Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Garbage, "The World Is Not Enough" from Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: As I often joked back in the '90s, "Garbage: The most aptly-named band since Tool." So how is "The World Is Not Enough" so good? Garbage didn't write it, neither the music nor the lyrics.

"…If we can't have it all then nobody will.

"The world is not enough,
But is it such a perfect place to start, my love,
And if you're strong enough,
Together we can take the world apart, my love…"

Also, the title of the compilation album should be the
Best of Bond, James Bond or even Best of Bond—James Bond. The ellipsis is unnecessary & improper.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCXLVI

Ed Stafford (b. 1975), the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River.

Commentary: Though I've always intended "The Explorers' Club" to cast a spotlight on the world entire, including the worlds beyond the Earth, there is a special place in your curator's heart for actual explorers & adventurers. I became aware of Mr. Stafford thanks to the three-episode Discovery Channel series, Naked Castaway. Fascinating viewing, that.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Real Can of Yams, "A Man, a Plan, a Canal, Panama" from Good or Suck! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I am very proud of my lyrics to "A Man, a Plan, a Canal, Panama." My thanks to Leigh Mercer for devising the titular palindrome.

"All I know is digging all day,
Digging this canal for the U.S.A.,
All day long I dig, dig, dig,
This thing we're digging is really big,
We all have yellow fever, we're sick,
But we keep digging—our boss is a dick,
For some big rocks we use dynamite;
It's awful loud, but it's quite a sight!

"A man, a plan, a canal, Panama,
I miss my home and my dear old ma,
I like my job but I miss my bed,
I think a spider laid eggs in my head!
A man, a plan, a canal, Panama,
'I sure am proud of you, son,' wrote my ma.

"There's no place to go but my money's all spent,
Then we get a visit from the president.
Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill,
He was the man the Spaniards could not kill.
Now he tells us to dig this canal,
He always says 'Bully,' I wish he was my pal.
Golly, I'm so happy digging all day,
Digging this canal for the U.S.A.!

"A man, a plan, a canal, Panama,
I miss my home and my dear old ma,
I like my job but I miss my bed,
I think a spider laid eggs in my head!
A man, a plan, a canal, Panama,
'I sure am proud of you, son,' wrote my ma."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Urbi et Orbi | Project MERCATOR
I've been at church—not at Mass, but on the church grounds—later than I'd planned each of the last two nights, & I'll be there each of the next two nights, probably later than I plan, I predict gloomily. I volunteered for all of this, & individually I'm glad for each bit, but cumulatively it's enervating, especially when compounded by last weekend's disruption of my cozy, & thus invigorating, routine. By the time Thursday is over, I'll have been up at church for five consecutive days. Things will have to slow down come July, because this pace is clearly unsustainable.

Like a bolt out of the clear blue sky, The O.W.L. sent me a text message to-day. It read: "Its [The O.W.L.]. I was just thinkin we should get a drink sometime" (sic). My mobile received this text message at 1:48 P.M., so for propriety's sake I hope she wasn't three sheets to the wind as she normally must be before she summons the courage to contact me. Don't remember The O.W.L.? Fear not! The Wayback Machine is here to help.

I replied, "O.K., sure," but given her penchant for contacting me out of the blue & then failing utterly to follow up I fully expect those words to be the end of the matter 'til the next time she's drunk or lonely or whatever & decides that interrupting my day, in however minor a fashion, is just the ticket. Can I help it if I'm unforgettable? Irresistible? Hardy, but I get under their skin & the pleasure of my company is not easily shaken.

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

Commentary: I adore the pep of "Radio Bar." It's insubstantial fluff, but it's one of my F.O.W. favorites.

"One night there was a girl there,
For some reason she pulled up her chair,
She said, 'Why don't we go somewhere?'
So I passed her her coat,
That was all that she wrote,
That was it for the Radio Bar."

Monday, June 24, 2013

24 Heures du Mans | +23:52:00
My normal tradition has been to take a nap in the late morning & early afternoon following the 24 Heures du Mans, then be functional & alert (read: groggy) through the late afternoon & early evening before turning in early & waking up at the normal time on Monday morning. Of course, in every previous year I've succumbed to sleep during the race, but catching no more than two or three hours of Zs. This year I did not slumber during the twenty-four hours of the great race, though in the darkness before the dawn I had to catch myself several times & used a number of techniques to increase my alertness & get the blood flowing more swiftly. These techniques were successful & I look forward to honing them in the years ahead, as I plan never again to sleep during the race. But enough of the future. What of the recent past?

Urbi et Orbi | Project MERCATOR
There is at my church a new annual tradition, founded three or so years ago, called "Mass in the Grass." The name is a misnomer, since Mass is not celebrated on the grass of the football field (home of the Luke M. Powers Catholic High School Chargers) but in the large, rectangular pavilion next to the football field. Anyway, the point of Mass in the Grass is that Mass is celebrated more or less out-of-doors, certainly outside Holy Redeemer's mixed modern/traditional church, & followed by a "picnic," to which the parishioners bring side the pass, the parish furnishing hot dogs & drinks—soda pop, water, & beer for the adults. I had volunteered to help with clean-up after Mass in the Grass, figuring that I wouldn't be needed 'til one or two in the afternoon, allowing plenty of time for forty winks after Le Mans ended at 9:00 A.M. Alas, at last Tuesday's K. of C. meeting a general shortage of volunteers was noted & I further volunteered to help out during Mass in the Grass.

