Thursday, February 28, 2013

Th€ R€b€£ B£a¢k Dot $ong of th€ Da¥
Aloe Blacc, "I Need a Dollar" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Frictional unemployment isn't really a problem; there is an appropriate value judgment in economists describing frictional unemployment as a key piece of the "natural rate of unemployment." Structural unemployment, while also part of the "natural rate" is more troublesome, as it involves preventable distortions in the efficient functioning of the labor market. Cyclical unemployment & the discouragement of workers—causing them to cease participating in the labor force & thus drop out of the official unemployment rate, even though they are not gainfully employed—are serious problems requiring both private & public solutions. There have always been persons out of work, but methinks "I Need a Dollar" speaks more to those cyclically unemployed & those who have ceased to participate in the labor force in the midst of our current, much-heralded "recovery."

"I Need a Dollar" is also this only tune for this week's theme from the money-based playlist "Filthy Lucre." "Filthy Lucre" is all about dollars & cents, both good & bad, & there is so very much more to the economy than just monetary issues.

"I had a job but the boss man let me go,
(He said,) 'I'm sorry, but I won't be needin' your help no more,'
(I said,) 'Please, Mr. Boss Man, I need this job more than you know,'
But he gave me last my paycheck and he sent me on out the door…

"Well, I don't know if I'm walkin' on solid ground,
'Cause everything around me is crumbin' down,
And all I want is for someone to help me!

"What in the world am I gonna do tomorrow?
Is there someone with a dollar I can borrow?
Who can help me take away my sorrow?
Maybe it's inside the bottle,
(Maybe it's inside the bottle)…"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Penn State 84-78 Michigan (№ 4)
23-5, Big Ten 10-5

We had a fifteen point lead halfway through the second half & it was at this point, alas, that we stopped hustling, apparently assuming that our lead was insurmountable. This proved not to be the case. We really earned this loss, by committing an unusually large number of turnovers (a recurrent theme in our defeats) & by sending the ferocious Nittany Lions, the least fouled club in the Big Ten, to the free throw line with appalling frequency. They are called free throws because they are essentially free points. Many of my fellow Wolverines have disputed my predictions of doom in the league & national tournaments. They point out that our losses have all come on the road, against hostile crowds, & there are no such games in tournament play. I reply to their faith in neutral sites by pointing out that we have no won a game outside of the friendly confines of the Crisler Center in a month & that tournament games will be played outside of those friendly confines. Tonight we handed Penn State its first league win. We were defeated by a club that had suffered fourteen straight losses. We lost on the road, again. We lost because we are lazy & stupid & prone to panic. We are doomed. The № 4 basketball club in the country? We barely belong in the top twenty-five & certainly not in the top ten. If we can lose to Penn State—to the previously winless—we can lose to anybody. Selection committee, please take note & please take pity.

Go Blue!

Th€ R€b€£ B£a¢k Dot $ong of th€ Da¥
They Might Be Giants, "Alienation's for the Rich" from Then: The Earlier Years (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Alienation's for the Rich," a predecessor of ye olde internet meme "First World problems." Complaining about a loss by a club of collegiate basketball players, scholarship attendees of one of the finest universities in the world, to another club of collegiate basketball players is the kind of alienation only the rich can afford.

"Well, I ain't feelin' happy
About the state of things in my life,
But I'm workin' to make it better
With a six of Miller High Life!
Just drinkin' and a-drivin',
A-makin' sure my dues get paid
Because alienation's for the rich
And I'm feelin' poorer every day."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Th€ R€b€£ B£a¢k Dot $ong of th€ Da¥
The Proclaimers, "Free Market" from Notes & Rhymes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: In choosing between two evils—allowing the financial system to burn in the fall of '08 or enshrining moral hazard as a permanent fixture of a rescued financial system—did we choose the lesser evil or the greater evil? The Treasury & the Federal Reserve, in whom we vested the responsibility for staving off economic calamity, made their choice: going forward, all losses will be permanently socialized & all gains permanently privatized. The free market is gone, replaced by a fixed market wherein every bank is "too big to fail" & institutional investors no longer face any risk, since sour gambles will always be pawned off on the Treasury & the Fed. This is not something Democrats did over the objections of Republicans or something Republicans did over the objections of Democrats; this is something we all did together. I remain unconvinced that we chose the lesser of two evils.

"You thought that history was dead,
Well, it just whacked you on the head,
It took your money and your right,
It's coming back to take your pride…

"Survival of the fittest is a swizz,
Law of the jungle's what it is,
I hope you still think it's O.K.
Now it's you who are the prey…

"Free marketeers were on a roll,
Rollin' in silver and in gold,
But then the markets grew too cold,
So they held out the beggin' bowl.

"Golden days are just a memory,
But that's alright 'cause the market is still free,
The market's free…"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Th€ R€b€£ B£a¢k Dot $ong of th€ Da¥
Less Than Jake, "Conviction Notice" from GNV FLA (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Money can't buy happiness but it sure can pay the rent" is the marquee line from "Conviction Notice," but the rest of the bridge's lyrics are also applicable to this week's theme.

"Welcome to a place where rent meets debt,
Feels like a price on your head—
Money can't buy happiness but it sure can pay the rent.
We always try to buy a better life,
I think we may have overspent,
Mixing pride and dollar signs is easier said than done."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXIX - The University of Chicago Scav Hunt.

A bit o' lighthearted fun before… something darker.

"By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes."
—Wm. Shakespeare,
Macbeth Act IV, Scene I

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 7) Michigan 71-58 Illinois
23-4, Big Ten 10-4

In the second half against the feisty Fighting Illini, I saw the valiant Wolverines do something I had not seen them do in a dog's age, something they did with pleasing regularity earlier in the season: out hustle an opponent. When broadcasters & sportswriters refer nebulously to one club "wanting it more" than another, mostly what they mean is that one club out hustled the other, often by a gaping chasm. Hustle. Hustle, hustle, hustle. An old swim coach had a sign that summed up nicely the importance of hustling: "Hard work beats talent unless talent works hard." After trailing by three at halftime, the valiant Wolverines came out & hustled. When a club hustles, good things result. The valiant Wolverines found more & better looks at the basket, more shots open & uncontested. The valiant Wolverines were able to flummox the feisty Fighting Illini's offense, resulting in empty offensive possessions, turnovers, & desperation. Hustle, hustle, hustle. A basketball squad shoots better when it hustles, gets to the free throw line more often when it hustles, breaks down an opponent's discipline & morale when it hustles. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Now, we should not assume that all is well, that the valiant Wolverines are back to their pre-Murderers' Row form. Michigan had already defeated Illinois earlier in the season, at Illinois. The feisty Fighting Illini were at .500 in league play coming into today's game, & are 7-8 in the Big Ten coming out. Sure, Illinois defeated Indiana, but Illinois also lost to Purdue & Northwestern. I was frankly shocked that last week's A.P. poll had the valiant Wolverines ranked № 7, & even after today's highly satisfying win I'm pretty sure we don't deserve to be ranked in the top ten. But I'm not an Associated Press voter, so what do I know?

