Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Barnes & Barnes, "Fish Heads" courtesy The Watergirl (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Fish for dinner tonight, & fish for dinner tomorrow, as I'll be volunteering at the monthly K. of C. Friday fish fry. I know, I too am outraged that we don't call it the monthly "Fish Fri" or "Fish Fryday." It's an inexact match, since I didn't see any fish heads today & won't see any fish heads tomorrow, but the blissful absurdity of Barnes & Barnes still came to mind.

"Ask a fish head anything you want to,
They won't answer, they can't talk…"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 1) Michigan 68-46 Northwestern
20-1, Big Ten 7-1

I wasn't able to see tonight's game, but I'm thrilled for the valiant Wolverines on the occasion of their first victory as the № 1 squad in all the land. The "leaders & best" won't be at full strength 'til the return of forward (functionally, center) Jordan Morgan (red shirt junior) from an ankle injury, but in his stead Jon Horford (red shirt sophomore) did a dandy of a job, scoring ten points & collecting seven rebounds. Meanwhile, the valiant Wolverines set a new school record with their season tally of 20-1. Congratulations, gentlemen!

Next: Murderers' row: At (№ 3) Indiana; home against (№ 11) Ohio State, the only club to have defeated the valiant Wolverines this season; at Wisconsin; & at (№ 13) Michigan State. Four games in eleven days, starting Saturday, 2 February.

Go Blue!

I wore my flatcap today, a clear mistake. The air was swampy & close, making the retention of warmth in my head the last thing I wanted. Further, there was a steady drizzle & for all the flatcap's many virtues protection against the rain is scarcely amongst them. No, I should have worn my linen Trilby; it would have held in more head than one of the straw Trilbys, but it also would have stood up better to the precipitation. Why didn't I wear the linen Trilby? It's January! & that's a spring/fall hat. I cast a gander at the looming clouds, or as little of them as I could see through this morning's fog, & ruled the linen Trilby too bright & gay for such gloom. Dumm Kopf! If the weathermen are to be believed, which they seldom are, winter's fury should return tomorrow. If it is not sufficiently furious for my beloved ushanka, then the well-insulated flatcap will be back in its element. There are non-insulted flatcaps, too. Mayhap I should acquire one of those as a moderate-temperature, all-weather alternative to the linen Trilby. Yes, that certainly bears further investigation & consideration.
A narrow escape! I was motoring down the freeway, already navigating the dual difficulties of the atmospheric conditions—roads that were wet but not yet slick & a fog that cut visibility down to a few hundred yards—when what should I spy ahead of the Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile but a obstruction in the road! I scarce had time to register what the object was before evasive maneuvers were required. I glanced over my left shoulder to confirme that the lane was empty & even before I'd turned my eyes back to the road I'd jinked the Lumi to the sinister, narrowing skirting the lane-clogging obstruction. What was it, you ask? A muffler & a considerable length of tailpipe, lying athwart the middle lane of I-475. From the size of the muffler, though I do admit that I only caught a glimpse of it directly & then look a longer gander in my rear-view mirror, I reckon the exhaust-work must have fallen off of a truck. Thank goodness for the record temperatures of the last few days, because if I'd encountered such an obstacle in the icy slickness one expects of January I might have slid out of control amidst my evasive maneuvers or been forced to drive over the object, no doubt to the Lumi's grief.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXV - The life & legacy of Rondo Hatton (1894-1946).

The Victors: Project OSPREY
The valiant Wolverines are ranked № 1 in the Associated Press poll! (They are also ranked № 2 in the U.S.A. Today Coaches' Poll, with thirteen № 1 votes to № 1 Kansas's fifteen.) This is the first time Michigan has been ranked № 1 in twenty years, since the days when the "Fab Five" soared like Icarus. Jalen Rose, the most visible of those valiant Wolverines of yore, has complimented the humble attitude of the '12-'13 squad, & their continual drive to improve, never resting on their laurels. He has expressed a wish for the Fab Five to all be together sitting on the sidelines should this season's valiant Wolverines make it to the Final Four, or even the national championship game. With all respect, Mr. Rose, it would be very inappropriate & most unfortunate for all of the Fab Five to be there, as the devil Chris Webber was responsible for blatant violations of N.C.A.A. rules that got the Fab Five's achievements erased from the official record books. The devil Webber has never expressed remorse nor regret for what he did, & he would find the Wolverine faithful most unforgiving. (He was the only one of the Five not to participate in the 30 for 30 documentary The Fab Five, the reason for & meaning of this being matters of pure speculation.) But the aforementioned Mr. Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, & Ray Jackson would be most welcome courtside anytime they could all get together.

Go Blue!

Objective ZED ALPHA
Several days ago I found an e-mail from Jeopardy! in my inbox, a several-time-a-year occurrence. I found within an invitation to enter a sweepstakes, with a ten-day trip to South Africa as the grand prize. I also found a South Africa-themed mini-game of Jeopardy!, in which I partook. I answered all six clues in the Jeopardy! round correctly, all six clues in the Double Jeopardy! round, & then wagered everything on Final Jeopardy! I correctly answered that clue too. I freely admit that two of my six answers in the first round were guesses, but the ability to guess well is essential to any trivia contest, as no one can know everything. I finished with a hypothetical maximum score of $36,000, for which I won nothing more than the satisfaction of having so often been right.

Once again, I urge anyone & everyone reading this to take the Jeopardy! Online Test, the first step in becoming a contestant. Visit the Jeopardy! website; even though the adult test is closed now, you can sign up to be alerted when it is next open. Every step in the process, from the online test to the audition to being a contestant, is a blast. Competing on Jeopardy! was one of the most worthwhile things I've ever done, & you'll thank me if only you take the leap & start the process. It is so much fun & will bring a smile to the faces of your kith & kin, your coworkers & acquaintances. Try out for Jeopardy!, already!

Need additional inducement? I'll coach you, if you like. Sure, I might have only finished third, but I still made it to the show! If we combine forces you might outstrip my paltry achievement. Think about that, you could shut me up, put me in my place, & win fabulous prizes (well, only one prize, the dough) on national television! Be my protégé (or protégée), my apprentice, & "together we can rule the galaxy" & "with our combined strength, bring an end to this destructive conflict"… on at least wipe that smug grin off Trebek's face.

This Week in Motorsport
I know there have been a lot of "This Week in Motorsport" posts of late, but I'm trying to clear up the backlog created by Speed's awesome four-race-series-a-weekend winter schedule.

G.T.1 Is the Loneliest Number
G.T.1 World Championship
Round 1
Circuit Paul Armagnac (France)
Monday, 9 April 2012

Round 2
Circuit Zolder (Belgium)
Sunday, 22 April 2012

Round 3
Circuito de Navarra (Spain)
Sunday, 27 May 2012

Round 4
Automotodróm Slovakia Ring
Sunday, 10 June 2012

Round 5
Autódromo Internacional do Algarve (Portugal)
Sunday, 8 July 2012

Round 6
Automotodróm Slovakia Ring
Sunday, 19 August 2012

Round 7
Moscow Raceway
Sunday, 2 September 2012

Round 8
Nürburgring (Germany)
Sunday, 23 September 2012

Round 9
Donington Park (England)
Sunday, 30 September 2012

The G.T.1 World Championship was a curious beast, for the cars all ran to G.T.3 specifications, not the faster & much more expensive G.T.1 spec., & though there were at various points rounds planned to be in Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, India, & China, in the end it was a purely European calendar (counting Moscow as part of Europe), very unusual for an F.I.A. world championship. As far as the cars, G.T.1 was the most interesting of the winter series, featuring a rich mix of fearsome Grand Tourers: the ubiquitous Porsche 911, the Aston Martin D.B.R.S.9, the Audi R8, the B.M.W. Z4, the Lamborghini Gallardo, the Mercedes-Benz SLS A.M.G., the Ford G.T., the Ferrari 458 Italia, & the McLaren M.P.4-12C. The race format was somewhat bizarre, one-hour races, which should be a sprint, but with a mandatory driver & tire change during the middle ten minutes. Pit stops are a plus, because they add an element of uncertainty, with good pit work gaining teams an advantage whilst bad pit work can cost them everything, whereas sprint races can be a little processional, but the driver change amidst a one-hour race still strikes me as strange.

