Friday, November 30, 2012

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barenaked Ladies, "Running Out of Ink" from Barenaked Ladies Are Men (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "It's bleaker than you think."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
(№ 5) Michigan 77-47 Cleveland State
3-0, Big Ten 0-0

A thirty-point win? I'll take that. Yes, this was a care of a highly-ranked club beating up on lesser opposition, so an argument could be made that this win is nothing to celebrate. That, however, is a despicably patronizing argument. Cleveland State is a Division I program; they've been to the N.C.A.A. Tournament as recently as '09 & to the N.I.T. in two of the last three years. They are an opponent worthy of respect, not yokels just off the turnip truck from the sticks, cannon fodder against the mighty major conference school. The Cleveland State Vikings came to play against the Michigan Wolverines, fair & square; Cleveland States neither wants nor needs your pity. That the valiant Wolverines trounced them by thirty points, well, let's take that as something of a validation of Michigan's terrifyingly high pre-season ranking.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012
(№ 4) Michigan 67-62 Pitt
4-0, Big Ten 0-0

A tough win against the toughest opponent yet faced in a young season. The valiant Wolverines played far from their best game, & yet were able to emerge victorious against a brutal, unsportsmanlike Big East opponent. (I suppose it is redundant to label any Big East club as unsportsmanlike.) Previous valiant Wolverines squads, with a less diverse offense & less aggressive rebounding, might well have lost a game like this. Another encouraging sign that the '12-'13 valiant Wolverines might be worthy of their hype.

Friday, 23 November 2012
(№ 4) Michigan 71-57 Kansas State
5-0, Big Ten 0-0

The valiant Wolverines are N.I.T. Season Tip-off champs! This is the first time a valiant Wolverines squad has won an early-season tournament in… I can't say how long precisely, but quite a while. The game was tight throughout the first half, & the valiant Wolverines took only a four-point lead into the locker room at halftime, but assumed control in the second half on the way to the double-digit victory. These boys who represent the Maize & Blue have yet to best a ranked opponent, but they are playing & winning as a team, depending on no single superstar player to shoulder the burden (though there are at least two—Tim Hardaway Jr. & Trey Burke—& possibly three—Glenn Robinson III—who have the potential to blossom into superstars). They still rain in threes, but also play a better game inside the paint that any previous squad of John Beilein-coached valiant Wolverines. Holy smokes, the Top 5 ranking might be for real.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012
(№ 3) Michigan 79-72 North Carolina State (№ 18)
6-0, Big Ten 0-0

A two-fer: The valiant Wolverines made a useful contribution to the annual Big Ten/A.C.C. Challenge & defeated their first ranked opponent of the still-young season. Woo hoo! There are concerns about both offense (consistency) & defense (everything), but, by Jove, the valiant Wolverines might really be the № 3 club in the United States!

Next: At Bradley on Saturday, followed by a three-game home stand at the Crisler Center. ("Crisler Center" looks & sounds weird to me, as I still think of the "House that Cazzie Built" as Crisler Arena. Of course, I'm used to Yost as the Yost Ice Arena, a name that must look & sound weird to those who knew it as the Yost Fieldhouse. I'll get used to the Crisler Center name, it'll just take some time.)

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Folksmen, "Blood on the Coals" from A Mighty Wind: The Album (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Denise" from Utopia Parkway (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Denise" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

"She got a heart made of gravel."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I thought I'd catch up on the nascent basketball season today ("The Victors: Project OSPREY"), but I also didn't think I'd spend so much time in the attic laying down insulation. So, you never know the twists & turns a day will take.

A dire warning, & 'tis hoped a wake-up call, from today's New Girl. I must not allow PARAFFIN to become like Nick Miller's Z is For Zombie. More on this later.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
First Aid Kit, "Wolf" from The Lion's Roar (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Victors
Saturday, 24 November 2012
(№ 4*) Ohio State 26-21 Michigan (№ 20)
8-4, Big Ten 6-2

First, inarticulate frustration: Argh! Der! Grr! Argh! Second, affirmation: Now, as ever & always, it is great to be Michigan Wolverine. Third, the goat: The Devil take Al Borges! (Mr. Borges is the valiant Wolverines' offensive coordinator.) We win & we lose as a team ("The team, the team, the team."), & our purpose here is neither to assign blame nor to engage in emotionally-satisfying-but-ultimately-counterproductive recriminations. But we do ourselves a disservice if we do not seek to identify those faults in preparation or execution that lead to Saturday's ignominious defeat at the hands of the ancient foe. My great fear, & I freely admit that it borders on the irrational, fueled by the trauma of the '08 through '10 seasons, is that Brady Hoke is the reverse Rich Rod—whereas Rodriguez focused on the offense & almost entirely neglected the defense (to our great detriment), I fear that Hoke is focused on the defense to the virtual exclusion of the offense. These last two years, while Rich Rod-recruited defensive players have been transformed into fire-breathing monsters, a buzz saw of a defense that rates well nationally, the offense has displayed a variety of bizarre, doomed-to-fail schemes. Runs up the middle that are terminally delayed, runs to the outside that take so long to develop that geriatric D-linemen would have adequate time to thwart them, & passes behind the line of scrimmage that almost invariably lead to lost yardage. The perfect exemplar of this spotty play-calling was Saturday's fourth-&-three play. We went for it under ridiculously dubious circumstances: fourth-&-three, in our own territory, early in the third quarter, with the score virtually tied. Wait, what? What?! Fourth-&-inches, sure, I could see that, late in the fourth quarter or even in the third if we were desperately far behind, & on their side of the field. But fourth-&-three, there, then? Are you pulling my leg? What brain donor thought that was a good idea? Adding insult to injury, we attempted to gain the three yards—not mere inches, mind you—with a run up the middle, even though we had failed utterly to evince any interior running game up to that point in the game. They stopped us, of course, & we turned the ball over on downs. (A punt, the customary choice when facing a fourth-&-three, would most likely have pinned the hated Buckeyes deep in their own territory.) We were lucky to escape with them having only scored a field goal.

Specific plays aside, the greatest source of the opening, inarticulate frustration was our use of the "platoon" system at quarterback. Playing more than one quarterback, by choice, as more than just an every-once-in-the-while wrinkle? Doom. Doom! DOOM! I adore senior quarterback Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, & I agree that, even compromised by an arm injury that prevents him from throwing the ball, he's too slippery a runner, too dynamic a player to leave on the sidelines. But putting him in at quarterback, with both teams aware that he was unable to throw, for such a substantial number of plays bordered on the insane. Or at least on the inept. Missing our best running back, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Borges & the offensive brain trust (a term I use loosely) decided to insert Shoelace at quarterback, a clearly signal to the Ohio State defense that a running play was in the offing. Why? Shoelace had proved dangerous at running back the previous week, playing in tandem with back-up quarterback Devin Gardner. Why wasn't the same winning combination used more against the hated Buckeyes. Gardner & Shoelace were almost never on the field together. Evaluate this perplexing choice in the light of the early-season decision to play Gardner at wide receiver, to risk injury when he was clearly needed as back-up quarterback. Instead, of the junior Garnder, red shirt freshman Russell Bellomy was designated as second-strong quarterback, a fundamental error in judgment that possibly cost us the game against Nebraska, & with it a likely slot in this coming weekend's Big Ten Championship Game. Why weren't Shoelace & Gardner used as a dangerous duo against Ohio? Why was Gardner risked at wide receiver? Why was Bellomy the designated back-up over the vastly-more-experienced Gardner? As previously mentioned, the Devil take Al Borges!

Alas! For their many sins, the hated Buckeyes' season is over. They will play in neither the Big Ten Championship Game nor a bowl game. They're done 'til spring practices. The valiant Wolverines finish the regular season at 8-4, a hard return to Earth after last season's improbable, glorious 10-2 regular season (11-2 after the Sugar Bowl victory). There is cold comfort in all four losses coming to Top 15 teams: (№ 1) Notre Dame, (№ 2) Alabama, (№ 4) Ohio State, & (№ 14) Nebraska. Cold comfort, because we had every chance in the world to defeat the vile Fighting Irish, the hated Buckeyes, & the unwelcome Cornhuskers, & in all three contests we beat ourselves with stupidity & blundering. (I suppose I'll have to re-evaluate Nebraska's epithet in light of the Big Ten's preposterous decision to admit Maryland & Rutgers, but that's a mater for another day.) Now we await the bowl bids, amid hope that we can end the year a proud 9-4 instead of a disappointing 8-5.

