Monday, September 30, 2013


This is a four thousand six hundredth published post of The Secret Base of the Rebel Black Dot Society. 4,600 is not a particularly noteworthy number, like, say, 1,000 or 5,000, but it is round enough & large enough to justify this commentary. Of late, I've been much more interested in the metrics of The Secret Base. I've always championed quality or quantity, & still do, but in some ways that it a false dichotomy. (And I don't just mean in Stalin's famous formulation that, "Quantity has a quality all its own.") What I mean is that over the last several years I'd grown increasingly dissatisfied with The Secret Base, ruing plaintively that things weren't the way they used to be. The Secret Base had in many ways ceased to be a joy, ceased to be an inspiration in & of itself. Many days "The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day" was the only thing that prompted me to blog, & increasingly even those would be packaged into sprees of days' or even a week's worth of songs. This was in large measure a problem of my own creation; the fewer posts I published, the more pressure I imposed upon myself to stuff those posts to the gills with features, opinions, & amusing turns of phrase. This desire to make each post both massive & an event in & of itself lead to fewer & fewer posts being published, as each required more work, more inspiration, & more time to prepare. The less frequently I published the more The Secret Base felt like a job, & the less frequently I published as a result. This negative feedback looped looked & felt like a death spiral.

Numbers proved a life preserver to this sinking blog, this drowning blogger. The latest technological overhaul to the Blogger interface required a change of template; I was displeased by the arbitrary nature of this mandate, but if the fiends at Blogger weren't going to support The Secret Base's template then my only choices were to switch templates or give up the ship. The new template included not only a permanent archive, but publication metrics built into that archive. Lamenting that the enterprise was sick, that the good old days were the days of old, it did not take me long to realize one crucial difference 'twixt the salad days of yore & the present morass: Back in the day, The Secret Base was published a lot more often. I published three hundred eighteen (318) posts in 2012, the fewest since our foundational tear, 2002, when the interwebs were more primitive, "social media" was only just being invented, and The Secret Base had two hundred seventy-five (275) posts. There was a clear downward trend in the second decade of the 21st century, with 2011's three hundred twenty (320) posts, '10's three hundred twenty-three (323), & '08's three hundred twenty-two (322). The two most outstanding years of this blog's existence, as determined by volume of publication, were 2007, with five hundred ninety-one (591) posts & 2004, with an astonishing six hundred seventy-five (675) posts. That's a pace of almost two posts per day (1.85 posts per day), & almost a whole post per day more than '12 (0.87 posts per day). Quantity is not the same thing as quality, but my impressions & memories of the periods involved reveal that satisfaction with The Secret Base is directly proportional to the volume of publication; the more posts I published, the more posts I wanted to published, & the happier I was with what I published. There was correlation there, even if not causation.

As to the question of quality versus quantity, methinks my annual Mass-attendance goal provides a useful case study. The danger in counting the number of Masses I attend is that the goal of attending Mass could become to meet a quota rather than worship the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Ghost. Experience shows this to be an empty concern, a snare set by a devil to dissuade me from being more observant; the more Masses I attend, the better a Christian I am, the more tolerant & forgiving of my fellow man, the more generous in both spirit & action, the more cognizant of & joyful in the peace of Christ. In a similar way, though publishing the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. as an independent post could be dismissed as empty number-chasing, as cooking the books to impress the bosses; this, however, is rightly viewed as a trick, a snare of the dark bastard, a trap into which I'd been falling for years & years, to the detriment of The Secret Base & this disappointment of my treasured readers. No, publication breeds more publication. Publishing the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. as an independent post is not pulling rubes in off the streets & paying them to bulk up the audience in an second-rate magician's theater, it is the gateway to publishing two & even three posts per day. It is the path to a more persistent, more satisfying Secret Base.

After a rough start to the year, with five of the first six months of '13 failing to see an average even one published post per day, the last three months have seen a deliberate effort to raise the post-count & accompanying increases in your humble narrator's interest in The Secret Base & satisfaction with the blog being published. The salad days are not back again, not quite yet, but we're definitely back on track for the first time in years, since at least '07. This will be the forty-second post of September, the year's most productive month yet. This will also mean that through the first three quarters of 2013, two hundred seventy-three (273) days, two hundred eight-four (284) posts will have been published, an average of 1.04 posts per day. Nowhere close to '04 or '07, but better than any other years since that second peak in '07. Through the first six months of the year, one hundred eighty-one (181) days, one hundred sixty-eight posts were published, a 0.93 posts per day average. Over the last three months, ninety-two (92) days, one hundred sixteen posts have been published, an average of 1.26 posts per day. The road back to respectability (even if only self-respectability) & readability requires persistence & intentionality. Quantity is not the same thing as quality, but quantity appears to be necessary for quality.

Urbi et Orbi
Through the end of this month, I have attended Mass forty-four (44) since 1 January, well on the way to our annual goal of fifty-two (52) Masses, even without Advent & the Christmastide's flurry of Masses. I've also partaken of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) thrice this year, twice in the last week due to unusual circumstances.

This Sunday's first reading (the Old Testament reading, expect for a few special, all-New Testament Sundays a year), was a delightfully angry outburst from the Book of Amos. The following selection does not quite match Sunday's reading, but it amuses me more—Amos 6:1-3:
Woe to the complacent in Zion,
to the overconfident on the mount of Samaria,
Leaders of a nation favored from the first,
to whom the people of Israel have recourse!
Pass over to Calneh and see,
go from there to Hamath the great,
and down to Gath of the Philistines!
Are you better than these kingdoms,
or is your territory wider than theirs?
You would put off the evil day,
yet you hasten the reign of violence!
The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Pool Party!" from Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: Not to be confused with the altogether darker "Pool Party" by Mu330.

"Pool party, baby,
It was a cool party,
Cool pool party,
La la la la.

"The ratio of girls to guys is five to one,
There hasn't been a party like this since 1981,
Come to my party, let the games begin,
We've even got floaties if you can't swim.

"(Your pool rips!)
I cleaned it yesterday,
(Girls look cute)
In their swimming suits,
(Holy guacamole!)
We've got chips,
So come and take a dip,
'Cause my pool rips!

"It was a pool party for the cool kids at my school!
It was a pool party for the cool kids at my school!
It's so cool in my pool,
It's so cool in my pool,
It's so cool in my pool,
It's so cool in my pool,
Yeah yeah yeah…

"There's no pool at my school,
There's no school in my pool,
Well, there's no pool at my school,
So it's cool in my pool,
Yeah yeah yeah yeah!"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Party Songs of the Day
Sam Cooke, "Having a Party" from Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964 (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Sam Cooke!

Samstag, 28 September
Lyle Workman, "Flashback Party Weekend" from Superbad: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: If you visualize my weekend as having been like the flashback montage sequence from Superbad, you'd be both very, very wrong & ever so slightly right.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What's Eating The Last Angry Man?

I hate it when my time is wasted. Why was it necessary for all of us to be so there early if we didn't really start working 'til hours later? Why was it necessary for ten of us to sit around twiddling our thumbs while two persons went over paperwork to which the rest of us had no access? I waste plenty of time, but that is my time to waste, dash it all. I hate it when others waste my time through managerial ineptitude. I am struggling to measure up to Kipling's words, "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…" I hate it when something worthwhile becomes a burdensome waste of time when it should be fulfilling & invigorating.

That's what's eating The Last Angry Man.

The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "Party Down" from Monkeys for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "We just came to party hearty, hearty, hearty, hearty…"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Janice's Party" from Out-of-State Plates (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Standard Secret Base practice used to be to specify whether a song came from Disc One or Disc Two of Out-of-State Plates & similar double albums/collections, though this has ceased. I see no reason beyond pedantry to specify from which disc a particular song hails unless that listing provides additional entertainment value, as in the case of the two discs of the Reel Big Fish's double live album, Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album, both of which are separately subtitled, in the R.B.F.'s inimitable style.

"Well, I came this far and
Now I know that I won't sleep well tonight,
Drunk out of my mind at
Janice's party's alright, alright…"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Week in Motorsport

Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 13
Singapore Grand Prix
Sunday, 22 September 2013

Reigning triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10, '11, & '12) of Red Bull (Renault) dominated the Singapore Grand Prix as I'd never before seen, not even during his virtually unchallenged romp to his second world title in 2011. Starting from the pole, Vetel was overtaken by second place qualifier Nico Rosberg of Mercedes A.M.G. into turn one, but only because Rosberg carried too much speed into the corner; the Mercedes man overshot the turn, allowing Vettel to slide back into the lead, one he would never again relinquish. Vettel's opening stint was long, meaning he kept running longer than than anyone else on the softer option tires before diving into the pit lane, retaining the lead because all the challengers had already ceded time by pitting earlier.

