Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCIII - Chinese Gordon, Part II: The Mahdist Revolt, the delay of the Nile Expedition, & death at Khartoum.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Halloween
Tracy Morgan, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" courtesy of The Watergirl (The Watergirl)

Commentary: "There's no such thing as Frankensteins, -steins, no plural of Frankenstein."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Victors
Penn State 41-31 Michigan
5-3, Big Ten 1-3

To answer mine own question from earlier, Jeremy Gallon is still fielding kicks because of the rather impressive return that saw us start from the forty-seven yard-line. Gallon provides traumatic flashbacks to the baleful days of '08, when the most perilous play of any game for Michigan was receiving a punt, but when he's not screwing up the kid has some talent. When not hamstrung by penalties, the offense showed flashes of brilliance; alas, all too often our offense was indeed hamstrung by penalties & sundry miscues. On a more positive note, it was grand to see Shoelace gain almost two hundred yards rushing, after futile rushing performances against the dastardly Spartans & tenacious Hawkeyes. Our defense was hapless against the offense of the ferocious Nittany Lions, but the importance of the loss of Mike Martin can hardly be overstated; we are a different, worse team without our starting nose guard. There's much more to say, but in the words of Scott Pilgrim, "It's a long story full of sighs." I don't have the strength to face all those sighs, not after three consecutive defeats.

Bowl eligibility is yet feasible; not merely mathematically possible, but genuinely feasible. Fully one-third of a season remains, & contests with it against the craven Fighting Illini, ill-starred Boilermakers, pesky Badgers, & hated Buckeyes. Today saw a much closer, much more competent performance than in the preceding pair of losses. There is yet hope as long as we keep fighting, & today saw us fight—even if fruitlessly—to the bitter end. hang on to that never-say-die optimism, fellow fans of the Maize & Blue, or if that fails, hang on to that never-say-die spite. Either way, never say die!

Go Blue! Go Blue! A thousand times, GO BLUE!

Coming Attractions
{a} "Master Debating" - a fortnight overdue, "The Horror of Hart House"
{b} "Project MERCATOR" - a lost weekend
{c} My months-late review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
{d} "Project PANDORA"
{d1} the hateful truth about Love/Hate
{d2} the too-long delayed secret origin of Comrade Coquettish
{e} The fourth anniversary of "The Explorers Club"
The Victors: Halftime
Penn State 28-10 Michigan

The mantra remains the same: We are good enough to beat Penn State, but we are not good enough to make mistakes & beat Penn State. For the love of Yost, why is Jeremy Gallon still fielding* kicks? This is far from the first time he's screwed up his one & only responsibility, & far from the first time that his screwing up of his one & only responsibility has kneecapped the rest of the valiant Wolverines. Also, I want to support Rich Rod, but how am I supposed to do that when he just gives up at the end of the half? Running down the clock & then having Forcier heave a Hail Mary pass? That's on a par with the punt against the dastardly Spartans. How am I supposed to tell people not to give up on Rich Rod when there are so many signals that he's given up, or is at least giving up, on us? In the words of the Green Goblin, "Misery, misery, misery…."

Go Blue!

*Get the wordplay?
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ray Parker, Jr., "Ghostbusters" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Not from the song, "Ghostbusters," but timeless words nonetheless:

"Human sacrifice, dogs & cats living together… mass hysteria!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Am I garrulous or am I taciturn? Methinks the answer is, without contradiction, both.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!" from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)


"We are awakened with the axe.
Night of the living dead, at last.
They have begun to shake the dirt,
Wiping their shoulders from the earth."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCII - Chinese Gordon, Part I: The Ever-Victorious Army & how Charles George (1833-1885) became "Chinese."

Bonus: For those of you familiar with the triumph of inconsistency that is the titles of the Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight video game series, this episode of "The Explorers Club" might reasonably be titled "Chinese Gordon I: The Ever-Victorious Army II: Jedi Outcast."
There is a Halloween "party" at the unofficial campus bar tonight. I really should go, the strictures of MERCATOR rather require me to go, but I would really rather not. There is no guarantee that any of the people I know who say they are going will actually go, & every chance that they'll want simply to imbibe to the point of intoxication & beyond, making them miserable company in any event. The purpose of MERCATOR is to fight my reclusive nature. Attending this evening's festivities at Churchill's would certainly be against my nature. But I have to wonder if doing so would be taking MERCATOR a step too far. I want to be a social animal, I want not to be shut up inside my house & by extension shut up inside myself, but can it be right to ignore the alarums & excursions inside my head, the loudspeaker voice intoning gravely, "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Snmnmnm, "Zombie Girlfriend" from Snmnmnm (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The name of the band Snmnmnm is pronounced "S-N-M-N-M-N-M." Also of note is that "Zombie Girlfriend" was released several years before the zombie craze of the 2000s. At the time, I found all the attention lavished on zombies rather irksome, but I was a fool; the zombie apocalypse was paradise compared to the deluge of pansy vampires under which we are now buried.

"Please don't get me wrong,
I know you've been alone so long,
It's the reason that I sing this song…
Please tell me that is not her thong!
Are you dumb in the head?
She walks with the living dead!
She'll use your brains as sandwich bread!"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stars My Destination
So few countdowns remain until President Obama's irrational mandate to put an end to American manned spaceflight becomes a baleful reality, we must make a festival of each: Discoverylink. Get excited, people, it's a countdown!

I was caught in a violent downpour yesterday. It lasted but a few minutes, but for those few minutes it was as if a fire hose had been loosed. I need not have braved the rain, I could easily have joined the crowd crowding under the awning to wait out the torrent, but such has never been my style. I have a hat, I have a coat, & as I'm not made of sugar there is little danger of my melting. Into every life a little rain must fall, & I will not be cowed by the weather (though, yes, I do often come close to surrendering to the heat, but let's fight one battle at a time). My hat & coat, as intended, protected me above the waist, but my legs & feet were drenched, my pants & shoes soaked through. In an I.M. chat, when Comrade Coquettish asked how I was, I could not help but respond, "I'm soggy." A short while later, the Comrade wrote that she'd buy me the following for Christmas, if only she "had moneys": Bumbershootlink. Now that, gentle readers, is a lass after my own heart.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Monsters Wedding!" from The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death! and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary: Inspired by an R.B.D.S.O.T.D. nomination from The Watergirl, I've decided on a series of lighthearted spooky and/or macabre songs to count us down to the eve of All Saints' Day, more commonly known as Halloween. We shall see what can be done about making this an annual fixture here at The Secret Base. Enjoy, you ghosts, goblins, & ghouls!

"And now, ladies & gentlemen, the flying Dracula hair (?) brings you the story of a man… taken against his will… and forced… to marry!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

After a series of frustrations that left me unable to see any of The Loose Ties' shows since their return in last August, I was able at long last to see not one but two shows on the Friday just past. The first was at the Good Beans Cafe in Flint, on Grand Traverse north of the river. The Loose Ties were the second of four musical acts to play as part of some manner of Halloween-themed event; costumes were expected, but as the date was 22 October & not 31 October, I declined the opportunity. My acquaintance Elise—costumed as a pirate only to the extent that she had a eyepatch & a cartoonishly exaggerated plastic scimitar—chided me for not wearing a costume. I explained to her that although I am all in favor of costume balls at all times of year, this particular gathering was promoted specifically as a Halloween event; yet, because the event was being held too far in advance of Halloween to fall with the Halloween grace period, I could not have attended in costume, not in good conscience. (Because Halloween falls this year on a Sunday, I well understand that many if not most Halloween festivities may be held on Friday, 29 October & Saturday, 30 October. Those dates are well inside a reasonable Halloween grace period, but Friday, 22 October? I call shenanigans.) She replied that I was only saying this because I'd neglected to wear a costume, but what care I for her opinion?

The first band was mellow to such an extent that even though they prefaced each song with an explanation of the genre into which I fell all their songs sounded very much the same. The Loose Ties gave their usual frenetic performance, though, curses, the performance space in the Good Beans Cafe was too small to allow for any skanking; in such a small area, horns need not be "miked" to be gloriously, overwhelmingly loud. After the ska came a solo distaff singer-songwriter, who unwisely opened with a not-ready-for-prime-time cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery." Her original material was much stronger, though she can't hold a candle to The Watergirl's compositions. Last came the evening's organizer, a chap also of the singer-songwriter persuasion, who had the gall to belittle ska & then play a Dave Matthews cover; drat & double drat, there's never a brick on hand when someone needs to be pummeled in the face. He then compared himself to Tom Waits &, per Elise's request, played a John Mayer cover. (I only know these songs are covers because he described them as such, I had no familiarity with any of the music beforehand.) I stayed for the entire show, but The Loose Ties were the only bit really worth seeing. In future, I shall most certainly hold Elise's rotten taste in music against her.

