Friday, January 31, 2014

The Queue

I wrote fairly recently that the "Presently" queue should be taken with a grain of salt. This remaisn sage advice, but my sense is that the ship has been righted by geopolitical/historical non-fiction. So, I've decided to tempt fate by adding two books to the top of the queue. I've wanted to read Liberal Fascism since its publication, as I enjoy Jonah Goldberg's writing in National Review. The time is now in light of some truly frightening developments on the Left, including Governor Cuomo of New York's indefensible remarks about whom is & is not welcome to set foot in the Empire State. (Lest you accuse me of being in a right-wing echo chamber, recall that I most recently finished Mark Mazzetti's The Way of the Knife, a decidedly left-wing/quasi pacifist account of the War on Terror.) The Golem and the Jinni is a exploratory jaunt back into fiction; I've wanted to read the book since my mother brought it home from the library; the title at least leads me to think it might be useful fodder for Project PARAFFIN.

Christian Caryl, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni


On the expressway this morning, I espied two Saab 9-3 Aeros running nose to tail. The Saab 9-3 is common enough, but the 9-3 Aero is a rarer sight. Two Aeros, not just on the same freeway at the same time but running within yards of each other?

He's Dead, Jim
There was a lengthy spell, approximately two months, from November last year 'til recently, when I sported by black spectacles nearly every single day. I noticed yesterday that I hadn't been bespectacled in at least a week. I am blessed with sufficiently clear vision not to require permanently corrective lenses, as does every other member of my immediate family. The decision as to whether a given day is or is not an eyeglasses day is a judgment call, made early in the morning; it takes my eyes a little while to adjust to the lenses* or their absence, so I almost never change my mind later in the day. There are no elaborate criteria for choosing specs or no specs, it is a judgment call, a gut feeling. Why have there been no spectacle days of late? Your guess is as good as mine.

*Only the right eyepiece is a lens. The left is simply a piece of transparent plastic, as that eye has virtually 20/20 vision. So, yes, to the amusement of all it would be entirely practical for me to sport a prescription monocle.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Vampire Weekend, "Worship You" from Modern Vampires of the City (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Hipster rubbish, but catchy all the same.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I have a passing interest in vexillology, the study of flags. I recently encountered the following image, a conjectural design of a 19th century flag of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The chequy pattern is striking, & has quite caught my fancy.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLXXVI

The Tree of Ténéré (l'Arbre du Ténéré), the loneliest tree in the world.

Commentary: There is a Tatoonine-esque quality to the photograph of the tree's memorial, a quality I simply adore.
The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
The Knickerbocker Four, "In My Merry Oldsmobile" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The end of the road.

"Come away with me, Lucille,
In my merry Oldsmobile.
Down the road of life we'll fly,
Automobubbling, you & I.
To the church we'll quickly steal,
Then our wedding bells will peal.
You can go as far as you like with me
In my merry Oldsmobile."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, "Hot Rod Lincoln" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, January 27, 2014


Two unfortunate vanity plates that I spied to-day: 666SWAG & GODRULS, which I've read as "God rules," because I can't make any sense of "Godrul's" or "Go Druls." "666SWAG"? The number of the Beast & stolen goods? (Our friends at Merriam-Webster define "swag" as "stolen goods: Loot.") So, the car is stolen property received from Old Scratch? Or stolen from the Devil? As for GODRULS, while it is certainly true that "He rules the world," in the memorable phrase from "Joy to the World," it would be in quite poor taste is the vanity plate's owner intended it as something as crass as a Homecoming boast that "Seniors rule!" As I said, unfortunate.

Also, lately I've been entertaining the idea of equipping the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile with a vanity plate. What vanity plate? MAUSMBL, a serviceable rendering of "Mousemobile" (or at least "Maus-mobile").

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
King Apparatus, "Death Car on the Freeway" from King Apparatus (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I can't believe it took a week before the muse whispered "The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day" in my mind's ear. I mooted names for this post-auto show series of motorcar-themed songs like "The Rebel Black Dot Car Song of the Day" & "The Rebel Black Dot Automotive Song of the Day," but ultimately decided in favor of the standard R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Then "The R.B.D.O.T.S.O.T.D." struck my brain like a bolt from the clear blue sky, purposeful & perfect. I'm going to retroactively relabel all the pre-D.O.T. songs, just as the N.F.L. retroactively renamed the first two Super Bowls as Super Bowl I & Super Bowl II, even though the first named "Super Bowl" was Super Bowl III.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Stop Draggin' My Car Around" from "Weird Al" Yankovic (T.L.A.M.)


"Took my baby to the local disco,
I was jumpin' like a maniac,
But the owner came and pulled me off the floor,
Then he, he took me to his little office in the back.
He said, 'I really like your Snaggletooth necklace,
Your pants are groovy and your hair's O.K.,
But, man, that car of yours is so uncool.
Like, wow, I'm sorry, but we towed it away.'

"Stop draggin' my,
Stop draggin' my,
Stop draggin' my car around!"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLXXV

Smedley Butler's cock-&-bull account of the "Business Plot."