Next: At Penn State on Wednesday, 27 February. By then, Michigan will not have won a road game in exactly a month, since prevailing against Illinois 74-60 on 27 January. Three regular reason contests will remain after that, Michigan State & Indiana at home split by a game at Purdue.

Go Blue!

Th€ R€b€£ B£a¢k Dot $ong of th€ Da¥
Five Iron Frenzy, "Vultures" from Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: All this week, the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. will be critiquing our capitalist economy. No, I'm not joining the mindless ranks of modern anti-capitalist, anti-globalization anarchism. Markets have proved to be the best mechanism known for the generation of prosperity & the elimination of poverty, but only a fool would insist that 21st century capitalism is without its flaws, especially in the growing pervasiveness of commercialism & the nihilistic undercurrents of materialism. "Vultures" addresses this last tendency specifically.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

K. Steeze thinks it time to begin Project TRIANGLE, the writing of the first sequel to the Project TROIKA novel. Without the slightest trace of irony, "Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!" We are currently on Tier 3 of TROIKA, editing & the generation of revised drafts. Recently, his Golden State band Super Boat Warp released it's first E.P., Fire All Weapons! after a long gestation, & I suspect he wishes to devote the energy he used to direct to the S.B.W. E.P. to Tier 1 of TRIANGLE, even as he also continues to work on Projects TROIKA (along with The Ace) & PALINDROME. Steeze long-ago discovered that the secret to productivity is staying busy, possibly even too busy. I am only too thrilled at the prospect of returning to the characters & the world created for the TROIKA novel—How I cannot wait, dear readers, to reveal to you the still-secret title!—& seeing where we can take them, how we can grow & change them, in the TRIANGLE novel.

Grow or die.

Operation AXIOM
'Tis Purim, from sunset today 'til sunset to-morrow. Ready your ratchets to blot out the hated name of Haman! We here at The Secret Base are Gentiles of course, but admire greatly the indefatigable vim of our Jewish brethren; we are also an ardent Zionist.

Man, I wish I'd been able to see the original edit of Home for Purim before it was re-shot & released as Home for Thanksgiving. (A prize to whomever first identifies the reference.)

Coming Attractions
{a} Still: The long-delayed successor to "Vote for Kodos" & "Obamboozled."
{b} Status updates on Projects PALINDROME & PARAFFIN.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dr. John, "Desitively Bonnaroo" from the Rhino Hi-Five: Dr. John E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dr. John & the Blues Brothers Band, "Season of the Witch" from Blues Brothers 2000: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Beatniks are out to make it rich…"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I took my daily constitutional this morning for the first time in exactly ten weeks. It took far too long to get back to it after the applecart-upsetting spree of the Christmastide. I chalk all of that up to sloth, with winter's fury providing the flimsy cover under which such moral laxity thrives. That notwithstanding, winter's fury is not to be ignored; I slipped & fell once during today's constitutional & slipped but caught myself twice thereafter. My left thumb took the worst of the fall, as I instinctively braced myself with both hands. Curse me for a fool, I mistook sinister ice with a light dusting of snow for a harmless patch of snow, even though the evidence of mine own eyes clearly indicated that under the battering of the Accursed Sun's death rays since the last snowfall that only snow in much deeper, plow- & shovel-created piles persisted. The daily constitutional must continue, but shall have to move indoors.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: My whole life, my father has insisted that "Spirit in the Sky" would be an infinitely better song as an instrumental, without the lyrics. I don't mind the lyrics nearly as much as does he, but I, too, would be interested in hearing an instrumental rendition. (The lyrics are of course nonsensical heresy, theologically speaking.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Zooey Deschanel Appreciation Day
There is much to like about the television sitcom New Girl beyond the pulchritude of this feature's eponymous subject, such as the terrifying parallels 'twixt your humble narrator & the character Nick Miller (played by Jake Johnson). That said, in last night's episode the character Jessica Day (played by Zooey Deschanel) made a sly but not subtle reference to the show's use of sex appeal to draw in the viewer. She said, "Yeah, I know nothing about men, that's why I'm wearing a short skirt and wool leggings." Just sos we all know where we stand.

I'm dismissive of "true crime" stories & the "trial-of-the-century"-of-the-year mania to which the blighted Fourth Estate repetitively submits, but even I cannot deny that there is something fascinating about a proper heist: Diamonds are forever-link! Which is not to say that I do not wish the thieves to be caught & punished in a most draconian fashion. My fascination should not be mistaken for admiration.

"The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!"
—The Shadow

This Week in Motorsport
This week's "This Week in Motorsport" wraps up our coverage of the winter off-season racing season. There is some N.A.S.C.A.R. buffoonery this weekend, but the next race in which I have even the slightest interest isn't for almost a fortnight. The next World Rally Championship rally isn't for over almost weeks, with the 12 Hours of Sebring (the A.L.M.S. season-opener) & the year's first Formula One grand prix a week after that, & the first IndyCar race a week after that. Enjoy the break before the season proper starts next month.