After leaving Good Beans, I made a quick stop at home to make sure my V.C.R. was set to record the Korean Grand Prix & then 'twas on to Woobies & the second Loose Ties gig of the night. I arrived at Woobie's just as a quaintly generic hard rock band was concluding their set, & so found myself confronted with a larger crowd than I'd expected. Of course, most of my visits to Woobie's have seen The Loose Ties as the entirety of the evening's entertainment; so, it should not have been a surprise that several different bands throughout the evening—I think The Loose Ties were fourth of four—would produce a larger crowd. I said "Hello" to the band before they went on & was congratulated by several for my appearance on Jeopardy!, & after only a few minutes it was time to get down to business. The larger number of people crowded closer than usual to the stage, removing much of the area in which I usually skank, but in time space was found & also as usual the act of skanking induces some people to inch away. I was not alone in skanking, being joined by the brother of Dick, the trombonist, the brother, Jon, also serving as "designated utility musician," filling in from time to time on drums & bass guitar, & also by a small gaggle of girls. One appeared to be the girlfriend of Phil, the lead singer, guitarist, & frontman. An old-fashioned punk replete with flying Mohawk also joined in. The largest number of people skanking at any one time was, methinks, six, during the Ties' slow, steady cover of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' song "Royal Oil." Many songs, especially as rushed through by The Loose Ties, are too fast to skank all the way through, unless one is a snot-nosed fifteen-year-old with boundless energy, but "Royal Oil" is that rare gem that is paced perfectly, permitting non-stop skanking all the way from start to finish. The six of us all skanked in a circle, our feet thrusting toward each other, but never quite colliding, never disturbing the rhythm. 'Twas grand!

One area of concern is that over the summer one of the two couples within the band--the exceedingly nice drummer, Matt, & the astoundingly lovely saxophonist & singer, Becca--broke up. Such strife can sink a band, but to my relief The Loose Ties appear to have weathered the storm. Becca was there with a hunky fellow & Matt has a new cute girlfriend; so, at least to this outsider's eyes all appears to be well. To have found a local ska band, this long after the Summer of Ska, is preposterously improbable. I am thus convinced that anything so improbable must also be cursedly fragile, & I am alert, constantly questing for the blow that will shatter The Loose Ties, my source of such boundless & ludicrously accessible fun. The old saw says that forewarned is forearmed; so, I'm trying to be forewarned.

I didn't quite close Woobie's, but only just. My return home was not until shortly after 2:00 A.M., after declining an invitation from Jameson, the bass player, to join the band & company at Phil's apartment. I appreciated the invitation, & Project MERCATOR dictates that I should have accepted, but after a night of skanking I am a disgustingly sweaty beast desperately in need of a shower. So, home to said shower I went, the right decision having been made. In my apologies to Jameson, however, I fudged the truth by saying that, rats, I'd love to go to Phil's, in only I didn't have to get up very early the next morning to go to the art museum with Vitamin H. The part about the museum was true, the fudge lay in citing that as my motive. And so I dutifully woke up on Saturday morning, wicked dehydrated by the one-two punch of being a human steam bath & replacing the water lost as sweat with gin & tonic. Vitamin H. & I had been trying to coordinate our schedules to see an exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts (F.I.A.), Unbroken Ties: Dialogues in Cuban Art, but on several consecutive weekends either I was out of town master debating or she was out of town visiting her folks & siblings. At last we were both in town & free, but why did we do on Saturday morning instead of, for instance, Saturday afternoon? Especially since last Saturday did not feature a Michigan football game, making the afternoon unusually free? Because one of the other friends she'd invited had to go to work at 1:00 P.M. Curiously, though, of the four of us who gathered on Saturday morning, all were still at the F.I.A. when one o'clock rolled around, & no one hurriedly excused himself to race to work. There's nothing I love more after a late, physically punishing night than to wake up early the next day for absolutely no good reason.

Joining Vitamin H. & me for the morning's cultural excursion were Frankenstein's Monster, his brother (though the fellow never showed up), & another chap named John with whom I was not previously acquainted. This outing was by no means any kind of assignation, I had no objection to adding to our party, but Vitamin H. knows that Frankenstein's Monster & I ceased to be friendly when I learned he was defaming me to all our mutual friends; so, what could she have been thinking, inviting him along & springing this on me only when we pulled into a parking spot at the F.I.A.? I shall have to reevaluate whether I want anything more to do with the thoughtless Vitamin H.; it strikes me that I might already have too many silly, childish girls in my life. All was smooth & pleasant at the time, & Frankenstein's Monster & I got along well as we always do when face-to-face, courtesy being the glue that holds society together. Unbroken Ties was itself underwhelming, not least of all because we were waylaid & briefly held hostage by an overly enthusiastic docent. (I made a quip when first we encountered her, a mistake. "A decent docent?" I asked with a smile, & after that she was terribly fond of me; she would not let me go even after my three companions had escaped. Curse my charm!) Though we'd come for the Cuban art, I stayed for the prints; on display in the corridor-like Ford Graphics Gallery were a variety of works by the American artist Richard Florsheim, many of them thought-provoking & several of them downright entrancing (artlink). On my last visit to the F.I.A.'s galleries, in July (I'd been there since for a film), there had been on display a traveling exhibition of Tiffany lamps. The gorgeous glass having moved on, the permanent collection of 19th & 20th century European & American paintings had been restored, but I had not the time I would have liked to have spent therein. I shall have to make a point of returning to see those works before they are next displaced by a temporary exhibition.

Next time: Roller derby!

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


"She was a really cool kisser,
And she wasn't all that strict of a Christian.
She was a damned good dancer,
But she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend."

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCI - The life & wars of Frederick Townsend Ward (1831-1862), founder & captain of the Ever-Victorious Army.

Regular readers may recall that I dislike using photographs from the Wikipedia, wishing to give readers a broader visual frame of reference, but in the case of ward I found only one image of the man that was not some inferior form of his portrait as featured on the Wikipedia, & that image was only 100-some pixels x 100-some pixels, too wee for our purposes.

Operation AXIOM
Two months to the day until Christmas, & right on schedule I transmitted via electronic mail to my kin my Christmas wish list. The two-month deadline was established some years hence in order to give everyone plenty of time to get their shopping done prior to Christmastide.

Returning to a holiday much closer at hand, I have yet to carve our pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns. I'd vaguely planned to do so last weekend, but that was before our house mysteriously relocated to the surface of the Accursed Sun (see: R.B.D.S.O.T.D. commentary, below). I also had an inspiration for a new costume, allowing me to keep the costume I'd intended to wear in reserve, which will also allow me to continue making incremental improvements. Slowly but surely I am regaining the Halloween enthusiasm of my youth, & rediscovering the commitment to preparation that was that enthusiasm's hallmark.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave" from Motown 1's (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: What the %#¢& is going on with this Indian summer? It's so hot inside my house that I can't even think straight. The overnight low is supposed to be only five degrees cooler than the afternoon high! When the hell did I move to Hyderabad? (Yes, I know that "Indian summer" doesn't refer to India, Hyderabad just leapt to mind as a horrifically hot burg.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Cheap Trick, "I Want You to Want Me" (live) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

'Tis a busy social weekend, which has already seen me attend not one but two ska shows last night & participate in an outing to the F.I.A. (the museum, not the motorsport governing body) this morning. This morning! Who visits an art museum on a Saturday morning? Neptune's trident, that's my morning to sleep late! *grumble grumble* And tonight? Roller derby! My first away game, though in this case that means journeying only as far "away" as Mount Morris, where the Flint City Derby Girls will visit the Mid Michigan Derby Girls.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Chips, "Rubber Biscuit" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 22 Oktober
The Blues Brothers, "Rubber Biscuit" (live) from Briefcase Full of Blues (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It's pledge drive time on N.P.R., both "Michigan Radio" (WUOM/UFUM) & WKAR. Which means, due to the inadequacy of commercial radio, that it's cassette tape time in Lumi. First tape to be selected, Briefcase Full of Blues by The Blues Brothers, beyond question one of the finest albums I own. It is interesting that the pledge drives come in the midst of the imbroglio over N.P.R.'s dismissal of Juan Williams, former host of Talk of the Nation, but that's best discussed in a "Lies, Damned Lies, & the News" post, not here in the home of the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.

"What do you want for nothing? Rubber biscuit!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

To succeed a student must be challenged: fontlink. Finally, proof that learning is meant to be a demanding, rigorous ordeal, not the friendly, nurturing hug that has been the dominant trend in education since the end of the Second World War. Hmmm, perchance I could improve the pedagogical punch of "The Explorers Club" by changing the font of The Secret Base….


