Friday, August 31, 2007

Go Irish! Beat Jackets! Suck It, Jackets! Go Irish Go!

Midnight Drummer's Circle was better back in the day before they added so much stupid oooOOH-ooOOH chanting, but it still kicks off an ND home game weekend like nuthin' else.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Domino Effect

Sen. Larry Craig denied in his arrest interview he was trying to engage in lewd behavior in an airport bathroom and suggested he was entrapped by the arresting officer, according to audiotape of the interview released Thursday.

"I sit down to go to the bathroom, and you said our feet bumped," Craig told an officer. "I believe they did ... because I reached down and scooted over and the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says 'police.' "

Oh, whatever, dude. The cop solicited me. I was afraid of the large black policeman so I offered to blow him for $20. Plus it was thundering outside. I was just joking around with those underage boys. Wasn't me. I'm. Not. Gay.

What. The fuck. Ever.

Message to active anti-gay legislators: this is your fucking legacy. Not the buttressing of marriage's sanctity, in either theory or practice. Not the uplifting of public morality. Not anything you've convinced your voting bloc you've actually done with any of your anti-hate crime, anti-ENDA, pro-DOMA votes. All you've done is made the closet door that much more unbreachable for people on the politically and socially conservative half of the spectrum. You have created a climate of false dichotomy in which people who realize they're attracted to their own gender feel pressured to either identify with Teh Gay Stereotype you reinforce at every turn, or to remain silent and invisible, conforming to your "pro-family" voting, wife-and-kids norm during the day and sneaking out to the nearest park or train station can at night to get some same-sex action.

You privately acknowledge and accept gay staffers and then claim their personal lives are no one's business when you get called on your hypocrisy. Then you turn around and make everyone else's personal lives your professional business by repeatedly and publically refusing to support equal rights legislation for gay folk, by repeatedly and publically reducing our entire existences to sex acts that you then equate to criminal and heinously abusive practices in which the concept of "consent" never sees the light of day.

And you wonder why the gay men in your ranks crumple under the pressure and enter into dishonest relationships in order to conform to the facade of "normalcy" you demand.

Initially, I got angry at guys like Craig, Bob Allen, and Mark Foley. Their hypocrisy of voting against gay rights on the job while seeking out gay sex in their off hours still disgusts me. But as a GOP legislator being exposed as on the Down Low has become as regular and predictable as Monday coming round every week, my anger is being replaced with sadness that people are still unable to live their lives honestly and openly, their intrinsic natures so completely incompatible with the belief system and political group they've allied themselves with that they are compelled to seek out same-gender contact under the radar. All so that the Evangelical Right can be mollified.

Now that the lives being destroyed are starting to hail from the conservative community, what are the hopes for a more sane official approach to sexual orientation by their leadership? Still close to zero? That's truly sad.

Daily Wombat

[UPDATED FOR WWC 2011] Hello, Abby Wambach girlfriend/ boyfriend Googlers! This is a vintage post from the 2007 World Cup, but please do enjoy it and feel free to knock around the blog for other soccer- and wambach-tagged tidbits. Oh yeah, the answer to your question is Sarah Huffman, and they have a bulldog together. This is fairly common knowledge among followers of the WNT and WPS, so I don't think I'm compromising anyone's privacy by repeating it here.

Forthwith, the original post (the post that gave the first commenter the vapors is here):

If you hadn't noticed, with the World Cup a mere eleven days away, this blog is turning into All Soccer All The Damn Time. Maybe I'll gnash teeth over The Surge later on today, or talk about Larry Craig--it makes me sad more than anything, really--but for now, a picture from the WNT blog:

Abby Wambach strolling in Shanghai; Boxxy over her right shoulder (click for large version)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Boltgirl v. US Soccer, Part Deux

My e-mail to the US Soccer store, after finding plenty of cutesy pink spaghetti-strap tank tops but no basic red-white-blue non-gender-specific t-shirts:

I have a bit of a beef with the fact that the WNT shirts offered by US Soccer are available only in a "women's" cut. The immediate concern is that the shirts don't work for every body type. I'm athletic, naturally broad-shouldered and small-chested, and I lift weights. So even a women's XL doesn't work for my shoulders and back, and the girly design with those little cap sleeves and tapered waist wouldn't appeal to me even if I could fit into it. Why is the Fed not offering normal unisex shirts? I look around at the players on my women's team, and I rarely see any of them wearing women-specific shirts of any kind (and I should point out that 2/3 of them are straight, so it ain't an orientation thing).