The key to staying awake for long periods is to keep your mind stimulated. At one point, bereft of anything to do, I fell asleep on my feet, while leaning on a counter. I woke up when my knees buckled, initiating a fall to the floor that I awoke & arrested. This happened thrice before my fatigued mind reckoned that it must seek out stimulation. I found things to do to keep myself alert & had plenty to do once Mass was over & the picnic got rolling. Over the course of the early afternoon I drove the M.U.L.E. (Multi-Use Light Equipment), a red Kawasaki equivalent of John Deere's ubiquitous green Gators, all over the parish campus, from the pavilion to the Family Life Center to the church & back & forth time & again. The M.U.L.E. has an enclosed roof, meaning it isn't quite as much fun as the old Gator was when I worked for Rec. Sports in Ann Arbor, but it is still a jolly good time tearing around with reckless abandon in an underpowered vehicle.

My fellow volunteers & I, the small percentage of the parish who do the lion's share of the work (yep, I've joined the league of suckers), finally knocked off around 3:00; I'd been there since 11:00 A.M. I motored home & ate the coney dogs I'd been compelled to take from the excess left over after the picnic, & as I ate I sat with my father, who was watching the weekend's N.A.S.C.A.R. Nationwide Series race from Road America in Elkhorn Lake, Wisconsin. My father disdains oval racing almost as much as I do, but he's interested enough in road racing to watch N.A.S.C.A.R.'s limited road races, of both the bush-league Nationwide & top-tier Cup series. Me, I have no use for N.A.S.C.A.R. no latter the circuit. I finished the salvaged coney dogs & retired to bed, falling asleep around 5:30 P.M. I was awakened by a 'phone call from a brother Knight at 8:30 P.M., but otherwise slept through 'til this morning, arising about 7:30 A.M.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Aquabats!, "I Fell Asleep On My Arm!" from Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures!, Vol. 2 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: "Hey, I—I feel a lot better. I think all this jumping around has—really helped the circulation—come back into my arm. Man. Phew! Alright, guys, want to go joggin'?"

Sonntag, 23 Juni
Barenaked Ladies, "Who Needs Sleep?" from Stunt (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: All told, I was only awake for around thirty-four hours. My record is being awake for forty-two & a half hours, but of course I was an invincible eighteen years-old then, not the dissipated thirty-three years-old I am to-day. I'm an old, old man.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

24 Heures du Mans | +00:48:00
I'm knackered, exhausted both physically & mentally, but what an incredible journey this year's twice-'round-the-clock race was! I must splash water on my face in the form of a shower to wake myself up & then I am due at church, where I volunteered to help with something called "Mass in the Grass," an outdoor Mass & picnic that I've previously always managed to avoid.

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (excerpted)
by Robert Frost

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

More to follow, since you know I wouldn't do Le Mans the dishonor of solely this shabby little post.
24 Heures du Mans | 02:55:00
"Those who have come so far always knowing that the hard-earned equity of laps run guarantees nothing."
—Sam Posey

Endurance is the name of the game. To endure in the face of tragedy, to endure in the face of cold & wind, to endure in the face of a quarter of the race spend not racing but simply circulating behind the safety cars. This is a hard 24 Hours of Le Mans to love, hard even to like, but for the invaluable lessons it has taught about endurance & the virtue found therein.
24 Heures du Mans | 05:56:00
As Porsche factory driver Jörg Bergmeister said when interviewed by Justin Bell, the death of Allan Simonsen less than ten minutes into this 81st running of the 24 Heures du Mans, "…took all the fun out of this." There have been a record number of full-course yellow-flag periods run behind the safety cars in this year's race. The big problem is that cars keep crashing all on their own, as opposedto earlier years when cars would be punted off track when sideswiped by another car. I suspect that much of the chaos has been due to the cold: the ambient temperature around Circuit de la Sarthe is only a wee bit above 50° Fahrenheit, & racing tires are highly sensitive to temperature & pressure. Lower the temperature of the air inside a tire & the pressure changes, changing the road-holding characteristics of the tire. Change the road-handling characteristics of the tires & a sudden application of power or a sudden change in direction can send a car careening into the barriers, causing a safety-car period, further reducing tire temperatures & pressures, making more of the cars that much more squirrely on the next restart. 'Tis a cold, gray day at Le Mans, the gloom both matching & reinforcing the prevailing attitude in the wake of Simonsen's tragic demise.

The contest 'twixt Aston Martin & Porsche for G.T.E. Pro, class honors remains fierce, with the Corvettes simply unable to make any inroads into the deficit. Victory by either leading contender would be fitting, as this year marks the centenary of Aston Martin & the semicentennial of the Porsche 911. Victory for Aston Martin would be more fitting, though, as a tribute & triumphal counterpoint to Allan Simonsen's death behind the wheel of an Aston Martin; so, if Corvette cannot carry the day, then my hope is for Aston Martin to earn the brass ring.

The № 36 Alpine (Nissan) is running in the lower half of P.2, but they are still running eighteen hours into the event, no small feat. The Bleu de France livery is as beautiful on television as it is in the image below.

