Thursday, November 25, 2010

Life Continues, Chapters 1 and 2

Thanksgiving week really throws a wrench into things like, say, funerals that require people to travel from a couple different states, so Grandma's wake and funeral has been put off until Monday, allowing us to spend just enough time dithering on Travelocity to watch ticket prices magically jump $200 in the 5 minutes it takes to confer on whether 44 minutes is enough time to change planes in Phoenix (it isn't) and then decide to take the flight that turns that layover into a whopping two hours and eighteen minutes, all the while gritting our teeth and trying not to think about the fact that it only takes ninety minutes to drive to Phoenix.


So if the first step in what is turning into Mary's Epic Funeral Week Extravaganza was booking flights and cars and hotels and wrangling family members who have decided to make the coming weekend the opening ceremonies for the Douchecadet Olympics, the second step was more of a side trip in the completely opposite direction. That being the road to Mesa and my (still very alive) maternal grandparents' house for Thanksgiving, where we were joined by some elderly second cousins and two neighbors from Calgary. Suffice it say that it was fairly pleasant until the inevitable spectre of politics popped in for pie, and the consensus around the table (with one abstention; I'll let you guess who) was that George W. Bush will be deemed by history to have been one of our greatest presidents, possibly the greatest ever. Also: if you voted for Obama to prove you're not racist, who are you going to vote for to prove you're not stupid? I almost think "Sarah Palin" is supposed to be the totally sincere answer to that one, but it was hard to tell.

It went ever so slightly downhill from there, so I graciously excused myself before I stabbed somebody in the face with a pie fork.

The grandma we're burying was a passionate Democrat. End of story.

Anyway, here's a preview of Chapter 3: get up insanely fucking early on Sunday, inconvenience a friend by getting her to give me a ride to the airport, fly on a goddamn airplane to Phoenix, sit around for 2 and change, fly on another goddamn airplane to St. Louis, take a shuttle to the rental car lot, drive two hours to the tiny ancestral Illinois hometown just in time for the wake, endure the wake for three hours, get carryout from an actual Mexican restaurant in the tiny hometown that's gotta be filled with guys wondering what cracker nightmare they wandered into, for fuck's sake, have a drink, go to bed, wake up the next morning, go to funeral mass, drive to the next town over for the burial, drive back, have a drink, hope that the moroseness devolves into bad singing rather than factionalism and gunplay, go to bed, wake up, kill a morning, drive to St. Louis, fly to Phoenix, sit around for another two and change, get back to Tucson at 11:30 pm.

So much to do, so little patience for doing it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Crazy. Everything has been crazy since Friday night. My beloved grandma had a stroke, and finally died early Sunday morning. I have been in a daze since then, trying to make travel arrangements back to Illinois (at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, LOLOLOLOLOL) and trying to sort through my feelings while texting with my brother nonstop. The consensus is that we want a time machine set for our childhood, equipped with a giant PAUSE button.

Grandma was a prodigiously talented musician and a gifted teacher who guided generations of students through Every Good Boy Does Fine and everything that flows therefrom. In 1988, the town where she and my equally talented grandpa lived and taught hosted a salute to them, inviting 40 years' worth of students back to sing, dance, and celebrate their touch on their lives.

Want a story? All you had to do was say Grandma, tell me a story and she'd say all right, give me a minute, and after 20 seconds or so of gazing intently at the far wall, would launch into a richly detailed and complex yarn--all from scratch!--populated by some of your favorite children's literature characters plus new ones of her own invention. Twenty minutes later, after hanging on the edge of your seat to find out what would happen, you marveled at the story. And she went back to whatever she was doing without skipping a beat.

Her house is gone now, sold to a younger guy in the small town she stayed in until the end. My childhood is now consigned to the realm of memory, my heart forever living in the yellow house on North Avenue, at the end of the long gravel driveway, where the screen door slapped shut and you walked across the porch and through the Dutch door into the kitchen. If it was winter, the heat blasted you in the face with a wave of coffee and whatever had most recently roasted in the oven, a pie or a cake on the counter, Grandma up to elbows in flour or soapsuds, always delighted to exclaim your name and put down her work to come hug you. If it was summer, the buzzing green floor fan carried the scent of lemons from the pedestal dish on the table to your nostrils, followed by the scent of the old wood in the walls.

Forever, if I want to be back in Grandma's kitchen, I only need to briefly hold a lemon to my nose, close my eyes, and breathe deep. And I am there. But she is gone.