World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 23 & 24
Race of Macau
Sunday, 18 November 2012

The season-ending pair of races in Macau were for all the marbles. Rob Huff of Chevrolet entered with a healthy lead over his rivals/teammates reigning triple World Champion Yvan Muller ('08, '10, & '11) & Alain Menu, but anything could happen on the tortuous streets of the Macau Special Administrative Region (like the Hong Kong S.A.R., Macau is ruled by the People's Republic of China under the "one country, two systems" doctrine). Huff started from the pole & was leading the first race by a comfortable when all on his own he collided with a wall, severely deranging his car's suspension. He limped his Cruze back to the pits & scored no points. Meanwhile, a massive pile-up at the insanely tight Lisboa corner held up the majority of the field, letting the leading half-dozen cars streak into the distance. Muller won the race with Menu second & Tiago Monteiro of Honda a surprise third, in only the Civic's third W.T.C.C. weekend. In the second race, featuring an inverted starting grid, the Chevy trio started eighth, ninth, & tenth but managed to finish first, second, & third—Menu, Huff, & Muller. Rob Huff is the 2012 World Touring Car Champion! Menu was runner-up with Muller in third, poetic given Muller's responsibility for effectively ending Menu's championship bid at the previous rounds, in Shanghai. Huff claimed five victories over the season, down on both Menu's six & Muller's nine, but finished the year with more points—& the world championship—due to his superior consistency, not winning as many races but scoring points more consistently than either of the fiery Francophones.

The Macau Grand Prix is an ancient (as these things go) festival of racing, featuring multiple classes over the course of a weekend, from Formula 3 single-seaters to the World Touring Cars to motorcycles & nearly everything else under the Accursed Sun. The Guia Circuit is quite long for a street circuit, a lap being nearly four miles. 'Tis a proper circuit, comparing favorably with the Circuit de Monaco, the most iconic & idiosyncratic of all racing circuits. The marshals & their cranes were incredibly quite to clear up the first-lap kerfuffle, again comparing favorably to the legendary Monaco marshals. Mayhap being wee, oddball polity is the key to having a spectacular street circuit? Either way, Macau looks a grand place to race.

Next: The 2013 W.T.C.C. begins at Monza with the Race of Italy in March. I've no idea if/when television coverage will be broadcast in the U.S.A.

The German N.A.S.C.A.R.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (German Touring Car Masters)
Round 1
Hockenheimring, Race 1 (Germany)
Sunday, 29 April 2012

Round 2
EuroSpeedway Lausitz (Germany)
Sunday, 6 May 2012

Round 3
Brands Hatch, Indy Circuit (England)
Sunday, 20 May 2012

Round 4
Red Bull Ring (Austria)
Sunday, 3 June 2012

Round 5
Norisring (Germany)
Sunday, 1 July 2012

Round 6
Nürburgring (Germany)
Sunday, 19 August 2012

Round 7
Zandvoort Circuit (The Netherlands)
Sunday, 26 August 2012

Round 8
Motorsport Arena Oschersleben (Germany)
Sunday, 23 September 2012

Round 9
Circuit Ricardo Tormo (Spain)
Sunday, 30 September

Round 10
Hockenheimring, Race 2 (Germany)
Sunday, 21 October 2012

The D.T.M. was the least of Speed's off-season offerings. This is curious given that it is likely also the most popular of the four. "The German N.A.S.C.A.R." surely seems harsh, given my well-documented disdain for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing's principal offering, the (sponsor) Cup Series (shorthanded as "N.A.S.C.A.R." for brevity/clarity), but it is fair on two important counts. The D.T.M., like N.A.S.C.A.R., is immensely popular in its native country. (I find the popularity of both inexplicable, but set that aside as an overly subjective criteria.) Also like N.A.S.C.A.R., the D.T.M. occupies an unholy middle ground 'twixt a one-make "spec" series & a formula-based open series. The cars used in the D.T.M. are not identical spec cars, but the formula by which their different manufacturers produce them is so restrictive that they might as well be. In addition, despite being made by three different manufacturers--Audi, B.M.W., & Mercedes-Benz--the cars share many identical components, like in a spec series. Each manufacturer is responsible for some parts that go in the other two factories' cars. By way of example, though not necessarily accurate one, Audi might make the suspension bits that we be in stalled in its cars plus those of B.M.W. & Mercedes-Benz; B.M.W. might make the fuel delivery system that goes into all three makes' cars. The real kicker comes in the restrictiveness of the formula. A genuine case arose this year, B.M.W.'s first back in the sport after an absence of many years (spent focused on, amongst other series, Le Mans, which a B.M.W. won overall in 1999, & Formula One, where B.M.W. competed 'til 2009 as first an engine supplier & later a full constructor): B.M.W. built a V8 engine, as specified by the series, but had to make the engine physically larger than necessary in order to comply with the regulations. Legislating the maximum displacement & number of combustion chambers is, for good or ill, nigh-universal across contemporary motorsport. This was the first time I'd ever heard of the external dimensions of the engine being prescribed. All series balance performance in search of closer competition, but this goes too far. If B.M.W. can make an engine with the same displacement & theoretical output as Audi's & Mercedes-Benz's but a smaller overall size, thereby gaining B.M.W. a performance advantage by reducing the weight of the engine, why shouldn't they be allowed to pursue that avenue of advantage? Force the others to innovate to keep up. If you don't want any individual make to have that kind of performance advantage, why not just have everyone drive identical cars, as in a spec series? There are advantages to both open formulae & closed specifications in racing series; the D.T.M. maximizes the disadvantages of both in a single package.

The racing was O.K., but not as entertaining as the World Touring Car Championship, the British Touring Car Championship, or the G.T.1 World Championship. The biggest problem was the fragility of the cars. I like my racing clean, meaning free of contact—one of the many things I dislike about N.A.S.C.A.R.—but I also like a machine that can, to borrow Timex's old slogan, "Take a licking & keep on ticking." The D.T.M. machinery were the most fragile car I've ever seen, & that includes the open-wheeled machines—supposed to be the least hardy in motorsport—used in F1 & IndyCar. The drivers behaved as if they were in a more rough & tumble touring car series, but as soon as contact was made cars immediately retired with bodywork & mechanical damage. Every malfunction meant immediate retirement, the worst I'd ever seen. In F1 & Indycar, where contact is almost universally a hindrance, cars come into the pits to have their front wing/nose cone assemblies replaced. This is the only feasible repair to keep a car competitive, as anything more extensive would take too long, but that front-end change cures innumerable ills. In G.T. or touring car racing, bodywork is routinely mangled by ill-advised, overly ambitious moves, & the cars simply continue. In shorter races, you soldier on; in endurance races, you bite the bullet, make the necessary repairs, & try to earn the time back on track. The D.T.M. cars combined the fragility of open-wheeled machinery with the time-consuming repairs of road-based machinery. Once again, the worst of both worlds.

