World Cup – the final phase

Friday, Finally!
June 27, 2014

-A day off from the 2014 World Cup as it enters The Round of Sixteen, also known as the Knock-out phase.

Each game is a head-to-head match.  If at the end of 90 minutes the score is level, another thirty minutes (two fifteen-minute halves) will be played.  If still tied at the end of 120 minutes, it goes to penalty kicks.

Beginning tomorrow, here is how it breaks down:
Saturday:
Brazil vs Chile
Columbia vs Uruguay
Sunday:
Netherlands vs Mexico
Costa Rica vs Greece
Monday:
France vs Nigeria
Germany vs Algeria
Tuesday
Argentina vs Switzerland
Belgium vs United States.

The United States have been impressive.  Not the cleanest of performances, they’ve gotten the job done.  They came out against Ghana with everything they had, with Clint Dempsey scoring in the opening thirty seconds, and concluded with heroics in the final minutes to win the match, 2-1.  With Portugal, they faced the fourth highest ranked team in the world, and one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo.  After falling behind in the fifth minute, the US struck twice in the second half, providing the unfathomable dream that the US could qualify for the Round of Sixteen after only two games.  However, Ronaldo, in the dying stages of the match, sent in a quality cross, which ended up in the back of the US net.  Still, a 2-2 draw against the 4th ranked team in the world was enough to make advancing out of the group an almost certainty.  All they had to do against the powerful German team (ranked 2nd in the world), was win, draw, or lose by a narrow margin.  On a rainy day and soggy pitch, the US held Germany to a goal (after scoring six in their previous two matches) – a very impressive result, and one that did not eliminate them from the group stage.

Right now, kudos has to go to the US Men’s soccer program for selecting Jurgen Klinsmann as our coach.  Leading up to this moment, there has been a lot of questioning and criticism of the things he’s done, such as leaving Landon Donovan off the team.  Former USMT coach, Bruce Arena said, sarcastically, that the US must be favorites if there are 23 players in the lineup better than Landon Donovan.  In more recent World Cups, we’ve had college coaches who’ve had some or limited success as coaches in Major League Soccer – not one of the premiere leagues of the world – and no World Cup experience as either player or coach.  Klinsmann was a star for Germany who had both played and coached for the German team.  He knows football and how it is played at the highest level, not just skill and talent but also on training and development.  It was a bold move to step outside the ‘Merican box of selecting a home-grown coach, and so far, it’s working out to my satisfaction.

In any event, we’re in for a fun ride, starting Tuesday against Belgium.  We either win or go home.

-Finally, soccer returns to Cass Tech as Detroit City FC host Westfield Select (out of Indiana) at 5:00 PM on Sunday.  Enjoying the World Cup on television is nice, however viewing the beautiful game in the rowdy confines of Cass Tech High School’s stadium is an experience you should not deprive yourself of – especially if you live in the Detroit area.  This will be a tough match for DCFC, as this team is the only one to hand DCFC a regular season loss in almost two years.  From what I’ve heard, this Indiana-based team plays out in some cornfield where the cawing of the crows break the silence of their matches.  Their players are about to enter Our Heaven, Their Hell.

Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen

Enjoy your weekend!  Our union men and women fought hard for us to have them!

USA! USA!, Post-Potter J.K. Rowling, and getting the band back together

Friday, Finally!
June 20, 2014

– Was that amazing or what?  You couldn’t have written it any better.  Of course, I’m talking about Monday’s victory by the US against Ghana in the World Cup.  The goal and the grit of Clint Dempsey.  He scores the first goal in the first thirty seconds of the match, then minutes later, suffers a broken nose, yet battles on for the full ninety.  In the 82nd minute, Andre Ayew ties the match, putting the US hopes in question.  Then, 21-year-old John Brooks, subbed in at the half due to an injury to Matt Besler, scores the winning goal from a corner kick delivery by Graham Zusi in the 86th minute for the US win.

