Friday, May 31, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Tim Lyons, "Humours of Whiskey" from Green Linnet Records: The Twentieth Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)


"And what helped Mister Brunel
To dig the Thames Tunnel?
Wasn't it poitín, me boys?"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In a discussion with the Shamus last week, I mentioned my disdain for the Olympics. Shocked, he asked me to explain. I did so & though he continues to cherish the Games he acknowledged my objections as reasonable & valid. Here, in a nutshell, is my second reason for disdaining the Olympics, that corruption is endemic to the International Olympic Committee & unavoidable as long as the current sickly Olympic model limps along: Sochi 2014-link

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Vampire Weekend, "Diplomat's Son" from Contra (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXLII - William Walker (1824-1860), President of the Republic of Lower California/Republic of Sonora (1853-1854) & President of Nicaragua (1856-1857).

Operation AXIOM
Five hundred sixty years ago to the day, 29 May 1453, Constantinople, the greatest city in all the world & the capital of what we know as the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Ottoman Turks. For a thousand years Constantinople had been the greatest city in all of Christendom, the last remnant of the glory that was Rome; the victorious Ottoman sultan, Mehmet II, was immortalized by the epithet Mehmet the Conqueror. The Fall of Constantinople removed the greatest obstacle to Ottoman expansion into Europe & for the next two centuries the Turk would be on the march, twice advancing as far as Vienna, besieging the Austrian capital in both 1529 & 1683. A number of Christian Greek scholars fled "the City's" new Muslim overlords & settled in Italy, where they are thought to have helped spark the Renaissance. The Ottoman conquest cut off Europe's access to the Silk Road & the trade goods of the Far East, increasing the impetus for the ongoing Portuguese & later Spanish attempts to find a sea route to China & India, explorations that lead to the discovery of this New World forty years after the fall of Constantinople, forever altering the course of human events. Constantinople, the city of Constantine the Great, fell to the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet the Conqueror, five hundred sixty years ago to-day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Les Italiens, "Ottomania" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Some might think that "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" would be the most appropriate song for such a day, but they would be in error. Constantinople was still Constantinople—or Konstantiniyye—under the Ottoman Empire, only being renamed "Istanbul" in 1923, after Atatürk's establishment of the Republic of Turkey. So, even after the Ottoman conquest of 29 May 1453, the city was Constantinople (not Istanbul).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Queue
Signore Machiavelli's reputation in popular culture is unfair & undeserved, a distorted misrepresentation of the arguments put forward in The Prince. The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic was a gift from church, paid for by the parish educational trust. I am engaged in the attempt to sublimate my will to His, to become an instrument of His Will for whatever purpose He envisions, & intentionality of one of the keys; therefore, it behooves me to do what seems natural whenever anything else catches my interest & read up on the subject. (This reminds me that I am very far behind on "Urbi et Orbi.") The 2012 motion picture Kon-Tiki is coming soon to a theater near me, thus promoting Mr. Heyerdahl's account from the obscure depths to the very top of the queue. I am reluctant to reembark upon Leviathan 'til I know I will be uninterrupted for long enough to finish, but I will not let it languish indefinitely as I suffered to happen with Moby-Dick.

Frank Miller, 300
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" from The Arabian Nights
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

Thor Heyerdahl, translated by F. H. Lyon, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft
Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of the Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill ***suspended***
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Swords of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Synthetic Men of Mars
Sir Ernest Shackleton, South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Llana of Gathol
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Sinbad the Sailor" from The Arabian Nights
Richard Price, Clockers

This Week in Motorsport
With the Monaco Grand Prix & the Indy 500 in the books, all eyes now turn toward the third jewel of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, the 24 Heures du Mans—the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This will be the ninetieth anniversary of the "Grand Prix of Endurance" & the eighty-first running of the great race since its inception in 1923 (interrupted for many years in the '40s by a little thing called the Second World War). Get excited, people!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "You Left Right?" from the Pin Points and Gin Joints (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love virtually the whole of The Bosstones' catalog, but Pin Points and Gin Joints is one of my favorites because its sound is more purely ska than is usual for them; the songs, including "You Left Right?" (which should be titled "You Left, Right?") are without the hard rock/heavy metal influence evident on some of their earlier works.