The Queue
The central problem with The Way of the Knife is that author Mark Mazzetti neither confines himself to simply reporting nor extends himself to offer a useful critique of how the national security & defense apparatus of the United States has executed the War on Terror in the decade-plus since 9/11. Mazzetti states emphatically the the C.I.A. should not be used as a paramilitary force to capture & kill jihadist terrorists. he also asserts that the uniformed services of the Defense Department should not conduct missions outside of declared war zones, such as Afghanistan & formerly Iraq. The practical effect of this would be for al-Qaeda to operate with impunity inside the tribal areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, & Libya, et al. Mazzetti does not confine himself to simply reporting on the growth of the C.I.A. as a paramilitary killing machine & the intrusion of the Pentagon into the world of espionage. No, he takes it upon himself to denounce the entire history of covert action. (He doesn't confine himself to the post-1947 C.I.A., either, but reports the opinions of Churchill's S.O.E. that the American O.S.S. was reckless in carrying out sabotage inside Hitler's Fortress Europe. Mazzetti never bothers to report to his audience that M.I.6 held as dim a view of S.O.E. as S.O.E. did of O.S.S., casting S.O.E.'s remarks in an entirely new & possible envious light.) Worse than this, though, is that once Mazzetti has stepped beyond his brief as a reporter & offered his analysis & opinions about how the War on Terror has been conducted, he never takes the necessary step beyond to offer an alternative. He details the impotence inside a pre-9/11 C.I.A. & Defense Department that lacked the tools to act against Osama bin Laden & al-Qaeda targets inside Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, but then by his repeatedly stated opposition to black ops & failure to articulate an alternate strategy, essentially endorses such inaction as the policy the U.S. should have pursued after 9/11. Mr. Mazetti, if the C.I.A. shouldn't be hunting & killing terrorists but instead confining itself to conducting good, old-fashioned espionage against nation-states, & the Pentagon shouldn't be hunting & killing terrorists but instead confining itself to conventional warfare, whom exactly should be hunting & killing terrorists bend on mass-casualty attacks against civilian targets? Or, if we should not be hunting & killing such terrorists, what method would suggest to defend ourselves & our national interests against those same terrorists' murderous schemes?

In short, The Way of the Knife is long on sanctimonious indignation & short on practicable solutions. Throughout the disappointing book (which was blessedly short, being three hundred pages in an almost comically huge font), I recalled to mind the line of the Colonial Marine from Aliens, on being told that he & his compatriots dare not use their sophisticated firearms to defend themselves: "What are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?" If not the C.I.A. nor the Defense Department, what are we supposed to use to defend ourselves from al-Qaeda, its affiliates & allies, & other terrorist organizations? Harsh language?

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
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

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
Richard Price, Clockers
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Sinbad the Sailor" from The Arabian Nights

Lately Neglected
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill
Edmund Burke, The Evils of Revolution
F. J. Sheed, Theology for Beginners

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
War, "Low Rider" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, January 24, 2014


I don't want to go out tonight. I want to stay in & watch the new episode of Grimm, & Wednesday's basketball game that I still haven't seen (though I know the outcome), & the last episode of Chasing Shackleton. But, Risk games are few & far between, & I flaked on this dude's birthday festivities last year, which actually hurt his feelings—so I'm obligated. Grumble, grumble.
The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
The Link Quartet, "Alfa Romeo Duetto" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary-cum-"Autobahn": Ska Army & I were puzzled by Alfa Romeo's absence from the North American International Auto Show. Alfa Romeo, in addition to contributing to the corporate parts bin for Fiat Group products like the Dodge Dart, is returning to these shores as a marque, releasing the 4C sports car later this year. It seemed odd then not to see even a single Alfa amidst the other Fiat brands: Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Fiat, & S.R.T.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Urbi et Orbi | Autobahn

I keep a prayer card in the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile, with an image of Saint Christopher on one side & a prayer on the other; I say the prayer during each morning's first drive of the day.
Grant me, O Lord, a steady hand & a watchful eye,
That no one shall be hurt as I pass by.
Thou gavest life, I pray no act of mine
May take away or mar that gift of Thine.
Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company,
From the evils of fire & all calamity.
Teach me to use my car for others' need,
Nor miss through love of undue speed
The beauty of your world that thus I may
With joy & courtesy go on my way.
Saint Christopher, holy patron of travelers,
Protect me & guide me safely to my destiny.
Yesterday, the Lord answered my prayer to use my car for another's need, as when I had parked the Lumi & was stepping out, a chap approached me & asked if I might use the Lumi to jump start his motorcar. As his automobile was parked in such a way that it would do no good to bring my automobile to his, we pushed his no-long self-propelled carriage over to the Lumi. A '95 Lumina's battery is difficult to access, buried under a fluid reservoir & next to an air tube, & I failed to attach the clamps of his jumper cables to the terminals on the Lumi's battery; I was able to attach my own jumper cables, & in no time at all his motorcar was up & running, ready to head back out into the teeth of the ongoing snowstorm. I recount this tale not for my glory, but for His. The Lord answered my prayer to be of service to others, & may well have used me as His means to answer the stranded motorist's prayer for help.

In other automotive news, the best vanity plate spied recently was on a jeep, with a plate reading MONSTER. Technically, the plate read ONSTER, with the M being the block-M of the University of Michigan, the license plate being one of the booster plates offered by the Secretary of State. I'd roll my eyes at MONSTER, except that rather unexpectedly there were no decals or other decorations indicating any connection to the ubiquitous marketing of the Monster Energy Drink. So, yeah, O.K., I'm on board with MONSTER.
The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "'92 Subaru" from Traffic and Weather (T.L.A.M.)