24 Heures du Mans | 08:31:00
Dawn is a very special event, the first moment when those who are weary after the long, dark night's labors begin the entertain the invigorating idea that the end, if not nigh, is at least possible. The twilight feeds this sense of fatigued optimism 'til finally sunrise bursts forth & caution is thrown to the wind. The (to most persons, non-accursed) Sun! Daylight! The end is near! This is "Happy Hour," that giddy period in which anything & everything seems possible. This burst of energy, like a sugar rush, is followed by a hard crash, as the realization dawns of how profoundly tired one & all actually are—engineers, mechanics, drivers, journos, spectators. The light brings the awful truth that the night might be over, but that between nine & eight hours of hard racing lie ahead, that anything can still go wrong & very likely will, rendering all of the previous hours' exertions for naught. This sunrise is different, because a Danish flag flies at half staff over the podium in memory of Allan Simonsen, & because the sun has risen but is unseen behind a remorselessly solid ceiling of gray, threatening clouds. The rain stopped some time ago & the circuit is drying, but remains treacherous, ready to catch out the unwary or those whose concentration slips for even a moment. The end of the night brings hope to the weary souls of Le Mans, much of it false hope, but not all. A long road lies ahead, but it is shorter than the long road behind. The end is, if not in sight, at least not too far over the horizon, & with it honor & vindication.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

24 Heures du Mans | 10:47:00
The superlative propaganda/documentary film Truth in 24 begins with narrator Jason Statham intoning gravely, "It always rains at Le Mans." That has not been my experience in the years I have watched Le Mans. Now, though, after periodic light showers in the early running, it is raining cats & dogs on the front straight of the Circuit de la Sarthe. Sunrise is still some hours away, so it is raining cats & dogs in the pitch dark. We wouldn't want things to be too dull, now would we?
24 Heures du Mans | 11:41:00
The halfway point of the race passed—the halfway point?! Le Mans is half finished? Great Caesar's ghost, but does time fly! Tempus fugit, a stark reality as well as both an exhortation to greatness & a dire warning that all is vanity. Anywho, the halfway point of the race passed under a full-course caution, once again caused by damage to the Armco barriers that line the circuit, damage inflicted by a single-vehicle shunt by a G.T.E. Am. entrant. All indications are that the driver, sixty-four-year-old Howard Blank, the oldest man in the field, is O.K., but after the death of Allan Simonsen all involved are understandably on emotional pins & needles.

Little has changed in the race—Audi holds a slight advantage over Toyota in P.1, Aston Martin holds a slight advantage over Porsche in G.T.E. Pro., Porsche & Ferrari are dueling like the ancient adversaries that are in G.T.E. Am., & the usual suspects are fighting tooth & nail in P.2. My beloved Corvettes are running seventh & ninth in G.T.E. Pro., the race-long dominance of the Astons & Porsches looking increasingly unassailable. Drat!

Pit reporter & '98 class-winning driver Justin Bell's annual walk through the drunken revelry away from the pit lane & garages was only mildly subdued by Simonsen's demise. Just as the race must continue to honor Simonsen's life's pursuit, so too much the celebration that is the24 Heures du Mans continue. To do otherwise would be to say that Allan Simonsen died in vain, which he most surely did not. "The paths of glory lead but to the grave," sure, but so do the paths of mediocrity; the motion picture Braveheart put it well as, "All men die. Not all men really live."

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Michael Legrand, "The Race, First Laps" (from the score of Le Mans) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 21 Juni
Fountains of Wayne, "The Summer Place" from Sky Full of Holes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: To one who despises the Accursed Sun as does your humble narrator, it might be supposed that the summer solstice is loathed as a dark day. Not so. Instead, I relish the longest day of the year as the pride that proceeds the fall, for after this fleeting moment of triumph the Accursed Sun begins to lose its grip, little by little, day by day. From today 'til the winter solstice the hours of daylight grow shorter & shorter, the disc of the Accursed Sun sinks lower & lower toward the horizon. The Accursed Sun is undone in its celebrated moment in the sun, as it were. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!
24 Heures du Mans | 13:59:00
The death of Allan Simonsen has cast a pall over the proceedings around the Circuit de la Sarthe, but are all mindful of the fact that he knew what he was doing, he knew that he was chancing his life in the pursuit of honor & glory. To continue the race is the best way to honor that for which he died, & so the race continues.

As ever, once darkness descends upon the French countryside the race changes in more ways than one. This is the coldest, wettest 24 Heures du Mans in my short time as a fan. The rain was off-&-on throughout the first few hours, but the circuit has been dry some several hours now. Normally, the cars run fastest at night, both because the cooler temperatures allow the engines to be run harder without as great a risk of overheating & because cooler air is that much denser than warm air, allowing more to be packed into each cylinder, thus increasing engine power, however marginally. To-night, those advantages might be cancelled out by the cool, arguably outright cold temperatures, which lessen tire grip, meaning the cars have to slower down slightly more going through each corner & are slightly slower to accelerate out of those corners. More rain is expected in the morning, after sunrise, & then again in the afternoon (local time) for the race's conclusion.

Another change is in the television coverage. The world television feed is supplied by French television, French television with a heavily unionized workforce that doesn't like working at night. Views of the track are limited to the permanent parts of the circuit, the Bugatti Circuit. For the vast swaths of the circuit that are public roads the majority of the year, the only regular looks come from the cameras on board the cars. I am grateful for the perspective that those cameras provide, but the view is limited to the cone of light illuminated by the car's headlights. That is the same view the drivers have, but at least they are also busy making sure that they don't run off the track, that they neither run into nor are run into by any other competitors, & monitoring their vehicle for any signs of trouble. The viewer at home has fewer things to occupy his attention during these nighttime hours.

