Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Michigan 69-61 Clemson
4-2, Big Ten 0-0

The nice thing about building up a sixteen-point halftime lead is that it gives you a cushion to withstand your opponents' comeback attempts. I was impressed by the nice shooting exhibited by the valiant Wolverines, but even more by their energetic, harrying defense. I'd never before heard of this Smotrycz kid, but I like the cut of his jib. A minor complaint: Is it really necessary to have "Hardaway, Jr." emblazoned on the back of Tim Hardaway, Jr.'s jersey? Is there another Hardaway on our roster with whom he is likely to be confused? (No, there's not. I checked.) I always love a win, especially a win over those arrogant punks in the A.C.C.

Go Blue!

Project OSPREY
Illinois 79-67 North Carolina

During the commercial breaks in the Michigan game, I flipped over to the other E.S.P.N. & saw Illinois come back from an early deficit against the Tar Heels. I like the way the A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge is shaping up: in addition to Michigan's & Illinois's triumphs, Ohio State prevailed over Florida State & Northwestern trumped Georgia Tech, though I must also acknowledge that Iowa fell to Wake Forest. What are Michigan State's chances tomorrow against Duke? Big Ten loyalty has never & will never extend to our cretinous little brothers in East Lansing, whose institution quite honestly does not live up to the academic standards of the rest of the Big Ten; so, I freely admit that I'll be pulling for the Blue Devils to wipe the floor with the dastardly Spartans. (My paternal grandmother graduated from Duke, allowing me to lay claim to some familial loyalty.) Get 'em, Coach K.!
The Victors: Project OSPREY - Halftime
Michigan 40-24 Clemson

I'm watching the A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge, & I can hardly believe my eyes. In the John Beilein era, & note that I'm a big fan of Coach Beilein, I've seen the valiant Wolverines (men's basketball edition) win & lose games forty-something to forty-something-slightly-less. Michigan scoring 40 in just one half? Incredible! Here's hoping the domination continues in the second twenty minutes.

Go Blue!
Master Debating
Samuel Clemens wrote (or said, I am unsure which), "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." That is as true in the weird subculture of debate as in the society at large. In the world of I.E. (Individual Events), the "speech" half of the former Speech & Debate Team, now just the Debate Team, suits are the order of the day for the lads. A suit, not trousers & a sportcoat. Waistcoats are fine, but you must be very careful about removing your suit coat; judges have been known to take a very dim view of any deviation from the traditional uniform. The dress code for the lasses permitted much more freedom of maneuver, as it does in all such cases involving business attire. The form of debate most closely tied to I.E., N.P.D.A., followed its sister competition's lead, & suits were all but mandatory.

Worlds-style debate is an entirely different & more anarchistic beast. Not knowing our way around the block last spring at Nationals (our first competition, at the University of Denver, infuriatingly & nonsensically initialized as "D.U." That's right, D.U., the University of Denver. Illiterate cretins.), we wore our standard I.E. garb. We quickly discovered that by and large we were overdressed. Now, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed, but consensus was swiftly reached that the suits were no longer necessary. Our fellow competitiors wore everything under the sun, from three-piece suits on one extreme to jeans, T-shirts, & sneakers on the other, with the big meaty part of the curve attired in the realms of smart casual & business casual. I wore my suit on the second day simply because I did not have any over pants that weren't blue jeans, & it would have looked odd to wear my suit pants & braces without the accompanying suit coat. But Too Sly ditched his jacket (he holds his suit pants up with a belt, not braces) & his partner at the time, the loathsome Warren, ditched his suit entirely, wearing a collared shirt & loosened tie with jeans, a ghastly hybridization to mine eyes. What we have worn since has varied & will continue to vary by venue.

At Claremont, my first competition partnered with Too Sly, we decided beforehand not to wear our suits, but to maintain a modicum of formality by wearing collared shirts & ties with trousers & dress shoes. We made this decision in part because we wished not be encumbered by coats in the pseudo-desert climate of far inland Los Angeles County. Over the course of the competition Too Sly came to feel somewhat vulnerable without his suit coat; so, debuting at Hart House (*shudder*) & continuing more recently at Adelphi, he has worn his suit & a collared shirt, but no tie. I attribute this partially to his very heavy background in I.E. At Claremont, even without coats, we were on the more formal end of the spectrum of attire. By contrast, Adelphi featured a higher percentage of full suits than any previous Worlds tournament. I think we can all deduce from this entirely expected cultural differences between the East Coast & the West Coast. As with every other part of the Horror of Hart House, nothing useful could be deduced from the attired donned by the competitors; the Canadians were a savage, unruly rabble, & as many of them wore filthy, holey T-shirts as starched collars & bow ties.

The guiding principle going forward: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The next time we go out west, I might very well leave the ties at home & go in true business casual, & even then I'll be far from the most informal cat in attendance. By the same token, the next time we go back east, I will almost certainly wear one or both of my new suits (belated birthday gifts; so, I suppose I should call them my birthday suits), because I know that's how our Ivy League competitors will be attired. During a round, what we wear is not nearly so important as what we say, but what we wear also says something about what we'll say & how seriously we take the whole enterprise. We've got a long way yet to go, but we're in it to win it, and that includes dressing the part.

The Last Angry Moustache & The Last Angry Mane
I don't know if the planned Banzai Beard Bonanza III: Third Time's the Harm (2014-1015) & Banzai Beard Bonanza IV: Four For Forty (2019-2020) will be necessary, because I enjoyed the Banzai Beard Bonanza II: Bonsai's Revenge & Magnificent Moustache Malarkey so much that I ceased shaving as soon as I completed the Crim Ten-Mile in late August. (Being cleanshaven was my little gift to Mrs. Skeeter, Esq., who urged me to run the Crim & who hates my moustache & beard like cancer.) I am terribly fond of how I look with a full set of facial hair, so much so that not having to shave is simply a bonus, not a higher-order motivation.

The one modification I've made since the B.B.B. II is shaving the pathetic linkage between my moustache & my beard. I will never be able to sport a properly villainous Van Dyke, what we mistakenly referred to as a "goatee" in the '90s, because I don't have a thick enough bed of hair connecting my moustache & my goatee (that hair which grows on the chin). And those too few hairs detracted from the clean line of my, if I may be immodest, magnificent moustache; so, I've carefully shaved them away, just as I do with the too few hairs on my cheeks. Bridging the gap between my moustache & my beard now is my imperial (or soul patch), fully integrated into the beard. I only shaved those hairs on Sunday, but already I'm pleased with how their absence has enhanced the "pop" of my swiftly curling moustache.

I've been letting my facial hair grow for three months now, a full month shy of Bonsai's Revenge; so, I cannot yet say with any certainly how long I'll let it all grow & at what length it will eventually stabilize. For the moment, banzai!

Mad As a Hatter
I've added a tweed flat cap to my wardrobe, the thought being that it will help provide warmth during those cold winter days & nights when it is not quite apocalyptically cold enough to necessitate wearing my ushanka.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
MxPx, "Lonesome Town" from the Renaissance E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Project PANDORA: Love/Hate
Many were the occasions during days past when I was too timorous to pursue the objects of my affection. Temerity is now the order of the day, replacing timorousness, but the results have yet to be substantially different. In the case of Love/Hate I did everything correctly in the pursuit of the object of my affection except for the single most basic action: I chose poorly the object of my affection.

I flirted with Love/Hate very, very well. From the first, I made clear my interest, not repeating the past mistake of "playing it cool" for so long that I never acted. I correctly inferred her interest, not repeating the past mistake of being oblivious 'til long after her interest has passed. (She made this easy during debate practices by asking to wear my straw trilby, a fairly obvious gesture.) Yet I did not rush, I took the time to scout out that she had a boyflesh, flirting all the same & doing what little undermining I could given that the relationship was already failing. I spoke to her of the Sixty Days of Healing; when she poo-pooed the notion, saying that she'd already been going through the process of recovery even before putting the past relationship out of its misery, I took her at her word. After all, her emotional health is her responsibility, not mine. She made the decision to be free of him & finally pulled the trigger, & I waited just a little while to make sure the break-up stuck. I asked her out on an old-fashioned date because I am an old-fashioned fellow, & that's when it all started to go wrong. But not in the way you're probably thinking.

