Wednesday, July 31, 2013

And now I'm out of gin. Fantastic.

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Superchunk, "Detroit Has a Skyline" vie iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Queue
I requested only non-fiction books for my birthday & was gifted three of the four requested. (Look for "The Loot" to-morrow or the next day.) The one I did not receive was, interestingly, the one I most wish to read. So, I've got a new batch of non-fiction books on the horizon, jumping right near the top of the queue. But at the same time "Presently" has hardly changed in months & months, & I really do wish to finish Burroughs's Barsoom series. A little self-discipline, old son; read what you've already got in the queue; the new books will still be waiting for you when you finish Clockers.

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

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics
Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World ***paused***

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
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill ***shelved***

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Billy Joel, "Allentown" from The Nylon Curtain (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Though "Allentown" is very much about the economic & social decline of Pennsylvania thirty years ago (titled after Allentown, but rather more about Bethlehem), it is easy to see parallels to sacred Michigan in the twenty-first century, especially in the exodus of kith & peers out of not just their hometowns but the whole state.

"And its getting very hard to stay…"

Monday, July 29, 2013

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

Commentary: At three minutes thirty-six seconds, "Move to Bremerton" is unusually long for an MxPx song.

"I'll change the street signs you drive down
So you end up in my town,
I'll redraw the maps all one by one
So they all lead to Bremerton.

"Drop out of school and run away,
Quit your job, you've got a place to stay,
Pack you bags ad hitch a ride,
Bremerton's a good place to reside…"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLI

Prelude to the Cold War: The Yalta Conference (code name: ARGONAUT), February 1945—The Roosevelt Plan & other proposals for the dismemberment of Germany, the partition of Poland, & the mirage of national self-determination.

Commentary: Cross reference with "The Explorers' Club" episodes LXXXII & LXXXIII, "The Berlin Blockade, Parts I & II."

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo" from Glenn Miller's 50 Finest (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: One could argue that "I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo" is more about the girl than about Kalamazoo, & one would be right, but I would still contend that memories of times past in Kalamazoo, the girl's social standing in Kalamazoo, & the narrator's literal journey to Kalamazoo are more than sufficient for inclusion in the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s celebration of America's great cities. Also, Kalamazoo is a fun word to type. Kalamazoo.

"Everything's O.K-A-L-A-M-A-Z-O-Oh, what a girl!"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Songs of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "They Came to Boston" from More Noise and Other Disturbances & The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "I Want My City Back" from A Jackknife to a Swan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: No, your eyes do not deceive you, sports fans, there are not one but two R.B.D.S.O.T.D., a first in the history of The Secret Base. Neither is a "Bonus!" R.B.D.S.O.T.D., both "They Came to Boston" & "I Want My City Back" are to-day's normal R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Both "I Want My City Back" & "They Came to Boston" are a native's screed against outsiders, be they tourists, college students (our nation's only desirable transients), gentrifying commercial interests, or transplants from outside the Commonwealth. (Sorry, The Watergirl; I'm sure they'd soften their attitude if they knew you.)

"I want my city back!
Back the way it used to be!
I want it back the way it was!
I look around and found
This doesn't feel like my hometown,
And I don't like the way it does…"

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
L.C.D. Soundsystem, "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" via iTunes (Michael P.)

Commentary: Recommended to me by Mrs. Skeeter, Esq., who was a New Yorker at heart even whilst still a resident Michigander. There are innumerable good songs about old New Amsterdam, including They Might Be Giants' "New York City" & Reel Big Fish's cover of "New York, New York" (& even more innumerable mediocre songs like Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind"), but none of the others are as solely concerned with the City That Never Sleeps as "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)" from Michigan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A smoking hot madwoman I know, previously code named Miss Alaska, once posted "Flint" to my debate partner's, Too Sly, & my FaceSpace pages, at first exuberant over having discovered a song about Flint & then saddened by the downbeat nature of "Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)."

"Driving to the riverside,
I pretend to cry,
Even if I cried alone…"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
John Lee Hooker, "The Motor City Is Burning" from The Definitive Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A lament for the city that died in the riots of 1967, possibly this country's greatest civil disturbance of the twentieth century. Pray be mindful of the English translation of Detroit's motto, dating from the great fire of 1805: "We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes."

"The fire wagon kept coming,
The sniper just wouldn't let 'em put it out…"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's Eating The Last Angry Man?