In L.M. P.1, the race for the overall victory, the № 2 Audi is running in first, followed the the two Toyotas, №s 8 & 7. The № 3 Audi spun & cut down a tire going through the Dunlap Chicane, & then had to circle the remaining eight-mile length of la Sarthe at a snail's pace to get backto the pits; it currently runs two laps down to the leader, one lap down to the Toyotas. The № 1 Audi, driven by the reigning double race-winning trio, suffered a severe electronic malfunction that required a lengthy pit stop to repair; they are back up & running, but eleven laps down, the last car in class, with all hopes of a third consecutive victory dashed.

L.M. P.2 is a dogfight, with twenty-two cars in class & twenty of them still running. The first six cars are all Nissan-powered, but no single car has been able to establish a lead, which is traded back & forth between three cars according to the pit stop rotation.

G.T.E. Pro. is a two-way fight 'twixt Aston Martin & Porsche, those two factory squads supplying the top four cars. The S.R.T. Vipers are struggling on their Le Mans debut, which was to be expected. More unexpected is the relative lack of pace of the quasi-factory Ferraris & the factory Corvettes. Those cars are effectively fighting for fifth-place honors against the third & slowest of the Aston Martins. This will be the final year for the all-conquering Corvette C6.R before next year's introduction of the race version of the new Corvette C7 Stingray, & though the race is far from decided this is not the sendoff that the any of us who root for Corvette Racing desired.

The biggest story in G.T.E. Am. is that the Porsche co-owned & co-driven by Patrick Dempsey is altering between the lead & second place with the fastest Ferrari. The famous actor wishes to be regarded as a racer by his colleagues & competitors, & in this I respect his wishes. At the same time, if his celebrity can help to grow the popularity of endurance racing here in the U.S.A., then by all means shout from every available media outlet that Dr. McDreamy (or was he McSteamy?) is a race-car driver.

That's where things stand less than halfway through the twice-around-the-clock classic.
24 Heures du Mans | 18:30:00
In the Year of Our Lord 2009 I began watching motorsport on a lark. Reading a variety of articles via the Wikipedia had interested me in the "Triple Crown of Motorsport"—the 24 Heures du Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix, & the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race—arguably the three most iconic & difficult challenges in all of automobile racing. From the first time I watched Monaco & Le Mans, I was hooked. But I never had a child's view of motor racing. I knew it was perilous, I knew that brave men had been killed in their scores in the pursuit of victory, the pursuit of glory. I knew it was only a matter of time, of watching enough races, 'til I watched a race in which a man perished. To-day, that day has come. The crash mentioned in our first Le Mans post (22:28:00) resulted in the death of Allan Simonsen, driver of the № 95 Aston Martin Vantage (G.T.E. Am.): requiescat in pace-link. The Aston Martins have continued to run, in both G.T.E. Pro. & G.T.E. Am., in accordance with the expressed wishes of Mr. Simonsen's family. I knew this day would come, yet I hoped—I sincerely, fervently hoped—that it would not. More on this as the great race continues, & for long afterward.

May the Lord Almighty have mercy on His servant Allan Simonsen, & comfort the bereft family amidst their grief.
24 Heures du Mans | 22:28:00
There was a shunt in the early laps at the Circuit de le Sarthe, the class-leading Aston Martin Vantage in G.T.E. Am crashing heavily into the Armco barrier at the Tertre Rouge corner, the entrance to the three-mile-long Mulsanne Straight. The field ran behind the safety cars (the circuit is so long that there are three, positioned roughly 120° apart around the course) for nearly an hour, because the crash had damaged & dislocated the crash barriers, which had to be repaired before the cars could be released in anger. No word yet on the condition of the driver of the crashed Aston, but all indications are that he was injured, perhaps severely.

The surprise of the race so far has been in L.M. P.1, where the Toyota TS030s are showing pace on a par with if not outright faster than the favored Audi R18 e-tron quattros. The Audis started one-two-three & were faster all through testing, practice, & qualifying, including the first two races in the World Endurance Championship season (Le Mans being round three), but in practice this morning the Toyotas showed theretofore unknown speed, which had carried over into the race. The differing regulations 'twixt Audi's Diesel-hybrid system & Toyota's petrol-hybrid mean that, on average, the Toyotas should be able to run one or two, possibly even three laps longer than the Audis between pit stops. That will add up to several fewer pit stops over the course the twenty-four hours, meaning that Audi will have to be faster on track to make up the deficit. If the Toyotas are the match for the Audis on track, & make fewer pit stops… Well, it's early going, & this time last year the Toyotas looked good on debut, before running into trouble several hours into the race. It is the "grand prix of endurance," & only tiem will tell which race teams & which machines will endure.

I'm so very happy in this moment. Le Mans! It's finally here!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The work continues apace. The first act is in good shape, & improving all the time; the second act is in a holding pattern as I work on the first; the third act is still vague—I know how the story ends, & I love the final reveal, but I'm not yet sure of the best way to go about getting there. Sweet fancy Moses, I'd forgotten how much I love these characters & their world! I'm having an absolute blast. If I was getting paid for this I'd say/When I'm getting paid for this I'll say, "I can't believe I'm getting paid this this. I'd do this for free." Oh, wait, I am—at least for the nonce—doing this for free. Fie!