The bigger-picture concern is that US Soccer has adopted a gender-segregated marketing plan for the national teams, assuming that no men will support the WNT to the extent of buying a shirt (or aren't secure enough in their gender identities to be caught dead in a Wambach shirt), while it's "okay" for a woman supporter of the MNT to wear a MNT or Donovan shirt. By eliminating the option of that most American form of team support (the holy t-shirt), the Fed is effectively discouraging men and boys from getting deeply invested with the WNT and reinforcing the stereotype that only women should be interested in women's sports. Why do you think the WNT is "the best team you never heard of?" Maybe because they've been marketed to a very narrow demographic (let's admit it--the traditionally feminine segment of the female population) since the Founders retired?

Anyway. My (and most of my teammates') refusal to buy any WNT or WWC gear isn't due to a lack of enthusiasm for my country or my game. It's because I can't comfortably wear anything currently being offered anywhere online. Sell some unisex shirts and I'll buy them, and I'd wager that a lot of the dads of all those feminine little girls US Soccer has decided to focus on would buy them too. I love this team and would gladly buy a Wambach shirt for every day of the week if it came in men's M or L.

Thank you for your time.

I got a response last night:
Thank you for your recent email to the U.S. Soccer Store. We appreciate your feedback and your continued support of the Women's National Team.

We have noted your comments regarding the cut of the WNT t-shirts. We will also pass them on to NIKE. As our official apparel partner, we work closely with them on all the gear we sell. Further, we rely on their recommendations as far as styles, cuts, sizing, colors, etc. when making decisionsas to what will be popular with our fans.

Your feedback is valuable though and we will keep it in mind as we work with NIKE on future products.

Should you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at 312-528-1264.

Best regards,
Mike Gressle

I'm tempted to write to Nike to ask if Abby Wambach (whom they sponsor) can even fit into one of their Wambach shirts; the woman is built, as commenter truth pointed out, like an armoire.

The obvious solution, which I'm betting will be suggested by Nike, is to just buy men's national team gear just like men are expected to do, because we're all on the same team, right? Except that we're not. When I do that, who is credited for the sale? The men's team. And how is TV time and general support allocated? Why, by fan interest. And how is that calculated? By the almighty dollar.

Lest I come off as a shirt-obsessed freakshow (whaaaaat?) who believes that her purchases and hers alone will make a ripple at more than the molecular level, it's the principle here. The roster of the women's team is more diverse than it has been at any point in the past, with a relatively substantial number of players who are (1) non-Anglo, (2) non-straight, and (3) not conventionally feminine (even the straight ones); it's not the Ponytail Posse writ large any more. While the Fed is not keeping the unconventional players under wraps by any means, the bulk of the coverage is limited to online videos that are very occasionally shown on Fox Soccer Channel, which doesn't reach a hell of a lot of American households. When it comes to ESPN-televised game time, we get the usual features on who's recently married or engaged, who had an interesting childhood, and who just had a baby--a marketing plan straight out of 1999.

In that sense, maybe Natasha Kai is a godsend. As much as I dislike her immaturely inconsistent and selfish play on the field (she'll be good when she grows up, assuming she ever grows up), she brings the freak like no WNT player before her, and it will be impossible for the Fed to ignore her and her tattoos and piercings forever. Even if they give the parents of 12-year-old Bible Belt players the vapors. And if the Fed is reluctantly dragged into the 21st century, maybe they'll start acknowledging the fans who are interested in more than just the next pretty smile to grace the TV.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Boltgirl v. US Soccer

Fucking US Soccer Federation. Did you know the Women's World Cup is coming up in two weeks? Did you know that individuals not named Mia Hamm actually play on the National Team? If not, you have the Fed to thank.

You probably do remember the '99 World Cup, the Brandi Chastain Sports Bra World Cup. That team was electrifying and managed to catch the interest of non-hardcore footballers, thanks to the magnetic personalities, stunning good looks, and kick-ass results delivered by the players on the roster. The WUSA quickly sprang fully formed from the forehead of Bob Contiguglia, the Fed banked on continuing to ride the cult of personality that rose around Hamm, Foudy, Chastain, Lilly, and Fawcett, the reins were handed to April Heinrich, and the program was promptly mismanaged into the ground.

