Monday, April 30, 2007

God is not a specialty in Indiana

In Indiana, you can buy a specialty auto license plate that supports everything from breast cancer research to child abuse prevention to the Indianapolis Colts, but it will cost you an administrative fee of $15, and there is often a donation to the cause included, too. Mark Studler pays $40 a year for his environmental cause plate--$40 goes to the Indiana Heritage Trust, and the state of Indiana gets its $15 administrative fee.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Department of Veterans Affairs backs down, allows pentacles on headstones

In March of 2006, I reported that the widow of a Nevada National Guardsman shot down in Afghanistan was trying to get permission from the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a pentacle engraved on her husband's headstone. Her request was denied.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)


Why government does not work

There are many reasons, of course. But one of them is the existence of outrageous practices in Congress, such as attaching totally unrelated amendments to a bill. Why every voter does not threaten to kick out her senator and representative unless this is changed is beyond me...oh, wait...I forgot: Voters are not paying any attention.

Another piece of outrage is the anonymous hold. For example, a senator can anonymously forbid any bill from going forward. The good news is that, finally, the Senate decided this practice was unethical and voted to abolish it. The bad news is that the House has not yet voted on the measure, so, in the meantime, the anonymous hold can still be used.

And someone is using it, via his or her buddy, Sen. Lamar Alexander. For those who like irony, the bill in question is one that would eliminate the paper filing of campaign finance forms, thereby forcing senators to file electronically like everyone else, thereby allowing the rest of us to know what is going on before an election takes place.

But someone does not want us to know what is on those forms. In fact, that someone does not even want us to know who s/he is.

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Provo, Utah business community forms blacklist of protesting students

First, the Provo School District denied a venue to Brigham Young University students who wanted a place to hold an alternative commencement ceremony. The students, who did not want to attend the official ceremony with speaker Dick Cheney, had been promised space at a local high school, but then a memo suddenly appeared, telling all principals to deny use of their schools for the event.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

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Friday, April 27, 2007

From Harper's May index

Percentage of Pakistanis and Indonesians who say that attacks on civilians are sometimes justified (to defend Islam): 8

Percentage of Americans who say that attacks on civilians are sometimes justified: 24

(Also, the current Index indicates a higher figure than I previously guessed as to how many civil liberties cases were brought against Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York: The actual number is 34.)


Friday cat blogging--Norma Desmond edition

Ziggy Stardust


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rare lung disease found in food-flavoring plant employees

Bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare, life-threatening lung disease, has been found in eight in eight individuals who worked in California food-flavoring plants between 2003 and 2007. Contracting this disease was apparently the result of inhaling diacetyl, which is also linked to the occurrence of bronchiolitis obliterans in people who work in the microwave popcorn industry.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Barbara Bush: Still the nation's best source for sick humor

She asked us why she should waste her beautiful mind on such things as body bags and death.

Then, she comforted us (with a chuckle) by telling us how much better off the Katrina evacuees were hanging out in Houston's hurricane relief centers.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)


Just in case you feel a strong need to punish yourself...

This is available for you to watch. Warning: the only thing more repugnant than watching George W. dance is watching Laura dance. But hey, they are all getting down with eradicating malaria in Africa, and never mind that they are hunky-dory with these same people dying from AIDS. Bush, by the way, had to practically be dragged onto the ballroom floor to dance with his wife at his first inaugural ball, but in Africa, he is a regular Karl Rove.

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"Stop being so negative"

That is the catchphrase now for people who do not want you messing with their delusions. When a crazy woman verbally attacked me in a parking lot a few years ago because I dared to not approve of the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross (just because I cannot abide bigotry, dishonesty, incompetence, and murder) her argument was that I was so negative. In today's New Orleans Times-Picayune, there is a letter from a woman who is just so undone because a columnist (and everyone else in town) criticized a local school administration for senselessly ruining prom night for some students. The columnist, she says, is just so negative.

There are some people I know very well who like to barrage our household with "Bush is wonderful"/"gays are bad"/"the ACLU is evil" trash that is all based on lies and misconstrued evidence. When we point out that actual fact debunks what they are saying, their reply is: "Stop being so negative."

Negativity can be a harmful thing. Each of us knows at least one person who sees the worst part of every person and situation, often with a big dose of unfounded suspicion. These are people who do not bother to try to solve their problems because they believe their problems are unsolvable. That kind of negativity irritates me no end. But there is a difference between having a negative mindset toward everything and pointing out rampant dishonesty, incompetence and fascist tendencies.

Ignorance and denial are sick lovers who walk hand in hand throughout life, causing great harm to the rest of us. The least they can do is shut the hell up.


Quote of the week

" one suffers more than the president and I do."

Laura Bush, speaking about the war


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The spring garden

The miniature rose garden has never been as beautiful as it is this year

The grasshoppers have arrived: Nymphs visit the little fairy in the miniature rose garden

The giant, sprawling 'Mermaid' rose is covered with bud clusters like this one

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Alleged "dungeon rapist" found not guilty

This is not a pretty read, but an important one. Make sure you follow the link to the article in The State.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Arkansas father says sons "traumatized" over seeing pictures of lesbian sex

What kind of man wants to stop his sons from seeing girl-on-girl sex, the ultimate fantasy pastime of heterosexual men? The kind of man who is so bigoted, he had a fit when his adolescent sons "just happened" to come across (oops!) such a book while they were in the library looking for a book about military academies.

So which book would you rather read?

I digress. Earl Adams of Bentonville, Arkansas (who you just know is "looking at" that book as I write this) wants the city to pay his sons $20,000 because they were so traumatized by the sight of two-dimensional lesbian sex. Right. Adams described "many sleepless nights" in his house, and I leave it to you, dear reader, to determine why those boys lay sleepless.