"You better make way, 'cause I'm comin' through
In my late ninety-two, baby blue Subaru!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This Week in Motorsport

Rally Monkey
European Rally Championship
Round 1
Internationale Jänner Rallye
3-5 January 2014

I discovered late last year that the European Rally Championship (E.R.C.) was broadcast on the Velocity channel, part of the Discovery Communications galaxy of network. (Velocity carried programing that originated on France's Eurosport, now majority owned by Discovery.) The 2013 rallies were aired late in the year, often months after they were initially run; I hope that this year's rallies will be broadcast throughout the year, mere weeks after each rally, but I have no information about Velocity's plans. My scouring of the television listing has yet to turn up any coverage of this year's Jänner Rallye, but hope springs eternal.

Dakar Rally
35th Running
5-18 January 2014

The Dakar Rally (Wayback Machine 1 & Wayback Machine 2) is one of the world's truly great sporting events, a proof of the words long attributed to Ernest Hemingway: "There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor-racing, & mountaineering; all the rest are merely games." A pall was cast over this year's Dakar, though not by the demise of a competitors & a pair of journos, because it is these men's willingness to risk all, &, yes, to lose all, in pursuit of the achievement that is the Dakar that proves the endeavor's worth. (Watch for the forthcoming post, "Last Year in Motorsport," a discourse of mortality in motorsport.) No, the pall was cast by unsporting behavior by the X-Raid team, whose Mini Countrymen swept the podium in the "car" class. The Minis were the class of this year's Dakar, of that there is no doubt: in addition to occupying all three spots on the podium, Minis were seven of the top ten finishers. The problem is that in the last few stages, they ordered their drivers to hold station, not to pass one another, not to compete, but simply to drive slowly & carefully to the end in the order they were in at that moment. This lead to the embarrassing spectacle of one Mini, driven by Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, pulling off to the side of the road & remaining stationary for over seven minutes until passed by the Mini of Spaniard Nani Roma. Boo! Boo! Dirty pool! X-Raid & Mini have earned my enduring enmity. I will forever root against any Mini in any competition anywhere.

Glorious sport prevailed over underhanded team orders in the truck, "bike," & "quad" classes. This was only my second Dakar, but as with my initial encounters with the 24 Heures du mans & Formula One, I know that I have stumbled onto a long-term passion.

World Rally Championship
Round 1
Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo
16-18 January 2014

Last year, the World Rally Championship (W.R.C.) was broadcast on American television on the Mav.T.V. network (stylized as MAVTV, which is just nonsense, & pronounced "Mav-Tee-Vee;" I have determined the placement of the punctuation marks by the channel's original name, Maverick Television). The rallies were always broadcast a few weeks after they were run, so we shall see if that pattern holds true this year. In the meanwhile, I can follow the action via videos on the W.R.C. website (, though television is of course preferred.

By Endurance We Conquer
United SportsCar Championship
Round 1
(sponsor) 24 at Daytona (A.K.A. the "24 Hours of Daytona")
25-26 January 2014 ***upcoming***

The American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.) is now owned by N.A.S.C.A.R & has been merged with N.A.S.C.A.R.'s own Grand-Am (sponsor) Sports Car Series to form a new, united, North American endurance racing championship, the uninspiringly named United Sports Car Championship (U.S.C.C.). The new series's mantra has been, "Getting it right,the first time;" this is poppycock, as the first announced name for the new series was the even more lame United SportsCar Racing, which lead to all sorts of awkwardness as commentators referred to the "new United SportsCar Racing... series." Those arrogant morons at N.A.S.C.A.R. didn't get it right the first time, & got it only slightly less wrong the second time, with the U.S.C.C. name. Also, that brood of vipers is apparently so inbred that it thinks "sports car" is one word, SportsCar.

My cup overfloweth with hatred for N.A.S.C.A.R., but I am trying to keep an open mind. The new series does take the endurance aspect of endurance racing seriously, at least, with four races comprising the "North American Endurance Championship": the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Six Hours of the Glen (Watkins Glen), & the ten-hour Petit Le Mans. If the enterprise is to prosper, there will surely be bumps on the road, especially as they try to strike the right balance between the brilliant, high-tech hares of the old A.L.M.S. & the brutish, low-tech tortoises of the old Grand-Am. This weekend's Daytona 24 won't tell us much, because it is only the first race & because Daytona is a staggeringly uninteresting racing venue; the shape of things to come will became more clear at March's 12 Hours of Sebring.

I am deeply conflicted, because my heart wants to new series to succeed, but my brain doubts that it will, doubts that it can. The old Grand-Am series had only a fraction of the popularity of the A.L.M.S., even with all the supposed marketing acumen behind it. I attribute this to the technological primitiveness of the cars & the capriciousness of the officiating by the Grand-Am Road Racing Association (a wholly-owned subsidiary of N.A.S.C.A.R.). The new U.S.C.C. has already taken some steps to emulate the technological retardation of Grand-Am, a worrisome sign. I've been wrong before, & I'm hoping I'll be proved wrong this time.
Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
I heard the a fascinating exchange yesterday on N.P.R.'s All Things Considered, in a piece discussing the rough first year of President Obama's second term. The Obama "magic," as they termed it, was so diluted that they even felt free to take right-wing-style potshots at the excesses of the cult of personality in '08 & '09:

Host: "He was given the Nobel Peace Prize, essentially, for being Barack Obama."
Guest: "And for not being George W. Bush."