I had occasion this morning to motor along Center Road south of I-69 & during that sojourn I espied a small convenience store/stop-&-rob called the Center Road Market. The elevated sign by the side of the road read "CENTER Rd. MRK;" I habitually abbreviated the word market as "mkt.," but that's a personal preference & I know of no rule that makes "mrk." any less correct than "mkt.," that I still think "mkt." to be superior & "mrk." easily confused with, for example, "mark." That's really neither here nor there. What drew my ire was not the main sign but the solicitation just below: "Try our delicious taco's." Try your delicious taco's what? What is it that the Center Road Market's singular delicious taco possesses that passersby might wish to try? "Try our delicious taco's" is nonsensical & I narrowed my eyes in contempt. "Try our delicious tacos" would have been a warmly received invitation, your humble narrator having a curious affection for filling station food, & viewing convenience store food as a close cousin; "Try our delicious taco's" was tantamount to an insult, an obscene gesture directed at all of Western civilization. The barbarians are not at the gate, they are around us & amidst us—and they are butchering the mother tongue.

That's what's eating The Last Angry Man.
The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "City of Gainesville" from GNV FLA (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Believe you me, "Gainesville Rock City" was a strong, strong contender, but in the end I adjudged "City of Gainesville" the more direct commentary on L.T.J.'s home city.

"'Cause we're two truck stops off the interstate,
Promised land with a twist of fate,
We're a town for all the lost and found…"
Saturday night's blowout was an unqualified success. Red Patten expressed continual surprise that I remained as long as I did, remaining 'til quarter part three (3:15 A.M.), by which time he was slumbering on a couch in the living room. (The heat wave broke on Saturday, with afternoon high falling into the 80s° Fahrenheit after a week of high in the 90s°, but there was yet enough residual warmth that most of the party was out on the front porch & in the front yard rather than in the cramped living room.) I surmise his surprise was based on my relatively early exit from Friday's festivities at the Torch (which continued on to the hipster paradise of the Table & Tap after my departure), but methinks his expectations were based on faulty reasoning. I departed the Torch at around the same time I would have if the activity had been what I'd anticipated, what I'd scheduled: Torchburgers, beer, & highly stimulating historical/sociopolitical conversation with Red Patten. True, I didn't stick around for the night of raucous bar-hopping, but that was because I'd not anticipated a night of raucous bar-hopping & was in no mood for such a night after a hectic week of extracurriculars & before Saturday's blowout. I expected Saturday to be exactly what it was & had prepared myself to enjoy the kind of rowdy house party not often seen since I left Ann Arbor a decade ago.

There will be more on this later in the week, but not for several days as beginning to-morrow we will be having houseguests. One thing, though: I played my first ever game of beer pong on Saturday night (technically, it was Sunday morning by then) & discovered that beer pong is a giant lie. It wasn't beer pong, it was water pong. The plastic cups were filled with water, water the losers didn't even have to drink! I am outraged, & very, very disappointed in the company I keep.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
The Blues Brothers, "Going Back to Miami" (live) from Made in America (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCL

The Wuppertal Suspension Railway (Wuppertaler Schwebebahn).

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
The Blues Brothers, "Sweet Home Chicago" from The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The following snippet of dialogue does not come from the soundtrack album track "Sweet Home Chicago," & in the film takes place before the band beings to play "Sweet Home Chicago" in the Palace Hotel Ballroom, but it is overwhelmingly amusing enough to merit inclusion, all else be damned.

"Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"One small step for a man…"

Operation AXIOM
Forty-four years ago to the day, 20 July 1969, "men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon." They "came in peace for all Mankind." The first Moonwalk by astronauts Neil Armstrong & "Buzz" Aldrin (Colonel Aldrin has since legally changed his name from Edwin to Buzz, but in 1969 "Buzz" was still a nickname, & thus the quotation marks) was a watershed moment in history, Man's first footfalls on a heavenly body other than our home world. Truly, "one giant leap for Mankind." Men first walked on the Moon, forty-four years ago to-day.

We live in a jaded & cynical time, one in which idealism & self-assuredness are often derided as naïveté & arrogance, but there are yet those who recognize the epochal importance of Apollo 11 & strive to see that our pioneering heritage is not forgotten: infographic-link & confirmation-link. (I am sorely disappointed in the B.B.C., specifically in "Spaceman" Jonathan Amos for ignoring completely the confirmation that the engines recovered by Mr. Bezos's expedition are indeed from Apollo 11's Saturn V.) Oceanography & astronautics bound together in one fantastic story.