He had built up a ten-plus second lead halfway through the grand prix when his future teammate, Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso (Ferrari), crashed into the tire barrier, bringing out the inevitable yellow-flag safety car period. (The Marina Bay Street Circuit has concrete barriers lining the track & almost no runoff; there is no grass to sailing into harmlessly, meaning almost every crash brings out the safety car. There has been at least one safety car period in every running of the Singapore Grand Prix.) The Ferrari factory team & Lotus (Renault) both took advantage of the safety car period to dive into the pits for fresh rubber, intending to run to the end on the harder prime tires. The Mercedes A.M.G. & Red Bull duos stayed out. Vettel's gap was erased by the safety car, though he quickly pulled away again. The problem, though, was that those who had not pitted under the safety car would never be able to stay out 'til the end of the race; inevitably they'd have to pit again, allowing the cars behind to leapfrog them into the lead. Vettel's only hope was to build up a large enough gap to be able to enter the pit lane, stop to have his tires changed, & exit again without giving up the lead; so, that's what he did. Vettel pushed like mad, burning away his tires, while his pursuers had to conserve their rubber in order to make their strategy work. Even so, what Vettel did was extraordinary. For lap after lap after lap he drove two second faster than the rest of the field. He had won the pole over Rosberg by one tenth of a second, such is the relative parity of the F1 field; to lap two second a lap faster than any other car, & to do so over a sustained period of laps, was unique in my experience.

His Red Bull teammate Mark Webber & the Mercedes A.M.G. duo of Rosberg & '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton had to pit for fresh tries, allowing double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) of Ferrari & '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen of Lotus to leap ahead. Vettel pushed & pushed & pushed, his lead growing & growing & growing. The pit lane delta at Marina Bay being around twenty-six second, Vettel built up a half minute lead over Alonso, pitted, & emerged three seconds ahead of the charging Spaniard—& while Alonso was on older primes that he still had to nurse to the end, Vettel emerged on a new set of softer, faster options, tires he hadn't had to use during qualifying. Vettel charged ahead, pulled away, & never looked back. By the drop of the checkered flag, Vettel was thirty-two seconds clear of the rest of the field; for reference, a lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit takes, on average, one minutes forty-five seconds.

Vettel was really & truly in a league of his own; the rest of the field, which includes four past world champions (Alonso, Räikkönen, Hamilton, & '09 World Champion Jenson Button of McLaren [Mercedes]), were left to fight over second place, which every competitor knows is just the first loser. Vettel has won three consecutive Singapore Grands Prix, & three consecutive grands prix in '13; he has prevailed in seven of this season's thirteen grand prix, having won five grand prix a season during his '10 & '12 championship-winning campaigns. He leads his closest challenger, Alonso, by sixty points, with six grands prix remaining, meaning Alonso has to outscore Vettel by an average of more than ten points to prevent the German from his fourth consecutive world championship. (For reference, to this point Vettel has outscored Alonso by an average over over four & a half points per grand prix.)

Next: The Korean Grand Prix, which Vettel has won two of the last three years; the Japanese Grand Prix, which Vettel has won two of the last three years; and the Indian Grand Prix, which Vettel has won both times it has been run. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Formula Fun!

By Endurance We Conquer
American Le Mans Series
Round 8
International Sports Car Weekend
Saturday, 21 September 2013

Three weeks after the crummy street circuit of the Baltimore Grand Prix (that's not a generic knock against street circuits, Baltimore's is bar none the worst street circuit I've ever seen), the A.L.M.S. shared the new Circuit of the Americas (C.O.T.A.) with the World Endurance Championship, the F.I.A./A.C.O. partnership that includes the 24 Heures du Mans. C.O.T.A. is less than a year old, its first race being last November's F1 United States Grand Prix, but it has already become one of the world's favorite circuits; it is simply fantastic.

The most important racing news is that not only did the № 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen & Antonio García win the race, but they extended their G.T. class drivers' championship lead over Dirk Müller of B.M.W. The № 4 Corvette duo of Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner suffered a severe blow by dropping out of the race with gearbox troubles well short of 70% total race distance, thus scoring no points, though they hung on to third in the drivers' standings. In the G.T. class manufacturers' standings, Corvette Racing (Chevrolet Corvette) holds a comfortable lead over B.M.W. Team R.L.L. (B.M.W. Z4), who are under intense pressure from third place S.R.T. Motorsports (S.R.T. [formerly Dodge] Viper).

United SportsCar Championship
coming 2014

The merger of the American Le Mans Series & the Grand-Am (sponsor) Sports Car Series was initially named United SportsCar Racing, which was not only aggressively dull but also awkward, leading commentators to talk about next year's United SportsCar Racing series. The name has since been amended to the (sponsor) United SportsCar Championship (U.S.C.C.). So much for their mantra "Getting it right, the first time."

The calendar for the inaugural 2014 season of the U.S.C.C. has been announced. It is a mixed bag, not the disaster I'd feared but not the triumph it could have been. The truly awful Baltimore race won't be returning (it is scandalous to confine prototypes meant to fly down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans to the concrete canyons of a street circuit) & the boring roval at N.A.S.C.A.R.'s Kansas Speedway has been deleted, but the boring roval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains from this year's Grand-Am calendar. The loudest complaints have been over the non-inclusion of Mid-Ohio & Lime Rock, two of this country's classic racing circuits. In response, the existing series' lame reply has been, to paraphrase, "This is only the first season's calendar. Those tracks might return in 2015 & beyond," once again putting the lie to "Getting it right, the first time." Still, there will be four genuine endurance races: the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 6 Hours of the Glen (Watkins Glen), & the season-concluding ten-hour Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta). That is welcome news indeed.

So, things could look better, but they could easily look worse (especially considering that the U.S.C.C. is owned—lock, stock, & barrel—by N.A.S.C.A.R.). Here's hoping they hew to the reputed last words of Harry "The Breaker" Morant: "Shoot straight, you bastards! Don't make a mess of it."

Commentary: Acknowledging that some of this blog's most long-standing readers would scarcely shed a tear over the final demise of "This Week in Motorsport," we here in editorial have resolved to adhere firmly to the title & publish not more than once per week. Thus, the summary of the remainder of the A.L.M.S. season will have to wait 'til next week at the earliest. We published the C.O.T.A. analysis in the firm belief that the first step to catching up is not allowing oneself to fall any further behind.

The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
The Wombats, "Party In a Forest (Where's Laura?)" from The Wombats Proudly Present A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation (T.L.A.M.)


"Am I in a scene from
A Midsummer Night's Dream?
I thought raves like these died in the '90s…
This is not my scene,
I should not be here tonight…"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Rebel Black Party Song of the Day
The Hold Steady, "Party Pit" from Boys and Girls in America (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Things go horribly amiss at the party pit, as they nearly always do in the songs of The Hold Steady.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yesterday, I exited the green grocer's to find the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile parked opposite a Holden—Holden, General Motors's Australasian subsidiary. Holden's are sold here in the U.S. but rebadged; the late Pontiac G8 was a rebadged VE Commodore while the new Chevrolet SS is a rebadged VF Commodore. I'm going to chock this up as one of the myriad benefits of being a citizen of sacred Michigan, still the heart of the American automotive industry, even after all that's happened. (A "This Week in Motorsport" aside: I root for the Holden Commodores, especially the works Holden Racing Team [H.R.T.], against the dastardly Ford Falcons in V8 Supercars.)

This afternoon, I saw my very first Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (the brand-new seventh generation Corvette, or C7) in the wild. I fought the madding crowd to snatch fleeting glimpses of the Stingray at the North American International Auto Show last winter, & I've seen many, many photographs as the car has received extensive & fawning coverage in both Car and Driver & Road & Track, but this was the first time I'd really seen one for myself. Holy smoke, that is the very motorcar of my dreams.
The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
That Loser That Always Shows Up at the Party with a Guitar, "Oh Sherrie" from Take Me Home Tonight: Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Sometime after midnight, some loser on the porch produced a guitar & proceeded to play the greatest hits of the Beatles. I had murder on my mind, but the better angels of my nature prevailed.

Dialogue from after the mercifully brief performance of "Oh Sherrie":

That Loser: "How you like that?"
Girl: "That was awesome."
Other Girl: "Was really good."
That Loser: "Yeah."
Girl: "I've got goose bumps."
That Loser: "I know."
Other Girl: "I love your sweater."
That Loser: "Thanks."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Party Song of the Day
MxPx, "Party II (Time to Go)" from The Renaissance E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Friday's party was not a seminal event in my life, but it was a fun party, & got me thinking about the number of fun party songs there are—not necessarily songs suited to being played at a party, but songs about parties. Thus, this brief series.