The tribunes of the self-anointed "Fourth Estate" are a little late to the party, having for too many years been active members of that selfsame cult of personality, but we here at The Secret Base are firm believes that late is better than never. I'm not asking the journos at N.P.R. to join the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy, for that would be as improper as their formerly cultish devotion to Mr. Obama. But I greet with warmth & enthusiasm every small sign of responsible journalism's return, however halting & halfway. Don't be right-wing mouthpieces & don't be left-wing bomb-throwers, just be the dogged pursuers of the truth & defenders of the public interest that you've always claimed to be. Thank you, & welcome back.

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
Cake, "Long Line of Cars" from Comfort Eagle (T.L.A.M.)


"From the streets of Sacramento to the freeways of L.A.,
We've got to keep this fire burning and accept a little gray,
So this long line of cars is trying to break free,
And this long line of cars, it's all because of me…"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLXXIV

The personal courage & curious politics of Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), United States Marine Corps, twice winner of the Medal of Honor.

Liberty & Union
Which is the better word to describe the despicable, anti-American remarks of Governor Cuomo of New York, "Fascist" or "totalitarian"?
The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Truck Drivin' Song" from Running with Scissors (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Truck Drivin' Song" is more about cross-dressing than about truck drivin', but it's also the only song with which I am aware that includes the lyrics, "the mother-lovin' clutch," making it an automotive gem.

"But when I hit those big speed bumps
My darling little rhinestone pumps
Keep slippin' off the mother-lovin' clutch…"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Liberty & Union: Obamboozled

Three years from now to the day, 20 January 2017, should the Creator wish His world to keep spinning, Barack Hussein Obama will cease to be President of the United States upon the inauguration of his successor, the forty-fifth president. Mr. Obama campaigned on the slogans "Hope" & "Change," providing precious few details of his program & serving as a cipher onto whom a divided & war-weary electorate could superimpose their own agendas. More than halfway through his presidency, there is less hope, more workers having become "discouraged" & dropped out of the labor force entirely; fewer Americans have health insurance than before the implementation of "Obamacare," the president's central policy achievement; & the United States appears to be a feckless & sullen superpower, directionless & indecisive, neither respected by allies nor feared by enemies. The majority of the change has been for the worse, with the federal bureaucracy being used to harass & punish the president's political opponents, a decrease in the labor force participation rate, a national debt over fifty per cent higher than that which Candidate Obama labelled "unpatriotic," & America's primacy on the world stage having been symbolically ceded to Russia. The fruits of Mr. Obama's false hope & changes for the worst are seen in the public opinion polls; on average, the president's job approval rating stands at forty-two per cent, while his disapproval rating stands at fifty-three per cent. The corrupt tyranny of Barack Obama will end—though the baleful consequences will linger for years & decades—three years from to-day.

"Liberty & union, now & forever, one & inseparable."
The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Survival Car" from Fountains of Wayne (T.L.A.M.)


"Funny how the ground can find my wheels,
I'm going where the road won't dare…"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Rebel Black D.O.T. Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Yo, Check Out This Ride!" from the Yo, Check Out This Ride! E.P. (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: Ska Army & I toured the North American International Auto Show in Detroit's Cobo Center yesterday. ("Cobo Center" looks & sounds odd, as I'm accustomed to the facilities old name, Cobo Hall.) This was our third annual tour, meaning the tradition is now well-established. A "Project MERCATOR" report is due soonest. I considered They Might Be Giants's "Birdhouse in Your Soul" & the Reel Big Fish's "The Set Up (You Need This)," both of which we blasted from various motorcars' sound systems as Ska Army paired up his smartphone with those cars' Bluetooth systems, but "Yo, Check Out This Ride!" better encapsulated the day, especially the Jersey Shore wannabes we encountered toward the end of the day, when the line to sit in the cockpit of the Corvette Stingray had shrunk to an acceptably diminutive length. Sweet merciful crap, I want a Stingray!

"I bought a '91 Celica and lowered the back.
I dropped some deuce with some juice on the front of my gat,
And I ain't braggin', my back is draggin',
I got this fresh whale tail on my lowered, covered wagon.
You peeps is gettin' panic attacks
When I roll through Iraq,
With a sack of fat stacks
And an airbrush of Shaq
On my Cizzadillac,
And you know it's hard!
I've got a haunted house black light under my car,
And it's freaking people out, dog!

"This car—I'm drivin'!
This vehicle that I ride in,
So hot, (so hot), so stylin',
Makin' all the ladies we pass start cryin',
'Yo, yo do you want to take a ride?
Let's go, baby!'
No, she doesn't want to get inside,
You better check out this ride!
Yo, check out this ride!…"

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Staggers, "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Defaced in a stylized manner as if stained, yet unmistakable, the Reichskriegflagge. Am I a supporter of German militarism? Nay, I am a fan of good graphic design, mindful of origin & association, but not constrained by excessive sensitivity & manufactured outrage.

