Friday, December 31, 2004

Where Have I Been?

I see I have not posted anything on this blog in over two weeks. That is, I fear, the annual tradition - pretty much all writing, posting to the internet, socializing, with anyone other than my family ends, around the holidays. The hope is that it starts back up in January. Hope is not a plan...

The big news this week has been the Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean. There isn't much anyone can say about this. I know that isn't true - people have been talking about it all week - but nothing much you say means anything. Not about the Tsunami itself. Rather than blog, I imagine the thing to do is donate. There are lists of organizations at the link I posted - Amazon and Google and the like have links for donations.

And, of course, this is the end of the year - I certainly hope to post something of a year end (or new year) wrap up here - or several, including notes on Whither The Blog? but you know how that goes... hope is not a plan.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sport Business Sanity

(Three words you don't see together very often.)

Looks like The Nationals are gonna be Les Expos again next year. From ESPN:

NEW YORK -- Washington's new baseball team shut down business and promotional operations indefinitely Wednesday as its move to the nation's capital teetered on the brink of collapse.

The decision by Major League Baseball followed the District of Columbia Council's decision Tuesday night to require private financing for at least half the cost of building a new stadium. The September agreement to move the Montreal Expos to Washington called for a ballpark fully financed by government money.

This is probably a very bad thing for Baseball - I should say, for Major League Baseball, the organization... But god, this is a great thing for the public at large. Someone stood up to the crap they sell. On something that makes sense, not the usual grandstanding Bullshit, like McCain on steroids. Jim Henley's Unqualifed Offerings has a couple posts up about it, and about the coverage of it. Jim Caple at ESPN agrees - and reminds us that the council still agreed to pay some $450 million, and that the real driving force here is MLB's desire to get all the sale money for the team for themselves. And after the fine fine job they've done the last couple years of raising the value of the franchise, who can blame them for wanting to make a modest profit off the deal?

Seriously - why should cities foot the bill? some of the bill, maybe, but all of it? No. And I should add - Henley quotes Mark Fisher uttering that old dead fish "Baseball was an opportunity to rise above those strains, to reach for world-class status, to lure suburbanites back into a view of Washington as the center, a place of pride." - a particular type of inanity I cannot abide . Baseball teams - basketball, football, what have you - do not make a place a world class city. Living in a city with some recent baseball success - winning the world series is great, but please - if we're a world class city, it's because of things like this, or maybe this (even if they are in a different city) - maybe even what lies across the fens from the baseball park. And, if we are a "world class city" - why the hell can't they get the trains running?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ballad of the Hemp Beret

Check out comment # 10 on this post, over at Berube's blog - a high point, friends, of blogging commentary...

Mumia buttons on our chests
We’d all fail a urine test
One hundred crowd the hip café
But only three score the Hemp Beret

Thank you, thank you.

John, Paul, George, Ringo and Santa

Here is a Christmas gift to my 2 readers. The Beatles' Christmas songs, in mp3.

Via The Talent Show.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Probably the US Basketball Team

What on earth is this about?

In response to one or more indecency complaints, the Federal Communications Commission has asked NBC to send it tapes of its coverage of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Athens, the network confirmed late yesterday.

I guess there were people impersonating Greek statues - and the Greeks, the barbaric bastards, don't wear clothes. I guess. Hard to say. All told, this reflects badly on the United States. But will probably continue...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pointless Evil

A bad day for rock stars, I guess. Last night, December 8, 2004, Dimebag Darrell (Abbott), currently of a band called Damageplan, but mostly of Pantera, a major player in the metal scene, as respected a heavy metal guitarist as there is out there, was shot dead, on stage, by a fan of some kind - who came in yelling about Phil Anselmo, but that seems rather beside the point.

It is very strange. Surreal and terrible. I am not a metal fan, I have heard the bare minimum of Pantera’s music - I remember it as being, like most thrash metal, kind of dull, with moments of flash that don’t quite justify its existence. But I don’t know how fair that is.

But I am aware, from reading various magazines, of Dimebag’s importance in that world. And the culture of metal is interesting in a way - it’s like superhero comics - something that I don’t much care about in itself, but which can be fascinating to think about from outside. And sometimes from inside. So somehow, this comes off all disproportionate to the place he had in my life. I mean - it is always horrible when something like this happens, when someone is shot and killed - but usually, even famous people are strangers to me. This is not like John Lennon’s death - not someone I, personally, cared about in any special way. But for some reason, it looms very large.

Larger, say, than Tupac - who, like Dimebag, I had heard of, heard some music by, considered good enough in his area, just not something I cared all that much about. I don't know why, but Dimebag's death seems more significant, somehow. Is it because it happened yesterday? December 8? Is it the fact that it was a bloodbath - a guy jumping on stage and opening fire on the band and the crowd? Is it because I’d read so many references to Dimebag? Or was I jaded about Tupac, after his arrests and stabbings and feuds and everything, his death came as the logical next step - while this comes completely out of the blue?