Well now, she would say briskly. Well now, let's get on with it. Forthwith, Mary Elizabeth Collins (January 9, 1918-November 21, 2010).

1920, age 2, wearing the baptismal gown her brother George (left) had worn before her, subsequently worn by her sons, me, my brothers, and my son.

1922, age 4, Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Age 10, roughly, with her mother, Maude, and beloved father, George Sr. George was an Irishman who could do a mean jig.

Age 12, more or less, on a pony whose name was not recorded for posterity.

On a college trip to St. Louis (middle) with a friend and her beau and future husband, my grandpa Gus.

Wartime mom with my oldest uncle. He was born while Grandpa was stationed in Blackpool, England, directing the US Army band.

Flash forward to 1997. Tromping through mayap
ples while mushrooming in southern Illinois.

On her 90th birthday.

The last picture I took with her, July 2008, on her back patio, Olney, Illinois.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Helpful McCain-English Translat-o-matic

Oh, good. John McCain went on Meet the Press this morning and clarified the little kerfuffle involving his wife, a video camera, and a jaw-dropping twelve hours during which we thought there was a voice of reason in that marriage. In case it isn't clear, we're giving the senator a hand with what he's actually saying.

McCain: "I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family."

Actually means: But fuck if they get to exercise them. This isn't a fucking democracy here. So forget what the trollop thinks she thinks. There is one opinion here, and it is mine.

In the same vein, you may recall that Walnuts said he'd accept a DADT repeal if the military leadership wanted that, and then, after the military leadership said they wanted it, McCain said no, what he really wanted was a Pentagon study. Now that the Pentagon study has been leaked, well--quelle surprise--he doesn't want that either.

"A thorough and complete study of the effects, not how to implement a repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness, that's what I want," he added. "And once we get this study we need to have hearings, and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it is the kind of study that we wanted."

Actually means: We need to look at whether the study shows that the fags will destroy the United States military, because that is exactly the kind of study we wanted, where "we," of course, means John McCain.

And, apparently, if he gets the kind of study he wanted but the results aren't quite what he was banking on, he will call for hearings in his new now-with-38%-more-Republicans Senate. Because if there's one thing the GOP can do like pros, it's move the goalposts and spin and massage until the original facts become the truth they want.

McCain: I'm John McCain.

Actually means: I am the shameless asshole in charge here, and there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Never Mind

Wow. Well played, Cindy McCain. Well played. You totally got me with your appearance on that NOH8 video, where you took the brave step of calling out your dickhead husband's position on Don't Ask Don't Tell as a major contributing factor to an atmosphere that leads gay kids to off themselves. I mean, I was really impressed. We've all seen Walnuts blow a fuse or two, and since probability dictates that you two have a one-in-eight chance of randomly ending up at the same house at the same time somewhere down the road, we figured you were setting yourself up for some unpleasant interactions with the hubby but still spoke out for what was right anyway, just because it was the right thing to do.

Seriously, you totally had me going, so, wow, the lulz are totally on me this morning when I see this:

I just hope your husband didn't call you "cunt" too many times in whatever little discussion led to your tweet yesterday. Later, Cindy. It was nice while it lasted. Enjoy the small private plane.

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Which I Take It Back

During the '08 campaign, I snarked on Cindy McCain for saying the only way to get around Arizona is by small private plane. Oh, that's still a dumbass thing to say, coming from a place of way underexamined privilege, but I'll give her a pass on the Cessna because she came out and did this:

What a fascinating dynamic they must have at home. I wonder at what point Walnuts realized he'd blundered by failing to realize that his knockout blonde millionaire heiress trophy replacement wife also came equipped with both a functioning brain and a conscience.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Won't You Please Share Your Opinion?

Please take a few moments to let the Family Research Council know exactly what you think of them. If you just get stuck on some of the questions, here are some of my responses for inspiration.

I forgot to add "Tony Perkins' soulless dead eyes."

Well, they asked.

Which is also why I avoid Chick-Fil-A, though it breaks my heart. Curse those crazy Christians and their delicious, delicious chicken!

I hope I hear back from them, after taking all that trouble, but as far as I know the Corinthians never wrote St. Paul back either, so I won't hold my breath. Surveys are fun!

WCQ Wrapup

Nothing like an unexpected loss to propel a match previously considered a gimme to the primetime spotlight on ESPN2. The surest indicator that people were suddenly thinking about the US women's national soccer team, or at least one part of it? This blog got triple its usual number of daily "abby wambach girlfriend" hits in the three hours leading up to kickoff time. go figure.