"After the turn of the century,
In the clear blues skies over Germany,
Came a roar and a thunder they had never heard,
Like the screaming sound of a big warbird.

"Up in the sky, a man and his plane,
Baron von Richthofen was his name,
And eighty men tried, and eighty men died,
Now they're buried all together on the countryside.

Ten! Twenty! Thirty! Forty! Fifty or more!
The bloody Red Baron was rolling up the score,
Eighty men died trying to end that spree
Of the bloody Red Baron of Germany…"


Friday, January 17, 2014


Yesterday, I encountered a fellow who had been growing his beard for nearly three & a half years. He said that he had thrown away his razor the day he got out of the Army. That is approximately the same amount of time that I've had my whiskers, after being cleanshaven for Objective FINNLAND & Objective ZED ALPHA in the summer of '10. My beard has not been allowed to flourish with the wild abandon of this fellow's, but we both agreed with this sentiment: I'm never going back. We live in an age in which whiskers are again fashionable & I know only too well that many of the whiskers I see about will disappear as soon as the fad fades, but I know also that these years of bearded plenty are opening the eyes of many a man to the virtues of bewhiskered living.

The encounter stoked my enthusiasm for the next iteration of the Banzai Beard Bonanza, the Year of the Beard. (Once I decided to stay bewhiskered, the B.B.B. III: Third Time's the Harm & the B.B.B. IV: Four for Forty became unnecessary & were cancelled.) The plan: shave the beard on 1 January of a given year & do not shave again until 1 January of the following year. The exact protocols have not been devised, regarding issues such as the shaving of my cheeks, which is part of my current beard regime, & whether to shave the moustache at the same time or leave it intact throughout. The Year of the Beard would produce a year beard, or "yeard." More fun than near beer, it's the year beard! But that awaits sometime in the undiscovered future.

The fellow, a restaurant worker, intimated that his boss had suggested he tame his beard, but stated his refusal, claiming that he'd loss his job before taming his beard. Recklessness? Undoubtedly, yet I can still respect that kind of commitment to vague, unarticulated principle. What is life without a little recklessness?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Vampire Weekend, "Unbelievers" from Modern Vampires of the City (T.L.A.M.)

Note to self: "Bewhiskered living" is a delightful turn of phrase. Make frequent use of it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Two days hence, on my drive home, I diverted over to the Courtland Mall to see the "Lone Wolverine," the only wolverine seen in the wild in the Wolverine State in two centuries: (Wayback Machine). She died of natural causes in '10, has been stuffed & mounted, & is now touring the state as the centerpiece of an educational exhibition. From whence did she come? Wolverines are Arctic beasts & have not been native to the land now known as Michigan for centuries; it is quite possible that wolverines were never endemic to these pleasant peninsulas, but wandered in from time to time as they are wide-ranging creatures. The lone wolverine's origins remain a mystery.

Later that same day, at the public library, I encountered an acquaintance, who was gathering signatures to initiate a referendum on Michigan's new wolf hunt; the petition & referendum's aim is to lower the boom on the hunt & allow the numbers of reintroduced wolves in Michigan to swell. I declined to sign her petition because, as I explained, I'm quite in favor of the wolf hunt. (I'm not advocating for the wolf to be driven to extinction, but having extirpated the wolf from many regions it is madness to now reintroduce these apex predators into areas populated by humans & livestock. It is only a matter of time, a simple but inescapable trap of numbers & probabilities, before a child is slaughtered by a pack of reintroduced wolves. Madness! But I digress.) I asked my acquaintance if she'd been over to see the lone wolverine. She replied that she had not, that she thought it was cruel to keep a live wolverine caged at a mall. I admit that I stared incredulously for a second before responding. There is no living wolverine at the mall, I assured her; the beast was found dead years earlier, without external injuries & thus presumably of natural causes, & has since been stuffed & mounted. She blinked in dull recognition. Oh, well, a friend had told her that there was a live wolverine in captivity at the mall. Armed as she was with falsehood about the lone wolverine, one has to wonder what errors, falsehoods, & outright lies she believes about the wolf hunt that motivated her to stand out in the cold collecting signatures.

Gulo gulo!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, "Thrift Shop" courtesy The Watergirl (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Queue

I've had a devil of a time committing to any reading of late. Leviathan was shelved some time ago due to the density of the text & the weightiness of the ideas therein; at the time, other pressing issues demanded unfettered access to my critical reasoning skills. The Evils of Revolution was abandoned for similar those more trifling reasons, & I just found myself unable to summon the will to continue with Theology for Beginners—thus, the new "Lately Neglected" category. Given all this, please take "Presently" with a grain of salt. I intend one course, but walking that path is proving difficult. I do not know what is wrong with me, why I am so unable to focus.

I was able to plow through the backlog of Road & Track & National Review magazines, & I'm catching up on Car and Driver; so, at least I'm keeping up with my light reading.

Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" & "Rip Van Winkle"
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

Mark Mazzetti, The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

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
Richard Price, Clockers
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Sinbad the Sailor" from The Arabian Nights

Lately Neglected
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill
Edmund Burke, The Evils of Revolution
F. J. Sheed, Theology for Beginners
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Elvis Costello & the Attractions, "Accidents Will Happen" from Armed Forces (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
David Gray, "Kathleen" courtesy The Watergirl (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Victors | Project OSPREY

Saturday, 14 December 2013
(№ 1) Arizona 72-70 Michigan
6-4, Big Ten 0-0

The good news is that we lost to Arizona by a much smaller margin than that by which we lost to Duke (№ 10 at the time). The bad news is that we still lost. The valiant Wolverines had a genuine shot to best the epithetless Wildcats, holding the lead for most of the game, but Arizona was clutch in its free-throw shooting down the stretch. Curses!

Saturday, 21 December 2013
Michigan 68-65 Stanford
7-4, Big Ten 0-0

For the second consecutive Saturday, the valiant Wolverines faced off against an opponent from the Pac-12, the ancient enemy of the Big Ten, though this time not within the friendly confines of the Crisler Center but at a neutral site in Brooklyn, New York. The epithetless Cardinal were a stout test for the valiant Wolverines—strong in areas the Maize & Blue are not, experienced, & wily. Happily, Nik Stauskas (sophomore, guard) had a brilliant shooting day, followed closely in points by a surging Glenn Robinson III (sophomore, forward).

Saturday, 28 December 2013
Michigan 88-66 Holy Cross
8-4, Big Ten 0-0

A Christmas present to ourselves, an easy win against lesser opposition before the New Year & the brutal grind of conference play.

Thursday, 2 January 2014
Michigan 63-60 Minnesota
9-4, Big Ten 1-0

"The Barn" (Williams Arena) is one of my favorite Big Ten venues, & a tough place for the valiant Wolverines to begin their campaign for the conference title. The luckless Golden Gophers, now helmed by young Rich Pitino instead of venerable old Tubby Smith, played with tremendous energy, but could not account for Zak Irvin's (freshman, guard) fifteen points, all from behind the three-point arc. This author does not look forward to the Big Ten schedule minus the boundless enthusiasm of Mitch McGary (sophomore, forward/center), out indefinitely for back surgery, but in his stead stand the two most experienced players on Michigan's roster, fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan (forward/center) & red shirt junior Jon Horford (forward/center). (Michigan coach John Beilein's scheme doesn't call for a true center, though the exigencies of basketball compel the larger forwards to play the five spot.)

Sunday, 5 January 2014
Michigan 74-51 Northwestern
10-4, Big Ten 2-0

There are no easy wins in the Big Ten, though hosting the plucky Wildcats comes the closest to being so; they are scrappy & persistent, but offensively challenged. I nearly had a heart attack when Robinson hurt his ankle against Minnesota & was as pleased as punch to see him moving around without injury against Northwestern. Michigan's top three scorers from last season's tournament run were Trey Burke (sophomore, guard), Tim Hardaway Jr. (junior, guard), & McGary; the first two were lost to the N.B.A draft & McGary to injury; if we'd also last Robinson, we'd have been in a heap of trouble.

Thursday, 9 January 2014
Michigan 71-70 Nebraska
11-4, Big Ten 3-0

This was one of the least satisfying basketball games I'd ever watched. Neither club played defense worth a tinker's damn, but the score was not astronomical. The unwelcome Cornhuskers were outmatched by the valiant Wolverines, but scraped & hustled & refused to go away. When Nebraska's last second shots refused to fall, I felt little of the elation of victory; instead, I longed to be in Nebraska's shiny new, sponsor-named arena, because turning my back on that building after such a win seemed the only action from which any satisfaction could be derived. I do not look forward to the unwelcome Cornhuskers' visit to the Crisler center in February; they're an annoying club & play annoying basketball.

So, what have I learned about the valiant Wolverines over the last month? I am concerned about Stauskas's (for him) poor shooting, but tickled pink by how much more well-rounded his game has become: the Canuck sniper is a feed-pass machine, generously distributing the ball to his teammates. Morgan & Horford are doing yeomen's work standing in for McGary, hardly surprising given that Morgan started most of last year, when McGary was a raw true freshman; it's long been said that Horford would be a mighty impressive player if only he could stay healthy & shake the injury bug, & so far this year he's living up to that billing. Irvin is an impressive long range shooter, but still inconsistent. I've been pleased with the continuing development of Derrick Walton Jr. (freshman, guard), who has the unenviable task of replacing the sensational Burke; Walton looks ever more confident in his role within the offense, & is committing fewer maddening turnovers. I am allowing myself the dangerous hope that Glenn Robinson III is finally beginning to fulfill his prodigious potential; if this is so, woe to those who stand against the Maize & Blue. Overall, the valiant Wolverines have yet to face the cream of the conference crop, but they remain undefeated in league play, no small feat given that two of those three games were on the road.

Next: Penn State at home, before a murderers' row—at (№ 3) Wisconsin, (№ 14) Iowa at home, & at (№ 4) Michigan State. No one ever said winning the Big Ten would be easy, nor would it then be worth winning.

Go Blue!

I should have gone out on Saturday night, but I didn't, for no good reason in complete contravention of the strictures of MERCATOR. Confound it, Mike, you put those rules in place to help yourself, to fight your worst tendencies. I must devise an enforcement mechanism, beyond self-reproach.

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLXXIII

The Dakar, Part II: 2008, the year terrorist threats cancelled the event & cast into doubt its ongoing viability, & the South American resurrection of the Dakar Rally, 2009-present.