Adams also described the book as "patently offensive and lacks any artistic, literary or scientific value." Uh-huh. (Reminds me of a joke I used to hear when I was a kid: A woman frantically approaches a police officer and says "Officer, please help me! A man over there is exposing himself!" The police officers looks, and says "I'm sorry, M'am, but I don't see anything." "Well, if you stand on this box...")

According to Adams, the "Christian community" will take legal action if the book is put back where his sons found it, so boys--be sure to sneak it back into the library when dad isn't looking.

Thanks to Pam Spaulding of Pandagon.


"I don't work for you, I work for the American people"

The last time I checked, singer Sheryl Crow and environmental activist Laurie David were Americans, just like me. But according to Karl Rove, he does not have to answer to them because he "works for the American people."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

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Some of my Family Circle Cup photos are online now

You can see the album here. The best way to view the photos is by using the slide show function.


Monday goat blogging

As a sequel to Sunday's special ostrich blogging, here is the goat, Weber, who lives with those ostriches.

And here is another fine goat.

National Poetry Month

We are now in the fourth week of National Poetry Month. If you signed up, you are receiving a poem a day in your email box from the Academy of American Poets. Some good poetry anthologies are Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn, and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems. You can hear Keillor read a poem every day on The Writer's Almanac on public radio. If you live in a city or a university community, there are probably still special poetry events for you to attend this month.

The U.S. Poet Laureate is Donald Hall. You may hear him read here.

And here is one of my poems, just published in Ghoti.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday ostrich blogging

Since I was not able to do a cat blog on Friday, here is a photo of one of the ostriches at our bed and breakfast in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where we stayed when we went to see the Family Circle Cup

A close-up

A basket of ostrich eggs right outside our room--the ostriches lay eggs constantly

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back from Blogger hell

Blogger moved my blog over to the new system. The good news is that nothing was changed except for one little thing, and I'll be fixing that as soon as I get a chance. There were horror stories about things being changed, but I have just a little bit to fix. If you keep using html, things stay about the same; if you switch to the new WYSIWYG, you lose a lot, however. Needless to day, I'm sticking with html.

The bad news is that I could not log in for a week, and there was not appropriate help available. Today, however, I was let in.

I spent this afternoon at a book signing. I am one of the contributors to Louisiana in Words. My co-signer was a rather well-known author, so I just listened to her talk about book tours and other authors. This was a state-wide signing. About a month ago, we went to the release party at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, where we also signed.

I have a piece of flash fiction here.

I am still kind of tired from my trip to South Carolina.

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Corzine's driver was doing 91 mph, but guess who's to blame?

Give up? The Rutgers women's basketball team.

During this morning's MSNBC Live, New York Sun national and foreign editor Nicholas Wapshott told the country he thought the Rutgers team "must feel pretty terrible about what's happened to Governor Corzine." Corzine, whose driver was doing 91 mph., was--not surprisingly--a victim of a motor vehicle accident that has left him seriously injured. According to Wapshott, Corzine was speeding to get to a "totally unnecessary meeting of reconciliation where these women are paraded as inadequate."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)


Sen. Reid finally pulls up his civil liberties score

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not that long ago, had a high ACLU score of 44%, and his score has been even as low as 40%, not very fitting for the supposedly liberal wing of the Senate. In the latest ACLU compilation, however, Reid scores 67%, a significant improvement, though nothing to brag about.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

2007 Family Circle Cup--an overview

The 2007 Family Circle Cup player field was scheduled to be one of the best in history, and wound up disappointing. Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo withdrew because of illness, and Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis and Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew because of injury. I was deeply disappointed about Mauresmo's and Hingis's withdrawals, but I did not share the opinion some had that the tournament was "ruined." For me (and for the people of Charleston), as long as Patty Schnyder was there, it was good enough.

Unfortunately, Schnyder went out in the second round, a victim of humid conditions and Peng Shuai. But my second favorite, Jelena Jankovic, went on to win the whole thing. I have become more and more of a Jankovic fan in the last couple of seasons, and it was a real pleasure to see her hold the Family Circle Cup high. Her victory took a lot of the sting out of Schnyder's loss.

Once again, the Family Circle Cup was well-organized and well-run. The tournament was totally enjoyable, despite the withdrawal of the top five seeds, and the retirements, through injury, of Serena Williams, Tatiana Golovin and Vera Zvonareva. What with the withdrawals, the retirements, Schnyder's early exit, and the bad weather on the last day, the tournament probably sounds like it was a total disaster, but it wasn't. We all dealt with the multiple disappointments and focused on the healthy players.

Highs and lows:

First, the lows:

  • The withdrawal of the top five seeds
  • The retirement of Williams, Golovin and Zvonareva
  • The cancellation of two doubles quarterfinal matches because of retirements
  • Patty Schnyder's second round loss to Peng Shuai (probably my biggest disappointment)
  • The match announcer's consistent mispronunciation of the players' names
  • The tournament director's mispronunciation of a finalist's name
  • Michaella Kracijek's terrible choke in her quarterfinal match against Zvonareva
  • The absence of player interviews on the Grand Lawn
  • The substitution of Murphy Jensen for Luke Jensen as Grand Lawn event emcee

The highs:

  • The consistently great work done by Family Circle Cup volunteers
  • The nice variety of food available at the food court (but will they ever bring back the falalfel?)
  • Great access to the players
  • Michaella Krajicek's stunning victory over top seed Nicole Vaidisova
  • Anabel Medina Garrigues's straight set victory over Li Na. Medina Garrigues is a player I like a lot (I like Li, too), and this was a really big win for her.
  • The first-rate comedy show, billed as an exhibition match, put on by the hilarious Liezel Huber, Katarina Srebotnik, Gisela Dulko, Flavia Pennetta, and chair umpire Lynn Welch
A final fashion note...I choose Venus Williams' orange halter dress as the outstanding tennis outfit of the tournament. Because it was so chilly, we also saw some very nice warmup apparel, but my favorite was Patty Schynder's "vacationland" style Miami jacket.