Typical of a ska song, she left him.

"Are you regretful? Are ya?
Are you remorseful? Are ya?
Are you successful? Well, are ya
Just tryin' to make it through?
Did your whole world just shatter?
Are you happy or sadder?
Does it really matter?
And did I ever matter to you?"

Monday, May 27, 2013

Operation AXIOM
Here's wishing one & all a solemn & mindful Memorial Day. This is not the day we thank all those who bore arms for the republic—that's Veterans' Day; this is not the day we thank all those who currently bear arms for the republic—that's Armed Forces Day. To-day is the day we honor & thank all those who bore arms for the republic & made the ultimate sacrifice, those who gave the last full measure of devotion, those who never returned to home & hearth. To-day we memorialize the glorious dead, without whom none of us living would be able to enjoy the fruits of liberty. 'Tis Memorial Day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Memorial Day
Paul Roebling, Jay Unger, & David McCullough, "Ashokan Farewell/Sullivan Ballou Letter" from The Civil War: Original Soundtrack Recording

Commentary: An excerpt from Major Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife, & soon-to-be widow Sarah. The letter is an object at staggering beauty & humbling depth of emotion.

"I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause I am not engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Graffiti Worth Reading" from Pin Points and Gin Joints (T.L.A.M.)


"Graffiti worth reading rarely is written
On walls that are worth writing on…"

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXLI - Josiah Harlan, Prince of Ghor (1799-1871).

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
David Polansky, "Narwhal" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A little ditty meant to help children learn about the animal kingdom.

"Way up north in the Beaufort Sea,
Beyond the Arctic Circle,
Is a small white whale that comes adorned
With a spiral tusk like a unicorn.
Hey ho! the narwhal!
Hey ho! the narwhal!
With a bit of luck we'll see one
And we'll shout, 'There she blows!'"

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yesterday, Red Patton & I visited the Flint Institute of Art (F.I.A., though not the F.I.A. usually discussed here at The Secret Base) to see the exhibition Reflections on Water in American Painting: The Phelan Collection. The exhibition was underwhelming, but there was wheat to be found amidst the tares; the most stirring painting was by Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962), artist laureate of the United States Coast Guard during the Second World War, depicting a wartime convoy facing the perils of the high seas. (The appeal of this painting to both Red Patton & me was quite predictable.) We were joined midway through the proceedings by the Shamus, Red Patton's pal whom I know from this year's History Quiz Night & a pair of subsequent pub quizzes. A jazz trio was playing in the lobby of the F.I.A. by the time we departed, a splendid addition to the evening's cultural program.

We three then repaired to the Torch, the best public house in the Vehicle City, for a round of beers & for their far-famed Torchburgers. Red Patton & the Shamus split a pitcher of Killian's while I had a rather unfortunate Guinness, which contrasted most unfavorably with the absolutely exquisite Guinness I had a fortnight earlier at Conor O'Neill's in Ann Arbor.

Red Patton, who had been promoting Narwhal Day all week amongst his students, presented me with a pencil drawing of a narwhal, the work of his own hand. This was very touching & the highpoint of yesterday's Narwhal Day festivities. I shall publish the drawing online as soon as I've scanned it to create a digital copy.

