Thursday, October 25, 2012

Must-See TV...

Amidst the trash of reality television, there are a few programs worth taking time to watch. Here is a listing of the best of the bunch for the Fall of 2012-

Boardwalk Empire-Season Three
September 16, 2012 (12 episodes)

Enoch "Nucky" Thompson is no longer treasurer of Atlantic City. His brother is no longer sheriff of Atlantic City. His bootlegging territory is being terrorized by Sicilian gangster from New York named Gyp Rosetti, a violent, unpredictable character with strange sexual predilections who isn't too happy about Nucky's exclusive non-compete deal with Arnold Rothstein, which effectively cuts him out of receiving any liquor. Problems start when Rosetti refuses to take "No" for an answer.

So the fight is on, and Nucky cannot afford to be "half a gangster" anymore...

I will not sugarcoat it-I've always felt Steve Buscemi was miscast for this role. He does not have the physical gravitas required of a gangster. Onscreen his performances look contrived, as if he cannot get himself to buy the act he's trying to sell the audience. Also, the writers and directors have fallen into the trap that sunk "The Sopranos"-spending too much valuable airtime delving into the minutiae of the character's private lives, and not enough time with the gangster shit we all tune in to see.

Treme-Season Three
September 23, 2012 (10 episodes)

This series deals with the political, judicial and personal trials and tribulations of the characters that embody the spirit of the city of New Orleans immediately after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. Interspersed amongst the corruption, crime and difficult times is some seriously eclectic music that is brilliantly incorporated into the storyline. If you haven't seen it, check it out from Season 1. The series is from the same people who brought us "The Wire", so expect excellent acting and excellent dialogue. The acting from the ensemble cast is so convincing you feel as if you're actually living the days of nights in New Orleans right along with them.

Homeland-Season 2
September 30, 2012 (12 episodes)

For those of you who've been arrested without benefit of a phone call and taken to Guantanamo Bay in the middle of the night for some rest and relaxation, you're missing what is by all accounts one of the most excruciatingly irritating, implausible, and interesting series on television. CIA agent Carrie Mathison loses her job and her mind in Season 1, all while having an affair with the very man she's paid to take down-Nicholas Brody, a marine who was held captive for eight years by some Middle-Eastern terrorist organization and was turned by the enemy into a double agent. Despite the fact that he secretly worships Islam in his garage, doesn't get along with his family and goes out murdering people and having secret affairs, he manages to work his way into a slot as a Congressman who is being vetted to run as Vice-President.

The perpetually hysterical Carrie, played with a paranoid, unhinged brilliance by Claire Danes, is surrounded by a great cast-David Harewood plays CIA boss David Estes and Mandy Patinkin plays her direct supervisor Saul Berenson, who is the calming, father figure that seems to be the only one who can keep Carrie from going completely over the edge.

The Walking Dead-Season Three
October 14, 2012 (16 episodes)

Last season, the gang find themselves on the run after the shangri-la of Herschel's farm gets overrun by a throng of zombies. Forced to flee without a plan, they spend the whole winter running around scavenging. Season Three finds them looking ragged, tired, desperate and fucked up. Just as it seems they are at the breaking point, they run into their new home, an abandoned prison. At the moment, they must secure the perimeter and check for a building to hole up in where they won't have to fight off the undead. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Merle is back. Yes, Merle-the redneck dickhead the gang left on top of a department store in Atlanta handcuffed to a pipe as zombies stormed the rooftop.

The first two episodes have re-ignited my enthusiasm. I have always been a fan of zombie flicks, but I can count on one hand films that have given this particular sub-genre the proper respect it deserves. Season Two had me questioning why a third season was necessary if they were going to continue down the path they were headed. But I see now that the season-ending marauding of Hershel's farm was the answer to the homespun "Leave It To Beaver" existence these characters were attempting to emulate.

In this new world, there is no compass of previous experience to guide those who are still alive. They cannot and will not survive by trying to relive a bygone age where Rick's wife cuts tomatoes and cucumbers in the kitchen and browbeats everyone to death while they sit down for "supper", as the head of the household leads everyone in saying Grace. There is no more Grace. It's all about the evil, rotten core that lies within the heart of every one of them, and how they manage their baser instincts knowing the world they left behind is never coming back.

As an aside, this season so far has made up for an incredibly stunted Season 2. We've added new characters, lost some excellent ones and the volume on the action has been turned up to eleven. Absolute fantastic job so far, exactly what I'd expect from such an incredible premise of a zombie apocalypse.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Armstrong Freefall...