Saturday, 17 November 2012
(№ 23) Michigan 42-17 Iowa
8-3, Big Ten 6-1

It was nice to see the valiant Wolverines, again under the direction of relief quarterback Devin Gardner, kick the snot out of the tenacious Hawkeyes. I don't care how bad an opposing defense is, forty-two points is an impressive offensive output. Your humble narrator was surprised by how long Gardner was kept in the game, especially considering how desperately third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy needs to recover some of the poise & confidence he threw away during our hideous shellacking by Legends Division-championship rivals Nebraska.

Saturday, 10 November 2012
Michigan 38-31 Northwestern* (O.T.)
7-3, Big Ten 5-1

Wow! There is nothing else in sport so thrilling (as distinct from exciting or pleasing) as your club prevailing in a tight, nerve-racking game. One is overwhelmed by a wave of relief once the tension is released; the flip side of this, the depths of misery once that tension is released, but by your side's defeat… well, the less said about that unpleasantness the better. The plucky Wildcats' coach, Pat Fitzgerald, himself a former plucky Wildcat player, is annoying as all get-out, & it does my heart good to see him again thwarted. He's not evil incarnate like that goon in East Lansing, he's just so proud that I love to see him taken down a beg or three. Victory in overtime time; I'll take it!

Go Blue!

007's Golden Jubliee
Thanksgiving was a day of leisure, a day with virtually all of free time spent watching television. Not giving a tinker's damn about the National Football League (A.K.A., the "No Fun League"), I alternated 'twixt T.N.T.'s Castle marathon & Syfy's 007 marathon, seeing parts of Octopussy, License to Kill, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, & Die Another Day. Ian Fleming's James Bond canon has been extensively culled for the movies over the last fifty years (wow!), with bits & pieces woven here & there into a variety of other adaptations or original screen material. Those bits & pieces sometimes include nothing more than the title: the film Moonraker has naught to do with the novel Moonraker, whilst the film Die Another Day is largely an adaptation of the novel Moonraker. The exquisite short story "From a View to a Kill" is unrelated to the dreary film A View to a Kill, while the film For Your Eyes Only contains story elements from "For Your Eyes Only" & "Risico," plus original screen material. Quantum of Solace has nothing to do with "Quantum of Solace," while a sequence in The Living Daylights is adapted from "The Living Daylights," & so on & so forth. I liked Skyfall, & as the Fleming canon having been, as mentioned, extensively, possibly even exhaustively culled, I have not the slightest objection to new screen stories, especially as I wish very much to see the James Bond film franchise flourish for at least the next twenty-seven years. That said, I do wish they could find a use for the short story titles that have yet to be recycled. They are:

"The Hildebrand Rarity"
"The Property of a Lady"
"007 in New York"

(O.K., you got me. I'd rather there not be a film titled 007 in New York. "The Property of a Lady" has real potential, though, despite the short story's being adapted almost in its entirety in the film Octopussy. Bond 24, The Property of a Lady?)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
First Aid Kit, "Emmylou" via iTunes, (free) Single of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

*The plucky Wildcats of Northwestern University were (at the time) ranked in some polls—№ 24 in the B.C.S. standings & № 21 in the coaches' poll—but we here at The Secret Base recognize only the Associated Press (A.P.) poll. Pumping up Northwestern, making them seem as fearsome as possible, might be welcomed in some corners of Michigan fandom, but here we strive ever not to be hypocrites, even at the cost of prestige. By the same token, the hated Buckeyes are ranked in the A.P. poll because of their on-field performance, whereas they are not ranked in the B.C.S. due to their well-earned N.C.A.A. post-season ban, a result of their off-field knavery. I include their ranking here not to excuse our defeat, but for the sake of consistency.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXVI - Felix Baumgartner (b. 1969) & the Red Bull Stratos project.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Meaghan Smith, "It Snowed" from iTunes, (free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I had to brush the snow off of the Lumi the Snow Queen this morning before I could motor to Mass. Joy!

"How merry! How bright!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Cake, "Never There" from Prolonging the Magic (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Inspired by events & non-events to be related in upcoming "Project MERCATOR" & "Project PANDORA" posts.

Freitag, 23 November
Cake, "Meanwhile, Rick James…" from Comfort Eagle (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Operation AXIOM
Your humble narrator is thankful for this world of woe & wonder, for his kith & kin, for his nimbleness of mind & strength of body, & for the innumerable blessings with which he has been graced. Give thanks to He Who is the author of all splendor, of all our joys & sorrows. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers, to you & yours!

A latter-day phantom island: Sandy Island-link. Neat! It is interesting that in this day & age, with our supposed crowd-sourced, cloud-stored, digital omnipotence, when Man's fallen nature is denied & perfection is assumed to be but a few lines of code away, that such a basic error could persist for so long & be so widely repeated. My congratulations to the French on the accuracy of their nautical charts, triumphing where Google succumbed to pride & failed.

"No, GIR! Those piggies are for science. Science!"

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day
As I declared several weeks hence, "Like many men of my generation, I have a persistent crush on Zooey Deschanel. I will not apologize for that." This was declared in the context of watching an episode of the delightful sitcom New Girl. I will not apologize for that.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Cake, "Comfort Eagle" from Comfort Eagle (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It's a Cake kind of week, methinks. There is of course an argument to be made that the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. on Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day should be supplied by her own band, She & Him, but as I said, it's a Cake kind of week, methinks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This Week in Motorsport
A thousand pardons, dear readers, but I intend to make a liar of myself this week, publishing a pair of "This Week in Motorsport" reports to make up for last week's lack of a solo "This Week in Motorsport." (I know that at some point I titled a post "Last Week in Motorsport," but the demarcation is fuzzier this go-round.)

Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 19
Grand Prix of the United States
Sunday, 18 November 2012

I had only the most rudimentary awareness of Formula One when last was held a United States Grand Prix, in 2007, at the misbegotten "roval" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; so, I have no idea of how big a deal F1 used to be, at least amongst the motorsports set. That said, I was blown away by the massive attention that was paid to the inaugural race at the brand-new, bespoke-for-F1 Circuit of the Americas (C.O.T.A.) outside of Austin, Texas. There has been a new F1 grand prix/circuit on the calendar every year that I've been an F1 fan: Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit in '09, Korea's eponymous International Circuit in '10, India's Buddh International Circuit in '11, & C.O.T.A. this year. Yet never before was there such a ballyhoo before the race weekend. Admittedly, I am an American & watch F1 on an American broadcaster (& Speed expanded its coverage of the whole weekend, carrying live on T.V. all three free practice sessions, not just Friday afternoon's Free Practice 2), which could skew my perspective, but I base this assessment also on the internet, websites from abroad moreso than websites based in America/targeted at the American audience. I see for this two reasons: one, there is a previous history of the U.S. Grand Prix to celebrate & recall, from twenty glorious years at Watkins Glen in upstate New York to the nomadic '80s at street circuits in Long Beach, Las Vegas, Dallas, Detroit, & Phoenix to the better part of a decade at Indianapolis. By contrast, Abu Dhabi's petroleum-fueled wealth has only been poured into encouraging Western tourism in the last decade, Korea is a new member of the rich-countries club, & India is still a developing nation. In that same vein, the second reason, that the United States is still, by a factor of 2:1, the largest economy in the world, the richest country in the known universe, the most lucrative market F1 has yet to exploit. In any event, the hype was fulfilled, the grandstands were full to bursting, Austin's hospitality was fêted, the circuit was praised, & the grand prix, as both a race & a public relations exercise, was a smashing success.