I rang up Love/Hate & asked if I could take her out on a date, dinner & an exhibit at the F.I.A. She replied that she didn't think that was a good idea. Disappointing news, but simple to understand. And that's things took a turn toward the bizarre & the inexplicable. She didn't think I should take her out on a date, but countered by suggesting that we do the exact same activity that I'd suggested, at the same time as I'd suggested, just not as a date. Wait, what? At this point, the notion flitted crossed my mind that Love/Hate might be a psychopath. You won't go out with me, which must be a blow to me since I like you enough to have asked you out, but you want to do exactly what I'd planed for us to do on our date, except that it wouldn't be a date? Definitely a psychopath. Tut tut, another faction of my mind interjected, she might not be a psychopath, she simply might be so conceited as to think that I'd consider any time spent in her presence a gift, even if it wasn't exactly as I'd hoped. That's hardly any better, the Dark Bastard opined. The "conceited" faction replied defensively that it wasn't trying to make anything better, it wasn't looking for the most accurate theory for her bizarre behavior… but before the wrangling got any more farcical the moderator stepped in & reasserted the primacy of the matter at hand. I declined her perverse counteroffer, explain to her as if she was a particularly dimwitted child that it would be too weird for me to be on our exact date without it being our date. She once again signaled her complete failure to understand human emotion by being surprised that I declined her twisted counteroffer. I went to the F.I.A. by myself during the same time I'd planned to take her, because I really wanted to see the two temporary, traveling exhibitions on glass (Wayback Machine, "Project MERCATOR"); so, I still accomplished one of my two objectives for that particular outing. All things considered, far from the worst possible result.

A week later, Love/Hate seemed to change her mind. She suggested we "hang out" after she got out of work, & when we met she was wearing a very flattering short black dress. (Love/Hate is a very jeans-and-sweater kind of girl.) We repaired to the F.I.A., because she wanted to see the exhibitions I'd intended us to see on our proposed date. We went through the museum paying far more attention to each other than to the art. My sense of things, both at the time & today, knowing all that I now know, is that she thought we were on a date. After the museum, we had a quick dinner & stopped by Ziggy's for comically large cones of ice cream; this was July, & hilarity ensued as we fought losing battles against time & our swiftly melting ice cream. We came laughing into debate practice together, & afterwards repaired to Blackstone's for drinks with the rest of the team. A short while later, Love/Hate had had too much to drink to be able drive & suggested that I leave my motorcar, Lumi, on campus & drive her back to her apartment in her motorcar; in the morning, she'd drive me back to Lumi on her way to work. The mechanics of the thing be damned, the point is that she wanted me to spend the night at her place, even knowing my stance against pre-marital sex. (Perhaps hoping to entice me into abandoning that stance?) We will never know, because—Did I say "mechanics"?—Lumi picked that moment to suffer a mechanical failure & do what the Mousemobile never did: leave me stranded on the side of the road (Wayback Machine, "Autobahn"). She & The Most Dangerous Game, who was going to ferry Love/Hate to where I parked Lumi on campus & then ferry us both to Love/Hate's automobile, stuck around waiting with me for the wrecker to fetch Lumi. By the time my turncoat motorcar was all hooked up, & I'd made it clear that I could not abandon my vehicle, Love/Hate felt sobered up enough to drive herself home (casting her story into an even more dubious light, making it seem all the more a ruse to get me back to her place & recapture the opportunity she'd let slip a week earlier).

By this point, I had no idea what to think, though going off in the back of my mind were the "bells & a siren" Jeremy told Casey would alert them to any important changes in the Continental Corp. stock price in the days before C.S.C. was put up for sale (eventually to be bought by Calvin Trager's Quo Vadimus). The day after our "date" & aborted night together, I helped Love/Hate look at new apartments closer to campus than her then-current digs. We constantly exchanged text messages & had lengthy telephone conversations, but I never again asked her out on a date. I've ignored my "gut" instinct & come to grief more times than I can to recall, & was determined not to do the same here. I'd taken my shot at Love/Hate & been unceremoniously rejected; her continued overtures tripped the "Red Signal" Dame Agatha warned must be heeded. If she thought she'd erred & wanted a second chance, it was incumbent upon her to say so explicitly. Or at least to say something, to say anything (*wink*).

With the arrival of the fall, Love/Hate brought a prospective teammate to debate practice, the Dragonslayer, & Too Sly, Sugar (formerly code named "The Regina"), & I knew it was only a matter of time before they began dating. Love/Hate hosted the whole team at her apartment (she eventually settled on a unit in the same suburban complex where she already lived) to watch episodes of the television series Ghost Adventures, which she rather disturbingly believes provides clear evidence of ghosts & spectral activity. When I left, only she & the Dragonslayer remained, & she joked that they were now going to start making out. There's no reason to think that life didn't imitate art. Whilst out in La-La-Land, Love/Hate found a moment to isolate me from the group as a lioness isolates a wildebeest & told me that she was dating the Dragonslayer (Wayback Machine, "Master Debating"). Well, duh. She said this as if it would be I wouldn't have already known, as if they hadn't already been holding hands as they left practice for at least a fortnight. I said I knew, using my most gentle tone. She shifted nervously & said that she wanted me to know, "because we (she & I) were supposed to date." "Supposed to date"?! You flatly rejected me, you lunatic! But because she's young & I was ever-more convinced that I'd dodged a bullet, I said in the gentle, reassuring tone, "I want you to be happy." Her relief was apparent & her expression betrayed considerable gratitude, for what I'm not sure. Because I hadn't erupted into a fury? Over what, someone else having her? Every time I think she couldn't be any more conceited… no, none of that, there's no profit in such speculation.

Skip ahead to early this month. After Claremont & Hart House, all-expenses-paid trips to Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. & Toronto, Ontario, the Canadas, Love/Hate had discovered she was "too busy" (& winning was too hard) to continue on the team. The Dragonslayer informed us shortly before our all-expenses-paid trip to Toronto that he was graduating in December & wouldn't be continuing after that weekend. It looked an awful lot like U. of M.-Flint had gotten played by some rather crafty students, though that devious explanation need not necessarily be true. Sugar was describing to Too Sly & your humble narrator the manner in which dating the Dragonslayer had changed Love/Hate's behavior as Sugar's friend, & not for the better. Sugar casually mentioned that over the summer Love/Hate had been interested in me, & spoken openly of wanting to date me, even before she'd ditched her then-boyflesh. I feigned surprise in a ruse to draw more out of Sugar. Too Sly added that he, too, had known Love/Hate liked me. Sugar reiterated Love/Hate's interest, but wouldn't cut to the chase; so, I had to ask, "So, why'd she turn me down when I asked her out?" Sugar hemmed & hawed about my Catholicism & Love/Hate's purportedly broadminded atheism. (Love/Hate makes loud noises denouncing "tolerance," saying it isn't enough for people to tolerate each other, they must "accept" each other.) I again had to eschew subtlety, "Because she knew I wouldn't fuck her?" (Mayhap I should have said, "Because she knew I wouldn't have sex with her?") According to Sugar, it was not my desire to be chaste specifically, but my Catholicism generally that gave Love/Hate pause. Long before I asked her out, she groused "If only he wasn't Catholic!" I've rarely faced such open discrimination against my religious beliefs. One might even say I was persecuted for my faith?

So, that's how I was attracted to & wanted to date Love/Hate, she was attracted to & wanted to date me, & we wound up not dating. She's still with the Dragonslayer & expends a good deal of energy complaining about her life. In a recent I.M. chat, I asked her how all was faring; she replied, & pardon the French, "shitty." By contrast, I'm rather pleased with how my life is faring. I've complaints, of course, but they're mere trifling inconveniences. (And I do hail from a family of dedicated & imaginative grousers; so, if I didn't have anything at all about which to complain I'd complain about that inability to complain. Wilsons, we're resourceful!) So, though of course it is in my self-interest to put the most positive spin on these events, that self-interest doesn't require any chicanery or skulduggery. There was a time when I wanted to kiss Love/Hate. That time has passed. In retrospect, she runs afoul of the Hot-Crazy Scale, being not nearly hot enough to offset her possible psychopathy.

Project PANDORA persists.

The holiday weekend was huge for MERCATOR, with The Loose Ties, cross-references into non-Love/Hate chapters of Project PANDORA, the cinema, & a very special guest appearance by my boon companion The Guy. Watch this blog for further details!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Proclaimers, "It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)" from Notes & Rhymes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I love sad country songs by non-country bands.

"It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman,
'Til I started looking for mine."