Anyhoo, the... Mollies? Does anyone remember when the US supporters made a tentative attempt at getting that nickname to stick, in honor of Molly Pitcher? Would've been so cool, even without the bared bosom. Whatever we want to call them, the US women won last night on the strength of three goals, all in the first half, two by Sarah Huffman's girlfriend. Lauren Cheney got the other.

What did we learn? Mostly, that the US is indeed able to move the ball smartly around the field when they are largely unopposed. The precise passing game was lovely to watch for the first 25 minutes, until I remembered that Costa Rica is ranked 46 spots below the US in the FIFA rankings, and noticed that right there around minute 25--perhaps out of frustration at the decided lack of an avalanche of goals--the US reverted back to long balls flung into the box from 40 yards away, hoping to find Wambach's head. The goals came when they settled down after another 10 minutes or so, but the final one came on a counter after a Costa Rican forward broke free down the middle and screamed in alone on goal, only to put the ball wide when Barnhart came out to challenge. Six inches to the left and it might have been a very different dynamic at the end of the half.

And Amy Rodriguez came in as an early second-half sub to play on the wing. Interesting! And with that, having waited to start watching the DVRed game until 9:00, I promptly passed out on the couch. So I have no idea how that worked out, although the score didn't change. I like Cheney up top with Abby, and still hope we see a three-front on the chance they make it to Germany this summer.

So it's on to Italy, then Chicago. We will see.

Monday, November 08, 2010

New Year in the Women's Soccer Calendar Cycle

Wow. It's so hard to get worked up for writing a lather-filled screed about a game that was a giant pile of meh, so let's have a gallon or two of coffee and try to ramp up gradually here.

The US-Mexico Women's World Cup qualifying match exposed the same US weaknesses we have fretted about since 2007 (lack of speed, lack of technical precision, snooze-inducing tactics, over-reliance on Route 1 to Abby's head), but did so in a way that we hope is horrifyingly novel enough to have gotten somebody's attention. You know, somebody else who might be able to do something about the situation.

The 4-4-2 is over. Time for a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, something to beef up the attack. Something with options besides Wambach, who can find the back of the net with her head like no other and is demonstrably tougher than nails (say what you will about her occasionally limited game and questionable past leadership; nobody could watch her standing there with blood pouring from her head and being stapled--stapled!--up on the sideline and not bust out with a well fuck all, go America!). Keep her up there in the middle as an aerial option, but please, please, please, start Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney up there with her as more mobile, slashing, versatile attackers. Amy Rodriguez is very fast, very very fast, but until the goals are expanded (see: barn, broad side of), she isn't a realistic scoring threat on the international level.

Speaking of scoring threat, any level, Carli Lloyd? Really? Still on the roster at all, let alone starting? Really? Pia, honey, we can put that long-overdue discussion about the merits of wearing a bra on the back burner for now, because we really need to talk about some of your personnel decisions. Lloyd sucks. Trust me on this; I'm a Red Stars fan. Boxx? Oh god. I love Boxxy. But at 33 she's lost a step, and holding mids (remember that position?) need a step. She is perhaps emblematic of a problem where many players appear to be on the roster because, well, they made the roster at some point in the past and you're reluctant to discard people that are past their shelf lives. You can afford one long-long-long-term savvy veteran on the field, if you surround that player with a bunch of young legs, so sure, keep Lil parked in the midfield. Everyone else, though, needs to perform or lose their spots.

Krieger? Nogueira? Averbuch? Rapinoe? Until Heath is healthy again, I do not know where the answer lies in the midfield. Back line? Brrrr. LePeilbet is fine. Rampone, I suppose, can still get it done but needs to have some real afterburner speed next to her. Mitts? Not so much. Cox? Maybe.

Keeper? Until Solo is back and demonstrably her old self, what the hell, throw Loyden in there and see what happens. Or Ashlyn Harris, who has demonstrated the ability to stand on her head and pirouette and tap dance all at the same time if it keeps the ball out of the net.

Just change it up, Pia. Jesus. Please. What you've been doing does not work. Player combinations that first fielded ten years ago do not work now. The baffling lack of a short passing/creative runs control game really does not work. Just running full out worked fifteen years ago, but now the rest of the planet has caught up, and we no longer have the monopoly on good athletes who can run circles around everyone else well into their thirties. Now we need great young athletes and tactical superiority just to keep up with Germany, and Norway, and... Mexico.