Players worth mentioning:

Michaella Krajicek: She broke everyone's heart when she choked her entire quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva, but prior to that awful moment, she provided the most thrilling tennis of the tournament. Here's hoping Krajicek finds a way to live up to her potential. Who wouldn't want to see more of her?

Peng Shuai: We all know how talented Peng is, but--like Krajicek--she hasn't found a way to develop that talent. In her match against Patty Schnyder, we saw how well she can play, and then she and her doubles partner, Sun Tiantian, took out the number one doubles team in the second round. (We also got to see Michael Chang, who is now coaching Peng.)

Katarina Srebotnik: Srebotnik has a nice game, and we always enjoy watching her play. At this tournament, she showed some amazing endurance. After winning a really tough three-setter against hard hitter Aravane Rezai, she had to rush off the court to play doubles. Early the next morning, she was practicing, and then beat Zheng Zhi in another tough three-set match. And when her doubles partner, Dinara Safina, retired from their quarterfinal match, Srebotnik stuck around to entertain us as part of the deadly funny five-woman show in the doubles exhibition match.

Through rain and high winds, the JJ Express rolls on

Attempting to serve during a windstorm at the Family Circle Cup final today, Dinara Safina yelled at the wind to stop blowing. She did a lot more yelling throughout the relatively brief match, as her opponent, Jelena Jankovic, handled the wind skillfully. Jankovic kept the ball in the court and waited patiently for the errors to come off of Safina's racquet, which they did, over and over. And even when Safina kept the ball in play, Jankovic's returns were just too good. She won, 6-2, 6-2, and is the new Family Circle Cup champion.

It was nothing short of amazing that the championship match started on time. Rain and high winds took power out in the Charleston area and blew trees onto cars on Daniel Island, where the stadium is located. Just as amazingly, there was only one rain delay, and it lasted less than five minutes.

Conditions were much worse for the doubles championship, with the wind howling and debris blowing all over the court. Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian narrowly lost the first set, 5-7, but in the second set, they could no longer handle the conditions, and were run over, 6-0.

Dinara Safina gets smooth ride to Charleston final

We lost our Internet connection last night, so I am only just now able to post about Saturday's action at the Family Circle Cup. Dinara Safina got a lot of rest after her quarterfinal match on Friday, when Tatiana Golovin retired after the first set because of an ankle injury (a chronic problem with Golovin). Then yesterday, Safina's semifinal opponent, Vera Zvonareva, retired at the beginning of the second set because of a left wrist injury. Both players were playing with left wrist wraps.

Earlier, Jelena Jankovic just barely scraped out a victory over Venus Williams in their semifinal. Jankovic's performance in the first set was lackluster. In an interview a few days ago, she said she was having trouble finding her serve in this tournament, and the problem was evident in the first two sets of the semifinal. In the second set, Williams had repeated problems with her serve, committing double fault after double fault.

It was not until the third set that Jankovic found her serve--and her game--and then the match became tense and fans got to see some good rallies. Neither player could prevail, however, and Jankovic won the tiebreak, 7-5. Even the winning moment was less than desirable, when there was some brief controversy over the line call of the last shot.

We were looking forward to the doubles semifinal between Liezel Huber/Cara Black and Yan Zi/Zheng Jie. However, Zheng and Zi totally dominated the first set, handing Black and Huber a bagel, and went on to win the second set, too. Much more interesting was the second semifinal between Peng Shuai/Sun Tiantian and Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta. Dulko and Pennetta have been playing really well all week, and they took the first set, but Peng and Sun became more and more aggressive as the match went on, won a tight second set, then prevailed easily in the third.

Tennis outfit of the day: Jelena Jankovic, in her Wimbledon white with subtle gold striping. Once again, it's a dress we've seen before, but one that always looks great.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Charleston quarterfinals: Missed opportunities, missed matches

Like a backyard tent in a Low Country storm, Michaella Krajicek folded under the pressure of her quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva at the Family Circle Cup today. There were flashes of the brilliance we have seen all week from Krajicek, and she did rally enough to save five match points, but generally, she just wasn't there today. I was really disappointed. I didn't have a favorite between the two of them--I had reasons for wanting each of them to win--but I was hoping Krajicek would be able to seize the moment, even if she lost in three tight sets.

It wasn't to be, however. The stinging forehand of only a day ago sent balls flying all over the place, and Krajicek also had trouble getting her first serve in. And whereas, earlier in the week, her second serve was excellent, today, it was good only some of the time. She could never get into the rhythm of Zvonareva's game, and to make matters worse--except for one rough service patch--Zvonareva was hitting the ball very cleanly.

Likewise, Anabel Medina Garrigues had multiple opportunities--almost all of them set up by her own clever shot-making--to force Venus Williams into a third set, but blew almost every chance she had by making surprisingly poor decisions. Medina Garrigues probably gave Williams more trouble than some people expected her to, but mostly, she gave herself trouble, and lost in straight sets.

Tatiana Golovin retired after her first set against Dinara Safina because of yet another ankle injury. With Golovin, it is always something about her ankles. Safina took the first set handily, but it is hard to know to what extent Golovin's defeats were related to her physical pain. We hated to see her retire. Safina, for her part, played a pretty clean set with powerful groundstrokes.

The other quarterfinal had Katarina Srebotnik struggling against a formidable Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic is not playing doubles and has had a pretty easy draw. Not even Srebotnik gave her much challenge, and it concerns me that she goes into the semifinals not very match-tough.