Last weekend's epic space dive from the outer reaches of the Earth's atmosphere by Felix Baumgartner (sponsored by Red Bull) has been officially eclipsed by the one Lance Armstrong is currently undertaking as we speak. And the funny thing is, Armstrong's freefall will not be broken by the sound of his gigantic head breaking through the sound barrier, nor will it be broken by his HgH-marinated torso unceremoniously slamming into Earth. It will keep going, further and further until his carcass disintegrates, baking at the center of the Earth's crust like a Sarah Lee poundcake. Which is exactly what he deserves.

Something told me I would awaken to more news surrounding this fiasco, but I did not anticipate the events that occurred, which are already having seismic repercussions all over the world of sport. Lance Armstrong has been summarily dropped by most if not all of his major sponsors and was forced to step down from his own cancer charity. Here is the current list of companies who've decided to part company with Armstrong-

Radio Shack
Giro Helmets
FRS (Tired of being tired? Not today-I feel somewhat invigorated, thank you very much)
Honey Stinger
24 Hour Fitness Clubs

One of the few companies left standing by the disgraced serial doper is Oakley, who have stated they will stand by their contractual obligation to Armstrong "until he is proven guilty", apparently not realizing he already has. Nike, always there to protect their impugned superstars, dropped Armstrong like an overheated crack pipe. Here is the tale of the tape-

"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for over a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner".

This announcement came moments after Armstrong stepped down (or more likely, was forced to step off by the board of directors-he NEVER would have resigned voluntarily) from his post as chairman of "Livestrong". Usually, when a prominent person's downfall is eminent, said person is disgraced publicly only once and then it's over. But because Armstrong is such an icon and has so many business ties with various companies, he will continue to walk plank after plank until there will be nothing left of him for the sharks to circle around. Which again, is exactly what he deserves.

Think of the business relationship between Trek and Greg Lemond that Armstrong helped derail, to Trek's financial detriment. When Lemond filed a lawsuit against them for basically leaving his particular brand to rot instead of actively promoting it, he won. Lemond is no longer in the cycling business with the exception of promoting a cycling trainer, but the scars of this needless lawsuit definitely stung him. He took so much crap from Armstrong and Landis over the years that it is difficult to ascertain the damage to his image in dollar figures, but vindication came in the form of one Travis Tygart of the USADA, who picked up the baton the US Feds in California purposely dropped when they cancelled their investigation against the US Postal cycling team, and busted out of the gates with enough incriminating evidence to make "The Valachi Papers" look like the script for an off-Broadway musical.

Then we have the hapless Filippo Simeoni, a middling pro rider who seriously didn't seem worth the effort Armstrong put into humiliating him. But because Armstrong is such a dick, he couldn't let homeboy slide after burning him in front of the whole world at the Tour in 2004, infamously reeling him in from a meaningless breakaway to assure Simeoni would not win a stage that year. That one time was not enough to satiate this asshole's monstrous ego. He had to do it again five fucking years later, ostensibly working out a deal with the organizers of the Giro D'Italia to keep Simeoni's Italian team out of their own national Tour in 2009.

He called his ex-masseuse Emma O'Reilly a drunken whore (not that there's anything wrong with being a drunken whore, but for the record she definitely is NOT) for daring to testify against him at the SCA trail. He's gotten Frankie Andreu fired or marginalized from every single job he's ever had after retiring from the pro ranks in 2000 because his wife Betsy wouldn't lie about what she'd heard of his steroid abuse.Then there are the despicable rumors about Armstrong shagging Tyler Hamilton's ex-wife after their divorce. It's just one story after another with this guy. The manner in which he ridiculed and bullied people is beyond belief, which is why I take immense glee from the recent events. And on the heels of these events, Radio shack has now followed suit and dropped the individual endorsement contract they had with Armstrong. It just keeps getting better.

Armstrong's blood data during his "Comeback 2.0"-

Armstrong's blood data as interpreted by an independent council of scientists hired by "Busting Chops" at our expense-

Nike has also decided to rename "The Lance Armstrong Sports and Fitness Center" on its' Beaverton, Oregon campus. "Nike will change the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center at our World Headquarters", confirmed North America media relations director KeJaun Wilkins. He did not specify what the new title would be.