Arctic weather blew in yesterday, clouds as gray as a narwhal's hide, chilling rain, & afternoon high temperatures only in the 40s ˚F. As a result, both my new-for-'13 paper trilby & decaying Mark II straw trilby were unsuitable headgear. I was going to wear my Michigan baseball cap, prepared to rue the insufficiency of the rain protection provided by its front-only brim, when another option sprang to mind: my seldom-worn gray trilby. The gray trilby is seldom worn because I'm not terribly fond if it. The crown is too low & the brim is a touch too wide & ill-formed; I regretted purchasing it almost as soon as I arrived home with it, many moons ago. Nevertheless, with my fedora & insulated flatcap boxed up & put away for the summertime, the gray trilby was Johnny-on-the-spot. Its dark gray checked pattern fitted both Narwhal Day & the unseasonable skies, & it did the job of shielding me from the rain. For this reason, I might have to reconsider the gray trilby's place in the hierarchy of hats. Two separate strangers complimented me on the gray trilby; my hats are complimented all the time, but this represented an unusual frequency given the short duration of the deployment.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day After Narwhal Day
Aaron Burnett, "Narwhal" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Aaron Burnett, not to be confused with the more foul-mouthed Aaron Barrett, the talented front man of Reel Big Fish & The Forces of Evil. "Narwhal" comes from an album titled Canadian Critters. Following R.B.D.S.O.T.D. protocol, the album title was not listed above because I do not own the album, only the song "Narwhal."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sympathetic Narwhal Day, treasured readers! Every year, bit by tiny bit, Narwhal Day grows in popularity & esteem. This year, Red Patton has been indoctrinating his students (he's a substitute teacher) to appreciate & sympathize with the narwhal. the "unicorn of the sea." Ska Army remains an enthusiastic celebrant & in the days ahead of Narwhal Day some stepped forward to appreciate the narwhal images I placed on my FaceSpace page. I can only imagine that later today several will join with me in taking the Oath & honoring the noble, bizarre narwhal.

The Watergirl remains far & away The Secret Base's best outside contributor & this year transmitted to me a hyperlink informing me of the T-shirt design featured below, which quite naturally prompted her to think of your humble narrator & Narwhal Day. The T-shirt was available for a single day less than a week before narwhal day. Serendipity!

Of course, Narwhal Day is not about Narwhal Day but the narwhal itself. Let us recall that the narwhal was assigned its scientific name, Monodon monoceros, by no less an authority than Carolus Linnæus in his original Systema Naturæ. The English name "narwhal" is derived from Old Norse, & sometimes spelt n"narwhale" or "narwal." The narwhal is listed as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; that the narwhal is only near threatened is a tribute to the wily narwhal's success in thwarting the maniacal schemes of the global dolphin conspiracy. Long may the narwhal prosper!

The Oath of Narwhal Day
The narwhal is a noble, pitiable creature,
A magnificent, monstrous visage.
An asymmetrical tooth for a horn,
Or sometimes two, or sometimes none.
Half again as long as the beast.

I swear my sympathy for the narwhal.
I will not lie and convince it all is well,
But I will be a friend to the narwhal.
The mocking dolphins and the snobby manatees
Will get their well-earned comeuppance,
And the narwhal will frolic all day.

I dream this dream of the narwhal
And celebrate it in all its improbable, oddball glory,
On this the thirteenth Narwhal Day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Narwhal Day
D. J. Seaghost, "Sympathy for the Narwhal" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: "Wow!"

The Wayback Machine Tour of Narwhal Day
The Secret Base did not exist when first Narwhal Day was celebrated in A.D. 2001, but I have no excuse for why there was no special coverage of the auspicious day on this blog in '02, even though all three of the ritual elements were observed. I trust that the narwhals, whose judgment is harsh but fair, will forgive the failure of my younger self properly to promote this day of celebration & sympathy.

Narwhal Day '12 | Narwhal Day '11
Narwhal Day '10 | Narwhal Day '09
Narwhal Day '08 | Narwhal Day '07a & Narwhal Day '07b
Narwhal Day '06 | Narwhal Day '05
Narwhal Day '04 | Narwhal Day '03

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day Before Narwhal Day
Haberdashery, "The Narwhal Suite" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXL - The White Rajahs of Sarawak, Part II: Sir Charles Brooke (1829-1917), Sir Vyner Brooke (1874-1963), & the pretender Anthony Brooke (1912-2011).