Long before the party drew to a close (& I really have no idea when it drew to a close, but it was still going when I departed at 3:00 A.M.), Super Mario, one of the residents of the Chevy House, expressed concern of how many of the guests he did not know, & voiced a desire for them to leave so that he could go to sleep.

"It's time to go,
I don't care who you are or who you know,
It's time to go,
I don't care who you are or who you know…

"This night is spent,
You're out the door if you're not paying rent,
This night is spent,
You're out the door if you're not paying rent…"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Victors

(№ 15) Michigan 24-21 Connecticut
4-0, Big Ten 0-0

Abandon all hope. The valiant Wolverines are arrogant, lazy, & stupid. Twice now they have entered a game unprepared, have failed to respect their opponents, & have been all but defeated. We will fail to win the Big Ten title again this year. We do not deserve to be ranked in the Top 25, & I hope the voters concur. Back to the drawing board.

Next: A bye week, followed by the conference opener against the luckless Golden Gophers.

Go Blue!

Also, have I mentioned how much I hate night games? I hate night games like the cancer, & I say that as a man whose darling mother is what they call a cancer survivor.

The Queue
I watched the pilot of the new series Sleepy Hollow & was fully prepared to be outraged by the deviations from the father of American literature's classic tale, variations of such breadth & substance as to render the show not just an imaginative expansion of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," but a cynical attempt to cash-in on the short story's enduring fame while borrowing naught but the most insignificant of details such as names & locations, & jettisoning entirely the story's spirit. Before I could be so outraged, I needed to re-read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" for the first time in twenty years or more; having done so, from a slim volume titled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, I am now duly outraged. Unsurprised, but outraged nonetheless.

I am halfway through Bad Religion, having finished "Part I: Christianity in Crisis" & standing on the cusp of "Part II: The Age of Heresy."

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Thor Heyerdahl, translated by F. H. Lyon, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft
Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

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 Party Song of the Day
Blink-182, "The Party Song" from Enema of the State (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: At Friday night's party at the Chevy House, from which I am newly returned, I heard some vile tales of fornication & debauchery, many disclosures that began, "I wouldn't be saying this if I wasn't drunk…." I did not experience the exact scenario described in "The Party Song's" lyrics, but a nineteen-year-old did lift up her dress—unbidden, I must stress—& expose her panties to my friend (code name: the Ginger, a sojourner in sacred Michigan) & me. Like most nineteen-year-olds, she possessed virtually no self-awareness but vast, baseless reserves of self-assurance.

"And then I saw her standing there
With green eyes and long blond hair,
She wasn't wearing underwear,
At least I prayed that she might be the one,
Maybe we'd have some fun,
Maybe we'd watch the sunrise,
But that night I learned some girls try too hard.

"Some girls try too hard,
And some girls try too hard to impress
With the way that the dress,
With those things on their chest,
And the things they suggest…"

"So when you see her standing there
With green eyes and long blond hair,
She won't be wearing underwear,
And you'll discover this girl's not the one
And she'll never be fun,
You should just turn and run,
Because you'll find out that some girls try too hard…"

Friday, September 20, 2013

King Tot (Red Patton) was defeated, but not dethroned. Shenanigans are suspected, but relatively innocent shenanigans, more in the realm of ineptitude than corruption. The weighing procedures used by the staff of Bar Louie are neither consistent enough nor precise enough to justify a 0.1 gram margin of victory (roughly half of one tater tot), but it is what it is. Defeated, but not dethroned. King Tot! King Tot! King Tot!

There is a going away party to-night at the Chevy House, involving most of the rascals from last night's Rock the Tot competition. Judging by the last party at the Chevy House, a welcome home party, this should be fun.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Icon for Hire, "The Grey" from Scripted (T.L.A.M.)


"How cold have I become?
I didn't want to lose you by what I done…"

This Week in Motorsport: Formula Fun!

Formula One World Championship
Round 4
Bahrain Grand Prix
Sunday, 21 April 2013

All Renault, all the time; Renault-powered cars owned the podium, with reigning triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10, '11, & '12) of Red Bull the victor & the Lotuses of '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen & Romain Grosjean in second & third. This was the exact same podium line-up as at the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Round 5
Gran Premio de España
Sunday, 12 May 2013

A very good day for Ferrari as double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) won & Felipe Massa finished third. The two Red Bulls were consigned to a relatively modest fourth & fifth; it is a tribute to the dominance Red Bull has displayed in winning the last three Constructor's Championships that finished fourth & fifth, scoring a boatload of points but putting neither driver on the podium, must be considered a relatively modest result. I can only ask you to take me at my word when I tell you that though I am a Red Bull fan & Red Bull has been one of the best teams since I started watching F1 in '09, I am not a fair weather fan of Red Bull Racing.

Round 6
Grand Prix de Monaco
Sunday, 26 May 1013

The "Silver Arrows" of the Mercedes A.M.G. factory squad, piloted by Nico Rosberg & '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, locked out the front row in the Principality. This was an ominous sign for the rest of the grid, since it is notoriously difficult to pass on the narrow, twisty streets of Monte Carlo. Vettel & Mark Webber of Red Bull (Renault) started third & fourth. The race was red flagged twice due to crashes & the necessity of repairing derangement of the protective trackside barriers. Both Red Bulls managed to pass Hamilton on the restart after the first red flag, but they could not find their way around Rosberg. Much was made of Rosberg's victory, as it cam thirty years after this father, 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, won the Monaco Grand Prix.

Vettel set the fasted lap of the race in the dying laps, even though it was clear he has no realistic chance to pass Rosberg. He was scolded by his race engineer for pushing harder than necessary, for taking an unnecessary risk. This is a common occurrence & a common dialogue, even when Vettel is leading grands prix by a mile. After the team told him there was nothing to gain by setting the fastest lap, Vettel replied, "But satisfaction."

Round 7
Grand Prix du Canada
Sunday, 9 June 2013

Vettel dominated around the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, finished over fourteen seconds ahead of the pursuing Alonso & Hamilton. The story of the weekend was Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas of Williams (Renault), who qualified his generally uncompetitive car third, ahead of Rosberg, Webber, & Alonso, et al., & behind only polesitter Vettel & Hamilton. Of course, in the grand prix Bottas was eaten alive, finishing a lowly fourteenth. (Though, really, that isn't that lowly a result of the nine times Constructors' Champions Williams. O how the mighty hath fallen!)

Round 8
British Grand Prix
Sunday, 30 June 2013

In the five years I've watched racing, this year's British Grand Prix was uniquely disastrous. In four separate incidents, on four separate chassis made by four separate constructors, a tire failed catastrophically all on its own. A racing tire, a highly stressed instrument always pushed to the limit of its performance, will often fail catastrophically if punctured by a piece of debris encountered on track (modern race cars are made of super lightweight carbon fiber, which shatters into razor-sharp shards), but here the tires were failing without any external cause. Pirelli, the exclusive "control" tire supplier, are simply incompetent. There's no way around it. They produced a substandard tire & then they gave the teams permission to use that tire in a manner that was almost guaranteed to cause a loss of, in '90s Star Trek parlance, structural integrity. I am aghast that the F.I.A. has not cancelled Pirelli's contract for 2014; it is too late to make a change for this year, but such ineptitude cannot be tolerated going forward.

Rosberg won the race after Hamilton suffered one of the four catastrophic tire failures & Vettel retired with gearbox troubles.

Round 9
Großer Preis von Deutschland
Sunday, 7 July 2013

Such has been the dominance of Vettel since his first full F1 season in '08 (he drove half of the '07 season, for the then B.M.W. Sauber & the Red Bull "B" squad, Toro Rosso [Ferrari]), that there are only three grands prix he had never won, the United States Grand Prix (run last year for the first time since, I think, '06; Vettel finished second), the Hungarian Grand Prix, & his home German Grand Prix. Germany & Hungary being scheduled when they are, Vettel had curiously never won a race in July. That changed this year as Vettel prevailed at the Nürburgring, barely holding off Räikkönen's Lotus. Grosjean's Lotus finished third, exactly recreating the Renault-dominated podium from Bahrain. (Vettel has yet to win at the Hockenheimring, the location of the German round in even-numbered years.)