This Week in Motorsport
The 2014 Dakar Rally has been underway for a week & runs through the end of this week. Already, over fifty per cent of the competitors in the "car," "bike," & quad categories have been forced out of a rally; attrition has been less severe in the truck category, with "only" around thirty per cent of the competitors falling by the wayside. This is my second Dakar, thanks to the N.B.C. Sports Network's (N.B.C.S.N., formerly Versus) coverage, which consists of a nightly half-hour wrap-up of the previous day's happenings. As Saturday was the sorely needed rest day, tonight's show consisted of a look back at the week that was, the rally up to that point. The dunes & the Andes await in the week to come.

To this point in the 2014 Dakar, one competitor has died, the cause of which is still under investigation, which leads me to believe he did not die in a crash, but possibly of natural causes. Two journos perished in a traffic collision. May the Lord have mercy on the souls of His departed children, & be a comfort to the families in their grief.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Jason Segel, "Dracula's Lament" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: From the play-within-the-film A Taste for Love, from the motion picture Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Le Pigbat, "Monsieur Hyde" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up!)

Commentary: On Friday, Turner Classic Movies aired the 1941 motion picture Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was interested in watching it, being a great fan of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 'til a closer reading of the T.C.M. blurb revealed the film's star: Spencer Tracy. I loathe the late Spencer Tracy. Needing another means to sate the Jekyll & Hyde jones, I availed myself of the Pigbat's little ditty. Job well done, Pigbat!

A jones-sating image search found the following after-the-fact promotional image for the earlier, silent film, also titled
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Elvis Costello & the Attractions, "Oliver's Army" from Armed Forces (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "And I would rather be anywhere else than here today."

Donnerstag, 9 Jänner
Boris Karloff, Mario Rossi, & the Wiener Opernorchester, Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67: VI. "The Wolf" from Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf, Lieutenant Kijé Symphonic Suite (T.L.A.M)

Commentary: I do not pretend to remember half of what I once knew of German, & never was I expert at parsing the differences 'twixt German German & Austrian German, but since even I know that Wiener Opernorchester means, at least roughly, "Vienna Opera Orchestra," I've opted to use, perhaps inappropriately, the Austrian Jänner instead of the northern German Januar. Fear the umlaut!

Which of course reminds me of my favorite joke: For a German, what comes between fear & sex?
Fünf! (Fünf is the German word for "five." The German words for "four" & "six," vier & sechs, are pronounced quite similarly to the English words "fear" & "sex." Aren't jokes funnier once they've been laboriously explained? I suppose the joke only works if you mispronounce fünf to be more like the English word "fun"…)

"The Wolf" is all-purpose ominous, apropos for whenever an audience needs to be alerted that something dark & dangerous is about.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Explorers' Club, № CCCLXXII

The Dakar, Part I: Thierry Sabine (1949-1986) & the Paris-Dakar Rally, 1978-2007.

Operation AXIOM
One hundred five years ago to the day, 9 January 1909, the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909), the first of three Antarctic expeditions lead by Sir Ernest Shackleton, failed in its bid to discover the South Pole but set a new world record for Farthest South: 88˚23' S. This record was not surpassed 'til Amundson's & Scott's expeditions achieved the South Pole in 1911 & 1912, respectively. A party from the Nimrod, lead by Shackleton, reached a new Farthest South, one hundred five years ago to-day.

I urge all readers of "The Explorers' Club," indeed all fans of human endeavor, to watch the documentary series Chasing Shackleton, airing this week & each of the next two weeks on P.B.S. This year marks the centennial of the commencement of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917), the epic Endurance Expedition. In Chasing Shackleton, six contemporary adventurers are attempting the recreate Shackleton & co.'s desperate voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island in the James Caird, a small boat that was never intended for the open seas of the Southern Ocean, & the trek across the uncharted interior of South Georgia to reach help at the island's whaling stations; they are doing so in a latter-day replica of the James Caird, the Alexandra Shackleton. Check your local listings.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bier! | High Spirits

Casualties of the Great Blizzard of 2014 (victims of the bitter cold, not the abundant snow):

1 Carlsberg
1 O'Doul's (not mine)
2 Schweppes tonic water
2 Schweppes ginger ale

None of the Yuengling Lagers (mine) in the garage burst, nor did any of the Sam Adams Boston Lagers (my parents'); mayhap beer from commonwealths (Penn. & Mass.) is better able to endure the subzero cold? Nevertheless, they too have been belated moved inside the house. Temperatures should return to normal in the next day of two, again making the garage a cavernous supplemental refrigerator. 'Twas foolishness on my part to leave the mixers, the tonic water & ginger ale, outside, as they have no alcoholic content to aid them in resisting freezing. I hope this cold snap's lessons are not forgotten.

Kith & Kin
When The L.A.W. & Brother-in-L.A.W.—& their two delightful bairns, the Squeak & the Monkey—were here for Christmas, Brother-in-L.A.W. drank all my gin. I do not begrudge him this, I'm just reporting the facts. In the course of a six-day visit, he drank the entire fifth of Bombay Sapphire my mom had acquired for his gin & Frescas & the third of a fifth I'd had around for mine own gin & tonics. Also, he finished off the fifth of a fifth of Smirnoff that had been sitting around for ages, since some long-past Psych watching party with the old Econ. Club gang.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Goodbye in Gasoline" from B Is for B-Sides (T.L.A.M.)