Clint Dempsey at Ford Field, 2011, US vs Canada CONCACAF Gold Cup Match
Clint Dempsey at Ford Field, 2011, US vs Canada CONCACAF Gold Cup Match

–  Has anyone else noticed that on Facebook (and probably Twitter)  people who had never said anything about soccer, posting “GO USA” type comments on Monday?  That’s okay.  Come on board!  The global soccer bandwagon is as large as the Earth.

– Sunday is the next match for the US.  They face Portugal, who lost to Germany, 4-0.   Don’t let that fool you.  Portugal is a talented team with one of the world’s best players, Christiano Ronaldo.  He’s the kind of player that can carry a team on his back.  Portugal cannot afford a second loss in the group stage or they are guaranteed to go home after the June 26th match against Ghana.  They are a wounded animal trying to survive.

– Three World Cup matches a day have been awesome.  But wait until next week when four matches a day are played to close out the group stage.

– J.K. Rowling’s new novel The Silkworm (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) was released this week (unless you order from Amazon which will take a couple weeks due to their dispute with Hachette Publishers – so purchase it at your local or online independent book seller like I did at New Horizons Book Shop in Roseville).  This is her second novel under the pen name, and third work of fiction post-Harry Potter.  Has anyone read The Casual Vacancy or The Cuckoo’s Calling yet?  Curious as to your thoughts about her fictional worlds beyond Hogwarts.

– On this date in 1980:  Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues took us on a wild romp and revitalization of rhythm and blues music as “The Blues Brothers” movie was released.  Classic.  Got a favorite line or scene?  Song?  Loved their first “gig” in the bar where they play both kinds of music – country and western.  And Cab Calloway was awesome.

– Another week without a local Detroit City FC match.  Wednesday’s friendly against the Columbus Crew Super 20’s was postponed due to severe weather.  Friday, they play on the road against the Indiana Fire Juniors, who have been our toughest competition in the division thus far, as we drew even, 2-2, in our only previous meeting against them.

Ann Arbor Book Festival is Saturday.  I’ve got my DVR set to record the World Cup matches as I pay a visit to the festival.  I came very close to signing up for the writer’s conference, but opted out this time.  Maybe next year.

Enjoy your weekend!  Our union men and women fought hard for us to have them!

10371513_10152018578200826_2056547747396672054_n

Superstitious? Finding friends in federal prison and Detroit City FC pride

Friday, Finally!
June 13, 2014

– Friday the 13th.  Feeling superstitious?

–  You’ve seen it on the news often.  A person is taken into custody and charged with a crime.  Neighbors and family are interviewed and many times you’ll hear phrases like, “He seemed like a nice, quiet guy.”  “Never had a problem with him.  Always pleasant.  Kept to himself.”

Marie Mason was a girl I knew in high school.  An intelligent, soft spoken girl, I don’t recall how many classes I had with her, but they were usually college-prep type classes, like physics, trigonometry, pre-calculus.  I don’t recall any specific conversations with her, but I remember the sense I had about her.  She was mature for a teenager.  An old soul within a young body.  Always nice.  Always kind.

DSC05658
(Marie held the Secretary position on the Executive Forum, top right photo, she’s on the left, and also in the bottom row, second photo from the right).

DSC05662

On a high school campus that graduates over one thousand people, and in a time before the internet, I lost track of her.  It wasn’t until a year or so before my 30th class reunion that I found her.  And federal prison was not the place I expected.

On September 8, 2008, Marie entered into a guilty plea of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, and two counts of Arson.  According to the Plea Agreement, during the evening of December 31, 1999, Marie, her then-husband Frank Ambrose, and three others, set a fire to Agriculture Hall on the Michigan State University campus.  The next day, January 1, 2000, they destroyed, by fire, a John Deere Hydro-Ax Shear and commercial flatbed trailer – equipment used in commercial logging – parked on the side of the road near Mesick, Michigan.

Marie and Ambrose were committed environmentalists and had become affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).  ELF was a loosely organized movement of individuals committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that are harmful to the natural environment.  The Agriculture Hall was identified by this small group as a place where records of, and papers relating to, plant genetic research were maintained.