I got to see a variety of tracks I'd never before seen, the only one with which I was familiar before this winter being the Nürburgring (the modern F1 circuit, not the old, murderous "Green Hell"). I saw Donington Park host a trio of B.T.C.C. sprint a few weeks before the telecast of the G.T.1 race, but it was still fresh in my mind. The Slovakia Ring is a magnificent circuit that was completed, as were so many circuits throughout Europe, just prior to the '08 financial meltdown; so, the G.T.1 races were the first major races it hosted. Let me reiterate, the Slovakia Ring is fantastic, & I hope fervently that I will see many more races from there in the years to come. (Full disclosure: I've felt a protective attachment to Slovakia ever since that dope fiend Dennis Quaid talked smack about the country during filming of his awful sword & sorcery movie Dragonheart.)

As great as the on-track action was, this was the last season for the F.I.A. G.T.1 World Championship, but it will return next year as the revamped F.I.A. G.T. Series, a sprint-format sister series to the ever-growing Blancpain Endurance Series. Now that Speed (Fox) was outbid for the U.S. broadcast rights to Formula One by N.B.C., my hope is that Speed will help fill the programming gap with more up-to-date coverage of an even wider variety of European racing series, including the G.T. Series & the Endurance Series. (The World Endurance Championship & the European Le Mans Series would also be most welcome.)

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

This Week in Motorsport
By Endurance We Conquer
Rolex Sports Car Series
Round 1
"24 Hours of Daytona"
Saturday & Sunday, 26-27 January 2013

Though I'd previously denied Grand-Am races the prestigious, to my mind, title "By Endurance We Conquer," reserving that moniker for the American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.) & the World Endurance Championship (W.E.C.), that decision has been overtaken by events. First, the Grand-Am Road Racing Association now owns the A.L.M.S., & the two series will "merge" into one unified championship from 2014. Second, though the 24 Hours of Daytona (technically, the Rolex 24 at Daytona) cannot hold a candle to the 24 Heures du Mans, 'tis still a twice-'round-the-clock endurance race, one worthy of respect. So, in this final year of both the A.L.M.S. & the Rolex Series, the N.A.S.C.A.R.-owned Grand-Am gets "By Endurance We Conquer."

Saturday & Sunday, which saw my dad & I watch all fourteen hours of Speed's television coverage, was an excellent reminder that what I like most of all is endurance racing. Can your car run for twenty-four straight hours? Not "Can it run at peak efficiency," but can it run at all? Can it go the distance? As The Guy once wrote of Le Mans, "finishing is an achievement." Daytona isn't the equal of Le Mans, but it is no mean feat, nor is it meant to be damnation by faint praise. It's like praising a tenor but admitting that he isn't the equal of Caruso; that's no insult. Grand-Am's slower, intentionally simpler Daytona Prototypes pale in comparison to the W.E.C.'s & A.L.M.S.'s faster, technologically sophisticated Le Mans Prototypes, but there is no easy way to drive any race car as fast as you can for twenty-four straight hours, pausing only for fuel & swaps of tires & drivers. Grand-Am's G.T. cars are tuned to some very close to the F.I.A.'s G.T.3 specification, whereas the A.L.M.S.'s & W.E.C.'s Grand Tourers are tuned to the A.C.O.'s high G.T.E. (E for endurance) spec., which is basically the old F.I.A. G.T.2 regulations; marginally slower though the G.T.3 cars may be, again there is no easy way to race any car twice around the clock, through the bright Florida sunshine & the long winter's night & back into the sunshine. This was the first time I'd watched this much of Daytona, & I enjoyed it more than I'd thought I would. Twenty-four hours. By endurance we conquer. What's wrong with the typical two-hour-forty-five-minute Rolex Series race is that I don't like the cars all that much & less than three hours is hardly an endurance race. (The A.L.M.S. is guilty of the same sin in the majority of its races, but at least there the cars are super cool.)

I'm reluctant to use sponsorships as the names of races & teams, but I'll do so when afforded no other option. The Izod IndyCar Series? Nope, they've conveniently left me the option of "the IndyCar Series." Infiniti Red Bull Racing? Yes & no, because if I don't call them "Red Bull" I don't know what other name to use. What am I supposed to call Grand-Am's Rolex Sports Car Series? "The Grand-Am Sports Car Series, duh," you reply. Except that Grand-Am runs a support series called the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Should I call them the Grand-Am Sports Car Series & the Grand-Am Sports Car Challenge? I could keep those names straight, but could you, treasured readers? Then again, maybe I could call them the Grand-Am Series & the Grand-Am Challenge. I think for this one last year we're stuck with "the Rolex Series," though I will let you know should a better idea flit into the empty, cavernous cantaloupe perched atop my neck.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Wild World" from …Blow in the Wind (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Urbi et Orbi
This year's efforts to meet the annual attendance goal are off to an auspicious start, as not a single Sunday was skipped during January & I partook in the first of the year's holy days of obligation. Last Sunday, 20 January, the Bishop of Lansing, the Most Reverend Earl Boyea Jr., celebrated the 11:00 A.M. Mass at Holy Redeemer. The occasion for His Excellency's visit was the twentieth anniversary of Holy Redeemer's perpetual adoration chapel, wherein the Blessed Sacrament is displayed in a monstrance & adored by at least one petitioner every hour of every day of the year. I have vague recollections of the creation of the perpetual adoration chapel lo those last two decades hence, though the importance of the endeavour was beyond the comprehension of the borderline heathen I was in those days. I shall pray on whether I should seek to join the ranks of my parish's perpetual adorers.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 2) Michigan 74-60 Illinois
19-1, Big Ten 6-1

I was not able to see today's game due to a conspiracy of circumstances. I had an upset stomach this morning & so missed 11:00 A.M. Mass, necessitating attendance at the irksome (see above) 5:00 P.M. Mass; all three Scripture readings were extraordinarily lengthy, combining for the longest quotation of Holy Scripture at Mass I've experienced in all my thirty-three years of being Catholic; no sooner had I returned home & changed clothes than dinner was served, & my mother insisted on watching the hagiography of President Obama & Secretary Clinton on 60 Minutes; I was mistaken as to the time of the game, thinking it tipped off at 7:00 P.M. E.S.T. when in fact it began at 6:00 P.M. Eastern/5:00 P.M. Central. Woe is me? This is, thus far, the worst thing to befall me today; so, I'd say things are going rather well.

