Saturday, August 31, 2013

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

Commentary: "The Victors" was going to be the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., win, lose, or draw. (Yes, I know the rules of college football no longer allow for draws.) The best thing about the Big Ten Network its inherent obsession with the Big Ten. To wit, the television coverage of to-day's game included the Michigan Marching Band performing their far-famed entrance routine, and the lyrics of "The Victors" were displayed on screen as the song progressed.

"Hail! to the victors valiant,
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes,
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The leaders and best!

"Hail! to the victor valiant,
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes,
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!"

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Savage Wars of Peace: Syria's Civil War

This weblog has long advocated for an American foreign & national security policy based upon aggressive intervention around the globe; I've causally referred to my wish to see America get into, on a full-time basis, the "arsehole-killing business," or A.K.B, though there is nothing casual about my desire to see this policy implemented. This weblog (yes, I am enamored of The Economist's habit of referring to itself as "this newspaper") has long criticized the Obama administration for its impotence & paralysis regarding the horrors of the Syrian civil war: Wayback Machine (scroll down to "Foreign Policy & National Security"). This author now finds himself in the unaccustomed position of defending President Obama's nascent plans to attack the Syrian Arab Republic without seeking "authorization" from the Congress, despite the unpopularity of this position. Make no mistake, though, I guarantee you that I will be dissatisfied with whatever our military response is, for it surely will not go far enough.

The Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian dictatorship of the Assad dynasty & the Ba'ath Party, is an enemy of the United States & the Western liberal democracies (N.A.T.O. & beyond, including the State of Israel; hereafter, "the West"). The Syrian Arab Republic supports terrorism; seeks the annihilation of Israel; fought a covert war against the Coalition in the Republic of Iraq; possesses weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons, & has covertly sought the atomic bomb); occupied & dominated the Lebanese Republic for decades, & still arms & supports Hezbollah; is an ally of Iran & the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea); & oppresses its own populace, both through an anti-democratic government & by the privileged rule of the Alawite (Shia) minority over the Sunni majority & the Christian & Druze minorities. The Syrian Arab Republic was developing the atomic bomb, in secret, before that effort was bombed out of existence by Israel, in '07. The Syrian Arab Republic is an old-school authoritarian state, an affront to decency & every man's inherent right to liberty. The overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic was in the interests of the United States & the West long before the Arab Spring erupted into civil war, long before the recent apparent use of chemical weapons to wage that war.

Military intervention to displace the Assad dictatorship & the Ba'ath Party apparatus & replace it with a friendlier government that would set Syria on the path to liberal democracy was advisable before the supposedly confirmed use of chemical weapons; now that poison gas has been used, such intervention becomes imperative. There are only three possible outcomes of the civil war in Syria: the Syrian Arab Republic survives, a more pro-Western government such as the Syrian National Coalition comes to power, or a jihadist, anti-Western government comes to power. The best time to act was two & a half years ago, when the civil war had just begun. In those days, jihadists had not yet become dominant in the opposition to the Assad regime & "moderate" elements could have acted in concert with U.S.-led Western forces. To-day, if the Syrian Arab Republic falls it will almost certainly be replaced by the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist factions such as the Al-Nusra Front & the Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant (formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq, A.Q.I.). If such jihadist organizations gained control of the Syrian Arab Republic stockpiles of chemical weapons, it would be nothing short of a catastrophe. The only realistic way to replace the Syrian Arab Republic with a Syria that is not inimical to the West is to intervene.

Earlier this week, on the spur of the moment, I posted the following to the FaceSpace. It is never my intention to rob the Peter of The Secret Base to pay the Paul of the FaceSpace, but sometimes my sloth & my vanity conspire to do just that & I allow myself to be lured in by the potential for a bigger audience on the FaceSpace, forgetting the sagacious maxim that quality is more important that quantity.

A note to my fellow right-wingers/conservatives: Yes, in '07 Senators Obama & Biden said that the President of the United States did not have the authority to act militarily without the explicit approval of the Congress, except in cases of imminent threat, & yes, in '13, as before in '11, President Obama & Vice President Biden are preparing to do just that, to act militarily without the explicit approval of the Congress. But the important point it not that they are hypocrites. They are hypocrites, undeniably so, but to insist upon this point above all others, such as America's vital national security interest in making sure all potential enemies no that the use of W.M.D. such as chemical weapons will bring down upon their heads the wrath & fury of the world's most powerful war machine, is to give credence to the absurd & incorrect positions articulated by Messers. Obama & Biden in '07. Do you really want to argue that then-Senator Obama was right? That then-Senator Biden was anything but a buffoon for bandying about the idea of impeachment? Both men were wrong, terribly wrong, in almost everything they said in '07. Do not now pretend that they were right then in order to say they are wrong now.

A longer discussion of the checks & balances 'twixt the the President of the United States—the commander-in-chief of the armed forces—& the Congress of the United States—solely empowered to declare war—is to follow, as is a discussion of the various options for waging war against the Syrian Arab Republic, from a punitive barrage of cruise missiles to a full-blown invasion aimed at regime change.

As ever, comments are most welcome.