Sure, they kept winning games, but they lost in the semis of the '03 Cup, the WUSA folded, Hamm retired, and the Fed desperately cast about for the next glowing straight-white-girl-next-door to be the face of the program instead of promoting the performance of the team as a whole. Never mind that some key holdovers from the '99 team were still in the stable, including the best goalkeeper in the world (Briana Scurry) and the most durable professional player of either gender (Kristine Lilly)--Scurry is complex, driven, and fiercely intelligent, but also black and gay, and while Lils is unbelievably fit, skilled, and gracious, she has the near-skeletal, angular visage of a marathoner and was pretty sexually ambiguous until her recent wedding to a fireman (did you hear the sigh of relief from 1801 S. Prairie in Chicago? I did). Abby Wambach quickly moved into a leadership role on the team and took on the mantle of top scorer. She's intelligent, witty, gregarious, big, and strong. She's also widely assumed to be gay.

Abby Wambach, leading US soccer scorer.

Shannon Boxx developed into the best defensive midfielder in the world, and is intelligent, gracious, attractive, and tough. And black, and possibly gay.

So who did the Fed do flips to promote as the New Face of American Soccer?

Heather Mitts.

Undeniably lovely, slender, blonde, well-spoken, and straight straight straight. She had finally worked her way up to being a mostly competent left back by the time she blew her ACL in WC qualifying, but the months leading up to that point had more than their share of dicey moments created by Mitts' poor decisions

Heather Mitts, the New Boobs Face of American Soccer.

with the ball and failure to mark. But no matter how sketchy her play on the field was, WNT promotions were all Mitts, all the time, leaving many of us with the gnawing suspicion that the Fed is desperate not to promote the athleticism of its athletes but the pretty faces of the players they're pretty sure most men would want to fuck.

The selection of Mitts as the poster girl speaks volumes about the Fed's assumptions regarding men's interest in this team. Hell, maybe they're right. It's not like soccer fans are legion in this country in the first place. It's the game of the soccer mom and her shrieking female offspring who made a career of screaming MIA MIA MIA at the '99 Cup and subsequent WUSA games, the people Nike assumes would still rather buy a cute pink Mia-in-a-heart t-shirt (no longer available, but the Mia legacy designs will probably never die) than a basic red, white, and blue WNT shirt. Male soccer fan who's psyched about watching the best team in the world fight for the world championship? Good luck finding a t-shirt you can wear. Actually, I'll save you the trouble. You will not find one because no one has made a WWC shirt in men's sizes. Go on. Look. Every single fucking shirt is a woman's cut. And if you don't have a specific female body type, good luck finding one that fits. Hint: if you have broad shoulders and lift weights, it ain't gonna happen.

The message is that even the governing body has given up on men being interested in these elite athletes as anything but pinup material because they are women. To that end, they are also ignoring the segment of the both the existing fanbase and the team itself that doesn't conform to a pretty narrow demographic. And in continuing to flog athletes that retired years ago, they're neglecting to foster new allegiances in the hearts of the kids whose support will make or break the future of the team. I don't think you have to be a lesbian to be pissed off about the emphasis on style over substance.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Wombat Love

The US women played their final World Cup tuneup on Saturday night against Finland. The evil Finns took out Abby Wambach ten minutes in--and were pretty hacky throughout the match--but the Nats prevailed 4-0 thanks to actual interplay among the midfielders and forwards beyond simply flinging the ball into the middle in the hopes it will carrom into the goal off Wambach's amazing noggin. I loves me my Wombat, but it was good to see that this team is capable of more intricate and creative offensive play.

Wambach didn't make it off the field until the 22nd minute, but her pain and growing frustration were quite evident. My favorite Wombat moment came shortly after her injury. She wasn't able to get to the ball quickly enough and sent a bad touch out of bounds, and clenched her fists and screamed FUCK right in front of the ESPN camera and giant parabolic microphone. Been there, babe, and totally feel you. Got it on the DVR and have no idea how to upload it, but it will live in my heart forever.

Meanwhile, here is another of the top reasons to love this woman.

The World Cup starts September 10 in the wee hours of the morning, all games on ESPN2. I will be catching up on my sleep between now and then, and if a certain 5'11" striker with a nasty streak invades my dreams, well, I won't be saying no.

'Bout Time

One arrogant, lying fuckwit down, several to go. The sound bites and news blurbs have framed Gonzo's departure in terms of the US attorney firings. But let's not forget the torture memo, the warrantless wiretapping program, the lying to Congress, the midnight ICU visit to bully John Ashcroft into signing off on it. Good riddance to the little git.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Boy in the Bubble is Alive and Well

Since President Bush apparently made it through high school, college, and increasing levels of public service without noticing that pesky First Amendment thing as it applies to speech and peaceable assembly, the White House has an official operations manual explaining how to shield His Nibs from the unpleasant discovery that 70-odd percent of the American public thinks he's a fucktard.
Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."