Consistent progress is being made toward fulfilling a now month-old "to do" list (Wayback Machine, "Coming Attractions"). Bully! Slow & steady wins the race.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This episode returns "The Explorers Club" to weekly publication, as we have successfully caught up from the rueful December '09 to May '10 silence. "And there was much rejoicing."

The Explorers Club
No. CCXI - Operation MINCEMEAT, a masterstroke of deception & the basis for the book & motion picture The Man Who Never Was.

The Victors
(No. 8) Ohio State 37-7 Michigan
7-5, Big Ten 3-5

The bad news: The worst part of yesterday's game is that we really, truly had a chance. If we hadn't made so many mistakes—for example, if Roy Roundtree hadn't dropped so damned many passes—we honestly could have beaten the hated Buckeyes. That would have been an enormous step toward restoring our national prestige, which has taken a drubbing the last four years (it all started under Coach Carr, with the loss to Appalachian State), but especially over the last three. But we didn't take that step, instead we practiced the same lamentable self-sabotage that has been, as much as anything else, the hallmark of the Rich Rod era. Drat! Drat! Drat!

The good news: Three of our five losses came to teams that finished tied for the Big Ten championship & ranked within the top ten in the A.P. poll. Clearly, we are not yet ready for prime time. But, against middling opposition the valiant Wolverines posted much more respectable records of 7-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten. We aren't back to being the Michigan of yore, but considerable progress has been made since the dark days of '08. If we can manage to field a defense that's middle-of-the-road as far as overall rank in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (what used to be called Division I-A) instead of perilously close to dead last, the valiant Wolverines will be damned hard to beat.

The better good news: The season isn't over in November! There is yet a bowl game for which we must prepare. It's only one of many steps to once again being the Michigan we are supposed to be, but it's one step we have taken. Woot!

The worse bad news: What do I hate even more than losing to the hated Buckeyes? Losing to the hated Buckeyes by thirty #@*%ing points. Thirty #@*%ing points!? Are you #@*%ing kidding me?! #@*%!

Coming Attractions
Rich Rod: "To be or not to be."

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: 'Tis the first Sunday of Advent. Note that there are three separate recordings of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" on Songs for Christmas; today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. is the purely instrumental rendition, 1:06 in duration.

Samstag, 27 November
Reel Big Fish, "Beer" from Turn the Radio Off (The Guy & T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I had the supreme privilege of spending last evening in the company of my boon companion The Guy, & in the course of the night a strong case was made for the candidacies of "Zak and Sara" & "Rockin' the Suburbs," both by Ben Folds, but in the end it was "Beer" that we sang as walked, shivering in the winter chill, from The Torch to where I'd parked Lumi. An appropriate "Project MERCATOR" post is forthcoming.

"She looks like Heaven,
Maybe this is Hell."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Operation AXIOM: The Explorers Club
Four years ago to the day, 27 November 2006, "The Explorers Club" was added to The Secret Base's ever-evolving* repertoire. Why did I initiate "The Explorers Club"? Because nothing is more fun than learning, not skanking at a ska show, not riding on a roller coaster, not kissing a beautiful girl. Nothing. Four years &—because of the weekly publication schedule & the number of weeks in a year—more then two hundred episodes later, I've learned quite a bit. I hope you're learned much, too. The world is an almost infinite place of wonder & woe, & in our modern age not even the sky is the limit.

Thank you for your kind readership over the last four years. I look forward to the next four years… & beyond. And please do me one more small kindness, though in truth it is no small thing: never stop exploring. In the immortal words of the M.C. Bat Commander, "There's so much to learn!"

*Ever-evolving instead of "ever-expanding" because some erstwhile features of The Secret Base are, well, erstwhile, such as "Parker Posey Appreciation Day" (not that I appreciate her any less) & "Retroactively Making Star Trek: Voyager Good."

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Victors
(No. 6) Wisconsin 48-28 Michigan
7-4, Big Ten 3-4

I didn't see last weekend's crushing-but not unexpected defeat at the hands of the pesky Badgers, but I felt as if I did because while I was master debating at Adelphi on Long Island my father did leave me three voicemails, keeping me constantly updated on the Big Ten action as it happened. One voicemail isn't really necessary, as I can catch up on the scores once I'm back into my usual online routine, & three is outrageous, but I do appreciate the oddly-expressed affection behind the bombardment.

Upon the morrow, the valiant Wolverines face our most dread foe, the hated Buckeyes of THE University of Ohio State. (For crying out loud, the fiendish simpletons don't even know the proper name of their own "school"!) What need be said but "Go Blue!"?

Go Blue!

I had the first Guinness of the season this evening after a glorious dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers. "Guinness is good for you."

Climate should not be confused with weather, but the chance for snark is irresistible: Man alive, the soaring temperatures on our warming Earth are a bother! Snowlink. "The U.K. has seen the earliest widespread snowfall for 17 years."

The Queue
A Man Called INTREPID was abandoned as dreck. Were I to live a thousand years there would still be insufficient time to read everything I'd want to read; so, there's not a moment to be wasted on such claptrap. I am ruthless & fearless in selecting my reading material. A decided advantage of debate weekends: they're the only occasions upon which I can summon the vim to read The Economist cover to cover. I am still sorting out how properly to accommodate magazines both within my queue & under the banner of "The Queue."

Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War (abandoned, XPD)

Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line
Len Deighton, Spy Sinker

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This evening, I watched six episodes of the appalling, laughably bad television crime drama Criminal Minds. But, hey, at least I got to see C. Thomas Howell as a serial killer, "the Boston Reaper," one of the better screen imitations I've seen of the Zodiac Killer (though, of course, clearly not as good as the ultimate screen imitation, Andrew "plain, simple Garak" Robinson as the Scorpio in Dirty Harry). I was disappointed by the small size of Howell's role on this season (in the first half-season) of Psych; so, today's viewing was a nice, completely unexpected bit of compensation. Where was I? Right. The title sequence of Criminals Minds, which is a really, truly terrible television show, features a fleeting image of Gacy, inspiring today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. Any excuse to listen to Illinois is good enough for me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCX - Major John André (1750-1780), man about town in Redcoat-occupied Philadelphia & New York, hanged as a spy for conspiring in Benedict Arnold's treason.

Master Debating
Continued from Tuesday…

Adelphi & the Oracle
As soon as Too Sly & I saw the draw for our semifinal round, we knew a certainty that we would not be advancing to the finals. It was not the competition at which we blanched, but of the the three-member judges' panel. We'd seen her before & we knew what to expect. She judged us at Claremont, & while I cannot recall precisely what ranks & scores she gave us, she did not look favorably upon our arguments. She was also the judging chairman in the fifth round at Adelphi, a round in which we though we'd earned the 1, or at worst the 2, but she gave us the 3, and atrocious speaker points to boot. I could say that she just doesn't like us, but that would be unfair as I have no idea what her personal feelings are. What I will say, though, is that she has very different ideas about what constitutes a laudable performance in a Worlds round. And I do not mean different ideas from Too Sly, The M.A.P., & I, but also very different ideas from the chairman of our semifinal round, a highly respected coach who had a team advance to the finals (from the other semifinal round, the one he didn't judge), who came up to us after the announcement & claimed that he'd fought for us in the adjudication, all for naught. Too Sly & I need to work harder to figure out exactly what she's looking for in a round, & we need to do those things the next time she's our judge, but we also need to ignore completely her critiques, because the things about our performance that she criticizes are exactly those things that other judges praise, the things that earned us one 1, three 2's, & no 4's in the six prelim. rounds at Adelphi. Of our two 3's, we solidly earned one by the one-two punch of being totally psyched out by the resolution & totally psyched out by being in a round against two of the teams that advanced to the finals, including the eventually tournament champions; we choked under the pressure of that round, there's nothing for it now but not to do so again in a similar circumstance. She, the judge in question, gave us the other 3, the only one of our scores—including our failure to advance out of the semifinal round—with which we flatly disagree.

She also gave me my lowest speaking score of the tournament; speaking scores aren't as important as ranks, but they act as the tiebreaker when it comes time to break, & individual speaker awards are handed out prior to the final round. My scores through the other five prelim' rounds were 76, 77, 77, 77, 76. She gave me a 74. She also gave a kid we saw in at least three of our rounds, from a partnership that also broke, with the eighth seed, losing in the other semifinal, a 78. And his team got the 1, while we got the 3. When speaker awards were awarded, he was in a two-man tie for tenth place. I finished twelfth, three points behind him, 457 to his 460. That 74 killed my chances, just as that 78 saved his. His highest score, my lowest score. Like I said, she's ranking & scoring by different criteria than the other judges. Neither Too Sly nor I got a 78 in the round in which we "one'd," though to his credit he did earn a 78 in one of our numerous 2 rounds. Too Sly finished in a three-way tie for seventh, with 461; good for him, we didn't walk away empty-handed. (Of course, we earned a framed certificate from our semifinal round; so, even without Too Sly's speaker plaque we wouldn't have walked away "empty-handed," but he truly deserved that plaque, soon to go into the trophy case The M.A.P. is setting up to show off our "hardware.")

