Monthly Archives: July 2009

David Ortiz Was On PEDs In 2003

What Am I Supposed To Feel? Good?

Since the A-Rod thing in spring, we’ve seen Many Ramirez suspended for testing positive to PEDs, and now we find that he along with David Ortiz were two of the 103 names on the list of players who tested positive to random tests in 2003.

Remember how they were supposed to be confidential? A-Rod found out otherwise. Now the leaked names are Ramirez and Ortiz. What’s slightly (and I do mean ever so slightly) interesting about the revelation is that if one team seemed mostly spared by the steroid allegations of the Mitchell Report, it was the Red Sox. Of course, Yankee fans copped the brunt of the steroid circus as Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez all had to weather the allegations. Of the four, three have come out (for want of a better expression) and admitted the use, while Clemens remains defiant in his denial.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve made peace with the steroid era. However, in burying that era, it’s rankled that Red Sox fans have been on their little moral high horse for some time about the Yankees’ players who got busted. In this light, it’s nice to see that, no, the Red Sox were not magically exempt from the steroid era – indeed they were net beneficiaries as much as any other team, if not more. After all, uhh, count their rings this decade.

Unlike with A-Rod who had to have a terrible press conference this year, it doesn’t seem likely David Ortiz is going to have one. It seems unfair, but that is the difference between being the first and the second in having your name leaked from a confidential list.

Jose Canseco as per usual has said he’s not the least bit surprised.

Jose Canseco, whose 2005 book arguably started the cascade of revelations and an investigation into the performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, barely raised an eyebrow when he was told David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are reportedly on the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003.

“When you tell me something I didn’t already know, I’ll be surprised,’’ Canseco told ESPN. “And I’ll tell you this, Major League Baseball is going to have a big, big problem on their hands when they find out they have a Hall of Famer who’s used.”

When asked to name who that Hall of Fame player is, Canseco refused to divulge who he believes it is.

“It’s not about naming names,’’ he said. “I’ve never had anything against the players. It’s always been against Major League Baseball. I know who’s on that list, but like I said, it’s not about attacking the players. It’s about the machine that allowed this to happen. What I speak out of my mouth is the truth. It burns like fire. Just remember, I have never lied about this subject.”

…”If you were in the game in the last 20 years, there’s a 95 percent chance you were knowingly using something,’’ Canseco said. “I said 80 percent back then because that was the number of players that I knew were on. But that number was greater.’’

Great.

In any case, it’s been a day of reckoning for Red Sox fans. Watching them try to talk their way around it is a bit embarrassing in as much as there were Yankee fans who tried to do the same. They’ll eventually have to come to the same conclusion that we were all a party to it.

It doesn’t make me feel any better in the sense that the other 100 names are still hidden and until they actually release those names, then there’s going to be this on-going drip effect. And even if they did release it, it’s grossly unfair to the players in that the test results were confidential at a time when PEDs weren’t banned, and we’re clearly judging the past from a different standard that was applied back then.

Then, it’s also been unfair to A-Rod. But then we’re used to the media double-standard there. In any case, the Schadenfreude is nowhere near as good as hoped – I don’t hate Manny or Ortiz. I just like seeing Red Sox fans suffer, but all this is just not the same as making them sit out October.

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Yankees Update 26/07/09

Keep Winning Baby

I always have something to say with the Yankees. The pitching this, the batting that, the bullpen this, the bench that.
Well, when they go 8-0 since the All-Star Break, and are now leading the AL East by 2.5games, you sort o have to shrug and admit it: They’re playing really well. As of now, they are playing .615 ball, which equates to a 99 win pace. If they can keep that up, they’ll win the division.

Interestingly enough, if the Yankees had gone 4-4 instead  of 0-8 with the Red Sox, then the respective records would be 63-33 and 52-43. So it’s impressive to see that even accounting for the anomalous 4 game advantage they’ve spotted the Red Sox, the Yankees are leading the division.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Yankees have played pretty crap against Division leaders. They’ve gone 5-15. If you subtract out the Red Sox, they’re still 5-7 against teams leading their divisions. On top of which, 3 of those wins came against the Tigers recently. Which is to say, it’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the Yankees’ encounters with the Rays and Red Sox will go.

