25 February 2009

US v. Bonds

Try not to follow the mainstream media on this one. For a good take, as always, read Dave Zirin (Edge of Sports). He's too lefty for some, and I'll admit that his political rhetoric can sometimes soar above his logic, but he's a sharp observer and a good writer. His latest piece, on the Bonds case, is in The Nation. It sums up the whole pathetic episode nicely.

If you want to dig a little deeper, a fellow by the name of John Perricone has been blogging on baseball matters since 2002, which is an eternity in blog-years. His blog, appropriately, is called Only Baseball Matters. His work on Bonds and PEDs is the most informed and most interesting out there. Don't read his stuff unless you want to think and learn. Mr. Perricone has recently drawn the attention of two heavy hitters in the sports-writing world, ESPN's Peter Gammons (22 Feb) and Rob Neyer (23 Feb). How's that for blog power?

Another smart fellow with a razor-sharp pen is John Brattain. Take a look at his stuff on The Hardball Times. Craig Calcaterra (ShysterBall) is also on the THT masthead and looks at baseball through a lawyer's eyes. More good stuff.

Not enough? Try this site: http://steroids-and-baseball.com/

Then go back to living real life and hope the money and momentum runs out on the Bonds case and we can get back to baseball.

UPDATE: a couple of new links to articles by Jonathan Littman in Playboy magazine (via OBM):
1. "The Persecution of Barry Bonds" (2009)
2. "The Balco Story" (2004)

Wow--this Novitsky character comes off as a real asshole. We already knew that Bush and Ashcroft were assholes--it seems they and their minions were happy to preside over government agencies run amok. Nothing like trashing peoples' rights and livelihoods to make a political point.

18 February 2009

Ablation cascade

Now there's something for WordMan™ to get excited about! Ablatus is the perfect passive participle of aufero, the Latin verb meaning "take away" (infinitive: auferre). In English, to ablate is to remove, to wear away, or to erode. An ablation cascade is an extraterrestrial event, analogous to a chain reaction, where the debris from a collision or other explosion spreads throughout the orbital domain causing massive destruction of spacecraft. One satellite goes "boom" and the bits hit another and it goes "boom" and the bits hit another and so on and so on. Though I suppose "boom" is the wrong term in the silence of space, I expect you get the idea. This thought was triggered by my favorite website, Astronomy Picture of the Day (aka APOD) and its story about the collision between Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 in low earth orbit above Siberia on 10 February. This is supposedly the first such occurrence of satellites colliding. It is amazing when you consider the vastness of space, even more amazing than submarines colliding in the ocean. An actual ablation cascade would render space travel impractical. But this event does remind us of the reality of space debris and its hazard to spaceflight. Thirty years ago a nutty rock band called Devo penned a lovely tune about a man who lost his girlfriend to falling space junk. (Skylab had recently broken up and its bits tumbled earthward.) Who knew how prescient they were?

Space Junk (G. Casale & B. Mothersbaugh)
She was walking
all alone
Down the street
in the alley
She never saw it
When she was hit by
Space Junk
. . .
It smashed my baby's head
And now my Sally's dead

14 February 2009

A-Roid, Bar-roid, and the Collapse of Reason

From the posturing, pontificating, and punditry we've seen so far about the "steroids scandal," you'd think the country was collapsing into lawlessness. What's collpasing all about us, of course, is a sense of perspective. Let's take a reasonable look at this mess.

Professional athletes take some drugs that may or may not improve their performances. Then they lie about it. Then they get caught. Then they lie some more, or they go to great lengths to apologize and "rehabilitate" their downward-spiraling public images. The Feds run around trying to "get" the bad guys on drugs charges, or failing that, perjury and/or obstruction charges. The sporting press has a field day, excoriating their "role models" for setting a bad example for kids and for violating the supposed "integrity" of the sports they cover.

A few athletes--professionals, mind you--risk their health, their careers, and now their freedom by taking these drugs. They are the only ones being hurt. The Feds aren't being hurt. The sportswriters aren't being hurt. And for all the hyperbole, the children aren't being hurt. Sure, a handful of amateur athletes hurt themselves. But not enough to make a "crisis." Steroids and HGH and PEDs are not a danger. Teenagers have plenty of good old-fashioned dangers (like drinking and driving) to hurt themselves and others with. There may be law-breaking here, but there is no crime. That is, there is no criminal intent and no collateral damage. There's just some drugs, and some guys taking them.