The Horror of Hart House
The organizers of the Hart House Invitational proudly call their event the H.H.Iv., though of course in the modern fashion they render it without the necessary periods as "HHIV." I could not look at this without wondering what exactly the extra H in "H. H.I.V." stood for. "Hyper H.I.V."?

That bit of careless blundering aside, there is some question as to which part of the Horror of Hart House was most offensive: the not-quite-naked-but-hardly-subtle bias against Americans or the piss-poor organization. My apologies, that's not quite fair. The vast, vast majority of the Horror was dreadfully disorganized, but a few portions were superbly planned & executed. The rounds themselves were a shambles. The organizers had booked rooms that were entirely unsuitable to holding a Worlds-style debate, especially the rooms within Hart House itself; this was especially irksome as the organizing body was the Hart House Debating Club. Was it really too much to ask for the Hart House Debating Club to be familiar with the premises of Hart House? The rooms outside the architecturally charming Hart House were universally quite sufficient, but for the trifling detail that they were located halfway across the vast University of Toronto campus. Worlds works like so: all the competitors gather in a single room, some manner of auditorium be preferable, for topic announcement. After the round's resolution has been read aloud several times for everyone to jot down, a fifteen-minute countdown begins. Once that period has elapsed, the Prime Minister must make his proposal in support of the resolution, "in a speech not to exceed seven minutes." Partnerships disperse to prepare away from the prying ears of all their rival partnerships. Those fifteen minutes of preparation are rather more difficult when you must schlep across the U. of T. campus for ten minutes to find your room. Why did we return to Hart House after even round when the majority of debaters would just have to take the long walk again at the beginning of the next round? Why wasn't topic announcement over in that faraway building, where most of the competition took place?

The wait between rounds was interminable. Over the course of Friday & Saturday, five rounds were held. For comparison, eight rounds were held in an equivalent span of time at Claremont, & Claremont was organized by Californian hippies; last weekend at Adelphi, we did five rounds in a single day. There was no reason for the Horror's elongated schedule, especially as it left us spending an inordinate amount of time just sitting in the Debates Room, the quasi-auditorium that hosted topic announcement. In his poem "If—," Rudyard Kipling counsels, "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…." I strove mightily, but fighting the fatigue imposed by boredom left me vulnerable to creeping bitterness over the injustice being visited upon Too Sly & me by the Canadian judges. I could fight boredom or bitterness, but not both; so, by the end of the third round I had entirely ceased caring about the outcome of our debates. I continued to strive mightily, but only out of self-respect. I had resigned myself to the inevitability of low scores, regardless of how well or how poorly I debated. My fatalistic attitude was shared by Too Sly, normally the soul of cockeyed optimism & boundless positivity. His discouragement shook me far more than did mine own.

The resolutions, also, were awful. The rooms were insufficient or ludicrously distant; the wait between rounds was so atrociously long that the organizers felt it necessary to take attendance before each topic announcement, just in case, I suppose, someone had given up in frustration & gone back to their hotel; and the resolutions were laughable. But what of the superb organization cited above? The tournament was indefensible rubbish, but the "extracurricular" social activities were planned to the last detail. They didn't know the layout of any of the rooms in Hart House, rooms right around the corner from the Debates Room, I must add, but the first announcement after welcome on Friday was which campus bar would be playing host to the official unofficial H.H.Iv. bacchanalia that evening. Saturday night featured a rubber chicken dinner in the ornate Great Hall of Hart House. All were invited to "dress to the nines;" I went in a T-shirt & blue jeans. Spite! Some of you may be thinking that the night's drinking should be the most important part of any debate tournament, right? Let me suggest that such an attitude would have served you well during rush at your frat. A garbage tournament with well-coordinated nightly drinking is much like having an automobile with neither an engine nor seats, but a bitchin' sound system.

There is, even after all this, yet one more thing to detest about not just the Horror of Hart House, but the horror of Hart House. On the exterior of the building, hanging over the main entrance, is a large neon sign of a heart. The elevators inside are etched with harts, a delightful play on the name of Hart Massey, after whom Hart House is named, but the exterior sports not a hart, but an insipid heart. Education & the cultivation of intelligence must lie rather far from the University of Toronto's core mission.

As long as I live, I hope never again to suffer the insult that is inherent in crossing into the wretched, despicable Canadas.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Thanksgiving Day
Susan Egan, "The Turkey and the Stuffing" from Winter Tracks (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: If our laws permitted such unions, I'd marry Susan Egan's voice tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Project OSPREY
Connecticut 84-67 Kentucky (No. 9)

This evening, in the championship game of the Maui Invitational, I watched UConn dismantle Kentucky with clockwork precision. I've no particular affection for the Huskies, nor any specific long-term animus toward the Wildcats, but I do so enjoy seeing any John Calipari-coached team lose. And better yet if they lose by a margin such as tonight's. If only I'd had the foresight to watch Tuesday's UConn-Michigan State (No. 2) game, another upset win over a top-ten team by the unranked Huskies!

Tonight's game was a splendid way to inaugurate the 2010-2011 edition of Project OSPREY; it's going to be a gay old time between now & the Madness. Woot!

I'm almost done with the Beck's I picked up in response to Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.'s challenge to break away from my usual spring-and-fall Dutch beers, Grolsch & Heineken (necessary because very few pubs serve the superior Grolsch), & try some Belgian & German beers. The first round of experimentation went so poorly for Belgium that I haven't held a second; the weather has at long last grown cold enough for Guinness (Hooray!), but I might give the Belgians a chance to redeem themselves after the spring thaw. In the meantime, a question: What about Boddingtons? Winter's the season for the brews of the British Isles, is Boddingtons worth a test drive?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ivy, "Ocean City Girl" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It's not a Fountains of Wayne song, but it's sort of a Fountains of Wayne song. I must make a point of looking further into Ivy's music.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Master Debating
I spent the majority of the weekend immediately past on Long Island, with a unexpected & most unwelcome stay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin tacked onto the end. After the horror of Hart House, there were not intended to be any more debate team travel until February, but those plans were changed by a brainwave that came to The M.A.P., our coach. Too Sly, my partner, & I had been partnered (sundering my previous debate partnership with The Most Dangerous Game) by The M.A.P. specifically because we are the two most talented master debaters on our squad. Having demonstrated some degree of talent not just in practice but also in anger at Claremont (Wayback Machine [scroll down, jolly hyperlinkers]) & Hart House, The M.A.P. reasoned that we were worth his while; so, he'd coach us up as best he could, demanding certain performance goals from us instead of just acting as a cheerleader to keep us on the team. Thus, instead of meeting each week for a rather dismal practice round (no offense is intended to the others, but my partner & I don't derive much benefit from shellacking them week after week), we'd meet in what we quickly dubbed "salon" for more in depth indoctrination in philosophy & argumentative theory. The second part of this plan was to travel with a smaller squad to more frequent tournaments. This weekend's foray into the inaugural Adelphi University Brown & Gold Debates was the first competition under the new strategy.

The big news out of Adelphi is that Too Sly & your humble narrator "broke," meaning we advanced out of the preliminary rounds into the elimination or "out" rounds (the playoffs), for the first time! At Denver (last spring), Claremont, & Hart House, no U of M-Flint team had broken. However brief that history may be, we made program history! Adelphi was a smaller tournament that the other three we'd attended, but there were still plenty of heavy-hitters from Portland State (Oregon), St. John's (N.Y.C.), & Seattle (no specification needed, right?) in attendance. Of the twenty-four two-man squads in competition, eight broke into the semifinals. After what Too Sly & I thought was an unfair 3 in the last preliminary round on Saturday (there was one more prelim. round on Sunday), we did not think much of our chances of breaking; but, we were determined to do our best in Sunday morning's lone prelim. round, however forlorn the cause. We earned the 2, & were apparently in contention for the 1. Neat! When the break was announced, we were solidly in fifth place; we'd thought we might just squeak in as the eighth seed. I love it when I'm wrong.