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CC - Neanderthal Man: Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis?

Two hundred episodes of "The Explorers Club," dating back almost four years to 27 November 2006! Take a trip down memory lane in the Wayback Machine & revisit the Fairey Rotodyne, retroactively numbered as episode No. I, & the humbling, laudable life of William Wilberforce, episode No. C. Raise your glass; here's to the next hundred episodes of "The Explorers Club"! Never cease exploring, treasured readers, never.

One day last week, whilst motoring in Lumi, I was convinced that I was not going to reach my destination without enduring a serious traffic collision. The best case scenario, as I pictured it with the small part of my brain that was not occupied with the white-knuckle driving intended to avoid such a collision, was that I would strike the roadside safety barriers, but not harm any other vehicles. I was proceeding very slowly & so I did not fear for my life, but I was all but certain that control of my vehicle was about to be lost at any moment. Luckily, I was wrong, & both Lumi & yours truly remain fully intact. The cause of my dismay was twofold: {a} the rain storm through which I was motoring & {b} the sorry state of Lumi's ever-so-essential tires & their resultant inability to cope with the rain storm. For some months, I had been piloting a car on increasingly bald rubber; or more specifically, since all tires are increasingly bald--that's a byproduct of their contact with the road, & quite inevitable--I was piloting a car on balding & ever-more-distressingly bald tires. I knew that were I not to perish over the course of the snowy & icy winter I would need fresh rubber, but was chastened by the expense, & I kept delaying the purchase. Meanwhile, Lumi's tires squealed around certain corners depending on the cant of the road. I came to dread the prospect of driving in the rain. I tried to change my driving habits so as to minimize stress on the tires, especially during braking, but this was no more than an attempt to buy time, not a solution to the problem.

So, after last week's fraught journey up I-475, I finally bit the bullet; I skipped the lecture toward which I'd been motoring & drove straight to my father's preferred tire merchant. Forty-five minutes & no small amount of the coin of the realm later, Lumi was sitting on four brand-new Michelin tires. I tell you, she's a new machine! This is the Lumi I fell in love with after the Mousemobile was betrayed & murdered behind my back, this is the Lumi I'd been slowly forgetting as the performance edge came off her previous rubber. The skies opened up last night, and rain is falling again today, but I go forth onto those rain-slicked highways & byways undaunted. On dry pavement, Lumi's got a palpable grip on the road that I find nigh intoxicating. (Looks like a perfect day to go motoring wearing a pair of driving gloves!) I'd driven on new rubber before, but never before had the state of the previous tires been so precarious as to make such a difference upon their discard. The difference is as that 'twixt night & day. My pocketbook took a substantial hit, but I am now much more favorably inclined toward my chances of surviving the coming winter.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "I Lost on Jeopardy!" from In 3-D (Captain Malice)

Commentary: As I sat in the terminal of Bishop International Airport awaiting my flight to Cleveland, & thence to Los Angeles, I thought I heard "I Lost on Jeopardy!" playing softly in the background, an ill portent even to the non-superstitious. A closer listen revealed that the chorus was not, "I lost on Jeopardy!," but "Our love's in jeopardy." I had never before heard the song that I later learned was "Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band; I'd thought that "I Lost on Jeopardy!" was one of "Weird Al's" originals, not a parody. Simple coincidence or something altogether more spooky?

"You don't even get a lousy copy of our home game!"

And I didn't!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Code Name: CHAOS
My thanks to both The Guy and the California Dreamer for weighing in on the Operation AMPHION/Project GLOWWORM question. I like Operation AMPHION; it sounds lofty & shows the Hellenic influence that is so prominent in my code name selections (CADMUS itself, Projects PANDORA, EPIMETHEUS, & TRITON). But I've no particular affection for any of the myths of the various Amphions, & I find very appealing the sense of fun inherent in GLOWWORM. I've an ever-growing list of potential code names in my Moleskine; so, with almost infinite room for self-improvement & many more endeavours to be added to the CADMUS roster in the years ahead, I'm sure AMPHION will eventually be called up to the majors. For now, though, my gut says GLOWWORM.

Welcome, gentle readers, to Project GLOWWORM.

Recently, on a lark & on the cheap, I acquired a pair of driving gloves. My principal inspiration for this was a line of my own devise, from Project TROIKA, "Goggles and gloves, Ellie, a man with goggles & gloves is ready to face anything the world can throw at him." (Wayback Machine.) I already wear goggles, after a fashion (my habitual sunglasses, drugstore imitation Wayfarers), & the first Project GLOWWORM initiative—the new yard work uniform—had demonstrated the utility of gloves behind fighting off winter's chill. So, on a trial basis, I started wearing driving gloves, & they are fantastic! I love the additional grip on the steering wheel afford by the gloves. I love the ritual of putting them on & taking them off. And I love keeping a pair of gloves in Lumi's glove box, love it, love it, love it.

I do not wear my driving gloves for especially short stints, such as those between stops when I am running errands, but I always wish I was wearing them. I've not worn my gloves one or twice with a passenger or passengers in Lumi, & I've regretted that, much as I regretted those occasions this past summer when I opted not to wear my hat. I've worn my driving gloves with passengers in the motorcar & been mocked. But I've been mocked all my life; I've been mocked & teased so consistently & so regularly that on some level the disapproval of others is welcome. So, I'm a guy who wears driving gloves. I don't think I'm driving a race car at Le Mans. I don't think I'm weaving my way through the Italian Alps in an Alfa Romeo Spider. I think I've always enjoyed motoring, always enjoyed the open road—especially long, solitary drives—& my driving gloves add to the pleasure.

Why does The Impossible Ingenue ask me to help her study for exams in subjects for which I possess no particular expertise, such as mathematics, when really she just wants to hang out? For pity's sake, girl, just say you want to hang out! No pretense necessary! Wearisome, wearisome child.

Unless things go massively awry, I should be able to see The Loose Ties this weekend, after weeks, nay, months, of verdammt timing, scheduling conflicts, & missed connections. I must reestablish my Superfan bona fides, & right quick.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "…Baby One More Time" from Out-of-State Plates, Disc Two (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Whilst in the Great White North, I heard a most unwelcome blast from the past, "Oops!… I Did It Again." The Great White North is just like America… with a hilariously significant time lag. (The Canucks still say "like" as if they were '80s valley girls, it's spectacular.) I am pleased tremendously not to have "Oops!… I Did It Again" in my library; so, here's the closest readily available analog. Enjoy!
I have had, since I was a wee lad, a small stuffed animal of a leopard, which in my incredibly imaginative youth I named "Spots." Alongside Fuzzball, my teddy bear; Mane, the lion; & Moose-Moose (take a wild, shot-in-the-dark guess); Spots is part of the old guard, my most cherished stuffed animals. Science can help us to understand why Spots has his spots, even if it cannot yet tell us how: Spotlight on spotslink.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Queue
I'm confident after finishing Berlin Game & Mexico Set that after London Match I'll want to continue on with at least the second & most probably the third of the Bernard Samson trilogy of trilogies, & the prequel Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family, 1899-1945. I am terribly pleased that Horse Under Water has proved the outlier among Deighton's novels. With such a touch of certainty added to my itinerary, methinks this is the perfect time for a little bit of "housekeeping," specifically getting to such oft-delayed books as Pretty in Ink, a break from the espionage genre, & Kim, a return to spy fiction, albeit in a 19th rather than 20th century context, & my first foray into Kipling's prose. A Man Called INTREPID is another jaunt into the non-fiction side of the spy genre; library books have a charming way of jumping the queue.

Christopher Andrew, Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
Len Deighton, Berlin Game
Len Deighton, Mexico Set

Len Deighton, London Match

William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
Rudyard Kipling, Kim

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barenaked Ladies, "Some Fantastic" from Stunt (T.L.A.M.)


"Someday I will find the secret
To your social chemistry.
Then I'll print it on a T-shirt
And it'll make you want to be with me.
And if I wear it past your work
You'll see other guys are jerks."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Objective ZED ALPHA
It's going to be an interesting experience watching episodes that I watched being taped while sitting amongst, though simultaneously apart from, the studio audience. My V.C.R. stands ready to preserve this week's episodes for as long as the magnetic tape lasts, assuming of course nothing happens to degauss it; they will be recorded on the same tape as the Biography episode about George Lucas & the U.S.A. network's broadcast of the A.F.I. tribute to same. Many of my V.H.S. tapes are used over & over & over again, but this one is of a different ilk, this one is for posterity.

Thursday is the day my contribution to this saga begins. Check your local listings for broadcast times in your media market.