Ambrose filed divorce papers almost ten years later on the day Marie was arrested.  For two years, he spied on activist groups for the FBI, taping incriminating conversations with activists including Marie.  (See www.supportmariemason.org and “Green Scares & Marie Mason“, fifth estate, Spring, 2011).  The Feds recommended a twenty year sentence (240 months) for Marie.  In the Defendant’s Sentencing Memorandum Regarding Disparity was a recitation of sentences by defendants committing far more acts of arson and property damage than the four arsons and $4 million of damages Marie plead to.  A sample of these are:

Jacob Ferguson – 21 arsons – over $30 million damages- sentenced to probation.
Stanislas Meyerhof – 11 (or more) arsons – over $30 million damages – sentenced to 156 months.
Kevin Tubbs – 11 arsons – $20 million damages – sentenced to 151 months.
Chelsea Gerlach – 7 arsons – $27 million damages – sentenced to 108 months.

On February 20, 2009, Marie was sentenced to 240 months on the conspiracy charge; 262 months on the arson of the Agriculture Hall; and 180 months to the arson of the logging equipment.  Restitution was also ordered in the amount of $4,139,536.  All sentences to run concurrently.

If that wasn’t already excessive punishment, Marie is currently being held in a maximum security federal prison in Texas, in a special wing with restrictive policies regarding communication.

Needless to say, she didn’t make it to our 30th class reunion.

It is easy to accept that Marie plead guilty to the charges and as punishment should do time.  But her case is one of the  harshest sentences imposed under the guise of eco-terrorism.

Today, at the Cass Cafe, an exhibit of Marie’s paintings created while incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, opens.  The exhibit will run through Saturday, June 21st.

– No DCFC soccer this weekend.  At least not at Estadia Cass Techia.  They do play in Cleveland on Sunday, which would make a nice Father’s Day outing.  And if I don’t make that, there’s ten World Cup matches from now through Sunday.

Last week’s match against Erie was awesome.  Once again, the crowd reached sellout proportions, setting another record at 3,234 fans in attendance.  DCFC partnered with the “You Can Play” project to promote inclusivity in sports.  The players wore a special jersey and were given to the highest bidder of a silent auction which took place during the game.  The proceeds of the auction were donated to the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park shelter that serves at-risk LGBT youth.  Sadly, I didn’t win a jersey in the auction, but a limited number of jerseys were available for sale, which I did purchase one of them.  The match itself ended in a 2-2 draw against the hated Erie Admirals.  After falling behind 1-0, Detroit City mounted a comeback with a goal by Shaun Lawson in the 66th minute and a penalty kick conversion in the 72nd minute by captain Josh Rogers.  Unfortunately Erie scored a late equalizer in the 89th minute.

DSC05552

DSC05572

 

DSC05611

Quote:  (sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”)
“Come on City score a goal
It’s really very simple.
Put the ball into the net
And we’ll go fucking mental!”

Northern Guard Supporters chant.

Awakening to nature and mind

Friday, Finally!
June 6, 2014

– Country living discoveries:
We recently moved from an apartment to a home with a half-acre of land and a creek running the western border.  I call it country living, though really, it’s not out-in-the-boondocks country.  A half mile away is a major intersection and freeway exit, with every big box store imaginable (except for a Barnes & Noble…apparently reading is not financially supported out here).  Still, it’s more country than I’m comfortable with.  The city rat in me would prefer a Detroit riverfront apartment or condo, close to where the action is, or a college town like Ann Arbor, bustling with people with a bevy of book stores.  Thus far in our brief residency, we’ve had some interesting situations and discoveries.

For one, the trees we have are epic.  There’s one out front that was a late bloomer, but she’s huge and generous with shade in the front of the house.  In the back, a large maple occupies substantial real estate.  Then there are the lilacs.  Deep purple ones toward the back, and lighter ones along the creek near the driveway that provide a nice fragrance carried by a spring breeze as you enter or exit the car.