Now we come to the part of the day I'll call "Oh my aching wrist." Zvonareva and her doubles partner, Nathalie Dechy, gave their opponents, Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian, a walkover this evening, citing a left wrist injury that Zvonareva incurred during her singles match. A while later, we were told that Safina and Srebotnik were withdrawing from their match against Gisela
Dulko and Flavia Pennetta because of Safina's left wrist injury. I leave it to you, dear reader, to work it out.

This news may sound disappointing, but the best was yet to come. Dulko and Pennetta played an "exhibition match" against Liesel Huber and Srebotnik, and I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long. All four players, plus the chair umpire, turned out to be hilarious improv artists, and my greatest hope is that there will be a video or DVD available of this event. There is no way to describe it--you had to be there. I will never look at any of these five again without cracking up. There was a great deal of wonderful physical humor, as well as some fabulous one-liners from the chair. They all really need to take this show on the road.

Tennis outfit of the day: Venus Williams, looking beautiful in a bright orange dress with halter top, and a bit of white trim.

Friday cat blogging--bedroom furniture edition

It's cozy in the armoire

And even cozier in the underwear drawer

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charleston round of 16--Li and Ivanovic say goodbye

Playing on an out-of-the-way court, with little fanfare, Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain quietly took out Li Na in straight sets

It was much warmer today at the Family Circle Cup. We began the day by attending the Michaella Krajicek-Sybille Bammer match, which was pretty good until the third set, when Bammer ceased her aggression and gave Krajicek all the room she needed to clean up. Those who believe Krajicek is somehow lucky at the Family Circle Cup have not been here to watch her: She has put on dazzling displays of tennis since her feet first hit the green clay. Her forehand has been very special, and in today's match, she impressed with her backhand, too, and with solid, authoritative groundstrokes.

By the time I got to the Li Na-Anabel Medina Garrigues match, Medina Garrigues had taken the first set. I'm a Medina Garrigues fan, and I was delighted to see the score, but kind of sorry I hadn't been around for the first set. In the second set, Li had set points on Medina Garrigues's serve, but could not convert them, and lost in straight sets. It wasn't an easy set, with Medina Garrigues getting two really bad line calls. Both players struggled with their serves--Li more than Medina Garrigues--but Medina Garrigues was obviously more comfortable on the clay surface than Li.

I also saw the third set of the Peng Shuai-Tatiana Golovin match, which Golovin won, along with the match. Golovin is looking very solid this week. I wasn't able to see the match between Katarina Srebotnik and Zheng Jie, but I did get there in time to see Srebotnik force a tiebreak in the second set, and win that set, along with the match--7-5, 7-6. We were all marveling at Srebotnik's endurance. Yesterday, she played a grueling three-setter against hard-hitting Aravane Rezai, then she had to go play doubles. She was practicing early this morning, and somehow stayed fresh enough to beat Zheng.

We also saw part of the doubles match between Vera Dushevina/Elena Vesnina and Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, which Dulko and Pennetta won. When it was over, no one in the stands seemed too interested. I began applauding, and Pennetta looked up and gave me a big smile and a "thank you" wave. These two have surprised us with some good doubles play.

Vera Zvonareva, as we predicted, won handily over a sluggish, error-prone Ana Ivanovic, who served once at 126 mph, though I no longer recall whether the serve was good. I went over to the club court to watch the second set between Patty Schnyder/Corina Morariu and Zheng Jie/Yan Zi, who had won the first set, 6-2. Schnyder and Morariu won a highly entertaining second set in a tiebreak, which in itself was filled with thrills, especially when Morariu double-faulted at 6-5. Morariu's service game was terrible; Schynder's was good, and the two of them put on quite a show for one set, but then got run over in the third.

At one point in the second set, Morariu questioned a call, but before she could argue with the chair umpire, Schnyder locked her elbow around Morariu's neck and pulled her off the court, cracking everyone up. And toward the end of the match, one of their opponents hit a ball just over the net so high that Schnyder actually strolled around to the net pole to wait for it to drop so she could hit a volley.

While this was going on, Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur were losing to Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian in the main stadium. I couldn't bear to leave the other doubles match, though, so I waited until that one was over. By then, Raymond and Stosur had won the second set of their match, but they lost the third and are out of the tournament. From the one set I saw, Raymond in particular was making errors all over the place, but neither of them looked like themselves. Peng and Sun were patient and took their opportunities. There were some exciting moments, but all the fun was going on at the club court.

To answer a question it has taken me a while to get to: According to Jelena Jankovic, with whom I spoke this afternoon, the clay in Charleston is indeed more slippery than the clay in Amelia Island was. Jankovic has become a favorite of mine, but I have seen her play only one set since I've been here. She has had a pretty easy draw, and I prefer to see close matches, so I have avoided most of hers. She isn't playing doubles, so I am concerned that she won't be very match-tough when she finally has a challenging match to play. Next up for Jankovic is Katarina Srebotnik.

According to Richard Williams, Venus is having some pain in her left wrist, though people who saw her play today said her backhand looked great.

Tennis outfit of the day: I go with brown and hot pink again, but this time on Elena Vesnina. Her hot pink came in the form of a long V down the front turning into hot pink straps, with an open panel in the back of her dress. It was very smart and looked good on her.

Another note on the Schnyder loss in Charleston

One of the things I didn't think about (I was very tired) last night when I was writing about Patty Schnyder's loss was how poorly she tends to do in wet conditions. She talks about it here.

Patty Schnyder out of Charleston--The jinx is complete

Peng Shuai, playing two very clean final sets, defeated Charleston's favorite, Patty Schnyder, in the second round of the Family Circle Cup tonight, after Schnyder had played a brilliant opening set

First the top five seeds--all huge stars--withdrew one by one from the Family Circle Cup. Then rain was forecast for several days of the tournament. Then the new number one seed was taken out in the second round. Then Serena Williams had to retire with an injury. I said yestreday that, to make the jinx complete, Patty Schnyder--Charleston's favorite tennis player--would have to be taken out in the second round. And sure enough, she lost tonight in three sets to Peng Shuai of China. Schnyder played brilliantly in the first set, but Schnyder fans know that such early brilliance is often a harbinger of bad things to come.