Adendum, 10:32 P.M.: Yeah, wow, that was weird. Déjà vu? Not quite, but uncanny all the same. A fuller recounting of the Objective ZED ALPHA experience will follow next week or soon thereafter. Come to think about it, I should start on that now, & just hold off on publication.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barenaked Ladies, "One Week" from Stunt (T.L.A.M.)


"You'll think you're looking at Aquaman.
I summon fish to the dish; although I like the Chalet Swiss,
I like the sushi 'cause it's never touched a frying pan.
Hot like wasabi when I bust rhymes…."

The best meal we had in the Great White North was at a Swiss Chalet about half an hour outside of Toronto; Swiss Chalet is a chain of "casual dining" restaurants that specialize in rotisserie chicken. It was a fine meal, though by no means great, but due to the purely comparative nature of "best" it was indeed our best meal. As one might expect from this, the esteem in which I hold Toronto, a city that had fascinated & delighted me since my only other visit approximately twenty years hence, was dealt a savage blow. I'm not quite prepared to write, "If I never again set foot in Toronto, it will be too soon," but only just.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CXCIX - Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) & her discovery by Donald Johanson (b. 1943) & Tom Gray (b. 19??), et alii.

Master Debating
I am returned from Toronto, Ontario, Canada & the Hart House Invitational, hereafter known as either the "Horror of Hart House" or the "Hart House Horror," dependent upon which I ultimately choose. I am exhausted by a combination of sleep & caloric deprivation, combined with the ruinous effects of severe dehydration over the course of the last three days. For reasons I will never fathom, the campus of the University of Toronto is all but devoid of drinking fountains, & exacerbating matters the tournament supplied precious little in the form of potable water. How on Earth did our clever Canuck cousins expect a public speaking competition to be conducted sans water to wet the speakers' whistles?

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Avril Lavigne, "I'm With You" from Let Go (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Isn't anyone trying to find me?" Actually, I was rather popular this weekend. I was unable to access my voicemail whilst in the Great White North, but received a pair of calls from my father updating me on all the Big Ten action ("The Victors," based on what I can glean from accounts of the loss, coming soon) & a call each from The Guy & K. Steeze.

Samstag, 16 Oktober
Barenaked Ladies, "It's All Been Done" from Stunt (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Someone said something, I cannot recall what, & spontaneously both The M.A.P. & I sang, "It's all been done, ooo whoo hoo hoo!" Good times.

Freitag, 15 Oktober
Bob & Doug McKenzie with Geddy Lee, "Take Off" from Great White North (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "This is, uh, the hit single section of our album."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CXCVIII - Java Man (Homo erectus erectus) & Peking Man (Homo erectus pekinensis).

Operation AXIOM
Sixty-three years ago to the day, 14 October 1947, Major General (then-Captain) Chuck Yeager (U.S.A.F., Retired) became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, piloting his Bell X-1, the Glamorous Glennis. I've seen the Glamorous Glennis at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum, & she's gorgeous, I just wish she wasn't suspended so high above the floor, as I'd really like to get a closer look at her. (In this regard, maybe I've been spoilt by the accessibility of the aeroplanes at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Pat.)

This Week in Motorsport
I could not spare the time to watch an hour of the Petit Le Mans last night, nor will I be able to make up any ground this weekend, but I have high hopes that I'll be able to squeeze in two hours tonight, a "double stint" in racing terminology. (I'm thankful that the U.S.A. shows are still on hiatus; so, there's jack & squat to watch on television on Thursday nights.) Will I have finished Petit before the upcoming Korean Grand Prix weekend? Korea is on the far side of the International Date Line, the same as Japan, meaning day will be night & night will be day; Friday morning practice at the brand-new Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea will be broadcast live in America in the wee small hours of Friday, Thursday night for all practical intents & purposes. There's no reason why I must see the American Le Mans Series finale prior to the next Formula One grand prix, I'm just excited to see the whole of the Petit Le Mans as soon as I can.

Boy howdy, I loves me some endurance racing.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Platters, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from The Very Best of The Platters (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I've loved "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" since hearing it in the motion picture Always. I didn't understand it then, not until smoke had gotten into my own eyes years later, but neither time nor bitter experience can diminish its beauty.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Code Name: CHAOS
I am in the midst of formulating & codifying a new endeavour to add to the roster of the existential reclamation, renewal, & reconstruction initiative known simply as CADMUS. With the possible exception of Project OSPREY, my revived fandom of college basketball, all of the code names programs are part of CADMUS, including, but not limited to, Project PANDORA, Operation ÖSTERREICH, Project MERCATOR, Operation AXIOM, Project RADIANT, Objective ZED ALPHA, Project EPIMETHEUS, Operation VAUXHALL, & even such collaborative B.T.W. schemes as Projects TROIKA, TRITON, PALINDROME, & the forthcoming TRIANGLE. (Subdivisions of Operation ÖSTERREICH include the completed Objective FINNLAND & the aspirational Objective SCHWEDEN.) I am perhaps 75-80% decided to code name the new endeavour Operation AMPHION, though there is still a smaller but persistent lobby for the code name Project GLOWWORM. Your thoughts, gentle readers, would be greatly appreciated: Project GLOWWORM or Operation AMPHION?

The crux of the endeavour (code name pending) is clothes. In the oft-quoted words of Samuel Clemens*, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." The idea started with Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.'s critique that a man should never wear short pants (a.k.a. shorts); that's old-fashioned malarkey that completely discounts the vagaries of weather & our great republic's prized values of egalitarianism & informality, but it did get me thinking. I've habitually mowed the lawn in gym shorts & a T-shirt, but to trim the bushes I've always donned jeans & a long-sleeved T-shirt (trimming the bushes involves inserting myself into the bushes, & even though there aren't thorns those branches can be sharp & scratchy). Pairing the jeans & long sleeves with gloves for handling the electric hedge clippers has always felt intuitively "right." In a murky alleyway of my brain, this bit of intuition was introduced to my disdain for the Accursed Sun & a notion soon took shape: if I was going to make war on the Sun, it was time to stop pussyfooting around. The Accursed Sun burned my arms; I'd fight back with long sleeves. The Accursed Sun burned my face, forehead, & ears, & got in my eyes; I'd fight back with a hat, my pith helmet, specifically. And while I was at it, I hated the way in which the grass clippings stained my hands green; I'd fight back with gloves. Instead of gym shorts, short sleeves, & a headband, since June or July I've been mowing the lawn in blue jeans, long sleeves, gloves, & my pith helmet. The results have been better than I'd dared imagine. My arms were less sunburned this summer than in any other comparable period, & the pith helmet has fended off the fatigue that is the most deleterious effect of the Accursed Sun's atomic-fueled onslaught.

Never would I trade away short sleeves entirely, for I am never at my ease unless my forearms are exposed (Why did I get my skull & crossbones tattoo on my sinister forearm? Specifically so that I could so often gaze upon the inked splendor!), but the success of the pith helmet drove me to carry further that part of the experiment. I acquired a hat for everyday use, a straw trilby spied on a grocery run to Meijer; the critical question would be whether the shielding against the Accursed Sun would to worth the additional body heat trapped by the headgear. The answer was a resounding yes. On those few occasions when I eschewed my straw hat for social or other considerations, I knew all too soon that I had erred. High on this success, a thought came unbidden from the murky boondocks of my mind: a man should wear a hat. Not a baseball cap, but a proper hat. The straw trilby had been justified by the benefits of thwarting the Accursed Sun, but under the gloriously overcast skies of the fall & winter should I bear the additional heating costs for the sake of a dictum emanating from some unknown, very possibly cobweb-ridden corner of my psyche? The answer, methinks, is yes. The Devil take John F. Kennedy, a man should wear a hat! For the purpose, I acquired an autumn hat during an expedition to J. C. Penney timed to take advantage of a big & tall sale. The hat has a curiously low crown, very shallow indents, & a brim that is sharply upturned at the rear, almost after the fashion of a Tyrolean hat; 'tis neither a fedora not a trilby, nor a Tyrolean, & I know not what specific noun to ascribe. It is gray in color, with lighter gray pinstripes. (Fear not, I have no truck with the appalling patterned trilbys that are so in vogue with the younglings; heathen savages, the lot.)