Round 10
Magyar Nagydíj (Hungarian Grand Prix)
Sunday, 28 July 2013

There is a saying in auto racing, "Horses for courses," meaning different cars are best suited to different kind of circuits & a car that dominates at one track might be hopeless at another. The same is true of drivers. Hamilton is imperious at the tortuous, dusty Hungaroring, winning four of the seven Hungarian Grands Prix he's contested, '07, '09, & '12 for McLaren (Mercedes) & '13 with the Mercedes works team.

McLaren had been dominant in Hungary, winning five of the last seven races (Hamilton's triple; '09 World Champion Jenson Button prevailing in '11; & Heikki Kovalainen in '08, his only win in two years with the team), but they have fallen off the pace this season. Button & "Checo" Pérez finished seventh & ninth in the Magyar Nagydíj, & McLaren remain mired in sixth place in the Constructors' Championship standing, behind Force India (Mercedes). I am enjoying McLaren's tribulations as long as they last, for those crafty bastards will surely find their way back to the front of the field soon enough (next year or in '15, when they will be the first team to use the returning Honda's engines).

Round 11
Belgian Grand Prix
Sunday, 25 August 2013

In Formula One, most passes happen not on the straightaways but in the corners, not on the throttle but on the brakes. The exception to this is when one car passes another on the straightaway using the Drag Reduction System (D.R.S.), a gimmick that increases a car's straight line speed. Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix was held in mixed conditions, with rain waxing & waning. This, combined with the four-plus-mile length of the magnificent Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, made tire selection & timing very difficult decisions. Vettel qualified second, being pipped at the line by Hamilton. At the start of the race, Hamilton held the lead through the first corner, La Source, & lead the field toward the daunting Eau Rouge corner & the Kemmel Straight. Then Vettel drove right past him. D.R.S. isn't activated 'til after the second lap of the race, but there Vettel was on the first lap passing Hamilton's Mercedes as if it was standing still. It was a rare & incredible display. After that, Vettel utterly dominated the race, finishing ahead of the second place Alonso by almost seventeen seconds. (That is a lifetime in F1.) Hamilton finished third, another ten second back from Alonso.

In the Drivers' Championship stakes, Räikkönen's chances of a second world championship took a hit when he retired halfway through the race with brake troubles, dropping him from second place to fourth in the standings. Alonso climbed one spot to second & Hamilton was up one spot to third. Webber maintained fifth place in the standings.

In the Constructor's Championship, Vettel's win & Webber's fifth place finish (yes, mirroring their overall Drivers' positions) netted Red Bull thirty-five points. Mercedes scored twenty-seven with Hamilton in third & Rosberg in fourth. Ferrari raked in twenty-four off of Alonso's superlatively drive to second & Massa's seventh. Red Bull thus increased their lead while at the same time giving their competitors one less grand prix in which to make up that difference. A fourth consecutive Constructors' crown is looking more & more likely. McLaren outscored Force India by enough points to overtake the Indian team for fifth, with Lotus in little to no danger of losing fourth place.

Round 12
Gran Premio d'Italia
Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vettel dominated at Monza, the site of his first F1 victory, with Toro Rosso in '08. He easily lead from Alonso, who was flying the flag for hometown favorite Ferrari, even as the reigning triple champion's Red Bull was plagued by tire problems in the first half of the race & gearbox woes in the second half. Webber finished a strong third for Red Bull & Massa a solid fourth for Ferrari, further increasing the Austrian constructor's lead over the Italians. (Austrian because the team owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, is Austrian; Red Bull Racing's factory/home base is in England, one of eight of the eleven F1 teams to be so situated. Only Ferrari & Toro Rosso, in Italy, & Sauber [Ferrari], in Switzerland, are based outside of the U.K. Coincidence or no, they are all three of the Ferrari-powered teams.)

Despite Vettel's dominance, the drive of the day had to have been Nico Hülkenberg's, who qualified his uncompetitive Sauber third & held off the Mercedes A.M.G. "Silver Arrow" of twice-in-'13-race-winner Rosberg for fifth in the grand prix. Hülkenberg is rated by many as one of the most promising younger drivers on the grid, & a potential world champion, but he has yet to be given a competitive car. More on this in "The Silly Season." His work at Monza was highly impressive, reminiscent of his great drive at last year's season finale in Brazil.

On the podium, the highly partisan Italian crowd booed Vettel, displaying all the class & sportsmanship for which Italians are so well known. Vettel smiled throughout, surely stung, but also knowing that they booed only because he so thoroughly defeated the crowd's beloved Ferraris. For shame, Italy.

Next: The Singapore Grand Prix in the concrete canyons of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, this coming weekend, 20-22 September. A greater contrast to Spa & Monza is hard to envision, which is not to say that Singapore doesn't put on quite the spectacle. The race is run at night, under an artificial sun of thousands of lights that make the sponsorship liveries on the cars sparkle as they do nowhere else. Formula One? Formula fun!

The Silly Season
It was announced in the summer that this would be Mark Webber's last season in F1, that he was retiring from grand prix racing in favor of Porsche's new-for-2014 L.M.P.1 car, to challenge for victory at the 24 Heures du Mans & the World Endurance Championship. Said "Mr. Le Mans," nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, "Mark's always been a sports car guy, we just loaned him out to Formula One for a number of years." Partnering Vettel in the the reigning triple Constructors' Championship-winning Red Bull instantly became the best opportunity available to any F1 pilot in search of glory. Vettel had been promoted to Red Bull from Toro Rosso, so both current Toro Rosso drivers, Daniel Ricicardo & Jean-Eric Vergne, were contenders, as was Kimi Räikkönen. The point of Toro Rosso, beyond acting as rolling billboards for Red Bull Energy Drink, is to be the Red Bull junior team, to train up the next generation of Red Bull champions. While no one questioned the Kimster's superiority as a driver, some wondered what the alue was of even operating Toro Rosso if neither Ricciardo nor Vergne was given the seat vacated by Webber. Vergne was the first one announced to be out of the running, which I thought odd; yes, he doesn't qualify as well as Ricciardo, but in the races he generally finishes in a higher position than he qualified, & in the drivers' standing the Frenchman has only one fewer point than the more experienced (though only by half a season) Australian. In the end, young Ricciardo earned the golden ticket, but also the weight of expectations; everyone knows next year's Red Bull, the RB10, will be a superlatively racing machine, & the broadly smiling Ricciardo will have no excuses if he doesn't produce the required results. I wish the lad well, & look forward to cheering him on in place of the grizzled, forthright Webber.

So, both Red Bull drivers, Sebastian Vettel & Daniel Ricciardo, will be graduates of Scuderia Toro Rosso, which next season will switch from Ferrari to Renault engines. It is widely expected that Red Bull junior driver António Félix da Costa, currently competing in Formula Renault 3.5 (centerpiece of the World Series by Renault & roughly equivalent to G.P.2, F1's official feeder series), will partner the disappointed Vergne at Toro Rosso. The Toro Rosso seat is not that highly coveted on its own—though they do lie seventh in the Constructors', ahead of Sauber, Williams, Caterham (Renault), & Marussia (Cosworth)—but is now more than ever seen as the stepping stone to Red Bull. Will Buxton describes young Félix da Costa as "blindingly fast."

Though Felipe Massa came within one heart-breaking point of being world champion in '08 & the hearts of the entire F1 world went out to him after his devastating crash in '09, the cold, hard fact remains that he has run more consecutive races for Ferrari without a grand prix victory than any other driver in the history of the Scuderia. Thus, with the well-wishes of his teammate Fernando Alonso & the engineers, mechanics, & strategists of Ferrari at his back, Massa is now looking to join another F1 for next season. Räikkönen, who drove for Ferrari from '07-'09, winning the Drivers' Championship in '07, will move over from Lotus. "The Iceman" is a supremely talented driver & will surely score more points than the fragile & inconsistent Massa, but I am uncertain how Alonso will react. After he won two world titles with Renault in '05 & '06, Alonso made the jump to McLaren, where he immediately clashed with rookie sensation Hamilton. They fought & bickered all season, & wound up tied in points at the end of the season, one point behind Räikkönen. Since arriving at Ferrari in '10, it has been vitally important to Alonso that he is № 1 & Massa is a very clear № 2. There's not a lot of ego to the taciturn Finn, but he is also not one to be pushed around. Has Alonso learned to share his toys with an equal, or will he fume & sulk when Kimi refuses to kowtow to his raging egotism? Ferrari have upgraded their driver lineup, but have they sacrificed team cohesion? My hope is that Alonso has grow up; if that is the case, one would have to judge Ferrari as having the best pair of drivers on next year's grid.