Judging the rest of the schedule from the All-Star break, the Red Sox and Yankees are essentially going to play the same teams, so seeing the Red Sox stumble with a losing streak while the Yankees won 8 on the trot again helps.

The scuffling in April seems a while ago now.

A Confession

Back in April, I was in a bad mood on many a day. I blamed it on lots of things, but the dirty little secret is that I was lying. Truth is, if the Yankees lose, I tend to see the result before I even get to the door to go to work and I’m a terribly grump bastard when they lose. I’m a bad person for being that way, I know, but I’ve always been a more magnanimous, chilled, smugly calm entity on the days that the Yankees have won. I think it’s something Karmic, and I doubt I’m going to outgrow it in my lifetime. I like being smug – let Red Sox fans gnash their enamel-depleted teeth and richly gripe and moan. The world is better that way.

It’s just how I feel. A week where the Yankees don’t lose is like a week in heaven.

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What IS Screen Australia For?

You Have To Wonder

I can’t link to this article by Anthony I. Ginnane because it’s privileged content so I’ll just have to quote bits and hope I don’t piss off the good folks at Screen Hub.

The first part of the article talks about factors that have devastated prospects for feature film funding in Australia. He cites:

  1. The Disappearance of Presales from Distributors
  2. Reduction of actual films in theatres in the last 2 years which means fewer slots.
  3. The specialty distributors have gone into retreat, leaving just Fox Searchlight and Focus. The newer outfits are too small to factor in as a force.
  4. The big European Free-To-Air broadcasters are buying less. This is because Free-To-Air everywhere is in dire straits as markets decline globally.
  5. The GFC has essentially made banks more cautious, which naturally beat them out of the film markets.
  6. The GFC has forced the Germans an aggressive funds out of the market also.

That’s it in a nutshell. Mr. Ginnane doesn’t think the Off-set has been taken up as much as initially projected when it was drawn up. His anecdotal-account -based guess is less than 50% of the target.

Plus, the 10BA thing disappearing, with the rollback of Screen Australia’s direct funding means there’s basically very little money to do anything significant in the market place.

So here’s the bit I quote Mr. Ginnane, because you’ll be surprised with it as I was when I read it:

All of these complexities crashed into focus 2 weeks ago at Screen Australia’s most recent Board meeting when, without industry consultation and without pre-warning producers with theatrical projects before the meeting, the Board elected to amend its terms of trade and reduce from $5 million per project to $3 million (or $3.5 million in exceptional circumstances – what those circumstances might be were not elaborated on).

Apart from specific and significant hiccups resulting for projects at that meeting, the bigger question raised is what future is there for larger budget feature film production in Australia that is not studio driven but is driven by local producers attempting to step up into a world that is acutely tough right now.

Screen Australia has a number of issues on its plate here and those issues will remain, even if SPAA or other lobby groups collectively succeed in the run up to the 2010 election to get it increased funding and/or to encourage government to provide some limited additional one-off funding outside of Screen Australia and its budget. These issues include:

• Should Screen Australia fund fewer films at a higher budget, or more films at a lower budget or at a lower amount of participation?
• Given that subjective judgments are now being applied by project investment managers, consultants and the Board, is there an argument for reintroducing some kind of parallel market place door?
• The extent to which the marketplace alone can be expected in the current climate to fully, or largely, fund higher budget titles and the continuing importance of the last 20% or so of budget being available from soft sources either Screen Australia or perhaps a separate stimulus fund.

Oh My God.

He’s telling me now that they HADN’T thought about these problems BEFORE they rolled the FFC and  the AFC into one organ? The GFC has been in full force since August 2007, when the “credit-crunch” as we know it reared its ugly head. That was well before Screen Australia started. The real chaos came up last year in September, about a month before the Americans headed for the polls.