I'm sure the world is a safer, freer, and better place because Marion Jones gave up her gold medals and went to jail. I'm sure when mothers tuck in their babes at night they are reassured that monsters like Barry Bonds will get what's coming to them. Floyd Landis lost a race that he won, and the starving millions rejoiced that he got his comeuppance.

Baseball, that pure and sacred American endeavor is now safe and unsullied. We can go back to the multi-million dollar ballyards and cheer again for our upright and honest heroes. We can watch "Field of Dreams" again and wallow in a nostalgia for a past that fulfills our fantasies. Meanwhile, some guys who took some drugs go to court, or to jail, or to ignominy and disgrace.

"Cheating" in sports is a problem for the sport, not for Congress. Risky behaviors by teens are a problem for parents, not the U.S. Attorney. Your body--and what you put in it--is your business. Same for those guys. If a goverment can spend millions of taxpayers dollars to go after some jocks with little or no public oversight or outrage, imagine what they can do when they go after "regular" folks who don't have high-priced lawyers and fancy publicists. And when they start to come after you for your alleged indiscretions, and threaten your privacy and your livelihood and your freedom, you'll cry out, bewildered by it all, "but I wasn't hurting anyone!" and "this is America!" and "where's my lawyer?"

But no one will be listening.

08 February 2009


The three Sundays before Lent are Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. Roughly, they are seventy, sixty, and fifty days before Easter Sunday. This year Easter Sunday is on April 12th. If you include today--Septuagesima Sunday--and Easter Sunday in the count, you get 64, 57, and 50 days. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, Septuagesima is the 9th Sunday before Easter. So the idea of "the 70th day" is a bit of a stretch, but the old name has stuck around. I have a missal from 1966 called The People's Mass Book, which is still in print apparently, in a new edition. It says (p. 32):

Originally, these three pre-Lenten Sundays were celebrated to ask God's protection against enemy armies invading Rome.

Septuagesima is the feminine form of septuagesimus, the Latin ordinal corresponding to LXX, or "seventieth." How about that? WordMan™ was hanging around, looking for work, and the third Sunday before Lent just dropped in his lap.

06 February 2009

100 Bullets

My latest trip down noir alley was with 100 Bullets. DC/Vertigo produces consistent winners--there's so much good stuff in the "graphic novel" realm that it would take a lifetime to check it all out. This collection (First Shot, Last Call) is the first five issues of the strip from 1999. The writer is Brian Azzarello and the artist is Eduardo Risso (covers by Dave Johnson, colors by Grant Goleash, and letters by Clem Robins). The premise is very clever, I won't ruin it for you, and the dark city themes and landscapes are fresh and interesting. The art is absolutely gorgeous, the characters are crisp, sharp, and expressive, and the color scheme (heavy on the earth tones) suits the subject perfectly. Issue 100 is now out, and the series is at an end after a decade-long run. Thanks to pal JCP for turning me on to this--we've got lots of catch-up reading to do!

02 February 2009

Messy calendars

The calendar is a compact history of the messy conflict between pre-Christian and Christian cultures. Today we celebrate Groundhog Day, an attempt to predict the onset of spring. This is the same day as the Christian festival of Candlemas, which marks (Luke 2:22) the Presentaion of the Lord and occurs forty days after Christmas (which we know has absolutely no relation to the winter solstice or yuletide). This ceremony was an act of purification for the new mother required by Mosaic law. I keep forgetting that Jesus and Mary were Jews. We'll asssume that their calendar has no influence on ours, just to keep things simple. Yesterday was the Roman Catholic feast of St. Brigid of Kildare. According to my biographical dictionary (The Saints, ed. John Coulson, Guild Press 1958), Brigid was "renowned for her home-brewed ale." My kind of gal. It goes on to say "her cultus appears to have taken over certain features of the pagan worship of a namesake Brigid, goddess of fire." Well, duh. You can tell folks not to be pagans but they are going to keep on doing it anyway! According to Archaeoastronomy, Imbolc occurs at 8:45 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a cross-quarter day in the solar calendar, that is, it is halway between the solstice of winter and the equinox of spring. The Celts reckoned it as the first day of spring. I'm hoping to get some skiing in so I'm going to keep calling it winter.