Operation AXIOM
Sixty-nine years ago to the day, 20 July 1944, a conspiracy by officers of the Wehrmacht to assassinate Adolf Hitler & seize control of the Third Reich failed when Hitler survived the time bomb planted in the Wolf's Lair (Wolfsschanze) headquarters by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. It is unknown & unknowable what would have happened had the time bomb fulfilled its mission: Would the remaining organs of Nazi power have wrested the reins of power away from the conspirators? Would the United States & the United Kingdom have broken faith with the Soviet Union & made a separate peace with a post-Hitler Reich? The Führer's wrath in the wake of the 20 July Plot was terrible, with mass executions & forced suicides, a fate that befell many who were not active conspirators in the plot, such as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The Wehrmacht, already withering under a two-front war, was furthered weakened by the purges, hastening at least somewhat the final collapse of Hitler's "Thousand-year Reich." Perhaps more importantly, the world has unassailable proof that not all Germans were Nazis, that not all Germans were willing & eager servants of the Führer's mad ambitions. The plot to assassinate Hitler failed, sixty-nine years ago to-day.

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Mu330, "Wide Awake" (live) from Oh Yeah! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: One could argue that "Wide Awake" isn't all that particularly about Saint Louis, but I would counter that any song by Mu330, performed in their native Saint Louis, is a fit & proper celebration of the Gateway City. Especially when Dan Potthast (A.K.A. Steve Roelle, the missing Roelle brother, at least within B.T.W.) opens the live recording of "Wide Awake" with the following:

"(Unintelligible), Saint Louis, we're Mu330, from Saint Louis, Missouri, the mighty city by the mighty Mississippi, and we'd like to thank you for coming to the rock and roll show! I want to know, Saint Louis, are you ready to rock? I mean, are you really ready to rock and roll?"

Friday, July 19, 2013

To-night's outing was meant to take place yesterday & consist of Torchburgers & a pint with Red Patton, a simply yet classic & delightful ritual. By the time I left to-night, our party consisted of nearly a dozen souls, the Torch was so loud that conversation was all but impossible, & the crush of bodies produced a heat that punished even the fit & the thin. What was meant to be the breaking of bread with a good friend became a warm up for to-morrow's rager, an all-night, no-holds-barred blowout to welcome the not-yet code named Kris back to America after a year spent studying abroad in Poland. One of the central tenets of MERCATOR is that I'm far more likely to regret staying in than I am to regret going out, but that doesn't mean that I never regret going out.
Kith & Kin
Water is essential to collegiate debate, & not only for the perpetually thirsty such as your humble narrator. Water fountains being in many places few & far between, & in any event stigmatized as uncool by far too many, bottled water is widely distributed. Of course, anyone who has paid the least bit of attention knows that bottled water is a nightmare of inefficiency, burning countless gallons of petrol & Diesel in its production & transport & producing mountains of non-biodegradable bottles as waste, all to produce water no cleaner nor more salubrious than that which flows out of the nearest tap in any advanced Western country. As the host of Nationals in 2011, the University of Vermont—with the largess of the Qatar Foundation—distributed reusable water bottles, offered no pre-bottled water, & pointed out the proliferation of water fountains on the campus. This was not the first time reusable bottles had been distributed, but Vermont's became the gold standard because of a unique feature: a flip-open lip, not just any flip-open lip but one that can be opened & closed one-handed. The cap is the problem with most water bottles; it must be unscrewed with one hand while the other holds the bottle still; even bottles with hinged lids often require the use of two hands, one to secure the bottle & the other to flip open the lid. But with the Vermont bottle one hand remains free while the other flips open the lid, raised the bottle to the lips, lowers the bottle, & flips closed the lid. At long last, the right tool for the job!