Small detail: all public land in the US is a designated protest area so long as those protests aren't incitements to immediate violence. Hurting Dear Leader's feelings isn't enough of an offense to revoke the First Amendment.

To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create "rally squads" of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with "favorable messages." Squads should be placed in strategic locations and "at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems," the manual says.

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators," it says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

Rally squads! With a chant that serves the dual purpose of drowning out dissent and proving that the orchestrated cheerleaders are the real patriots in the room, since they're the only ones mouthing the holy syllables of the 1980 Olympic hockey team's victory over the Russians, which liberal protestors are obviously incapable of uttering, much less hearing, without bursting into flames.

Control the message, baby, and cover up the evidence of anyone being unhappy with the president. Fucking brilliant.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Cortisone shot this morning, left shoulder, giant needle, FUCK.


Dr. M: Here comes the bee sting... and now it's gonna burn for about five seconds.
Boltgirl: ::gritting teeth::
Dr. M: You okay?
Boltgirl, facedown on table: Gah.
Dr. M: You should be sure to breathe.
Boltgirl: Breathing is highly overrated.
Dr. M: All right. You got through it. Now comes the second part.
Boltgirl: Huh?
Dr. M: Ha. Gotcha.
Boltgirl: Does my middle finger still work? Oh, look. Yes. Yes, it does.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh No

Well, at least he comes right out and says he's judging, just like Jesus told him to...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Birthday Chaos

Oh, the day started promisingly enough, Coffee Times coffee in hand, annual pass to the Catalinas stuck to the windshield, all ready for a drive up the mountain with stops at various vista points to play in the water that's still bravely holding out against the sun and evaporation.

Stream bubbling past a tree growing between granite boulders in Molino Canyon.

A few remnant puddles stranded high up on the tops of the boulders on either side of the stream were indicators of the awesome torrent that rushed through here last week. Today it was a lovely cool gurgle perfect for wading and splashing.

The next stop was a couple thousand feet higher, up in the ponderosa forest near Bear Canyon. The slope of the streambed here is gentle, creating a wide channel with interesting sandbars, meandering among the pines. Although it was reasonably early in the morning, I didn't see much in the way of wildlife; a large orange dragonfly buzzing the surface of the pool on the left side of the sandbar and a lone waterbug doing the backstroke were about it.

Cool, shimmery water pooling near Bear Canyon.

A lovely morning. Until I walked back to the BoltMobile, at which point I noticed a large puddle that definitely was not there when I pulled off the road. A glance at the radiator and finger-poke into the puddle confirmed that my truck had decided to celebrate my birthday by spewing coolant like an excited and, let's admit it, probably non-Cub outfielder with a bottle of champagne after Game 7.

This meant making the 45-minute drive back down the mountain and into town with the heat on full blast to keep the engine temperature needle just below the red. What's open on Saturday? Why, Pep Boys (shudder), of course. Jesus.

Boltgirl's day takes a turn for the worse.

Four hours and $416 later, I had a shiny new radiator and a big-ass hole in my credit card. And just after finally paying off the summer train tickets last week. Happy birthday to me! Luckily, I have good friends who are happy to drive across town to rescue me and take me shopping to make me feel better.

New Merrell Chameleon Webs make everything sunnier.

So all in all, not a bad day. Not the cheapest day I have ever had, but hey. Forty is better than dead.

Friday, August 17, 2007


As I lay back in bed last night, my thoughts drifted toward the impending birthday and the nagging suspicion that I should be making some momentous leaps of consciousness or something in honor of it. How do I even take stock of where I am?

Goals achieved: couldn’t tell you. I have never been much of a goals-oriented person. Maybe it’s telling that in 30 years of playing soccer, I have never once scored a goal from the run of play (indoor doesn’t count). One of my friends compiled a list of things she intended to achieve by 35 (happy in job, own a house, have a kid, major stuff like that) and then spent her 35th birthday utterly depressed that she hadn’t done any of it. That’s why I’ve never felt compelled to make one of those Things To Do Before I Die lists. I would either end up feeling like a failure or discover, to my horror, that I have indeed achieved all those things, and therefore am due to die immediately. Eh. I prefer the life list in my bird book, recording the things I’ve done rather than the things I have so far failed to do. My goals are more along the lines of get to work with clothes on right side out and don’t forget to pick up son from school. Well, and be a good person who treats other people well. So far so good, minus a couple of bobbles on the first one (in which I once made it to lunchtime before my friends decided to tell me my shirt was not only wrong-side out, but also backwards; ah, the hazards of dressing on a dark winter morning before coffee).

