundred sixty-six years ago to-day.

Civis romanus sum.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Insyderz, "Soundtrack to a Revolution" from Soundtrack to a Revolution (T.L.A.M.)


"It's a revolution,
It's a time to shine.
United we stand strong,
Together we fight!

"I pledge allegiance to my God,
Creator of all things,
And I lift my hands up to the sky
Realizing what that means,
Look around at all of those
Doing the same thing,
Here we stand with the great I Am,
Let true freedom ring!"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day: SKApril
The Hippos, "Something" from Heads Are Gonna Roll (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: For whatever reason, whenever The Hippos provision the Song of the Day it almost invariably comes from their debut album, Forget the World, which is odd given that the follow-up album, Heads Are Gonna Roll, is totally boss.

"…I have my dreams, you know I have my dreams,
Sometimes I regret I forgot all my dreams.

"But I'm somethin', yeah, I'm somethin',
You think you know me but you don't know nothin',
I've done it all, yeah, I've done it all,
I'm just waiting for the right 'phone call."

Freitag, 19 April
Rude City Riot, "Victoria" from the Rude City Riot E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: One of my favorite aspects of SKApril is its incentives to reignite the search for new ska bands. Rude City Riot is the fruit of one of those SKApril plumbings of the depths for unknown & interesting ska. Ska is not, despite most ska fans' smugly ironic claims, dead.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Project TROIKA
It is a thrill reading the latest draft of the Project TROIKA novel (sorry, treasured readers, but the title is still a secret), albeit a strange thrill. Without demeaning K. Steeze's integral & invaluable contribution to Tier 1, I can say that these are my characters. The thrill is in seeing my characters on the written page, the strangeness in seeing them on the page written in another man's words, in this instance The Ace's writing edited & revised by K. Steeze. There are my characters, & yet they are in some ways subtly different from how they've been living in my head these last several years. (Some of the differences are much less subtle, like wholesale changes of age & nationality.) I suspect this strangeness is nothing more than the natural byproduct of the collaborative process. This is the first novel any of us has written, much less the first novel any of us has written in collaboration with two other fellows. I am committed to this collaboration; there is no Project TROIKA without the troika of K. Steeze, The Ace, & The Last Angry Man, your humble narrator. What I am reading is simply the latest draft, & the novel is still some ways away from being suitable for publication. I pray thee, let not this discussion's focus on the strangeness of the thrill blind you to the fact that it is a thrill, an absolute thrill, to see how far we've come from the initial idea to write a novel in triune partnership.

Grow or die.

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

Commentary: Whoever said SKApril wasn't highbrow? It's "Swan Lake," for pity's sake! (Or, you know, it's "Swan Lake," after a fashion.) What more do you want?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Operation AXIOM | Urbi et Orbi | Project MERCATOR
One year ago today, 17 April 2012, I was exemplified into the First Degree of the Knights of Columbus. The principle of the First Degree is Charity, & in the year since the exemplification I have performed more hours of volunteer service than in any other year of my life; I mention this for His glory, not my own. I've precious little treasure at my disposal, but have dedicated both my time & my talent to the charitable service of my fellow man. I joined the Knights because I felt called to do more than sit in a pew on Sunday, to take a more active role in His Church than ever before. I've wasted too much of my life drowning out His Voice with a thousand & one distractions. I still & forevermore will struggle with temptation & wickedness, but at least now I am making the sincere effort to sublimate my petty wants & needs to be a better instrument of His Will. In the year since I have been exemplified into the Second Degree (principle: Unity), the Third Degree (Fraternity), & less than a fortnight hence, the Fourth Degree (Patriotism), the highest degree of the Order. I am a Sir Knight. I took the oath as a Catholic gentleman. One year ago to-day.

Yes, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a significant rhetorical influence. "Ask yourself, Why do you seek the Cup of Christ? Is it for His glory, or for yours?"

Have I mentioned how much I hate white socks? No? Well, I really hate white socks. I wish I didn't own any & am using attrition to weed them out of my sock collection. None of my cold-weather socks are white, being either black or colorfully patterned. The Occasion for this observationw as a glance at my sock drawer & the realization that warm-weather socks will soon be needed, meaning my white ankle socks, their numbers also dwindled through attrition & non-replacement. Anymore they're only needed for informal social & commercial circumstances, but they vex me still. I hate white socks, almost as much as I hate white shoes.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Specials, "(Dawning of a) New Era" from The Specials (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I fail to understand why the song is titled "(Dawning of a) New Era." Parenthetical song titles have only ever made since to me if the title outside the parentheses can be used in isolation as the song title. Consider "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," mostly famously performed by Elvis Costello. The song could plausibly be called "Peace, Love, and Understanding," & in fact I have a rendition of the song under that title in my music library, by the ska band Unsteady. But no one would conceivably call "(Dawning of a) New Era" "New Era." The absurdity of the idea becomes apparent as soon as one listens to "(Dawning of a) New Era." The song should simply be called "Dawning of a New Era."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I was waylaid on Saturday by a flat tire, a complete deflation of the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile's left (driver's side) rear tire. The day was saved by my actions on the date I purchased the Lumi's current set of tires, back in October of '10, when I purchased extended warranties on the then-new Michelins. Way to go, Past Mike! I limped the Lumi to the tire merchant, who replaced the deflated, guaranteed-for-80,000-miles tire with a new guaranteed-for-90,000-miles tire. The old one had far fewer than 80,000 miles on its treads, leaving my cautiously hopeful that the failure was random. not something more systematic that might affect its three remaining batch mates.