This Week in Motorsport
Indy Rock
IndyCar Series
Round 1
Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg
Sunday, 24 March 2013

Round 2
Grand Prix of Alabama
Sunday, 7 April 2013

Round 3
Grand Prix of Long Beach
Sunday 21 April 2013

Round 4
São Paulo Indy 300
Sunday, 5 May 2013

The 2013 IndyCar season opened with four road races, three on temporary street circuits & one on a permanent road course. Andretti Autosport (Chevrolet-powered), the team of reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, has opened the year in dominant fashion, winning three of the first four races: Hunter-Reay at the Barber in Alabama & the social media savvy James Hinchcliffe, "the Mayor of Hinchtown," winning on the streets of Saint Petersburg & São Paulo. At Saint Pete, Hinchcliffe passed Will Power, three times runner-up of the series & 'til this year the undisputed road-course king, & Helio Castroneves, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, both of Team Penske (Chevrolet), on track—no mean feat. Hunter-Reay ran a flawless race at Barber. The Long Beach classic was won by Takuma Sato of A. J. Foyt (Honda), the Japanese F1 veteran's first IndyCar victory as well as the first Indy car victory for a Japanese. Sato almost won his second in a row at São Paulo, leading in the dying laps & blocking for everything he was worth, but a bobble at the final corner of the last lap allowed Hinchcliffe to make a classic outside-inside pass for his second win of the year. Both Hinchcliffe & Sato are first-time winners this year.

The mighty Team Penske has struggled mightily, though not as badly as their long-time archrivals, Ganassi Racing (Honda). Despite losing the lead to Castroneves, Power was running well at Saint Pete 'til he was crashed into by J. R. Hildebrand of Panther Racing (Chevrolet) in a bizarre collision under yellow-flag safety car conditions; Hildebrand was looking down at his instruments, not paying attention, & drove his race car into the back of Power's, riding up & over the right side of the Australian's vehicle. Power continued, but his can was never again the same & he finished sixteenth. São Paulo was a nightmare, Power retiring in the early laps with an engine fire. Double champion Scott Dixon ('03 & '08) of Ganassi finished second at Barber, but eleventh at Long Beach & eighteenth in Brazil. Dixon's teammate, four-time champion Dario Franchitti ('07, '09, '10, & '11), finished twenty-fifth in each of the season's first two races. Wherever happened to the giants?

The São Paulo race saw six full-course caution periods, with the cars running under waving yellows flags behind the safety car. In the four-year history of the event, no race has seen fewer than five full-course cautions. Watching race cars crawl along behind a safety car is about as much fun as watching football players stand around during an extended video review of a play. I will never understand why IndyCar travels all the way to São Paulo & doesn't take advantage of the historic & challenging Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Formula One's far-famed Interlagos. It's a great track, a track with a great history, & would feature far fewer safety car interventions than the concrete canyons of the São Paulo street circuit. Just go to Interlagos, confound ye!

Indy Lights
Round 1
Saint Petersburg 100
Saturday, 23 March 2013

Round 2
(sponsor) Indy Lights 100
Sunday, 7 April 2013

Round 3
Long Beach 100
Sunday, 21 April 2013

Thus far, the Indy Lights season has been dominated by second-year driver Carlos Muñoz, with rookies "Captain Jack" Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves, & Sage Karam competing fiercely for second place. (Yes, Hawksworth won the first race of the season, but he was running in third before Chaves crashed himself & Muñoz out of the running.) How good is Muñoz? After this weekend's qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Muñoz, an Indianapolis Motor Speedway rookies, will be starting from second, ahead of all but one of the regular IndyCar drivers. "The boy's good, no doubts there."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
MxPx, "Andrea" from Life in General (T.L.A.M.)


"Meeting you was just so unexpected,
I guess I was there to be rejected…"

Monday, May 20, 2013

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

Commentary: Hammurabi was on my mind today, which lead rather inevitably to "The Mesopotamians" as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

This Week in Motorsport
Indy Rock
Rather inadvertently, I wound up watching most of yesterday's "Pole Day" qualifying for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race & today's "Bump Day" conclusion to qualifying. Yes, qualifying is spread over two days, approximately twelve hours of on-track availability. (For the average IndyCar Series race, qualifying takes less than an hour. Of course, the Indy 500 is anything but an average IndyCar Series race.) Pole Day was delayed by rain, but everything on the itinerary was squeezed in 'fore darkness descended; Bump Day was sunny & clear, though reportedly hotter than ideal. The oddest thing about all this is that I've no intention of watching the 500-Mile Race on the Sunday before Memorial Day. I've been roped in by that boondoggle before & I won't be snookered again. Oval races simply aren't worth watching.