Grow or die.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ivy, "Edge of the Ocean" from Long Distance (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I saw a Bentley Continental G.T.C. in Grand Blanc today. At first confused by what mine eyes were seeing, as soon as it became clear in my mind that the motorcar was a Bentley, with the rag top down, I involuntarily ejaculated, "Holy shit!" Pardon my language.

I also saw no fewer than four Chevrolet Volts today. I suppose something about to-day must have said, "To-day's the day to take my gas-electric hybrid motorcar for a whirl."

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

Commentary: Not strictly nautical, I admit, but there's enough in the lyrics about the beach, the ocean, & a "maritime breeze" that "A Dip In the Ocean" passes muster.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Blaggards, "Drunken Sailor" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Another sea song from "Ocean." These nautical shenanigans will probable persist all the way 'til Le Mans. Among this rendition of "Drunken Sailor's" many virtues is that "early," as in "…early in the mornin'," is pronounced "early," not "earl-eye" as is so oft the case. Darned irksome affectation, "earl-eye."

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXLV - The S.S. Normandie.

Perchance to Dream
I had a brief instant-message chat with Comrade Coquettish before falling asleep in the wee hours of Monday morning, which surely influenced the following dream from Monday morning proper: I was the boyflesh to Comrade Coquettish, who was my girlflesh. We were in an aerodrome or large, modern railway station, encountering problems with an automatic, electronic currency-exchange machine. The difficulty was that it kept giving us many different currencies all at the same time—American dollars, British pounds, euros, Canadian dollars, yen, Australian dollars, rubles, et cetera. All of a sudden, as is the way of dreams, the setting changed to offices in a skyscraper, evidently the company at which we both worked. Just a suddenly, my relationship with Comrade Coquettish was direly threatened by a romantic rival, who also happened to be my immediate boss, Mitt Romney. I was losing my girl to that slick Lothario, but shortly before I awoke I seemed to have stymied his efforts by revealing to him that I knew what was afoot. He knew that I knew, & that was not to his liking.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Go Sailor, "The Boy Who Sailed Around the World" from Go Sailor (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: From the iTunes playlist "Ocean."

Sonntag, 16 Juni
The Aquabats!, "Lobster Bucket!" from The Fury of The Aquabats! (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: Sweet merciful crap, I love The Aquabats! Super Show! It's super rad!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

For the second consecutive weekend, Red Patton & your humble narrator motored south to Ann Arbor—"A2," "Moscow on the Huron," the "People's Republic of Ann Arbor." We saw the English-language Norwegian film Kon-Tiki, a dramatization of Thor Heyerdahl & company's 1947 voyage across the Pacific by raft. I parked the Lumi just around the corner from the Michigan Theater & intended its box office as our first stop, reasoning that if we secured our tickets first thing there was no chance of later being left a day late & a dollar short should the forthcoming show sell out the theater. Alas, the box office was closed, not to reopen 'til forty-five minutes 'fore our 9:30 showtime. We dined at Ashley's, which was loud & crowded due to "lobster night." Halfway through our meal, Red Patton mentioned that upon seeing how crowded Ashley's was he'd considered suggesting we go elsewhere; fat lot of good the notion did us at that juncture. Still, dinner was lovely & our conversation focused on society's obsession with the zombie apocalypse. (I've recently devised a theory, that I generally dislike post-apocalyptic movies because I already live in post-apocalyptic times. It takes a truly cynical person to deny that the First & Second World Wars—the trenches & the gas, the Holocaust & the atom bomb—were apocalypses.) After supper we repaired to the Michigan, explored the architectural changes wrought since last I was there, & settled in for Kon-Tiki. I was surprised by how much Red Patton talked during the film. Then again, that might just be me. I'm so single-minded when sitting in a darkened theater that last summer I was surprised & mildly annoyed when The Interpreter wanted to fool around during Marvel's The Avengers. (That annoyance did not interfere with my compliance, but still.) In any event, his voice was at least a whisper, so none of our fellow moviegoers were disturbed. The film was exquisite; I recommend it unreservedly to all & sundry.

We had a relatively heavy discussion of religion on the drive home. Red Patton is an atheist, a fallen Lutheran, blessedly not plagued by the arrogance & meanness that is the usual hallmark of the atheist. This is not the first time religion has come up, always at his instigation. He is, at a minimum, still seeking something. I strive to put Christianity's best foot forward in these discussions, harboring the perhaps prideful hope that I might play a rôle in bringing my friend back to the Father Almighty.

We also schemed to arrange future games of Risk, the sooner the better. Our Kon-Tiki expedition was entirely successful & a good time was had by all.