I watched the D.T.M. because it was on & not much other racing was, because it was just as easy to watch both the D.T.M. & G.T.1 since I'd already be sitting down to watch G.T.1. In the first few races, I was curious, since I know that the D.T.M. is highly popular & highly regarded, home to both former & future F1 pilots. This worked against the D.T.M., since I'd dislike it less if it was just lame; instead, it's both lame & unjustifiably popular, a poisonous combination. My dad & I missed the season finale at Hockenheim because of a D.V.R. snafu, but that's no huge loss. (With Comcast, "all fouled up" is "situation normal.") The best part of the whole season was getting to see the Red Bull Ring, the old Österreichring that used to host the F1 Austrian Grand Prix. That is a great circuit! I would love to see more racing series visit the Red Bull Ring. Österreich is now two-for-two, since the Salzburgring, site of the W.T.C.C.'s Race of Austria, is also wicked sweet. Also, it's always nice to see Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, the stone-faced boss of Audi, standing in the pits. So, some good came out of the incredibly overrated D.T.M., but given my druthers I'd watch a good dozen other motor racing series before settling for the D.T.M.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Soulutions, "Do Right" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present… Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs Up)


"Be good, do right,
Be kind to that beautiful girl,
Hold her close, tell her why
That you want to be a part of her world,
Don't be scared, do be fair,
Try to laugh about the worries and cares,
Give her life, give a smile,
Don't be cruel to that beautiful girl."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dr. John, "Right Place, Wrong Time" from the Rhino Hi-Five: Dr. John E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXVIII - St. John "Jack" Philby (1885-1960), spy, explorer, Arabist, &, it must be mentioned—fairly or not—the father of the traitor Kim Philby. ("St. John" was his name, by no means was he a saint.)

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
King Apparatus, "Michael & Anne" from Marbles (T.L.A.M.)


"Michael and Anne are thinkin' it up,
A story to tell when the cops show up…"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 4) Michigan 79-71 Penn State
22-4, Big Ten 9-4

Never let it be said that we here at The Secret Base do not see a dark cloud behind every silver lining. The valiant Wolverines earned a victory & that is reason to be glad. The victory earned was over the Big Ten's worst club, though, & the valiant Wolverines were less than confidence-inspiring in the doing. Sophomore guard Trey Burke scored a career high twenty-nine points—& all congratulations to him—but that also means the rest of the squad managed a mere fifty points. (I know, fifty point by every else doesn't seem that bad in light of last Tuesday's fifty-two points, Burke's included, against the dastardly Spartans, but with no disrespect intended it must also be noted that the ferocious Nittany Lions, winless in league play, are hardly the dastardly Spartans.) Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III reappeared as a potent offensive weapon, but junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. disappeared. Freshman forward Nik Stauskas was highly efficient on offense, but highly deficient on defense. The long & short of it is thus: The ferocious Nittany Lions were the perfect opponent to play after we failed the test of "Murderers' Row," but the victory was not the authoritative reassertion of the valiant Wolverines' dominant early-season form that would have steadied the nerves frayed by the recent string of defeats.

The best part of today's game was a visit with the commentators by Cazzie Russell, the Wolverine great from the 1960s after whom the Crisler Center is nicknamed "The House that Cazzie Built." Woot!

Next: Illinois, a club the valiant Wolverines defeated on the road, at the Crisler Center in one week's time. A note of caution: the feisty Fighting Illini are not the same squad they were back in January. Neither, it seems, are the valiant Wolverines. "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"

The valiant Wolverines are ranked № 4 based on ranking that came out before last week's shellacking by the dastardly Spartans. The valiant Wolverines won't be ranked № 4 in tomorrow's new A.P. poll.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Maurice Jarre, "Main Titles" (from Lawrence of Arabia) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A small faction within me wishes to see the recently-released motion picture A Good Day to Die Hard even as the sober majority struggles to make them see reason, that the film must surely be unspeakably uninspired & ultimately saddening. This quibble has occasioned the question: Is Die Hard in the running for the movie franchise with the all-time worst titles? The answer, clearly, is no, for though Die Hard has some awfully awful titles, the undisputed & arguably invincible champion is the Fast & Furious franchise, a juggernaut of cinematic mediocrity so poorly titled that it is difficult even to know what to call the franchise, The Fast and the Furious or Fast & Furious?

The Champ
The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Toyko Drift
Fast & Furious
Fast Five
Fast & Furious 6

2 Fast 2 Furious, quite possibly the worst title of all time, maybe even the worst title possible, is itself enough to deny Die Hard the championship belt.

The Contender
Die Hard
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Live Free or Die Hard
A Good Day to Die Hard

Die Hard really should be regarded as two separate series, the three films produced from 1988 to 1995 & the ill-conceived latter day sequence, begun only after a gap of twelve years. Star Wars is regarded as two separate series of three films each, no? So, for symmetry's sake only, let us hope there is a third 21st century Die Hard film. The title? I nominate Never Say Die Hard.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Klezmonauts, "Deck the Halls" from Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: This is Lent not the Yuletide, but from the moment I woke up this morning I had a jones for klezmer music & The Klezmonauts & Golem are the only klezmer bands whose music resides in my collection. Oy to the World, despite is unseasonal nature, is exactly the sound I was jonesing to hear.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Operation AXIOM
"Remember the Maine!" One hundred fifteen years ago to the day, 15 February 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded & sank in Havana Harbor, the precipitating event of the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War, though largely forgotten today, was a seminal event in our nation's history. It helped to heal the north-south divide that had lingered since the Civil War & saw the United States step out upon the world stage in a way we never had before, directly confronting a European power over her colonies &, in the process, founding our own petite colonial empire. All these years later, no one is certain exactly what befell the Maine—accident or act of war.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day After Valentine's Day
The Proclaimers, "Heaven Right Now" from Persevere (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It occurred to me only too late that such is my disdain for Valentine's Day that picking of heartbreak & love gone awry as the Rebel Black Dot Song of Valentine's Day is the best way to mark that trashiest of holidays. "Scotland's Song" is grand, but "Heaven Right Now" would have been a better R.B.D.S.O.T.D. for Valentine's Day. Better late than never, I suppose.