I remarked to my father than one day I'd have to attend the Indianapolis 500, at which point he looked at me as if I had two heads. How do I square a desire not to watch the Indy 500 with a desire to attend the Indy 500? On television, all there is is the race, which is insufficient; in person, there might be much, much more. An analogy: I dislike baseball, but I love a day at the ballpark. I love a day at the ballpark for everything but the baseball being played. I intend one day to experience the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 500 being almost ancillary to the exercise.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Shaggy featuring Rayvon, "Angel" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I've always liked Rayvon's rapped part of "Angel" better than Shaggy's sung part.

"Life is one big party when you're still young,
But who's gonna have your back when it's all done?
It's all good when you're little, ya 'ave pure fun,
Can't be a fool, son, what about the long run?"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Tullycraft, "Wild Bikini" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "She's breaking hearts and selling secrets tonight…"

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXXIX - The White Rajahs of Sarawak, Part I: James Brooke (1803-1868) & the Kingdom of Sarawak.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Suburban Legends, "Up All Night" from Rump Shaker (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I motored to Ann Arbor this afternoon to retrieve my repaired Macintosh & was twice waylaid by traffic jams, neither caused by collisions nor construction but both inspired by motorcars parked on the side of the expressway. By Lucifer's beard, people, 'tis not necessary to slow to a crawl to pass every immobile automobile! Given the abruptness with which so many of my fellow motorists stood on their breaks, I'm shocked that there were no additional fender benders.

I spent a little while driving behind a Porsche 911 Turbo. I'd hoped to observe it more closely, but the traffic on I-94 was perilous & was soon to grind to halt, as mentioned above. Both yesterday & today I approached from behind & passed on the right B.M.W. 5-series G.T.s. From the rear, that is quite possibly the ugliest automobile ever to blight mine eyes. Sweet merciful crap!

Southbound on US-23 today, I espied a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, replete with ridiculously enormous rear spoiler (not a functional wing), cavernous hood scoop, & the vanity plate TURBOME, which I presume is meant to be read "turbo me." TURBOME was cruising in the right lane at at least five miles an hour below the posted speed limit. This put a smile on my face as I blasted past him in the eighteen-year-old Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile.

This was my third trip to Ann Arbor in just over a week—dropping off & picking up my Macintosh, split by The Bradman's bachelor party.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "The End of the Tour" from John Henry (T.L.A.M.)


"And she says that the scene isn't what it's been
And she's thinking of going home…"

Mittwoch, 15 Mai
King Apparatus, "King Apparatus" from King Apparatus (T.L.A.M.)

Dienstag, 14 Mai
Less Than Jake, "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out/Screws Fall Out" from Anthem (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: B.T.W. consensus has traditionally held that Hello Rockview is Less Than Jake's greatest album, but their masterpiece just might be Anthem, it really might.

Montag, 13 Mai
Madness, "Tarzan's Nuts" from One Step Beyond… (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There was a lot of Madness during the compact disc interregnum; I don't deny it.

Sonntag, 12 Mai
Madness, "My Girl" from One Step Beyond… (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 11 Mai
Madness, "Land of Hope and Glory" from One Step Beyond… (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 10 Mai
Beirut, "Forks and Knives (La Fête)" from The Flying Club Cup (T.L.A.M.)