After winning the ticket-to-F1 G.P.2 title in '09, Nico Hülkenberg drove the piggish Williams in '10 before being kicked to the curb in favor of Pastor Maldonado & the late, unlamented Hugo Chávez's petrodollars in '11; "the Hulk" spent that season as Force India's third driver before being given a race seat in '12. The Sauber was much superior to the Force India in '12, so for '13 Hülkenberg switched seats, only to have the teams' roles reversed, the Force India being competitive in the early races & the Sauber being rated as alternately the worst of the midfield cars or the best of the back markers, either way being solidly ensconced in eighth place even as Force India played Icarus by soaring up to fifth (being demoted to sixth in favor of the improving McLaren after Belgium). Some commentators, most notably the great David Hobbs, opined the McLaren would have been better served, between '12 & '13, in signing Hülkenberg to fill the departing Hamilton's seat, instead of Pérez. With the Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, & Mercedes A.M.G. lineups now set, the ride at Lotus vacated by Räikkönen is viewed as the most desirable drive left for 2014. Many are arguing that Lotus would be wise to sign Hülkenberg. It would be fascinating to see what the young German could do in a genuinely competitive car.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

To-night, Red Patton defends his unofficial title as "King Tot" in Bar Louie's annual tater tot eating contest. Many tater tots will be eaten, many tater tot will be thrown back up, 'tis hoped out of sight, out of hearing, & out of scent. Why cheer on a friend as he does something so pointless, so infantile? If you have to ask, you'll never know.

I've never liked the retro-styled eleventh generation Ford Thunderbird, but yesterday I spied the best-looking example of my experience. 'Twas painted a whitish cream with a broad red stripe running the length of the vehicle, from bumper to bumper. This was not enough to overcome to bug-eyed, port-holed T-bird's deficiencies, but it was less uglier-the-sin than the rest of its ilk.

On the same drive, I saw a Buick Rendezvous with the vanity license plate EXOTICL. I presume this is meant to be read "Exotic L," possibly a reference to its owner? I presume this because "exotical" isn't a word. The vanity plate is well named, as all is vanity, & most are unfortunate.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Proclaimers, "I Know" from Notes & Rhymes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An anti-war to which I was listening last night as I prepared the latest episode of "The Explorers' Club." I found it amusingly subversive to do so. I find fault principally in the bridge. Does it say anything about me that I often enjoy listening to music with which I disagree? Am I broadminded or just pudding-headed? Perhaps it says nothing at all. The crack against patriotism is particularly galling, since The Proclaimers have written more than a few songs about Scotland that could only be described as patriotic. Rank hypocrisy is par for the course.

"You'd lay your life down for this country,
Lay it down for fools like me,
I know, I know, I know you would,
You'd make the ultimate sacrifice,
Lose yourself on the throw of a dice
I know, I know, I know you would—

"'Cause the line you come from stretches back
In an unbroken chain other countries lack,
Every single corner of the world
Has seen our banners be unfurled,
You've won and lost and battled on
Whether the cause was right or wrong,
God knows what you do to the enemy,
'Cause you scare the living hell out of me.

"He'd lay his life down for his country,
He'd like to kill fools like me,
I know, I know, I know he would,
He'd make the ultimate sacrifice,
Blow himself to Paradise,
I know, I know, I know he would.

"And the line he comes from stretches back
In an unbroken chain other countries lack,
To the farthest corners of the world
Where they watched our banners be unfurled,
He's won and lost and bottled on
Whether his cause was right or wrong,
He's this generation's enemy
And he scares the living hell out of me.

"No more war, it's not gonna happen,
Not while there's men willing to fight in 'em,
No more war, it's not gonna happen,
Not while there's patriotism,
Not while there's patriotism,
No more war, it's not gonna happen,
Not while there's some saying
That this is the last one,
No more war, it's not gonna happen,
Not while religious nuts
Are willing to spill there guts.

"And the line we come from stretches back
In an unbroken chain no country lacks,
To the darkest corner of a cave
Where there's a weapon made to save,
Or gouge or choke or cut or kill,
In a hundred years we'll be fighting still,
I know, I know, I know we will."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLVIII

The Early Cold War, Part VII: The road to N.A.T.O., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—the Treaty of Dunkirk* (1947), the Treaty of Brussels† (1948), & the North Atlantic Treaty (1949).

*Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance between the United Kingdom and France
†Treaty of Economic, Social, and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence

The Girls of September '79

Many happy returns to The Watergirl, the belle of Boston! A good chum of your humble narrator, The Watergirl is bar none the best friend The Secret Base has ever had, nominating & passing along more R.B.D.S.O.T.D. than the rest of our readership combined. As if that was not remarkable enough, The Watergirl is the last woman standing, one of the only bloggy bloggers left from those early days of blogging, having self-published a succession of blogs since at least '02. There's much more to her than just those two items, but they suffice to give you a glimpse of her extraordinary nature. Happy birthday, Katie!

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day

The new season of New Girl debuted last night. Woot! Here's to another hilarious season of screwball hipsters in the 21st century, & characterizations that hit a little too close to home.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
She & Him, "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" from Volume One (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I am acquainted with a trained singer, a soprano, who loathes Zooey Deschanel's singing voice. Spite for this acquaintance is not why I like She & Him's music, but 'tis a delightful bonus.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yesterday, I espied an S.U.V. bearing the vanity license plate SEQUEST. Fans of SeaQuest D.S.V., later retitled SeaQuest 2032? It pleases me to think so, so unless & until presented with evidence to the contrary, so shall I think. SeaQuest wasn't a very good show, but it was part & parcel of the 1990s golden age of science fiction television.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dance Hall Crashers, "Whiskey & Gin" from Honey, I'm Homely! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: After last night's "High Spirits" post, there really was no other choice.

"I tried to offer him my shot of whiskey,
But he said, 'I only drink gin'…

"I drink whiskey,
But he only ever drinks gin,
Oh, that's the way it is with him…"
High Spirits
Breaking with the recent tradition of whiskey as the base of my nightcap, to-night I had a gin & tonic. I never questioned that the G. & T. was still my official cocktail, but if I had to-night's would have reaffirmed that official status. Whiskey's all fine & good, but I'm a gin man, a gin man who in some parts of this country is known by the nickname "Tonic."

gin & tonic > whiskey & tonic + whiskey & tonic > whiskey & club soda

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Hold Steady, "Girls Like Status" from Boys and Girls in America (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Girls Like Status" ends with a bout of call-&-answer, with an unruly chorus of male voices & an equally unruly chorus of female voices, each backing up the lead singer who advocates both positions.

"Guys go for looks," the fellows call.
"Girls go for status," the ladies answer.
"Guys go for looks,
Girls go for status,
Guys go for looks,
Girls go for status."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Girls of September '79

Many happy returns to Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. (née Skeeter), who to-day celebrates her birthday. My mind is a tad sluggish at the moment, so I've nothing to top last year's toast to her magnificence (plus, the theme of the day seems to be block quotes):
Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. is a wonderful representation of why I am so disdainful of most persons. Her mind is so agile, her heart is so black (her own colorful description), her tongue is so sharp, that I see the heights to which a Homo sapiens might aspire, & am repulsed by those who are satisfied with the depths to which they've sunk. Others simply pale by the comparison.
Our normally robust & gleeful "The Girls of September '79" has fallen on hard times, with Mrs. Blinky's (née Ham 'n' Eggs) & Mrs. Sacramento's (née Never Girl) birthdays having passed unnoticed, but it would have been unconscionable not to note Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.'s birthday, & make merry. Happy birthday, Julie!

It is a lovely bonus that to-day Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. left the first comment The Secret Base has received in well nigh a month. Woot!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Hey Julie" from Welcome Interstate Managers (Michael P.)

Commentary: An annual tradition & a great song off a great album to boot.

"Julie, I swear it's so hard to bear it,
And I'd never make it through without you around,
No, I'd never make it through without you around…"

Oh, wait, Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. lives in Old New Amsterdam & since her parents moved out-of-state she's never around. Crumbs!
The Victors
As long as I'm using The Secret Base as an aggregator of my other-site social media activity, this is what I posted to the FaceSpace regarding Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner's rank performance against the epithetless Zips of Akron:
Devin Gardner should never again be allowed to wear № 98.
Ninety-eight was Heisman Trophy-winner Tom Harmon's number, & 'til the Notre Dame game last weekend no valiant Wolverine had worn it since Harmon. Gardner remains our starting quarterback, & I still have high hopes for the lad, but after such an atrocious performance he is simply unworthy of the honor of Harmon's number & the accompanying commemorative patch.

As I remarked to my father last night, "We didn't lose that game, but we sure as hell didn't win."


