Archive for June, 2010


Why Soccer Fails to Capture the Interest of Americans

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about why Americans will never embrace the sport of “football.” The most common theory seems to relate to the length-of-play to points scored ratio (as seen on facebook: How is watching soccer like going to the disco? Everybody gets all sweaty, and nobody scores).

I have a different theory, which relates to the American ideal of fairness, especially in sport.

Soccer as it is today is just too subjective.

Firstly: What’s up with the “extra time” tacked on to the end of the game, supposedly reflecting the amount of time lost for fouls, injuries, out-of-bounds, etc.? It seems to me like an opportunity ripe for corruption, as well as completely subjective (who makes that decision anyway? does anybody know?) Now I can understand that this might have been a relevant approach I don’t know, back before we had clocks, but here we are in the 21st century, with laser technology and timers that can place swimmers and skiers within thousandths of seconds, but we can’t stop the time when the ball goes out of bounds? Maybe they could talk to someone, like the NBA or the NFL, and ask them how they do it.

Secondly: what gets called a foul and what doesn’t? You can watch 10 minutes of soccer and there are 30 whistles; for the next 30 minutes, while the players wrestle each other to the ground, kick each other in the jaw, or throw themselves to the grass in a writhing squirming heap because someone came into their airspace, nary a whistle is blown.

Thirdly: the continued insistence on refusing to use video technology to review mildly important calls, you know, like questionable goals in international competition.

Vague, arbitrary, archaic. Not fair.

In a related story, the president of FIFA has apologized for the refereeing errors, and vowed that the discussion regarding the use of video technology will be reopened in July (after the World Cup is over; that should help). He insists, though, that this discussion is only going to be regarding what he refers to as “goal-line technology.” While that’s a start, I don’t think it goes far enough. Could someone at least hand someone a stopwatch?



Can someone please explain to me what she’s talking about? And how is it that she can seem to be reading from a prepared speech and still be completely incoherent? I’ve heard better speeches from middle-schoolers running for “office.”

The best part is when she compares the tragic death of a woman protester on the streets of Tehran to students (oh wait, I’m speaking to students, crap, I mean) political operatives, “not students necessarily” (phew! good save! that was close!) “dumpster diving” to “prove that someone requested a bendy straw.”


Oh, wait, she clears it all up in her next statements, when she asks whether these same students might make a better use of their time addressing their president in protest, rather than protesting her appearance at Conservative U. Oh! So political freedoms, rights of free speech, and personal obligation to the above are important ideals, but only if used in support of HER agenda. I get it. Thank you so much for clarifying.

I guess she’s proven one point: if a woman of her caliber can make it this far in the political realm of the good ol’ U S of A, anything is possible.



Grace I

You know those moments, when everything just seems right, and the world gleams golden like the perfect peach?

Today, in the car: the breeze is trying to blow away a little of today’s humidity while the sun finally shines, my daughter and her best friend have their two little ebony-haired heads bent together in the back seat of the car, Christie McVie is singing Songbird from my iPod, husband is waiting at home to grill buffalo burgers to eat with the red-potato salad (with green beans, capers, and hard boiled egg) and cucumbers in yogurt and vinegar, accompanied by a charming little Spanish Pinot Grigio. . .one of those moments you wish you could hold in your hand.


Can You Believe It?

It has recently come to my attention that not everyone can decipher handwriting written in the soap on his/her back in the bathtub/shower. I guess having sisters comes in handy in more ways than one realizes.


Still Here

Haven’t posted for several days, busy taking-care-of things. Some thought-provoking moments, but having a hard time bringing things into focus; maybe I’m reading too many novels.

Spent a few days visiting my mom. She has “a” glioblastoma, diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago, and is struggling with the effects of long-term chemo, the latest “round” having gone on now for a year. She’s looking forward to the doctor-recommended break and hoping that it will allow her to regain some energy, but is also afraid that it will give the tumors a chance to grow. It is, and has been, a mixed blessing, because she has far exceeded the usual prognosis for this type of cancer, but the chemo is really wearing her out. My daughter and I gardened for her (she’s trying to sell her house, and her yard looks like something from a magazine, which is especially remarkable considering she can only work in 20-minute increments. She quoted my beloved great-grandmother to me: “I work for a while, then rest for two whiles.”) The next day I scoured her rather large deck and harvested lilac sprouts to bring home and plant in my yard. Exhausting, but good, honest work, and allowed me to reconnect with muscles I had forgotten about.

Yesterday I watched world cup soccer with my husband, and ordered flooring for our upcoming house-remodel project (old laminate crap and filthily disgusting mold-and-dust-and-pet-hair ridden carpet being exchanged for travertine and bamboo). Then we planted the lilacs, hoping the rampaging deer will leave them alone, and edged the flower bed. Another day of good, honest work, (GHW), and have become acquainted with even more muscles.

Today we decided that we couldn’t put all those beautiful floors in and not do something about the kids’ computer desk — a desk I tried to refinish once by painting it white to match the cupboards, but hadn’t managed to remove enough finish first so it basically peeled like a kid with a bad sunburn. Or glue — remember when you were a kid and painted glue on your hands so you could peel it off when it dried? My daughter had decided, helpful girl, that the desk looked better without the paint, so systematically peeled little tiny bits of it whenever she was at the computer, creating a wonderfully skin-diseased mottled effect. So my husband and I worked lengthily with hazardous, toxic chemicals, taking turns dashing into the house to wash the caustic substance off every time it dripped on us, and scraped and scoured and scrubbed. Still not sure it’s going to “work” but at least the paint’s off and we’re looking at mostly bare wood.  I’ve now become acquainted with even aNOTHER set of muscles and have minor chemical burns on my arm. Tomorrow we get to start sanding! Yippee!!