Donnerstag, 9 Mai
Reel Big Fish, "She's Not the End of the World" from Candy Coasted Fury (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An invaluable song for every heartbroken bloke. It's harder to take an emotional state that seriously once R.B.F. have lampooned it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Savage Wars of Peace
There are only three possible outcomes of the ongoing civil war within the Syrian Arab Republic, which began as a revolt against the Assad dynasty's Ba'athist regime in the midst of the broader Arab Spring: Bashar al-Assad & the Ba'ath Party remain in power, the post-Assad regime of Syria is friendly toward the United States & our allies, or the post-Assad regime of Syria is hostile toward the United States & our allies. The first possibility, that Assad the younger will weather the storm & remain in power, is undesirable for at least four reasons. One, Syria under the Assad dynasty has always been an enemy of the United States & our closest ally in the region, Israel. Two, Syria under the Assad dynasty is known to possess weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical weapons & as recently as 2007 was pursuing a secret nuclear program. Three, President Obama has called for President Assad to be removed from power, which would understandably sour relations betwixt our two nations should Assad stubbornly refuse to bow to Mr. Obama's will. Four, the Assad regime is being militarily supported by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia & proxy of Iran. A Ba'athist-Hezbollah would endanger the tenuous peace in Lebanon & embolden an already bellicose Iran.

Syria under a post-Assad regime that is friendly toward the United States is the most desirable of the outomes, but also the least likely to occur. Why? Because in a revolution it is typically the most ruthless & the best organized, not the best intentioned, who carry the day. (See: the French Revolution & the Reign of Terror, the Bolshevik hijacking of the Russian revolution in 1917, & the ayatollahs' hijacking of the Iranian revolution in 1979.) The acceptable Syrian opposition, the kind invited to self-important international conferences & diplomatic receptions, is not being armed by its Western patrons, being instead provisioned with food, medical supplies, & communications capabilities. There are recent reports of defections from the "Free Syrian Army" to the various jihadist factions, groups that are armed by certain parties within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia & the allied Gulf emirates.

Syria under a post-Assad regime that is hostile toward the United States is the least desirable of the three possible outcomes, if for no other reason than at least a continued Assad regime would be the devil we know. The unacceptable Syrian opposition is composed of all the usual jihadist suspects, including both indigenous Syrian jihadists & the ubiquitous "foreign fighters." The largest of these groups, the so-called al-Nursa Front, pledges its allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current nominal leader of al-Qaeda, & is closely lined with the Islamic State of Iraq, the reconstitution of the former al-Qaeda in Iraq (A.Q.I.) that so bedeviled our erstwhile reconstruction efforts. In the last day or so, a video has surfaced of a Syrian rebel eating the heart of a slain regime soldier. The worst case scenario is that Assad regime's weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of Salafist jihadis. Contrary to the boasting & crowing of President Obama & Vice President Biden, neither al-Qaeda nor the broader jihadist strain of Salafism died with Osama bin Laden.

Those are the three possible outcomes of the Syrian civil war. What are we, the United States, doing to prevent either of the two undesirable outcomes, especially the disastous scenario of a jihadist takeover of Syria? If we do not shape events, we will be shaped by events.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If I wait 'til the intersection of the availability & the inclination to do my grandiose vision of this post justice, we'll all be waiting 'til kingdom come. Like representative democracy itself, let us not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Liberty & Union
The poetry of Rudyard Kipling is a lodestar after any perceived disaster, such as that which befell not just the Republican party but the whole of the United States on Election Day last November—a lodestar, both a comfort & a map of where to go from here.

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:"

In more recent days, Ambrose Bierce has sprung to mind, especially this oft-quoted bit from his The Devil's Dictionary:

"Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another."

The exposure of the cover-up of the nature of the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, the ever-expanding revelations of the abuse of power by the I.R.S. for nakedly political purposes, & the revelation of the abuse of power by the Justice Department in spying on the Associated Press are all troubling developments, the evidence of a plainly creepy tyrannical tendency to Mr. Obama's administration, but they've placed a wry smile or two on my mug. It is so lovely to be vindicated after being so long mocked for speaking the truth.

Switching gears, but remaining within the preserve of "Liberty & Union"--the title borrowed with affection from Senator Daniel Webster (Federalist-cum-Whig, Massachusetts), who declared, "Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" during the Nullification Crisis--I'm to report for jury duty in the morning. The last time I was called, I did not serve on a jury. No one from my pool did, & we were sent some with thanks at lunchtime. Many view jury duty as an imposition, but I would sorely love to participate so directly in our system of popular sovereignty.