One and done territory, kids. Lose and the US does not go to the World Cup, which is on the level of the Yankees being mathematically eliminated on May 15. Win and the prize is a two-leg play-in game against Italy, with the last leg on November 27. In Chicago. Fucking hell. Catch the carnage on ESPN2 at 6pm EST tonight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Arizona Voters Do Not Fail to Disappoint

Pima County acquitted itself fairly well yesterday. The rest of the state, unfortunately, not so much.

Governor: Jan Brewer bravely overcame the revelations that she is (1) in bed with the private Prison industry, and (2) a blithering idiot, to beat Terry Goddard, although at 53%-40% it wasn't quite the trouncing I expected. Her first priority is to scrounge money from dedicated funds to move into the state's general fund, but, luckily, one of the few bright spots in the statewide balloting was the defeat of initiatives that would have let her raid the land conservation and early childhood development funds.

Senate: Walnuts McCain stomped Democrat (nee Republican) Rodney Glassman, surprising exactly no one. I am not at all sure that Glassman would have been better for Arizona so much as a different flavor of sleazy.

US House: Still undecided! Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords are currently clinging to leads of a couple thousand votes with about 350,000 left to be counted. Most of the yet-to-be-counteds are from Pima (hopeful!) and Maricopa (brrrr!) counties, which might end up canceling each other out. We hope.

AZ Attorney General: Noted dim bulb Tom Horne edged out a Democrat I'd never heard of but who, I thought, had at least a coin flip's chance of having a few more brain cells to rub together than Horne does on any given day. The bright spot? He's no longer in charge of what passes for an education department. The dark spot? Tucson Unified School District has been in his sights for a long time for having the temerity to offer Latino heritage and culture classes to their Latino-majority student body, even after Arizona passed a law explicitly aimed at making ethnic studies programs Tom Horne doesn't like illegal. And now he's the chief prosecutor in the state? Have fun with that, TUSD!

Secretary of State, otherwise known as Lieutenant Governor: Republican Ken Bennett in a wash, meaning that if Jan-Jan resigns or just plain forgets to come in to work for a year or so, the governorship stays in Republican hands. Which does not bode well for the future, considering that noted white supremacist-consorting, private prisons lackey Russell Pearce is the new president of the state senate.

Prop 106 (Fuck Healthcare): I must say that I'm impressed with the drive and determination of Arizona voters. Not content to be at the bottom of national rankings for education and children-in-poverty levels (we recently passed Alabama to claim that title), the voters made sure that we will soon be at the bottom for healthcare as well. Prop 106, which passed by 130,000 votes, amends the state constitution to say no Arizonan is required to buy health insurance or participate in a health plan. Yeah, we'll see.

Prop 107 (Fuck Nonwhite Nonmales): The voters decided even more resoundingly to make affirmative action illegal. There are still many questions about whether this will end programs designed to keep female and nonwhite students in college (despite the fact that Arizona universities and colleges currently do not consider race or gender in admissions). Tom Horne is undoubtedly lining up the lawsuits as we speak.

Prop 203 (Medical Marijuana): Barely losing at the moment.

Well, at least Ken Buck and Sharron Angle won't be haunting Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio will, and, saddest of all, Russ Feingold will be watching this one from the bench. I remember how the morning after Election Day 1994 felt. This feels worse.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Oh, Jesse.

Can I just say that I love Jesse Kelly's new ad? Jesse is trying to take Gabrielle Giffords' US House seat (AZ-8), and is feeling some heat for some of his positions, like, say, eliminating the federal income tax in favor of an across-the-board 23% sales tax, and eliminating food inspectors (because we are all responsible for taking care of ourselves, which apparently means following people home from Safeway and carefully watching them for 48 hours after their backyard BBQs to see if they contract e. coli from this week's bargain hamburger before we feed it to our own families), and, oh yes, outlawing all abortion no matter what.

What's Jesse's approach in the face of these crippling revelations about his creepy-ass ideas? Why, it's this: AMERICA, BITCHEZ.

Ha ha, there's just no time between now and Tuesday to address the issues Congresswoman Giffords has helpfully pointed out to the voters, so AMERICA! Cut taxes, cut spending, and KEEP AMERICA STRONG! Did you know I'm a Marine? Oh, all that stuff you've been hearing about my complete douchecadet positions on women's reproductive freedoms, and wanting you to fork over an additional $23 bucks on your weekly $100 grocery bill? For food that may or may not kill you? Don't worry your pretty heads about that, because: AMERICA!

Please go out and vote tomorrow. It's kind of a big deal.