The following exchange occurred yesterday. Following the exchange, a few conclusions.
Corpulent Trollop (3:20 P.M.): "Hey you seem interesting... I like that you're into writing and traveling. Do you want to chat sometime?"

T.L.A.M. (6:57 P.M.): "Ahoy, (Corpulent Trollop's user name), / Thanks for writing, & I would indeed like to chat sometime. Two caveats you may wish to consider: Fiction, in which your profile says you have little interest, is the kind of writing in which I trying to succeed. Also, though I loathe the ignorant self-righteousness of the "Tea Party," on ye olde American political spectrum I would be considered conservative, hewing to Edmund Burke's point that change is not always for the better. Should these concerns trump my bulk & my beard, I shall bear no ill will but instead wish you well in your continued pursuits; should my bulk & my beard carry the day, hello, how are you on this fine autumnal day? / Mike"

Corpulent Trollop (9:13 P.M.): "Hey Mike, I think you're sexy but I don't date conservative folks. Sorry we couldn't connect."
One, her profile indicates that the corpulent trollop is a chubby-chaser. Ewww. I'm a man, an individual human being possessed of dignity & worthy of respect, not a piece of meat. At least one of us thought the other was sexy, because her photographs revealed her to be not just corpulent but more than vaguely porcine. (If she didn't want to be judged as a piece of meat—gluttonously ample meat—she should not have started that game.)

Two, even the most cursory of examinations of the questions I've answered on the website indicate my right-wing politics & personal conservatism; this would have been easy for her to find on her own if she hadn't been blinded by fatty fat fat lust. This is the second time in my usage of this particular dating website (which was recommended to me by an acquaintance, in a good-natured but inept bid to alleviate my singleness) that a girl has nipped a discourse in the bud, citing conflicting political philosophies. Now, I'm not claiming that a compatible worldview is not a vital component of a lasting affair, & this might well lead to a good deal of convergence on political issues. But these incident are excellent illustrations of why I prefer to term "left-wing" to "liberal" when describing those who adhere to the Democratic Party & those who think the Democrats are not social-democratic enough. There is nothing liberal about refusing to converse with someone because of conflicting political beliefs. From Merriam-Webster's definition of the term.
liberal, adj.… not narrow in opinion or judgment: tolerant
There is nothing "liberal" about the conformity & intolerance of the American Left. Now, these are just two girls, hardly representative of left-wing thought in the United States, but they are emblematic of myriad other encounters & observations gleaned over the years, as a strain of this country's politics, while giving lip service to "openness" & "diversity," is increasingly strident & shrill in insisting on a very narrow & self-contradictory orthodoxy. One is reminded of film critic Pauline Kael's reaction to President Nixon's landslide re-election in '72, usually paraphrased as: "How could Nixon have won? I don't know anybody who voted for him."

Three, 'tis the corpulent trollop's loss.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Victors

(№ 11) Michigan 28-24 Akron
3-0, Big Ten 0-0

Let there be no doubt that the valiant Wolverines were outplayed in every phase of the game—offense, defense, & special teams—& that the coaches were outfoxed by their counterparts at the helm of the epithetless Zips. Akron's offense adjusted to the valiant Wolverines' rightly vaunted defense, making Defensive Co-ordinator Greg Mattison looks quite the fool. Offensive Co-ordinator Al Borgas looked even more inept than usual, directing a passing attack that was almost as likely to produce interceptions as receptions & a ground game that was kneecapped by holding penalties. Between the missed field goal & the terrible punts, Michigan's special teams looked anything but special. Let us hope that this is far & away the nadir of quarterback Devin Gardner's career, because the hapless nincompoop I saw to-day will get eaten alive in the midst of Big Ten conference play. Gardner threw three interceptions, each uglier than the last, one of which was returned by Akron for a touchdown, & Gardner also accounted for a fumble. The valiant Wolverines would surely have lost had not they been superior athletes to the epithetless Zips, & had those same Zips been better-served by coaches with an inkling of proper clock management. Let us hope that this narrow escape will serve as a wake-up call for valiant Wolverines made cocky by last weekend's victory over the vile Fighting Irish, a reminder that hard work beats talent unless talent works hard. Fielding Yost's ghost, that was embarrassing.

Next: The first road game of the year, at Connecticut.

Go Blue!

I've finished off the summer's Red Stripe just in time for the first cold snap of the fall, clearing the way for the Yuengling I brought back from my last excursion to *shudder* Ohio. I'm glad that Yuengling is now available as close by as verdammt Ohio, but I'm mildly annoyed that it is not yet available in sacred Michigan. Damn fine beer, Yuengling. Farewell 'til next spring, Red Stripe. "It's beer. Hooray, beer!"

High Spirits
Yesterday, I finished off the last of the club soda. It was offensive only in its blandness, & noted mostly for its complete inferiority to tonic water. (No wonder the Regis College debaters nicknamed me "Tonic.") The experimental Canadian Club has been exhausted, its place taken by an experimental fifth of Seagram's Seven Crown. A home-mixed 7 & 7 was nothing to write home about, though before the Seagram's is gone I should mix it with 7 Up one more time, just in case that first 7 & 7 was a dud. So far, though, tonic water is better than club soda & ginger ale is better than 7 Up. I've not yet tried gin & ginger ale, & I've had but a single whiskey & tonic, so it would be unfair to say definitively that tonic water is a better mixer than ginger ale or vice versa. Schweppes tonic water is better than Canada Dry tonic water. Canada Dry ginger ale is better (as a mixer) than Vernor's, which is not quite ginger ale. No decision yet as to whether Canada Dry ginger ale is better than Seagram's ginger ale; I've also not yet compared Schweppes ginger ale to either. I've no particular interest in fancy-pants whiskeys, plebian fare like Seagram's Seven Crown being sufficient for my experimental needs & blending in quite nicely with the rest of the grocery bill.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Bad Religion, "Los Angeles Is Burning" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This is not the first time that "Los Angles Is Burning" is the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. & this shan't be the last time that "Los Angeles Is Burning" is the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "The Shark Fighter!" from Hi-Five Soup! (Captain Thumbs Up!)


"Shark fighter!
Toughest man in the sea!
Shark fighter!
With his wavy blond hair flowing so freely!

"His only goal is a shark casserole,
His only creed is to make sharks bleed,
He is not mean, he's just getting even,
He will not die 'til all sharks cry!

"I gots me a knife, a bandana, and a topaz necklace,
Yeah, I'm extremely reckless,
I ride an otter like a motorcycle,
Yeah, I'm not kidding, man,
Yeah, I'm not kidding, man,
Yeah, I'm not kidding, man,
You know I'm just a—

"Shark fighter!…"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLVII

The Early Cold War, Part VI: The European Recovery Program, A.K.A. the "Marshall Plan."

Commentary: To your humble narrator, the Marshall Plan stands as one of America's finest hours. We dared not turn our back on the world as we had so many times before & are so dangerously close to doing again.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sam Cooke, "Jesus Gave Me Water" from Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964 (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Operation AXIOM

Twelve years ago to the day, 11 September 2001, over three thousand Americans were murdered by nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists who hijacked four airliners & crashed those aeroplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City, felling the iconic twin towers; the Pentagon, outside Washington, D.C.; & a field in Pennsylvania. The fourth flight, United 93, was thought to be bound for the District of Columbia, to be crashed into the Capitol or the White House, but fell short of its objective when the passengers fought back against their captors, sacrificing their lives so that others might live under the instantly famous battle cry, "Let's roll!" For a fleeting moment in time after that awful "day of fire," when it seemed as if the sky was falling, the American body politic was united as never before in my lifetime. As the world kept spinning & it was realized that 9/11 had been a profound national tragedy & collective trauma, but not the end of the world, we resumed the squabbling that is so often dismissed as petty, when in fact it is the hallmark of a deliberative republic, of popular sovereignty. But all of that—the "death of satire," the "Patriot Act" & color-coded terror warnings, Tora Bora, Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq War, I.E.D.s, "the Surge," the death of Osama bin Laden, 11 September 2012—all of that was yet to come. On 9/11 there was only horror & terror, fear & dread (all discrete sensations), heroism & compassion, anger & loss, fire & smoke. Aeroplanes smashed into the twin towers of the W.T.C., the worst ever act of terrorism on American soil, a dozen years ago to-day.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Patriot Day
Aaron Tippen, "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" from the Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Liberty & Union | The Savage Wars of Peace