About the game I've little to say since I didn't see it. I hope that the injury to red-shirt junior forward Jordan Morgan is not severe & will not keep him out of the lineup for long. To your health, young sir! I'm always pleased with a fourteen-point road win in conference play; there are no easy road games in the Big Ten. The valiant Wolverines deserve massive congratulations for earning nineteen wins before the end of January. 19-1 is the best start in school history. No matter what else happens, these valiant Wolverines have played their way into Maize & Blue history. I thank you for your efforts on my behalf, gentlemen, & wish you all success in the remainder of the season. Onward & upward!

Next: Northwestern at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, 30 January.

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 17 & 18
Race of the United States
Sunday, 23 September 2013

September's inaugural Race of the U.S. were the first two W.T.C.C. races I ever saw, as Speed showed the two races in their entirety on the weekend they happened. It was interesting seeing races I'd seen before in a shorter, edited form. The trio of factory Chevrolets were there usual dominant selves, with Norbert Michelisz mightily impressive as he brought his privateer B.M.W. home third in Round 17 & second in Round 18. Chevy teammates reigning triple World Champion Yvan Muller ('08, '10, & '11) & Rob Huff finished the weekend tied in points atop the drivers' standings, though Muller held the tiebreaker of having more victories. Three weekends of the '12 W.T.C.C. remain to be seen, with a duo of races each at Japan (mighty Suzuka!), China, & Macau.

Honda joined the championship from Suzuka, as part of the development of the Civic before a full-season campaign in '13. Suzuka is my second-favorite track, second only to Spa-Francorchamps; this will be first time I've seen it used for anything other than F1.

British Touring Car Championship
Rounds 25-27
Silverstone, National Circuit
Sunday, 7 October 2013

The odd thing about the latest trio of B.T.C.C. races is that the usually dominant Hondas, both works & privateer cars, were down on pace to the resurgent M.G.s & the inconsistent B.M.W.s. I'm familiar with Silverstone from its annual hosting of the Formula One, but between the different circuit layout the touring cars employed & the camera work of the I.T.V. crew, both different from & inferior to the F.O.M.'s F1 world feed, it looked like a completely different facility. One more weekend of the '12 B.T.C.C. remains to be seen, the season finale trio of races at Brands Hatch, on the longer Grand Prix Circuit layout.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Hans Zimmer, "As Good as It Gets" from As Good as It Gets: Music from the Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mustard Plug, "On and On" from In Black and White (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I cannot comment knowingly on the meaning of the opening lines of "On and On," transcribed below, but there is something in their deliver—a single human voice over sparse ska guitar with no other accompaniment at first—that I find enthralling.

"By now, you think it's over,
Countdown, it's getting colder,
Come on, tell me it's over,
Goes on and on and on and on again…"

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Thursday, 24 January 2013
(№ 2) Michigan 68-53 Purdue
18-1, Big Ten 5-1

Nifty! Watching the game with my father was not as unpleasant as I'd anticipated, in large measure because he was resigned to the probability of defeat even before the tip-off. He was never terribly excited by Purdue's first-half performance, correctly forecasting that the ill-starred Boilermakers could not continue to score three-pointers with the same astonishing pace. 'Twas not a perfect game by the valiant Wolverines, but I am not yet so spoiled by their successes that I'll complain about a fifteen-point margin of victory over any Big Ten club. Ill-starred Boilermaker D. J. Byrd's tenacity reminded me of former valiant Wolverine hero Zack Novak; that kind of scrappy brawler with a never-say-die attitude is a fan-favorite if he's on your squad, but a bugbear to play against. Fortunately, the cool, ruthless efficiency of Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. & Glenn Robinson III were too much for even a never-say-die spirit to overcome. I also see a little of Novak's boundless enthusiasm in Mitch McGary; if that big lug can ever learn to (a) control himself & (b) finish strong, he'll be nigh-unstoppable in the paint.

Next: The valiant Wolverines visit the feisty Fighting Illini on Sunday. If they prevail, there is a good chance Monday's new Associated Press poll will find Michigan ranked № 1. Then a home game against the ferocious Wildcats on Wednesday before next Saturday, a week from tomorrow, sees the start of the "murderers' row" part of the valiant Wolverines' schedule: four games in eleven days—at (№ 7) Indiana, a rematch against (№ 14) Ohio State in the friendly confines of the Crisler Center, at Wisconsin, & at (№ 13) Michigan State. The pesky Badgers might not be ranked, but they enjoy one of the most decisive home-court advantages in N.C.A.A. 'ball. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. We take Illinois & Northwestern lightly at our peril; there are no easy games in the Big Ten, only easy ways to lose.

Go Blue!

Elsewhere in Project OSPREY
U.C.L.A. 84-73 Arizona (№ 6)

I've only seen the epithetless Wildcats of Arizona play twice, last night's defeat & an earlier narrow escape against the epithetless Buffaloes of Colorado (Wayback Machine). I admit that the sample size to too wee to permit any scientifically valid conclusions, but sport is more art than it is science. How in blazes is Arizona ranked in the top ten? They must be a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde club, & I only ever see Mr. Hyde, because the club I've seen kind of stinks. O.K., that's overly harsh, but there is no way in the high holy heck they're one of the nation's ten best collegiate squads. I'm not claiming any credit as a jinx, Arizona got into this trouble on their own; after the Michigan-Purdue game I watched an episode of Nova off the D.V.R. & by the time I returned to basketball the epithetless Bruins of U.C.L.A. already had a double-digit lead in the second half. I've nothing against Arizona beyond their membership in the ancient foe, the Pac-12, but it's always fun to see overrated chumps take a fall.

This week, 'twas been cold enough for me to wear the fur ushanka, a product of Finland, that I inherited from my late paternal grandfather, may he rest in peace. Sacred Michigan was largely spared the double-digit subzero temperatures that befell locales both east & west of the cocooning Great Lakes, but afternoon highs were only in the single or low double digits above 0° Fahrenheit. Glorious! Glorious! 'Tis a fleeting glory, but this is already a far better winter than '11-'12's, a baleful season of misery that scarcely ever saw temperatures cold enough to freeze water, & no occasions for the wearing of the mighty, & mighty stylish, ushanka. I expect to resume wearing my insulated flatcap as soon as tomorrow.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "The Phantom of the Opera" from …Are a Drag (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I've decided to affix an ellipsis to the Gimme Gimmes' album titles to solve the problem of how they are to be read. Sure, the title of the album from whence comes "The Phantom of the Opera" is Are a Drag, but that's a lousy title for an album 'til you look at the cover & recognize that it's meant to be read "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a drag." The same convention holds true for the rest of their catalog: …Have a Ball, …Blow In the Wind, …Take a Break, …Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah, …Love Their Country, …Have Another Ball, …Go Down Under, & …Sing in Japanese. My solution is the ellipsis.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXIV - The United States Supreme Court's ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, 1922.

This Week in Motorsport
World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 13 & 14
Race of Portugal
Sunday, 3 June 2012

Rounds 15 & 16
Race of Brazil
Sunday, 22 July 2012

Catching up with the W.T.C.C. continues to be an excellent balm to the winter's lack of ongoing racing. (Thanks, Speed!) The most noteworthy happening in the last four races was a promotional stunt at the Race of Portugal. Alain Menu of the Chevrolet factory team impersonated French comic-book character Michel Vaillant all weekend, in a promotion of last summer's release of the latest Michel Vaillant album (graphic novel, in Yankee parlance). Menu's Chevrolet was repainted as a Vallante, the car's transporter was repainted in Vaillante team colors, his race engineer & several other team mambers wore Vaillante team kit, & Menu wore Vaillant's signature blue helmet (Bleu de France, of course), a firesuit identical to Vaillant's in the latest album, & even died his gray hair black to match M. Vallant's. Two names were listed in the windows, "A. Menu" & "M. Vaillant," the latter as part of the promotion & the former, I'd wager, because of F.I.A. rules. I've never read Michael Vaillant & cannot say it it's good or bad, but I wholeheartedly support any publicity stunt that is a thorough, as whole-hog as the Chevrolet/Vaillante shenanigans.