I'm of a humor that I've created an iTunes playlist titled "Ocean," which includes R.C.Y.'s "Shiver Me Timbers."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Real Can of Yams, "Shiver Me Timbers" from CODENAME: Koala (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Fun fact about the B.T.W. bands: Mike Wilson was never credited as a member of Real Can of Yams nor of Murky Transport Disaster. Instead, the "hacksophone" player (hack saxophonist) was credited as The Last Angry Man.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Operation AXIOM
Two hundred thirty-six years ago to the day, 14 June 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, establishing the official flag of the United States of America. The text read: "Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen Unites States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." That glorious banner has flown over the growth of the greatest nation the world has ever seen, prosperous & populous, a beacon of freedom & hope. The armies that have fought under that star-spangled banner have defeated the forces of piracy (Barbary pirates, 1803), slavery (Confederate rebellion, 1865), Nazism (Nazi Germany, 1945), & Communism (Soviet Union, 1991); liberated countless nations from foreign occupation & domestic tyranny; & tamed a wild continent so that civilization could flourish from sea to shining sea. Some Libertarians have scoffed at the Pledge of Allegiance, thinking that pledging "allegiance to the Republic for which it stands" is tantamount to endorsing the policies of whomever happens to be the current occupant of the White House, but in this, as in so many, many things, they evince a profound inability to reason clearly. The flag of the United States stands for something larger than President Obama, larger than the presidency, larger than any of us; ours is a chosen nation with a self-chosen call to spread the Empire of Liberty to every corner of the world that all peoples might be free. Our flag is the banner of what Father Abraham called "the last, best hope of earth." The flag of the United States of America was adopted two hundred thirty-six years ago to-day. 'Tis Flag Day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Flag Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "The Star-Spangled Banner" from Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A good game of Risk is hard to find. Amongst the numerous ill-consequences of the spreading of the Blue Tree Whackers to the four winds is a paucity of quality Risk matches. I've played a couple games in the old History Club, but the club, for all their enthusiasm about history, were hapless neophytes at Risk. Red Patton plays fairly regularly, out there in the wilds north of Frankenmuth, but he does not rate his opponents very highly &, what's perhaps worse, they most often play Lord of the Rings Risk. (Yes, I own Star Wars Risk, the Clone Wars Edition, but 'twas a gift.) Prior to Saturday there was a chance that The Guy would be joining us for Civil War Days, though this did not come to pass. As Red Patton & I discussed Risk, it suddenly occurred to me that an additional bonus of seeing The Guy would be the readiness at hand of another gangbusters Risk player. The chance to was too good to miss, so mobile telephone technology—specifically, text messages via S.M.S.—was used to arrange a game for later that night. Red Patton, the future Mrs. Red Patton, & I enjoyed the rest of Civil War days; Red Patton & I drove back to Grand Blanc, ate ice cream from Ziggy's, & followed the duo driving a Ferrari Testarossa for a bit; & in the fullness of time The Guy appeared on my doorstep.

I've never rolled a more miserable game of Risk in my life. So poor were my dice that my offenses were needlessly bloody, often bogging down entirely, while on defense my men failed on almost all occasions to offer even token resistance. Entire continents were lost without the loss of single enemy army. The disgrace was profound. Both The Guy & I too long ignored the festering threat of Red Patton's "Yellow Peril," securely working the Australian Gambit behind a solid defensive wall in Fortress Siam-I-Am. The "Black Raj" dispatched an army to challenge the defenses of Siam-I-Am before it grew too large, but my attacking army was undone en route by unbelievably bad rolls of the dice. The Guy declined the challenge because other targets seemed easier; I'd perhaps fatally weakened him & broken his resolve when I took away his African continental bonus (Out of Africa). Red Patton first took away my South American continental bonus (Pinochle with Pinochet) & then made a bid to wipe out The Guy's unnamed blue armies. Red Patton fell short in that ambitious bid, & I stayed alive only be finishing off The Guy & claiming his cards. At the end of the game, I had four cards but could not turn them in for additional armies, while Red Patton, with a just a single card to his name, garnered enough armies through his multiple continental bonuses (Pinochle with Pinochet, Out of Africa, the North American Dream, & the European Hurry-Up-&-Wait) to seal my doom; it was that kind of night.

I do not mean to blame the sorry defeat solely on the dice; I ignored my instincts to thwart Red Patton's Australian Gambit before it was too late, & Red Patton also played a cagey, intelligent game. He is a worthy opponent & I hope to cross swords with him again sooner rather than later, though numbers will remain a problem, as two-man Risk is not much fun.

This coming weekend, Red Patton & I intend to see the new Norwegian film Kon-Tiki, a dramatization of Thor Heyerdahl & company's remarkable voyage across the Pacific by raft in 1947, at the Michigan Theater.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Phenomenauts, "Science and Honor" from For All Mankind (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On Saturday, betwixt Red Patton's & my return from Civil War Days & The Guy's arrival for a game of Risk!, I took Red Patton to Ziggy's, one of Grand Blanc's cultural touchstones. As ever, I had a scoop of Superman ice cream & we discussed a great many things, including the prospects for the soon-to-be-released motion picture Man of Steel, promoted in no small part by my chosen flavor of ice cream. As we departed, I turned the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousmobile south instead of north, intending to show Red Patton a little more of Grand Blanc, though without a specific plan of what sights to highlight. As we motored southward on South Saginaw Street, I espied a bizarre looking motorcar ahead. I overtook it without altering the Lumi's speed & read the chrome badge attached to the machine's rear right haunches: "Testarossa." Sweet merciful crap, it was a Ferrari Testarossa! I decided immediately & unashamedly to follow the Testarossa for some little way. I turned the Lumi onto Perry Road behind the Ferrari & followed her to Atlas Township, a few miles down that road. 'Twas both a rare opportunity to see a Ferrari in the wild & that much longer to spend in conversation with Red Patton. Win-win.