I saw my first Cadillac ATS in the wild on Sunday. It looked even better than it had in captivity at the Detroit auto show. "It's the Cadillac of automobiles!"

Also on Sunday, I was nearly run off the road. I'd exited I-475 at Hill Road. At the end of the exit there are three lanes: one for turning right onto westbound Hill, one for turning left onto eastbound Hill, & a middle lane for turning either left or right. Wishing to turn left & spying a line in the left-most lane & no motorcars in the middle lane, I opted for the middle lane. It is possible for two car to turn left at the same time because there are two eastbound lanes on Hill Road. The vehicle in the middle lane turns into the outer lane & the vehicle in the left lane turns into the inner lane. It's just that easy! I dutifully stayed in my lane, but the girl driving the red sedan in the left-most lane kept drifting further & further into my lane, to the point that I had to slam on the brakes & throw the Lumi almost onto the curb to avoid a collision. That jerk! Her turn ended squarely in the outer eastbound lane; if I'd been an other couple of feet forward alongside her avoiding the collision would have been impossible. Furious at the cavalier manner in which my life & my property had been endangered, I leaned on my horn. She didn't so much as glance in her rear view mirror. I activated the lefthand turn signal, checked my mirrors & blind spot, changed lanes, accelerated, & pulled alongside she who is he living embodiment of every awful, unfair stereotype of distaff pilots. Again, I laid on the Lumi's horn. She finally looked over & I gave her an exasperated look & am exaggerated wave of my driving-gloved hand. Her expression betrayed not the slighted hint of recognition of why I was angry with her. I suspect she'd never before seen my vehicle, had not even bothered to check her mirrors before executing the turn from the freeway exit to Hill, & never knew she'd almost collided her motorcar with the Lumi. I will never fathom how anyone can drive so irresponsibly. Pray pardon the forthcoming language—that cunt!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Suburban Legends, "Do It for the Kids" from Rump Shaker (T.L.A.M.)

Comentary: Unlike most ska bands, which I know through my fellow Blue Tree Whackers, either through their recommendation or through joint discovery, I know Suburban Legends through my association with The Loose Ties. The Loose Ties play a couple Mighty Mighty Bosstones covers & a Reel Big Fish cover, but they seem to have no appreciation for Less Than Jake, the next biggest ska band from the "third wave" era. Ignorant heathens!

"We are your mom and papa's nightmare,
We dance for you to wash away your cares,
Crackin' smiles even when we're sad,
That's just the way it goes in a ska band!"

Welcome to the back half of this third R.B.D.S.O.T.D. celebration of SKApril. Man alive, where does the time go?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXVI - The Adventurers Club, Pleasure Island, Disney World (1989-2009).

Urbe et Orbi
I attended four Masses over the weekend, making a pulpit announcement about the Knights of Columbus near the end of each Mass. My original plan was not to count more than one Mass toward the yearly goal of fifty-two, but then it occurred to me that I was participating fully in each Mass—singing enthusiastically, if poorly; listening carefully to Scripture; praying earnestly—so why shouldn't they count? The point of the numerical goal is not the number itself, but the greater piety, greater charity, & greater rectitude that flow from Mass attendance. 'Twas a boon to spend so much of my Sunday in church.

I'm a competent, confident, & occasionally brilliant public speaker, so I suspect I'll be drafted into such duty again in the future. Ooo, that reminds me, I needs to call Father McInnis about becoming a reader.

This Week in Motorsport
Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 3
Chinese Grand Prix
Sunday, 14 April 2013

This was a nightmare weekend for Mark Webber of Red Bull (Renault). In the three weeks since the Malaysian Grand Prix there had been a swirl of gossip about the "controversial" finish—Webber second to his Red Bull teammate, reigning triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10, '11, & '12); a good result would have quieted the rumor-mongers & the journos. 'Twas not to be. Webber stopped on track during the second round of qualifying because his RB9 ran out of fuel. Because the required liter of fuel could not be produced for inspection by the F.I.A. scrutineers, Webber was excluded from qualifying & forced to start the race from the back of the grid. Red Bull elected to make a number of set-up changes to Webber's car, forcing him to start from the pit lane, but that's no worse than starting from dead last on the grid anyway, & 'twas hoped the tweaks would make a world of difference. (Vettel was similarly penalized at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix & also elected to tweak his set-up & start from the pit lane, eventually finishing third.) Webber's strategy was going well & he was making progress through the field until he tried an overly ambitious pass beneath Jean-Éric Vergne of Toro Rosso (Ferrari). Vergne spun & Webber's front wing was knackered. A pit stop put everything right, but valuable time had been lost & there were fears the car's suspension might be damaged. A few laps later & Webber had slowed to a crawl, trying to nurse his wounded Red Bull back to the pits. Before he coudl make it back, the car's right rear wheel came off & rolled across the circuit. The car, now on only three tires, was stranded on the side of the track, ending the weekend of misery in miserable fashion.