Crime & Punishment
The only just sentence has been handed down in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan for the Fort Hood Massacre: Hasan-link. Now comes the long battle to see that justice is served, against a military justice system that too often seems to care not a whit for justice.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
John Philip Sousa, "The Stars and Stripes Forever" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Thus concludes the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s summer of patriotic tunes, which dates back to Independence Day & John Philip Sousa's "The Washington Post March." The fall has jumped the gun, beginning the collegiate football season, that ancient ritual of autumn, before Labor Day, the practical end of summer; to-morrow, we join in, & thereafter renew our regularly scheduled programming. In the meantime, though, enjoy "The Stars and Stripes Forever," enjoy the Labor Day weekend, & always remember that America is only as strong & as vibrant as her citizens. E pluribus unum.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Old Bethpage Brass Band, "Yankee Doodle" from The Civil War: Original Soundtrack Recording (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Martin Luther King Jr., "'I Have a Dream' Excerpt" from Plea for Peace (T.L.A.M.)


"I would like to discuss some of the problems that we confront in the world to-day, and some of the problems that we confront in our own nation, by using as a subject the 'American Dream.' Now I choose this subject because America is essentially a dream. It is a dream of the land where men of all races, of all nationalities, and of all creeds can live together as brothers."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLV

The Early Cold War, Part IV: The Greek civil war, the Turkish Straits crisis, & the Truman Doctrine.

Hello, Kitty
Diva is staying at the veterinarian's office overnight so that they might gather the necessary urine & stool samples to test for infection or other sickness. Poor Diva must be terrified out of her meager wits, because she really is a 'fraidy cat.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The New American Brass Band, "Hail, Columbia" from The Civil War: Original Soundtrack Recording (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Should these be called the United States of Columbia instead of the United States of America? Should we be Columbians—as distinct from Colombians—instead of Americans? Or is it best that Columbia remains a poetic name, unsullied by the contentious business of improving, restoring, changing, maintaining, building, and conserving this faltering & yet still great experiment in popular sovereignty that we call America?

If these were the United States of Columbia, would our national capital be Washington, District of America?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hello, Kitty

Diva has started to urinate outside of her litter box. This is distressing because if she does not stop, & soon, she will be consigned to the pound or put down at the veterinarian's office. Her littler box is the same as it has ever been, she's just stopped using it. She still defecates there, but in cleaning it out the last several times I've found little to no evidence of urination. Cease, leave, or perish—those are her options. Alas, she's a cat, & appeals to reason are lost on her; for her sake, I do so hope she's ill. She visits the vet to-morrow for diagnostic tests. She will certainly urinate in her cat carrier, as she always does, so maybe that will keep her from urinating on the living room carpet? Cease, leave, or perish.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Victoria Justice, "Make It In America" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The (Last) Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "The State of Florida" from GNV FLA (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I freely admit that the State Songs of the Day weren't nearly as fun as the preceding Municipal Songs of the Day. Perhaps I should have put this series out of its misery sooner. In any event, this is the end. Our series of patriotic songs, which began on Independence Day, will continue through the end of the summer, 'til Labor Day, but in a more free-wheeling style. "The State of Florida" succeeds as a song about a state, as a song about America, & as a song generally.

"Between the garbage and the concrete,
To the construction grounds under out feet,
A boomtown gone bust, a goldmine to dust,
Where latch key kids from divorces,
Transplants, and the foreign tourists
Fill up vacation spots turned trailer parks
'Cause this state is fading.

"And the city's skyline hasn't looked the same
Since the boom in south Florida's real estate.
It's turning into more than I can take,
Too much too soon, too little too late…"

I've always loved the signature line from "The State of Florida," repeated over & over at the song's end, "Too much too soon, too little too late."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm glad this is the last season of Burn Notice because, man, this is no longer the show I've loved since the pilot episode. When I learned that the now-current seventh season would be Burn Notice's last, I was not glad but relieved. The show was still good, but over the years it had lost a step. All good things come to an end, & it was time; Burn Notice hadn't yet overstayed its welcome & it could end on a high note. When Burn Notice finally ends in just two episodes I'm be more glad than relieved. This season hasn't been Burn Notice, not really. The creators—the writers, producers, & actors—they're trying to do something different, trying to conclude Michael Westen's story, but it's just not working. This just doesn't feel like Burn Notice. This isn't the send-off the television show I've loved for the last six years deserves, but in the immortal words of Mr. Skeeter, Esq., "Your Honor, it is what it is." By this point, I just want it to be over.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Mississippi" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Mississippi" is instrumental, without so much as an utterance of the word Mississippi. That is a crying shame, because Mississippi, as a word, is fun to say, fun to see, & tons of fun to spell. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Savage Wars of Peace: Crime & Punishment

Major Nidal Hasan
The trial of Major Hasan has been a national embarrassment, a black mark of which every American should be ashamed. Even as the major has all but swung from the chandeliers shouting that he did it all in the name of violent jihad, the Army has continued to toe the line, to insist that this clear act of jihadist terrorism was an act of workplace violence. The judge even attempted to instruct the jury that perhaps Major Hasan had merely lost his temper, prompting the major to correct her & insist that his murderous rampage had been the result of cold calculation, not the fruits of a fit of passion. Hasan screamed, "Allahu akbar!" as he commenced firing; gee, whatever could have been his motive? Yes, clearly he was just upset about workplace conditions. Maybe the copier jammed one too many times? I jest; such jesting is probably insensitive, but that it the level of respect that the Army & its political masters' farcical "workplace violence" narrative deserves. At the very least, the verdict has been passed down, & no longer is it obligatory to maintain the pretense that Major Hasan was only the "alleged perpetrator" of the Fort Hood Massacre: Hasan-link. We now await the sentence; our hope here at The Secret Base is that Hasan will hang for his crimes, the just punishment for all murderers.