I've used this green plastic bottle almost every day of my life for the last two years. I took it with me to Ireland, I've taken it all over these Unites States, & it can almost always be found within reach of my right hand, even when I'm piloting the Lumi. (It is with me unless its cooling in the fridge during dinner, when I drink milk, or breakfast, when I drink orange juice, or when I'm enjoying a beer or a G. & T.) When Where's Teddy? was two & the bottle was new, he called it, quite logically, "Uncle Mike's bottle." One of his favorite activities was to pick up the bottle from a table across the room, carry it to me, open up the lid & hand the bottle to me, wait for me to take a drink, accept the bottle back & close the lid, & walk the bottle back to the table across the room. He would do this over & over again, for ten to fifteen minutes at a go without evincing the least sign of boredom. (My thirstiness or lack of same was quite beside the point.) The point of all this, & the reason why this piece is classified as "Kith & Kin," is that when last I was at Xanadu Where's Teddy? rechristened Uncle Mike's bottle as "Uncle Mike's canteen," because Where's Teddy? no longer used bottles but does have a canteen, a bright yellow canteen perfect for hot summer days spent digging in the sandbox or swinging from the swings. Will the bottle remain Uncle Mike's canteen or will it be renamed again as time passes?
The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
The Louisiana Gator Boys & The Blues Brothers, "New Orleans" from Blues Brothers 2000: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kith & Kin
The Guy rang my mobile this evening to wish me a happy birthday. He was exactly one week early, but it really is the thought that counts. I still have saved to my mobile the voice message he left last year on my birthday. I did not ring him back on the day, & after that the opportunity quickly got away from me. My birthday has been a large familial celebration ever since Where's Teddy?'s birth, so I'm not always able to interact with my kith as I might otherwise wish. I'm glad to have conversed with my dear friend & fellow Blue Tree Whacker. I thank ye for ringing, The Guy. I'm obliged.

We were each eager to share with the other the news that Ki-El, a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper an entertainment website, had interviewed the M.C. Bat Commander, the leader & lead singer of The Aquabats!, at the San Diego Comic-Con. Super rad!

I saw a Maserati GranTurismo yesterday, not in Ann Arbor or Bloomfield Hills but in Flint, on I-69 near the aerodrome. Bella! Bella!

On the opposite end of the automotive beauty spectrum, earlier in the week I espied not one but two Pontiac Azteks parked in a neighbor's driveway. One is ungainly enough, but two? A matching pair? Was the homeowner competing in a world's ugliest driveway competition? If so, that was a strong effort. Well done.
The Rebel Black Dot Municipal & Bonus Songs of the Day
Bob Seger, "Get Out of Denver" from the Bonus E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s celebration of America's independence continues all month long. I love this ad hoc project & am dedicated to it, but there are also moments when another song crops up & encapsulates something specific about that particular day. Thus, a pair of Bonus! Songs of the Day about the peculiarities of the last two days.

Bonus! Mittwoch, 17 Juli
Charlie King & Len Wallace/Sharon Abreu, "Abdul Abulbul Amir" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I was sitting at a fairly high-level Knights of Columbus meeting last night—please don't ask me how I permit myself to be roped into these things—when I said something, I do not recall what, that promoted a fellow sitting across the round table for me, a bigwig in the Order's state-level command structure, to say, "Ivan Skavinsky Skavar." I paused for a moment, then became to sing quietly the opening bars of "Abdul Abulbul Amir."

"The sons of the Prophet are noble and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir…"

Bonus! Dienstag, 15 Juli
Denis Leary, "Asshole" from No Cure for Cancer (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: As I was entering Tuesday night's regularly scheduled K. of C. meeting (Wednesday was my third late night in a row, all church-related), one of my brother Knights remarked, quite innocently, on the heat wave. I giggled & related briefly the context necessary to appreciate these apropos lyrics from Denis Leary's "Asshole":

"I walk around in the summertime sayin', 'How about this heat?'…"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Blues Brothers Band & Friends, "Viva Las Vegas" (live) from Live from Chicago House of Blues (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I'm not a fluent Spanish speaker despite years of instruction in the Grand Blanc schools, but I'm reasonably confident the title should be "¡Viva Las Vegas!" Lead vocals on this rendition of the Elvis Presley classic by "Brother Zee" Blues (James Belushi), biological brother of Blues Brothers' Show Band and Revue co-founder "Joliet Jake" Blues (John Belushi). The track, the last on the album, also features of brief reprise of Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose," the Blues Brothers' entrance & exit music.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Municipal Song of the Day
Nirvana, "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" from In Utero (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCXLIX

Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835).

Commentary: We stand on the cusp of the three hundred fiftieth episode of "The Explorers' Club." The two hundredth & two hundred fiftieth episodes seemed like bigger occasions, a natural consequence of growing older, growing wearier, & losing sight of so much of life's charm. Still, three hundred fifty! 350! XXXL! Coming your way in less than a week. Break out the party favors.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" from …Blow in the Wind (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: How in the Sam Hill did the San Francisco of yore ever become the San Francisco of now? Danged hippies!