The downside to all this being content to drift downstream is sounding like a complete dullard when getting together with friends I haven’t seen for a while. Two weekends ago a college friend I see once a year asked what the most exciting thing is I’ve done in the past year. Uh. Well, shit. Same thing this morning when an old girlfriend took me out for coffee. What’s been going on in your life? Well, uh... I get up, I go to work, I pick up my kid, he does homework, we eat dinner, I work in the yard, we hang out, I go to bed, I get up... She looked at me cross-eyed and said you need some excitement in your life.

Where should that come from? I get excited about my work from time to time. This is in fact one of those times—I am working on a grand unified theory of ceramic-era arrowhead manufacture and distribution throughout Arizona based on control of raw material sources... and bingo, your eyes just started to glaze over, didn’t they? It’s potentially a career-defining project, but it sounds about as exciting as your uncle Ernie talking about his barbed wire collection. I get excited when my son asks me to go to the park with him to toss a baseball. I get excited when I find a book I’ve been wanting at Bookman’s and have enough trade credit to walk away with it. I get... well, gratified when the dog makes it outside before puking.

So the excitement in my life revolves around collections of small things and individual moments. I feel like I should be able to come up with something better, something edgy or dangerous, something more congruent with the crazy fantasy version of my life that’s always banging around in my head. But I can’t. I’m 40 and I’m still breathing. That will have to be exciting enough for now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Required Viewing

Jon Stewart being a better pundit than most of the "real" ones out there:

And since McCain's flameout is no reason to waste a perfectly good epithet, well, not that it needs saying, but... Dick Cheney is a douchebag.

In a Stunner, Padilla is Convicted

Jurors took a day and a half to convict Jose Padilla of supporting Islamic terrorism. A day and a half. In a case he was added to only when the Supreme Court looked likely to rule against the adminstration after the government had kept him incarcerated without charges for three and a half years, in solitary confinement where the lights were never turned off. Where he had been prevented for seeing a lawyer for the first two years.
Padilla was originally arrested on dramatic allegations that he planned to set off radioactive "dirty bombs" in the United States. But the current charges are not related to those accusations, and prosecutors did not present the "dirty bomb" plot to the jury.

Neither were jurors told that Padilla was held in a Navy brig for 3½ years without charges before his indictment in the Miami case.

Before trial, his lawyers tried to argue that he was no longer mentally competent to stand trial after years of solitary confinement and abuse -- allegations the government strongly denied.

I have no idea what Padilla actually did or didn't do. And after three and a half years of confinement that was not simply solitary but designed to cut him off from all interaction with other people, nobody else does either. The man--a US citizen, mind you--has been completely broken through the kind of treatment we usually associate with paranoid, totalitarian regimes. He was going to be held until they found some charge that would stick.

I don't care if he was personally blowing Osama--this isn't how this country is supposed to operate. Sentencing is set for December 5. Can't wait to see what that brings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

College Day

I delivered the girlfriend, her ex, and their daughter to the airport this morning before the sun came up so they could make their way out to their Ivy League destination. The first day of the rest of pretty much everyone's lives is underway. It's strange, this business of booting fledglings out of the nest, so maybe it's good I have this trial run before my own offspring takes off in a few years.

The dogs will be miserable. The girlfriend will be miserable. I wonder how long it will last.

My off to college experience was very different from this one. My mom moved to Dallas a month after my high school graduation; I stayed on in South Bend, living a couple of weeks with my German teacher, a month more with my English teacher (see the memorial two posts down), a last couple days with a friend. We celebrated my 18th birthday with cake and Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers (hey, it was 1985) at her kitchen table, and the next morning she and another friend drove me to the bus station. I took the daylong trip to southern Illinois to spend a few days with my dad, and then he drove me the two hours to St. Louis to catch a plane to Dallas. I flew back up to Chicago with Mom and my stepdad a couple weeks later, they installed me in my room at Northwestern, and then they were gone. It wasn't until then that I was officially on my own, but the process had started two months before when I stood in the driveway of our empty house and watched Mom drive away to Texas with my dog in the back seat. I knew at that point that home, home in the sense of knowing that the same old bed in the same old room in the same house in the town where I grew up would be waiting for me to come back, was gone.