To be continued…

The Horror of Hart House
Alas, I might never get to a proper recounting of the horror of Hart House. I hope that some succor might be taken from this excerpt of an email written to Comrade Coquettish shortly before her team departed for a tournament at the University of British Columbia.

I first caution that we were at Hart House at the University of Toronto, in the heart of Canada's population centers; British Columbia is quite a ways from the shores of Lake Ontario & attitudes & customs in the Canadian west might be very different from those in the Canadian east. That said, were we doomed from the word go because of two interrelated factors: {a} We were Americans & {b} We were outsiders to the clubby & cloistered Canadian debate culture. Perhaps 2/3 of the teams were from Canadian universities, with 1/3 from American colleges, yet only one American team broke from quarterfinals into semifinals, compared to seven Canadian teams. I am by no means saying that as Americans we had a right to advance, but the prevailing impression left by the Canadian judges was that as Americans we had no right to advance. American teams that we saw excel at both Denver (Nationals) & Claremont could get no traction at Hart House; so, at minimum the Canadians judge rounds based on considerably different criteria than are used in the States. Though you attend an American school, my hope for you is that because neither you nor your partner are American the location of Willamette will not be held against you.

In the first three rounds (with open adjudication), my partner & I earned three consecutive 3's. None of the judges were able to articulate why we'd gotten the 3, they just felt that the Canadian teams with whom they were on a first-name basis deserved the 2's & 1's. I know that my partner & I still have a lot to learn about Oxford-style debate, & Hart House was only our third tournament, but across all five rounds at Hart House the adjudicating process was vastly different than what what we saw in six rounds at Nationals & in eight rounds at Claremont (only a fortnight before Hart House). The two 4's that my partner & I received at Claremont were two of the most instructional rounds we've seen; both times, the chair clearly illuminated our faults, spelled out our shortcomings, & gave us a roadmap to future improvement. I put forth a mighty effort to discern by what criteria we were judged at Hart House, but I came away absolutely clueless. Our trip to Toronto had no pedagogical value, and that's just sad. (We do not know the results of the last two rounds, which featured closed adjudication so that breaks would be a "surprise." Almost two weeks later, the ranks from the last are still not available.)

Of the three elements that are supposed to matter in Oxford-style/Worlds debate—matter, manner, & role fulfillment—the Canadians don't care a whit about role fulfillment. Whips gave Member speeches, Member speeches were 100% rebuttal & contained no new matter, P.M.s weren't punished for leaving behind them a muddle in which no one knew what precisely was being debated, it was bedlam. Manner was also of no importance, and having an organization to your speech was viewed with some scorn & venom. All that was left was matter, but even then it did not seem as if there was any concern over how well analyzed or supported an argument was, all that mattered was whether the judge personally agreed with it. I am the first to admit when I have fouled up in a round, & to admit that I still have lots to learn about what judges are looking for, but I have absolutely no clue what my partner & I could have done differently to produce different scores. My question is why we were even invited if we weren't to be afforded a fighting chance?

I sincerely hope that your experience in British Columbia is nothing like my experience in Ontario. You have my apologies for the bitter tone of this email, but I could not in good conscience have presented the whitewashed version of events. Best wishes.

Never again will I look upon the Canadas as "the Great White North," a land of boundless cheer & friendliness. I now know better. The Canadian soul is dark & hostile &, above all else, petty. The Canadas are an awful, cursed place, a place I despise & to which I sincerely hope never to return.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Wally Dogger, "Never Let the Good Times End" from I Surrender, When Do I Start? (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A guide to the proper use of irony.

Montag, 22 November
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" from Straight Outta Lynwood (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I was not trapped in the drive-thru line, but I was trapped at the Milwaukee airport & going nowhere fast.

Sonntag, 21 November
Fountains of Wayne, "No Better Place" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I had the supreme pleasure of seeing Mrs. & Mr. Skeeter, Esqs. on Sunday evening, & I thought they'd appreciate the condemnation of my failure thus far to relocate to the Big Apple that can be inferred from these lines:

"And now you're leaving New York
For no better place."

Samstag, 20 November
Vampire Weekend, "Walcott" from Vampire Weekend (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 19 November
Reel Big Fish, "New York, New York" from Cheer Up! (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCIX - Nathan Hale (1755-1776), "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

A rather appropriate subject for a day that finds me quite near, & at some point possibly within the boundaries of, Old New Amsterdam.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCVIII - Francis Gary Powers (1929-1977) & the U-2 Incident.

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


"Well, he showed up at the house again,
And I knew in that instant it was the end
Because he brought along the Skipper and his navy friends.
And they grabbed me by my arms and my legs,
Then they tied me up and shoved me in a beer keg,
And set me out to sea, never to return.

Don't leave me all alone,
Who knows what I'll do?
All this time, I never knew!

My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan, yeah, Gilligan,
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
Yeah, Gilligan.
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan, yeah, Gilligan,
My girl's in love with Gilligan,
With Gilligan.

Honey, baby, sugar pie,
Why'd you leave me for the little buddy?
What is it about this guy that you think is so rad?
Is it his white hat? Is it his red shirt?
Or is it his love for coconut cream pies?

Don't leave me all alone,
Who knows what I'll do?
All this time, I never never knew!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am so sick of visiting the Wikipedia & seeing the banner ad, "Please Read: A personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales." I have! And until far more progress is made toward the completion of Project RADIANT, I am not going to make a donation. They can't expect me to feel pangs of guilt over being a freeloader, can they? The name of the bloody thing is Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Free! This is even more annoying than N.P.R. pledge drive week.

Fortune favors the bold.

Apologies, no time today to finish "Say 'Aloha!' to Ska," nor to recount the last two roller derby bouts. As soon as possible, but I traverse vast distances this weekend.

The Queue
A Man Called INTREPID is off to a disquieting start. I understood going in that author William Stevenson was very sympathetic toward his subject, the spymaster Sir William Stephenson, but the figure I am being presented with in the book is not merely heroic but superhuman. A superman, or possibly Superman; Theseus, Daedalus, & Adonis rolled up into one too-perfect man. Maybe I've a nasty, suspicious mind, but I smell a rat.

Len Deighton, Mexico Set
Len Deighton, London Match
Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink

William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War

Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line

Lumi is in the shop, where the mechanics are chasing down a coolant/anti-freeze leak that is causing a variety of malfunctions. It is refusing adamantly to be located, the coward. In the meantime, my father has been kind enough to permit me to drive his Impala. Interesting this about that car: it's not just one Impala, but two. My father has spend years "tuning" his Impala into a performance machine, including lowering the suspension to the point that the wheels rub up against the wheel wells. (If my father was half as clever as he thinks he is, he'd possess a truly formidable intellect; as it is, like me, he's just smart enough to get himself in over his head.) While poking around the Impala, his favorite mechanic discovered that the frame was rusted to a perilous & shocking degree. So, last Christmas, we drove to the far side of Cleveland where he bought a second, nearly identical Impala on the (relative) cheap. But my father didn't just replace the first Impala with the second, nothing so mundane, he's having the aforementioned favorite mechanic & his minions take the best bits from each motorcar two create two bizarre hybrid automobiles, & not in the popular "green" sense. I've dubbed the current vehicle, more the second Impala than the first, the "Frankimpala" or "Frankenpala" (I've not yet nailed down the spelling), a portmanteau of Frankenstein—though of course I mean not Frankenstein but his Monster, not to be confused with my friend-again Frankenstein's Monster—and Impala. But I should not complain, beggars cannot be choosers; the ongoing repairs to Lumi are not yet essential, but they would have been sooner or later, & in such situations the earlier 'tis caught the cheaper 'tis to repair.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Four Tops, "Reach Out I'll be There" from Motown 1's (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Either "Reach Out, I'll Be There" or "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" would be acceptable, but "Reach Out I'll Be There" is a mess. Damned fine song, whatever the title.