At the end of the day’s exertions I made us a pitcher of strawberry margaritas (with half the tequila I used in the last batch; we’re too old to get hammered before dinner) and, sitting on the deck and enjoying a beautiful June evening, finished reading The Other, by David Guterson. A lovely book: two young men, one privileged, one middle-class, become friends in high school. The privileged boy, John William, raised by a mentally-ill mother and an emotionally absent and ineffective father, becomes more and more eccentric through high school and the beginnings of a college education, until he becomes a complete recluse and lives in a limestone cave in the Pacific Northwest “bush.” His friend and blood-brother Neil Countryman (a less-than-subtle but effective name which implies every-man, and the down-home values of the peasant) visits, and supplies, him on occasion while pursuing a middle-class life (“selling out to Hamburgerland”): high school English teacher, wife, two sons. John William dies, and is eventually found, at which point it is revealed that he has left $440 million to his friend. Neil and his wife struggle with what to do with this money, what will it change? What would they like to stay the same? Can it?

Eventually. . .”Jamie and I turned in the ’92 Civic and bought a hybrid, which we recently took to the Canadian Okanagan. . .We walked, swam, biked, sunned, tasted wines, ate well, bought pottery, and watched the sun go down, and though all of this was fun, none of it made us happy. We both wanted something else that was unnamable. It might be forever unnamable. In this regard, money changes nothing, which Jamie and I knew before we had it.”

Neil is an avid reader, and does find that the inheritance encourages his tendency to indulge at used-book stores. Near the end of the book he recounts some of the wisdom imparted to new parents by Dr. Benjamin Spock:

1. You know more than you think you do.

2. Parents are human — they have needs.

3. Some children are a lot more difficult than others.

4. At best, there’s a lot of hard work and deprivation.

5. Needless self-sacrifice sours everybody.

6. Parents should expect something from their children.

7. Parents are bound to get cross.

to which I think

1. Maybe; but maybe I know less and then we’re all screwed.

2. Definitely. Forgot it for about 20 years. . .

3. Ya’ think?

4. Ditto.

5. Yes, it does.

6. And be willing to wait 25 years to get it.

7. Phew!

And so on, to the final line of the book, which is “It’s not the words but the music that counts.”

I like that.


W. S. Merwin, On the Subject of Poetry

I do not understand the world, Father.

By the millpond at the end of the garden

There is a man who slouches listening

To the wheel revolving in the stream, only

There is no wheel there to revolve.

Continue reading ‘W. S. Merwin, On the Subject of Poetry’


The Stone Angel

by Margaret Laurence, written in 1964.

Hagar is born on the prairies of Canada, raised by her store-keeper father to be “better” than those around her. This endeavour culminates in her being sent to finishing school, where she learns embroidery, French, menu-planning for a 5-course meal, poetry, how to take a firm hand with servants, and the most becoming way of dressing her hair. In other words, nothing of any use at all, except to alienate her from her surroundings.

She becomes enamored of and marries a man exactly wrong for her, the opposite of that which her father would have hoped for.

Her life is filled with unhappiness and disappointment: the son who grows up to tend to her in her old age treated with bitterness and suspicion; the son she pinned all of her hopes on becomes the image of his father, uncouth and coarse, and dies tragically on a dare.

Hagar struggles against her age, her loss of independence, her fear that her surviving son and his wife want only to sell her house and her “things” — things which bear great sentimental value for her despite their commemoration of moments less than satisfying.

There’s a moment of radiance: when visited in the hospital by the minister of her daughter-in-law’s church, he appeases Hagar by singing a favored hymn.

I would have wished it. This knowing comes upon me so forcefully, so shatteringly, and with such a bitterness as I have never felt before. I must always, always, have wanted that–simply to rejoice. How is it that I never could? I know, I know. How long have I known? Or have I always known, in some far crevice of my heart, some cave too deeply buried, too concealed? Every good joy I might have held, in my man or any child of mine or even the plain light of morning, of walking the earth, all were forced to a standstill by some brake of proper appearances–oh, proper to whom? When did I ever speak the heart’s truth?

Her reproaches return within moments, followed immediately by her regret. Oh, I am unchangeable, unregenerate. I go on speaking in the same way, always, and the same touchiness rises within me at the slightest thing.

This dichotomy defines the book — Hagar in turns plaintive, needy, defensive; determined, remorseful, even occasionally kind. [I am reminded of my grandma — candid, opinionated, full of fire until the last.] She becomes caught up in her memories and her regrets, losing contact with the present while recognizing its absence. In one of the closing passages she recounts a passing visit to the graves of her husband and father, the stone angel which marks her father’s grave teetering, weathered and worn. Despite her panic upon a previous visit, when the angel had been deliberately tumbled, and vandalized through the mortifying application of lipstick, this time she doesn’t bother to set it to rights, knowing that really it doesn’t matter; that what remains there, and what was, is over.

As in many places in this book, this realization, this profound insight, is short-lived; perhaps the most powerful, and real, revelation of them all.

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