Elsewhere, double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) of Ferrari was in a class all by himself & cruised to a dominant victory ahead of '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen of Lotus (Renault) in & '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. Vettel, following the opposite tire strategy from the other leaders, opted to use the medium-compound, more durable "prime" tires in the early stages of the grand prix, when his car was heavy with fuel, & the soft-compound, less durable "option" tires later. After Vettel's final pit stop, with all the cars running on fumes but his shod with new options whereas Alonso, Räikkönen, & Hamilton had older primes, Vettel was making up three seconds a lap. Vettel was forced wide as he passed slower traffic, which cost him invaluable time on the last lap, & finished two-tenths of a second behind Hamilton. Had his pit stop been one second quicker, had he pitted one lap earlier, Vettel would have finished third, on the podium. For want of a nail…

The second biggest disappointment of the race was Nico Hülkenberg of Sauber (Ferrari). "The Incredible Hülk" started on the same contrary tire strategy as Vettel & '09 World Champion Jenson Button of McLaren (Mercedes), & Hülkenberg lead the grand prix for a number of laps, but he made the switch from primes to options too early in the race to have fresh rubber for a sprint to the finish (like Vettel & Button, who finished fifth). After only a handful of laps Hülkenberg had to pit again for fresh tires, another set of primes, by which time he'd lost all advantage of track position. He finished tenth, good enough for a single championship point, but he could have had so much more had his team not switched to the options far too early. Oh, Sauber.

Next: The Bahrain Grand Prix, held under a cloud of political protest in '12 & cancelled entirely in '11 due to the "Arab Spring," in just one week's time. I love F1, but I kind of hate back-to-back grand prix weekends, especially after the three week break 'twixt Malaysian & Chinese grands prix. Why not a fortnight 'twixt Malaysia &China & then another fortnight 'fore Bahrain?
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Chris Murray, "One Everything" from Mailorder for the Masses (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Chris Murray was the front man for the ska band King Apparatus & has produced albums for such ska bands as The Planet Smashers. "One Everything" is old school, simple & earnest, as opposed to the layered complexity & snark of the new school, ska-punk. There's no school like the old school.

"By wicked intention, disrespectful of the soul,
The selfish-in-action are divided and controlled:
Clutching and clinging to the things that they can hold,
Fixated by fraction, distracted from the whole…"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Five Iron Frenzy, "World Without End" from All the Hype Money Can Buy (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Christan-themed ska, because why should the godless socialists & the Rastafarians have all the fun? Five Iron Frenzy sits firmly in the ska-punk tradition, meaning the guitar part is more bitchin' than syncopated.

"In the soundless awe and wonder,
Words fall short…"

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Blue Meanies, "Acceleration 5000" from Mailorder Is Still Fun!! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The following is not to say that The Blue Meanies & "Acceleration 5000" do not deserve to be showcased as part of SKApril on their own merits, but a significant factor in this choice, stemming from Thursday's discussion of "Ska's the Limit" by The Articles, is a desire to highlight, if not the depth, than certainly the breadth of the ska genre. Mailorder is Still Fun!! is the second compilation C.D.—"comp"—of ska-punk & punk bands from Mike Park's Asian Man Records, the first being Mailorder Is Fun! (Count the exclamation points.) "Acceleration 5000" sits way over on the far ska-punk end o' the ska spectrum.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Reel Big Fish, "She Has a Girlfriend Now" (live) from Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album, Disc 2: Move Fastly with the Fast Music (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "She Has a Girlfriend Now" is a heck of a song, & the Reel Big Fish perform it well, with Rachel Minton of Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer singing the distaff part sung by Monique Powell of Save Ferris on the original studio album, Turn the Radio Off. Fond as I am of "She Has a Girlfriend Now," though, the real reason for its selection as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is the hilarity of the lead-in banter on the live album, separated into its own track, "The '90s." I saw a pager today & it recalled to mind the following exchange 'twixt Aaron Barrett & Scott Klopfenstein:

Aaron: "I wrote this song in the '90s."
Scott: "You did, actually."
Aaron: "'Cause I was in a '90s kinda mood. Yeah."
Scott: "I was there. It happened."
Aaron: "Remember that?"
Scott: "I do."
Aaron: "The '90s. Those were different times, ladies and gentlemen."
Scott: "Those were totally different times, ladies and gentlemen."
Aaron: "Hard, hard times."
Scott: "Not everybody had a cell 'phone, we had these little things called pagers."

How does that lead into "She Has a Girlfriend Now"? They continue:

Scott: "…these little things called pagers."
Aaron: "And it seemed like every other week a girl was leaving me for another girl."
Scott: "It's true. He'd always get a page."
Aaron: "Now that's kind of hot. That's kind of hot, but, you know, where does it leave me? Where do I fit in?"
Scott: "I—"
Aaron: "I mean, I can imagine where I'd fit in, but, you know."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Articles, "Ska's the Limit" from Flip F'real (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I would opine that "Ska's the Limit,"a lengthy, instrumental piece, straddles the line betwixt ska & rocksteady. What's the difference, you ask? After staring vacantly for a moment, I answer with a question—Rocksteady is slower than ska? It might be a distinction without a difference, for there are huge differences between the original ska of the 1950s & '60s (think Desmond Dekker or Prince Buster) & the ska-punk of the '90s & the turn of the millennium (think Less Than Jake or The Blue Meanies). So, we'll just go with rocksteady being generally slower than ska, & say that even if "Ska's the Limit" is rocksteady "instead" of ska we're including it as part of SKApril to point out the genre's flexibility & diversity. (So what's reggae, you ask? I'm going to hazard the theory that reggae is rocksteady that focuses on Rastfarianism & Black Power? Man, I don't know, I just love the ska.)