The race was, as mentioned, a smashing success. Reigning double World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10 & '11) of Red Bull (Renault) dueled all race with '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren (Mercedes), leaving the rest of the field over thirty seconds behind. Vettel lead most of the way, but was passed by Hamilton along the main straight (damn the D.R.S. gimmickry!) & did not have the speed to retake the position. Double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) of Ferrari finished third, after being promoted to the clean side of the track on the starting grid due to some skulduggery by Ferrari. To paraphrase James T. Kirk, "I've never trusted Italians, & I never will." Hamilton won, Vettel finished second, & Alonso finished third. Alonso is thirteen point behind Vettel going into the final round of the world championship, Brazil, with a win worth twenty-five points. Vettel has more wins on the season than Alosno, so Vettel wins the Drivers' Championship should they tie on points (possible only if Alonso finishes third [fifteen points] & Vettel finishes ninth [two points]).

As part of the return-to-America pageantry, Pirelli issued special hats for the podium ceremony. Normally, the top three finishers stand on the podium wearing black Pirelli baseball caps, denoting their finishing place—1st, 2nd, or 3rd—& promoting Pirelli's P-Zero tires. For Texas, Pirelli did something a bit more whimsical:

Beyond Thunderdome
International V8 Supercars Championship
Rounds 24-26
Yas V8 400
Saturday & Sunday, 3-4 November 2012

Reigning champion Jamie Whincup of Team Vodafone/Triple Eight Engineering (Holden) dominated the weekend shared with F1, pursued in all three races by second-place finisher Will Davison of Trading Post/Ford Performance Racing. Abu Dhabi has been on the V8 calendar for several years now, but heretofore it had been the season-opening round, in the spring (the Australian fall). This year was the first time the Aussies had shared the weekend with the F1 circus, & to work around F1's schedule the Supercars undertook a trio of sprint races, instead of the usual duo of longer races. odd all around, but the Holden-Ford duel is always an amusing show (to be joined by Nissan next year). I will be glad to see the Supercars back on rough & tumble Australian tracks, instead of F1's polished jewel in the desert. (Abu Dhabi is more about the spectacle than the racing, but with the V8 Supercars all the spectacle is in the racing.)

One-Make Wonderland
Porsche Supercup
Rounds 1 & 2
Grand Prix of Bahrain
Sunday, 22 April 2012

Round 4
Grand Prix de Monaco
Sunday, 27 May 2012

Round 5
Grand Prix of Europe
Sunday, 24 June 2012

Round 6
Grand Prix of Great Britain
Sunday, 8 July 2012

Round 7
Grosser Preis von Deutschland
Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Porsche Supercup is exclusively a support series for Formula One, pitting some of the best drivers from various national Carrera Cups against F1's European (& Middle Eastern) circuits. A plethora of Porsches—what's not to love? I had no idea that Speed televised the Supercup in any way, shape, or form 'til my father recorded highlights of the first three race a couple week ago. Way to go recording obsessively anything & everything the D.V.R. labels "racing"! I am glad to see the Supercup, but I have too complaints. One, the races are too short, sprints of never more than sixteen laps (of Monaco, where F1 does seventy-eight laps), & two, the highlights are two short, with three races crammed into half an hour (less, with adverts). I want more Supercup!

The season's been over since September, but as mentioned before this year in motorsport is winding down, & filling in what was missed over a frenetic summer & fall is most welcome as the live pickings grow increasingly thin. There are four more races, & I hope they'll be spread over two more episodes instead of jammed into one. Come on, chaps, be expansive.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Cake, "Never There" from Prolonging the Magic (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I've always wished "Never There" was a little bit longer. I think it could be without overstaying its welcome.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Queue
Leviathan is proving, in Donald Rumsfeld's immortal words, "a long, hard slog." I am a hundred pages into a six hundred-page work, & am advancing at a snail's pace. This is due in part to the near-impenetrability of Hobbes's prose. Sure, the archaic spellings & meanings of words pose a challenge in & of themselves, but the impenetrable aspect is Hobbes's tone & style. I am in yet in the first of the four parts, "Of Man," & found the early going the hardest reading I've ever done, as Hobbes discussed at mind-numbing length the most seemingly basic of ideas & definitions. (I forgive him this, as I suspect he was striving simply to be as clear as possible, to forestall any misconstruing of his ideas, but that didn't make that pedantic drivel any easier to read.) He rails at length against "Metaphor," always capitalized, & yet employs metaphors throughout the text; so, I assume he's railing against some archaic, now obsolete & discarded definition of metaphor. "Of Man" is gathering pace, but progress is still to be had only at a premium. If the next part, "Of Common-wealth," doesn't offer significant change, the endeavour might well be abandoned.

I renewed my lease of Leviathan today, & doubt I'll finish the book, if I finish the book, by this time in December. To reach the finish, if I reach the finish, I might have to take a break or two, & take a vacation to Barsoom.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Fratellis, "Henrietta" from Costello Music (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXV - Colonel Joseph Kittinger, U.S.A.F. (b. 1928) & Projects MANHIGH, EXCELSIOR, & STARGAZER.

Commentary: I do so love it when "The Explorers' Club" shines its spotlight on an actual explorer.

The Rebel Black Dot 007 Songs of the Day
Shirley Bassey, "Diamonds Are Forever" from The Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 17 November
John Barry, "007" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A secondary James Bond theme, introduced during the action sequences of From Russia with Love. You'd recognized "007" if you heard it, even if you don't know the title.

Freitag, 16 November
Eric Rodgers, "Kingston Calypso" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The grimly comic song accompanying the opening titles of Dr. No, in which the immortal "James Bond Theme" appeared much later in the film's progression.

Donnerstag, 15 November
Louis Armstrong, "We Have All the Time In the World" from The Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The love theme, though not the main theme, from the most tragic of all Bond films, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The titular theme is instrumental.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Rebel Black Dot 007 Songs of the Day
Matt Monro, "From Russia with Love" from The Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Dienstag, 13 November
Tina Turner, "GoldenEye" from The Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Project MERCATOR: 007's Golden Jubilee*
I saw Skyfall on Friday, accompanied by Ska Army. We were both quite pleased by & enthusiastic about the film, though the boom was lowered on our post-film conversation when my companion revealed his disdain for the films Live and Let Die & The Man with the Golden Gun. It should be noted that Ska Army's opinions regarding the cinema aren't worth a tinker's damn: he disliked The Dark Knight Rises, the Philistine. Nonetheless, even Philistines recognize the quality of Skyfall.

Sean Connery
Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
Thunderball (1965)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)†

George Lazenby
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

Roger Moore
Live and Let Die (1973)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Moonraker (1979)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Octopussy (1983)
A View to a Kill (1985)

Timothy Dalton
The Living Daylights (1987)
License to Kill (1989)

Pierce Brosnan
GoldenEye (1995)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)

Daniel Craig
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Skyfall (2012)
"…James Bond Will Return…"

*This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond feature film, Dr. No. Ian Fleming's novels celebrated their golden anniversary in 2003, fifty years after the publication of Casino Royale.

†We here at The Secret Base are proud Eon Productions partisans & as such consider neither 1967's Casino Royale nor 1983's Never Say Never Again to be true Bond pictures, despite Mr. Connery's lamentable participation in the latter film.

The Rebel Black Dot 007 Songs of the Day
Garbage, "The World Is Not Enough" from The Best of Bond… James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)


"The world is not enough,
But it is such a perfect place to start, my love,
And if you're strong enough
Together we can take the world apart, my love."

Samstag, 10 November
Adele, "Skyfall" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice Day
At the eleventh hours of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, ninety-four years ago to the day, 11 November 1918, the Armistice silenced the guns on the Western Front. 'Twas not yet a peace, but 'twas no longer a war. But for a few trifling details, such as the lives of the ten of thousands who would perish as the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, & Russian Empires convulsed & disintegrated, the Great War was ended. A world met its grisly demise in the four unspeakable years of the Weltkrieg; a generation was lost, slaughtered or otherwise broken in body & spirit; the cultures, morals, & societies for which that doomed generation fought & died perished with them. We are, all of us, maimed by the First World War. We have never recovered what was lost, we have never found our way again, we have never restored our faith. We are, all of us, maimed, even unto the present day. We dare not forget those dark & terrible years, we dare not, lest we fall victim to those same dreadful mistakes. We dare not think ourselves immune to the same folly, we dare not, lest we hasten its repetition. Lest we forget.

"Achilles in the Trench"
by Patrick Shaw-Stewart (1888-1917)*

I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die;
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Upon the Dardanelles:
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean Sea,
Shrapnel and high explosives,
Shells and hells for me.