"She's everythin' a married man
Should look for in a girl,
She's married too but not to you
And that's part of the thrill…

"She's old enough to know of love
And know that this is not,
But young enough to not be willing
To settle for what she's got…"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Operation AXIOM
'Tis the Feast of Saint Valentine. What sense does it make to profane a saint's day by making it a ritual of the crassest, most cynical commercialism in the supposed service of romantic love? Should we re-purpose the Hindu festival of Diwali as an excuse to sell greeting cards, chocolates, & sex toys? Of course not, that would be rightly seen as an act of profound disrespect & probable bigotry. Yet to similarly disparage a Christian festival is fine & dandy. Sure, sure, we don't live in an aggressively secular & anti-religious society, no, not at all. To blazes with "Valentine's Day"!

This orgy of "romance" seems an apropos time to mention that PANDORA has been stalled since the fall, as other divisions of the CADMUS Endeavour have come to the fore. Progress has been made on both Projects EPIMETHEUS & RADIANT. I need to get Operation ÖSTERREICH back on track before I devote any resources to PANDORA. Nevertheless, a resumption of PANDORA at least on a low level must be made a priority.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Proclaimers, "Scotland's Story" from Persevere (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: My favorite lyrics from "Scotland's Story," thus that always stick in my head, are not the crucial words of the song's theme. My favorites:

"Michael McGrory from west Donegal,
You came to Glasgow with nothing at all,
You fought the landlord then the Afrika Korps…"

The thematic words:

"In Scotland's story I read that they came,
The Gael and the Pict, the Angle and Dane,
But so did the Irishman, the Jew, and Ukraine,
They're all Scotland's story and they're all worth the same…

"In Scotland's story I'm told that they came,
The Gael and the Pict, the Angle and Dane,
But where's all the Chinese and Indian names?
They're in my land's story and they're all worth the same…

"All through the story the immigrants came,
The Gael and the Pict, the Angle and Dane,
From Pakistan, England, and from the Ukraine,
We're all Scotland's story and we're all worth the same,
Your Scotland's story is worth just the same."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I wasn't thinking ahead last night when I declared that I'd wear my principally maize Michigan ballcap today as a show of solidarity with the valiant Wolverines after the dispiriting loss to the dastardly Spartans. Today is Ash Wednesday, just about the only day of the year when I go forth intentionally hatless so as not to scrub the ashes from my forehead. I wore a principally blue Michigan button in the ballcap's stead.

It sometimes slips my mind that I sport a moustache, at least insofar as I often forget that I am now anything but anonymous. Clerks & repeat passersby recognize me at a glance. My whiskers are even more distinctive than my elephantine bulk. I suppose I miss my anonymity, though of course I cannot be sure of how much of what I perceived existed was genuine & how much was self-induced puffery.

Strangers love to compliment my moustache. This is not puffery; several times a week a complete stranger, a lad or lass I don't know from Adam will shout a compliment as we pass in opposite directions. They slow their gait, they turn their heads, their eyes pop out of their sockets. Whenever afforded more than just the time to shout "Thank you" over my shoulder I respond to the standard line, "I love your moustache!" with, "Thank you. Imagine how much I must love it!" 'Tis true. That my whiskers put a smile on the face of many of my fellow citizens is naught but a fringe benefit. The joy I daily extract from spying my reflection is reason enough for me.

I caught The Loose Ties on stage at The Flint Local 432 last Saturday. 'Twas their last show 'til the summer & I nearly missed them. The Local, reborn & relocated, is as it ever was—barebones with precious few places to sit & no where to put your winter coat. I try not to arrive too much earlier than when the band I've come to see is to take the stage. That is not without it perils, however. I was slightly delayed on Saturday & by the time I arrived The Loose Ties were on stage & beginning to play. These old bones skanked & clapped & had a blast. Their set was over too soon, but all sets at The Local are short, though the sets of the aggressively mediocre bands seem to go on for ages.

The butterfly the two girls manning The Local's door stamped on my left hand had the stamina of Atlas. There are yet a few traces remaining as I type these lines on Wednesday evening, this despite daily showers, frequent hand washing, & at least once daily dish washing. On Sunday evening, noting that it was curiously persistent, I considered using pumice—the all-purpose arse-kicker—but decided instead to see how long the stamp would remain. I am greatly surprised to find it yet lingering, in however diminished a form. What was it about that particular hand stamp?

Operation AXIOM | Urbi et Orbi
I received a text message from my pal Ska Army as I was leaving church this morning. It read, "Happy Ash Wednesday, my friend!" He's a heathen, but respectful towards the faithful. I thanked him in my reply, but could not resist chiding him that "solemn" might be a more appropriate exhortation than "happy." Prayer, fasting, & almsgiving, the manifold splendors of Lent, await us in the weeks ahead. For myself, I hope that I will make proper use of this holy season to lessen the distractions in my life & focus my mind, my heart, & my soul on His Truth.

"Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room,
and the bride her chamber."
—Joel 2:15-16

This Lent, amongst other things, I will strive to read the Bible every day, starting today with the gloomy, doomy, & wrathful Book of Joel.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Ash Wednesday
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, "Thrift Shop" courtesy The Watergirl (The Watergirl)

Commentary: I'm neither hip nor with it. I've never been hip nor with it. I'm so uncool that describe being uncool as being "neither hip nor with it." "With it"? What in the high holy heck? Fortunately, I have chums like The Watergirl who take pity on my lack of pop cultural savvy. I'd never heard nor even heard of "Thrift Shop" 'fore this morn, but now I've got my finger on the pulse—or something.