Lastly, the sage words of L.L. Cool J.:

"Don't call it a comeback,
I've been here for years."

The Bradman's bachelor party was fun, & exactly what I should have expected from my old chum. More on that later.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Savage Wars of Peace
The difficulty in finding a cemetary in which to lay to rest the mortal remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been a national embarrassment. "Good" or "evil," Christian or Muslim, man or woman, we are all mortal; we will all die, all shed this mortal coil; the laying of the dead to rest is a basic act of simple decency, a basic tenant of being civilized, & I have been ashamed of both my nation & the Canadas as a number of minor government officials have refused to allow the late, unlamented Mr. Tsarnaev to be buried within their bailiwicks. For pity's sake, what harm can the man's body do now that his rotten soul has departed? Decency, a certain charity toward even our enemies, is supposed to be one of those things that separates us from our enemies, violent death-worshipers who are savages precisely because they disdain decency as a weakness. I am grateful that at long last some measure of decency has been restored, & a resting place for the corpse located, but yet ashamed by the protests against any decent burial & the delay in laying the body to rest.

Who are we, if not a fundamantally decent people? If not decency, for what are we fighting?

I've tried to be a social butterfly of late. Twice in the last several weeks, I've joined a crew organized by Red Patton & contested the Team Trivia pub quiz at Bar Louie; Bar Louie is a horror show of Tapout-branded clothing & the trollops who like apes wearing that logo, & Team Trivia is the poorest pub quiz I've ever encountered, but it also happens to be the only game in town. We've not yet won a game, in part because our recorder, Super Mario, has been left in charge of strategizing our point wagers. (For each set of three questions, the answering team assigns then a point value of two, four, or six, depending on their level of confidence in their answers.) Also, in part, because we're rubbish at answering questions about reality television. Seeking to expand my rôle within Red Patton's circle beyond that of trivia ringer, I invited Red Patton, Super Mario, & the rest of the not-yet-code-named gang to see The Loose Ties, who were playing a rare summertime show without frontman, guitarist, & lead singer Phil. A good time seemed to be had by all; I'd have spent more time with them at their table, but when the ska is played this fatso must dance. I had drinks with Ska Army on a Monday night because he was leaving for Sin City on Tuesday, & I joined Too Sly & the rest of the gang for an end of the year banquet at Luca's in Grand Blanc, on the school's dime. (Don't mind if I do.) Sure, Luca's is a steakhouse, but with a name like Luca's it puts me in the mood for Italian; I had the chicken tortellini. Afterwards, we repaired to a new public house in downtown Flinttown, the Table & Tap, & lived the hipster dream of sitting outside in front of the cool new speakeasy below the newly-renovated, very tony loft apartments wrought out of a repurposed industrial/retail space. The hipster dream, you ask? There were at least two young fellows in the Table & Tap wearing bow ties; so, yes, the hipster dream. To-morrow, I'm motoring to Ann Arbor for The Bradman's bachelor party, organized by Captain Malice. Blasts from the past shall abound. In an thoroughly disorganized mess, that's the latest news from Project MERCATOR.

There is an exhibition at the Flint Institute of Arts that I dare not miss, Reflections on Water in American Painting: The Phelan Collection. I have a gift for procrastination & have missed many an intriguing exhibition at the F.I.A. by putting off attendance until--poof!--the moment has passed & the exhibition has moved on. Reflections on Water in American Painting runs through 16 June. I must make every effort to see it by next weekend at the absolute latest.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Macintosh is in crisis, & currently undergoing diagnosis & repair. I am thus without access to my digitial music library. I have compact discs aplenty, but the Song of the Day, from its inception in '06 as the B.T.W. South Song of the Day through to the present & ongoing Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day, has always been a creature of digital music, specifically of iTunes. Rifling through my compact discs, stored as they are in several discrete locations around the house, is a pain in my neck. Therefore, I am suspending the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. from tomorrow 'til my Macintosh is restored to full functiomnality or I change my mind, prompted by the love of music, whichever comes first. "The Explorers' Club" is similarly suspended.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
MxPx, "I'm O.K., You're O.K." from Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo (T.L.A.M.)