Oh Hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland,
And I to Chersonese;
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest, and I know not;
So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning
From Imbros o'er the sea.
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

"On Receiving News of the War"
by Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)

Snow is a strange white word.
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter's cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know.
No man knows why.

In all men's hearts it is.
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face.
God's blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O! ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume.
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

*Poetry has been a part of The Secret Base's commemoration of Armistice Day since '07. Both of this year's poets, Patrick Shaw-Stewart & Isaac Rosenberg, were killed in the Great War. We have also spotlighted the poets John McCrae, Wilfred Owen, Rudyard Kipling, Rupert Brooke, Laurence Binyon, & Robert Graves; McCrae (1872-1918), Owen (1893-1918), & Brooke (1887-1915) all died in uniform during the Great War.

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXIV - The Fokker D.VII, the best fighter plane of the Great War.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Armistice Day
Dropkick Murphys, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" from The Meanest of Times (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The tune of my beloved "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" originated with the unambiguously anti-war song, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye," here presented in a punk rock rendition, slightly retitled as "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya," by Dropkick Murphys.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
William Shatner, "Has Been" from Has Been (California Dreamer)

Commentary: The Dreamer didn't directly suggest "Has Been," but some remarks of hers brought it to mind, & that's how the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. works.

"I've heard of you,
The ready-made connecting with the ever-ready, yeah.
Never Was talking about Still Trying, I got it.
Forever Bitter gossiping about Never Say Die…

"What are you afraid of?
Failure? So am I.
(Has been, has been.)
'Has been' implies failure: Not so.
(Has been, has been.)
Has been's history. Has been was.
Has been… might again."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I have now walked one hundred miles through the agency of my two & a half mile "daily" constitutional. One hundred miles! One hundred miles of exercise I would not otherwise have taken, one hundred miles of pushing & urging myself forward, one hundred miles through rain & sunshine (a bigger deterrent to me than rain) & wind & motorcars & barking, charging dogs. I'm proud of myself (but not boastfully so, methinks), but also reproachful that it took me so blasted long to get to one hundred miles. Months! Months of inactivity through the height of the summer! Lousy sloth! I've never walked five times in one week, but twice in consecutive weeks I walked on four consecutive days; if I do that regularly, or even semi-regularly, if I can lay down ten miles on course every week, I'll be to the next hundred miles in the later stages of January. Other weeks I've walked on four days, but non-consecutively. Observation of my times indicates that consecutive days produce the fastest times; a day spent at a standstill is the enemy of speed. More laps, & faster lap times. Those are my (admittedly fuzzy) objectives. Onward!

This means I've also put more-or-less one hundred miles on my sneakers. My informal adviser, Mrs. Skeeter, Esq., told me that a pair of training shoes have a life of approximately five hundred miles; I am logging the distance walked more to monitor shoe degradation than as benchmarks such as that celebrated above (a nice fringe benefit all the same). Four hundred more miles on this pair of sneakers. Let's run (walk, jog) 'em into the ground!

Warning: Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. is not going to want to read this next part, which discusses my moustache.

A hair fell out of my moustache today, perfectly intact from root to end. I caught it in midair & had a sudden inspiration to put it to the test on a ruler. Not every hair in my moustache is this long, & this one had indeed given up the ghost, but this one measured almost exactly two & a half inches. Wow! I really should wax the 'stache, at least on an experimental basis.

All clear, Skeet!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lenka, "Trouble Is a Friend" from Lenka (T.L.A.M.)


"He's there in the dark,
He's there in my heart,
He waits in the wings,
He's gotta play a part,
Trouble is a friend, yeah,
Trouble is a friend of mine,
Oh, oh!

"So now don't be alarmed
If he takes you by the arm,
I won't let him in
But I'm a sucker for his charm,
Trouble is a friend, yeah,
Trouble is a friend of mine…"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Week in Motorsport
Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 18
Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
Sunday, 4 November 2012

Disaster! & disaster averted! Red Bull (Renault) blundered during qualifying at the Yas Marina Circuit. Reigning double World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10 & '11) qualified third, behind '08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren (Mercedes) & '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen of Lotus (Renault), but then stopped on track on the instructions from his race engineer. This suspicious behavior drew the attention of the stewards & Vettel's RB8 was found not to have the required one liter of fuel remaining & available for inspection. Eight hundred fifty milliliters shy of the mark, Vettel was disqualified & had to start the grand prix from the back, not just the back of the grid but from the very pit lane itself. A stiff task was set the young German, as his chief rival double World Champion Fernando Alonso ('05 & '06) of Ferrari was to start from sixth (promoted from seventh by Vettel's disqualification), & Alonso is notable as an aggressive overtaker at the first corner.

There was the usual chaos at the first turn, but luck was with most of the field & only a single driver, Nico Hülkenberg of Force India (Mercedes), had his day ended. Mark Webber of Red Bull, who qualified second, made his customary dreadful start & was back in fifth place before the end of the first lap. Vettel began slicing his way through the back markers, but had his front wing damaged in a pair of incidents. There was an unholy smash up 'twixt the Mercedes A.M.G. of Nico Rosberg & the H.R.T. (Cosworth) of Narain Karthikeyan, with Rosberg's machine riding up & over Karthikeyan's, ripping the camera off the top of the roll hoop & sending carbon fiber shrapnel flying in all directions. Clearly & rightly afraid of fire, Rosberg hopped out of his wounded machine with uncanny quickness; fortunately, there was no fire. Vettel pitted during the resultant safety car period, had his wing replaced & received a new set of tires, was again relegated to the very back of the field, & began fighting his way back to the front. Hamilton was cruising serenely in the lead, untouchable by the pursuing Räikkönen, when his engine suddenly lost fuel pressure, ending his race. It was Hamilton's second retirement from the lead in the last five grands prix. Räikkönen assumed the race lead & was not to be denied; he lead from Hamilton's retirement through the pit stop rotation & all the way to Lotus's first* victory.

Behind him, Vettel showed the aggression & passing mastery last displayed at Spa in the end o' August, when he climbed from twelfth to second. At Abu Dhabi, Vettel overtook '09 World Champion Jenson Button of McLaren for third in the waning laps & might well have caught up to the second-place Alonso had he managed to get around Button two or three laps sooner. Vettel drove from twenty-fourth to third, one of the most amazing performances I've seen in my four years of watching motorsport. Hamilton, Räikkönen, & Webber were officially eliminated from championship contention; Alonso trails Vettel by ten points, with a maximum of fifty points available in the last two grands prix of the year, the United States & Brazil. With Vettel's exclusion from qualifying, Alonso had a golden opportunity to make up serious ground on his rival, or even resume the championship lead, but by claiming the third step on the podium Vettel kept his points-lead over Alonso in the double digits. Nothing is yet decided, & the championship will almost certainly not be decided 'til the season finale at Interlagos in São Paulo. This is thrilling stuff, & Abu Dhabi was amazing!

Next: the United States Grand Prix, for the first time since '07. The brand-new, purpose-build Circuit of the Americas looks mightily impressive, & will be plainly superior to the old, misbegotten "roval" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (I.M.S.). This will be the race to watch, dear readers, the perfect chance to check out the F1 circus while basking in a glow of patriotism. Sunday, 18 November 2012, live at 1:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time for the pre-race show. The grand prix rolls off at 2:00 P.M., & Formula One races are time-limited to a maximum of two hours. Join me, won't you?

Indy Rock
Star Mazda Championship
Round 5
Night Before the 500
Saturday, 26 May 2012

U.S. F2000 National Championship
Round 5
Night Before the 500
Saturday, 26 May 2012

The "Road to Indy" is a Mazda-sponsored driver-development ladder meant to train-up the next generation of drivers in American open-wheeled racing. The four steps, from lowest to highest, are the U.S. F2000 National Championship, the Star Mazda Championship, Indy Lights, & the IndyCar Series proper. The races, both held at the smaller Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, not the larger, world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, were run months ago, & the respective championships long-ago decided, but that's O.K.; this is the time of year when the motorsports action is getting a little thin, & races from the meatier part of the year are most welcome. The "Night Before the 500" marked the only oval-track race on that F2000 schedule, & one of only two ovals for the Star Mazda drivers. I understand that if drivers are being trained to one-day race in the IndyCar Series & at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race they have to get used to racing on ovals, but it still seemed… demented. Here are these kids, many of them teenagers & the oldest still in their early twenties, still learning their racecraft & the limits of their cars, how to navigate their way around a proper circuit, & suddenly they have to learn the new skill-set needed to "compete" in a crap-shoot oval-track race? Ovals are so incredibly inferior to road courses that I'm staggered, & irked if not slightly offended, that young pilots are still being taught to embrace those anarchic ovals. Also, as races, at least from the spectator's point of view, oval races are rubbish.