Major Hasan would have pled guilty, except that prosecutors announced they would be seeking the death penalty. Military jurisprudence does not permit guilty pleas in capital cases. Which makes the following item all the more perplexing:

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales
Though disappointed by the sentencing of Sergeant Bales to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, I am inclined to conclude that in this case I should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good: Bales-link. The man should have hanged for his self-admitted "act of cowardice," the brutal murder of nearly a score of Afghan civilians. His crime is every bit as reprehensible as Major Hasan's, & Bales's body count higher, so my instinct is outrage at the court martial's acceptance of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence. Still, he had admitted his guilt & never again will be take a breath as a free man. Justice has been served, even as vengeance has not been satisfied. In the name of civilization, justice must suffice.

And now for something completely different:

Private Bradley Manning
The great thing about the Wikipedia is that anyone can edit an article, preventing groupthink amongst an insular board of editors from influencing the proceedings. The horrible thing about the Wikipedia is that anyone can edit an article, preventing responsible gatekeepers from protecting the resource from yahoos & vandals. Some bright spark has changed Private Bradley Manning's article to one about his female alter ego, "Chelsea Manning," including changing all the male pronouns to female: Manning-link. This is apparently in response Private Manning's request that he be so addressed, insisting, "I am a female." The chromosomal evidence argues otherwise. Private Manning also said of his illegal release of secret documents, "When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people;" the point here is that Private Manning is prone to saying & believing things that are demonstrably untrue, thus casting doubt on the wisdom of accepting his claims that he is female. He is free to change his name to Chelsea, but has not yet done so; thus, his Wikipedia article should still be about Bradley "Chelsea" Manning, not Chelsea Manning. (Compare this to Buzz Aldrin still being Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin at the time of the first moon landing. In 1969, "Buzz" was just a nickname, not his actual name.)

It is delightful to think that while the Navy's far-famed aerial demonstration team, the Blue Angels, remain grounded due to ham-fisted reductions to defense expenditures that some of the moneys the Congress has allocated to the armed forces to provide for the security & defense of our great republic will instead go to pay for Private Manning's hormore replacement therapy during his incarceration.

A Savage Week of War
We call this feature "The Savage Wars of Peace" after a line in Rudyard Kipling's unfairly maligned & misunderstood poem "The White Man's Burden." We call this a savage war of peace because we are fighting a war for civilization itself, a war against a shadowy, elusive, cowardly enemy. This war has exacted a heavy price in blood & treasure, & in three courts martial this week that heavy price has been brought home. The enemy is the "other," but he is not always foreign. All three defendants, now all three convicts, are Americans. Major Hasan slaughtered his fellow soldiers in the name of the enemy's cause, casting his lot in with violent worldwide jihad; Staff Sergeant Bales slaughtered the innocent, the very civilians he'd been sent to Afghanistan to protect, serving no cause but the wickedness within his own broken soul; Private Manning spilt no blood, but betrayed his country by revealing to all the world, including the enemy, secrets that were not his to disclose, secrets he had sworn to protect with his very life, placing his own ego before the protection of his fellow citizens. Three Americans, three traitors. This war has exacted a heavy price in blood & treasure; Americans have turned against Americans, the weak & the wicked have turned upon the brave & the innocent. The great danger of any war is not that one will lose one's life or limbs, but that one will lose one's very soul to the chaos & the carnage. We mark this week the conviction of three Americans, each of whom lost his soul in this savage war of peace. We are fighting for nothing less than civilization itself; I can promise you nothing except that more blood will be split & more souls will be lost before this war is won.

I spied a bumper stick to-day, bearing the emblem of the United States Marine Corps. It read, "America: Land of the free because of the brave." Spare a thought, or better yet a prayer, for the brave who defend the land of the free. Pray for their lives & their souls.
The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Montana" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Just as Iowa is a witch, Montana is a leg.

"Then it hit me that Montana was really just a leg
With the round part just the way you would expect,
And it started with a feeling but ended in a leg,
And it seemed to me Montana was a leg."

The liner notes of
State Songs includes a passage indicating that Montana is so vast that it actually requires two executives, the Governor & his arch-nemesis, the Anti-Governor.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, & the News | Autobahn
Michigan Radio (based at WUOM in Ann Arbor), one of my two local N.P.R. affiliates, has launched a disconcertingly persistent campaign to acquire my motor car & a great many other motor cars. I am used to N.P.R. advertisements enticing listeners to donate their motor cars to the local N.P.R. station, which will then sell the motor car & use the proceeds to fund station operations/pay N.P.R.'s extortionate program fees, but yesterday I heard two such adverts in less than a hour, & each of those adverts at least twice throughout the day. What goes on? Has the replacement of the staid Talk of the Nation with the pompous Here and Now emptied N.P.R.'s coffers? I have a Car Talk T-shirt & a B.B.C. mug from the halcyon days in Ann Arbor, before N.P.R. cast the Iraq War as the Vietnam War (rather, their inaccurate, conventional-wisdom narrative of Vietnam) & proclaimed Barack Obama the Pharaoh of the Two Lands; it is far better for N.P.R. to be supported by freely offered private donations than through the (necessary) coercion of public taxation, but National Propaganda Radio will never get its filthy mitts on the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile.