This Week in Motorsport
Treasured readers, we are less than a fortnight from the 90th anniversary running of the grand prix of endurance, the 24 Heures du Mans! This week, the first photographs have emerged of Porsche's new-for-'14 L.M.P.1. It is difficult to explain how excited I am for Porsche's return to competition for the overall win; I have lapped up Porsche's nostalgia-themed propaganda & am eager for more. I am also delighted by yet another example of the automotive industry's use of dazzle camouflage on prototypes & test "mules;" to one of my historical bend, such unconventional, deceptive paint schemes always call to mind the dazzle camouflaging of ships during the Great War. Behold!

New for this year's edition of the twice-around-the-clock race is the new L.M.P.2-class Alpine A450. Of course, it isn't really an Alpine (now a joint venture 'twixt Renault & Caterham)—the chassis having been built by Sigmatech & the engine being a Nissan, perhaps the most common engine choice in the P.2 ranks—but it's still nice to see a revival of the Alpine name, a return of that name to the hallowed ground of the Sarthe, & a French race car in proper bleu de France national racing colors. Behold!

Plus, of course, Le Mans prototypes are amongst the most beautiful racing machines ever devised by Man. Le Mans! Le Mans! Le Mans! It's almost here!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Peacocks, "We've All Seen Better Days" from It's Time for The Peacocks (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

He's Dead, Jim
A curiosity from Saturday's excursion to Dexter's Civil Wars Days: The day broke cool & cloudy over Grand Blanc & over Red Patton's home in Millington, but the Accursed Sun shone bright & merciless over Dexter. As the man wrote, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun," or, in this case, Midwestern Americans. To spite the Accursed Sun & defend myself against its death rays, I shielded my melon with a broad-brimmed straw hat & slathered my arms & the back of my neck with S.P.F. 100 sunscreen, the tube of which I carried in my short's left cargo pocket. Red Patton is proudly of Portuguese extract, as signified by his unconventional surname (not repeated here to protect his privacy), & boasted that his skin would simply turn a lovely olive under even the most harsh beams from the blazing ball of atomic death that lurks high above. I was less sanguine about his lack of a hat. The future Mrs. Red Patton is a redhead, with the predictably pale complexion to match her flaming locks. Red Patton complained about the heat several times, repeatedly citing that the day was hotter than he'd anticipated. The future Mrs. Red Patton shed first her denim jacket & then her cardigan. I, by contract, was comfortable. Yes, I occasionally drew my handkerchief from my pocket to dab sweat from my brow, but this is entirely to be expected when wandering about a field on a sunny June afternoon. Perhaps it has all to do with expectations, that I anticipated being hot & so was not bothered by being hot. Perhaps it was my broad-brimmed hat, which shielded me from the Accursed Sun's wearying death rays. As I remarked to them after one of Red Patton's complaints, "Maybe that's the advantage of being a big fat guy—I'm always hot, so I'm used to it."

The Stars My Destination
Just a friendly reminder that thanks to President Obama's premature retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet & two-year pause in the development of the Orion spacecraft, the People's Republic of China must be considered a more technologically advanced nation than the United States of America, because the U.S. has no ability to send astronauts into low Earth orbit, instead having to hitchhike on the Russian Federation's spacecraft. The latest trio of Chinese to slip the bonds of gravity: blastoff-link.

Thanks for the continuing national embarrassment, Mr. President!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ross Lynch, "Not a Love Song" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXLIV - The Kula ring exchange system.

Red Patton invited me to Dexter, Michigan's Civil War Days & on Saturday we motored to Ann Arbor to pick up his betrothed, the future Mrs. Red Patton, & then continued on to Dexter. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, though not for the reasons anticipated. The reenactment, which I had thought would be the centerpiece of the festivities, was small—with perhaps a score of men squaring off against each other representing the battle in the Wheatfields, on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg—& consequently somewhat underwhelming. No, the real fun was in talking to several of the reenactors. One fellow, a friendly Vietnam veteran playing an artillery sergeant, was keen to recruit Red Patton & the future Mrs. Red Patton as reenactors; we ran into him thrice throughout the afternoon, & by the third encounter we were jointly lamenting most Americans' ignorance of even the broad outlines of history. He was a skilled raconteur with a mischievous gleam in his eyes. The second fellow of interest was the sutler, whose insights into both the 1860s & the reenacting community were fascinating. We met the third fellow sitting in his tent, dressed in civilian garb. I asked, referencing the nearby chess- & checkerboard if the men of the period would have been more likely to play chess or checkers; he replied that it depended principally on their socioeconomic status, with the common men playing checkers & the upper crust playing chess. More discussion followed, which revealed that his tent was not meant to represent a campaign tent, but a period house; it's simply easier to transport & set up the household goods inside a multi-chambered tent than to build a log cabin. He was playing Senator Jacob Howard, Republican of Michigan, who was a lead author of Amendments XIII & XIV of the United States Constitution. History came alive that day!

The fourth fellow who made the day such a smashing success was the fellow clad all in white who was running the historical cricket pitch, teaching anyone interested the basics of the game as it was played in 1860s America &, after the battle reenactment, organizing a scrimmage. He picked himself & Red Patton, a tall, athletic fellow, as captains, yet after each had selected his squad he reassigned me & another fellow to his own side & sent two of his picks to Red Patton's squad. It's good to be the ersatz league commissioner. In any event, he achieved his goal of parity between the sides, the game ending in a twenty-three-all tie. Boy howdy, was that a blast! The competitive juices flowed, my batting being more successful than my bowling; fielding, I ran & jumped & threw myself to the ground in the pursuit of non-period accurate neon green softballs. In my enthusiasm not only did I tear up my shins, requiring generous use of first aid ointment ever since, but I also tore a seem in my favorite short pants; darning them will tax my meager skills. The physical challenges did not end on the cricket pitch. After our first lessons with the cricketer but before the game, Red Patton, the future Mrs. Red Patton, & I were dragooned into a game of tug of war using a rope that in retrospect was way too thin. My side won the tug of war, defeating the Pattons, but for the rest of the day my hands were sore, especially my left hand. Why knew Civil War Days would be so athletic?