Yes, I know, this is one of those distractions mentioned above. Being Christian isn't about claiming to be perfect, being Christian is about acknowledging one's failing & striving to do better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 8) Michigan State 75-52 Michigan (№ 4)
21-4, Big Ten 8-4

Put a fork in us—we're done. We choked. We were chased out of the Breslin Center with our tails between our legs. The dastardly Spartans' coach, Tom Izzo, said, "We played our best game & they played probably they're worst game, don't kid yourself." He has a point, but only about the massive twenty-three-point margin of defeat. We'd have lost this game regardless, though perhaps by a slightly less embarrassing score. We choked, & not for the first time. We were stunned by the crowd & blitzed by our opponent's superior vim & enthusiasm, & not for the first time. We're not done because we lost to the dastardly Spartans. We're not done because we lost another road game. We're done because we lost on the road to the dastardly Spartans in exactly the same lamentable manner in which we lost on the road to the hated Buckeyes (13 January, 56-53) & the wily Hoosiers (2 February, 81-73). No, that's not strictly true; tonight's loss was much, much worse, as we never mounted a serious comeback, never put up much of a fight at all. We're done—no Big Ten championship, no run deep into the N.C.A.A. Tournament. All this season's promise has come to naught, all this team's talent proved illusory, because we have neither composure nor fortitude in the face of a hostile host crowd. We lost by less than thirty tonight only because our scrubs were slightly better than their scrubs when nothing was on the line. I will wear my Michigan ballcap tomorrow in solidarity with the valiant Wolverines, but do not mistake my loyalty for confidence. We're not a top ten team. We're not going to make any noise during March Madness. We should strive to win every game for the remainder of the season because that's what sportsmen do. 1-3 during the four-game "murderers' row" stretch of our season, all three losses coming on the road & the sole victory coming in overtime time. We were once—briefly—№ 1 in the A.P. poll. What a sad, sick joke that seems now.

Next: Penn State within the friendly confines of the Crisler Center, on Sunday, & then a full week off 'til we face Illinois, also at home.

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
Rally Monkey
If for no other reason, this is why you should love the W.R.C.: Colin's Crest-link.
The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lily Allen, "Cheryl Tweedy" from the Smile E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: A song of the perils of comparing oneself not to a celebrity, but to the idealized image of a celebrity. Foremost amongst those perils, using the inability to meet an impossible standard—perfection—as a justification for discouragement & indolence.

"I wish my live was a little less seedy,
Why am I always so greedy?
Wish I looked just like Cheryl Tweedy,
I know I never will, I know I never will…"

Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy):

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Ralph Stanley, "O Death" from O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I vacillate 'twixt finding Southern folklore about outwitting/physically injuring the Devil and/or Death charming & finding it supremely irritating. In the case of "O Death" the plaintive voice of Ralph Stanley carries the day for charming.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXVII - The Daigo Fukuryū Maru & the disastrous fallout from the CASTLE BRAVO nuclear test.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Saturday, 9 February 2013
Wisconsin 65-62 Michigan (№ 3) (O.T.)
21-3, Big Ten 8-3

How on Earth can any basketball club miss that many open layups? We must acquire the ability to win road games against equal opposition lest all this club's glittering potential & overwhelming talent come to naught. We are yet a young club, but that won't matter down the line. The N.C.A.A. Tournament is the most ruthlessly effective sorting mechanism that exists in sport, & if we don't learn to win on the road we will be discarded as chaff instead of advanced as wheat. "Win or go home," at present we look like we will be going home early.

Next: The Murderers' Row finale, at (№ 12) Michigan State on Tuesday. We are 1-2 in the first three games of this Murderers' Row stretch of the season, both losses coming on the road, as is the upcoming duel; panic, pessimism, & predictions of doom will hold sway if the valiant Wolverines do not prevail against the dastardly Spartans.

Go Blue!

This Week in Motorsport
Rally Monkey
World Rally Championship
Round 2
Rally Sweden
Thursday-Sunday, 7-10 February 2013

There is yet no television coverage of the W.R.C., but videos at the website have furnished some succor. Sébastien Ogier of Volkswagen was the surprising/not-that-surprising winner of the Rally Sweden. Surprising since this was only V.W.'s second round of the W.R.C., against the tried & tested machinery from Citroën & Ford. Not that surprising since Ogier finished second to reigning nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb ('04, '05, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '11, & '12) of Citroën in the season-opening Rallye de Monte-Carlo, & had seven career W.R.C. victories prior to Sweden, all from his days as "the other Sébastien" at Citroën. The former Ford Finns Mikko Hirvonen, of Citroën, & Jari-Matti Ltvala, of Volkswagen, were well behind the dueling Frenchmen: Hirvonen crashed out on the first day & Latvala finished fourth behind the Ford of Mads Østberg. Ogier became only the second non-Scandinavian to win Rally Sweden since it became a round of the W.R.C. in '73.

Rally Sweden is run entirely on ice & snow, on bespoke spiked tires. The cars rocket through the snow-blanketed forests of Sweden (& Norway, a little bit) at speeds up to 200 kilometers per hour (approximately 125 miles per hour)—on snow & ice. It is one of the truly unique sights in all of motorsport, exotic & bizarre & mad. The W.R.C. is such glorious madness!

Next: Mexico, in a month's time.

World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 21 & 22
Race of China
Sunday, 4 November 2012

With the drivers' championship a three-man race 'twist the trio of Chevrolet factory pilots, things took a dramatic turn on the Shanghai International Circuit. In Round 21, Alain Menu started from the poll with reigning triple World Champion Yvan Muller ('08, '10, & '11) in second, & third Chevy man Rob Huff starting from fourth. Muller tried to pass Menu by going the long way 'round a outside, a move the Cruze is able to put on every other car in the W.T.C.C., but which was never going to work against an identical factory Cruze. Muller & Menu collided, sending Muller wide; Huff slotted into second behind Menu, & when Muller got back on the racing line he was tagged from behind first by the B.M.W. of Norbert Michelisz & then by the privateer Cruze of Colin Turkington. Muller had to retire with suspension damage, while Menu & Huff drove home in a Chevy one-two. In Round 22, with the previous race's starting grid reversed, the three works Cruzes were journeying as a train to the front, eventually passing the pole-sitting B.M.W. of Tom Coronel in order, Menu, Muller, & Huff. Muller & Huff had entered the weekend tied atop the championship standings, but Huff had opened up a significant gap with Muller's retirement. Muller made a desperate & ill-advised attempt to pass Menu, sending the Swiss's Cruze skipping sideways & allowing Huff to shoot into the lead of the race. Muller allowed Menu to pass, an attempt to avoid receiving a penalty from the stewards of the meet for causing a collision, but all for naught. The Chevys finished one-two-three, Huff-Menu-Muller, but after the race Muller was given a time penalty that dropped him down to thirteenth, out of the points. Huff finished second & third, while Muller failed to score in either race. Barring disaster in the season-ending duo at Macau, Muller has handed the drivers' crown to Huff.

Next: The Race of Macau, held two weeks later last fall, but to be broadcast only one week later, next weekend. That will draw the winter off-season racing season to a close, with no more races 'til March.