Plus, who doesn't enjoy a play on "sky's the limit"?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Warning: Crudeness ahead.

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day
Pray pardon the lascivious nature of the following, but this feature's eponymous heroine's boobs looked amazing on yesterday's new episode of New Girl. As a bonus, there were also laughs aplenty & pathos surrounding Schmidt & his erstwhile girlfriend, Elizabeth, from his "big guy" days. Lust, laughs, & human foibles: What more can you ask from any creative work, let alone a half-hour television situation comedy?

Commentary: I considered selecting a less boob-tacular photograph, but judged honesty—even in the service of lasciviousness—to be the best policy. I'm making a lascivious point & pretending otherwise with a misleadingly modest photograph would not change that.

Operation AXIOM
One hundred ninety-eight years ago to the day, 10 April 1815, Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (today, Indonesia) erupted. The titanic eruption claimed an immediate ten thousand souls; tens of thousands more died of starvation on the surrounding islands, as the arable land was befouled by ash. Mind-boggling amounts of rock & ash were thrown into the atmosphere, & ash & steam continued to rise from what was left of Tambora for six months. The skies were darkened, the Accursed Sun's vital rays dimmed, & the resulting freeze was remembered as the "Year Without a Summer," though I prefer "Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death" (Wayback Machine: The Explorers' Club, № XXVI). Rivers were frozen in the middle of summer. There was a foot of snow on the ground in Quebec City in July. Red snow fell in Italy throughout the year. The weakened sunlight & cold temperatures caused crop failures around the world, & the years that followed saw the last great famine in the Western world. (On a lighter note, Mrs. Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus when the "wet, ungenial summer" ruined her holiday in Switzerland.) The eruption of Mount Tambora was at that time the largest volcanic eruption in over a millennium & augured doom for the world entire. One hundred ninety-eight years ago to-day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Aquabats!, "The Wild Sea!" from Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures (of The Aquabats!), Vol. 2 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: The Aquabats!, admirable & endlessly amusing as they are, are no longer a ska band. But they once were, & a darned good one at that! "The Wild Sea!" is from that transitional period 'twixt their old ska sound & their modern, kind-of New Wave sound. It's ska enough for SKApril, & the song that popped into my noggin this morning like a bolt from the clear blue sky is a doozy!

"The wild sea is calling me!"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Victors | Project OSPREY
The excellent chaps at the blog UMHoops.com have, like true Michigan men, taken yesterday's loss in their stride: disappointed by the loss, but proud of the valiant Wolverines for earning their way into the national championship game. Valuable perspective, the concluding paragraph from a frank, no-punches-pulled recap of the highs & lows of the defeat to Louisville (found here):

"Michigan came painfully close to the ultimate goal but the bottom line is that this program is back. A Michigan basketball program that only dreamed of making the NCAA tournament when John Beilein took over in 2007 is now competing for championships. Two years ago that was still rhetoric, now [it's] reality."

There were no consolatory text messages last night to parallel the congratulatory text messages from Saturday night. That is a pity, not because I needed the consolation (I prefer to grieve on my own) but because it casts suspicion on some of Saturday's text messengers. They're willing to share a victory, replete with reflected glory, but not to share a defeat, replete with shame? Fair weather frauds! I am a Michigan Wolverine, possessed of a loyalty that cannot be sundered; I stand with the valiant Wolverines, the athletic representatives of the University of Michigan, through both defeat & victory. I hope the same is true of those who sent text messages on Saturday night but not on Monday night, & that yesterday they were too upset by the Maize & Blue's misadventure to transmit text messages.

Go Blue!

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

Commentary: The thunderstorm in "Thunderstorm" is metaphorical, standing in for the turbulence in a romantic entanglement. The thunderstorm in the real world was literal. Even during SKApril, the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. still reflects my moods & the happenings in my daily life; that is precisely what makes it the Song of the Day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Victors | Project OSPREY
N.C.A.A. Tournament, national championship game
(1) Louisville 82-76 Michigan (4)
31-8, Big Ten 13-7

Drat! The valiant Wolverines should hold their heads high, for every club but one that enters the Big Dance finishes the year on a loss, & if that's how the season has to end than this was the best game to lose. We had chances to win—a legitimate chance to win the national championship—but we simply did not execute enough plays, getting out hustled for long stretches of the second half & having too many empty offensive possessions. Still & all, it was a wonderful season & a fantastic run far deeper into the tournament than yours truly had thought possible. The '12-'13 squad of valiant Wolverines will be remembered as one of the best in school history, every bit the leaders & best.

(Just so we're clear, nobody gets to leave school early for the N.B.A. draft. If the valiant Wolverines had won, sure, they could go on their way with a handshake & our thanks, but we did not prevail & so there is unfinished business for a starting five comprised of three freshmen, a sophomore, & a junior. I want back-to-back Final Fours!)