On track, the Chevrolet trio of Menu, defending triple World Champion Yvan Muller, 7 Rob Huff continued to be in a class of their own, winning all four of the races in Portugal & Brazil, two victories for Muller & one each for Menu (as Vaillant) & Huff.

British Touring Car Championship
Rounds 1-3
Brands Hatch, Indy Circuit
Sunday, 1 April 2012

Rounds 4-6
Donington Park, National Circuit
Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rounds 7-9
Thruxton Circuit
Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rounds 10-12
Oulton Park, Island Circuit
Sunday, 10 June 2012

Rounds 13-15
Croft Circuit
Sunday, 24 June 2012

Rounds 16-18
Snetterton, 300 Circuit
Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rounds 19-21
Knockhill Racing Circuit
Sunday, 26 August 2012

Rounds 22-24
Rockingham Motor Speedway, International Super Sports Car Circuit
Sunday, 23 September 2012

The first thing I noticed about the B.T.C.C. is that those boys play too roughly. The irritatingly bombastic I.T.V. announcers describe "bumping" as a natural part of touring-car racing, but to my mind ramming into the back of a competitor's car so that it turns sideways & slides off the track should not be a natural part of any motor racing. I accept that different sports have both different rules & different cultures—e.g., I have no issue with fighting in hockey, even as I hold firmly that any football player who throws a punch on the field should be banned for the remainder of the season—but in those first few rounds the B.T.C.C. looked like anarchy. Sanctions, such as drive-through penalties, seem not to be applied with any logic or consistency. This post address races broadcast over eight weekends, & raced over a greater span of time, & as the season has worn on things seemed to have calmed down. There is still more contact than I'd like, but the same is true of the Australian V8 Supercars (more about whom below), & there is at least now a greater seeming consistency in the enforcement of the rules.

Aside from some pretty decent racing, one of the charms of the B.T.C.C. has been to see a lot of British circuits I'd heard about in passing references to motor racing's past & read about in Jim Clark At the Wheel, tiny, tortuous tracks of the old school like Brands Hatch & Outlon Park. I do mean tiny: the Indy Circuit layout of Brands Hatch is only 1.2 miles long; the faster cars of the D.T.M. series lap the course in around forty seconds, leading me to wonder if the divers might actually get dizzy circling such a small area. The grand prize to this point (trios of races around Silverstone, though a different layout than is used for the F1 British Grand Prix, & the longer Brands hatch Grand Prix Circuit remain) goes to Scotland's Knockhill Circuit, as tiny & tortuous as any of the others, but with more elevation change per square yard than any other circuit I've ever seen. There is one corner that sees the cars come streaking down a steep incline only to make a more than ninety-degree corner & then immediately fight their way uphill again. It's diabolical! The least fortunate venue has been the most recently seen, Rockingham, a verdammt oval. (Yes, there are wretched American-style oval tracks in Europe.) The race was run on the "roval" layout, using part of the oval combined with an in-field road course. Rovals are awful. The only thing than can be said in rovals' defense is that they are better than ovals, even if only marginally. Fortunately, Rockingham is the only such abomination on the B.T.C.C. calendar.

The B.T.C.C. would be more entertaining if it wasn't for the aforementioned television commentators. Dick Vitale's basketball punditry seems sedate by comparison, & their histrionics are exceedingly light on insightful analysis. It's the triumph of style over substance, & adding insult to injury I don't even like the style.

Beyond Thunderdome
Before 1999, the V8 Supercars series was known as the Australian Touring Car Championship (A.T.C.C.), & unto the present day the V8 Supercars season champion is declared the Australian Touring Car Champion. Time & distance, though, have bred tremendous differences twixt the World & British Touring Cars & the Aussies. A V8 Supercar is a magnificently old-school beast, a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with a 5.0 Liter naturally-aspirated, eight-cylinder engine, whereas W.T.C.C. cars can be eight front- or rear-wheel-drive & are typically powered by turbocharged 1.6 Liter four-cylinder engines. 5.0 Liter V8s roar, 1.6 Liter inline-fours buzz. On most tracks, abominable though American muscle-car enthusiasts might find this, the front-wheel-drive Chevrolets & S.E.A.T.s, et al., have a decided advantage over the rear-wheel-drive B.M.W.s. V8 Supercars are based on big sports sedans, the Holden Commodore & the Ford Falcon, to be jointed this year by the Nissan Altima & the Mercedes-Benz E-class; the dominant car in the W.T.C.C. is the Chevrolet Cruze while the Honda Civic the bully of the B.T.C.C. So, while an argument could be made for blogging about the V8 Supercars, the former A.T.C.C., under the "Tourists" title, due to the many differences cited above we here at The Secret Base will continue to call our V8 Supercars coverage "Beyond Thunderdome."

The madness returns at the end o' February/beginning of March, with the '13 season to include the V8 Supercars' inaugural race in these United States.

The Queue
The archaic language of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" was an absolute delight. I needs must make more regular use of such outstanding words as "quoth" & "ere."

Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Fighting Man of Mars
Frank Miller, 300
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" from The Arabian Nights

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill ***suspended***

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Swords of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Synthetic Men of Mars
Sir Ernest Shackleton, South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Llana of Gathol
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, "Sinbad the Sailor" from The Arabian Nights
Richard Price, Clockers

My Macintosh's spell-checking software has many curious preferences. "Sinbad" is flagged as misspelt (as is "misspelt"), but "Sindbad" is A-O.K. "Habsburg" is flagged, but Hapsburg is fine.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ivy, "Lucy Doesn't Love You" from Long Distance (T.L.A.M.)

Mittwoch, 23 Januar
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Tomorrow" from …Are a Drag (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn
The auto show was a grand way to spend a Saturday. We arrived shortly before 2:00 P.M. & toured the attractions & displays 'til 9:45 P.M., a quarter of an hour before the close. The question I've been asked by almost everyone to whom I've mentioned the visit is, What was my favorite car? I don't have an answer, I think in part because I saw nothing that inspired in me as much raw desire as the Volkswagen Jetta T.D.I. did in Ska Army. (He was very specific about the Diesel engine.) I may not have had a specific favorite car, but there was still plenty there to catch my fancy. I enjoyed glowering at the Ferrari display, my hate of those prideful swine washing over me like a cool breeze on a summer's day. I gloried in the myriad delights of the Cadillac display, loving the fit of the driver's seat of the CTS, marveling at the cavernous back seats of the full-sized XTS, & playing call-&-answer with the pitchman of the new ELR. I thrilled at the models on display, both the cars & the girls. I asked a gentlemen in a magnificent Tyrolean hat where he had acquired such a magnificent Tyrolean hat & he answered with an accented, "Neuschwanstein." This of course is Mad King Ludwig's fairy-tale castle in Bavaria. Drat! I thanked him for his forthrightness all the same. The best part of the Porsche display was the large video screen highlighting the marque's racing heritage; searching out the scattered bits & pieces of racing paraphernalia became something of a scavenger hunt.