Thanks to this verdammt Indian summer, today was the first day cool & cloudy enough for the new hat. I left the house this morning having donned my straw trilby, but it took a battering from the afternoon rains. When I returned to campus this evening for debate practice, the fall hat kept my head dry. The rain provided a most excellent raison d'être for the hat, very much as the summer's sunshine had for its straw predecessor, but the newcomer has yet to be put through its proper paces. This weekend's sally to the Great White North should provide a suitable proving ground. (I do not wear my prized black Blues Bros. trilby because of what happened to the straw trilby when caught in today's rainfall. These daily hats are meant to take a beating, to sacrifice themselves to protect me from the elements; the Blues Bros. hat is, by contrast, a costume piece, meant to be preserved & cherished. On that note, though, I should visit either or both Sam's Store in Ann Arbor & The Mad Hatter in Flint to peruse their inventories of hats aimed at old fogies such as yours truly.)

Now that you know a little more about this new CADMUS endeavour, which code name seems the more apropos, Operation AMPHION or Project GLOWWORM?

Progress is once again being made as, ever so slowly, I am deflating after the summer's immense ballooning. I don't trust my eyeballed appraisals, I trust only the holes in my belts.

*Why do I refer to Clemens by his real name rather than his nom de plume, Mark Twain, even though I am perfectly willing to address other authors by their pen names, e.g., George Orwell (Eric Blair) & Saki (H. H. Munro)? Contrariness. I've no defense for the inconsistency, I'm just contrary whenever the topic of Clemens arises.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lenka, "Dangerous and Sweet" from Lenka (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "I know that you are just like me: oversensitive."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vote For Kodos
My father failed in his bid to win the Republican nomination for Michigan's 5th Congressional district; had he succeeded, despite her spongy left-leaning politics, my mother probably would have voted for his doomed candidacy out of marital loyalty. However, his tea party-fueled insurrection in an overwhelmingly Democratic district having failed, she's free to vote for whomever she pleases. Having watched Sunday's debate between the various candidates for the Michigan 5th, she is now leaning toward voting for the Green Party candidate instead of our ancient Democratic congressman, Representative Dale Kildee, who went to kindergarten with Methuselah. This abandonment of her habitual support for the Democratic* Party is not without historical precedent: despite having voted for then-Governor Carter in 1976, in '80 my mother voted for the independent candidacy of John Anderson, a formerly left-wing Republican. So, if she does end up voting for the Green Party candidate, it won't be because she supports the national Green Party's duplicitous partnership with the Socialist Party U.S.A., it will be nothing more than her own mild brand of protest vote.

One particularly interesting facet of the midterm elections is how many lefties of my personal acquaintance have adopted President Obama's preposterous rhetoric about "the failed policies of the past." Hey, guys, I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but {a} Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac weren't policies of President Bush's design, {b} the securitization of mortgage-backed assets wasn't a policy of President's design, & {c} President Bush isn't on the ballot for Congress anywhere in the country. Also, hey, sorry again, but President Bush wasn't on the ballot in '08; so, when then-Senator Obama rallied against the policies of President Bush, he wasn't even remotely describing the policies advocated by the Republican presidential nominee for that election, Senator McCain. I know, that has to come as a shock to many of you. Take a few deep breaths, you'll be okay.

In an interesting recent example, in an I.M. conversation about President Obama's & Attorney General Holder's running of the Department of Justice, my conversational partner engaged only in a discussion President Bush's & Attorney General Gonzales's running of the D.O.J. There was no discussion of the issues of the present & their implications for the future, only a continued rehashing of the past. History is my first love, I will never deny the central role the past plays in shaping the present & the future, but an enlightening discourse is impossible if the immediate past & its implications in the present & the future are declared out-of-bounds. I wouldn't ask anyone to violate their conscience by defending A.G. Holder, but how is constantly steering a conversation back to the disastrous tenure of A.G. Gonzales going to help stop or mitigate the harms of A.G. Holder in the present? Two wrongs—those of A.G. Gonzales & those of A.G. Holder—do not make a right, nor does misfeasance by the one in any way excuse misfeasance by the other. Pointing about that Gonzales was a bad Attorney General (he was) doesn't make Holder a good Attorney General (he isn't).

My question, then, is this: If President Obama meant what he said during the '08 campaign about creating a new kind of politics, of eschewing partisanship, why is he so eager to talk about the "failed policies of the past" & so very unwilling to discuss whether his policies of the present have failed or are failing? The answer of course is that he does not think attempting the impossible feat of defending his own failed & failing policies would gain him & his party any electoral advantage, but that doesn't explain away his betrayal of the campaign rhetoric that tricked so many into voting for him in '08. Oh, wait, except it does, by pointing out that the earlier rhetoric was nothing more than a low down, dirty trick. How does it feel to have been so thoroughly Obamboozled?

*I shudder whenever one of my fellows on the right speaks of the "Democrat Party" or the "Democrat agenda." It's intended as an insult that we all know is grammatically incorrect, but I've never quite understood how the error is meant to be insulting or why that provides sufficient justification for such an obvious error.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Roots featuring Malik B. & Dice Raw, "Here I Come" from Superbad: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)
The Stars My Destination
After all the delays & cost overruns, not to do everything reasonable & even a few things that are slightly unreasonable to keep the International Space Station in orbit as long as is feasible would be both a colossal waste of scarce resources & an unforgivable lack of foresight. So, by all means, yes, let's use the I.S.S. as a launchpad for missions beyond low Earth orbit: Starbaselink. Though our charlatan president's smoke-and-mirrors plan to end American manned spaceflight will have quite the opposite effect, delaying perhaps by decades the manned exploration of outer space beyond the orbit of our Moon: Shuttlecraftlink.

The monthly Economics Club dinner was held this evening, though at the last minutes I found out through secondhand sources that The Most Dangerous Game, the Club's president, could not attend. Whatever is the point of holding the dinner when the president, the driving force behind the group, cannot attend? Why didn't she let me know she had to work, she knew the date, & we would happily have switched to a different date to accommodate her work schedule. Exasperating girl! Of course, as The Most Dangerous Game's schedule is increasingly dominated by her non-school work, more & more responsibility for the Club's welfare falls on the shoulders of the hapless vice president, yours truly. I had no particular desire to be the V.P., I only took the job because there were precious few other candidates. Last year, The Most Dangerous Game ran the Econ. Club as the vice president, with The Cowgirl happy to be little more than a figurehead president, but that's not the way it was supposed to be this year, with The Game's de jure responsibilities finally matching her de facto power. *grumble grumble*

My complaint is encapsulated in the misdirected frustration voiced by Dante Hicks in the motion picture Clerks, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

This Week in Motorsport
I'll never have time to watch this year's running of the Petit Le Mans in one go; so, unsatisfying as this may be, I've decided to watch the race in chunks, an hour a night before I hit to hay. Tonight was the first night and, holy smoke, I love endurance racing! This might be even better than splurging on one magnificent day of sports car racing, because this way I get to experience that thrill over & over again. Woot!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Mourning
The Blues Brothers, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" from The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Rest in peace, Solomon Burke.

"We do sincerely hope you all enjoy the show, and please remember, people, that no matter who you and what you do to live, thrive, and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same—me, you… them—everybody, everybody."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CXCVII - The Piltdown Man hoax.

The Stars My Destination
Richard Branson, you magnificent bastard! Behold, space cadets, the flight of the Enterprise: Galacticlink!

Incentivizing note-to-self regarding the CADMUS connection: Projects EPIMETHEUS & RADIANT so that you might afford the cost of a ticket, Operation ÖSTERREICH so that you won't be deemed too heavy & too unhealthy to ride, once you purchase a ticket.

This Week in Motorsport
The Japanese Grand Prix was thrilling! I am very glad I forced myself to go to bed last night after qualifying instead of staying up to watch the race. Not only was it nice to get some sleep, but I've found that recorded races make better viewing than live races; the ability to rewind is particularly nice, as is the ability to control the pace of your own "pit stops" for snacks & the W.C., rather than having to rush during the commercial breaks for fear of missing a moment of the action.

My teams all did well. Red Bull (Renault) scored a thrilling one-two finish, Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber, extending Webber's lead atop the drivers' standings & bringing Vettel into a second-place tie with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (though Alonso holds the tiebreaker, having won four grands prix to Vettel's three). The highest-possible points finish extended Red Bull's lead over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship. Rubens Barrichello score another top-ten (points-scoring) finish for Williams (Cosworth), though Nico Hülkenberg was knocked out at the start by his old GP2 rival Vitaly Petrov of Renault in what the stewards ruled an "avoidable collision;" Petrov will be penalized at the start of the next race, the inaugural Korean Grand Prix. Williams are now only two points behind Force India (Mercedes) for sixth place in the constructors' standings; more than prestige is on the line, millions of dollars in television revenues are disbursed amongst the teams in direct proportion to their finish in the Constructors' Championship. Heikki Kovalainen of Lotus (Cosworth) scored the new team's highest finish of the season, twelfth place, while his teammate Jarno Trulli equalled the previous team-best of thirteenth place. And next year Lotus Racing will start using the full name of the original, legendary Lotus team, Team Lotus! Hoorah for making history live again.