Let's face it. Nike are by no means taking the high road here. It is much easier to let go of an athlete who no longer competes and remains in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. They are concerned with their corporate image, and being affiliated with the toxic sludge of Armstrong's legacy is not something that is good for the ol' bottom line. But Nike has its' own issues to deal with, like the alleged payout to then-UCI President Hein Verbruggen to aid and abet the fraud when Armstrong tested positive at the 2001 Tour de Swisse. They're going to have to answer some questions going forward about this. But as for Lance Armstrong, their new ad campaign sums it up as well as anything else I've seen, and it's about time.

Please keep in mind that this does not mean Armstrong is no longer affiliated with these companies. Any company he is a stakeholder in will not force him to vacate his shares. The point is he is no longer the public face of any of these companies, and his advertisements plugging any of their products will be pulled immediately. So Nike will continue to support the "Livestrong" brand, but without Lance's rat face on any of their billboards. And only until it no longer sells well for them. Once the sales drop, they will go on to the next marketing gimmick.

Having said all that, I don't see how the Lance Armstrong Foundation survives the toppling of its' corporate identity. There are people who are consumed with the idea of the "impact" Armstrong's had on charitable contributions to "fight" cancer via his foundation. The term "awareness" is so nebulous that it can mean anything and absolutely nothing at all. And these same people are out there screeching that no one can take away the impact he's had on millions of lives. Yes, we can. Because let us not forget how he's whored these poor souls for the purpose of self-aggrandizement over the years, how the and the were so intertwined no one knew where one started and the other ended (one was the charity, the other was the for-profit entity).

A bookstore in Scotland addresses the Lance Armstrong Myth-

That confusion was generated purposely by the cynical assclowns who helped Armstrong squeeze the cancer community of their hard-earned cash and hypnotize them into thinking anything related to Livestrong was going for a worthy cause. This couldn't be further from the truth. I predicted Livestrong will not last more than two years. I retract that statement. Livestrong will be dead before the end of next year, which will put the final nail in this sad coffin. It will die because at this point in time he can no longer go back and undo the damage he's done to his image by not fighting the charges in arbitration or coming out and telling the truth.

Now, the truth will no longer be enough. The only way he can truly find contrition is by assisting the USADA. He will have to explain how the whole conspiracy worked and its' three major factors-who were the suppliers, who were the doctors and who were the facilitators at the UCI. Say good-bye to Johan Bruyneel, who was specifically recruited by Armstrong because he felt the previous team director wasn't aggressive enough in implementing a team-wide doping program. Say good-bye to Hein Verbruggen and "Fat" Pat McQuaid, who took bribes and ignored evidence of systematic doping not only at US Postal but on other cycling teams as well. Say good-bye to Dr. del Moral, a weasel of the highest order who is STILL out there doping professional athletes. And then there is the one, the only, Dr. Michele Ferrari, the man most responsible for the ills that plague modern professional cycling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Armstrong Fallout...

Lance Armstrong is going to face legal troubles stemming from the fallout of the USADA report that he probably thought he could avoid by the sheer force of his assholian will. Here is a quote from yesterday's NY Times article written by Ian Austen-

"On Friday [October 12, 2012], Jeffrey M. Tillotson, a lawyer in Dallas who represents SCA, said his client would attempt to regain the $7.5 million plus interest. "He [Armstrong] basically said we were scum and how dare we criticize him", Tillotson said. "So there is some measure of relief that we can now say that he didn't get away with it forever and, by the way, 'You owe us $7.5 million.'"

SCA is the insurance company Armstrong and his people contacted to basically bet on himself that he would win a then-record setting 6th straight Tour de France title. His lawyer, stumblebum Timothy J. Herman, has gone on the record stating that SCA has no legal recourse in recovering said monies paid out to Armstrong in this particular deal, which amounts to the original $5 million bonus plus $2.5 million in court costs and legal fees stemming from their first confrontation in court, where apparently everyone who testified lied their asses off.

But SCA begs to differ, on account that Armstrong perjured himself by saying he never doped during his cycling career. Now that we know that was bullshit, it will be interesting to see how this attempt flies. Whether or not SCA can sue will have to be determined by an independent arbitrator, but SCA is confident, given the circumstances that have arisen, they will be able to take Armstrong to court and win their money back, plus interest and court costs. They are reported looking for a total of $10 million juevos, but going forward with a lawsuit means having to wait until the UCI makes their decision to uphold the stripping of Armstrong's titles. The UCI have 21 days after receving the documents from the USADA to decide.

The Sunday Times of London also have Armstrong on their radar screen. Armstrong successfully sued the paper and two of their journalists in 2004 over an article that addressed accusations of Armstrong's'-then alleged doping. The paper was forced to issue an apology and the undisclosed amount of cash the paper had to settle with Armstrong for (which I shall disclose right now) was to the tune of $1 million dollars.