Probably a little bit of all of it. What this reminds me of is when I heard that Peter Tosh had been shot, back in the 80s. Tosh was an artist I’d heard a little, heard of a lot more - he represented a whole genre of music (far more than Tupac could) that I respected without knowing much about. And his murder was shocking and strange, came completely from left field - it was very discomfiting, it made me very aware of the sense of losing something I never had. It’s that odd sense of vertigo that comes from having someone who had been a vague presence I should know more about suddenly become real by dieing.

That's how I feel about Dimebag. I don't know how else to describe it. It's absurd and horrible all out of scale with what I knew of him when he was alive.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Heil Santa!

You know, I like Christmas. A lot, actually. For a whole swarm of reasons that I may, if you (my loyal reader(s)) have been really bad this year, I might relate at mind numbing length... And that's in the teeth of, and indeed largely because of, its religious (specifically, Christian [and pagan, after all]) significance - since I generally hold the view that the Universal is found primarily in the Particular. And this generally filters down to not quite approving of efforts to take the Christmas out of Christmas - if you want to be inclusive, I say, be inclusive - put up hanukkah displays, Kwanzaa displays - more is always better, I say....

But then you come across things like this, at (shockingly) Michelle Malkin's blog. She's harrassing, and encouraging others to harass, businesses, cities, etc. who change Christmas specific signage and celebrations to more generic signs and parties. There is a word for what she is doing, and it has 7 letters, starts with f, ends with "ism" and is derived from the Italian word for a stick (as used in the symbol of the relevant political party, a bundle of sticks - symbolizing the old adage, one stick is easy to break - a bundle of sticks is hard to break.) Nor is this assertion of mine debatable. It is the case.

This is a link to something called The Committee to Save Merry Christmas.

You know, when I was a kid, the bad guys - Burgermeister Meisterburger and company - were always trying to stop Christmas. Now... ah yes... what times we live in. When roving bands of evildoers stroll the company demanding we sing "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" on demand. Christmas is a good thing - things like this will put you off your gingerbread...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Why Yes, He Is On My Fantasy Team; Why Do You Ask?

Meanwhile, back on Old Eyrth....

I have to write something about Barry and Jason. Dumbfucks. But then again...

It has been a strange fall for this sports fan. The one greatest thing I could possibly ask for happened - since then - it's been nothing but bad. The big brawl ruined basketball for me. There hasn’t been much baseball news - until today, with Giambi and Bonds (and Sheffield and a couple others) exposed for their steroids use). Hell, even my softball team is embroiled in controversy...

On Ron Artest and company - I think that while I have no problem with what happened to Ron Artest, I also think it is disgraceful that the fans were not punished. Oh, a couple dinks were banned from the Palace - whatevah! What should have happened is that the fans - and the Palace - should have gotten the same kind of punishment the players did: in the wallets. Ban alcohol for a month or so. I think it is reasonable to hold the fans (and the forum - someone should be keeping the peace) to the same standards as the players - being rich should get you no privileges - not being rich ditto. The players got, roughly, what they deserved - the fans involved - and the forum - were just as responsible for the brawl, and should get what they deserve as well...

But enough... what about Bonds and company? None of it is surprising - it’s all been coming. It’s interesting too - was Charles Pierce telling the truth? That these things were legal - weren’t even against the rules? I do believe what he says about Len Bias - an overreaction to a terrible thing led to more bad things... I don't know enough here. I don't have any doubt that things like this - John McCain sticking his nose where it isn't wanted - are all bad. Worse - I can say that without reservation - than anything Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Ron Artest (for that matter) have ever done. The government has no place in this. It's bad enough that the NFL is testing poor Ricky Williams for pot - why is that relevant to the NFL? Of course, the fact that pot is illegal is highly troubling, and fairly ridiculous. But this is about sports...

The truth is, I am not sure what to think here. Why, exactly, are steroids illegal? (If they're illegal.) (are they illegal for you and me? if not - why should they be illegal for Barry Bonds?) Or against the rules? Medicine isn’t against the rules - they all get cortisone shots - why should cortisone shots be legal and not steroids?

That is a serious question - though I don’t know who could answer. I don’t know the answer. Why are steroids illegal? The harm they cause people? Maybe - though I don’t know what harm they cause. And why would steroids, with the potential for long-term damage, be banned, and - say - Curt Schilling's ankle surgery - never tried before, so who knows the possible after-effects? - not? And the harm steroids cause - do they? We’ve all heard about it, though steroids seem to have been evolving - at what point do they become safe enough to allow, if that is the issue? And if that isn't the issue - are they banned because of the competitive advantages they give? Well - how is that different from laser surgery - cortisone shots - weight machines - protein supplements - all the things that athletes are allowed to use? The busybodies - the John McCain's - talk about the "integrity of the game" - but what the hell is that? it's purely arbitrary, in cases like this. They're athletes - their livelihood depends on doing certain things as well as those things can be done. You can't single out some of those things and ban them without good reasons, reasons beyond an abstract notion of "integrity". If steroids cause significant health problems - of a different order than, say, 27 knee surgeries - then ban them, yes. If not - maybe the answer is to face the facts and deal.