The Saga of "Quick Nick"
Like any other spectator sport, Formula One has its heroes & villains, & often the only distinction between them is personal fan preference. I find McLaren (officially styled Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) to be a "wretched hive of scum & villainy," but our friends at B.B.C. Sport, catering—and quite rightly—to their British audience, sing the praises of McLaren's two British drivers, 2009 World Drivers' Champion Jenson Button & 2008 World Drivers' Champion Lewis Hamilton. (I cackled with glee when Hamilton, sitting atop the drivers' standings going into the Gran Premio d'Italia, crashed out of both that race & the following Singapore Grand Prix; the two consecutive D.N.F.s [did not finish] have all but sunk the bullying Hamilton's championship hopes.) There are reasons for my opposition to McLaren, Hamilton, & Button, but were you to cut to the core of the matter I just don't like them. But one driver I do like is Nick Heidfeld, newly returned to the starting grid only two weeks ago, at Singapore.

"Quick Nick" Heidfeld is a veteran driver with a dubious claim to fame (actually, several, but we'll stick to the one): he is the highest-scoring driver never to have won a grand prix. He's finished second in eight grands prix, & has many other podium finishes to his credit, but in F1 he's never stood on that top step. Last season, alongside the Polish Robert Kubica (now of Renault), the German Heidfeld drove for B.M.W. Sauber. When B.M.W. withdrew, Sauber lost their place for 2010 & it looked like they wouldn't return before 2011 at the earliest. Both Kubica & Heidfeld went looking for a race seat. While I am not privy to all the details, either no team offered Heidfeld a drive or the only offers were from teams that were either destined to be non-competitive (the three, at one time planned to be four, new teams) or didn't offer a salary to his satisfaction. In time, Heidfeld signed as third, or reserve, driver to those Kraut bastards at the new Mercedes Grand Prix team; their two regular drivers are Michael Schumacher & Nico Rosberg, both German. With neither seven-time Drivers' Champion Schumacher, returning after three years in retirement, nor Rosberg, son of '82 Chamion Keke Rosberg, suffering injury in a shunt—& for that I am grateful—Heidfeld had little to do on grand prix weekends but hang around the Mercedes garages & stay ready.

In August, Heidfeld became the test driver for Pirelli, which will be the sole tire supplier to F1 from next season (for the last three seasons, Bridgestone has supplied F1's tires). This was seen as an advantage in his quest to earn a drive for '11, since every team will be adjusting to the new tires & Heidfeld's experience with the Pirellis might prove invaluable. But then Sauber (Ferrari) gave Pedro de la Rosa the axe, offering his erstwhile seat to our boy &—presto!—Quick Nick was back in F1. Woot! His first race, the Singapore Grand Prix, was inauspicious, as his Sauber was knocked out of the race by a vicious move from Mercedes's Schumacher. But Quick Nick came good at today's Japanese Grand Prix, finishing eighth, thus scoring four points over two grands prix, compared to the six points de la Rosa had netted in fourteen cracks at bat. Goody goody gumdrops, everybody loves a happy ending, right?

Except that Heidfeld won't be driving for Sauber in 2011. The team have announced that their driver line-up will consist of current driver Kamui Kobayashi, the most fearless man on the F1 grid (constantly riding that razor's edge between bravery & insanity, there's no move too aggressive for mad man Kobayashi to try), and this year's GP2 runner-up, Sergio Pérez. As cited above, Heidfeld's had a long, undistinguished career; there is an argument to be made that he's shown how good he can be, & that's all there is. Pérez, on the other hand, is young (only twenty compared to Quick Nick's thirty-three) & full of potential; he might not be as good a Formula One driver as Heidfeld, but the only way to really find that out is to give a kid a shot. And then there is the gripping hand to consider: Pérez has the backing of the world's richest man, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, & the driver signing is expected to bring large infusions of sponsorship money into the cash-strapped Sauber organization. (Speed's race-calling trio, about whom there is more information below, have also speculated that Kobayashi's time with Sauber might end after 2011, because the team's reserve driver will be Pérez's fellow Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez, winner of the inaugural GP3 feeder series championship & another rising talent with Slim backing.) And, please, let me be clear, I have absolutely nothing against either Pérez or Gutiérrez; F1 constantly needs new blood, & either might prove to be the next great champion. I wish them well in their Formula One careers.

Nevertheless, Quick Nick still has three more grands prix in which to polish his résumé for next season, the brand-new Korean Grand Prix, the Grande Prêmio do Brasil, & the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. And he'll still have more experience on the new Pirelli tires than anyone else… except his replacements as Pirelli test driver, Pedro de la Rosa & former Renault driver Romain Grosjean. Will Nick Heidfeld have a Formula One seat in 2011? if so, with whom? Stay tuned, because your humble narrator certainly hopes Abu Dhabi won't be the last we see of "Quick Nick."

The Numbers Game
During Speed's broadcast of Saturday's rained-out qualifying sessions, before it was announced that qualifying would proceed on Sunday morning, shortly before the scheduled star of the grand prix, the announcing trio of—in terms of football announcing positions—play-by-play man Bob Varsha & color men David Hobbs (former F1 driver) & Steve Matchett (former World Constructors' Championship-winning mechanic) informed me of a curious quirk in the F.I.A. regulations. If qualifying could not take place at all, but the grand prix could still go ahead, grid positions would be determined by numerical order. There are myriad faults to find with that system, but for the nonce let's take advantage of the segue into a discussion of the F1 numbering scheme. The rise of N.A.S.C.A.R. to national prominence last decade has made many more of us than would wish to know aware of the numbers of that sport's drivers. Jeff Gordon has been No. 24 for years; the villainous Dale Earnhardt's, sainted after his martyr's death, No. 3 has been effectively retired, somewhat akin to the jerseys hanging from the rafters of college fieldhouses & professional arenas all across this land. But that's not the way Formula One works, not at all. Numbers are reassigned every year. For 2010, '09 Drivers' Champion Jenson Button drives car No. 1, with his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton driving car No. 2. As the successor to '09 Constructors' Champion Brawn G.P., the two cars of Mercedes G.P. are Nos. 3 & 4. Bowing to superstition, there is no car No. 13. But beyond that the numbering system is a bit of a mystery, & I have been able to locate no explanation amidst's "Understanding the Sport" section. Are numbers allocated by seniority? Certainly not, for Red Bull Racing are Nos. 5 & 6, even though Ferrari (Nos. 7 & 8) are the only team to have competed in every single F1 season, dating back to the beginning of the World Championships in 1950. Maybe it has something to do with when certain paperwork is filed? That might be it, for all the new teams are in the higher numbers: Lotus, Nos. 18 & 19; Virgin, Nos. 20 & 21; Hispania, Nos. 24 & 25. The Sauber organization just celebrated its 300th grand prix, but its cars are Nos. 22 & 23; this is because the team was late reapplying to join the sport after B.M.W.'s withdrawal* & was given the spot & numbers allocated to USF1 before its ignominious collapse.

*Even though now using the same Ferrari engines as Ferrari & Toro Rosso, the team is still referred to as "B.M.W. Sauber" by the F.I.A., leading to, with the mention of its engine supplier, the fun name of "B.M.W. Sauber Ferrari." For next season, the B.M.W. prefix will be nixed.

"This Week in Motorsport" is back, "…with a vengeance!" (A Space Ghost: Coast to Coast reference so obscure I'd hope it's lost on everyone.)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Potshot, "Victory or Lost" from Dance to the Potshot Record (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Said a jubilant Sebastian Vettel over the radio to his crew, as he took his victory lap around mighty Suzuka, "This is our circuit." Today's triumph was Vettel's second consecutive win in the Japanese Grand Prix, & also the first time he'd twice claimed the checkered flag at any single circuit. I make no bones about it, I love that kid.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Victors
(No. 17) Michigan State 34-17 Michigan (No. 18)
5-1, Big Ten 1-1

Live by the Shoelace, die by the Shoelace. I've never seen Shoelace make such poor decisions, nor so many of them in a single game. My sincere hope is that he decided to get all of his bad play for the season out of the way in one game, because if not then what we saw today was a tremendous regression. (More in the days ahead.)