"If you're goin' to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,
If you're goin' to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there…"

Also, the Gimme Gimmes give the song's title as "San Francisco," but it is properly titled "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," so I reversed R.B.D.S.O.T.D. standard overrode & went against the album's given song title. Using proper titles shall henceforth be standard operating procedure.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Queue
I would take everything under "Presently" with a grain of salt, if for no other reason than, "Always in motion the future is." Meanwhile, my admiration for Thor Heyerdahl knows (very nearly) no bounds.

I recently recommended Len Deighton's novel Winter: A Berlin Family, 1899-1945 to my mother. The prequel to the Bernard Samson trilogy of trilogies is about far more than espionage, & my mother became enthused as soon as I mentioned the book's multigenerational focus. I've never before recommended a book for my mother's consumption, so her reaction could prove interesting.

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 a 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***
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics
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
The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Bad Religion, "Los Angeles Is Burning" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s celebration of the independence of these United States of America continues, though now we shift our focus from generally patriotic tunes to ditties about the great republic great metropolises.

"More a question than a curse,
How could Hell be any worse?"

Samstag, 13 Juli
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "America the Beautiful" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
I've watched an episode of N.H.K. World's Newsline, N.H.K. being Japan's public broadcaster & N.H.K. World being N.H.K.'s international channel, & it was absolutely fascinating to see how much of the half-hour program was devoted to the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), specifically the rising spending on the People's Liberation Army, which contains all three branches of the P.R.C.'s martial services. (The P.R.C.'s naval arm is called, honest to goodness, the People's Liberation Army Navy.) Of course, were I Japanese, seeing the indecisiveness & impotence of United States foreign & defense policy under President Obama, I would be striving to raise the alarm about the continual rises in P.R.C. military spending.

I saw Newsline on one of the local P.B.S. stations. I am grateful for the chance to have seen Newsline, though this does not change my opinion that the national government ought not to fund P.B.S. & N.P.R.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Jonathan Winter, "Ross Perot Calling Every American" from Crank Calls (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Hi, this is Ross Perot, and I'm calling, uh, every American person I can think of…"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCXLVIII

The horrifying Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas).

The Elements of Style
A little context: The summer of '13 has been hot & rainy in Michigan, with consecutive days of sunshine in short supply & high humidity in sticky abundance. Sometimes it has seemed as if it will rain forever. I had occasion to motor through downtown Grand Blanc to-day & espied the following emblazoned on the sign in front of Holy Family, the Catholic church in the center of town: "Heavenly forcast: God will reign forever." I had occasion to turn around & drive past the sign heading in the other direction & there it was again, forecast misspelt as "forcast." Had I not been driving, I might very well have put my head in my hands. As it was, I shook my head in sadness. The cheeriest side of me is trying to be glad that reign was spelt correctly (as opposed to the misuse of rain or rein), but it's not enough.

On a similar note, the last time my father ran for the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives in 2010 (our district is so reliably Democratic that the Republican nominee is merely an irritant, an attenpt to keep the crooked local Democrats honest—or less dishonest), his campaign manager had printed up several hundreds of trifold pamphlets that promised my father would, if elected, "reign in spending." The campaign manager was mortified when I gently pointed out to him that he'd clearly meant the trifold to say "rein in spending;" I never brought the misspelling to the candidate's attention.

As a last note on spelling & grammar, allow me to present the following slightly ribald cartoon illustrating why the Oxford comma is not optional. (I should add Eats, Shoots & Leaves to the book queue.)

Courtesy Comrade Coquettish, who speaks English with an intoxicating Russian accent but not the stereotypical malapropisms.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Coming to America" from …Have Another Ball (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: As true to-day as it ever was:

"A short skirt,
A Gimmes shirt,
A Jones soda,
Ain't life grand?"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Xanadu & Risk: The Game of World Domination