Also yesterday, I heard the following: "Support for N.P.R. comes from Al Jazeera America…" I'd just like to note that the current Emir of Qatar became the Emir of Qatar just recently (June 2013), when he overthrew his father, the previous Emir of Qatar, in a palace coup. Keep it in the back of your mind, when N.P.R. reports on the Middle East, that your "public" radio station is bankrolled in part by the Emir of Qatar's petrodollars.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Semisonic, "California" from Feeling Strangely Fine (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Golden State, land of myth & promise.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLIV

The Early Cold War, Part III: "The Sinews of Peace" (A.K.A. the "Iron Curtain speech") (5 March 1946) by Winston Churchill (1874-1965) & the Iran Crisis/Iran-Azerbaijan War (1946).

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an 'iron curtain' has descended across the continent."

Commentary: O, but I do so love maps!

The Savage Wars of Peace

Count me appalled by the light sentence given to Private Manning: hyperlink. The man is lucky not to have been hanged as a traitor, so a thirty-five-year sentence is exceedingly & excessively light, especially given the very highly likely scenario of parole long before he's served his full sentence. By disclosing massive troves of classified information to the anarchist website Wikileaks, Private Manning helped to cause the deaths of both American soldiers & foreign nationals who had aided our soldiers as informants & translators. There is blood on Private Manning's hands, & a hypothetical maximum of thirty-five years is an awfully paltry sentence for costing multiple lives.

Additionally, his actions were no less than an assault on popular sovereignty: The armed forces are authorized to classify whatever data they deem necessary by act of the Congress & directive of the president. The Congress & the president are in turn elected by the citizenry. In disobeying orders & violating the oath he'd sworn, Private Manning substituted his own judgment for that of the body politic; he elevated his own judgment above that of the sovereign citizens of the United States. Bradley Manning decided that he alone was capable of deciding what was in the best interests of the Americans, thus putting the lie to his self-serving assertions that everything he did he did "out of love for our country." (If you think me hyperbolic, dear reader, I beg you to refute this argument.)

Liberty & Union: Obamboozled
I will be surprised, pleasantly so, if President Obama does not either pardon Private Manning or, more likely, commute the remainder of Manning's sentence in January 2017, in the last days of Mr. Obama's administration. Please, please, please let me be pleasantly surprised.
The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Oregon" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Oregon is the adoptive home of Comrade Coquettish, leading to fond remembrances of the place, at least 'til the nightmarish recollection of the fog rolls into my mind. The fog, the fog…

"Oregon is bad,
Stop it if you can,
Here it comes, here it comes,
Now its after you,
Flee to someplace new,
Run away! Run away!…"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "To California" from Medium Rare (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "To California" is a song about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.

Monday, August 19, 2013

He's Dead, Jim
After getting too much sun (too many of the Accursed Sun's death rays) during Wednesday's hour-long cruise, for Thursday's much longer cruise & Saturday's trekking up & down the length & breadth of Back to the Bricks, I girded myself with S.P.F. 100 sunscreen & the Mark II wide-brimmed straw hat. I sport the traditional farmer's tan, with my forearms mildly sunburnt & my upper arms the pasty, freckled hue of my British Isle ancestors, but then again I look like that to various degrees almost all year round; even in midwinter, when hidden from the death rays of the Accursed Sun for months, my forearms never quite return to their base pastiness. So, the weekend's sun-defense measures seem to have been largely successful.

The Rebel Black Dot State Songs of the Day
John Linnell, "Utah" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 18 August
Ben Folds, "Kylie from Connecticut" from Way to Normal (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Kylie from Connecticut" isn't really about Connecticut, but is given credit here for the persistent use of the word Connecticut. Connecticut.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn

I was up 'til the wee hours of the morning playing Risk, then awoke to watch & investigate rugby while the Accursed Sun was still low above the horizon, & later spent hours & hours walking the streets of downtown Flint seeing all that was to be seen at Back to the Bricks under a cloudless sky, bathed in the death rays of the Accursed Sun. I'm knackered. I report my weariness not as a dodge, not to get out of blogging about the weekend's happenings in greater detail, but because that weariness is paramount amongst this weekend's happenings. By relating to you that I'm knackered I'm relating to you the central preoccupation of my attention for the nonce.