Dienstag, 7 Mai
Reel Big Fish, "Hiding in My Headphones" from Candy Coasted Fury (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Heaven help me, "Hiding in My Headphones" is damnably catchy.

Montag, 6 Mai
Tiki Tonga, "Welcome to Paradise" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: Have I mentioned how much I love tiki culture?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Cinco de Mayo
Potshot, "Mexico" from Pots and Shots (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A trio of proclivities came together to select the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Uno, 'tis Cinco de Mayo, which is not, as is commonly supposed, Mexico's independence day. Dos, Potshot is a Japanese ska band & yesterday's expressed fondness for the Land of the Rising Sun has not abated. Tres, I've still got a jones for ska & very little else. At 3:16, "Mexico" is the second-longest Potshot song in my library; the longest, "For You," is 3:17. As always with Potshot, the lyrics are in Japanese & "Engrish," meaning I can make neither heads nor tails of them.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mu330, "Raw Fish" from Ultra Panic (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Too soon after SKApril's end for a ska song it well may be, but I'm feeling the love for Nihon today & "Raw Fish" struck the appropriate chord.

"Why would you go all the way to Japan to play a show?
He said, 'I heard they eat raw fish,'
Just the thought of it makes him sick,
All the clubs have microphones,
And people come out to the shows,
Or do you fear what you don't know?"

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Platters, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from The Very Best of The Platters (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Should the title be "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" or "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"? The latter if "in" is a preposition, the latter if 'tis an adverb. Methinks "in" is an adverb in this case, modifying "gets." Yes? (It's been an age since I diagrammed a sentence.) Either way, "Smoke Gets [In/in] Your Eyes" is a whale of a song.

One might well suppose that the two items to follow are related—specifically, that the latter drove the declaration of the former—but I assure you this is not the case.

Item the first: I've been utterly infatuated with the British actress Jessica Raine for nearly a fortnight, since the initial broadcast of the Doctor Who episode "Hide." I would die happy if the last thing I heard was her speaking the word, "girl."

Item the second: There is a time & a place, more personal than physical, perhaps, when nothing in all the world tastes better than a gin & tonic. Gin!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Clash, "Rock the Casbah" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Sweet fancy Moses, I wish it was still SKApril!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

SKApril '13
In many ways, the 2013 celebration of SKApril more closely resembled '11 than it did '12. Naturally excluding the nine bands that have campaigned across all three SKAprils, ten bands contributed songs to '11 & '13 compared to five bands who contributed to '12 & '13. There's a reason for that. In '12, I wished to highlight as many ska bands as possible that had not featured in '11. Many of those bands were one-offs, bands I knew only from Asian Man compilations or from referrals from kith, mostly Ska Army; eight "one-hit wonders" contributed to '12, compared to five for both '11 & '13. There are nine "all-stars" who contributed to '11, '12, & '13, but there were eleven before this latest SKApril. Attentive readers might recall my surprise, though far from displeasure, at Slow Gherkin making it into the all-stars; for Edna's Goldfish & King Apparatus, '13 was the end of their all-star run, though I have nothing but affection for both bands' music. There are only thirty days in SKApril & choices have to be made. The nine SKApril all-stars:

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Reel Big Fish
Less Than Jake
The Aquabats!
The Hippos
Mustard Plug
Slow Gherkin
The Loose Ties

For the most part that list reads like a Who's Who of the third wave, the ska with which I fell in love during the halcyon Summer of Ska. Sweet merciful crap, I love ska! Keep on skanking, rude boys & girls. keep on skanking. "Ska, ska, ska…"

"That's why you have your little ska band there, to keep the oddballs in costumes from raising Cain."
—Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture

The Rebel Black Dot Song of May Day
Paul McCartney & Wings, "Live and Let Die" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It is sorely tempting to keep the ska going, but to do so would lessen the importance of SKApril. More ska songs will be featured as R.B.D.S.O.T.D. before SKApril '14, but a little bit of a layoff would do us well here methinks.

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