The North American International Auto Show is one of the largest auto shows in the world, & one of the perquisites of residing in sacred Michigan. I rue the many years that passed before last year's return visit, but I also revel in two consecutive annual tours & the promise of many more to come.

This Week in Motorsport
Rally Monkey
Dakar Rally
34th running
Saturday, 5 January-Saturday 19 January 2013

The last week of the Dakar was not as mind-boggling as the first week, both because I was accustomed to the spectacle & because the terrain changed from the preposterous huge dunes of Peru & Chile to the dusty mountain roads of Argentina, the event taking on the tamer semblance of a W.R.C. course. Which is not to say that the Dakar wasn't still bananas. The Dakar is bananas! Of the four hundred forty-nine competing motorbikes, quads, cars, & trucks that departed from Lima, Peru a fortnight earlier, three hundred two crossed the finish line in Santiago, Chile. I saw riders fly over the handlebars of their bikes, I saw cars flipped up onto their roofs, & I saw ten-ton trucks thunder over loose sand into which they should have sunk & been lost forever. I'd never before seen anything like the Dakar, in part because I suspect there is nothing else like it in all the world. Wilderness, they raced through honest-to-goodness wilderness! The test to which man & machine are put by the five thousand three hundred miles of the race, the mettle needed to endure over the course of two weeks of toil & deprivation, the madness & the glory of the exercise—I am in awe of the Dakar Rally.


World Rally Championship
Round 1
Rallye Monte-Carlo
Wednesday-Saturday, 16-19 January 2013

The more things change in the W.R.C., the more things stay the same: Citroën is now sponsored principally by Total & Abu Dhabi instead of Total & Red Bull, & nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb is only running a partial-season schedule, but Citroën & Loeb still prevailed in '13's first rally. Southern France & the Principality were blanketed in ice, snow, & slush. Conditions were so adverse that several cars slid right off the road, & every driver complained about the slick corners. It was however excessively large crowds clogging the narrow mountain roads that led to the last two stages of the rally being cancelled. Sébastien Ogier finished second in the Volkswagen factory squad's debut, with the full-season Citroëns of Dani Sordo & Mikko Hirvonen finished third & fourth. The young guns of M-Sport, formerly the Ford works team, could manage no better than sixth, but conditions were adverse & it's still early days in this year's championship campaign.

There does not at present appear to be any television coverage of the W.R.C. here in the States, so all that I know about the Monte Carlo Rally comes from the interwebs. I am fostering the hope that there will be W.R.C. coverage later in the year, especially now that Speed has some time to fill in its schedule, what with the loss of F1 coverage to the N.B.C. Sports Network.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
John Williams, "The Battle In the Snow" from Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology (Disc 2: Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back) (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It is proper cold today, the temperature outside at midday in the single digits Fahrenheit. It is so cold that you want to climb inside a tauntaun to stay warm, no matter the smell.

Montag, 21 Januar
Jonathan Winters, "Ross Perot Calling Every American" from Crank Calls (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 20 Januar
Less Than Jake, "The Science of Selling Yourself Short" from Anthem (T.L.A.M.)


"(I'll sing along,)
Yeah, with every emergency,
(Just sing along,)
I'm the king of catastrophes,
(I'm so far gone,)
That deep down inside I think it's fine by me,
I'm my own worst enemy."

Samstag, 19 Januar
They Might Be Giants, "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" from Then: The Earlier Years (Ska Army)

Commentary: Ska Army & I began singing "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" whilst approaching Cobo Hall. Why? No obvious reason, aside from our mutual appreciation of T.M.B.G.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Project MERCATOR | Autobahn
Upon the morrow, I journey with Ska Army to the heart of Detroit to tour the North American International Auto Show. Despite all that has befallen the American automobile industry & both the State of Michigan & the City of Detroit, the automobile industry remains central to both the identity & the economy of the Wolverine State. It is unfathomable to me that I've lived in sacred Michigan for so many years & partaken of the splendors of the Auto Show so infrequently. This will be the second consecutive year of what I intend to be an annual tradition.

The Queue
I've been unable to reengage with Leviathan, & though it has not been reserved by any other library patron I'd hate to keep it off the library's shelves while it sits marooned on my nightstand. So I shall take a small respite & then resume Hobbes's weighty tome. The respite is Machiavelli's slim treatise, only seventy-one pages in my edition &, I suspect, unfairly maligned as sinister when in fact it is simply pragmatic. We shall see.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Master Mind of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Fighting Man of Mars
Frank Miller, 300

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill ***suspended***

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Swords of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Synthetic Men of Mars
Sir Ernest Shackleton, South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Llana of Gathol
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, The Arabian Nights (specifically, "Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves")
Richard Price, Clockers

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Herbie Hancock, "Cantaloupe Island" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 5) Michigan 83-75 Minnesota (№ 9)
17-1, Big Ten 4-1

The valiant Wolverines bounced back from the season first loss with a quality road win against an aggressively physical squad of luckless Golden Gophers. Minnesota's doom was initiated against Michigan much as Michigan's was against Ohio State, with excessive turnovers in the first half. The valiant Wolverines lead by as many as nineteen & the luckless Golden Gophers fought back tenaciously, but the gap never closed to fewer than seven points. There are no truly "must-win" games outside of tournament play, but this was almost a must-win game for the Maize & Blue; two consecutive road losses to ranked opponents would have betrayed as a lie the valiant Wolverines's early season dominance; victory instead affirmed it, & raised hopes that Sunday's embarrassment was an isolated catastrophe, not the start of a collapse.

Next: A week from tonight, against the ill-starred Boilermakers at the Crisler Center. Grudge match in my household, my father being a Purdue alumnus.

Go Blue!

My motorcar has been renamed again. Originally known as the Lumi, she was then renamed the Lumi the Snow Queen. I am no longer a fan of the pop cultural work in which the evil character the Snow Queen is properly named Lumi (I'd originally chosen the name Lumi simply because my motorcar is a Chevrolet Lumina), but also I've concluded that the affection I feel for & the bond I've forged with the Lumi suffices to justify the new name. Therefore, my motorcar is now—Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile! Yes, I considered the less nonsensical Lumi, the Daughter of the Mousemobile, but I've always wanted to name a car the Son of the Mousemobile & the Lumi has been long establish as female; therefore, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile seemed the best & goofiest solution. The Lumi, the Distaff Son of the Mousemobile will turn eighteen years old this year. She's almost a classic!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
John Williams, "Star Wars" from Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The main titles to the original 1977 film, Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope.

Mittwoch, 16 Januar
The Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Take Five" from Time Out—50th Anniversary Legacy Edition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An excellent song to place on repeat & listen to throughout an evening.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Ain't No Sunshine" from …Take a Break (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Whilst in the majority of instances I am not personally fond of sunshine, i.e., the death rays of the Accursed Sun, I well understand the metaphor.

"Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,
Only darkness every day…"

I should scarce mention the Gimme Gimmes without mentioning mine own tradition linked to them, specifically the pledge many years ago that should I ever see a girl wearing a short skirt & a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes T-shirt & drinking a Jones Soda, I would propose marriage to her on the spot, & til death do us part if she acceded.

"A short skirt,
A Gimmes shirt,
A Jones Soda,
Ain't life grand?"