Next weekend, Red Patton & I plan to sojourn again to Ann Arbor, to see Kon-Tiki at the Michigan Theater.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Amazing Grace" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 9 Juni
Vampire Weekend, "Worship You" from Modern Vampires of the City (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I'm intrigued yet puzzled by the lamely-titled Modern Vampires of the City, specifically "Unbelievers," "Worship You," & "Ya Hey."

Samstag, 8 Juni
Rab Carriker, "The Battle Cry of Freedom" from Over There!: Songs from America's Wars (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There are a pair of heart-wrenching piano renditions of "Battle Cry of Freedom" on the soundtrack of Ken Burns's The Civil War, but what I really wanted out of yesterday's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. was the lyrics.

"The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the Star!"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Operation AXIOM
We here at The Secret Base were neglectful of two important anniversaries this week, & we hang our heads in shame. Tuesday, 4 June, saw the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on 4 June 1989. An unknown number of protesters, with estimated ranging from the hundreds to several thousands, were killed when the ironically named People's Liberation Army (P.L.A.) violently cleared the square which had for weeks preceding hosted protests calling for greater individual liberty within the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) & reform of the capricious legal system. The most famous image from the Tiananmen Square Massacre is reprinted below; it shows a solitary citizen temporarily halting a line of P.L.A. tanks. His real name has never been definiteively established, so he is known the world over as the "Tank Man." The P.R.C. used full military force against non-violent protesters, revealing the true & enduring nature of that monstrous government, twenty-four years ago Tuesday.

Thursday, 6 June, saw the sixty-ninth anniversary of Operation OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of Hitler's "Fortress Europe," on 6 June 1944, D-Day. Western Europe—France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, & Norway—had been under Nazi occupation for four long years, parts of eastern & central Europe for even longer, & for all the success of the British & American aerial bombing campaigns the only way to wrest control of the continent away from the Führer was through a land invasion. General Dwight Eisenhower, later to be president of the United States, described the effort as the "crusade in Europe," a crusade to reestablish democracy, liberty, & the rule of law. Unambiguous evil held sway in the heart of Western civilization & only by meeting the Nazi war machine head-to-head on the continent could that evil be defeated. The brave American, British, Canadian, & Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day did so sixty-nine years ago Thursday.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ben Folds, "Zak and Sara" from Rockin' the Suburbs (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Guy & The Gal (Zach & Sarah) are in town this weekend!

Donnerstag, 6 Juni
Aram Khachaturian & the Wiener Philharmoniker, "Sabre Dance" (from Gayaneh) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I heard the "Sabre Dance" played at least twice yesterday on WKAR, the public radio station that plays mostly classical music, along with the morning & late afternoon N.P.R. news-cum-propaganda programs Morning Edition & All Thing Considered. Khachaturian, as was remarked upon both presentations of the "Sabre Dance," was born on 6 June 1903, one hundred ten years ago to the day, yesterday. Sweet mercy, I love that music!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Yes, M!ch!gan
Within the last year, both "local" public radio stations have launched new talks shows focused on the Wolverine State, sacred Michigan: from WUOM, based on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Stateside, & from WKAR, based on the campus of the Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing, Current State. I know not what is behind this sudden upsurge in love for "the Mitten," but I like it. When I was at the library picking up Kon-Tiki last week, I took a gander at their display of Michigan-themed books, & I just might take a look at one or two.

Si Quæris Peninsulam Amœnam Circumspice. ("If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.")

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Hippos, "Asleep at the Wheel" from Forget the World (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I probably won't be afforded the opportunity to slumber for at least another twelve hours.

"It's two in the morning, I'm tired as hell,
What am I doin' behind the wheel?
The lights have all blurred into a row,
How long I'll be up I just don't know.

"I'm fallin' asleep, asleep at the wheel,
This feels like a dream but this real.

"I've got a lot on my mind, I've been drivin' all night.
You can bet I'll be drivin' when out comes the light.
I've been on the road so long that I'm gonna crack,
I've been on the road longer than Jack Kerouac.

"I'm fallin' asleep, asleep at the wheel,
This feels like a dream but this real.
Well, I've had too much coffee to drink,
Caffeine's gone to my brain, I can't think,
I don't think I'll make it this time…"

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXLIII - The life & art of Ilya Repin (1844-1930).

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


"I went to a doctor, the kind that you talk ta,
And he said, 'The process is slow'…"

Sonntag, 2 Juni
The Puppini Sisters, "Panic" from Betcha Bottom Dollar (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I loathe Morrissey & the lyrics of "Panic" (the bit about killing anyone whose taste in music differs from one's own), but the song is intoxicating as sung by the original lineup of The Puppini Sisters & it was stuck in my head all the rest of Sunday after I uttered the word "panic" in conversation.

"Panic on the streets of London,
Panic on the streets of Birmingham…"

Samstag, 1 Juni
Superchunk, "Detroit Has a Skyline" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)