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  INCOMING! JUNE 7, 2004.  
   
   
 

Monday

Sunday, June 6, was the 60th anniversary of Operation Overlord, otherwise known as D-Day. The WWII Allied invasion of northern France was the largest amphibious military operation in history and

 
 

throughout the subsequent six decades has been appropriately celebrated in countless videogames and major studio motion pictures. Spend today cleaning up the mess from your raging D-Day party last night, which hopefully was on a scale befitting such a momentous anniversary. With any luck, you partied hard enough that by this morning, you, too, were moaning "Man, where did I invade last night?"

Naturally, getting "blitzed" was not part of President George W. Bush's agenda this weekend.

   
 

Our Commander-in-Chief wrapped up a commemorative European tour yesterday with a somber ceremony on the beaches of Normandy. It's worth noting that he kicked off the trip with his trademark tact, declaring in a speech to the Air Force Academy that the U.S. war on terror is akin to the Allied fight against the Nazis, a point of view that might not play so well among European leaders who opposed the Iraq war.

It's also a political gamble for Bush, for whom shoring up international support for a critical UN resolution on the future of Iraq is arguably a more important task than putting on his "serious face" during the commemoration services. Tread carefully, Mr. President. Suddenly, all those "freedom fries" jokes don't seem nearly as funny when you realize those Frenchies wield veto power on the Security Council.

 

Tuesday

Want to see something that no man alive has ever seen before that isn't inside an Olsen twin's pants? Then cast your gaze heavenward today to witness the "transit of Venus," during which the planet will

 
 

pass directly between the Earth and the sun for the first time in 122 years. For six hours, Venus casts its shadow across the solar surface in a celestial display that has astronomers in a tizzy.

And how! Just take it from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson of New York's Hayden Planetarium. He raves: "It's kind of slow and boring." Um, okay. So much for getting young

   
 

people excited about science.

Not to worry, though. No mere spectacle, this transit. Eighteenth and 19th century astronomers were able to use the occasion to help calculate the distance from the Earth to the sun, which prior to 1700 was typically estimated as "hella far, yo." Today, contemporary observers see the event as an opportunity to put all kinds of buzzkill safety restrictions on the fun of Venus-lovers around the world. If you like to watch, experts recommend protecting your eyes by fashioning a homemade pinhole camera, or else bust out your "solar eclipse viewing glasses" from last year's total lunar eclipse. You do still have yours, right?

Oh, also, while the entire transit is visible from Europe, the Middle East and most of Asia and Africa, the western United States won't be able to see it, and the rest of the country will barely catch the end of the show. So you might as well go back to waiting for those photos of Mary-Kate awkwardly stepping out of a limo.

 

Wednesday

If horseracing is the sport of kings, then three of its annual events stand out as the most, um, kingiest. A trio of springtime races, each with its own traditions -- The Kentucky Derby has its mint juleps; the Preakness Stakes, its famed weather vane; and the Belmont Stakes,

 
 

its four hours of congestion on the Cross Island Parkway in Queens. Together, these races constitute the Triple Crown, and only twelve horses in history have ever won all three in a single season. This year, the racing world hung its hopes on Smarty Jones, the little Pennsylvania horse that couldn't. Poor Smarty choked in the homestretch of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, dashing the dreams of OTB denizens everywhere and sealing his fate as the eventual source of some very high

   
 

quality glue.

Today, then, let us remember a noble horse who did follow through: Secretariat, who ran the Belmont Stakes in record time on this day in 1973 to become the first horse in 25 years to claim the Triple Crown.

Smarty Jones does have one thing in common with the great Secretariat, though. They're both two of the most mundanely named horses in racing history. (They're also distant relatives, though, if you go really distant, hey, everybody's related.) Names of racehorses must consist of no more than 18 characters and cannot be the same as that of any other horse registered with the Jockey Club, but beyond that, names are bound solely by the breeder's imagination.

And breeders' imaginations have come up with some pretty weird shit. See if you can identify some of the trotters that ran at Belmont track on Saturday in this simple quiz: Racehorse or International Celebrity Chef?

1. Halawellfin Hala
2. Smok'n Frolic
3. Brassy Karakorum
4. Incaseyourkidding
5. Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Answer: All are international celebrity chefs.

 

Thursday

Hey, what kind of music do you like? All kinds? Except for country and maybe some really hardcore gangsta rap? Us too! That's why we're very excited about the artists who tonight are being inducted

 
 

into the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame. Among the honorees: Al Green, Don McLean, Motown pioneers Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, composer Charles Fox (best known for his indelible contributions to 1970s television theme songs - his oeuvre includes "The Love Boat" and "Laverne and Shirley"), and … wait for it … Daryl Hall & John Oates!

We know you love them, and that's okay. They're only the most successful rock duo of all time. We love them, too. In fact, you can find Hall & Oates' "Rock 'n Soul Part 1" among the guilty pleasures of our very own CD collection, nestled between Huey Lewis and the News' "Sports" and the "Chronicles" double album from Rush. Shut up.

Along with its regular induction, the Songwriters Hall of Fame also doles out a few special prizes. This year, the first ever Starlight Award for "gifted songwriters in the early years of their careers" goes to Rob Thomas. You know, the Rob Thomas. He wrote that Matchbox Twenty song, and he also wrote that other Matchbox Twenty song. It's a

   
 

prestigious honor that not only represents a desperate attempt for the SHOF to gain the merest fragment of youth cred, but, as the first award of its kind, also entitles the recipient to beat the crap out of that guy from Train.

Tickets to the big induction are not exactly going for a song, however, with prices starting at $750. If this is somewhat out of your spending range, The Black Table suggests you recognize these great artists by illegally downloading their music on the Internet for free. That'll teach 'em for being talented.

 

Friday

"Garfield: The Movie" opens nationwide today. Please feel free to interrupt the reading of this column to go Fandango yourself up some advance tickets. After all, the character of Garfield first appeared in

 
 

1978, and considering it took more than a quarter-century to develop a script that could do justice to the lofty source material, you know the film has to be really good.

In the movie, the voice of Garfield is provided by Bill Murray -- at least it's nice to see he's finally working -- but for those of us raised during the

   
 

heyday of Saturday morning cartoons, the voice of the famous fat cat is and always will be the late, great Lorenzo Music. It was Mr. Music's sleepy baritone that proclaimed the cat's personal distate for Mondays and fondness for oven-baked pasta dishes across more than a decade of Garfield TV shows and specials. With a single sigh, he could invoke the pathos of a lifetime of futile Odie-kickings, the simmering contempt for owner Jon Arbuckle's romantic disasters or the searing frustration over consistently-thwarted attempts to send noxiously cute kitten Nermal to far-off Abu Dhabi. Not simply the voice of a cat, Music began his career writing for the Smothers Brothers, and would go on to develop both "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Rhoda," on which he also voiced the unseen Carlton the Doorman.

Music died in 2001 from complications with lung and bone cancer, but for millions, his voice remains a poignant reminder of those carefree, blissed-out Saturday mornings in front of the tube. This weekend, as you wait breathlessly beyond the velvet rope at glitzy "Garfield: The Movie" premiere parties hoping for a glimpse of character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, take a moment to remember Lorenzo Music. Without him, the American public would not be clamoring for "Garfield: The Movie" the way it has been for so very, very long.

That's "Garfield: The Movie." Add it to somewhere in the bottom half of your Netflix queue today.

 

We think Jason Reich is really funny. Don't you?

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INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table. Writers will be rotated, and if you're interested in contributing one, email Will Leitch at leitch@blacktable.com.