Last year, when Schnyder played in Charleston, she had her thigh wrapped, and when she was asked if she was hurting, she said "only when I attempt my kick serve." Her thigh was wrapped tonight, and one of the first things I noticed was that Schnyder's kick serve was nonexistent. She has one of the best second serves on the tour, but without the spin, her second serve is mediocre. This was not a problem in the first set because she was holding her first serve well. And while placement is generally more important to her than speed, she was slamming her serves in at between 114 and 117 mph much of the time. In the last two sets, Schnyder was not able to hold her first serve that much, and the loss of her usually very solid second serve hurt her.

That was part of the problem. Another part was that after the first set, Peng played almost error-free tennis. Peng is a player who, if she gets into a certain zone, can be very dangerous, and she was in it tonight, hitting the ball so cleanly, it was, at times, startling.

The other part of the problem is obvious to anyone familiar with the tour: Patty Schnyder, once she starts to go down, loses belief in herself and starts making error after error. The crowd was solidly behind her, and I think it was this support that helped her save five match points. Every time she saved a match point, the crowd went wild, and I started to believe she would pull herself out of the hole. But Peng won the match on her sixth match point, disappointing a stadium full of people. We hung our Patty Schnyder banner tonight, then took it down, folded it and put it away, and I won't get over my disappointment for a long time.

The seeds are having problems. This morning, I saw a dull and flat Shahar Peer get taken out by Zheng Jie. Peer was clearly not herself, probably as a result of the injuries she sustained during practice a few days ago. Ana Ivanovic won her first set against Gisela Dulko 6-0, so I didn't bother to watch. I found out later that Dulko had rallied in the second set, and got to the stadium in time to see her win a second set tiebreak. She came dangerously close to defeating Ivanovic, but missed some opportunities in the third set, and Ivanovic was able to scratch out a victory.

We all had a great time watching the delightful and spirited Vasilisa Bardina lose to Venus Williams. Bardina was having such a great time, just being on the court, that the crowd developed a fondness for her. Williams ran over her, but Bardina never lost her sense of humor or her joy over being a competitor. Right after that, the usually feisty Anastasia Rodionova was like a deer in the headlights when confronted with Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic seemed out of sorts and was sweating profusely. The match was so one-sided, we left after the first set. Jankovic won the match handily.

I watched the last two sets of the match between Francesca Schiavone and Anabel Medina Garrigues. It was a good match, well fought, and Medina Garrigues emerged the winner in three sets. I also saw most of the last set between Katarina Srebotnik and Aravane Rezai, which Srebotnik won, but only after having to put up a tremendous fight against a hard-hitting and very determined Rezai. I also saw part of the doubles match between Flavia Pennetta/Gisela Dulko and Virginia Ruano Pascual/Anabel Medina Garrigues. Pennetta and Dulko won; Pennetta was solid at the baseline and Dulko's volleys were superb. Ruano Pascual was making errrors all over the place; she, too, was injured a few days ago, in a singles match.

Tonight, despite being in a complete funk over Patty Schnyder's loss, I stayed and watched the doubles match between Liezel Huber/Cara Black and Martina Muller/Alla Kudryavtseva. Black and Huber won in straight sets, but Muller and Kudryavtseva played a very spirited match and had nothing to be ashamed of.

Of course, the stadium announcers always mispronounce the players' names, which irritates me to no end, but today, the chair umpires were also mispronouncing the players' names, and even calling players by the wrong names.

Someone asked me a few days ago how the clay here compares with that in Amelia Island, and the one time I had a chance to ask someone, I forgot to. I will try to find out tomorrow.

I forgot to mention it yesterday, but I stopped by to see Dinara Safina dishing out shrimp scampi in one of the food booths. I also saw the last part of her match against Eleni Daniilidou today. Safina prevailed, but Daniilidou made it a contest.

There are no links in any of these blog posts, by the way, because I am having to deal with a slow Internet connection at my bed and breakfast.

The match I am most looking forward to tomorrow (if I can stop thinking about Patty Schnyder) is the one between Michaella Krajicek and Sybille Bammer. Another really good one, I think, will be between Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva.

Tennis outfit of the day: Ana Ivanovic, in a simple brown dress with one horizontal hot pink stripe at the bodice. (Note to Bethanie Mattek: Vasilisa Bardina has been raiding your suitcase.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Top seed Vaidisova out of Charleston; Serena Williams retires with injury

In an exciting match that included some excellent serving from both players and multiple breaks of serve, wild card Michaella Krajicek fought and clawed her way to a three-set win over Family Circle Cup top seed Nicole Vaidisova this morning. One of the most impressive things about Krajicek was her amazing second serve, which got her out of hole after hole; losing her first serve was not really an issue. She also repeatedly hit crosscourt forehand winners into the far corner of the deuce court, thrilling the crowd.

Before going to that match, we saw Katarina Srebotnik beat wild card Julia Vakulenko in what was often a tight match, with Vakulenko running away with the first set. Srebotnik prevailed, but it was good to see Vakulenko playing solidly. I seemed to be the only one there cheering for her, and--after a while--when she served at my end of the court, she would look at me first for support. A couple of times, when she missed a ball, she would look at me with a kind of "oops!" expression, and when she hit a winner, she would give me a tentative smile. She seemed pretty disappointed after the match.

Tatiana Golovin beat Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets, but the more I see of Cibulkova, the more I think she is something special. She is a solid hitter, appears to have good court sense, and--so far--is the only player who can hit consistently successful drop shots.