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
To Dan Rydell's dismay, it's raining at Indian Wells. Or rather, & about this Dan might not give a tinker's damn, it's been raining cats & dogs at mighty Suzuka. So heavy & persistent was the downpour the today's/yesterday's qualifying session, a vital component of the grand prix weekend in that it determines the starting grid positions, was washed out & postponed to the morning of the grand prix, tomorrow/today. The time confusion is all due to the nature of the Japanese Grand Prix. The Singapore Grand Prix, run two weekends hence, is the only night race on the Formula One calendar; a night race in Singapore is run in the European afternoon/the North American morning, meaning that it can be broadcast live on television at the same time as all the other grands prix even though the motorcars race at an entirely different local time. The Japanese Grand Prix, by contrast, is a normal afternoon race; the Japanese afternoon just happens to be very early in the European morning & the middle of the North American night. The second practice session (Friday afternoon wherever the grand prix is taking place), usually broadcast live on Friday mornings in Michigan, was instead broadcast live in the wee small hours of Friday morning (for all intents & purposes, still Thursday night). Qualifying is held on the local Saturday afternoon, or very, very early on Saturday here (Friday night); last night, instead of videotaping qualifying, I videotaped lots of rain falling at Suzuka, as the Speed broadcast team filled the air as best they could while waiting for F.I.A. Race Control, the chaps overseeing the sporting aspects of the grand prix, to acknowledge the reality that too much rain had fallen & was continuing for the Suzuka Circuit to dry out enough for the three rounds of qualifying to be run before night fell. Qualifying will instead be held live tonight at midnight—that's Sunday morning in the Land o' the Rising Sun.

My plan, then, is to watch qualifying live (I'd intended to watch it on videotape this morning before the football action began in earnest) at midnight & then call it a night when the Acura Pre-Race Show begins at 1:30 A.M. (the race follows at 2:00). I'll then watch the Japanese Grand Prix after the eleven o'clock Mass, & after that mow the lawn. Mighty Suzuka is one of the most challenging tracks on the F1 schedule & I shall be sorely tempted to push through the night & stay up until 4:00 A.M. watching the grand prix.

Adding drama to the proceedings is that the top five contenders for the World Drivers' Championship—Mark Webber of Red Bull (Renault), Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, & reigning champion Jenson Button of McLaren—are within twenty-five points of each other atop the standings. A grand prix win awards the victor twenty-five points. Last year, Button stormed out to a commanding lead, winning six of the first seven grands prix (piloting his Mercedes-powered Brawn, since bought-out to be the Mercedes-Benz factory team). Only Vettel had even a prayer of catching up to Button, but a pair of decent finishes toward the end of the season allowed Button to stagger over the finish line & claim the World Championship. I'm in only my second (and first full) F1 season, but even the experienced commentators at Speed say they cannot a recall a campaign in which so many men have been so close together so late in the season. Both the '07 & '08 Championships were decided by a single point, but with the competition between two or three men, not five ('07: Kimi Räikkönen of Ferrari over Hamilton & Alonso, both of McLaren; '08: Hamilton over Felipe Massa of Ferrari). The first man to blink will be toast. Sweet fancy Moses, the 2010 Formula One World Championships are even better than I thought they would be based on the splendor of '09!

The Japanese Grand Prix will almost certainly be over before you read these lines, but there will still be three rounds of the 2010 season left: the inaugural (South) Korean Grand Prix, Brazil, & Abu Dhabi. To paraphrase Futurama: F1 fever, contract it!

Formula fun!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sam & Dave, "Soothe Me" (live) from the Rhino Hi-Five: Sam & Dave E.P. (T.L.A.M.)
The Victors: Halftime
(No. 17) Michigan State 17-10 Michigan (No. 18)

If you had told me before the game that our much-reviled defense would hold the dastardly Spartans to seventeen points in the first half, I would have thought you an overly optimistic prognosticator. Had you told me that the dastardly Spartans would be held scoreless in the first quarter, I should not have believed you. Our defense is woefully inadequate, there's no way around that, but let's give them credit: they're doing a better job of keeping us in the game than is the much-vaunted offense.

But we saw Shoelace be hamstrung for large swaths of the game against the vile Fighting Irish; so, all is not yet lost. The valiant Wolverines can still win this game as a shootout if the offense gets going in the second half. Here's hoping they do.

Go Blue!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I am meant to see The Loose Ties perform tomorrow, but the show, a release party for another band's latest album, is scheduled for the middle of the Michigan-Michigan State game. What am I supposed to do in the face of such folly? For crying out loud, who schedules a concert for Saturday afternoon during the college football season?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Martin Hayes, "The Crooked Road/The Foxhunter's Reel" from Green Linnet Records: The Twentieth Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CXCVI - Raymond Dart (1893-1988) & the Taung Child (Australopithecus africanus).

I saw Jonah Hex this evening at The Impossible Ingenue's invitation. We saw it gratis at the Flint Institute of Arts thanks to the "College Town" initiative, which includes free screenings on Thursday nights, & yet I still feel as if I was overcharged. Jonah Hex is a wretched, wretched film, the kind of bad that I'd expect from a Syfy Original starring one of the lesser Baldwin bros. It's too late for me, save yourselves.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Spike Jones & His City Slickers, "Der Fuehrer's Face" from The Spike Jones Anthology (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Why? Because on Tuesday a good-natured buffoon subjected me to the always popular "Stalin was worse than Hitler" argument. Is there really a point to parsing out which was the greater evil? Not unless you're trying, in some small but morally repugnant way, to excuse the other.

"Are ve not the supermen?
Aryan, pure supermen?
Ja, ve is the supermen!)
Super duper supermen!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Then-Senator Obama spent the whole of the '08 campaign declaring loudly & often that President Bush had politicized the Department of Justice; what we've seen from the Justice Department in the first twenty-one months of the Obama Administration is politicization on a ghastly & previously unimaginable scale at the same time that investigations have cleared the Bush Administration of any impropriety in the celebrated case of the firing of eight United States Attorneys, who, after all, serve at the pleasure of the president. Similarly, then-Senator Obama roundly denounced President Bush for politicizing government reports on science. Kind of funny, then, isn't it, how the Obama White House used bad science to lie about the quantity of petroleum bubbling out of this year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Liar! Liar! Pants afire!link. Feeding the public blatant misinformation, Mr. President? Actively withholding the truth, Mr. President? Your sin, Mr. President, while great, would be less so were it not so unforgivably hypocritical.

I was going to title this post "Obamboozled: Science!," but unlike President Obama my conscience does not permit me to politicize science while denouncing others for that very thing. Thus, let me reiterate that this is an "Obamboozled" post, NOT a "Science!" post.

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


"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."
The Victors
(No. 19) Michigan 42-35 Indiana
5-0, Big Ten 1-0

I didn't see last Saturday's game against the wily Hoosiers; so, though I have read a good deal about it via ye olde internet, the second-hand character of all my knowledge would make my first-hand opining a vice. Having not seen the game I cannot judge if it really was as much of a close-run shootout as the score would indicate. After all the valiant Wolverines have put me through in the years since The Horror (the loss to Appalachian State under Lloyd Carr, followed by the two consecutive losing seasons under Rich Rodriguez), my first reaction upon learning the outcome was to breath a sigh of relief at the victory. A loss would have saddened me, but not necessarily surprised me. It's not that I don't have any faith in the valiant Wolverines, it's that the defense is about as resistant to tearing as tissue paper; it's that Shoelace & the rightly vaunted offense were held scoreless for vast swaths of the game against the vile Fighting Irish. I have faith in the valiant Wolverines, but my faith is not blind; it knows them to be all too fallible.

This Saturday, the (No. 18) valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan host the (No. 17) dastardly Spartans of the Michigan Agricultural College (or whatever they're calling themselves this week). This is more than just a football game, this is a manifestation of the war for the soul of the State of Michigan between the light of knowledge (us) & the darkness of ignorance (them). This is a war that divides families & sunders (temporarily) friendships. All this week, I've donned Michigan paraphernalia to proclaim my side in the struggle. There is no neutral ground in this, not for a Michigander.

Go Blue!

I learned the final score via a voicemail left by my father. He is in the habit of ringing my mobile when he's traveling; unlike so many of his other habits, I find this endearing instead of annoying. He left me two voice messages on Saturday, the first describing the many new attractions added to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base since his last visit & the second giving me the round-up of the day's Big Ten action. Both of these were most sincerely appreciated. The sunshine of southern California seemed a world away from the windswept gridirons of the Midwest, & yet football Saturdays are so rare & precious that every ounce of enjoyment must be wrung out of them, even by proxy. The Air Force Museum at Wright-Pat is one of my favorite places on Earth, one of the last places where I can still recall & enjoy my childhood idolization of my father. I like Wright-Pat even better than the National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian, & I will take my children to Dayton to look at the aeroplanes & marvel at Man's ingenuity.