Vote for Kodos | Obamboozled
Political commentary returns Monday, 21 January—Inauguration Day, though President Obama's second & final term will begin with a private oath-taking on Sunday, 20 January. The "Vote for Kodos" title has been retired for reasons we shall explain alongside the reasons for political commentary's new title, to be revealed on the day. (Yes, I know this is inside baseball, & of no consequence to anyone beyond your humble narrator, but your humble narrator is the inmate in charge of this asylum & shall thus run things as he sees fit.) "Obamboozled" shall continue because the bamboozling continues.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXIII - The "Gentle Giant," Robert Wadlow (1918-1940).

This Week in Motorsport
Rally Monkey
Dakar Rally
34th running
Saturday, 5 January-Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Dakar Rally is underway, a grueling two-week test of man & machine that traverses 5,300 miles in South America, across Peru, Chile, & Argentina. The N.B.C. Sports Network has been providing daily summaries, & have watched them with great interest. The Dakar is a rally raid or cross country rally, as opposed to the road rallying that comprises the World Rally Championship & the many lower international & rallying series of which it is the pinnacle. Road rallying takes place on roads. They can be dirt or gravel roads, snow or ice roads, or stretches of "sealed surface" tarmac. Rally raids take place cross country, where there are no roads. The views that I have seen have been stunning, as the competitors have driven & rode up, down, & around enormous sand dunes; over boulder fields that look utterly impassable; & in the shadow of the Andes Mountains, before climbing up one side of those intimidating peaks & down the other. Suddenly, the W.R.C., which I have oft described as glorious madness, seems much less mad. The almost impossibly long dash across the wilderness takes its toll: Four hundred forty-nine "bikes," "quads," "cars," & trucks began the Dakar, but by the rest day following the first week of competition only three hundred thirteen remained in competition.

The Dakar Rally was originally the Paris-Dakar Rally, a race from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. The route changed over the years, but continued through Europe & North Africa from 1979 'til 2008, when jihadist terrorists in Mauritania threatened to slaughter competitors, signalling the end of the traditional Dakar. The race has been run in South America since '09. There are four broad classifications of vehicles: The "bikes" are motorcycles, the "quads" are what we Americans call A.T.V.s (four-wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles), the "cars" are everything from cars like the Mini Countryman to light trucks like the Hummer H3 to dune buggies, & the trucks are large trucks, tractor trailers without trailers, & they are without doubt the oddest racing machines I have ever seen. As long as I've been vaguely aware of the Dakar, which is much longer than I've been a fan of motorsport, I've wondered how competitors in such as event would keep from getting lost in the wilderness. The answer is threefold. One, they use maps & G.P.S. tracking devices. Two, they follow one another's tracks, with the first man out on course being at a disadvantage compared to his fellows. Three, they get lost, & lose time finding their way back to the prescribed route. All this takes place with television & medical evacuation helicopters thundering overhead & in the era of the Global Positioning System; it is difficult to imagine what navigation must have been like, especially for the bike & quad riders, in the era before satellite positioning. (There are two men in every car & three men in every truck, but the riders ride alone.)

The Dakar is breathtaking. I stumbled upon the N.B.C. Sports Network's coverage whilst searching the future television listing for coverage of the W.R.C. (the '13 season of which begins this weekend, with the classic Rallye Monte-Carlo). I was instantly enamored of the Dakar & look forward with anticipation to the second week of the grueling challenge. Though I cannot in honesty vouch for Future Mike, at this moment my firm intention is to make watching the Dakar an annual tradition, akin to but distinct from Le Mans.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Robbie Williams & Rupert Everett, "They Can't Take That Away from Me" from Swing When You're Winning (T.L.A.M.)

Sonntag, 13 Januar
Sufjan Stevens, "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)
The Victors: Project OSPREY
Sunday, 13 January 2013
(№ 15) Ohio State 56-53 Michigan (№ 2)
16-1, Big Ten 3-1

Triskaidekaphobia? We suffered our first defeat of the season yesterday, & in humiliating fashion. We were caught flat by the hated Buckeyes, who surged to a 16-3 lead early in the first half, & who would eventually lead by twenty-one. We looked shell-shocked in the face of their aggressiveness. Most of their points in this mournful spell came off of an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers; we committed almost as many turnover in the first ten minutes of yesterday's game as we normally due in a game's whole forty minutes. Worse, we played lackluster defense after each of these turnovers, allowing the hated Buckeyes to score easy points. Worse yet, it took us around seven or eight minutes to even begin to mount a response, by which time we had dug ourselves a very deep hole. Battle back we did, though at no point did we look like the team that had won sixteen straight games, the last undefeated team in Division I men's basketball. But slowly, ever so slowly, we chipped away at T.O.S.U.'s lead, & with six minutes left in the game Glenn Robinson III drained a three-pointer to tie to game, 46-46. Then, inexplicably, we abandoned everything that had allowed us to claw our way back into the game. We shot three-point attempt after three-point attempt, all of them clanging off the rim or falling short as airballs, never passing the ball for position, never driving to the hoop to score points &/or draw fouls. That last, futile stretch was a sorry, unwelcome callback to the darkest moments of the John Beilein era, those times when we lived & died solely by the three.

Triskaidekaphobia? Humbug, treasured readers! Humbug! Just as the Thirteen Club was founded to fight superstition, so too do the valiant Wolverines need a latter-day Thirteen Club to avoid a repeat of 13 January '13. For all their offensive prowess (missing almost entirely yesterday), the '12-'13 valiant Wolverines are very young, Tim Hardaway Jr. & Jordan Morgan being the only regularly contributing upperclassmen. Rare indeed is the team that can complete a college basketball season undefeated, & for all our hope for & pride in these valiant Wolverines, we all knew a loss of inevitable. That the inevitable loss came against the hated Buckeyes when we were on the verge of being ranked № 1 as the last remaining undefeated stings all the worse, but Kipling's words are, as always, consoling & instructive: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same:". We lost, but the valiant Wolverines will profit from the experience, strengthening their mettle & honing their skills for the long season yet ahead. They have not long to dwell upon yesterday's disappointment, for the next major road test comes against (№ 8) Minnesota on Thursday. We lost a game, not a championship. The valiant Wolverines continue, & it continues to be great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Go Blue!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Robbie Williams, "A Man For All Seasons" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The titular man for all seasons is, of course, Sir Johnny English. From my playlist "Spy."

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dropkick Murphys, "The Auld Triangle" from The Warrior's Code (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It is a shame that most folks' knowledge of The Warrior's Code, to the extent that they have any knowledge of The Warrior's Code, is limited to "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," based almost solely on that song's inclusion in the motion picture The Departed, because "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" is far from the best song on The Warrior's Code. There are other, better songs, such as "The Auld Triangle."

There is surely something of substance to be made of my liking as radically left-wing a band as Dropkick Murphys, & I really do mean to get back to commenting upon politics & principles, but at this precise moment my mind is far too scattered to articulate that surely substantive something.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Wednesday, 9 January
(№ 2) Michigan 62-47 Nebraska
16-0, Big Ten 3-0

A night of contrasts: The valiant Wolverines had their worst shooting night of the year, making only thirty-nine per cent of their attempted field goals, & equaled the best season start in program history, matching the 1985-'86 valiant Wolverines' 16-0 start. Let us hope the 2012-'13 valiant Wolverines got their bad shooting night out of the way before sterner tests against (№ 15) Ohio State & (№ 8) Minnesota next week. 16-0! Sixteen victories & zero defeats! All congratulations to the valiant Wolverines & all the best as they vie to set a new school record, 17-0.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Elvis Costello & The Attractions, "Night Rally" from This Year's Model (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Night Rally" struck me as an odd song to have stuck in my head upon waking, but this oddness did not preclude the occurrence. So, there you go, "Night Rally," the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.