I voted against Barack Obama twice, & I volunteered a score of hours to the Romney-Ryan ticket last year in order to help defeat the president's bid for re-election. Mr. Obama's foreign policy (or lack of same) has been a disaster for the United States & the wider world; only now, as he & his incompetent advisors thrash from one half-baked response to another over the uncivil civil war in Syria, has the American public & the wider world begun to see him as the feckless amateur I've always known him to be. (Our great nation's impotence & incoherence over the disintegration of Syria, the chaos in Egypt, Iran's pursuit of the atom bomb, & many other issues throughout the Middle East & beyond is just one piece of the "parade of horrors" about which I've been warning & lamenting since Inauguration Day 2009.) It is with trepidation & the near certainty of regret that I find myself in common cause with President Obama, Vice President Biden (against whom I voted twice, as Mr. Obama's running mate), & Secretary Kerry (against whom I voted in '04), et al., against the majority of my fellow Republicans & the majority of my fellow Americans, at least according to all the polling I've seen/heard. We must act in Syria: to punish the use of chemical weapons & deter their future use; to end the civil war that has claimed well over one hundred thousand lives in the last two & a half years & created millions of refugees & internally displaced; to topple the Syrian Arab Republic, a persistent foe of both the United States of America & our closest regional ally, the State of Israel; to strip the Islamic Republic of Iran of its closest regional ally; & to ensure that a post-Assad Syria does not fall under the sway of any of the several competing al-Qaeda affiliates currently campaigning in the country. Though as recently as yesterday I prayed for peace, I have concluded that force of arms is the only way to affect meaningful change & stave off a yet greater humanitarian disaster.

"Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Corinthians 16:14

I shall watch Mr. Obama's address this evening in the sincere hope that he exceeds my expectations & lays out a clear & persuasive casus belli. If we shirk our common duty now, if we shrink before the perceived difficulty of our calling, we shall all suffer the dire consequences—a more chaotic, more savage, less humane, & less secure world. There is no primary source evidence that the great Edmund Burke ever said or wrote the words widely attributed to him, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," but those words remain true nonetheless.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Bright Future in Sales" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Bright Future in Sales" was in my head as I lay awake last night, & was still there this morning. As I sweated through the reportedly hottest day of the year, I considered switching the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. to something about the lingering summer's heat. In the end, as you can see, considerations less of the exact moment prevailed in favor of "Bright Future in Sales."

The well-worn, still true chorus:

"And if I make it home alive—

"I'm gonna get my shit together,
'Cause I can't live like this forever…"

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Victors

Saturday, 7 September
(№ 17) Michigan 41-30 Notre Dame (№ 14)
2-0, Big Ten 0-0

There's good news & there's bad news. The good news is that valiant Wolverines scored an early-season victory over a ranked opponent & Michigan's third most-important rival, improving our record in that series to 24-16-1. The valiant Wolverines bounced back from self-inflicted adversity, adapted to shifting circumstances, & bested a club that vied for last season's national championship. The bad news is that quarterback Devin Gardner committed once of the worst blunder's I've ever seen, running into his own end zone &, once falling down in the clutch of an opposing player, throwing the ball up for grabs, leading to a vile Fighting irish touchdown that, at the time, narrowed Michigan's advantage to 34-30. Gardner did many good things in the game, performed many impressive feats, but the lack of poise & lack of awareness betrayed by the end zone interception sent chills up & down my spine. I was frustrated by the defense's soft pass coverage & the many short completions this allowed, but this is not to lose sight of the defense's overall success. The most worrying thing going forward is the penalty-prone nature of this year's squad, Team 134. The fouls against Central Michigan were ugly, but potentially excusable as first-game miscues; after a fairly clean first half, in the second half we committed a number of boneheaded infractions. Down the line, especially on the road, such prolific penalties might spell the difference 'twixt victory & defeat.

Next: The epithetless Zips of the University of Akron. This game could well be a trap, if we walk into it overconfident & thinking of the glories of the victory over the vile Fighting Irish.
Ohio's highways & thoroughfares have the reputation of being heavily patrolled by vast hordes of traffic cops. My childhood memories of the interminable drives to my grandmother & late grandfather's house square with this reputation, but more recent experiences do not. Over the last four years, I've motored to Xanadu alone at least half a dozen times, & never had I seen an Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser along the Lumi's route into rural Ohio, northwest of Columbus. This past weekend's journey was markedly different, with three highway patrol cruisers spied parked in the median of I-75 & US-23 on my way south & another three sighted on the way back north. This was unnerving. My theory is that this increased patrolling is some manner of reaction to Ohio's recently revised expressway speed limits, the limit on I-75, for example, being raised in some places from sixty-five miles per hour to seventy. It will be interesting to see the density of the patrols when next I return to *shudder* Ohio, the place where happiness goes to die.

This morning, I passed an old Alfa Romeo Spider on the expressway. The wee roadster was cream, a welcome departure from the stereotypical red, a result of the mistaken notion that all automobiles of Italian manufacture or even design should be rosso corsa, Italy's international motor racing color. Adding comedy to the sighting, the Spider was being trailed quite closely by a dark blue Ford F-250, the enormous pickup truck looming menacingly over the tiny Alfa.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Johnny Socko, "Full Trucker Effect" from Full Trucker Effect (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Hasselhoff" reminded me of how much I like Full Trucker Effect. 'Tis a concept album, the only such ska-punk album of which I'm aware, based around a fictional Chicago-based trucking company called Boraboriniski Bros. Trucking, replete with faux radio commercials. This fiction recalls to mind my old chum Captain Malice, who works for a trucking & logistics company in southern Wisconsin.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Johnny Socko, "Hasselhoff" from Full Trucker Effect (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: David Hasselhoff was spotted as a celebrity guest in the Red Bull garages at to-day's Formula One Italian Grand Prix. The R.B.D.S.O.T.D., it's just that easy!

"Feelin' more like David Hasselhoff every day…"

Samstag, 7 September
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I despise night games, especially night games inside the hollowed bowl of Michigan Stadium.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Someone to Love" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "And you're not the only one who's lonely…"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Victors | Urbi et Orbi

As I was leaving Mass last Sunday, a brother Knight pulled alongside the Lumi in his truck & said out the window, "This is all I have to say on the subject: Go Irish!" Surmising that he was referring to this Saturday's nighttime game 'twixt the vile Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame & the valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan, I replied, "I must respectfully disagree. Go Blue!" It is a source of recurrent consternation to me, the sheepish devotion so many Midwestern Catholics still owe to Notre Dame, even at this late date, as if that wretched hive of scum & villainy wasn't in perpetual open revolt against Holy Mother Church & the teachings of the Christ Himself. The University of Michigan is a godless institution where Marxists are accorded respect & every religion is to be insulted & dismissed as superstition (except, of course, Islam), but it does not pretend to be otherwise. Better an honest agnostic, I say, than a false Christian.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Jeff Landau, "Work and Satisfaction" from the Let Alone/Much Less E.P.s (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An acquaintance (a friend of a friend) from the halcyon days in Ann Arbor, Jeff "The Landau System" Landau released two E.P.s, titled Let Alone & Much Less. The pickle is that when I ripped them into my iTunes library I did so under the combined title Let Alone / Much Less, so I don't rightly know which E.P. "Work and Satisfaction" is on. Thus, to-day's inexact attribution.

"It seems so simple, but
It's so hard to do, I've found,
Can I find work and satisfaction,
Not either/or?
Can I find work and satisfaction,
Not either/or?"

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn

On the Saturday of Back to the Bricks, the ultimate day of the cruise-cum-car show-cum-celebration of Flint's glorious past, I awoke very early in the morning to be confronted with treachery by the appropriately named Flint Rogues, reputedly this blighted burgh's rugby football club. More on that another time.

It still being quite early for a the weekend, not even 9:00 A.M., I motored the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile home for breakfast, the apllication of sunscreen, & a brief rest. I was back downtown by 10:00 A.M., & commenced the long walk. I rang my father's mobile, knowing that he had left the house in the pre-dawn hours with his Corvette, a '79 painted a peculiar Ford shade of purple by the previous owner, but he did not answer. I, being old school, left a voice mail. From Kearsley I first walked north to the Corvette Reunion (nicknamed the Corvette Corral), over the Flint River & up now North Saginaw as it becomes M.L.K., then back down to where Saginaw branches away from itself & the transition to M.L.K. to remain Saginaw. I saw a great many Corvettes of all shapes & sizes, generations & colors. I even spied Dad's 'Vette, but he was not with it. I rather casually determined that this year I would see everything the Bricks had to offer, walking the length of the cars on Saginaw & on all the side streets. I did not pause adequately to consider to what I was really committing.