Also, Flint rugby is a pack of lies, & I kind of hate being as popular as I evidently am. Those are proper Last Angry Man topics of the old school. More to follow.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Arkansas" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Arkansas" is actually about a ship, not the state, but—well, you'll see:

"The designers of the
Were inspired to choose a form that was
The exact dimensions and the shape
Of the state whose name she bore.
Yes, the ship was shaped like Arkansas
And the hull was formed without a flaw.
Every detail had been reproduced
On a scale of one to one…"

Also, just this afternoon I began to consider using the Twitter, probably just to "tweet" the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., at least at first. Thoughts?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn

I accompanied my dad cruising yesterday. I shan't complain that we spend about twice as much time as I'd have liked doing this, because I had my chance to object & chose to hold my tongue. I saw American muscle by the bushel, more Chevrolet Corvettes & Camaros, Pontiac Firebirds & G.T.O.s, Buick Grand Nationals & G.S.X.s, Ford Mustangs, & Dodge Chargers than you could shake a stick at. I also saw at least three Oldsmobile 442s (!), sating that particular jones. I saw several Shelby Cobras, a few M.G.s, a fleet of '57 Chevies (or is that Chevys?), & at least half a dozen Porsche Boxsters. (Back to the Bricks isn't really about Porches, but I don't begrudge their participation, yesterday was a fantastic day to be driving around in a convertible with the top down. Or in a T-top with the roof panels removed, as we did with Dad's Corvette.) In the very exotic category, I espied a Lamborghini at the Shell filling station at Hill & Saginaw; two Ferraris, a white Testarossa & a black something I could not identify as I caught only a fleeting glimpse of the chrome prancing horse; & an Aston Martin also glimpsed too briefly to make out the model. The Testarossa was not the black 'Rossa I followed earlier this summer (Wayback Machine). Dad & I saw it turn into the Grand Blanc Mall "Mega Site," where it parked & we were able to take a closer look. The flat twelve-cylinder engine was a bizarre sight to behold. I'm not a fan of Ferrari & the Testarossa isn't a particularly beautiful motor car, but it was an opportunity to look at something rare, something foreign, something radically different from the legion of American muscle cars.

Neither dad nor I are doing anything Bricks related to-day, as Saginaw Street should be an almost impassable zoo from mid-afternoon 'til dark. I plan to be in Flint bright & early to-morrow to check out the local rugby club while Dad will be parking his 'Vette in the ever-expanding Corvette Corral, which should allow me afterward to walk around the cars parked on the odd bricked section of Saginaw (thus the name Back to the Bricks) at my own pace & without his running narrative of the horsepower particulars of late-'60s automobile; denounce me as a dilettante, but I'm not interested in the cars' exteriors than their engines.

He's Dead, Jim
After three hours of crawling up & down South Saginaw Street from the southern reaches of Grand Blanc to the southern end of downtown Flint, I exited my father's Corvette with a mild headache & a profound sense of being unwell. The seatbelt is just barely big enough to secure my elephantine physique & the 'Vette vibrates more than I'd like, but I attribute this to the hours spend breathing in the noxious exhaust fumes of 1950s, '60s, & '70s automobiles, the lion's share of them V-8-engined muscle cars. It does not help that the Corvette is very low to the ground, putting us that much closer to all those exhaust pipes.

Note to self: No more cruising, not just this year but henceforth. If you want to see the cruising cars, grab a lawn chair, a parasol, & a cooler & stake out a spot on the side of the road. (I recommend the west side of Saginaw outside of the recently-shuttered Tank Plant, on that little hill just north of the railroad bridge & Center Road.)

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Spike Jones & His Wacky Wakakians, "Hawaiian War Chant (Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wai)" from The Spike Jones Anthology (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn

The Back to the Bricks muscle car extravaganza, a new tradition that has quickly established itself as arguably the centerpieces of metropolitan Flint's social calendar, is upon us again. Equal parts cruise & car show, Back to the Bricks resonates with so many in the area because of its blue-collar heritage (in Flint's glory days, the workers on the line were able to afford the cars they built & drove them with pride) & D.I.Y. ethic (because even though this is a G.M. town a fastback Ford Mustang isn't going to restore itself). Yesterday evening, in an hour of driving around with my dad in his '79 Corvette, I saw several A.C./Shelby Cobras; the potential thrill of such sightings remained purely potential, because following motor racing has lead to a new appreciation for automotive culture, including reading both Car and driver & Road & Track, & so I now know that many a Cobra is in fact a latter-day replica, not the real McCoy. I saw hordes of Pontiac G.T.O.s & several specimens of the iconic '57 Chevrolet. The most amusing this I saw yesterday was a rusted out hulk with a wooden sign resting up against the windshield, reading, "1923 Oldsmobile—For Sale." As I remarked to my father soon thereafter, "All I want to see is an Oldsmobile 442, then I'll be satisfied." No joy yesterday, but it's early days yet; Back to the Bricks will intensify 'til reaching its crescendo Friday night & Saturday morning.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "West Virginia" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Bonus! Mittwoch, 14 August
Knickerbocker Four, "In My Merry Oldsmobile" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: When last I was in Lansing (reportage coming soon), I did not have the opportunity to patronize the Ransom E. Olds Transportation Museum, my favorite thing about this state's capital. Drat it all!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day