Go Blue!
The Victors | Project OSPREY
In just a few short hours the valiant Wolverines will play the epithetless Cardinals of Louisville for all the marbles, the 2013 N.C.A.A. Men's Basketball national championship. Can the valiant Wolverines prevail, bringing home only the second men's basketball title in school history? Yes, they can. Will they? Heaven alone knows. The University of Michigan does not have a particularly inspiring record in this game, having played in five N.C.A.A. Tournament national championship games (1965, '76, '89, '92, & '93) & won one national championship ('89). At the same time, three weeks ago I'd have smiled at the loyalty of any fellow Wolverine who predicted a berth in the title game for the Maize & Blue & then patiently reminded than of our numerous & ignominious defeats outside the friendly confines of the Crisler Center. (School spirit compelled me to pick Michigan to make the Sweet Sixteen, but in my heart of hearts I did not believe the valiant Wolverines would triumph over the epithetless Rams of V.C.U.) So, can Michigan prevail? Yes. Will Michigan prevail? Let me answer this way: Michigan's fight song isn't really a fight song; "The Victors" is not an exhortation to victory, to greater effort, it is a celebration of a victory already won. "The Victors" is a celebration of a victory already won & we play it before every contest. That tells you most of what you need to know about what it means to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Skankin' Pickle, "Thick Ass Stout" from Sing Along with Skankin' Pickle (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Thick Ass Stout" would be just short of perfect without the quasi scat/quasi rap sections, but its darned good even with them. The whistling section is especially boss.

The selection of Skankin' Pickle so close on the heels of The Chinkees & The Bruce Lee Band means that the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. has shot its Mike Park bolt for the rest of SKApril. Have no fear, intrepid readers, there is plenty of grand non-Park ska still awaiting you. "Ska, ska, ska…"

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXV - "Kilroy was here."

The Victors | Project OSPREY
Saturday, 6 April 2013
N.C.A.A. Tournament, Final Four
(4) Michigan 61-56 Syracuse (4)
31-7, Big Ten 13-7

I did not see the valiant Wolverines' glorious victory over the epithetless Orange(men). I was in Lansing, being exemplified into the 4th Degree of the Knights of Columbus, an event scheduled long in advance, when the idea of Michigan advancing to the Final Four was nothing but a twinkling in John Beilein's eye. The exemplification was conducted at a maddeningly leisurely pace, lasting fourteen hours from beginning to end, transforming what should have been a fête into an ordeal. On Friday, I asked my father to record the game via our home's D.V.R. in the event that I had not returned in time for the game; he failed to do so. He recorded what the fiends at C.B.S. described as rebroadcasts of both Final Four games, but neither program recorded was a rebroadcast of a Final Four game, but instead more of the fiends at C.B.S. discussing the games' outcomes & previewing the Michigan-Louisville final. My father has often neither explanation nor apology for his refusal to comply with my original request. I had not wanted to know the outcome of the game, preferring to learn it by returning home & watching the recording that only later would I learn my father had declined to make, but as soon as it was over my mobile was inundated with congratulatory text messages. The well-wishers meant well, & given my druthers I would have indeed seen the game as they supposed I had.

Next: (1) Louisville for all the marbles, on Monday in Atlanta.

Go Blue!

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

Commentary: Still in the mood for Mike Park.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Victors | Project OSPREY
On the telephone with a kinsman on Friday, he remarked that he was almost more excited that the valiant Wolverines had made it to the Final Four than by the prospect of a berth in the national championship game & a potential national title. I agreed with him, citing achieving the Final Four as a goal unto itself. The season-long television coverage is often branded, the "Road to the Final Four." Not the road to Monday night's game to decide the championship, but to the Final Four. In the forty minutes of a collegiate basketball game, almost anything can happen—any given club can beat any other given club on any given day, which is why we play the games—so earning a place amongst the Final Four is perhaps more indicative of a given club's ability than it's performance in that weekend's games.

I am quietly, calmly confident that the valiant Wolverines will solve the riddle of the epithetless Orange(men)'s zone defense & prevail & advance to the title game. However, I allow for the possibility that we might lose. Win or lose, it's always great to be a Michigan Wolverine, & no one can ever take away from us that the 2012-2013 squad of valiant Wolverines survived & advanced to the Final Four.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Hell of a Hat" (live) from Live from the Middle East (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I would have loved to select "The Victors" or Robbie Williams & Rupert Everett's duet of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., but, you know, SKApril. There's no such thing as a free lunch, buddy boy.

Why do I usually choose live versions of Bosstones songs? They're a great live band, & there is a verse & an immediacy to the live tracks, but mostly I simply prefer the sound engineering on
Live from the Middle East. There is a bigger, fuller sound than on their studio albums, a different & preferable proportion 'twixt the horns & the strings & Dick Barrett's distinctive vocals.

"Hell of a hat you're sporting, Jack,
Diamond cuff links and a sweet tie tack,
The pocket watch must have set you back,
You're the Man, man, you're the mack.
Yeah, the pinstripe number—me oh my, that's rude,
And that's a hell of an attitude,
You made the scene and you set the mood,
I'm only staring 'cause I'm nervous, dude.

"Sharpest motherfucker, we repeat,
No other motherfucker can compete,
The clothes you chose are stylin', son,
Why you gotta wear the gun?
We question one accessory,
Don't think the piece is necessary,
We agree you're dressed to kill,
We wonder if you will."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Project TROIKA
K. Steeze has completed his "edit" & revisions to produce the third draft of the Project TROIKA novel. He's remarked that this signals the end of Tier 3, but that is incorrect. Tier 3 continues until we take the novel is accepted by a publisher. Tier 4 is the final revisions under the guidance of the editor at the publisher, with Tier 5 being publication, marketing, & release. Still, this is a large step forward &, though I've not yet finished reading the third draft, it marks a significant improvement over the haphazard earlier draft. ("Haphazard" is not meant as a criticism, merely a reflection of frenetic pace at which The Ace had to write to honor Tier 2's deadline for the completion of the first draft. For all the hard work I put into Tier 1, I've never completed a task half as Herculean as Tier 2.)