Venus Williams made short work of Sam Stosur, and I got to see the last few games of the match between Anabel Medina Garrigues and Martina Muller. Medina Garrigues took the first set, and was down 3-5 in the second when I showed up, but managed to win the match in a tiebreak. I also got to see Rennae Stubbs play for a few moments. She and Vania King won their match against Yuliana Fedak and Tatiana Perebiynis; we saw some really good net play from Fedak, however.

Serena Williams, suffering with a hamstring injury, had to retire in the first set of her match with Chan Yung-Jan. There appears to be a jinx on this tournament: First, the five superstar top seeds retire; the remaining huge star, Williams, is injured before she can complete a set, and the new top seed goes out in her first match.

But the tournament goes on. And while the Vaidisova-Krajicek match was the best match I saw today, the Li-Pratt match was the most entertaining. Li ran away with the first set, but Pratt found her way into the second one by realizing she could not possibly win a baseline slugout with Li. Pratt started changing the pace on Li, and also did a nice job with her first serve. She also did a nice job of chewing out the chair umpire when she didn't like a call he confirmed. The argument lasted a long time, while Li stood quietly at her end of the court with her back to the net.

Finally, Pratt calmed down, and then developed a sense of humor about the whole incident. She won the crowd over from the beginning, because of her underdog status, but also because of her total opennness and antics.

Late in the afternooon, I was walking across the main lawn and realized that Sybille Bammer was about to sign autographs. I decided to wait a moment and take her photo, but she was late. To appease people, tournament officials put Jelena Kostanic Tosic in an autograph both nearby; unfortunbately, not many people knew who she was. I got some good photos of her; she is quite lovely.

Tennis outfit of the day: Though Serena Williams looked good in cotton candy-pink, I have to give this to Vaidisova. We've seen the gold and white dress with the back cross-straps many times before, but it remains a beautiful creation.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Family Circle Cup play begins

Marion Bartoli of France won her first round against American Shenay Perry

We started the day by attending the Shenay Perry-Marion Bartoli match in the main stadium. Perry served out of her mind and hit ten aces; she also took the first set, 7-5. Bartoli took the second set, 6-4, and Perry's mental fragility--already on display earlier in the match--took control of her. She had a total meltdown, and all Bartoli had to do was keep the ball in the court and wait for the error. She won the third set handily, 6-1.

Next we watched Vera Zvonareva play Nathalie Dechy. Zvonareva had a tough time at the beginning; Dechy was changing the pace and throwing soft body serves at her. Neither player played her best, and the difference was that Dechy made too many unforced errors. Zvonareva prevailed, 6-4, 6-4.

We got to see the very end of the Zheng-Fedak match. We were cheering for Fedak, but she was outplayed by Zheng, who won in straight sets. Then we moved to the Althea Gibson Club Court, where we saw Ashley Harkleroad wind up her win against Laura Granville. Following them were Alina Jidkova and wild card Michaella Krajicek. Jidkova played well, but once Krajicek felt comfortable on the court, it was no contest--she won in straight sets.

In the main stadium, we saw Mara Santangelo and Alicia Molik upset Chan Jung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung in three sets. It was as good a doubles match as you could ever want to see, with plenty of service breaks and some expert volleying.

I wandered around a bit, too, and saw Patty Schnyder practicing (she is practicing a lot). I also saw Jelena Jankovic practicing again, and I met wild card Julia Vakulenko's very cute little sister. I had photos signed by Vivi Ruano-Pascual and Lisa Raymond, and I saw a bit of the doubles match between Eleni Daniilidou/Jasmin Woehr and Laura Granville/Jelena Kostanic Tosic, which Granville/Kostanic Tosic won in straight sets.

Peer was injured during practice yesterday, but as far as I know, she has not withdrawn. Her name still appears in the draw.

Tennis outfit of the day: Once again, Yuliana Fedak gets the nod. She looked very smart in a white, 3/4-sleeve fitted top with a large round embossed white-on-white pattern on the back, and an off-white (perhaps it was very pale green) skirt. The skirt had a flat front and a double tier of pleats in the back, plus a small tab loop.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A big shout-out to Tatiana Golovin

Who finally won a WTA title, after being in several finals. The Frenchwoman defeated defending champion Nadia Petrova in straight sets at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida. To get to the final, Golovin had to defeat Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals; Ivanovic had beaten her the other five times they had played.

Family Circle Cup--Day 2 of qualifying

The weather was very nice all day, with little wind--unlike yesterday. Of the matches we watched, once again, the Fedak match was the most entertaining. Like yesterday, Fedak was very streaky, playing very cleanly for long stretches, then losing her momentum. In the end, she prevailed over Jarmila Gajdosova, and has entered the main draw. Having her coach talk with her helps Fedak a great deal. Fedak also does a lot of rapid self-talk, which we find amusing.

Poor Karolina Sprem, who was already having trouble with her knee wrap (she tore it off at one point), sustained a right hip strain toward the end of the first set, which she lost 4-6, to Jelena Kostanic Tosic. She called for the trainer, who worked on her hip, but things didn't get much better. She called for the trainer again during the second set, and got a Tiger Balm rub, but she was clearly in pain and unable to serve properly. Kostanic Tosic won easily and went into the main draw.

The Rodionova-Czink match, which we thought would be good, became a Czink meltdown after the first set. Czink completely lost her concentration and couldn't do much of anything, giving Rodionova an easy win. We also saw Vera Dushevina easily defeat Laura Pous Tio in straight sets.

This morning, I saw Patty Schnyder practicing with Li Na in the main stadium. When they left, Jelena Jankovic came in and practiced. This afternoon, Jankovic was back, and practicing with Li. Then Li left, and Jankovic's coach hit some soft balls to her, which she had trouble returning; they kept going out. Eventually, though, she was able to hit good returns. We heard him tell her to avoid negative thinking. We then met Jankovic, who was very friendly, and she signed a tennis ball for me.