DSC05317

Then, there’s the wildlife.  A rabbit has been seen often scampering across the back yard.  Toads in the patch of landscaping on the side of the mother-in-law house.  Then, a couple of robins occupied a nest atop the front porch light, hatching two little babies.  They’ve since grown and moved on.

DSC05326 DSC05335

And of course, squirrels, including one brave soul who decided to climb the side of the house and perch on the window sill of my office.  I’ve since dropped some nuts outside the window, but there has not been a return visit.  Yet.

DSC05333 DSC05334

I hear this is the month for turtles to be nesting.  Maybe we’ll get lucky to see them, too.

Oh, and the mosquitoes.  They have made their appearance known.  I foresee a future purchase of a bat house to help with that problem.  Bats are in the area.  My wife saw one during one of the first evenings we moved in.

However, with the abundance of life also comes death.  A few days ago I had the window open in the office.  As the breeze passed by, there was this feint foul odor that would occasionally drift by.  On Tuesday, when my mother-in-law entered the mother-in-law house for the first time as a resident, after spending better than two weeks in the hospital, my wife and I took the garbage out to the curb.  On the way back, the stench hit us, like a wall, in one specific location.  It was so noticeable that the guy delivering the oxygen tanks and hospital bed for mother-in-law asked “Am I too late?”  The aroma was strongest near the well next to the creek.  We peeked inside, but it was empty.  It has to be something down in the creek.  Since then the fragrance of death has faded.  Locals to the area suggest it may have been a muskrat.

It’s only been five weeks.  It will be interesting to see how things change as the seasons change.

– The Precepts.

Sunday morning at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple will be this year’s Precept Taking and Abbot Installation Ceremony.  It is a ceremony for individuals who commit to undertake the Buddhist path by embracing the Three Refuges and Eight Precepts.  The participants in the ceremony are then given a Buddhist name and a set of meditation beads.

Having moved yet further away from my spiritual home makes regular attendance a challenge.  Sitting alone is good.  Sitting with a group in the presence of a guiding teacher helps strengthen one’s practice.  Like the Buddha’s Birthday ceremony and the evening sitting in honor of the Buddha’s awakening, the Precept Ceremony is a must-attend event for me.  I make that commitment for two reasons; to support those who are participating in the ceremony, and, for personal reflection and re-commitment of when I took the Precept Ceremony on May 18, 2008.

DSC07232

-Detroit City FC host the Erie Admirals tonight at Cass Tech Stadium.  Special jerseys to recognize the “You Can Play” project to support LGBT athletes will be worn and auctioned at the conclusion of the match.  The anticipation is for another sell out.  City Til I Die.

Quote:  “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football (soccer).”  Albert Camus.

On the road to Cincinnati, World Cup looming, and the time warp of the four day work week.

Friday, Finally:  May 30, 2014

-Keeping this one brief, as I’m heading south to Cincinnati today.  Our men in rouge and gold travel for their first road game of the season to the big city nearest the home of my little sister and her family.  The last time I made one of these kind of runs was back in the day when the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League traveled to Cincy to beat up on the Cincinnati Cyclones, time and time again.  It appears a few of the Northern Guard Supporters will be making the trip.  Still, if I am the only DCFC fan at the game, it will be more fans than Cincinnati sent up to Detroit back on May 10th.  DCFC has a 3-0-0 record, and have yet to concede a goal.

– Speaking of soccer, it’s less than two weeks away from the start of the World Cup.  Almost a full month of daily soccer starting with 32 teams and concluding with the World Cup Final on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.  To many, soccer is a religion.  Does this mean we should have a worldwide international holiday during this month?

– Does anyone else experience four-day work weeks like I do?  Due to the Memorial Day holiday, Tuesday felt like Monday to me, but then Wednesday felt like Thursday to me.  I was ready for it to be Friday yesterday morning, but instead, another Thursday happened.  Weird.