Last night, as I collected the trash to take to the curb after publishing the latest episode of "The Explorers' Club," my mother drew my attention to Zooey Deschanel as the guest-of-the-week on the celebrity genealogy television program Who Do You Think You Are? Mercifully, The Secret Base remains unseen by her eyes, but she knows of my insistent infatuation with this feature's eponymous actress/musician through my viewership of New Girl. Mom & I watch Raising Hope together, but she doesn't care for New Girl. Fine by me, there's no accounting for taste; after all, not even the erstwhile Mrs. Gibbard was inducement enough for me to sit through an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

What's Eating The Last Angry Man?
The fourth She & Him album is titled Volume 3, not Volume Three. For Pete's sake, their first two albums are Volume One & Volume Two, not Volume 1 & Volume 2! In the same vein, it is supremely annoying that the third Iron Man feature film is titled Iron Man Three even though the second is titled Iron Man 2. Volume 3 & Iron Man Three would be fine on their own, but their inconsistency is utterly at odds with the purpose of using numerically sequential titles. Consistency is all I ask!

Lest some captious bastard throws Emerson's line, "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," at me, please note (one) that I don't give a tinker's damn for the childish self-worship of Ralph Waldo Emerson & (two) that what he actually wrote was, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," the operative word being "foolish."

That's what eating The Last Angry Man.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLIII

The Early Cold War, Part II: The "Long Telegram" (1946) & "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" (A.K.A. the "X Article") (1947) by George F. Kennan (1904-2005), the "father of containment."

At a stoplight to-day I found the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile next to a blue Chevrolet Sonic with a Sonic the Hedgehog decal on the left front fender. This was exactly the bit of whimsy that the morning had theretofore been missing. Good show, Sonic owner! (The Sonic was the much better looking hatchback version. I cannot fathom why Chevy even sells the sedan version. Some models are simply meant to be hatchbacks; accept this & move forward.) I was not afforded the opportunity to inspect the rear of the Sonic, so I cannot report which trim/performance level was adorned with the Sonic the Hedgehog decal. Given the fictional hedgehog's speed, one would hope it was the most "hot hatch" Sonic, the RS.
The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Illinois" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Songs of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "The Upper Peninsula" from Michigan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The U.P. was on my mind quite a bit this weekend, ever since I passed through the kitchen while my father watched a television program called Aerial America that briefly recounted the Toledo War & Michigan's acquisition of the peninsula to the north of the Straits of Mackinac. I've not been to the Wolverine State's upper reaches since the 20th century; I shall have to see what might be done about that. The "Yoopers" might looked down their quasi Canuck noses at we "Trolls" of the Lower Peninsula, but we're all Michiganders, confound it!

Sonntag, 11 August
John Linnell, "Pennsylvania" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "La la la la, la la la la la la la la, la la la la, la la la la…"

Samstag, 10 August
Phantom Planet, "California" from The Guest (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Iowa" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The R.B.D.S.O.T.D. was going to be "Pennsylvania," neighboring the Garden State of Less Than Jake's "Never Going Back to New Jersey," but when I woke up this morning it was "Iowa" that was rattling around in my brain.

"Iowa is a witch, she's a witch,
She's a witch, she's a witch!"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLII

The Early Cold War, Part I: The Potsdam Conference, July-August 1945—The Potsdam Agreement, the occupation & dismemberment of Germany, the British general election, & the Potsdam Declaration.

Operation AXIOM | Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
Sixty-eight years ago to the week, 6 August & 9 August 1945, the Japanese cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki were destroyed by the world's second & third atomic bombs, the only such bombs to have been detonated in anger instead of as test articles. I've been pleased by the amount of coverage on N.H.K. World's Newsline, which is to say that I've been appalled by the complete lack of coverage in American broadcast journalism. I know that sixty-eight is not as appealingly round a number as seventy, but that seems a poor, lazy excuse. I've disagreed with much of the tone of Newsline's coverage, which I can only presume is a more or less accurate survey of Japanese public opinion & had thus focused almost exclusively on the horror of atomic warfare. Nothing has been said about the rôle of the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki in preventing an even worse catastrophe, an invasion of the Home Islands that would have produced as many as a million Allied casualties & all but wiped the Japanese from the face of the Earth. (This presumes that an invasion of japan would have played out as a larger-scale version of the bloodbaths on Iwo Jima & Okinawa, which there is every reason to believe would have been the case.) Two B-29 Superfortresses, the Enola Gay & the Bockscar, dropped the atomic bombs code named LITTLE BOY & FAT MAN on the cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, forcing the Empire of Japan's surrender—ending the Second World War—sixty-eight years ago this week.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Never Going Back to New Jersey" from Losing Streak (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I once sang the following to a stunningly beautiful girl from New Jersey, who was flattered & amused, & best of all, she knew of Less Than Jake (even though this part of the song isn't theirs but taken from some old bit of propaganda/boosterism).

"I'm from New Jersey and I'm proud about it,
I love the Garden State!
I'm from New Jersey and I brag about it,
I think it's simply great!
All of the other states throughout the nation
May mean a lot to some,
But I'll take New Jersey,
Brother, Jersey is like no other!
I'm glad that's where I'm from!"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "New Hampshire" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I never intended to organize the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s state songs series geographically, but "The State of Massachusetts" seemed the perfect follow-up to "Maine" & "New Hampshire" seems like the logical next step. That said, "New Hampshire" is more about a hobo or a mountain man than the actual State of New Hampshire, but having been to New Hampshire & having a kinsman (Uncle Lin) who resides in New Hampshire I adjudge Mr. Linnell's analogy fit & proper.