I apologize for my failure to document properly last spring's speech & debate activities. I shall make a good faith effort to catch you up, but priority must be placed on not falling any further behind; to wit, the weekend just past:

Master Debating
The style of debate in which my teammates & I compete is known by several names, among them Oxford-style, Worlds-style, and British Parliamentary-style (B.P.). This last name, though most common, is the most unsatisfactory, as the previous format in which I competed, N.P.D.A., was nicknamed "Parli," as it too took its cues from the Westminster Parliament. The preferred name, then, is "Worlds," in part because there is an actual world championship contested between teams from several nation-states. I cannot specify any of them beyond the United States, the United Kingdom, and the stepchild of those two parents, the Dominion of Canada, & so I would not guess as to the presence of Worlds in the Commonwealth beyond the six nations of the Anglosphere.

A round in Worlds is contested between four teams of two members, named as 1st Proposition (or Prop), 2nd Proposition, 1st Opposition (or Opp), & 2nd Opposition. (I prefer the names 1st & 2nd Government [Gov] to 1st & 2nd Prop because of the similarity of Prop to Opp & the resultant opportunities for confusion, but I defer to the names used at last weekend's tournament.) The two members of 1st Prop are the Prime Minister (P.M.) & the Deputy Prime Minister (D.P.M.), 1st Opp: the Leader of the Opposition (L.O.) & the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (D.L.O.), 2nd Prop: the Member of Government (M.G.) & Government Whip (G.W.), & 2nd Opp: the Member of Opposition (M.O.) & Opposition Whip (O.W.). Each delivers a speech "not to exceed seven minutes," with significantly shorter speeches being very much frowned upon. The "top-half" speakers (1st Prop & Opp) alternate with each other, followed by the "bottom-half" speakers (2nd Prop & Opp), so that the speaking order is thus:

P.M. (1st Prop)
L.O. (1st Opp)
D.P.M. (1st Prop)
D.L.O. (1st Opp)
M.G. (2nd Prop)
M.O. (2nd Opp)
G.W. (2nd Prop)
O.W. (2nd Opp)

Even though the two Proposition teams are on the same side of the debate, as are the two Opposition teams, they are also in competition, as the four teams are ranked in descending order: 1, 2, 3, & 4. It is entirely possible for the 2nd Prop to win the round with the 1 while the 1st Prop slinks away in shame with the 4. It is also more important in competition to win the round than to "win" the debate. The purpose of a Worlds round (as distinct from the pedagogical purpose of Worlds overall) is not to solve the world's problems by arguing over the best policies, but to fulfill best & most properly your assigned role. Rounds are judged on three criteria: matter, manner, & role fulfillment, though the maddening aspect of the whole process is that each judge seems to have his own definition of those terms & his own calculus for how each is weighed. Matter is what you say: the quality of your arguments & analyses. In Worlds, you can argue that Marxism is the best economic system, but you've got to back is up with a more sophisticated analysis than "capitalism is bad." Manner is how you say what you say: confidence is the key to public speaking, and smooth, persuasive, engaging oratory is rewarded. Not to toot boast, but at the end of almost every round, when the two sides "cross the aisle" to shake hands before adjudication begins, I am almost invariably complimented on my oratory. Role fulfillment: how well you conduct your specific function within the round, & whether you "move the debate forward." A great emphasis is placed on the longevity of arguments; if the points brought up by 1st Prop are still being wrangled over by the Whips, there is a good chance 1st Prop will get the 1. Each of the four positions has its own requirements, as do both roles within each position; the P.M. has a very different job than the M.O., and a different speaker will be better at one role than another, based on that individual's skill-set. Points of information, questions asked during a member of the other side's speech, are a way to remain engaged in the debate (sometimes important to the judges' final scores) when it isn't your turn to speak.

Last winter & spring, in two weekends of Parli competition & one weekend of Worlds, I was partnered with The Most Dangerous Game, who is solely responsible for my recruitment onto the team. (Wayback Machine.) Her preference was for me to take the rhetorical lead—in Worlds almost invariably acting as P.M., L.O., or either Whip—though she very much liked to believe that she was directing events from behind the scenes. For the fall, now that we'd gotten our feet wet in Worlds, The M.A.P. decided that he'd flex his muscle as coach & faculty adviser & pair me with team captain Too Sly as a definitive "A" team. The Most Dangerous Game resented this for two reasons: {a} she'd brought my masterful speaking ability onto the team in the first place & {b} over the summer she'd tried & failed to supplant Too Sly as team captain. The Game's least charming quality is her almost psychotic need to be the leader of any organization of which she is a part. She doesn't necessarily want the burden of command, she just wants everyone to tell her she's in charge & do her bidding. However, Too Sly is clearly the driving force of the team, his commitment going above & beyond that of The M.A.P., for whom coaching the debate team is part & parcel of his teaching contract. Too Sly remains team captain, however unofficial that designation may be. The Most Dangerous Game was left without a partner for the first six rounds because at 2:30 P.M. on Thursday, at the very time we were meant to be piling into the van to motor down to Metro Airport, her partner—the guy on the team nobody liked—announced that he wasn't coming. (The story behind this is a pathetic saga all its own, into which we shan't now delve.) The novice pairing of Love/Hate & The Regina soldiered on through six fruitless rounds, at which point The Most Dangerous Game paired with The Regina for Round 7 & Love/Hate for Round 8.

Too Sly & I's result were as follows: Friday: Round 1: 4, Rd. 2: 2, Rd. 3: 1 (!); & Saturday: Rd. 4: 4, Rd. 5: 3, Rd. 6: 2, Rd. 7: 1 (!), Rd. 8: 3. We screwed up mightily only once, in Round 1, where we committed a startlingly elementary error as 1st Prop. There are mitigating factors, but at the end of the day we cannot & do not deny that we fumbled. Our triumph in Round 3 was especially thrilling because we both, but your humble narrator principally, were praised by one of the most experienced & influential Worlds coaches in the country. (The coaches adjudicate the rounds in teams of two or three; many teams have assistant coaches.) It is a poor workman who blames his tools, but the flip side of that coin is that every athlete knows that it's hard to win when you're playing against both the other team & the zebras. Too Sly & I didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell in Rounds 4 & 5, in which we faced the same judge twice. He loathed us openly & undeniably—if not us people than our debating style & every word that came out of our mouths. I'm honestly surprised that he gave us the 3 in Round 5 instead of a second consecutive 4. Through the eight rounds we twice occupied every position: 1st Prop, 1st Opp, 2nd Prop, & 2nd Opp. The most gratifying round of all was Round 7, our second crack at 1st Prop; we'd learned the painful lessons of our Round 1 failure & almost faultlessly executed our roles as 1st Prop. It is a point of particular pride that I was P.M. in our Rd. 7 victory.

The tournament was reseeded after every round; so, our 1 in Rd. 3 partially contributed to the Rd. 4 debacle, as the 2 in Rd. 2 & then the Rd. 3 1 lead to us being reseeded against superior competition. For all that, though, we're beginning to see what judges are looking for, figuring out how to win, & both Too Sly & I maintain, without as much impartiality as we are able to muster, that we deserved the 3 in Rd. 4, not the 4. Our steady improvement throughout Saturday (4, 3, 2, 1) lead to our Round 8 seeding in "the scary round." All three of the teams we faced were in contention to "break," to be among the eight teams that advanced to Sunday's semifinals & thence to the finals. Too Sly was completely psyched out as we entered the room; I was more composed only because I'd resigned myself to a sure & certain 4. Acting as 2nd Prop, we emerged from the round with the 3. We were aided by the meltdown of 1st Opp; the D.L.O.'s seven minutes were rambling & incoherent, & throughout the L.O. sat with her head in her hands. Nevertheless, we acquitted ourselves quite well, and in explaining the adjudication (as happens at the end of every round) the judge acting as chairman explained that we'd been close to the 2, remarkably close considering how outclassed we'd presumed we'd be.

At the conclusion of the U. of M.-Flint Speech & Debate Team's first Worlds tournament, the U.S. Nationals last spring in Denver, all we had going for us was enthusiasm: we'd universally liked Worlds & were eager for more. Coming away from Claremont, we're starting to know what we're doing, almost. (Hee hee, clearly tottering on the edge of hubris.) Our next competition is in less than a fortnight at the University of Toronto's Hart House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). There is room in the competition for only two of our possible three teams; my place alongside Too Sly seems assured, but I cannot say what duo of The Most Dangerous Game, Love/Hate, The Regina, and our newest member, Matthew (some guy who has swiftly become Love/Hate's boyflesh, it is not yet known if he'll need a Secret Base code name), will be also competing. (Further readinglink.)

Also of note, the journey to Toronto will be the first time I've crossed the sovereign borders of the United States of America since before 9/11.