And guess what? they want their money back too, plus interest and penalties, just like SCA. Stay tuned, because these events are just words being thrown around for the time being. But I seriously doubt, with the amount of money at stake, that Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch is going to let this chance to be as big an asshole as Lance Armstrong slip through his grubby little fingers.

If anyone wants to donate to the Lance Armstrong Defense Fund, buy a t-shirt and show your undying love for the man who's made a mockery of our beloved sport-

The reason why I support gay marriage in every state except Texas-

The walls of the dining room at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) are adorned with inspirational quotes from famous athletes. Lance Armstrong's bullshit was being removed when this photo was taken... be replaced by a new portrait that better reflects his current standing amongst athletes all over the world-

Breaking news-I've just received confirmation that Johan Bruyneel has hired famed litigator Jackie Chiles to head the defense team for his arbitration hearing against the USADA-

From the information contained in the dossier I received on this matter, Chiles is going to ask one question to each witness, and one question only. Here is part of the transcript from the original deposition, where Chiles is cross-examining Levi Leipheimer on the witness stand-

Chiles-So Mr. Leipheimer, did you ever receive testosterone from my client Mr. Bruyneel in the form of a cream?

Leipheimer-Cream? No, it was more like a balm...

Chiles-Did my client tell you to put the balm on? Because I certainly didn't tell you to put the balm on!!! Who told you to put the balm on?

Leipheimer-What are you talking about?

Chiles-(clearly agitated) Do you even know what a balm IS?

Leipheimer-(startled and confused) Again, and with all due respect, what the fuck are you talking about?

Chiles-(ranting and raving) Your honor!!! I object!!! Let the record show that Mr. Leipheimer is LYING!!! My client DID NOT tell him to put the balm on!!! No one told him to put the balm on!!! Not Motoman, not The Maestro, NOBODY!!! I rest my case!!!

I don't know about you, but it sounds like a winning strategy to me...

(For those of you who are not familiar with the television comedy series "Seinfeld", I can't make you understand the analogy in 200 words or less. I cannot post the video directly, so here's the link)-

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lance Armstrong and the USADA Report...

On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, the USADA sent it's reasoned decision against Lance Armstrong to the UCI in Switzerland. This document, encompassing over 1,000 pages (200 of which made it to the public sphere through the USADA's own website), puts paid to all the bullshit excuses ever uttered by the screeching hyenas who make up his deluded choir of culi-cagao fanboys. The report is as nauseating as it is pathetic. Riders wee coerced., bullied and intimidated into taking part in the most cynically clinical bamboozling of the spirit of sport not seen since the East German Olympic squads of the 1970's. And still this asshole continues to deny his role in the conspiracy. But that's alright. He's going to get his titles stripped, and his legacy will be that of the perpetrator of one of the biggest sporting frauds modern sport has ever seen. And thankfully, the details are out for all to see.

The details of the doping conspiracy are so outrageous, even Rudy Pevenage was taken aback. For those of you who don't know, Pevenage was Jan Ullrich's manager, the man who sent the star-crossed rider to see Dr. Fuentes in Spain for blood transfusions when it was clear to them what Armstrong was up to. Ullrich's partaking in "Operation Puerto" was his last hurrah in the sport of cycling, and after being provisionally suspended right before the 2006 Tour de France (the year he was poised to finally shed the Lance Armstrong curse and be able to win the event in his own right) he retired and never raced again.

Here is what Pevenage had to say about the recently released report-

Pevenage previously admitted his involvement in assisting Jan Ullrich's visits to Dr. Efemanio Fuentes in preparation for the German's 2006 tour bid. However, his connection to the infamous doctor goes back to the days when Pevenage was racing.

"The rivalry pushed us to give it everything to try and beat [Armstrong]", Pevenage told L'Equpie in 2010. "With all the money he earned, Jan could not afford to be beaten. He was stressed out by the pressure and even put on weight because of that. Stress poisoned his career."

In light of the USADA's report, Nieuwsblad reports Pevenage now compares his methods "petty" compared to the gangsters surrounding Armstrong. In addition  Pevenage believes the real change came about when Johan Bruyneel arrived.

"It surprised me how far the team of Armstrong went. It was also strange that they could use EPO and continue working while we were all strictly controlled. Everything changed with the arrival of Bruyneel." 