"No one likes New Hampshire, no…"

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Dropkick Murphys, "The State of Massachusetts" from The Meanest of Times (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Of course, there is no State of Massachusetts, no more than there are States of Pennsylvania, Virginia, nor Kentucky—they are styled commonwealths all. In this case, of course, the title might be grammatically correct, since the issue the song discusses is the state of Massachusetts, meaning some governmental organ of the Commonwealth, taking custody of a mother's children; the rules of American English require a noun like state to be capitalized in a song's title, even if the formal name of the Bay State is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I thought "The State of Massachusetts" an apropos choice to follow "Maine" since Maine was administered by Massachusetts before being admitted to the Union as a state in its own right in the Year of Our Lord 1820.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Loose Ties (sans frontman Phil) performed at the Local yesterday, a rare Sunday show. I also saw my pal Mister Luck's hip-hop group Bro-Bot & the comedic heavy metal band PleThorA. After I skanked my fat arse off during The Loose Ties' set, one of Bro-Bot's fan/friends called me "the life of the party." (My inclination is to quip, "Clearly, the lad has not been to enough parties," but I'm working on accepting compliments gracefully instead of being so boorish as to belittle myself immediately upon receiving kind words of praise.) In the moment, I thanked the lad.

"Ska, ska, ska…"

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Maine" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Grandma & Grandpa Wilson, may they rest in peace, had a cabin in Maine, on the shores of Rangeley Lake. Brother-in-L.A.W. hails from Maine & The Squeak & Benno have often & in future will often visit their paternal grandparents in Maine. So, Maine isn't just about grandparents, it's about paternal grandparents.

"Relaxing my my hands and knees,
Relaxing on my face,
Reclining in the bear trap
Of its tender, warm embrace,
Blessed with coniferous green!
Blessed with excitement and dread!
Exhausted from oversleep,
Awake but still in bed.

"Shaving razor's rusty
But the sting brings you exactly back to—

"Maine! is the world that went south,
Maine! is a punch in the mouth,
Maine! at the top of the chart
Has crushed my evil heart.
Maine! is the devil you know,
Maine! is the heaven below…

"Maine! is the poison you love,
Maine! is the hell from above,
Maine! at the top of the chart
Has crushed my evil heart."

Sonntag, 4 August
Less Than Jake, "The Life of the Party Has Left the Building" from GNV FLA (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "Say Yes! to M!ch!gan!" from Michigan (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Sacred Michigan will of course be over-represented in the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s state songs. This is right & proper given the nature of The Secret Base & the privileged position these pleasant peninsulas hold in my heart & in my mind. The most longstanding & loyal of these proceeding's readers originated in the Wolverine State, even as the lion's share of them, for unimpeachable reasons of necessity & self-interest, have since emigrated, & I trust that they will forgive me my preoccupation, my obsession with this blessed & blighted land of woe & wonder.

"Still I never meant to go away,
I was raised, I was raised,
In the place, in the place,
Still I often think of going back…"
The Queue
To-day, I reread David Schickler's short story "The Smoker," one of the interlocking tales that comprises his "novel" Kissing in Manhattan. I've read it four or five times in total, having been introduced to Schickler's writing around the turn of the millennium by my erstwhile friend-cum-object of desire Mrs. Sacramento. I was in a mood for its tale of oddity & certainty, of persons who know their minds even if they operate outside the bounds of normal convention. It was nice to read a bit of fiction again, after so many months reading naught but non-fiction. I've enjoyed & am enjoying that non-fiction, but there is nothing else quite so satisfying as quality fiction. The decline in fiction troubles me greatly; dismiss these lines as a jeremiad if you must, but we should lose something precious, something essential even, if we lose, if we abandon prose fiction. I love moving pictures as much as the next fellow, but they cannot give us what books give us, & non-fiction books cannot give us what fiction books give us. It was nice to revisit Douglas Kerchek & Nicole Bonner & the weirdness of "The Smoker."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
I woke up this morning to a very unpleasant sound, some sow on N.P.R. bleating* about the U.S. House of Representative's refusal to vote on a version of the U.S. Senate's immigration (amnesty) bill. There was no explanation for why the House should defer to the Senate's "comprehensive" approach, in which all manner of bad ideas are mixed in with a few not-so-bad ideas, instead of the Senate deferring to the House's piecemeal proposal, in which each individual issue would receive an individual hearing; instead, the sow simply scolded the House for not acceding to the Senate's nigh-divine wisdom. My question is: If it is wrong for the House not to vote on the Senate-initiated immigration bill, why is it not also wrong for the Senate not to vote on the House's numerous repeals of Obamacare? There was no room in the sow's propaganda spiel to address her rank endorsement of the Senate's hypocrisy.

N.P.R., your tax dollars at work.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Idaho" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The general plan is to alternate 'twixt John Linnell's state songs on odd-numbered days & non-Linnell state songs, like yesterday's "Missouri Waltz" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, on even-numbered days.