When I mentioned yesterday how disappointed I was that Alona Bondarenko had withdrawn from the tournament, I forgot to say I was also quite disappointed that Lucie Safarova withdrew.

Tennis outfit of the day: No one gets the nod today. There may have been a good tennis outfit, but it wasn't on anyone we saw play.

This morning, we met those ostriches at our bed and breakfast, and saw them eating breakfast with the goat who lives here. Needless to say, I got some great photos.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Family Circle Cup qualifying begins, disappointment continues

The withdrawal of Martina Hingis more or less spoiled an otherwise good day of tennis as qualifying weekend began here in Charleston. With Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova out because of illness and injury, fans were already very disappointed. Then yesterday, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had moved into the first seed position, withdrew because of injury. Today's withdrawal by Hingis was the last straw. It probably doesn't matter to a lot of people, but I am also very disappointed that Alona Bondarenko withdrew. The good news is that her countrywoman, Julia Vakulenko, was given a wild card into the main draw--I am a fan of both Bondarenko and Vakulenko. Vakulenko has a tough first round, too--against Katerina Srebotnik.

It was sunny and windy on the courts today, and the wind often affected play. The action began with an upset: First qualifying seed Yaroslava Shvedova was significantly outplayed and upset by Dominika Cibulkova. Yuliana Fedak and Raluca Olaru played an entertaining three-set match, with Fedak repeatedly making errors off of Olaru's slice. Olaru served for the match at 3-5, and Fedak saved two match points to break her. The match went to a tiebreak, with Fedak moving ahead easily, then getting some competition from Olaru. In the end, though, experience prevailed, and Fedak moved on to the next round. I showed her a really nice photo I took of her last year, which she showed to her coach.

Melina Czink had a fairly easy time defeating Anna Tatishvili, and Bethanie Mattek and Karolina Sprem gave us another entertaining match, with many breaks of serve. Mattek's first serve was very impressive; unfortunately, she didn't always hold it, and her second serve was weak. Sprem prevailed, 7-6, 6-2.

I saw Patty Schnyder practice for a few moments, but when I returned with my camera, she was gone. We also watched practices by Li Na and Sam Stosur, and Stosur signed a photo for me. Schnyder was interviewed on television today. She is, of course, immensely popular in Charleston.

Perhaps to make us all feel a bit better after losing five of the tournament's stars, we were each given a really nice Family Circle Cup Hawaiian shirt. We are keeping our fingers crossed that no one else gets injured. Serena Williams is still in the draw, and in Charleston, Schnyder is perhaps a bigger star than anyone, and she is ready to play.

Tennis outfit of the day: Yuliana Fedak, looking great in a soft orange, 3/4-sleeve fitted top and matching pleated skirt.

We were not able to reserve a room in the wonderful, European-style hotel we stayed in last year, but we are staying in Mt. Pleasant again, in a very nice bed and breakfast, where four ostriches live in the back yard. Our room is wonderful--very spacious, with a large collection of books, a fireplace and several candles.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Homophobia, sexism and women's sports--same old, same old

Though I'm here (in Charleston) to attend a tennis tournament, right now, I want to talk about basketball, or--more accurately--homophobia and sexism in women's sports. Ken at After Atalanta nails the issue perfectly when she points out that such incidents as the Pokey Chatman resignation are anything but "isolated." They become fodder for public discussion and hang-wringing when lesbians are involved, but they do not raise a brow when heterosexual male coaches are involved.

Ken also exposes the internalized sexism of people like Pat Summit, who is defending the use of the term, "Lady ______s" as a team name for women.

Friday cat blogging--Good day, sunshine!

Tarzan catches some rays

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'm off to South Carolina

I'm leaving tomorrow for the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island, right outside Charleston. Like last year, we'll be staying in Mt. Pleasant. Most, if not all, blogging for the next week will be about the tournament, but come by--I may have some other things up, too. And the goings-on at the tournament can be interesting, even if you're not a tennis fan.

For those of you who would like to watch some of The Family Circle Cup (the oldest all-women's tennis tournament in the U.S., and one of only two clay tournaments in the U.S.), ESPN2 will be showing the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 13, 14 and 15--check your local listings. Patty Schynder is not having a very good season, but if she hangs on at least through the quarterfinals, you'll probably see us on television because our Patty banner is likely to be shown again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McCain continues his hiring practices

In December, I reported that Sen. John McCain had hired Terry Nelson to be his campaign manager in his run for the presidency. Nelson, Bush's national political director in 2004, was the creator of the infamous anti-Ford "Call me" spot that ran in Tennessee. Later that month, I reported that McCain had also hired Jill Hazelbaker as his New Hampshire communications director. Hazelbaker is best known for posing as a liberal and disrupting dialogue on liberal blogs, then lying about it.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Some notes on television

So "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" appears to be dead, though NBC is kind of saying it may put it back on the air. I doubt it. How two shows about the production of a an SNL-type show ever got on the air the same season on the same network is beyond me. I saw "30 Rock" only once and it was dreadful. Perhaps I saw it on the wrong night. But "Studio 60" was quick and funny and clever and had the great Sarah Paulson in one of the juiciest roles I've seen in a while. The show also featured a wonderfully dry and sardonic Amanda Peet, and both Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford were excellent.

The word was that Hollywood-type writers were offended by "Studio 60," which apparently cut too close to the bone. There was even a Hollywood-writers comedy troupe that went to clubs and did send-ups of the show.

Meanwhile, "The L Word"'s final episode for the season aired last week, and featured a strange fantasy scene, in which Shane and her new girlfriend Paige think about living together--like a 1950s housewife and husband. If it was intended to be ironic, I failed to catch the motivation for the irony, unless we were supposed to think that this was one (or both) of the character's fears. But why would one of these hip characters fear that their relationship would mimic an outmoded heterosexual relationship? Or maybe we were just supposed to laugh at the idea of an exaggerated butch/femme relationship in L.A.'s hip lesbian community. But why is that funny?