Coming Attractions
{a} the long-delayed relaunch of the successor to "Vote for Kodos" & "Obamboozled"
{b} "Project MERCATOR"
{c} "Project GLOWWORM"

Also, though there are no specific plans, "The Savage Wars of Peace" is long overdue, to address the French intervention in Mali, the continuing & perilous inaction on Syria, & the ballyhoo over "drone war," secret Justice Department memoranda, & the debate over the president's & the Congress's war-making powers.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Pogues, "Streams of Whiskey" from The Very Best of The Pogues (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 9 Februar
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Danny's Song" from …Have a Ball (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Everything's Ruined" from Fountains of Wayne (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: In a telephonic conversation, I explained to a kinsman that Star Trek will never return to television, not in a form either of us would recognize as Gene Roddenberry's marvelous creation. I then told him that as fortune would have it Fountains of Wayne had furnished the perfect song for such a dismal yet irrevocable conclusion: "Everything's Ruined." Should that not suffice, I further explained, there are the several versions of "Everything Sucks," by the Reel Big Fish, or the unrelated "Everything Sucks," by MxPx. Doom, doom, doom.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Pietasters, "Something Better" from Oolooloo (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: These last two songs have been paragons of what I wish the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. to be, songs selected almost randomly, without forethought or scheming, simply because upon being heard they sounded "right"—captured a certain something of & about that moment in time. I love our series like SKApril, the Hallowe'en music festival, & the secular/sacred dichotomy before & during the Christmastide, but for the bulk of the year I wish the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. to be spontaneous. Sometimes 'tis, sometimes 'tis not. Yesterday & today, 'twas & 'tis, & my countenance is marked by a broad, persistent grin.

Mittwoch, 6 Januar
Le PigBat, "Monsieur Hyde" from The Aquabats! and Horchata Records Present Rice Capades Music Sampler, Vol. 1 (Captain Thumbs-up)

Commentary: Le PigBat, A.K.A. The Pigbat, is an ally of The Aquabats! I recall, though I cannot cite my source, encountering a description of The Pigbat as The Aquabats'! attorney. The lyrics of "Monsieur Hyde" are in both English & French, & as I do not speak French this poses a problem of interpretation, but the general thrust of the song is that the female chorus great M. Hyde as "Dr. Jekyll" & M. Hyde denies being Dr. Jekyll.

"(Hello, Doctor Jekyll,)
Non je n' suis pas le Docteur Jekyll,
(Hello, Doctor Jekyll,)
Mon nom est Hyde, Mister Hyde…"

And it goes on like that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 3) Michigan 76-74 Ohio State (№ 10) (O.T.)
21-2, Big Ten 8-2

Tim Hardaway Jr. is my hero. When things looked bleak for the valiant Wolverines, the junior dropped timely three after timely three to prevent the hated Buckeyes from building a lead. I am personally dubious of our being a legitimate top ten club without the lynchpin of our defense, Jordan Morgan, still out with an ankle injury, & we were slashed for far too many points in the paint tonight, but down the stretch our defensive grew in intensity & tenacity, a wonderful sign for the remainder of the season. For much of the game one would have to say Aaron Craft > Trey Burke, but in the closing moments & throughout overtime time Burke was all over Craft on the defensive end, deflating the hated Buckeyes' comeback attempt. Woot!

I do have complain about one play, though. Late in the second half, the valiant Wolverines lead 68-65 & had just made a defensive stop; on the ensuing possession, they had every chance to made it a two-possession lead. Instead, small forward Nik Stauskas (freshman) threw the ball directly to a hated Buckeye, who immediately elevated & made a three-point shot, trying the game at 68. Stauskas could not have thrown the ball any more directly to the Ohio State player if he'd tried. I freely admit that as egregious as the error was, it wouldn't both me as much if Stauskas wasn't a dirty Canuck. But he is a dirty Canuck.

Next: Murderers' Row continues: At Wisconsin on Saturday, at (№ 12) Michigan State one week from tonight. Let us hope Morgan's ankle will be healed sooner rather than later.

Go Blue!

Urbi et Orbi
On Sunday, Father McInnis, as is his wont, instructed us in the lyrics of a song for Lent he'd devised for the amusement & edification of local Catholic schoolchildren. He sang & we clapped, & then he scolded us that no, no, we wouldn't get off that lightly. So, we all sang his delightful little song, though he did mercifully excuse us from performing the accompanying dance (which is all upper body movements, due to Father's hip surgery & the typical "dance" moves that accompany song sung by unruly masses of little children). Father McInnis's Lenten song, sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques":

"Prayer, fasting, and alms-giving,
We are meant to repent,
Forty days of sacrifice,
Being super extra nice,
This is Lent, this is Lent."

Urbi et Orbi | Project MERCATOR
I don't fit in with my brother knights in the Knights of Columbus, but I don't fit in with them as well as I've never fit in with any group to which I've belonged. We've held a fish fry the first Friday of every month since October. Last Friday's fish fry was our last "tune up" before Lent, when we'll be frying fish every Friday, seven Fridays in a row, including Good Friday. Last Friday was my first time flying solo on the French fryer, having previously acted as second to & in relief of my mentor, the Mess Sergeant. At tonight's meeting, the Mess Sergeant reported that he'd heard good things about how I performed. My heart didn't swell with pride, but I was thankful for the kind words all the same.

Also, for reasons that will never be clear to be I was asked by the Grand Knight to serve as our Council's membership director, a position for which I'm almost uniquely unqualified since I've belonged to Holy Redeemer my whole life & yet I know almost none of my fellow parishioners, & all those I do know I know from outside the parish. But under the protocols of Project MERCATOR this was insufficient reason to refuse the clarion call of duty. So now I'm organizing a membership drive for just after Easter. In the worst case scenario I could be excommunicated from the Church, but the odds on that are pretty long.