The second best argument (after the harm they cause) is technological - it may be justifiable to ban steroids for the same reason that MLB bans, and other levels of baseball limit, aluminum bats. (And golf regulates balls and clubs, and tennis regulates rackets and so on.) The game was designed to be played on a certain sized space - if the technology gets to be too good, it becomes dangerous, or non-competitive, to play in that space. That, I suppose, is what is (really) meant by the "integrity of the game" - to keep the technology within certain limits. (The semiotician in me sees this and wants to note: see how long it is before someone refers to this as a "technological" issue in public. They will frame it in abstractions - "integrity" or "cheating" - second order words at best (it's only cheating if it is illegal - the question here is, why is it - why should it be - illegal?). Even when technological issues are discussed directly - corked bats, say - they are always framed as questions of integrity, not technology...) It will be interesting, I think, in coming years, when the Mechanists start impacting the games as much as the Shapers. It's a matter of time, I'd guess, before someone comes up with machines that improve performance - then what? (More of the same - who's kidding? even when every schmuck on the street can get some nifty toy that lets them see out of the back of their head or something...)

All right, all right.... Getting back to the point.... If steroids were legal - what would that mean? Probably that to compete in the game, you would have to use them - to some extent. And that - I suspect - would not be a good thing. For all kinds of reasons. But - at some point - I have to guess it will happen. Though if you get enough rules in place, the athletes will be the weakest people on the planet - everyone else will be using the cream and the clear and only poor Barry Bonds III will be getting in trouble for it...

So to conclude this [very hesitant and waffling] rant... Just a note on their actual effects. I guess if you take someone who is already the best hitter of his generation and give him drugs to make him stronger - well. We see the results. The truth is - I don't know how much difference these things make, in the long run. I mean, they change things - they make these guys bigger, and add a lot of distance to their hits - but, even looking at the other guys who were using... Sheffield and Bonds were hitting way back in the 90s - unless they were using all along, all it did was keep them going a bit - though Sheff isn't much better than he ever was. None of the other overmuscled brutes were able to maintain the level of achievement Bonds did. Hacks like Jeremy Giambi could use all the dope they wanted, they never hit like Barry - or Jason. (Couldn't hit enough to keep himself in the game.) The dirty secret is that, when you get down to it, it's still the skills that count the most.

Though if you have that, and have a magically enhanced body to boot - I guess the results are terrible to behold.

Sygns of the Family?

I have started reading Samuel Delany. Started for a class - Triton was on the syllabus (actually, Trouble on Triton, but I had an old Bantam paperback on hand, and figured I'd save a couple bucks. I don't know what that lost me - a Kathy Acker introduction, which may or may not be worth the expense - and possibly something at the back? I compared them - they both had the appendices, and they looked alike - but are they? I have heard rumors of something by Leslie K. Steiner - a Delany alter ego - in the new version - but is it so? I am haunted...)

I've lost the plot. This is the point. I started reading Triton for a class - read it - liked it, very much (did I love it? in a way. But Delany is an odd case - I have tried reading his science fiction in the past, and not been able to keep at it; something about the self-consciousness of it, makes it, somehow, seem smug - he's too good - and somehow too smug about what he's doing... But that's not fair,a nd part of the point of this post is to note how I lost that feeling.) (So did I love it? in a sense - yes - but Delany's books tend to split, a bit - on one side, a text - sentences running together, creating a story and a world and people - all of this utterly engaging; on the other side something of a treatise on Science Fiction, or The Paraliterary, or, The Novel, or... not that that bothers me as such - I like metafiction as much as the next man, but...)

I can't get this started. And the irony is, originally, I wrote this not to discuss Samuel R. Delany, and still less, my (emotional? or critical?) reaction to him - but because I was reading Delany, and some criticism of Delany, and - coincidentally - via Pandagon - found this: Gender News - a conservative site about gender issues. A week or so ago (getting on to 2 weeks now, I think - I started this note almost a week ago), they had an article up called Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face - which basically says it all. Reading within, one finds:

The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.

With that, I'd say, we are halfway, at least, to the line of thought presented in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (which I have started reading in the wake of Triton: (as described in this essay by Earl Jackson Jr..) "In such a circular patriarchal theology, nonreproductive sexuality becomes associated with blasphemous treason." That's not far from what our Gender News writer, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., said - not far at all. The blasphemy part is there. The treason is implied - but those guys (the religious right) are increasingly pushing for a union of blasphemy and treason.

And doing it all in terms that Delany parodied 20 years ago. They're a creepy lot.

(Jackson cite via Long Story, Short Pier - specifically, this post from almost 2 weeks past...)