"My lungs are aching from the cold from being outside,
And the windows of my car have started to fog up
And it's colder than I remember it ever being in Florida…"

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "She's Not the End of the World" from Candy Coated Fury (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Reel Big Fish aren't what they once were—& the departure of Scott Klopfenstein, longtime second fiddle &, one suspects, restraint on front man Aaron Barrett's more questionable tendencies—might well have signaled the beginning of the end, but there are still some good songs on Candy Coated Fury (which, it must be noted, should be titled Candy-Coated Fury), including such classic R.B.F.-style titles as "I Know You Too Well to Like You Anymore," "Your Girlfriends Sucks," & "P.S. I Hate You."

Monday, January 6, 2014


The worst part of shoveling show with whiskers? The icicles formed in those whiskers from my perspiration. I know the key to safe cold-temperature exertion is not to perspire, but no one has ever shown me the trick for how I'm supposed to shovel over twelve vertical inches of snow from Wilson Field, a driveway four car-widths wide, without perspiring.

My parents have gotten too old for shoveling snow. I must gift them a snowblower when I move out of the house.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "National Anthem" from B Is for B-Sides (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love Christmas music, both sacred & secular—otherwise, I would not devote nearly a month of Songs of the Day to such music, but it is also a great source of excitement when the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. returns to its usual free-for-all format.

"My American dream is to have it
A little bit better than my parents ever had it,
My American dream is to have it
A little bit better than my parents ever had it,
My American dream is to have it
A little bit better than its just a force of habit,
My American dream is to have it
A little bit better than my parents ever had it."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Operation AXIOM

It was with a heavy heart that I assisted yesterday in taking down & putting away our Christmas decorations, but it was time, or very nearly so. Recent tradition holds that 'tis bad luck to leave the halls decked after Twelfth Night, with falls to-night. Without embarking upon a discussion of whether a belief in luck constitutes superstition, belief in superstition being unquestionably a sin, let's just agree that it would be bad form to leave one's halls decked after Twelfth Night. I objected yesterday, stating that the boughs of holly, etc., should be put away to-day, but I was overruled. In any event, 'tis time. After I publish this post, I should remove the "Keep Christ in Christmas" pin from the lapel of my great coat, having neglected to do so upon my return from church.

For the last time 'til next December, merry Christmas to all!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Twelfth Day of Christmas/the Epiphany
Toby Keith, "We Three Kings" via iTunes, (free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love "We Three Kings of Orient Are" to a ridiculous extent. It is one of my favorite carols. Thanks, John Henry Hopkins Junior!

"We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star…"

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Eleventh Day of Christmas
Sarah Brightman, "Silent Night" via iTunes, (free) Single of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: At Midnight Mass this Christmas, I enjoyed singing "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht," which is as far as I can get in the original German without boning up beforehand or having the lyrics before me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Tenth Day of Christmas
Séan McCann, "Merry Christmas, Everyone" free courtesy Séan McCann (T.L.A.M.)


"A child is born, forever,
A child is born for everyone,
Lift up your hearts
And hear His laughter,
A New Year has begun…"

Also, please note that Séan McCann's Christian name is pronounced "Shane," owing to the accent over the e, denoting the Ulster pronunciation. The name pronounced "Shawn," often misspelt as Sean or even—gasp!—Shawn, is properly spelt Seán. Séan not Seán, so "Shane" not "Shawn."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Ninth Day of Christmas
Bing Crosby, "What Child Is This?/The Holly and the Ivy" from Christmas with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, [&] Dean Martin (T.L.A.M.)


"This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing,
Haste, haste, to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary…"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Urbi et Orbi

Last year's total Mass attendances topped off at an unprecedented sixty-three. That is eleven more Masses than the annual goal of fifty-two, the first time that goal had been met or exceeded. Even were I to make the extraordinary concession of not counting the six "extra" Masses I of the two weekends during which I attended every Mass to promote membership in the K. of C., a new record would still be set: fifty-seven. There is a temptation not to set a new goal, merely to see if I can attend Mass fifty-two times during two consecutive years, but that will not do. This year has two goals: to attend Mass at least fifty-two times & not to miss a single Sunday during which I'm not traveling. This will require a renewed, sustained commitment to be obedient to His Will in all things.

This year is off to a fine start—today is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, & I have already returned from Mass. Merry Christmas & a happy New Year!

2008: 32
2009: 33
2010: 32
2011: 37
2012: 45
2013: 63
2014: 1…

2014 also marks the end of five consecutive years of having Star Wars: The Clone Wars wall calendars, another success in Disney's campaign to kill my lifelong love for Star Wars. All my life, I always thought George Lucas was Luke Skywalker. Only too late did we realize that all along he as Anakin Skywalker, who has finally succumb to the Dark Side & revealed himself as Darth Vader, traitor to everything he ever stood for & fought to protect. (Walt Disney Company C.E.O. Bob Iger is Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine in this scenario.)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Eighth Day of Christmas/New Year's Day
Michael Bublé, "Ave Maria" from Christmas (T.L.A.M.)