Work on Tier 1 of the Project TRIANGLE novel—the sequel to the TROIKA novel—continues apace, with weekly video story conferences 'twixt K. Steeze & yours truly. The heavy lifting of Tier 1 is mine to do, with Steeze acting as sounding board, confidant, & invaluable collaborator. As we do not have an entire fictional universe to construct for TRIANGLE, "simply" a plot to devise & resolve & characters into whom to breathe life, we shall not require as long a time. I've proposed October 31 as deadline for completion of Tier 1, though we're not yet reached an agreement & I do not want The Ace to begin Tier 2 of TRIANGLE until at least the completion of Tier 3 of TROIKA. Still, I am treating 31 October as the Tier 1 deadline.

Grow or die.

I was fired from PALINDROME, & with good cause. I was terminally late with my work product. I am ashamed, but I know Steeze made the best decision for the health of what has been such a long-term, personal project to him. With TRIANGLE, I hope to redeem myself to some degree.

Work on the Project PARAFFIN novel has been suspended. I once encountered something about writing, attributed to Tom Wolfe but I do not vouch for the authenticity of that attribution, that went something along these lines: "Anyone who's spent years writing a novel hasn't really been writing, just dancing around it." I wasn't writing, I wasn't working on Tier 2 of PARAFFIN, I was still mucking about with Tier 1. So, with Steeze having declared it time to get work on TRIANGLE, it was easy to set aside PARAFFIN, since I really hadn't been working on it as I should have done. Tier 2 of PARAFFIN begins the day after the completion of Tier 1 of TRIANGLE, with 31 October 2014 as the deadline for the production of the first draft.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Bruce Lee Band, "Running Out of Time" from the Beautiful World E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Bruce Lee Band is one of the myriad bands fronted by Asian Man records founder Mike "Bruce Lee" Park, as staunch an opponent of racism as that disgraceful undercurrent of human affairs has ever known. Some of his other musical endeavours include Skankin' Pickle & The Chinkees (a ska band, but without horns), & he has also released music as simply Mike Park. A social conscience, especially active opposition to racism, has long been a feature of ska, & long may it be 'til at last that scourge is banished from the course of human events.

I might have digressed. "Running Out of Time" isn't an explicitly anti-racist song, it's just a lot of fun with a great, driven ska beat.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

This Week in Motorsport
Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 1
Australian Grand Prix
Sunday, 17 March 2013

The beginning of the F1 season is like the beginning of any sports season, full of uncertainty & questions. No one is sure what their car can really do, nor what their competitors' cars can do; winter testing is invaluable, but every athlete knows that practicing is not the same as playing, & that only the heat of competition will reveal what each competitor has on hand. The Australian Grand Prix provided fewer answers than it might have, no the weekend in Melbourne was marred by consistent rain. Reigning triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10, '11, & '12) of Red Bull (Renault) started from the pole, as usual, but in the race his car chewed through its tires at an alarming rate, & he just did not have the speed to keep up with the race winner, '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen of Lotus (Renault); Vettel finished third, behind double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) of Ferrari.

The grand prix's big losers were McLaren (Mercedes), with '09 World Champion Jenson Button finishing ninth & new McLaren pilot Sergio Pérez finishing eleventh—out of the points—on debut. The McLarens of Button & his then-teammate '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton finished first & third at the '12 Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton's new team, the Mercedes-Benz factory effort, bettered last year's Australian result, with Hamilton finishing fifth & teammate Nico Rosberg retiring with mechanical troubles. (In '12, for Mercedes, Rosberg finished twelfth with seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher ['94, '95, '00, '01, '02, '03, & '04] retiring.) No major upgrades will be made to the cars 'til they return to Europe in May, but incremental progress happens from race to race. F1 is a season-long arms race, & if you aren't constantly moving ahead then you're falling behind your rivals.

Round 2
Malaysian Grand Prix
Sunday, 24 March 2013

The late stages of the second grand prix of the year saw a curious incident. The race had begun shortly after a downpour, so even though it was no longer actively raining the cars still rolled off the starting line in intermediate rain tires. With the first pit stop to get off of the rain tires on an ever-drying track, most teams opted to make four stops. (There is no in-race refueling in Formula One, so the cars stop only for fresh tires & minor repairs.) Mark Webber of Red Bull was leading Vettel & the team's engineers on the pit wall had apparently ordered both drivers to switch to a leaner fuel mix to reduce the stress on their engines; running one-two, the Red Bull duo were to maintain their positions & circulate not as swiftly as their cars could go, but only swiftly enough not to wear out their tires prematurely & to stay ahead of the Mercedes factory duo, Hamilton & Rosberg. This apparently did not suit Vettel, who proceeded to engage in some pretty aggressive maneuvers to get around Webber. Webber defended—I've written in the past that Webber is a bastard to pass, in the best sense of the word—but Betel got 'round him, took the lead, & ultimately too the grand prix. (Over the radio, Rosberg repeatedly requested permission to pass the slower Hamilton, but each time the Mercedes engineers radioed back that Hamilton was maintaining an instructed pace, that Hamilton had speed in hand that he was not showing, & that Rosberg should hold station, which Rosberg duly did.) Vettel has come in for criticism since, but I fail to understand why. Had the two red Bulls finished Webber-Vettel thenRed Bull would have netted forty-three points in the Constructors' standings; by finishing Vettel-Webber, Red Bull still netted the maximum forty-three points (twenty-five for first, eighteen for second), but Vettel jumped out to a nine-point lead over Räikkönen in the Drivers' standings; whereas a Webber-Vettel finish would have left Webber & Vettel tied atop the Drivers' standings, only tow points ahead of Räikkönen. Is not the point of the exercise for each driver to attempt to win every grand prix? Is not every championship point worth its wait in gold? Last year, Sebastian Vettel won the Drivers' Cahmpionship over Ferrari's Alonso by a grand total of three points. By finishing first instead of second, Vettel picked up seven extra points, which by season's end could very well be the difference between winning his fourth consecutive Drivers' title & finishing second to someone else. Yes, there is a possibility that Vettel & Webber could have crashed, but they didn't, & where there is no risk there is no reward. Vettel is twenty-five & a three-time World Champion; Webber is thirty-five &, while a brilliant driver & a multiple grands prix winner, has never been the F1 World Champion. Is it not Vettel's duty to himself & the audience do everything in his power & within the rules to win races? And does he not better serve the team by maximizing his chances of winning the Drivers' Championship, since his odds of doing so are, to be frank, better than Webber's?