Kith & Kin
I sojourned to Xanadu—the farmhouse in verdammt Ohio, not the pleasure dome of Kublai Khan—for the last weekend in June. Sleep was in short supply throughout, as the Kinder awoke early & my host insisted we stay up late deep in conversation. Where's Teddy? has added a new element to his playtime arsenal: combat. He adores the animated film Peter Pan as well as the pirate-themed quasi spinoff Jake and the Never Land Pirates, so assigning himself to rôle & the action figure of Peter Pan he assigns me the rôle & action figure of Captain Hook, at which point his Pan effortlessly defeats my James Hook. After a few go-'rounds he tires of the easy victories, but instead of perhaps allowing the combat to become more challenging or even letting Captain Hook win a bout, he has the crocodile regurgitate & reattach Hook's missing hand, which has the salutary effect of reforming Hook into Peter Pan's best & dearest friend. Fascinating how the mind of a four-year-old works! (I understand why there is not a television show featuring Peter Pan, recognizing that a boy who refuses to grow up is not the best model for constantly-developing pre-school kids, but I am troubled by the unabashed manner in which Jake and the Never Land Pirates both glorifies piracy & distorts history. Perhaps I should let it go & not read so much into a program for very wee bairns, but perhaps not.) We also play superheroes—Uncle Mike being the best in the world at playing—my nephew directing the Batman while your humble narrator directs Superman. In these games, the Batman not only has every superpower imaginable, but among them is the ability to grant Superman these selfsame powers. He asked me, "Superman, do you have sticky power?" (the ability to hang from the ceiling a la Spider-Man). I, mindful of Superman's canonical powers, answer in the negative. Where's Teddy?'s Batman then grant my Superman the ability to stand upside down on the ceiling without falling to the floor. (I yearn to explain to Where's Teddy? that because Superman can, like Peter Pan, fly, he does not need "sticky power" to stand on the ceiling, but the wee perpetual motion machine has no time for such explanations.)

The Cupcake is as sweet-natured as ever, though she's now inadvertently destructive as all one-year-olds are. I was left at Xanadu while Where's Teddy? was taken to his swim lesson on Friday & of course the Cupcake awoke almost as soon as the Olive, their minivan so named by Where's Teddy?, departed. I changed her diaper, only the second time I'd done so for any of my two nieces & two nephews since Where's Teddy?'s birth in '09. The first time, in early '10, I changed the Squeak's diaper, again because I was the only adult with the child. I love my nephews & nieces & I like helping to take care of them, but diapers are the preserve of those kin with "parent" as their degree of kinship: parents, grandparents, godparents. Uncle Mike is the children's favorite, "uncle" making soiled diapers not his problem except in desperate circumstances. I will dutifully if not happily change diapers once I am a father, but as long as I'm an uncle I will do a happy little I-don't-change-diapers dance from the sidelines. (I am the Squeak's "honorary godfather," honorary because she's never been baptized. As long as I'm not her real godfather, I am exempt from the godparental burden of diaper duty.)

We all tried to prepare Where's Teddy? for my departure, but when the time came he was on the verge of waterworks. I staunched the tears & dribbling snot with a reminder that I would see him only a few weeks, during his & the Cupcake's annual pilgrimage to sacred Michigan for the celebration of my birthday. This distracted/cheered him enough for me to get out of Dodge without witnessing a full blown meltdown.

I used the last of my several Firkin & Fox gift cards (prizes from repeatedly winning History Quiz Night) last Tuesday when I met Ska Army for a pint. ("Last Tuesday" meaning not yesterday but a week before yesterday.) He extolled the virtues of the Insanity exercise regimen & sang the praises of the motion picture Star Trek Into Darkness, calling the film "real Trek." As a Trekkie of long-standing & unimpeachable bona fides who knows his own mind & considers carefully his judgments, I feigned giving his opinion due consideration while actually duly disregarding such hogwash. Dishonest? Certainly, but 'tis only a little white lie. What good would it have done to insult the man by openly dismissing his views? The ongoing rape of Star Trek is such a personal, delicate matter to me that I find it difficult to moderate my words; it would have been worse to unleash my fury at J. J. Abrams & the "soulless minions of orthodoxy" at Paramount Pictures on poor Ska Army.

The next day, a week ago to-day, I motored the Lumi to the wilds of Tuscola County to Red Patton's abode for a game of Risk. I enjoy Red Patton's company immensely, but two factors marred the evening. Before the game, my host insisted that we watch the motion picture There Will be Blood, which had the dual vices of being uninteresting & tremendously long. I do not enjoy the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. Prior to There Will be Blood I'd seen & disdained Magnolia & Punch-Drunk Love. I know my own mind, I know my tastes, & I do not wish to be subjected to any more of the man's putrid, pompous motion pictures. Is that too much to ask? Alas, There Will be Blood is one of Red Patton's favorites & he was earnest in his hope that I would enjoy the film, so paying attention throughout & watching without complaint seemed the most polite thing to do.