This kid is going straight from secure comfort to an alien environment with no buffer, no trip through Purgatory to shed the old baggage and emerge with a gleaming new skin, no intervening weirdness to make the solid stone buildings and regimented daily schedule a respite to be welcomed rather than an unknown to be feared. She'll be fine eventually, I know, however long eventually takes. The same sun that finally peeked over the Rincon mountains this morning had already been shining for three hours in the east. And so we go.




It's been a year since he left us, almost to the moment. Tonight I'll trawl Bookman's and pick up a few more volumes of the classics he taught for my library, put the Beatles on, and light a candle to his memory. Not that he needs any help from me, should there actually be an afterlife that requires letters of recommendation for admittance.

Tom Gerencher, 1946-2006.

Hug your English teacher today.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Winding Down to the Weekend

I should have more to say about the grand HRC-LOGO presidential candidates' forum that was aired last night, I'm sure I should. The wee problems are that (1) I didn't watch it yet, although I read the rehash this morning, and (2) none of it was overly surprising except for Bill Richardson's inexplicable biff of what should have been the easiest question of the night.
Activists were even more frustrated with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who when asked whether people are born gay or choose to be, said, "It's a choice" and later explained, "I'm not a scientist."

Weirdly, Richardson probably has the best LGBT-friendly legislative record of any of the candidates who were there. Yawn. Next.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards stuck resolutely to their positions of supporting separate-but-equal civil unions rather than full marriage equality, although Hillary continued to spout the states' rights bullshit mantra that means CUs can never be equal under federal law. Obama admonished us to be patient; after all, CUs were unheard of a generation ago and are supposed to be our best hope for g r a d u a l l y inching toward the full equality prize.

I'm torn there. It's just as easy to argue for CUs as a necessary stepping stone as it is to argue that they'll become a roadblock. I can hear the detractors on the uber-religious right already. Give 'em an inch and they'll still shriek for a mile. No? How about they got their state recognition, so pushing the feds proves it's just about the money and not love after all, the selfish bastards. Next!

Kucinich said all the right things. Unfortunately, he has approximately a snowball's chance in Phoenix of coming in any higher than... 5th? in the primary.

So the weekend's here, almost. I am off to some college friends' annual end-of-summer soiree in the Republican stronghold of Gilbert, AZ tomorrow, where I hope to drink enough cheap beer that I won't notice the crap falling out of their conservative neighbors' mouths. Samples from last year:

Neighbor 1: Yes, the new airline security rules are annoying, but it's better than the alternative.
Neighbors 2-6: (nodding sagely) Mmm hmmmm.

Other neighbor: I don't wanna go to Disneyland and have to explain to the kids why those two ladies are kissing or why the guys in hot pants are grabbing each others' asses.
Other neighbor 2: (shaking head sagely) Tsk.

My friends are very slightly on the conservative side of the middle, but still reliably vote Democratic. What are they doing in Gilbert? We don't talk about that much. Anyway. The gym beckons and the cold beer is hopping up and down behind the gym, waving its hands madly to get my attention. Allez cuisine!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Harry Oliver, RIP

Harry Oliver beat Michigan on a last-second, 51-yard field goal on September 20, 1980. I was at at that game, sitting three rows from the top at Notre Dame Stadium right on the goal line. Oliver lined up for the kick, the 15-mph headwind fell still, and he hit the ball. The stadium fell silent as the ball toppled end over end, end over end, surely falling short... and clearing the crossbar by maybe three inches. And the stadium exploded.

"It's probably what's going to go on my tombstone instead of when I was born or when I died," he said during the 2004 interview. "It's going to be, 'September 20, 1980. Notre Dame 29, Michigan 27.'"
Harry Oliver died yesterday of cancer at the age of 47. Godspeed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wow, Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Fuck. Me.
The day after President George W. Bush marshaled political forces in Congress to grant him greater authority to engage in counterterrorism-related spying, the president stated that he would seek greater changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when the legislative branch returns to work in September.

What changes would those be? Why immunity for telecom companies that were complicit in the illegal warrantless wiretaps that caused the first FISA firestorm, of course. Oh, wait. I mean allegedly complicit, of course, in the event that their illegal activities are somehow held up as being, yes, illegal.

"When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001," he said.

One constitutional scholar derided Bush's reasoning, particularly the tortuous language in his statement.

"Apparently 'allegedly helped us stay safe' is Bush Administration code for telecom companies and government officials who participated in a conspiracy to perform illegal surveillance," wrote Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin in a Monday morning blog post. "Because what they did is illegal, we do not admit that they actually did it, we only say that they are alleged to have done it."