*Yes, I know that a sow is a swine & bleating is what sheep & goats do, but producing this particular mixed barnyard metaphor was very satisfying.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The other day I espied not a license plate but a license plate frame that caught my fancy, quite possibly the first to transcend its hateful kind. It was silvery with simple black lettering, reading: "Buckle up—I want to try something." I was thoroughly amused.

The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Missouri Waltz" from Glenn Miller's 50 Finest (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Loot

This year's birthday haul was pretty sweet, with off-list gifts (*) kept to a minimum & yet each a wild success.

Norman Stone, The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War
Mark Mazzetti, The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
Christian Caryl, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

Commentary: The only requested book I did not receive was the book I most wish to read, Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations by Norman Davies.

Motion Pictures/Feature Films

Motion Pictures/Television Series
The Aquabats! Super Show!—Season One!
Burn Notice—Season Six
Castle—The Complete Fourth Season

Commentary: The only requested television series I did not receive was the D.V.D. boxset I least desired, the new American remake of House of Cards. I want to see it, having seen the first episode via streaming Netflix at Xanadu, but it is a lower priority than Castle & Burn Notice, both established parts of my motion picture library, & the televisual genius of The Aquabats!

a blue Knights of Columbus baseball cap
a blue polo shirt, with two breast pockets*

Commentary: My new baseball cap bears the cross/dove/globe emblem of the 4th degree, not the more familial emblem of the Order.

Junk Drawer
a set of three Field Notes pocket notebooks*
a General Grievous Pez dispenser*

Commentary: The Field Notes are much thinner than the Moleskine notebook I've taken the carrying over the last several years, but this might be to my advantage as the Moleskines get beaten to a pulp residing in my right front pocket. The spines of both my first & current Moleskine are held together by electrical tape, used in lieu of others tapes becauses its black color blends in better with the Moleskine. The thinner Field Notes, though flimsier, might well better survive due to a shorter service life. Additionally, I would not mind a lower profile notebook, one creating less of a bulge. Field testing will begin soon, even thought the current Moleskine still has many blank pages.

Kith & Kin
Where's Teddy? was allowed to help "Grammy" (my mother) in the preparation of my birthday cake. That's all fine & good, I'm glad to see him old enough for that kind of faux job. The problem is that he was allowed to exercise his own, four-year-old creative vision. When my cake was brought to the table—thirty-four burning candles putting out quite a lot of heat—my toy of a Tumbler Batmobile (desert camouflaged, from Batman Begins) was sitting atop the cake, which was covered in small, hard candies called buds. The Batmobile was unfortunate, but ultimately of no consequence as it was cleaned off (emphatically not by me, since I hadn't sullied it) with minimal fuss. The buds were another matter. Where's Teddy? quite likes buds, & I do not object to them on their own, but they were wildly out of place on the cake. The objection is not one of form but of function. The hard buds fundamentally change the experience of eating a sort, almost gooey chocolate birthday cake. Your fork slide through the airy devil's food like a hot knife through butter, yet when the piece of cake is put into your moth the buds offer unwelcome resistance. They changed the consistency of the cake, even as they sat on the exterior, mired in the frosting. It is the thought the counts & I know Where's Teddy? thought he was doing something nice for his favorite uncle, but he's four years-old. He doesn't know the first thing about baking or food preparation. All he thought about the the individual goodness of buds, without sparing a thought for how the hard buds would interact with the soft cake. That's one of the reasons why he requires adult supervision. I am not surprised that Grammy failed to intervene while she was supervising, & the cake was still good, it just wasn't as great as a chocolate birthday cake with chocolate frosting should be, & I was ever so slightly disappointed.

Still, my heart is warmed by the memory of a two-year-old Where's Teddy? saying, without realizing what he was saying, "Happy birthday cake, Uncle Mike."
The Rebel Black Dot State Song of the Day
John Linnell, "Michigan" from State Songs, Vol. 1 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: To date, there has not been a second volume of State Songs. Unlike Sufjan Stevens's always hypothetical "fifty states project"—an album dedicated to each state of the union, as with his extant albums Michigan & Illinois—Linnell's project was feasible; there are songs of fifteen different states on State Songs, plus "The Songs of the 50 States." Keep up that clip & the Union would have been complete in two more albums & an E.P., or up the track count slightly & State Songs would be complete in three volumes. I'd love to hear all of those songs.

The R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s patriotic summer continues. Songs of America, some of them nontraditional, I confess, followed Independence Day for a week & a half. We've just completed a nineteen-song tour of America's great cities, Boston & Detroit double-dipping—Beantown in a doubleheader, the Motor City with a return engagement. We now turn our focus to the several states. Our great republic is the United States, after all, & in these troubled times a reminder that those united states are not mere provinces of the District of Columbia's empire would do us all good. But fear not, this is a political tangent I'm off on, not a partisan tangent; both of America's great parties have been guilty of imperial overreach in the service of their own ideologies & only through reform of the whole nation can we restore the proper constitutional balance.

Now to the music.

"O Michigan,
Exemplar of unchecked replication,
O Michigan, o Michigan,
The tank the fishes are in!

"Expansionist in spirit,
In letter borders obtain,
Don't hold us back, don't hold us back,
We must eat Michigan's brain!

"Now grow back Michigan,
We miss you again."