"You think they're so dumb,
You think they're so funny,
Wait until they got you runnin' to their
Night rally, night rally, night rally…"

There is no evidence that Edmund Burke (1729-1797) ever said or wrote the words, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," though they are often attributed to him. This misattribution does not lessen the veracity of the sentiment expressed. I am not alone in fearing that the widespread misuse of the words "Nazi" & "Fascist" to describe anyone whose ideas disagree with one's own ideals is robbing the words of their true meanings. We forget, we blind ourselves to the evils of Nazism & Fascism at our inestimable peril. Make them objects of fun, yes, to mock & demoralize them; do not dismiss them as mere objects of fun, lest you realize to hate the danger they yet pose. Look to the success of the People's Association—Golden Dawn in Greece. A few bad years are all that are required for the old evil to begin gathering its strength anew. Vigilance, dear readers; I implore you, be ever so vigilant.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Caution: Those with weak stomachs for moustache mentions might wish to skip this next bit.

I had to trim a very long hair today, very possibly the longest in the right wing of my moustache. It had gone rogue, standing out at an odd angle, & it was bent towards the end. A graceful curve is highly prized, but once a hair develops that kind of abrupt kink there's no way to tame it. I've learned that the loss of no single hair makes or breaks the moustache, but even so I suffer a twinge of regret whenever a hair that has grown for so many months, possibly even since I began growing my moustache over two years ago, must be culled. Alas! if only it had stayed in formation, worked in concert with its compatriots! 'Twas not to be.

Of late, I've spied what seems to me to be a large number of goatees. This is unfortunate, as I've never looked favorably on the goatee. A goatee describes the hair on a man's chin; I do not mean the Van Dyke, that combination of a goatee & a moustache that is oft, & erroneously, called a "goatee." No, I have been seeing real, awful goatees. At least they've been for the most part short & neat, not long & gnarly. Still, why grow a goatee? Why not a full beard? Or even a Van Dyke? The goatee is just so… adolescent.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Beirut, "Nantes" from The Flying Club Cup (T.L.A.M.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
J. G. Thirlwell, "No Vacancy" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "No Vacancy" is the theme song to The Venture Bros. I eagerly await the debit of the show's long-delayed fifth season later this winter.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Victors
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Outback Bowl
(№ 11) South Carolina 33-28 Michigan (№ 19)
8-5, 6-2 Big Ten

Curses! What is there to say about the valiant Wolverines' defeat at the hands of the epithetless Gamecocks? The good: The valiant Wolverines had every chance to win the game. They were not intimidated by the higher-ranked South Carolina, nor did they pack it in when faced with adversity. The bad: The valiant Wolverines were bested because they made the same old mistakes, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns too often on offense & giving up big pass plays on defense. The ugly: Giving up a kick returned for a touchdown is never pretty. At least the valiant Wolverines' special teams play redeemed itself somewhat by later blocking an attempted epithetless Gamecocks field goal. (Still, that left the special teams with a -4 point differential.) Devin Gardner might yet blossom into a great quarterback, & he'd certainly have benefited from playing the entire '12 season at back-up quarterback, instead of being misallocated as a wide receiver for much of the year, but right now he makes too many errant, erratic throws & is too indecisive as a runner to be a consistent threat. The valiant Wolverines' defense's Achilles's hell continued to be its Achilles's heel: coverage on deep passes. That has been the weak link in an otherwise smothering defense for each of the last two seasons, & has been the only problem the excellent defensive coaching staff have been unable to fix with improved coaching; we thus have to hope that the next generation of recruits have what it takes to fix this greatest vulnerability.

All in all, anyone who kept a level head knew that the valiant Wolverines overachieved in '11-'12, & that replicating that sterling record in '12-'13 would be a tall order. That said, five losses never sits well with a Michigan man. True, three of those losses came to the teams ranked № 1, № 2, & № 3 in the A.P. poll (Notre Dame, Alabama, & Ohio State), & three came to teams ranked in the B.C.S. top-ten (Notre Dame, Alabama, & South Carolina), but all that is cold comfort. Five losses are five losses, & we have not won Big Ten championship in a very, very long time. There are question marks in my mind & dread in my heart for next year, because so much of the valiant Wolverines' offensive success game from the unorthodox, improvisational genius of Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, who has not exhausted his N.C.A.A. eligibility. I do not rue this, for such is the nature of college sports, & the fleeting nature of college careers is what makes a player's maturation & success so rewarding to witness. Still, we shall have to find some way to replace all those yards, all those points, & I fear that we will be unable to do so. (Of course I'm ending thos post on a down note. The bloody season ended on a down note, didn't it? The New Year got off to a rotten start with our Outback Bowl defeat, didn't it?)

Still & all, there is the eternal, essential mantra of the jilted sports fan: There's always next year.

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 5 & 6
Race of Morocco
Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rounds 7 & 8
Race of Slovakia
Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rounds 9 & 10
Race of Hungary
Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rounds 11 & 12
Race of Austria
Sunday, 20 May 2012

Watching the W.T.C.C. is a outside the norms of my usual motorsport experiences, because there is a new race broadcast every weekend, instead of the normal two- to four-week pauses 'twixt rounds. During the actual W.T.C.C. season there were exactly such pauses, but not so in Speed's off-season broadcasts. This is not a complaint, merely an observation.

The most interesting thing about the last several W.T.C.C. rounds has been the variety of tracks visited, many of which I'd never before seen. The Race of Morocco marked the first races I'd ever seen from the African continent, though I had before seen clips, the briefest snippets of the old F1 South African Grand Prix & the legendary Dakar Rally. The course, a street circuit carved out of the heart of Marrakesh, was not itself particularly interesting, but I was still glad for the relatively exotic locale. The Race of Slovakia was held on the Slovakia Ring, a fantastic venue just outside of Bratislava that was finished shortly before the '08 financial crisis & subsequent global economic funk, meaning it has not seen as much racing as it deserves. The same weekend that Speed broadcast the W.T.C.C. races there, they also broadcast the first of two G.T.1 World Championship races from the Slovakia Ring. The more I saw the track, the more I liked the cut of its jib. The Race of Hungary was held on the tight & tortuous Hungaroring, well known to me as the site of the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix. I love the Hungaroring & am glad for any chance to see it raced. The Race of Austria at the Salzburgring was the most picturesque racing circuit I've ever seen. The circuit flows along the contours of an alpine valley &, with blue skies & the sparkling death rays of the Accursed Sun shining down, it was a pretty as a postcard. The racing was good, too.

The W.T.C.C. isn't always the most nail-bitingly exciting series, what with the domination of the works Chevrolet Cruzes, but given the right circuit, such as all those discussed today, it features some great racing. I'm very glad to be seeing the 2012 World Touring Car Championship, & not just as something to watch during the motorsport off-season.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Bob & Doug McKenzie, "Twelve Days of Christmas" Great White North (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: With apologies, I had to get one more in, & with the secular/sacred divide in the R.B.D.S.O.T.D.'s celebration of Christmas, the sacred twelve days of the Christmastide exclude the secular "Twelve Days of Christmas," a song of which I'm quite fond.

The McKenzie bros., icons of all things Canuck, also seemed apropos on the first busines day after the tentative end o' the N.H.L. lockout.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXII - The life & crimes of "The Match King," Ivar Kreuger (1880-1932).