"I'll be there,
To give you all the love you need.
And I'll be there,
You can always depend on me."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Say "Aloha!" to Ska
I first visited the Aloha Lounge last Christmastide, when Palooka-ville played a reunion show on St. Stephen's Day (26 December). My parents were beside themselves with excitement when I told that about that show; "Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge?" they asked, as if that somehow answered more questions than it raised. Apparently, back in the '80s our neighbor Mr. Lum, whom I remember for his gull-winged DeLorean—yes, dear readers, for a couple years I lived kitty-corner to a DeLorean—owned & operated the Aloha Lounge, back before all the G.M. factories across Dort Highway from the Aloha were shut down & boarded up. Fast forward twenty years & The Loose Ties announced, on rather short notice, that they were to play a show at the Aloha Lounge with a Detroit ska band called C.B.J. on Saturday (5 November, & I have no idea what, if anything, C.B.J. stands for). My parents didn't know where I was going ahead of time because Saturday was also their monthly "Cards" night—Pinochle with Pinochet!—but when on Sunday I told my mom where I'd been she asked, "Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge?" *sigh*

There were precious few people in attendance. Par for the course, none of my local pals accepted my invitation; the road of the ska fan is a lonely one, as so few others appreciate this greatest of all genres. Though I strove to show up late I still arrived at the Aloha well before the music started. I greeted The Loose Ties one-by-one & was invited to take a seat by Matt, the drummer & friendliest bloke in the world. Alas, the vintage '90s alternative rock that was blaring over the speakers was blaring at precisely the volume necessary to inhibit conversation; so, we all sat there in relative silence. I'd have preferred to sit in the luxury of one of the two padded corner booths, but I didn't want to be seen as rejecting Matt's hospitality.

I did not dance during C.B.J.'s first set (both they & The Loose Ties alternated on stage & played two sets apiece) for two reasons: {ein} there is always a lag between the beginning of a show & the moment when the need to dance seizes you und {zwei} they played that particular flavor of third-wave ska (a.k.a. ska-punk) that is unaccommodating to skanking, being more akin to punk than to first- or second-wave ska. But the rhythm grew more & more infectious, & by the time The Loose Ties came on stage I was primed & ready to skank. I did so with gusto throughout the first set, though of course I sat out their excellent cover version of Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life," as is my custom. I hate that song; not only do I think its a terrible song, but back in the day I heard it a thousand thousand times, so that to this day I know way too many of the lyrics. But here's the thing: The Loose Ties have made it into a good song, a really good song. It's one of their best songs, better than almost all of their originals & most of their other covers. So, on the one hand, I object to the song in principle & could not live with myself if I endorsed it, however tacitly, my skanking along. On the other hand, they've made it into a really really catchy ska song, perfect for skanking along. On the gripping hand, by this point in time it's become a bit that I scowl, cover my ears, & give them the thumbs down during "Semi-Charmed Life."

After that set, while C.B.J. was setting up to go again, Becca (code name pending) thanked me for skanking along. Though in recent years I have railed against the regrettable habit of people to countering every "thank you" with an aggressive, bigger "thank you" in lieu of simply saying "you're welcome," in this instance I thought it necessary to offer my own thanks: I thanked her for the music to which I skank along. I then drew her in with a crook of my finger & requested, though indeed I phrased it as an imperative, that she sing lead on more than one song, the eponymous "Becca's Song." She replied that they were working on that. Bully! I stepped outside for a few minutes to cool off, steam arising from my head & shoulders into the chilly night air, for by then midnight was fast approaching. I shared the front steps with the usual crowd of smokers, the poor devils, victims of Michigan's new ban on smoking in restaurants & bars.

Back inside, I skanked along during the second C.B.J. set, though the inherent difficulties of their style of ska remained. Becca was leading a small contingent of skanking girls (not to be confused with skanky girls), though by & large their legs seemed to flail without any deference to the beat of that moment's song. I'm not saying their style is wrong (maybe I am), but back in my day we skanked in rhythm; that wasn't the whole point of skanking, but it was an essential part of skanking. Though the girls were on and off the dance floor all the time--the Aloha Lounge has a real, honest-to-ska dance floor--whenever I would start to flag Becca would appear out of nowhere & pantomime that I should get going again. If you aren't going to dance when a delectable girl in a short, plaid skirt & tall, high-heeled boots asks you to, when are you going to dance?

Near the end of the set, C.B.J.'s saxophonist asked how everyone in the crowd was doing. Perhaps he expected whoops & yells, but I already whooped & clapped at the end o' each song; so, I just gave him a thumbs up. He asked, "A thumbs up? Are you #@%*ing kidding me?" So, I gave him the double thumbs up. He was not amused. Shortly thereafter, the lead singer mentioned that C.B.J. had merch for sale, that they'd driven all the way from Detroit to play for us that night, & that they'd really like to break even on the trip. Perhaps they should have thought about that a little more before they decided that they were somehow too good for the humble thumbs up. Jerks.

To be continued…

The second half of Psych's fifth season premiered last Wednesday (10 November), & as had been done several times throughout the fall of '09 & winter of '09-'10, I invited the gang over to my house to watch the episode. I meant to do this at least a week in advance, but I kept putting it off & putting it off until finally creating the FaceSpace event page on Monday, 8 November. In the end, my only guests were The Most Dangerous Game & Frankenstein's Monster, out of approximately ten invitations. Disappointing, but not surprising given the extremely late notice, & the inconvenience of U.S.A. having moved Pysch from Friday to Wednesday, a less than ideal night for socializing. The Impossible Ingenue was set to attend until she was called in to her mysterious third shift job. I think I shall wait until the season finale before I try again, & of course I must take care to give my intended guests much greater lead time.

At long last, hibachi. On Thursday (11 November, Armistice Day), we held November's monthly Economics Club dinner at Ichiban, a newish Japanese restaurant in Grand Blanc. I'd been to Ichiban before in the company of The Ingenue, The Blonde, & Vitamin H., but as always the girls were very insistent that we eat sushi. But once Ichiban was selected as the site of November's dinner, I was able to use the anti-sushi prejudice of some of our newer members (refugees from the all-but-defunct Business Club) to argue for hibachi-side seating. "Victory for ZIM!"

The dinner turned out to be the greatest monthly Economics Club dinner yet. I estimated a party of eight, based on personal correspondence & intercourse, but throughout the evening more & more people trickled in. I arrived alone, but Professor D. must have been waiting in the parking lot because he entered almost as soon as I'd been seated. Before that, though, the honcho (owner? manager? franchisee? who knows?) greeted me as if I was an old friend he hadn't seen in years; I've been there thrice, but this guy treats me as if I walk on air. So, things got off to a grand start. Shortly, newbie Rob entered with two non-Econ. Club friends in tow. Thursday was his birthday; so, Ichiban had been his choice, from a list of local restaurants. Good show, Rob! Then arrived The Most Dangerous Game (Club president), The Blonde (treasurer), Vitamin H., & newbie Cory, a nice chap except for his Libertarian politics. Your humble narrator (I'm the Club's vice president & secretary, by the way) included, we numbered nine. And then arrived, nearly simultaneously, Professor B. & oft-absent-but-always-fun Club member Brandy. Eleven! In due time Frankenstein's Monster & The Impossible Ingenue drifted in separately, but both arrived after the main meal had commenced. No precisely records exist, but thirteen is certainly the largest crowd we've had since last fall's debacle at Mongolian Barbeque, if not simply the largest crowd yet.

A note about the opening line, "At long last, hibachi." Ichiban's "hibachi" isn't hibachi at all, but teppanyaki. But since the two halves of the restaurant themselves carry large exterior signs proclaiming "Sushi" & "Hibachi," I've been hungering for teppanyaki while encouraged from every quarter to think of it as hibachi. So, I'm not an expert on Nihon-jin culture. Sue me.

Every great meal consists of two elements: great food & great company. As great as the company was, the food was greater yet! I'd never been to a teppanyaki restaurant, though I had a general pop-cultural awareness of the antics of the cooks at Benihana. Yeah, this was like that. Wow, this was like that! Our cook was a wizard, amusing us with spinning, flying blades; a thousand tricks with fire; a squeeze bottle full of sake that was shot down our throats from a distance; food cut at lightning speeds & stacked in amusing ways; & the ability to catch eggs in his hat. It was both dinner & a show. And what a dinner! I loves me some sushi, but I'd been jonesing for something both Japanese & cooked & my steak did not disappoint. In retrospect, I should have had it prepared medium instead of medium-rare, but is was scrumptious all the same. The fried rice was delicious. The noodles were delicious. The vegetables were delicious. The steak was delicious. The sake was more amusing than delicious, but it was terribly amusing. (And, boy, did it burn on the way down.) It was an essentially perfect meal. Everything I'd hoped, & more.