For the evening's marquee attraction, the game of Risk itself, we were joined by another of Red Patton's chums, Mitch. After the initial moves, I made use of the Australian Gambit, Red Patton was using Out of Africa, & Mitch was playing Pinochle with Pinochet. It soon transpired that Mitch's unnamed green horde had a genuine chance of achieving the North American Dream, which would have spelt certain doom for both Red Patton's Yellow Peril & my Black Raj. This danger could not be tolerated, & both the Yellow Peril & the Black Raj thereafter committed whatever resources necessary to thwart Mitch North American Dream. Mitch interpreted this as Red Patton & me "ganging up on him," & he was surly & combative the rest of the incredibly long game. (The gameplay was lengthened by a two-to-one vote in the middle of the game, lost by me, to cap the number of armies gained for turning in cards to fifteen. Combining this arms control regime with Infinite Colt Fortification—which I think Red Patton adopted as a house rule for my comfort, though I assured his this was unnecessary—meant that no one could build up a large enough army to threaten to wipe out anyone else, resulting in a longer, less decisive war. War is hell; best to do everything you can to win it & get it over with quickly. Fighting a war on a shoestring without enough men, as the United States did in Iraq before "the surge," simply resulted in frustration, stalemate, & more bloodshed. If you seek peace, prepare for war; do not disarm yourself, thus inviting the aggression of bad actors.) It was one of the less satisfying games of Risk I remember, though not as frustrating as the previous game, with The Guy & Red Patton, which saw my every scheme & strategy undone by rolling the likes of which I'd only ever seen afflict The Ace, likewise kneecapping his chances of attaining world domination. Beggars should not be choosers, & Ares knows quality (even "good enough") games of Risk are hard to come by, but I have to believe that Red Patton & I could find a better third. (Mayhap even a fourth? Dare to dream.)

I'm not certain that I've ever experienced a darker night that when I departed Red Patton's house. There were no streetlights out there in Millington & cloud cover obscured the Moon & the stars. The night was pitch black in a way that never happens under the light-polluted skies of Grand Blanc. I had to use my mobile 'phone as a torch just to find my way to the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile. The extreme humidity in the air had fogged over her windows, making getting out of Red Patton's driveway without backing the Lumi into his sister's car more of an adventure than I'd wished. The bright lights of tiny Otisville looked like the Manhattan skyline after the ebon void through which I'd motored. Had I it to do over again, I'd have popped a squat on Red Patton's porch for fifteen minutes to let my eyes adjust to the nigh-absolute darkness before hitting the road.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Abyssinian Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from The Civil War: Original Soundtrack recording (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Golem, "Citizen Boris" from Citizen Boris (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The verses of "Citizen Boris" are in a question & answer style, representative of the citizenship test.

"Boris Hoffman, you are now a citizen of the United States, so help you God.

"What is the Fourth of July?
Independence Day.
What is the legislative branch of our government?
What is the Bill of Rights?
First ten amendments of the Constitution.
Can you name the forty-ninth state in the Union?

"…and I pledge allegiance
To my new land, America,
Good-bye my old passport,
I now renounce you…

"Green card lottery, Immigration,
Packing, dread, and jubilation,
(unintelligible) across the ocean,
Jury duty, income taxes,
Voting in all local elections,
If the army needs me, I will die.

"How many representatives in Congress?
Four hundred thirty-five.
What is the capital of your state?
It depends on where you live.
Who wrote 'The Star-Spangled Banner'?
Francis Scott Key.
For how long do we elect a president?
Four years…

"Cats and dogs and aunts and uncles,
Leave behind the loves and insults,
Six months of E.S.L.,
Jury duty, income taxes,
Voting in all local elections,
I can never be the president.

"Who said, 'Give me liberty or give me death?"
Patrick Henry.
Who elects the Congress?
The people.
What is the duty of the Supreme Court?
To interpret the laws.
Can you name the original thirteen States?
New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
And—um—uh—oh! New Jersey!…"

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Grand Funk Railroad, "We're an American Band" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

State of the Blog
Just like that, just when I'd resigned myself to the mandatory post titles, the mandate appears to have been lifted. A change of heart by the fiends at Google Inc.? A glitch? We shall never know, of that much only am I certain.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCXLVII

The extraordinary life & travels of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859).

Urbi et Orbi
By the end of June I had attended the celebration of Mass twenty-seven times in Anno Domini 2013. The good news is that this is above the informal goal of twenty-six Masses through the first six months of the year, a pace conducive to achieving the year's goal of fifty-two Masses; the bad news is that through April I was attended Mass an average of five times a month, putting me on pace for thirty Masses by the end o' June. Nevertheless, I am pleased by the twenty-seven Masses, especially considering that the first six months are shorter than the last six months, there being only three months with thirty-one days, as opposed to the latter half's four, & the year's sole month with a mere twenty-eight days. That's only three days, sure, but three days are nearly half a week, which could be quite significant given how the Sundays line up. Twenty-seven Masses in six months is also none-too-shabby given that just a few years hence my annual total was a paltry thirty-two. As ever, I count the number of Masses I see celebrated not for mine own glory but as a way to measure my mindfulness of the Lord's explicit commands & my submissiveness to His implicit will.