Will Buxton, first Speed's & now N.B.C. Sports' pit lane reporter, wrote the following on his blog:
Why? Because winning is his nature. It is what he lives for. It is all he knows. All he can accept. Because on a day when Fernando Alonso was not scoring, he’d be damned if he was going to play the backup man and lose seven potentially crucial world championship points.

But most of all, because he sniffed blood. And like the brutal, brilliant, beautiful racing animal he is, he pounced and struck a killer blow…

The Red Bull junior programme was established to create such a perfect monster: an unflinching, focused, machine. And in Vettel it has its perfect product.

(Alonso, Vettel's greatest rival, crashed out on the second lap after first ruining his own front wing by running into Vettel's car at the start & then arrogantly passing up the opportunity to pit for repairs. What a jackass! His comeuppance was thoroughly deserved.)

G.P.2 Series
Round 1
Sepang International Circuit
Saturday & Sunday, 23-24 March

So far, the move of American television coverage of Formula One from Speed/Fox to the N.B.C. Sports Network/N.B.C. has gone off mostly without a hitch. I credit this principally to two factors: one, both Speed's broadcast as N.B.C. Sports' use the F1 world feed, meaning that the photography has not changed even if the cable host has; two, N.B.C. Sports hired all its F1 personnel from the old Speed team: play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffy (reserve at Speed, primary at N.B.C. Sports), color commentator David Hobbs, color commentator Steve Matchett, pit lane reporter Will Buxton, & play-by-play announcer Bob Varsha (primary at Speed, reserve at N.B.C. Sports). Even "poet laureate" Sam Posey has come over, providing one of this lovely verbal essays before the season-opener in Melbourne. Plus, N.B.C. Sports is making a publicity push, including adverts across the family or networks & in automotive magazines like Road & Track. Hopeful signs abound, though a healthy skepticism remains.

What was lost in the shuffle, though, was the G.P.2 Series, the official feeder series for F1. (Four of the drivers on the '13 F1 grid spend '12 competing in G.P.2; curiously, the '12 G.P.2 champion is not among them, though he is an F1 reserve driver.) N.B.C. Sports covers Indy Lights, the feeder series into IndyCar, so why not G.P.2? The loss of G.P.2 coverage is not a tragedy, but it is unfortunate.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Go-Go 13, "Espionage" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Ska Cubano, "Instanbul (Not Constantinople)" from ¡Ay Caramba! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Ska Cubano sound like no other ska band of my recollection or in my collection, its sound meant to evoke "an alternative history in which Cuban ska had emerged." SKApril has & will continue to feature music from the broad spectrum of ska, across both time & space, from the original Jamaican ska that spawned rocksteady & reggae to English 2-Tone to American ska-punk. The lyrics of this version of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" are not those sung by The Four Lads nor They Might be Giants, to Ska Cubano's severe disadvantage; it is chosen as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. mostly for its inventive & pleasing, & ska, instrumentation.

Also, because this must be said anytime mention is made of the oppressed island nation that sits less than a hundred miles from America's shores,
¡Cuba libre!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Coming Attractions
{a} "Liberty & Union," for I've been too long silent on matters sociopolitical.
{b} Status updates on Projects PALINDROME, PARAFFIN, TROIKA, & TRIANGLE.
{c} A massive "This Week in Motorsport," possibly divided into two parts, covering five different racing series.
{d} "Project MERCATOR" loves a quiz, preferably of the "pub" variety.
{e} "Urbi et Orbi" addressing the new pope, Lent, & all things knightly.
{f} "The Savage Wars of Peace," for I've been too long silent on matters martial & geopolitical.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
The Pietasters, "Biblical Sense" from Oolooloo (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Too soon after Easter Sunday for such ribald misappropriation of Scripture? Such are the perils of SKApril, from which I shall not shrink.

"Samson and Delilah, Adam and his wife,
David and his concubine, that'd be out of sight,
Adam and Eve, you know they wore the fig leaf,
Let's lose the apple and plant the seed.