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 2) Michigan 95-67 Iowa
15-0, Big Ten 2-0

I did not watch any of today's game, because tip-off was at noon & eleven o'clock Mass doesn't end 'til shortly after the Accursed Sun's zenith. Home again, we took down & put away the Christmas decorations, leaving the house looking, as ever at this time of year, slightly gloomy. (Appearing exactly thus, the house will look charming in a few days' time, but immediately after the negation of the decking of the halls, the walls are less gay, & thus ever so slightly gloomy.) Also, I meant to have the game on in the background as we worked, but it slipped my mind 'til about 2:15 P.M., but which point I knew my chance had passed. Alas! This—missing the game—was the worst calamity that befell me today, so I consider myself a preposterously fortunate chap.

Next: Nebraska at the Crisler Center, Wednesday night, 9 January.

Go Blue!

The Queue
Christmastide was as bad for Leviathan as it was for Operation ÖSTERREICH, but I hope to get both endeavours back on track this week. I saw a bit of the film 300 on television, & this prompted me finally to read the original comic.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Master Mind of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Fighting Man of Mars
Frank Miller, 300

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Swords of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Synthetic Men of Mars
Sir Ernest Shackleton, South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Llana of Gathol
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars
Sir Richard Francis Burton, translator, The Arabian Nights (specifically, "Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves")
Richard Price, Clockers
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Epiphany
The Klezmonauts, "We Three Kings of Orient Are" from Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The Klezmonauts present an instrumental rendition of "We Three Kings of Orient Are," else I should again quote the lyrics, as they are favorites of mine. My dearest hope is that the Christmastide was holy & prosperous for one & all, & that your faith & devotion were replenished anew by the celebration of the Christ's Mass.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the 12th Day of Christmas
Mu330, "Angels We Have Heard On High" from Winter Wonderland! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I really need to do a better job of matching songs to the parts of the Christmastide they most directly address, but I did get "Angels We Have Heard On High" in under the wire, during the week in which we celebrate the shepherds' visitation with the new-born Christ, before tomorrow's Epiphany celebration of the revelation of that same infant Christ to the Gentiles, through the arrival of the three wise men. Maybe I'll do better next year, but I wouldn't hold my breathe if I were you.

Merry Christmas! I hope you had/are having a smashing Twelfth Night.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Saturday, 29 December 2012
(№ 2) Michigan 88-73 Central Michigan
13-0, Big Ten 0-0

The valiant Wolverines carried thirteen wins into 2013, besting the epithetless Chippewas to finish the non-conference portion of the schedule undefeated. The valiant Wolverines were not especially impressive in last Saturday's contest, but they didn't need to be on their way to a fifteen-point margin of victory.

Thursday, 3 January 2013
(№ 2) Michigan 94-66 Northwestern
14-0, Big Ten 1-0

Last night, the valiant Wolverines looked like the № 2 team in the country, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game & gradually building it to the final twenty-eight point margin by the final buzzer. The plucky Wildcats were without two of their best players, true, both lost to injury, & never managed to overcome Michigan's initial blitz. Trey Burke lead the way with thirteen of the valiant Wolverines' first sixteen points, & finished the night with twenty-three points. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored an effortless-seeming twenty-one; his four three-pointers were beautiful to behold. Freshman sniper Nick Stauskas had an off night shooting from three-point range; then again, his normal pace of shooting 57% from behind the three-point line seems impossible to sustain. The valiant Wolverines were relentless in pursuit of rebounds, harassed the plucky Wildcats on defense, & scored more alley-oops that I believe I'd ever before seen in a single game. Fun, fun, fun!

Central to winning the Big Ten championship will be the valiant Wolverines remaining hungry, meaning continuing to work diligently & never resting on their laurels. The next four games are back-to-back home games against Iowa & Nebraska, & then a pair of road games against (№ 8) Ohio State & (№ 9) Minnesota. Those will be Michigan's stiffest tests yet. The valiant Wolverines will not finish the regular season undefeated, that's a fool's dream. It is nice that they have Michigan's best record since the 1985-'86 season (those valiant Wolverines started 16-0), but of greater importance than records is how they who don the Maize & Blue win, how they utilize their individual strengths to win as a team, how they carry themselves, & how they prepare the for season-ending Big Ten & N.C.A.A. Tournaments. These are heady days, with the promise of the John Beilein era being fulfilled before our very eyes.

Go Blue!

Elsewhere in Project OSPREY
also Thursday, 3 January 2013
(№ 3) Arizona 92-83 Colorado (O.T.)

Southern California 71-69 Stanford

Both of these games, which I watched during the commercial breaks in the Sugar Bowl, turned on the losers' inability to shoot free throws. Improbably, Colorado had a large first-half lead over Arizona. The epithetless Wildcats closed the gap heading into halftime, but the epithetless Buffaloes opened it up again. Towards the wend of the game, trailing Arizona began fouling aggressively, a standard ploy to disrupt the leading club's offense; it is a tactic that works if the leaders cannot make their free throws, but it doomed to failure if they can't. Colorado could not. In the final minute, Colorado made onto two of six free throws. Arizona made a shot to tie the contest at 80, & Colorado's last-second, game-winning three-pointer was ruled to have been shot after the final buzzer sounded to end regulations time. I disagree with the zebras' decision, I thought Colorado's Sabatino Chen got the shot off in time, but the salient point is that that shot would not have been necessary if only one of the three Colorado players who took those six free throws had made one more of those shots. In overtime time, the roles were reversed, with Colorado fouling aggressively, & Arizona pulled ahead by making their free throws. Stanford held a game-long lead over U.S.C., but down the stretch that lead evaporated as the epithetless Trojans made their free throws & the epithetless Cardinal could not make theirs. They're called free throws, for pity's sake. They are free throws! They should be called free points, because a free throw is as easy & uncontested a shot as exists in basketball. I hope the epithetless Buffaloes & the epithetless Cardinal take last night's lessons to heart, & spend a great deal more time practicing their shooting from the line; learning how to shoot free throws could make or break their seasons.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the 11th Day of Christmas
Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" from Barenaked for the Holidays (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There are words for which Sarah McLachlan's voice is simply perfect, & such are the verses of "We Three Kings."

"God rest ye merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray,
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy…"

"King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign…"

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the 10th Day of Christmas
Susan Egan, "Peace on Earth/God Bless Us Everyone" from Winter Tracks (T.L.A.M.)


"Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me,
Let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be,
With God as our Father brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony…"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the 9th Day of Christmas
The Irish Rovers, "Good King Wenceslas" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Curse me for a fool! for not choosing "Good King Wenceslas" as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. for 26 January, the Feast of Saint Stephen, the Protomartyr.

"Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even…

"Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
He who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Urbi et Orbi
Happy New Year! Today is a holy day of obligation, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Anno Domini 2012 set a new record for Mass attendance—forty-five Eucharists, seven short of the year's goal of fifty-two, but eight better than '11's final count of thirty-seven, itself a record—& A.D. 2013 got off to a good start with this morning's attendance. (8:30 seemed awfully early after the midnight ball-drop, but I was buoyed by memories of observing last year's Solemnity of Mary with The Guy at Saint Louis's historic Old Cathedral.) I wish one & all a blessed New Year & a holy & prosperous '13.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of New Year's Day
Duvall, "Away in a Manger" from O Holy Night (T.L.A.M.)