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

This Week in Motorsport
World Touring Car Championship
Rounds 19 & 20
Race of Japan
Sunday, 21 October 2012

I looked forward to the Race of Japan to see two things: the new Honda Civic entry in the W.T.C.C., & mighty Suzuka. The Civic was reasonably fast, though hampered by the usual teething problems for a new car in its first races; Honda should be very satisfied to come away with Tiago Montiero's ninth place finish in Round 19 & tenth place in Round 20. There are four more races to see from '12, four more chances to work out those teething problems, & with Montiero & '09 World Champion Gabriele Tarquini set for a full-season campaign in '13, Honda's fortunes in the W.T.C.C. look bright. Alas, the touring cars competed on only a fraction of the Suzuka Curcuit used for the F1 Japanese Grand Prix! The Esses were there, but the truncated circuit cut out the Degnar Curves, the Spoon, the mega corner 130R, & the treacherous Casio Triangle. The W.T.C.C. cars raced at Suzuka, but it wasn't the mighty Suzuka! that is the second-best track in all the world. The dominant works Chevrolets finished one-two-three in the first race, but were locked out of the podium in the second race, finished four-five-six; colorful character Stefano D'Aste won his second race of the year in his privateer B.M.W., after an initial victory at Austria's Salzburgring in May. D'Aste's racing suit is unique, being colored to resemble a leisure suit—the "coat" alternating in the red & green of the Italian flag with a white V to resemble a shirt & tie, & white "pants." (For the Race of the U.S.A., D'Aste had a one-off Uncle Sam racing suit.) No one of good will could begrudge such a character his success.

British Touring Car Championship
Rounds 28-30
Brands Hatch, Grand Prix Circuit
Sunday, 21 October 2012

The B.T.C.C. season came full circle, ending where it began, at Brands Hatch, albeit at the slightly longer (or at least less ridiculously short) Grand Prix Circuit. The sky was impenetrably gray throughout & rain fell during the day's second & third races. I thought this a fitting send-off for as thoroughly British an exercise as the B.T.C.C. The factory Hondas & M.G.s & privateer B.M.W.s that had been dominant all season long were largely dominant on the final day of competition, though in a brilliant drive through the rain an older Ford upset the applecart to claim the driver, Árón Smith's, maiden victory. Gordon Shedden of the works Honda team was crowned British Touring Car Champion, with his teammate triple champion Matt Neal ('05, '06, & '11) second in the overall standings & double champion Jason Plato ('01 & '10) of M.G. third. Heaven knows the B.T.C.C. isn't perfect, but it's fun.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Louis Prima, "Pennies from Heaven" from Elf: Music from the Major Motion Picture (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Explorers' Club
№ CCCXXVI - The "Filthy Thirteen," Demolition Section of Headquarters Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, United States Army.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Saturday, 2 February 2013
(№ 3) Indiana 81-73 Michigan (№ 1)
20-2, Big Ten 7-2

We are in serious trouble here, fellow Wolverines. I admire the never-say-die spirit of the lads at & their attempts to put a brave face on Saturday's defeat, to explain that the valiant Wolverines will never face an opposing home court as hostile as Bloomington's Assembly Hall, but we need to face stark reality, no matter how harsh: we have failed both of our biggest tests of the season, road games against the hated Buckeyes & the wily Hoosiers, as both times because we were caught flatfooted & inept in the first ten minutes of the game. The valiant Wolverines are young, one of the youngest clubs in Division I 'ball, but opponents are not going to show mercy just because we're young. We are not good enough to win a forty-minute-long basketball game against quality opposition after talking a siesta throughout the first ten minutes. Assembly Hall might be a tough place to play, but unless the N.C.A.A.'s rules are substantially revised we won't be able to play all of our games inside the friendly confines of the Crisler Center. Many more Big Ten road games lie ahead, as well as the Big Ten & N.C.A.A. Tournaments. If we don't get our collective act together on the road, if we don't stop acting like deer caught in headlights while our opponents build double-digit leads at the start of each game, we might as well pack it in, turn off the lights, & reallocate the basketball program's resources to the School of Music, Theater, & Dance. I'm not upset that we lost to Indiana, I'm not even disappointed. The '12-'13 wily Hoosiers are a very good basketball club, maybe even a great club. No, my ire is roused solely by the manner in which we lost, the lackluster way we sleepwalked through the first half of the first half. I'm irate because this isn't the first time this has happened. We were blitzed at the start of yesterday's game in almost the exact same way we were blitzed against the hated Buckeyes on 13 January, a 56-53 loss. Twice we were caught off guard on the road, twice we were found completely unprepared to play, & that's simply unacceptable.

Next: At home against (№ 11) Ohio State on Tuesday, a game we must win to revenge the first road loss, & to nip in the bud any rumors of a mid-season collapse after an embarrassing road loss. After that, more difficult road games at Wisconsin & at (№ 13) Michigan State. The road ahead isn't easy, but winning a Big Ten championship is never easy.

Go Blue!

Operation AXIOM
Seventy years ago to the day, 3 February 1943, the "Four Chaplains" & over six hundred others were killed in action when the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was sunk by a U-boat of the Nazi Kriegsmarine (Wayback Machine).

Three hundred seventy-six years ago, less certainly to the day, 3 February 1637, tulip bulb prices in the Dutch Republic reached their zenith, signally the economically devastating end of the Tulip Mania, the first recorded speculative bubble. (Note to self: the Tulip Mania would make the excellent subject for a future episode of "The Explorers' Club.')

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Proclaimers, "Free Market" from Notes & Rhymes (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Operation AXIOM
'Tis Groundhog Day, & this morn Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. My hope is that the groundhog is wrong; I would love to threaten an elaborate & poetic revenge should the groundhog's prediction prove true, but such a threat would be nothing more than bluster. Aside from the at best dubious morality of punitive measures against a large ground squirrel for a bizarre German-derived tradition* in which it is an unwitting pawn, I have time neither to plan nor to execute an elaborate & poetic revenge across state lines. So, I leave Phil to his keepers & will continue to hope that we have at least six more weeks of winter's fury, if not more. I'm not talking "always winter & never Christmas" here, but I was utterly deprived of winter in '11-'12, so it seems only fair that I be allowed be to enjoy extra winter in '12-'13. Fair is fair.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mu330, "Raw Fish" from Ultra Panic (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Another song that has absolutely nothing to do with fish, other than to denounce the ignorance of anyone who would reject sushi simply because it is raw fish. This little theme has more than run its course, don't you agree?

*It seems redundant to call any German-derived tradition bizarre.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Ditty Bops, "Fish to Fry" from Moon Over the Freeway (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Not a song about frying fish, not at all, but after "Fish Heads" yesterday I've got a jones to get a little fish theme going, & with the Friday fish fry later today The Ditty Bops stepped up with a timely contribution.