The 16 Senate and 41 House Dems who voted to take the minimal oversight that existed on this away from the courts and hand it squarely to Alberto "How Can You Tell I'm Lying? Are My Lips Moving?" Gonzales can kiss my ass. At this point we can't keep heaping blame on Bush for continuing to take every treat the Dems eagerly throw him and then demand more like an untrained dog or unruly two-year-old. Your job is to rein this out-of-control bastard in. You have failed.

Thank You, Private Property Rights Obsessers.

At the state level, the 2006 elections in Arizona weren't only about the anti-marriage equality amendment (Proposition 107, narrowly defeated). Proposition 207 was a ghastly bit of legislation that was cheerfully dumbed down to "no gummint meddlin' in whut ah kin do with muh own private property" in order to appeal to the braindead masses. It was framed as a safeguard against eminent domain; maybe the recent memory of Kelo scared people into supporting it without a shred of critical thought about the impact on communities when local governments are stripped of their authority to create zoning ordinances.

Who ultimately benefits from a law saying that if government restrictions on property use devalue your property, they gotta compensate you for it? Pretty much not the average homeowner. Real estate developers, however, make out like bandits. A recently arising scourge of neighborhoods in Tucson near the University of Arizona is something called the minidorm. A developer buys a house in a single-family residential area, bulldozes it, and slaps up the largest multi-bedroom building he can (albeit with a single entryway to avoid designation as an apartment), and rents it to as many undergrads as can be crammed in. These are problematic for several reasons, ranging from aesthetics to parking to noise to trash. If you have the misfortune to live next to a property that's been snapped up and converted like this, you can kiss your immediate peace and your long-term equity goodbye.

Even historic districts are no longer immune, thanks to Prop 207. Local governments are terrified of crippling lawsuits that may be brought by developers who will argue that neighborhood zoning restrictions illegally prevent them from maximizing the financial potential of their properties. The City of Tucson's response is to propose architectural guidelines that will minimize the eyesore effect, and to offer incentives to builders to locate the minidorms along major arterials rather than the quieter interior neighborhood streets. These are only cosmetic touches, though, that give very little teeth to neighborhoods interested in retaining their single-family residential character.

Two minidorms have already popped up down the street in the historic district where I live, including one that was built after the historic bungalow occupying the property was razed. My next door neighbor occupies a prime oversized corner lot. And he's 85. I try not to think too hard about what will happen to his property when he dies, because if a minidorm goes in I will not be able to tolerate living there, and will be unable to sell my house for what it's worth. Or what it was worth before 207 took effect.

Maybe that's the solution--filing a countersuit claiming damages from the city government for the property devaluation suffered due to their refusal to enact zoning laws. Way to go, private property screechers. You've preserved property values for real estate developers and eliminated protections for average property owners. Here's a little hint for y'all: government regulation of property use isn't always a bad thing.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Breaking News: Senate Dems Give Bush Head, Again

Thank you, Senate Democrats, for reinforcing the worst stereotypes society has to offer. Thanks for demonstrating that "no" really is just a coy "yes." Thanks for being spineless enablers of a hyper-macho bully.

Yesterday the Senate handed Bush expanded warrantless wiretapping powers, knuckling under and pantingly serving up the authority he requested to listen in on telephone calls and read e-mails without a warrant as long as one of the involved parties is reasonably believed to be outside the US. Even if one of the people is a US citizen. Even if the call or e-mail isn't related to terrorism, but simply has unspecified "intelligence" value.

The elections were truly pointless. The Democrats could have had an ironclad veto-proof majority and they would still be cowed by the slightest hint that a Republican would hang the "soft on terror" label on them come the next election cycle. 65% of the public wants us out of Iraq. Close to 80% think W is a failure as a president. What the fuck will it take for the Democrats to develop spines--hell, at this point I'd be happy with some lumbar vertebrae--and take the bastard on? How hard is it to use what should be the most basic weapon in the arsenal of any reasonable population? You know? The truth?

Every time a Republican or Republican apologist columnist utters "Iraq" and "9/11" in the same sentence, a Democratic senator needs to stand up and speak the truth. Yes, the American public can be staggeringly stupid. But this shit can be boiled down into simple language and repeated until it takes root. Cook up a few simple talking points and make some fucking PowerPoint slides. Iraq<>9/11. Next! Cutting VA funding<>Supporting the Troops. Next! Extending tours to 15 months and allowing as little as 3 months' downtime<>Supporting the Troops. Next! Starting to improve the security situation in Anbar is good but<>Guaranteeing a stable Iraqi government. See? It's not fucking rocket science.