S.R.T. Viper Cup
Round 3
Road America, Race 1
Friday, 11 May 2012

Viper Cup races are short, only half an hour long, but they're kind of entertaining. They are, if nothing else, better than Mazda MX-5 Cup races. The cars are all previous generation Viper GTS-Rs, but watching them is also a pleasnt reminder of the new Viper GTS-Rs competing in the American Le Mans Series & soon, 'tis hoped, at Le Mans itself. But I digress. Big, loud, ludicrous American muscle? I can get behind that.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
William Shatner, "Ideal Woman" from Has Been (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Ideal Woman" was featured in Monday's episode of Castle, a murder mystery set amidst a science fiction convention. "Ideal Woman" features one of my favorite turns of phrase, "turn of phrase." For so very many reasons, thank you, William Shatner!

"It's you I fell in love with:
Your turn of phrase,
Your sensitivity,
Your irrational moods…
Well, maybe that could go,
But everything else,
I want you to be you."
Vote for Kodos | Obamboozled
We here at The Secret Base will be, for the next several days, mourning the glory that was America, & the following is the last thing I shall say about politics 'til after Armistice Day:

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
—Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Operation AXIOM
Election Day is not the first Tuesday in November, as is commonly supposed. Election Day is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, so that if 1 November is a Tuesday, Election Day will not be 'til the following Tuesday, after Monday, 7 November. The devil is in the details, & I will not apologize for finding precision both fun & highly gratifying.

Countless generations since time immemorial groaned under the yoke of tyranny, & a fathomless sea of blood was spilt so that the popular sovereignty might overturn the petty rule of kings. Governmental legitimacy is derived solely from the consent of the governed; on this day of days, go forth & give your consent.

"In casting your ballots, you should look well to the responsibilities under which every citizen of this free government is placed. Let not the soft or alluring words of tricky politicians, or the seductive dollar turn you a hair's breadth from your lawful path. Vote not as other men dictate, but rather like men with the interest of your country at heart. Vote according to the dictates of your own consciences."
—Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, November 1884

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Election Day
They Might Be Giants, "James K. Polk" from Factory Showroom (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Our informal series of "political" R.B.D.S.O.T.D. began with T.M.B.G., "The Shadow Government," & so ends with T.M.B.G., one of their very finest, "James K. Polk."

"In 1844 the Democrats were split,
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president,
And an abolitionist;
James Buchanan, a moderate;
Lewis Cass, a general and expansionist.
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up,
He was James K. Polk, 'Napoleon of the Stump.'

"Austere, severe, he held few people dear.
His oratory filled his foes with fear.
The factions soon agreed, 'He's just the man we need,
To bring about victory,
Fulfill our Manifest Destiny,
And annex the land the Mexicans command!'
And when the vote was cast the winner was
Mr. James K. Polk, 'Napoleon of the Stump.'

(theremin solo)

"In four short years he met his every goal:
He seized the whole Southwest from Mexico,
Made sure the tariffs fell,
And made the English sell
The Oregon Territory.
He built an independent Treasury.
Having done all this he sought no second term,
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mr. James K. Polk, our eleventh president,
'Young Hickory,' 'Napoleon of the Stump.'"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vote for Kodos | Obamboozled
My grand plans for this series were scuttled by the weekend's train of events, so I shall make a short statement regarding the criteria by which this election should be decided, & then post excerpts from an individual effort by your humble narrator to convince an '08 Obama voter not to repeat that error of judgment this time around. (There is more back-&-forth to this discourse than I present below, but I pledge on my honor that I am not presenting anything out of context or in a way that differs from its original intent.) I thank you for your kind attention & your due consideration.

In '08, then-Senator Obama promised hope & change, with very few policy specifics. He promised a new kind of politics, & healing of this nation's bitter partisan division. Have we seen a new kind of politics? Has this nation's bitter partisan divide been healed? Are we more hopeful, or is there a sullen resignation to a "new normal"? Has this country been changed for the better or for the worse? The first three questions must be answered in the negative, meaning the answer to the fourth is a change for the worse. Thus, in light of what Mr. Obama has promised in his re-election campaign, more of the same, a "doubling down" on his energy policy, & "continuing" the work of the last four years, I ask you, What reason is there to believe, if Mr. Obama is re-elected, that the next four years will be any different, any better, than the last four years?

Economy & Debt
Ten of millions of Americans are out of work. The unemployment rate has been high (above 8% for over forty months & still 7.9% today) for the longest sustained period since the Great Depression. This has occurred despite a significant drop in the workforce participation rate, a drop to levels not seen in three decades, a drop that should have lowered the unemployment rate; if workforce participation was still as robust as it was when Mr. Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be north of 11%. I do not pretend that all of our economic difficulties are Mr. Obama fault, because I know a thing or two about economics, but a certain amount of blame must be directed at Mr. Obama for two failures: {a} his economic advisers boasted vainly that with the "stimulus" of early '09 that unemployment would top off below 6% & {b} in a television interview in the same period Mr. Obama said that if he had not fixed the economy in three years that he did not deserve re-election.

The most damning economic charge against Mr. Obama is that he has no published or publicized plan for a second-term that differs from his first term. In speeches, Mr. Obama has said that all we need to get us out of our current & persistent economic straits is more spending on public school teacher salaries & more spending on infrastructure. A repeat of the "stimulus" of '09, that's the White House's plan. Sure, because that worked out so well last time! The "recovery summers" of '09 & '10 certainly were glittering successes. Mr. Obama has put forward no new ideas for the next four years; so, why should anyone believe that they will be any different than the last four years?

In '08, candidate Obama said that passing a 9 trillion-dollar national debt on to our children was "unpatriotic." That's the word he used, unpatriotic. Not "unwise" or "unsound," but unpatriotic. Early in '09, President Obama pledged to cut the federal government's annual deficit "in half" by the end of his first term. At present, the national debt stands in excess of 16 trillion dollars; the debt has increased more in three-plus years under President Obama than it did in eight years under President Bush, whose spending candidate Obama called both unpatriotic and "irresponsible." By his own standard, then, Mr. Obama's stewardship of the federal books has been irresponsible & unpatriotic; I wouldn't use those words, but he did, & thus they must be applied to him as well. The annual federal deficit has been above 1 trillions dollars for every year of Mr. Obama's term, the first time that has happened under any American president. The only solution Mr. Obama has proposed for these deficits is to increased income taxes on "the rich" & to substantially raise taxes on capital gains, a great deal of rhetoric supported by no particular analysis nor revenue projections.

In '10, Mr. Obama promoted a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission to study the deficit & debt & to make recommendations for both the short-term & the long-term. The House, then with a Democratic majority, appointed three Democrats & three Republicans to the so-called Bowles-Simpson Commission. The Senate, also with a Democratic majority, appointed three Democrats & three Republicans. The president appointed five Democrats & two Republicans. I do not agree with all of the recommendations of Bowles-Simpson, nor do I pretend that its conclusions are received wisdom from atop the mountain, but it is interesting to note that Mr. Obama dismissed his own commission's proposals out of hand. Worse, while dismissing Bowles-Simpson Mr. Obama has proposed no alternate vision of how to reign in our "irresponsible" & "unpatriotic" deficit & debt.

Having increased the national debt by more than any of his predecessors & offered no plan for how to reduce our budget imbalance in the next four years, why should anyone believe that things will be any different than the last four years?

Foreign Policy & National Security
The world's stability & prosperity require American leadership, & absent strong leadership from President Obama American policy is adrift, placing us at the mercy of events.