State of the Blog
I'm still irked by the imposition of mandatory post titles, but I am striving to make the best of a bad situation. Life, or more specifically Google Inc., has given me lemons & I am making lemonade. Worth noting is that I've never been fond of lemonade, having never found it able to slake my thirst.
The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "American Patrol" from Glenn Miller's 50 Finest (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 6 Juli
Toby Keith, "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)


"Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack,
A mighty sucker punch came flyin' in from somewhere in the back,
Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July…"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Google Inc. Is Evil

First Publication
This is a test. The recent changes to Blogger do not play nice with the Firefox browser. This is a test to see if the Safari browser interacts more smoothly with the new, relentlessly inferior Blogger. In the timeless words of Butt-head, "Testes—testes—one, two—three? Huh huh huh huh."

Second Publication
So far, so good.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day After Independence Day
John Linnell, "The Songs of the 50 States" from State Songs (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Thursday is the very best day of the week on which the Fourth of July can fall, because Independence Day thus leads into a four-day Independence Weekend! We here at The Secret Base are going to keep the slightly askew patriotic R.B.D.S.O.T.D. flowing through this weekend. E pluribus unum!

"The songs of the fifty states,
The songs of the fifty states,
No two alike but each connected by a golden thread…"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Operation AXIOM
Happy Independence Day! Two hundred thirty-seven years ago to the day, 4 July 1776, the United States of America was proclaimed by an act of the Second Continental Congress, through which the thirteen colonies declared their independence from the British Empire. The first modern democratic republic, the United States is the political, economic, military, & cultural leader of the world; there are to-day more persons living on Earth than ever before, & they are more prosperous, longer-lived, & more free than at any other time in the course of human events. America was at the forefront of the defeats of Nazism & Communism, & to-day leads the fight against Islamist terrorism. Twelve Americans have set foot on the Moon, the only humans to have done so. The American president is rightly described as the most powerful man in the world, as well as the leader of the free world. The United States is a beacon of liberty & the worlds greatest champion of popular sovereignty as the only legitimate basis for government. The world that would exist had the Unites States never been declared, or had the mad tyrant King George III of Great Britain prevailed in the Revolutionary War, would be unrecognizable to you & I. All due to the simple, unbelievably powerful ideas that no man has the hereditary right to control the destiny of another & that governments exist to serve the interests of the commoners, not the other way around. The Unites States of America declared its independence from the British Crown, two hundred thirty-seven years ago to-day.

Wrote John Adams:
"The [fourth] day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Independence Day
John Philip Sousa, "The Washington Post March" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Intrusive Mandatory Post Title

In Google Incorporated's infinite evil, post titles—in the ugly red script above—have become mandatory. This is entirely unwelcome & most unnecessary. Readers of The Secret Base will note that there are usually two to three titles per post, making it awkward to choose only one title per each post. Why should I be compelled to distill each post's content down to a single title? I thank Google Incorporated for once again illustrating that its watchword, "Don't be evil," is both necessary & routinely ignored by each & every employee within the corporation's vast soul-destroying bureaucracy. Google Incorporated is an enemy of freedom, an enemy of choice, an enemy of free will, an enemy of every human being in existence.

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

Dienstag, 2 Juli
The Blues Brothers, "She Caught the Katy" from The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording

Montag, 1 Juli
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Canadian Idiot" from Straight Outta Lynwood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It is sad to think back to how fond I used to be of the Canadas & the Canucks before I discovered that the Canucks are a duplicitous band of liars & smiling assassins. I know I should not hate them just because they hate me, but it is not always easy to live up to the Christian ideal.

Sonntag, 30 Juni
John Williams, "Prologue and Main Titles" (from Superman) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 29 Juni
The Aquabats!, "Pool Party!" from Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Freitag, 28 Juni
The Sandfleas, "My Baby's Got a Poopy Diaper" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: Not my baby, but I still had to change a poopy diaper, only the second diaper I've had to change since my nieces & nephews started to be born in '09. The Cupcake is adorable, but boy howdy was that a poopy diaper!