As I was neared the entrance to the library this evening for the weekly History Club meeting (I'm the secretary), I spied the aforementioned Cory, Frankenstein's Monster, & a fellow not of my acquaintance. Cory asked hopefully, "Here for the Libertarian thing?" The look on my face & my hesitation told him I was not, & at length I said, "I'm far too much of an Atlanticist to ever be Libertarian." With a wave of my hand I was on my way. I do not know which facet of Libertarianism I find the more irksome, its disguised anarchism or its open isolationism, but it is the latter that more often rouses my ire. Democrats & left-wingers I can deal with; Libertarians make me think of nothing but murder.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Four Lads, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I missed a golden opportunity the first time that episode of Raising Hope aired, but with tonight's rerun chance has graciously afforded me a second. Thanks, capricious Fortune!

"She'll be waiting in Istanbul."

Monday, November 15, 2010

This Week in Motorsport
The 2010 season is just concluded, but already eyes are turning toward 2011, with next year's World Championship campaigns to begin in a scant four months. What to do in the interval? Take a cue from B.B.C. Sport's Formula One page, which is organized according to the following categories:

Race Calendar
Drivers & Teams
B.B.C. F1 Team
Circuit Guide

How do we spend the next four months, during which time real news will be hard to come by? Gossip, my friends, that most tried & true source of all human knowledge: rumor. Gossiplink!

Project OSPREY
With motorsport taking the winter off, & the N.H.L. still kneecapped by the presence of the monster Bertuzzi in a Red Wings sweater, we turn our attention to the most American of all sports, college basketball. The games have already started, but everything is very tentative at the moment. Most coaches are still finding out what kind of a team they have. There is yet time to get read-up before the action heats up. Welcome back to Project OSPREY.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
We went 15-17 last season, a backbreaking record after our first N.C.A.A. Tournament appearance in eons. What of the '10-'11 valiant Wolverines? No man can say, but we hope for better things.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
No Use For a Name, "Sara Fisher" from Short Music for Short People (T.L.A.M.)


"'Hello, this is Sara Fisher,
please wait on the line.'
There's so many things I'd like to say,
But you're busy all the time."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCVII - Conrad O'Brien-ffrench (1893-1986), renaissance man & gentleman spy.

This Week in Motorsport
2010: The Year of the Bulls!

Last weekend, at the Grande Prêmio do Brasil (Round 18 of the 2010 Formula One World Championship), Red Bull Racing secured the Constructors' Championship with a dominant one-two finish (Sebastian Vettel topped Mark Webber). Today, in addition to a pole-to-checkered flag victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Rd. 19 of 19), Vettel won the Drivers' Championship. At only 23, Seb Vettel is the World Champion!

There will be more, much more, on this topic, but for the nonce I would like to draw attention to the many different helmet designs sported by Vettel during his successful 2010 championship campaign. My favorites are the silver-and-red design debuted at his home grand prix, the Grosser Preis von Deutschland, in July, & the white-and-red design used solely for last month's Japanese Grand Prix.

And because I'm not the only one who thinks about this weird little detail of the Formula One season, here's a hyperlink concerned with nothing else but Vettel's helmet designs: helmetlink.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Michael Giacchino, "Go Speed, Go!" from Speed Racer: Original Motion Picture Score (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Choosing the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. in Vettel's honor, I was going to go for an obvious, but appropriate choice, Queen's "We Are the Champions," until I remembered that the 2009 Champion, Jenson Button, sang it while his taking his victory lap last year at Brazil (he didn't win the grand prix, but secured his World Championship). Something in Button's manner really bugs me; I disliked him even before he began driving for those blackguards at McLaren. Then I was thinking about a tortured tribute to Vettel's twofold victory at Abu Dhabi, Spike Jones's "The Sheik of Araby," but I soon came to my senses. "Go Speed, Go!" gives me exactly what I wanted out of "We Are the Champions," obviousness & appropriateness, but without the Button taint. We have a winner!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Last night, I concluded Volume VII of my journal & began Volume VIII. Volume VII covers the period of 13 November 2007 to 12 November 2010, almost precisely three years. "Almost precisely" to the point of being spooky. This seems a ripe moment to pose two questions to my boon companion The Guy:

{a} You recall what instructions to follow upon my demise?
{b} Are you yet willing to discharge those instructions?

Kindly answer in the affirmative or the negative, betraying no further details.

The Victors
Michigan 27-16 Purdue
7-3, Big Ten 3-3

That was one of the least satisfying football games I've seen, but any win the valiant Wolverines can walk away with is a good win. Despite the futility & head-scratching ineptitude, the valiant Wolverines won their seventh game of the season. Michigan is 7-3! Even should we lose the remaining games of the regular season & our bowl game, the end-of-the-year record could be no worse than 7-6… with 8-5 entirely within the realm of the possible! After '08's previously unimaginable 3-9 & '09's heartbreaking 5-7, 7-3 (almost certainly to be 7-5 after contests against the pesky Badgers & hated Buckeyes) is almost impossible to accept. Is this true? Have the valiant Wolverines really won more games than they can possibly lose? Are we winners again, even if we are not yet again what we once were? I could cry, if I wasn't so busy shaking my head at the madness of our last two games. The world is a funny old place, isn't it?

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Edvard Grieg, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 12 November
Taylor Swift, "Better Than Revenge" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I blame Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. for this.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Explorers Club
No. CCVI - The Black Tom Explosion, 30 July 1916.


The Queue
For no specific reason on which I can lay a finger, I am reluctant to begin A Man Called INTREPID. So, I've decided to breeze through the very light Pretty in Ink first, & renew The Secret War from the library. I must also make a note to add Driven to Ink, the third & latest in the "Tattoo Shop Mystery" series, to my queue, perhaps as a break between the second—Spy Hook, Spy Line, & Spy Sinker—and third—Faith, Hope, & Charity—Bernard Samson trilogies.

Len Deighton, Berlin Game
Len Deighton, Mexico Set
Len Deighton, London Match

Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink

William Stevenson, A Man Called INTREPID: The Secret War
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Len Deighton, Spy Hook

Autobahn & The Queue
Do I prefer Car and Driver to Road & Track because C/D is headquartered in Michigan while R&T is based in California, or is the location of their offices merely coincidental?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The Great War was symbolically, if not actually, over. America should have a day set aside to thank & honor our still-living veterans, just as we have a specific day—Memorial Day—to honor our glorious dead, but we harm ourselves grievously, & place our progeny in the gravest peril, if we forget the causes & course of the Great War. In this, our cousins in the Commonwealth countries do the better job, for Remembrance Day is yet sacred as Armistice Day once was to us. Lest we forget.

Lest we forget.

"The Soldier"
by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

"For the Fallen"
by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Armistice Day
Rupert Brooke (lyrics) & John Ireland (music), "The Soldier" from The Pity of War: Songs and Poems of Wartime Suffering (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Operation AXIOM
Thirty-five years ago to the day, 10 November 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank with all hands, twenty-nine souls in all.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Lost Weekend
So, what was the deal with my refusal to socialize in this year's Halloween festivities? Two factors: {a} It was a failure by yours truly to live up to MERCATOR's ethos. I had opportunities to socialize & I declined them in part simply because I didn't really feel like going out. In moderation, the reclusive instinct can be quite beneficial, but the motive behind MERCATOR's absolutism is that moderation has never been my strong suite, especially when considering reclusiveness. But, as I lack the ability to traverse time in anything other than a real-time linear fashion, there's no way to undo that failure. So, failure acknowledged, there's naught but to do better the next time. {b} The social activities on offer weren't anything I'd normally get involved in except for a specific-to-Halloween desire to socialize. So, there is still reason to suspect that this failure of Project MERCATOR might have been the best course of action anyway.

On Thursday (28 October), I was invited, along with everyone else in Creation, to Churchill's, the unofficial campus bar (located right across Saginaw Street from the University Pavilion, formerly the Water Street Pavilion), for their "Halloween party." I'd been to Churchill's at least twice before, once for a Loose Ties show (score!) & once just because; the folks in charge do an excellent job of staying on the right side of having enough dank to make Churchill's seem like a real bar, not just a trendy hot spot, but not so much dank that it seems like a dive, such as The Torch. And even though it's an easy enough thing to do, they have a large photograph of Winston Churchill over the front door; what's not to love about that? But the list of people on the FaceSpace intending to attend gave me pause. My "Spidey sense" was atwitter that the night would be far less about costumed tomfoolery & much more about inebriated jackassery. Steeze made the excellent point that I should have gone regardless, because even had my worst fears been confirmed I could easily have made a swift exit & been very little the worse for wear. As it is, I am left with the uncertainty of what might have been, the avoidance of which was one of the instigating impulses behind the codification & implementation of Project MERCATOR. Good Idea/Bad Idea: Bad idea.