Under Rudy Pevenage's guidance, Ullrich won the race 15 years ago but finished second to Armstrong three times between 2000-03. The American won the race seven times in a row from 1999. 

"Did we have a choice? After the Festina scandal in 1998, we had stopped everything at (team) Telekom. No substances, no preparation, nothing!" Rudy Pevenage, who was implicated in the Operacion Puerto blood-doping scandal that broke in 2006, told French sports daily L'Equipe. 

"We worked like this until 2001, believing that our rivals were doing the same. But Armstrong and U.S. Postal made us wonder. We were seeing that nothing was true with them. We were seeing that Armstrong had become superhuman," the Belgian added. 

"What could we do? Let him play while no control could get him? We tried to find the recipe. The same recipe as Armstrong. Today we finally can say that we were all the victims of Lance Armstrong and (U.S. Postal manager) Johan Bruyneel." 

"I remember the Tour in 2001, Jan was really in a very good form, maybe his best ever- and he was clean. But there was absolutely no chance, Armstrong played with him, it was disgusting." 

So much for the myth of the level playing field.

Jan Ullrich and Rudy Pevenage during the 2003 Tour de France-

Here is the list of ex-teammates who gave testimony against Lance Armstrong-

Frankie Andreu
Michael Barry
Tom Danielson
Tyler Hamilton
George Hincapie 
Floyd Landis
Levi Leipheimer
Stephen Swart
Christian Vande Velde
Jonathan Vaughters
David Zabriskie, aka "Captain America"

There were fifteen others who gave testimony for a grand total of twenty-six people in total. I'm still awaiting confirmation on whether or not Armstrong's ex-wife Kristen and Sheryl Crow gave testimony as initially was reported, but it's clear Kristen not only aided and abetted the conspiracy, she was one of the leading apologists, having said that using PED's was "the cost of doing business" in pro cycling. 

Here is the USADA document released to the general public two days ago on October 10th-

Here are the affidavits of Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Jonathan Vaughters-

As for the other players in this disgraceful drama, there are updates-

Johan Bruyneel has been summarily sacked by the Radio Shack-Nissan professional cycling team effective
immediately. As stated previously, Bruyneel's tactic was to say he was going to arbitration so he could continue to collect his pay packet as general manager of his cycling team until at least December of this year, but the owner put paid to all that and now he has nothing.

Here is what one of his riders, Fabian Cancellera, had to say about the situation-

"Lance was apparently a systematic doper. He doped on a scale that cycling has never seen before. He has really destroyed a lot."

"I hope that Armstrong is the last of the Mohicans, that he's the last of the Ullrich, Basso, Landis, Heras generation. If you drive too fast, you pay the penalty. Lance must now live with the consequences of what he did," the Swiss rider continued.

"Today riders are again paying the price for what went wrong six or seven years ago. that's not fair. Lance has ensured that the early years of my career were wasted years. I hope that this time is finally behind us. It will not happen immediately, it takes time but it should happen."

The Swiss rider continued by saying that he was hopeful the times were changing for the better. "Now I understand how US Postal was able to put eight or nine riders in the front on a mountain stage and drop all the others. In the 'golden years it was all very simple, it was 'training and loading, training and loading'. 'Loading', that's the term the riders use when they talk about doping. Nowadays, we work differently, more professionally, with more attention to detail. That's the cycling I believe in, not 'training and loading'. It's changed."

There is an investigation currently underway in Italy pertaining to steroid trafficking and money laundering. No surprise that Dr. Michele Ferrari is involved knee-deep in this particular quagmire. After the Federal investigation against Lance Armstrong was shut down, the Italian authorities, who were looking into unilateral assistance from the US Feds on this matter, became so discouraged they had initially decided to fine Dr. Ferrari for tax evasion and leave the matter at that. Now that their investigation is either nearly done or completely finished, Ferrari may face criminal charges of money laundering, tax evasion and steroid trafficking. Let;s hope this weasel finally gets his. 

And since Johann Bruyneel's name came up a whopping 129 times in the abridged USADA report, the Belgian authorities have become interested in the allegations of Bruyneels' steroid trafficking and money laundering. Boys and girls, don't be surprised if the US Federal case against Armstrong is re-opened. Recall that it was dropped on the eve of indictments being handed out, so they don't have much farther to go. All they have to do is re-open the case and send the indictments, hopefully via the US Postal Service registered mail service. And wouldn't THAT would be the height of irony?

I'll leave you with a video of Anderson Cooper interviewing Tyler Hamilton for your viewing pleasure...