Mr. Obama boasts that our alliances are stronger than ever, but how so? In '09, as part of the now-failed "reset" of relations with the Russian Federation, President Obama put the kibosh on our missile defense program, halting work on two massive radar installations in Poland & the Czech Republic, relatively recent members of N.A.T.O. The Czechs & the Poles had engendered the anger & attempted intimidation by the Russians over those installations, but President Bush had assured them that American is a steadfast ally. Mr. Obama then pulled the rug out from under their feet. As fruits of the reset, Russia continues to occupy large portions of Georgia, continues to exert a malign influence over the politics of Latvia & the Ukraine, & continues to ship weapons & materiel to the Assad regime in Syria.

The Obama administration refused to sell F-16 fighter jets with advanced avionics to the Republic of China (R.O.C., Taiwan), despite a 1979 law requiring the U.S. to arm the Taiwanese against possible mainland Chinese aggression. The sale would not only have provided an ally with valuable defensive weapons, but would have generated jobs at the American plants that manufacture the F-16s. Why was this sale refused? For fear of offending the People's Republic of China (P.R.C., China). In gratitude, Beijing has continued to make aggressive territorial claims throughout the South China Sea, based upon the preposterous "nine-dotted line."

And if our alliances have never been stronger than ever, why are the Israelis screaming bloody murder about the lack of a "red line" for Iran's nuclear bomb program? The hallmark of American policy under Mr. Obama has been uncertainty & inconstancy. What was our response to the Libyan civil war? Britain & France set the course, leading an Obama aid to coin the notorious phrase "leading from behind." Our response to civil unrest in Egypt? Mubarak, an ally, had to go. Our response to civil unrest in Iran? No call for the bloodthirsty ayatollahs to step down. Our responce to civil unrest in Bahrain? Silence as Saudi-led G.C.C. forces quashed the peaceful protests. What is U.S. policy regarding democratization in the Middle East & Persian Gulf? For it in Egypt, Tunisia, & Libya; against it in Iran & Bahrain. What then is our policy?

Syria is a committed foe of the United States, a rogue regime that as recently as '07 was attempting to develop the atom bomb. (Stopped by unilateral Israeli action.) What is U.S. policy in Syria? The violence continues to spiral out of control & threatens to engulf the neighboring states of Lebanon & Jordan, yet America stands impotently on the sidelines, unwilling to lead, at the mercy of events instead of striving actively to shape those events.

I ask you, in all honesty, what is current American policy? What are the stated principles that guide our decision-making? What are the core values that allow us to remain steady in a constantly changing international scene? This is Mr. Obama's great national security failing, not the individual examples of fecklessness but the lack of a goal, the lack of a vision. What is America's place in the world? I say, as have three generations of American statesmen before me, that our place is to lead, that the world requires American leadership, & American leadership has been in the direction of greater peace, greater liberty, & greater prosperity. Absent that leadership, what course will the world take? What course is the world taking as we stand by, impotent & listless? We, & the world, cannot afford uncertainty. We must stand for SOMETHING.

A last note on priorities & leadership. President Obama ordered a contingent of American military advisers to Uganda, to coordinate the hunt for the vicious warlord Joseph Kony. This is right & proper, for Kony is a monster & his Lord's Resistance Army has been retarding the progress of central Africa—both political & economic—for far too long. These are not American combat troops, but advisers, trainers, intelligence analysts, & communications experts. This too is right & proper, for it should be Africans soldiers who bring this monster to justice. Yet in the same time frame, no contingent of American military advisers were dispatched to Libya to coordinate the accounting for & securing off the vast weapons stockpiles left lying around the country after the well-earned demise of Colonel Qaddafi. These need not have been combat troops, but s variety of munitions specialists, intelligence analysts, & civil affairs officers, to help keep those weapons from disappearing into the wind. No such American contingent was dispatched, & Libya's weapons have proliferated throughout North Africa, falling into the hands of the Islamist Tuareg rebels who have seized control of northern Mali, very possibly into the hands of the Islamist Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria, & into the hands of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.). Again, in no way am I opposed to the use of American might to help bring Joesph Kony to justice (or to put him in the ground with extreme prejudice, either is acceptable), all I am asking is what was the compelling American national security interest or priority that lead to the dispatching of forces to hunt Kony but not to the dispatching of forces to stop Qaddafi's arsenal of spreading throughout the Sahara, the Sahel, & parts beyond? What are the guiding principles of our policy that illuminate why those choices were made?

Freedom of Religion
Amendment I to the United States Constitution reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…" Hereafter, I shall refer to a Constitutional guarantee of "freedom of religion." I hope this slight deviation from the text does not offend thy eye or cast doubt upon the arguments to follow, for I believe "freedom of religion" captures the spirit of "free exercise thereof."

Since 2009 both President Obama & Secretary of State Clinton have referred to the vast importance of "freedom of worship," as a right of all Americans & a right of all Mankind. Freedom of worship, specifically, not freedom of religion. What is the difference? "Worship" can be as limited as what happens inside a church/mosque/synagogue/temple/those things to which we collectively refer as "houses of worship." "Religion" is a far different animal, encompassing worship & a great many other activities. You undertook your missionary work as part of your freedom of religion, in addition to your temple-bound freedom of worship. The Salvation Army collects donations as part of a religious duty to perform good works, not as specific acts of worship. But, in truth, maybe a mountain is being made out of a semantic molehill. Maybe there is no difference 'twixt freedom of religion & freedom of worship.

Except, there is the small matter of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (P.P.A.C.A.), "Obamacare" to some, sometimes even Mr. Obama. There is a mandate under the P.P.A.C.A., administered by the Department of Health & Human Services (H.H.S.), that requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover drugs & treatments that violate the religious objections of some. Thus, Catholic institutions such as hospitals & universities must furnish their employees with insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, & fertilization prevention (the "morning after" pill). The use of these drugs explicitly violates Catholic teachings. There is a religious/conscience exemption to the H.H.S. mandate, but it defines religious employers so narrowly that in order to be considered a religious employer a Catholic church that donated food to a homeless shelter would have to ensure that the food went only to Catholics. By serving those beyond its own flock, the church is no longer a religious employer, according to the H.H.S.

Now, the issue here is NOT conception, abortion, or the beliefs of the Catholic Church. The issue is if a religious organization can be compelled by the state to engage in actions that violate its own dogma & teachings. It is one thing if an individual employed by a religious organization chooses to violate those precepts—for example, if a professor at a Catholic university chose to purchase her own contraception. The matter is then one of conscience betwixt her & her church. It is quite something else when the state compels the Church to provide her with contraception, in contravention of its own teachings.

Amongst the Fourth Estate, this issue has been treated as a simple case of the Catholics living in a pre-birth control pill fantasy land, & unjustly trying to impose its puritanical practices on 21st century libertines. The specifics here are less important than the principle, because the principle, once affirmed, can then be applied to all specific cases. Does the state, here in the guise of H.H.S., have the right to tell a church which of its teachings are valid & which are not, to which it can adhere & which it must compromise?

As a Catholic, & a Knight of Columbus, this issue is near & dear to my heart. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has taken the H.H.S. to court to halt the mandate, with the outcome yet unknown. But this case has ramifications far beyond Catholics. Let me use as an analogy the words of German pastor Martin Niemöller, regarding the pernicious way in which tyranny progresses:

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

"Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

"Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

"Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."

If the state is allowed to be the arbiter of Catholic belief, how long will it be until the state appoints itself the arbiter of [some other sect's] beliefs?

Variation on This Post's Second paragraph
Also, here is the election in a nutshell: Do you want four more years just like the last four years? An unsustainable fiscal path, acrimonious gridlock in Washington, executive orders that make a mockery of the Constitutional checks & balances, an impotent foreign policy, ever-decreasing levels of personal freedom, & economic growth so anemic that an unemployment rate of 7.9% is trumpeted as good news? I do not promise that the world will be sunshine & rainbows with Mitt Romney in the White House, but I do promise that it will be different than the world with Barack Obama in the White House. Four years ago you voted for hope & change. I am asking you to vote this year for hope & change, the hope that Mr. Romney's changes will be for the better, because all Mr. Obama is offering is more of the same, a less hopeful world where the biggest change is our lowered expectations.