"Well, I told you once, let me tell you again,
I never ever wanted to be your best friend,
All I really wanted to do was get to know you,
All I really wanted to do was get to know you
In the Biblical sense, girl…"

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXIV - The Thirty Years' War, Part V: The Peace of Westphalia—The last nail in the coffin of feudalism & the ascendance of the ethnic nation-state (Westphalian sovereignty); the end of the Eighty Years' War & the independence of the Dutch Republic with the Peace of Münster (1648); the formal independence of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the Holy Roman Empire; the Treaties of Münster & Osnabrück (both 1648); the renewal of the Peace of Augsburg (1555), now recognizing Calvinism alongside Catholicism & Lutheranism; the rise of France as the greatest power on the continent; & the decentralization of power in the German-speaking lands.

Commentary: Of course, the Thirty Years' War is so vast in its length & breadth that even with these five consecutive episodes of "The Explorers' Club" we're barely managed to but scratch the surface of the war. Entire episodes can & probably should be devoted to Tilly, Wallenstein, Gustavus Adolphus, le Grand Condé, Cardinals Richelieu & Mazarin, & a thousand other personages, both high & low; the Spanish Fury, the Spanish Road, & the Spanish Square; the Defenestrations of Prague, the Sack of Madgeburg, & a thousand other horrors, atrocities, & tragedies; the Torstenson War, the Franco-Spanish War, the war against the Ottoman Empire, & a myriad other subsidiary &/or concurrent conflicts. Thirty years of unrelenting war that killed, through violence, disease, or hunger, between one-third & one-half of the population of Germany. Our world would not be as it is without the twentieth century, the course of which was set in the nineteenth century, the course of which was set in the eighteenth century, the course of which was set in the seventeenth century, in the thirty bloodstained years 'twixt 1618 & 1648. Forget not what you've learned in these past few weeks, treasured readers, I beseech thee, for knowing what has come before is the surest defense against allowing it to come again.

The Victors | Project OSPREY
Sunday, 31 March 2013
N.C.A.A. Tournament, Elite Eight
South Regional Final
(4) Michigan 79-59 Florida (3)
30-7, Big Ten 13-7

Sweet fancy Moses! Sunday's game was a delight from beginning to end. I was thrilled when the valiant Wolverines began the game with an amazing run & thrilled again by the stone-cold shooting of the epithetless Gators, but in the back of my mind a voice cautioned that things could not possibly keep going this well, that basketball games are forty minutes long & woe be to the club that thinks its victory assured after five or ten minutes. Then, to my astonishment, things kept going that well, or very nearly so. The valiant Wolverines manhandled the epithetless Gators! A twenty-four point lead was "shrunk" to seventeen by the half, but would swell again to twenty-five before stabilizing at twenty by the final buzzer. Michigan's offense was clicking, with points coming from both the paint & the perimeter. More impressive, though, was the Maize & Blue's defense, which Florida never found a way to thwart consistently; defense has not been the '12-'13 club's forte, but the lads were more than up to the challenge on Sunday. As I both wrote in both post-game text messages & posted to the FaceSpace, my emotional state after the game was one of joy, pure joy.

In three out of their four games in the tournament—& think about that for the moment, Michigan has played four games in this year's tournament—the valiant Wolverines have won by an average of twenty points: fifteen over South Dakota State, twenty-five over V.C.U., & twenty over Florida. We cannot simply ignore the two-point margin over top regional seed Kansas, but even taking that into account Michigan's average margin of victory is still a robust fifteen and a half points (15.5). The valiant Wolverines have not simply been victorious, they've been dominant. The last two weekends have been almost magical, a perfect moment in time that has washed away the ill-feelings of two decades of scandal, futility, & weary patience. Whatever happens in the Final Four—& please do not misinterpret those words as signally a lack of faith in the valiant Wolverines' chances against the epithetless Orange(men)—these have been high times for the Wolverine nation, & they can't take that away from us. The valiant Wolverines are the South Regional Champions!

Next: The Final Four v. East Regional Champions Syracuse on Saturday, 6 April in Atlanta. Syracuse's zone defense looked ominous in their Sweet Sixteen victory over Indiana. (I give them less credit for their Elite Eight victory over Marquette, an offensively-challenged club on even the best of days.) More, much more on this in the triumphal week ahead.

Go Blue!

Midwest Regional Final
(1) Louisville 85-63 Duke (2)

That was painful to watch, even without considering the traumatic injury to the epithetless Cardinals' Kevin Ware. (If I never again see a replay of his leg breaking, I'll be only too happy.) Louisville's aggressive defense was a riddle that Duke solved throughout the first half, but ultimately the epithetless Cardinals out-hustled the epithetless Blue Devils, handing Duke the kind of loss that I would never expected from a Coach K. coached club. Louisville looked invincible in the second half against Duke, but that says as much about Duke as it does about Louisville.

The Final Four
Louisville v. Wichita State
Michigan v. Syracuse

The two victors play for all the marbles on Monday, 8 April.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day: SKApril
Desmond Dekker & The Aces, "Jamaican Ska" from King of Ska (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Welcome to the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s third celebration of SKApril--thirty days of ska, ska, & more ska. One of my brother Knights o' Columbus has recently discovered ska, independent of me, & I mean to help foster his interest into an eventual obsession.

"Not everybody can Cha Cha Cha,
Not everybody can do the Twist,
But everybody can do the Ska,
It's a dance you can't re[sist]!

"Ska, ska, ska,
Jamaican ska,
Ska, ska, ska,
Jamaican ska…"