But as much as they bluster and rail against the administration, they're terrified that if they don't hand Dear Leader every fucking unconstitutional power he demands, they'll... they'll what? They'll fall down on their sworn duty to the Constitution and the American people? They'll lead America down the road to ruin? No. It's not even remotely that lofty. They're afraid they'll get voted out of office. Even as the vast majority of the voters are already screaming for their heads for being such abject pussies and continuing to give a reviled president more and more power.

Truth, people. Just use the fucking truth.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Too. Much. Cheese.

The best Mexican food in Tucson north of 22nd Street can be found at Guadalajara Grill (Prince/Campbell). The salsa-to-order at dinner is wonderful, the mole is a tad sweet but works very well with chicken, the beer comes packed in little ice-filled buckets, the chips are hot and the staff friendly. The mariachis are deafening but excellent. So go there often.

Guadalara's owners recently opened Pizzazz Bistro, an Italian place across the street from Guadalajara in an abandoned Burger King building. The decor is cute and festive, the staff is friendly, and oh sweet Jesus you'll end up with a shiny coat if you eat there. Pizzazz is a wee tad overenthusiastic when it comes to applied oils, whether it's the Greek salad drowning in dressing or the horrifically cheesy pizza served with olive oil poured over the top for good measure.

I had something involving Tuscany, a white pizza with asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, and red onion. It's a great concept, but the thin crust and delicate vegetables were completely overwhelmed by the layer of mozzarella. The pizza--and my stomach--would have greatly benefitted from a sprinkling of cheese, a slight drizzling of oil, and probably some fresh basil and a grind or two of pepper. The edges of the crust not socked in by fats were quite nice, with a light crispy exterior and pleasantly chewy inside. There was just so much goddamn cheese, which is now sitting in a ball in my gut (hey, I was hungry).

My tablemates shared the mentioned salad (large, fresh, swimming), a Caprese salad that looked good enough, although the tomatoes could have had more character, and an order of large mushroom caps stuffed with something and coated in the sacred mozzarella and drizzled in the holy oil. We're all back at work feeling a little sebaceous.

Final verdict: Stay across the street at Guadalajara so you don't have to feel like shooting yourself after lunch.


August is shaping up to be official Boltgirl Is Fucking Old Month. My girlfriend's daughter is gearing up to go away to college in less than two weeks, and I'm increasingly dumbfounded by how different it all is now. I can clearly picture every detail of my dorm in my mind, from the layout of the rooms to the cereal dispensers in the dining room (Lucky Charms at every meal!) to the smell of untold years' worth of stale beer soaked into the hallway carpet. When I close my eyes I can go right back to ivy-covered Willard Hall. So how can it have been so long ago?

And so freaking different. I hauled along the baby blue Smith-Corona Selectric typewriter I'd pounded out my high school papers on and hoped the phone my roommate mentioned in her summer letter to me would work. We met for the first time in the dorm room and sat nervously on the edges of the beds while our parents bustled around with the provisions they'd picked up for us at the decrepit Dominick's a few blocks away. The roommate turned out to be a cheerleader (!) and creationist (!!!) from Minnesota; not having yet developed a combative personality, I spent a lot of time freshman year keeping my mouth shut.

Now the step-daughter is leaving bristling with electronics. She's gotten to know her dormmates over the summer, courtesy of FaceBook, and has lists of everything she will need, courtesy of the university's helpful e-mails (encouragingly, "contraceptives" is on the list). I assume they'll all feel the same sense of separation we did, despite being able to instantly contact parents and old friends on cells and IM rather than having to trudge down three flights of stairs to the single pay phone to make a collect call, grouse, grumble, curmudge. They'll still glom onto each other and make friends right away, although if that will be more difficult without free-flowing beer (thank you, universe, for putting me in college in 1985) I do not know.

Substance-free dorms! They have substance-free dorms now! Meaning recreational substances, both legal and illegal. What the fuck? Who wants to live there besides... well, besides people vastly different from me? Kids these days. Imagine the fun we could have had if Northwestern's Sanctimonious Stone Cold Sober Hall Healthy Living Unit been open back then. Points of Wellness? You have got to be fucking kidding me. Jesus. Do people who live there own up to it in public without getting punched? Evans Scholars, you would have been off the hook; even though we obviously would not be able to steal beer from the keg-lacking Clean Livin' Dorm, our post-Halloween pumpkins may have found it a better target than your front porch.