Operation AXIOM
Three hundred ninety-seven years ago to the day, 5 November 1605, terrorists claiming to defend the savagely oppressed Catholics of England attempted to blow up the House of Lords by placing barrels of gunpowder in the vaults beneath the Palace of Westminster. The act of mass murder, intended to kill the king, James VI & I, & much of the English elite, was to have been the opening volley of a general revolt. The plot was thwarted, thank goodness, though the revelation of the conspiracy's purpose worsened considerably the plight of Catholics in England.

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason, & plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mustard Plug, "Kill the Governor" from Skapocalypse Now! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The governor the characters in the song seek to assassinate is explicitly named as Michigan's John Engler, in office from 1991-2003. "Kill the Governor" is an ugly song & Mustard Plug, much as I enjoy their music, are uncivil & highly intolerant brutes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXIII - The Turk.

The Victors
Michigan 35-13 Minnesota
6-3, Big Ten 4-1

The valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan bested the luckless Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota to retain possession of the Little Brown Jug, the first rivalry trophy in college football. Woo hoo! Also to be celebrated, the valiant Wolverines became bowl eligible with three games left in the regular season, their third consecutive year of bowl eligibility. (There was a time when bowl eligibility was regarded as a foregone conclusion before the season began, & those days will come again, & may already be here now, but for this Wolverine at least the trauma of the previous streak's end is still so fresh that I rejoice at the attainment of this benchmark of success.) There even remains an outside chance that the valiant Wolverines could play for the Big Ten title, though we did our cause grievous harm in going down to defeat at the hands of Nebraska last week. The valiant Wolverines again found the end zone, after being held to field goals in the last two contests (one victory & one defeat); huzzah for offensive production! There was much to like about Saturday's game, not least the victory over a longstanding Big Ten foe & the retention of the prize, the Little Brown Jug.

I was mightily impresses by the play of quarterback Devin Gardner, playing in relief of injured starting quarterback Denard "Shoelace" Robinson. However, Gardner's impressiveness did raise two troublesome, interrelated questions. Why has he been put at risk all season playing wide receiver, when clearly he was the valiant Wolverines' best option at backup quarterback? Why was redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy put in as quarterback against the unwelcome Cornhuskers last week, when Shoelace was first injured? I did not see young Bellomy's performance—I missed most of the accursed night game attending a rock show by The Loose Ties—but the numbers were horrific: three of sixteen passing, with three interceptions. (Bellomy threw sixteen passes; three were received by Wolverines; three were intercepted by Cornhuskers; ten fell incomplete.) Young Bellomy was thrust into a sink-or-swim situation & he sank like a stone. He's a freshman with very limited game experience; he'll improve with time (or he'll spend his collegiate career riding the bench). The blame does not fall on Bellomy, but on the coaches who, to carry through the metaphor, threw him into the water. Why Bellomy over Gardner? Why has Gardner been continually risked as a receiver? The valiant Wolverines' defense under Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison is solid. The valiant Wolverines' offense under Offensive Coordinator Al Borgas remains a question. Mre precisely, Borgas's acumen as offensive coordinator remains a question. The Gardner-Bellomy kerfuffle only raises further questions, though if Gardner can play against superior opposition with the poise & skill that be demonstrated against the luckless Golden Gophers, one question about the valiant Wolverines' post-Shoelace prospects might have been answered.

Next: the plucky Wildcats of Northwestern University, & a welcome return to the "Big House," the peerless Michigan Stadium.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Fitz & The Tantrums, "Dear Mr. President" from Pickin' Up the Pieces (T.L.A.M.)


"Dear Mr. President, there is trouble on the streets,
Now is the time and the test we must meet,
Dear Mr. President, take a look around,
Please Mr. President, put your foot down."

Samstag, 3 November
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Fortunate Son" from Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I strive always to be cognizant of how very fortunate I am.

"It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son, son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Urbi et Orbi
'Tis the Feast of All Souls—All Souls' Day. Pray for all those erstwhile members of the Church Militant who have shed this mortal coil & presently swell the ranks of the Church Penitent, pray that they might be cleansed of the last vestiges of sin & thus perfected be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven & assume their place in the Church Triumphant.

This afternoon & evening I volunteered at my second Knights of Columbus Friday fish fry, & before we started cooking we bowed our heads in prayer for all of our perished brother Knights.

This week, I took my first two daily constitutionals in my provisional cold-weather gear, sweatpants in lieu of gym shorts & a sweat-wicking T-shirt & hooded sweatshirt in place of both a long-sleeved T-shirt & my wide-brimmed straw hat. Wednesday being blustery, I sallied forth with the hood up; this, combined with my neglectfulness in not wearing a headband, had a hothouse effect, & never before in the course of the daily constitutional have I fought against such a torrent of sweat beads pouring into my eyes. The wide-brimmed straw hat did more than just shield me from the death rays of teh Accursed Sun, it also acted as a sweatband, one I sorely missed. I wore a headband on Thursday, & also went forth with the hood down, partially to avoid repeating the human hothouse & also because the conditions, while still chilly, were much more mild than on the day before. I set my third-fastest time, & avoided Niagara Falls. The disadvantage of having the hood down is that my head was naked & exposed to all of the low-hanging branches on my root; I've become accustomed to the wide-brimmed straw hat's helmet-like qualities.

There are yet issues to address & the experimentation must continue. On milder days, I might well pair the sweatpants with one of the traditional long-sleeved T-shirts & retain the straw hat as a helmet-cum-headband, not for sun-thwarting. Moving into the truly cold weather, I might have to supplement the sweatpants with long-johns. (Also, the old sweatpants I wore resulted in some chaffing issues; when next I walk I shall sport a different pair of sweatpants & hope that solves the problem.) There are some knit caps lying around that I could use as ear-protection come the winter, perhaps even in conjunction with the sweatshirt's hood. I need some new socks, & I might as well buy longer one than the ankle socks I'm wearing through now. Lastly, gloves. The past two walks I wore a pair of open-fingered weight-lifting gloves gifted me by a kinsman. Obviously open-fingered gloves are not a viable choice for the harsh winter ahead, but I wore them because {a} they were at hand & {b} I have no compunction about dousing them in sweat. Clearly, another glove shall be required. I could of course wear my yard-work gloves, which are meant to be sacrificed to sweat & wear. We shall see. Experimentation shall continue, but for the moment I am confident that the daily constitutional can continue despite the cold. Further evaluations, & possibly a rethink, will be required once there is snow on the ground.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Ramones, "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" from Ramones Mania (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I prefer the song's original title, simply "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," but the band themselves changed it to "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)." So be it. Amidst the complexity of Cold War politics & the steadfastness of West Germany as an ally, President Reagan made the right decision in visiting the German war graves in Bitburg, & he should have gotten more credit for touring the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the same day, & using that occasion to unequivocally denounce Nazism & the Holocaust. That said, I understand The Ramones' outrage.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Urbi et Orbi
'Tis a holy day of obligation, the Feast of All Saints. (All Saints' Day, or All Hallows, the Hallows of which Hallowe'en is the eve.) I suppose it was too much to expect that tonight's homily would touch upon, I don't know, sainthood or the lives of the saints. We must be patient with Father Anderson, he used to be a Protestant.

Vote for Kodos* | Obamboozled†
I have been more involved in the 2012 presidential campaign than in any other; I have precious little treasure to put to such use, so I have volunteered my time when I have been able, assisting in the organizing of public appearances by Governor Romney & working a 'phone bank of his, Representative Ryan's, & the whole G.O.P. ticket's behalf. I have lived through eight presidential elections: Reagan v. Carter in '80, Reagan v. Mondale in '84, Bush v. Dukakis in '88, Clinton v. Bush in '92, Clinton v. Dole in '96, Bush v. Gore in '00, Bush v. Kerry in '04, & Obama v. McCain in '08. (I do not yet count '12 because I've not yet lived through it; I could well drop dead betwixt now & Election Day.) I was a baby in '80 & a minor through '96, but I've been more involved this year than in any of the other elections of my adult years, '00, 04, & '08. I would attribute this to two factors, the first factor being my genuine enthusiasm for Messers. Romney & Ryan & my profound antipathy for President Obama & Vice President Biden, the second being regret for not having done more during any of the other elections.