In the meantime, the rumors that Jenny would be killed off this season may be grounded in reality. In the final scene of this season's last episode, the now evil Jenny has drifted away on a boat to a fate unknown. The rumors of Jenny's impending death began because of talk that the other cast and crew members could not bear to be around Mia Kirshner (although only recently, Marlee Matlin had very nice things to say about her).

"The L Word" has been renewed for a fifth season. The first two seasons were very enjoyable, but--as I have written on several occasions--the last two have let a lot to be desired. The show has never quite known what to do with itself, but that would be okay if the writing had not become so dreadful. Some of the main characters--Jenny, Alice, Helena--have been so corrupted by the writers that it is hard to recognize them now. Scene motivation is often very weak, and storylines sometimes do not make any sense. Also, as I have mentioned before, all of the men are portrayed as stupid, dorky, arrogant, or morally questionable.

Move On to a safe place

I have never been a big fan of because I was quite opposed to the concept of moving on after the tainted 2000 election took place. It seemed to me that glossing over that incident and moving on was not what was needed. Now MoveOn has confirmed my worst suspicions by its recent decision to omit Rep. Barbara Lee's Iraq war amendment from its members' push poll.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

When Brigham Young doesn't want you, you're washed up

There is currently a petition drive at Brigham Young University to withdraw Dick Cheney's invitation to speak at the school's commencement exercises later this month. 2,300 signatures were collected the first week. Here is an excerpt from the petition:

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tennis well-represented in this year's Laureus Awards

The Laureus Awards, presented this year in Barcelona, gave the Sony Ericcson WTA Tour a lot to be proud of: Serena Williams received the Laureus Comeback of the Year award for her Australian Open victory, and Amelie Mauresmo took the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year award for winning her first two Grand Slam tournaments in 2006. Kim Clijsters was nominted for Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, but did not get the award, which went to Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.

On the men's side, Roger Federer became the first person to ever win three Laureus Awards: He was named Laureus Sportsman of the Year for the third year in a row.

For National Poetry Month

A poem for Lindsey Graham.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Family Circle Cup loses 3 of its top 5 headliners

It seemed too good to be true when Amelie Mauresmo, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams all entered this year's Family Circle Cup. I knew we would lose at least one of them to injury--that's the way it always goes--but now we have lost three. Maria Sharapova announced today that her right shoulder has never healed, and now she has a left hamstring injury, and she will be out for 5 or 6 weeks. Henin announced her withdrawal over the weekend, citing respiratory difficulties, which were obvious during her week in Miami at the Sony Ericcson Open. Mauresmo had already withdrawn because of appendicitis.

That leaves Hingis and Williams, who has become a headliner once more after her success at both the Australian Open and the Sony Ericcson Open. The field is still strong, and features Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nicole Vaidisova, Jelena Jankovic, Venus Williams, Dinara Safina, Li Na, Shahar Peer, and Charleston's favorite player, Patty Schnyder. For some reason, Nadia Petrova, the 2006 champion, chose not to try to defend her title.

I am still stinging from Mauresmo's withdrawal, not very happy about Henin's, and quite disappointed that I won't get to see Sharapova. I'm thrilled that Hingis will be there, and I plan to once again offer full support to Schnyder. I am especially looking forward to seeing Jankovic and Peer. The tournament will be great; it always is. But even knowing what I know about injuries, illnesses and withdrawals, I got my hopes up a bit too much.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A question that needs a better answer

In the current issue of Best Friends magazine, Best Friends Animal Society executive director Paul Berry asks a question I asked in this blog a year and a half ago: "Why don't churches preach compassion for animals?" The answer of course, isn't that obscure: To do so would require church members to oppose factory farming, change their diets, spay and neuter their pets, and take a close look at the use of laboratory animals. That would make them "extremists" or "crazy" as those of us involved in animal liberation are called on a daily basis.

Says Berry, "...the churches continue to treat concern for animals as a non-issue. Worse yet, the world of animal "rights" is often shunned by the evangelical movement as being "liberal"--even atheistic."

Berry also mentions Matthew Scully, George W. Bush's former speechwriters, who wrote Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. What a pity that this book isn't a vital part of church study groups.

Husband kills wife's lover, gets off--wife charged with manslaughter

Tracy Roberson of Fort Worth invited Devin LaSalle to her house for a sexual liason. Roberson's husband, Darrell, came home unexpectedly. In an attempt to clear herself of wrongdoing, Roberson claimed she was being raped, so her husband shot and killed LaSalle. He was cleared of murder charges by a grand jury, but his wife has been charged with manslaughter and may face twenty years in prison because she "caused the shooting."

Texas Wesleyan School of Law associate professor Jason Gillmer says a husband "is entitled to defend his wife and his family against aggravated assault."

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month begins today. You may receive a poem a day from the Academy of American Poets if you register to do so.

If you live in a decent-sized city, you will also have the opportunity to attend more readings and slams than usual. If you prefer to read poems on the Worldwide Web, there are many excellent electronic literary magazines that publish poetry (Lily, Wicked Alice, The Pedestal, Moondance, New Works Review, flashquake, New Verse News, The Barefoot Muse, Umbrella, and many, many others), and you can also check out Verse Daily, Poetry Daily and Poetry Super Highway, where there are new poems every week. And don't forget Poets Against War.

To start your National Poetry Month reading, here is a sestina I wrote, excerpted from the September, 2006 issue of Mobius.

A big shout-out to Serena Williams!

Who couldn't find her game in yesterday's Sony Ericcson Championship in Miami, and got bageled in the first set by Justine Henin. But Williams went on to win the next two sets, 7-5, 6-3, and claim the championship for the fourth time.

Lighten up