– What are you reading this weekend?  I’m close to finishing Ted Morgan’s biography of Somerset Maugham.  I’m also close to finishing the collection of essays, How Can You Represent Those People? edited by Abbe Smith and Monroe H. Freedman.

-Quote for the week:
“Strange as it may seem, I grew to like to defend men and women charged with crime.  It soon came to be something more than the winning or losing of the case.  I sought to learn why one goes one way and another takes an entirely different road.  I became vitally interested in the causes of human conduct.  This meant more than the quibbling with lawyers and juries…I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs.  With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking of hatred and vengeance, and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call ‘justice’ and of which nothing really is known.”  Clarence Darrow.

Have a great weekend!

Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012.  Photo by Michael Kitchen
Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012. Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen

DSC01012

Soccer legend cut; “the shirt” still works; DCFC tonight

Friday, Finally!  May 23, 2014

– Landon Donovan left off the US Men’s Team squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

The first Columbus Crew game we went to was on May 18, 2002.  The Crew were hosting the San Jose Earthquakes.  Our hope was to see this young American kid – Landon Donovan – play.  But we were denied that treat as he was off with the US Men’s Team in preparation for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.  Since then, Donovan has been the face of American soccer for both the National Team and for Major League Soccer.   Perhaps his age (32), coupled with the tropical heat that the Brazillian summer provides, concerns the US Men’s Team gaffer, Jurgen Klinsmann?  Hard to say when other 30-something players Tim Howard(35), Jermain Jones(32), DaMarcus Beasley (31), Kyle Beckerman (32), Brad Davis (32), Clint Dempsey (31), and Chris Wondolowski (31) made the final cut.   Maybe it’s a cultural thing.  Donovan had difficulty early in his career adapting to German football while with Bayer Leverkusen.  Even after a spell of success with Bayern Munich in 2008 during a series of friendlies, the German team declined to extend his loan.  Some are saying this puts Klinsmann in a difficult situation to explain.  The US are in the group of death, with Algeria, Portugal and Germany.  With Donovan, there is no certainty they could get out of the group stage.  Without him, media and fans will have the ammunition to speculate what would have happened if Donovan had been there.

I’m sorry to see Donovan not a part of this year’s World Cup.  But this World Cup the US has a mountain ahead of them, and unlike the last few World Cups, they have a manager who is not a former US college soccer coach, but a former player and manager of the German National Team and Bayern Munich.  He knows what it takes to advance to the highest levels of soccer.  Let’s wait and see how the team performs on the world stage next month before jumping to conclusions.

– Clothes make a difference.

On Monday, my wife took her mother to urgent care after work.  After running preliminary tests, they had her ambulanced to Henry Ford Hospital.  After several hours, a decision was made to admit her, as there was uncertainty of her diagnosis.  When my wife came home, she arranged for a substitute teacher for the next day at school.  Then she said she needed “the shirt.”

“The shirt” in our house is any shirt – polo or sweatshirt – with the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law logo on it.

Back when I started law school, I felt the school spirit and purchased some UDM Law School wear.  It took a few times of wearing it unconsciously to places like the auto dealer when the car needed its maintenance, when shopping for bigger ticket items like furniture or appliances, and in doctors’ or dentists’ offices, that I realized there was a change in the way I was being treated.  The hint of condescension from the service provider was gone.  Things were being explained to me in far more detail than ever before.  There was something about wearing a shirt emblazoned with a law school logo that, well, raises one’s worthiness of attention.

She wore the shirt the next day to the hospital (and the next), and the level of care and attention that both she and her mother received was noticeably improved from Monday.

– Detroit City FC host Lansing United tonight.  If you haven’t been to a game yet, what the heck are you waiting for?  Cass Tech High School in Detroit.  Game starts at 7:30PM, but the fun begins hours before at Harry’s.

– What are you reading this weekend?  I’ve got about 120 pages to go in “When Blackness Was A Virtue” by Michael Grant Jaffe.

– “Outside of a dog, the book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  Groucho Marx.

Enjoy the weekend!

DSC05657
DSC05172DSC05157