Planned for after Churchill's were parties at U of M-Flint's two frat houses (there are more frats, but they don't have houses). I was thrilled not to receive any kind of invitation to whatever monstrous Bacchanalia they were planning until The Most Dangerous Game (whom, we must remember, has sullied herself by joining a sorority) invited me. I protested that I hadn't been invited by the hosting authorities, but she countered this legalistic attempt to escape by telling me everyone in Creation (my words) was welcome. But not for love nor money would I have gone to one of the frat parties; in all honestly, I would have gone to the other for the right love or a large enough amount of money & then left as soon as my contractual obligation was fulfilled, but as no such bribes were proffered I merrily avoided the whole scene as if it was a plague ship. Good Idea/Bad Idea: Good idea.

The next night (Friday, 29 October), the Economics Club planned to visit at least one & possibly several haunted houses, preceding this with a meal & following it with drinking. The evening's sequence was described as "drink, eat, haunt, drink." I disliked this plan from the word "Go." I'm not a fan of haunted houses & I've never understood the appeal. I went to one during my time in Texile, & by no means did I have anything but a good time, but I still walked away from that haunted house as not tuned-in to the experience as ever. And the alehouse in which my fellows planned to start the evening was none other than Kickers. (I'm neither sure if it's actually Kickers, plural, or Kicker's, possessive, nor do I have the least bit of interest in learning for sure.) I've been inside Kickers once; never again. That place reeks of defeat, of people who've been bested by life, given up on ever winning again, & decided to numb the pain for the rest of their days with cheap domestic swill from plastic pitchers, i.e., people who can't even drink themselves to death correctly. I would have liked to have seen The Cowgirl & the Action Hero, who aren't around very much anymore, but for no reason will I set foot inside Kickers. Good Idea/Bad Idea: Good idea.

Also on Friday, a friend of Frankenstein's Monster was throwing a traditional Halloween house party/costume ball. Two days earlier (Wednesday, 27 October), Frankenstein's Monster had sent me an email through the FaceSpace; he was looking to renew our friendship. Not knowing precisely where things had gone awry, he suggested that we identify a few outstanding issues, discuss them 'til resolution was reached, and discard everything else. Since no single unrecoverable incident has sundered our comity, I took him up on the offer, though I suggested that we bury the hatchet entirely & start anew, tabula rasa. He accepted my counterproposal; easy peasy, amigos again. Sure, I might not have known very many of the people there, but that's the problematic nature of parties & no excuse not to go to one. I've no excuse, I didn't attend the party because by that point in the weekend I was firmly ensconced in my heritage. No re-dos in life, just try to do better the next time. Good Idea/Bad Idea: Bad idea.

So, I was a bump on a log the weekend of Halloween weekend. Nothing to be done about that, but as further analysis reveals, not all of my reclusive decisions were flawed. It was a bad weekend for Project MERCATOR & I certainly should have gone out on at least one if not both Thursday & Friday nights (there was football on Saturday), but it was not the unsociable debacle it appeared to be on All Saints' Day & All Souls' Day. Good Idea/Bad Idea: 2/2.

Not So Surprising
The following Wednesday (3 November), I motored out into B.F.E. to attend a surprise birthday party for The Most Dangerous Game's & The Impossible Ingenue's mother. It was apparent that the party had been engineered by their two younger sisters, because Mrs. Game/Ingenue was in the house when my fellow guests & I began to arrive. She'd been shunted upstairs with little explanation; so, she must have known something was afoot. The food was good & her presents were nice & the conversation was pleasant if not terribly lively, until Mr. Game/Ingenue initiated a theological conversation. Mr. Game/Ingenue suffers from the mistaken belief that he is the world's foremost Bible scholar &, taking Protestantism to an inevitable extent, he regards himself as his own pope, his own final authority on all matters ecclesiastical. He wished to impress upon me the rectitude of his beliefs, & attempted to do so my citing Saint Paul as providing evidence against a resurrection of the body at the Last Judgment. And why exactly should I give a tinker's damn about the theological musings of a man who forbids his family to celebrate Christmas because the Christ probably wasn't born on literally 25 December? Right, I shouldn't & I don't. But aside from that a lovely time was had by all.

Perplexing side note: Mrs. Game/Ingenue's birthday was actually a fortnight prior to the party, a whole fortnight. No adequate explanation was given for the delay in the festivities.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Aquabats!, "Playin' It Cool!" from the Radio Down! E.P. (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary: Man alive, I wish The Aquabats! had released "Playin' It Cool!" a decade ago! The lyrics would have been eye-opening to the perpetually pining Mike of years gone by.

"Hoo, I have a crush
But I'm not going to rush things,
I'll hang back and play it cool.
(Hang back, playin' it cool!)
Yeah, I really like this girl
But she don't have a clue about it
I'm acting smooth and playing it cool!
(Hang back, playin' it cool!)

My friends all say I should call her today
Or send her some candy and flowers,
But that ain't my style,
I'm going to give it a while
While lurking in the shadows.

Yeah, I stick with my plan,
Although she don't know who I am,
It's all just part of playin' it cool!
I want to sit down beside her
And tell her that I like her,
But it's probably better than I'm playin' it cool
(Hang back, playin' it cool!)

Playin' it cool!
Oh, that's my technique!
Playin' it cool!
I've been doing it for weeks now!
Playin' it cool
And being discreet,
It's not a mistake, it's mystique!

Now I see this other guy
Hanging 'round the girl I like,
But she'll never like him,
He ain't playin' it cool!
And, uh, they're holding hands,
But this guy don't understand
That he's better off
Just playin' it cool like me.
(Hang back, playin' it cool!)

She's thinkin' I'm mysterious
Because I haven't said a word to her, not even once!
I look away when she smiles at me
And soon she will see
That I'm playin' it cool
And that she really likes me! Yeah!

Playin' it cool!
Oh, that's my technique!
Playin' it cool!
I've been doing it for weeks now!
Playin' it cool
And being discreet,
It's not a mistake, it's mystique!

(sweet breakdown)

Playin' it cool!
Oh, that's my technique!
Playin' it cool!
I've been doing it for weeks now!
Playin' it cool
And being discreet,
It's not a mistake, it's mystique!"

Monday, November 8, 2010

The other week, I saw a Maserati. In Flint! I was motoring eastward on Miller Road & it was waiting to turn out of the Best Buy. As I was busy piloting Lumi I did not have time to take as detailed a look as I'd have liked; so, I cannot tell you if 'twas a GranTurismo or a Quattroporte, though my recollection leans more toward the Quattroporte. All I can say for certain is that there's no mistaking that distinctive catfish-mouth grille or Maserati's gorgeous trident logo.

I recount the following not to in any way puff up myself, but solely to remind one & all of the inescapable truth of that baleful old saw, "No good deed goes unpunished." I arose early this morning to lend a hand with unloading a tractor-trailer full of food at the North End Soup Kitchen. My fellow volunteers & I formed a bucket brigade leading from the semi-trailer to the sorting room. All was going well as we passed box after box from one to another, until large bags of onions suddenly appeared from around the corner. Before I knew it, my arms were full of a large sack of onions, gravity constantly deforming the bag as it sought a way to pull the onions down to the ground. Sack after sack passed awkwardly through my arms until finally one enveloped my left forearm & hand; before I knew what had happened, the net-like bag had torn my watch off my wrist! The watch clanked to the floor in four pieces: the mechanism, the strap (the two halves still buckled together), & the two pins that attached the strap to the mechanism. I was able to recover one of the pins, the other is lost & gone forever. My fellows were not in the least sympathetic as I scrambled on the floor trying to gather the pieces of my dismembered timepiece. In a stroke of luck I had a single spare pin back at home, but that does not change the fact that I came too close to losing my second-favorite everyday product of Switzerland (after my Swiss Army Knife). Forewarned is forearmed: Help others at your peril!

I ran into & conversed with Ska Army today, the first time I'd seen the lad in far too long; he hadn't played the last three Loose Ties shows I'd seen (including two in one night) due to his duties with the non-ska Army.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Cars, "Just What I Needed" from The Cars (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Is it just coincidence that The Cars provide the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. on the day I publish an "Autobahn" post? Yes. N.P.R. was annoying by the time I was driving home tonight, & I immediately stopped scanning through the commercial radio stations when I heard "Just What I Needed."

"'Cause when you're standing oh so near,
I kind of lose my mind."