In the days ahead, I will be laying out a few of the arguments for Mr. Romney's election & against Mr. Obama's re-election, but today our focus will be a curious encounter of mine own, my contribution to the global view of democracy in America. A week ago, Thursday, 25 October, I stopped by the Genesee County Victory Center to donate an hour or two to the 'phone bank before calling it a day & heading home. I was going about my not-as-unpleasant-as-you'd-think business when what appear suddenly before my eyes but a Norwegian television crew, a reporter & a cameraman. There was a minimum of explanation before I was roped into appearing on Norwegian television. The Romney staffer on duty indicated that he wasn't allowed to give such interviews & of the volunteers I was agreed to be the most articulate speaker/the only one not swift enough to call "not It." The reporter & I shook hands & he launched into conversation, asking me a few questions about the election: Why I supported Mr. Romney, why I didn't support Mr. Obama, how I thought the economy might be fixed. I answered him plainly, though taking pains not to play into the Europeans' stereotype of Republicans as the prosecutors of the Salem Witch Trials. After a couple minutes of this mostly one-sided conversation, we walked outside to "film" ("to tape" doesn't have quite the same cachet). In the shadows of the Grand Mall, for this was one of last week's sunny, unseasonably warm, almost spring-like days, when Hurricane Sandy was still swirling toward the Caribbean, the cameraman fetched his tripod from their rental car, handed the reporter a microphone with network badges (T.V. 2, I was to learn later), & we largely repeated the performance from a few moments earlier in the Victory Center. I assumed a calm, considerate, earnest demeanor, striving not to project any anger toward the president, but instead to portray him as a well-meaning but hapless man, a man who'd promised too much & didn't have the first clue how to achieve his own lofty goals. It went smoothly, & I think well. The Norwegians—at no point in any of this exchange did either proffer his name, & in my anxiety not to besmirch the image of the party & Mr. Romney I forgot to ask—were highly complimentary, comparing my responses favorably to many others they'd filmed. They seemed impressed when I told them I'd been on Jeopardy!, though I'd mentioned it not to impress them but as a way to explain my relative competence in front of the camera.

They won my eternal devotion with their unfavorable impressions of their recent visit to Ohio. Even strangers to this country can recognize almost immediately that there is something profoundly amiss with the Buckeye State! The Norwegians lavished praise upon the weather. I explained to them that this was unseasonably warm & sunny, but they didn't care. There was not yet any snow, as there already was back in Norway (Bergen, I suspect, due to later research), & so they were pleased as punch. We chatted about downtown Flint, which they'd already seen, & I elaborated upon how that area had been rejuvenated in the last ten years; I made comparisons to the cultural & sports corridor in downtown Detroit. We laughed at Ohio, & I explained about the bloodless war over the Toledo Strip. They compared Michigan & Ohio's enmity to Norway & Sweden's. The reporter & I discussed his perception, as a Norwegian journo, of certain Republican U.S. senators, & from vague recollections on his part I was able to identify both the late, unlamented Strom Thurmond (a former Democrat! I was at pains to point out) & the late, unlamented Jesse Helms (another former Democrat! I was again at paints to point out). They thanked me & again complimented my performance, I wished them good luck in their further travels, & with that they were gone.

The reporter had taken down my name, but I'd not asked either of their handles. After they'd gone, my fellow volunteers & I discussed the recent excitement. I knew nothing about those chaps, other than that they were a Norwegian television crew over here to cover the presidential election. I recalled the badges from the reporter's microphone; they born a stylized numeral 2. Once home, I typed "channel 2 norway" (yes, to my shame I didn't capitalize Norway) into the Bing search engine & was soon reading the Wikipedia page about Norway's biggest commercial television broadcaster, T.V. 2. Not long thereafter, I posted my most popular ever (twenty-one "likes") "status update" to the FaceSpace: "…was interviewed about the presidential election by Norway's TV 2. Soon I shall be an international sensation." I have no idea if my footage survived the cutting room floor, & my visit to the T.V. 2 website was unfruitful. (Interestingly, the Norwegian text was not the biggest obstacle to site navigation.) Did I make headlines in Norway? Have I turned Norwegian perceptions of the U.S. election upside down? I've no idea, though I tend to think not. That, dear readers, is the tale of my brush with international celebrity in the midst of the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Next time: I meet a governor & am unfazed.

Looking ahead: 'phone banking isn't as much fun as real banking, but it has its charms; the best speech I've ever heard Mitt Romney give; street theater, or Chicago '68 this wasn't; threats of bodily harm from a minor celebrity.

*The title "Vote for Kodos" comes from an episode of The Simpsons that came out during the '96 campaign ("Treehouse of Horror VII," segment "Citizen Kang"). The alien conquerors Kang & Kodos kidnap & accidentally murder the Democratic & Republican presidential nominees, President Bill Clinton & Senator Bob Dole. Impersonating the candidates on the campaign trail, we are treated to such chestnuts as this excerpt from a stump speech: "We must move forward, not backwards; upwards, not forwards; and always twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom!"

Near the end, the aliens are unmasked, but gloat that the horrified humans are powerless to save themselves, since it is a two-party system & the aliens head both tickets. When a voter pips up, "Maybe I'll vote for a third-party candidate," both Kang & Kodos roll their eyes & one says, drolly:

"Go ahead, throw your vote away!"

The election takes place & Kang wins. The humans are enslaved & when one of the Simpson family, Marge if memory serves, complains about their enslavement, Homer responds, "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!" Because President Clinton won the '96 election in our world, & Kang won in the episode's world, I reasoned Kodos was playing the rôle of the defeated candidate, Senator Dole. Thus, "Vote for Kodos," my highly idiosyncratic call for all those reading those words to throw their support behind the G.O.P.

The same episode also contains this classic exchange:

Kodos (as Dole): "Abortions for none!"
Crowd: "Boo!"
Kodos (as Dole): "Abortions for all!"
Crowd: "Boo!"
Kodos (as Dole): "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!"
Crowd, waving miniature American flags: "Yea!"

†"Obamboozled" has a far simpler genesis. Mr. Obama's surname & the word "bamboozle" share the consecutive letters B-A-M, & my sense has long been that a great many of those who voted for then-Senator Obama in '08 did so because they had been bamboozled into thinking he stood for their center/center-right views on fiscal policy & the rôle of government. Bamboozled by Obama, or "Obamboozled." (It's fun to say & fun to type!)

Lies, Damned Lies, & the News
B.B.C. News ( has been my internet "homepage" for more than a decade. However, I cannot but think that that time draws to an end. My issue is not that the B.B.C. has a profound left-wing bias; that has been the case since the beginning. My issue is that the B.B.C. has followed the lamentable trend of American journalism of acting with a clear political bias whilst pretending not to do so. Though I loathe all twenty-four-hour cable news, I have more respect for M.S.N.B.C. than I do for C.N.N. because with the "Lean Forward" branding M.S.N.B.C. is admitting to its operational bias; C.N.N. on the other hand, employs the likes of Anderson Cooper & Candy Crowley & yet pretends to be an objective new-gathering service. It is to laugh. One of the choices I am considering to replace B.B.C. News is The Economist's website; The Economist has recently endorsed President Obama's re-election, so politics are not at the heart of my disappointment in the B.B.C. The Economist does not pretend to be objective, it makes plain that it has an editorial viewpoint, proudly proclaiming itself "a liberal newspaper" (using the traditional, true definition of "liberal," not the ridiculous American conflation of liberal with "left-wing"). The B.B.C., by way of contrast, continues to operate as if it was one thing while insisting that it is another thing altogether. Nothing has yet been decided. I would be grateful for suggestions as to what a new homepage, dear readers. I thank you.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "The Shadow Government" from The Else (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The R.B.D.S.O.T.D. will be "political" through Election Day, so if you were looking for respite, then, friend, have you looked in the wrong place! Though, as "The Shadow Government" indicates, there's a reason I put political in quotation marks.

"Crawling out of the flophouse,
I saw the mayor stealing my junk,
I doth protest!
Citizen's arrest!
Now my body's in his trunk.

"Where's the shadow government when you need it?"