The following are my notes from the long afternoon's hike, jotted down in my new thin Field Notes notebook, replacing my thicker Moleskine. By no means did I write down everything I saw, the criteria for inclusion being, the thought fleeting through my mind, "I should make a note of this."

plate: ASK4MOE
Hurst/Olds 455 white w/ gold stripes
Corvette "Le Mans 50th" edition, 1 of 252
Just Hearse'n Around Hearse Club, Hell, Mich.
Oldsmobile Starfire
Stutz Bearcat
yellow Camaro SUE DENNIS sunvisors
M.A.R.C. of Excellence, Model 'A' Restorers' Club, "Repeal the Volstead Act" "...18th Amendment"
'73 Buick Riviera GS Stagel Boattail

In the course of the morning & into the afternoon I gazed upon thousands of automobiles. The vast majority of them were muscle cars, the vast majority of those from the G.M. stable (Flint being the birthplace of both General Motors & later the United Auto Workers), though there was a sidestreet for Ford Mustangs, another for the aforementioned Ford Model 'A' Restorers' Club (they spelt it Model "A," I'd have thought it was Model A, no quotation marks necessary), & throughout were to be found a handful of Chryslers, mostly Plymouths, most of those Barracudas. There was a single, brash Lamborghini; several Mercedes-Benzes, looking quite out of place amidst all the Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams with their glorious hood stickers; a couple of Porches; & a solitary B.M.W. Some folks have obviously missed the spirit of Back to the Bricks.

I walked & I walked & when my legs started to get tired I walked some more. I was sporting the Mark II wide-brimmed straw hat & S.P.F. 100 sunscreen, & I came through this particular duel with the Accursed Sun in fine shape. I saw one of my brother Knights of Columbus standing by his gorgeous mid-'50s pickup truck; he didn't recognize me at first, hidden as I was in that wide brim's shadow. We chatted for a few minutes, both of us being more interested in the cars' exteriors than their engine bays. When I'd seen all there was to see except for the rank of Pontiac Fieros I'd passed on my way in (& would pass again on the way back to the Lumi), I hiked back up South Saginaw to North Saginaw & said "Hello" to my pop, now seated in the retreating shade near his 'Vette. We compared verbal notes on what we'd seen, on which cars we liked best. I bid him adieu & began the long trek back my automobile.

It wasn't going to be that easy getting away. As I passed through the "flat lot" (an obnoxious name, since nearly all parking lots are flat) at the corner of Saginaw & Kearsley, I spied another of my brother Knights & stopped to exchange pleasantries. He insisted on buying me lunch, insisted, & thus I was trapped. I had my first ever meal of tacos from a taco truck (they were bland but unobjectionable) & listened to his sob story. He owns a '55 Chevrolet & had long been a participant in first the Woodward Dream Cruise & latterly Back to the Bricks, but this year he was just too busy, working on too many projects (he's a plumber), & he hadn't had time to spruce his car up in time for the cruise & show. He was bitterly disappointed, though he was putting on a brave face. We talked about his family & families in general & he urged me not to be in a rush, not to hurry to have children. This struck me as odd as I didn't think I'd expressed any specific intention of siring kids anytime soon, above & beyond my lack of resources to properly provide for any such wee bairns, but there it was. I listened patiently, but seized the first courteous opportunity to go our separate ways. I examined the Fieros & was terribly glad to park my arse in the Lumi's familiar driver's seat.

Another Back to the Bricks in the books. I had a grand time, but I am also glad it only comes once a year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Harvey Wallbanger" from Greetings and Salutations from Less Than Jake (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Most decidedly influenced by the recent "High Spirits" post & the ongoing experiments it describes.

"Throwing up all the bottles" (I think. That bit is pretty indecipherable.)
"Everybody drinks for free!
Hello, Harvey Wallbanger,
Saint Jameson's right next to me,
Throwing up all the bottles,
Everybody drinks for free!
Thank you, Harvey Wallbanger,
Saint Jameson keeps helping me…"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLVI

The Early Cold War, Part V: The Communist coup in Czechoslovakia (1948) & the murder of Foreign Minster Jan Masaryk (1886-1948).

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Cast of The Simpsons, "We Do (The Stonecutters' Song)" from Songs in the Key of Springfield (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Homer, a man who called himself 'You Know Who' just invited you to a secret 'wink, wink' at the 'you know what.' You certainly are popular now that you're a Stonecutter." I've got two Knights of Columbus functions to attend this week & at neither will we carouse like the Stonecutters. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish we did.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Victors

Saturday, 31 August 2013
(№ 17) Michigan 59-9 Central Michigan
1-0, Big Ten 0-0

Scoring fifty-nine points is always the sign of a potent offense, even against an inferior opponent. That said, I rather liked Coach Hoke's downbeat reaction after in the on-field post-game interview. The valiant Wolverines drew far too many flags, being penalized too many times for too many yards, & always fairly. The play of quarterback Devin Gardner at the start of the game was terrifying. Was it just first-game nerves? Still, we are not so far removed from the worst years of Michigan football in living memory, so I remain grateful for each & every victory.

Next: (№ 14) Notre Dame, under the verdammt lights at Michigan Stadium. This should be a stern test for the Maize & Blue; a victory would provide ample reason for optimism about the season ahead. I believe the valiant Wolverines will prevail.

Go Blue!

Operation AXIOM
Sixty-eight years ago to the day, 2 September 1945, the Second World War ended with the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan in a ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Victory over Japan Day was celebrated a fortnight earlier, on 15 August, but the war did not come to an official close 'til the Instrument of Surrender was inked. The war had raged properly for six years almost to the day, since 1 September 1939, but fighting had begun nearly eight years earlier than that, when Japan invaded Manchuria on 18 September 1931. The apocalypse of the Second World War claimed more lives than any other conflict in history, & nothing less than civilization itself hung in the balance. Civilization beat back barbarism, at least temporarily; remember what civilization has endured & what obstacles it has had to conquer before you despair over our latter-day travails. The Empire of Japan surrendered, ending the Second World war, sixty-eight years ago to-day.

Hello, Kitty
The veterinarians' office reported that Diva had elevated levels of bacteria in her urine, which was also more basic & less acidic than it should have been; so, twice a day we've been force-feeding her a few milligrams of a medicinal liquid. We also set up a second litter box in the downstairs water closet, to complement her usual litter box in the basement. She's evinced no locomotive difficulties, so I see no reason why she can't be expected to use her normal litter box location, but I'm game for almost anything that might lower the boom on her "inappropriate eliminations." So far so good, she's been using her new ground floor littler box & generally seems peppier & friendlier. I am very glad that the problem seems, for now, to have been medical rather than behavioral.

He's Dead, Jim
Diva doesn't like being force fed her medicine, but she's never been much of a runner so capturing her hasn't been a problem. Alas, when she was declawed her rear claws were left in place, per the vet's advice, & to-night she scratched me deeply as I held her for the evening dose. Just one claw raked across the blubber over my ribs, just below the left man-boob. I think she cut me, technically, since she drew blood, but if it is a cut its barely a cut & I'm comfortable calling it a scratch.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of Labor Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Workingman's Hands" from Sky Full of Holes (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

High Spirits
I've been experimenting with spirits, with an aim toward broadening my tastes. To this end, I acquired a "fifth" of Canadian Club, a bottle of club soda, & a bottle of non-Vernors ginger ale. I already had on hand a fifth of Bombay Sapphire gin & a bottle of tonic water (with quinine!). What I've discovered so far is that I don't like whiskey as much as I like gin (allowing that Canadian Club covers only a small portion of the wide range of whiskeys), tonic water is far superior to club soda (A.K.A. soda water), & that Canada Dry ginger ale is a much better mixer than Vernors (which, to be fair, is labeled as "ginger soda," not ginger ale). I had two fingers of whiskey straight up, to see what it was like; I shan't repeat that exercise 'til the next time I find myself muttering morosely, "I could use a drink." I remain a gin & tonic man.

A couple years ago, I ordered a Harvey Wallbanger on a lark. One of my companions asked me, "What's in it?" I relied, "I don't know, I've just always been curious."

Friday night, I joined Ska Army at the Table & Tap, because we were both in the mood for cocktails, not beer. I ordered an experimental 7 & 7, but the philistines didn't have Seagram's Seven. I've already cursed them as philistines. What more can I do?
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dropkick Murphys, "Worker's Song" from Blackout (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The long Labor Day weekend seems an apropos occasion to give vent to the Murphys' unfortunately simplistic leftist ranting. I am puzzled as to why the song is titled "Worker's Song" instead of "Workers' Song." Sure, it could be any individual worker's song, but the lyrics are all in the plural possessive, as if it is the collective workers' song, "We're…" this & "We're…" that & so forth. This is a critique, not a criticism. Happy Labor Day, all!