Monday, May 24, 2010

Floyd Landis

I spent last Saturday at the Tour of California Time Trails, in downtown Los Angeles. Knowing that it would be foolish to try and drive, and park, for the day, I took the subway from North Hollywood to the 7th Street Metro Station and walked to the start line, and despite arriving an hour early, not finding a good spot to see the action. And so, I worked my along the route. As the racers began to ride by, I stopped and watched, and then continued along until I was at the one hill on the course, in downtown. With the riders making two circuits, out and back, I could stand there and watch them climb up, and then speed down. I had hoped that Levi Leipheimer or Dave Zabriskie could make up the needed seconds to move into the lead, but Australian Michael Rogers kept the gold jersey, and would end up winning the Tour. Among those attending the time trails was Floyd Landis.
At the risk of inviting a lot of ridicule, I find Landis' earlier claims of innocence far more credible than his recent confession that he doped during the Tour de France. In the first version of The New Common Sense (For an explanation, see my first post.) I wrote that, while I eventually came to believe Floyd Landis, the issue of his guilt or innocence was of secondary interest to me. What I really found fascinating was how a rider could loose his championship, his team, his income, and his reputation via such a flawed testing system. I'm not writing this to re-argue the case. Anyone with the time and patience can look up all of the evidence supporting Landis' claim that he was unfairly convicted. Just the fact that the testing equipment was running the wrong software, and that the manufacturer was willing to admit that, because of that basic mistake, all tests results were unusable, would have been enough to have Landis' case tossed, if it were held before an American court of law.
As I've read the stories, of how Floyd tried to blackmail Lance Armstrong, threatening to name him as a doper if he wasn't offered a position with Radio Shack, I've now come to believe that Landis is going mad. Yes, I know, a reach from a cycling fan who has never really believed in psychology, but I have to wonder about a man who has lost everything, both professionally and personally, who has done his time, and is still being pushed aside by the sport. Is Floyd Landis telling the truth about Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie and the others he has named, or is he trying to destroy American cycling, the way American cycling has destroyed him? Basso, Millar, even Ricardo Rico have been able to get on with their post doping careers, while Floyd Landis is shunned, while the teams who are willing to sign him, all seem to suddenly find themselves relegated to the back of the peloton. Is there anyone out there who thinks that the Bahati Foundation Team was less worthy of a spot at the Tour of California than Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefit Systems? I wonder.
No, I'm not defending Landis' behavior, nor am I defending the use of PEDs in sports. I am however, pointing out that it's very easy for old men with no other job qualifications than an exaggerated sense of self importance, to both exploit athletes, and then throw them aside when it suits them. Floyd may or may not have won the Tour de France with the help of a testosterone patch, but if he did, I would suggest that the team owners and event sponsors have as much interest in seeing athletes put in impossible performances as any athlete does. It's time for the Olympics, WADA, and all of the rest, to step aside for a new structure in professional cycling. Cycling needs a separate organization, not dissimilar to NASCAR to set up the events. It needs an ownership group empowered to negotiate contracts and reasonable doping controls, with reasonable penalties. But most of all, cycling needs a true riders union to look out for the best interests of the riders themselves. A union with the power to call a strike and cancel the grand tours, if necessary.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meg Whitman, Porn

Every so often, I'll post something that is incredibly obvious that no one else seems to have picked up on. On 9/22/09 I pointed out that Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, while CEO of eBay, allowed the sale of pornography on the site. This made eBay one of the largest, if not the largest, distributors of pornography in the world. It seemed interesting to me that this was being ignored by Republican leadership, considering that the Repugs have positioned themselves as the party of public morality.
No more. Her primary rival, Steve Poizner, has begun running campaign ads pointing out Whitman's status as one of the world's largest porn distributors. No, I'm not so egotistical to write that the Poizner people got the idea from The New Common Sense, but I will mention that it took them a hell of a long time to make the link.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yes, but...

I'll try and write more about the oil spill later, but while I'm thinking about this, I wanted to make a very quick point. The United States can't keep expecting other countries to solve our problems. Whether it's a no drilling policy in ANWR, or a possible ban on off shore drilling, (Unlikely) we can't look the other way while the environments of other countries are destroyed so that we can have more oil.

The Goddess, Silent Movie DVD of the Week...

...Or whenever the hell I get around to it.
It's been a long time since I've written about my love affair with silent movies, and I hope it was worth the wait. Shot in a 1934, in a style that 25 years latter would be associated with the Italian neo-realists, The Goddess, written and directed by Wu Yonggang, stars the luminous Ruan Ling-yu as the Goddess, Shanghai slang for a prostitute. A single mother, with no other way to support her son, she sells herself on the streets of Shanghai. One night, seeking to avoid arrest in a police sweep, she blunders into the room of a street thug, in the English inter-titles, referred to as the Boss. It's only a matter of time until she finds herself as little more than property of this gangster.
What's most compelling about this film is it's depiction of a woman who, because of her social position, lack of education, and what's seen by Chinese society, as a lack of morals (In one scene, she refers to herself as a degenerate woman.) who has little chance to pull herself out of the downward spiral of her life. It's the love she has for her young son that both ties her to the Boss, who casually threatens to sell the child if she doesn't continue to prostitute herself for his financial benefit, and ultimately, when her son is expelled from his school because of her profession, and the Boss steals the money she had been able to save herself and her son, leads her to murder her oppressor. Like the neo-realists, the Goddess is a stand-in for a suffering lower class, constrained by poverty, exploited by those at the level of the street, as well as societal norms. In the end, the crime she commits liberates her from her pimp, but the prison sentence for that crime, takes her son from her. A son that has been the only fine thing in her life. Sent to prison for 12 years, her son is saved from the orphanage, when the headmaster of the school who had fought, and failed to prevent the child's expulsion, steps in to adopt the boy, and give him the education that he needs if he is to have any chance of a better life than that which his mother had.
Ruan Ling-yu, a major star of the Chinese silent cinema, like Mary Pickford in the United States, had enough power to really be the true creative force behind her movies. Essentially, she ran the production company. Whenever I watch this film, I'm reminded of the line from Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. "We had faces then." Silent acting, often ridiculed by modern audiences, when done well is a study in the beauty an expressiveness of the human face. Ruan Ling-yu can, in the blink of an eye, go from a subtle, ambiguous pain, to anger to joy, when in the presence of her son. A wonderful actress, who committed suicide in 1935, a year after this movie was made. She was 24 at the time of her death. She made 29 silent films in her brief career. One can only wonder what great movies she might have made in sound films.
The DVD that I've written about was produced with a grant from Ball State University, in Indiana. I purchased it on eBay. See my blog,