You HAD to figure that international money was going to dry up and whatever plans they might have drawn up in 2005-2007 were going to be unworkable.

Mr. Ginnane goes on to say:

So my suggestion to Screen Australia, once they select someone with distribution expertise to fill 1 of the 2 open Board slots, is to choose 2 or 3 titles per year where you in fact invest $5 to $10 million – films with mainstream multiplex potential – but make sure that investment has major worldwide distribution attached and that your recoupment position is a smart gross or adjusted gross recoupment position world wide pari passu an on favored nations definitions with key creatives. This kind of investment cannot be in any way subordinated.

If ever there was a time where the majors may be prepared to consider treating Australian sourced investment as something different to what they called the German investment funds (i.e. “stupid money”) it’s now.

This would buy Screen Australia 2 or 3 blue sky shots per year – a $100 million or more jackpot.

So they fail. So what? Most Australian films fail and the collective annual loses far exceed 2 or 3 times $5 to $10 million per year every year. So what’s the downside in taking a shot because there’s an awful lot of upside?

Look at the US and international weekly theatrical box office this year and last. It’s huge. It’s getting huger. And we are not part of it. We can be. We should be. And entrepreneurial Australian producers in partnership with Screen Australia, should be leading the charge.

Producers can lobby to increase Screen Australia funding and procure additional short term non Screen Australia funding but ultimately some of Screen Australia’s investments need to be in breakout hits.

Well, that’s been the position of this blog for quite some time. If anything, most Australian producers I know WANT to be doing exactly that: making films for the largest parts of the International market.

I don’t know if I should be appalled or be asked to consult for these monkeys-with-extra-chromosomes at Screen Australia. For Fuck’s Sake.

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Jose Ramos-Horta’s Take

No Slavery (And They’re Enlightened And Committed)

This is going to throw fuel on the fire.

As I visit Australia again, to attend this week’s opening of the Melbourne International Film Festival, I have been confronted by the outcry over the film Stolen, which will screen at the festival and which represents, in microcosm, the importance of truth in the struggle for justice. The film, which makes claims of widespread slavery in the Western Saharan refugee camps, represents many of the ugly realities of this central dynamic. It is a scenario I know only too well.

I have followed closely the question of Western Sahara for decades. In our years of struggle for independence, strong friendship and solidarity grew between the Timorese and the Saharawis. I have met many Saharawis and visited the Saharawi refugee camps and liberated areas twice. I did not see any form of slavery in those camps. Rather, what I know of the Saharawis is that they are enlightened and committed to their cause of freedom.

The situation of Western Sahara is perhaps not well known to Australians. For East Timorese, there are ties which make a mutual understanding easier to find. Both East Timor and Western Sahara were colonised by Iberian powers – Portugal and Spain, respectively; both have been identified by the United Nations as being ready for decolonisation; both were invaded, post-European withdrawal, by regional powers in 1975; both peoples have been subjected to widespread human rights abuses; and both have been caught up in global political trends not of their making.

Click the link to read the whole thing.  It’s a pretty weird piece in that he states he hasn’t seen slavery, embraces the struggle of the said people of Western Sahara, does NOT give a good rap about the Moroccan ruling power, and closes by saying Australians would do well to make clear distinctions between truth and fiction:

As a friend of the Saharawis, I ask all Australians to take the time to understand the issues surrounding Western Sahara. I implore all to search for the truth with vigilance and commitment, lest lies become manifest and the vested interests of certain powers be allowed free reign in the marketplaces of ideas and power.

The world must support the independence of Western Sahara as a bridge between the Maghreb and the rest of Africa and as an enlightened Muslim nation bringing the Islamic world and the western democracies closer.

The Government and the people of Western Sahara deserve at least that much. As for East Timor, the worldwide support of the people, quite apart from governments and world organisations, has been, and remains significant. Those connections count and the value of ensuring truth and fiction remain separate is vital.

In other words, he just called the film makers claims into serious question.  He just called their documentary film, ‘Fiction’.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to sit well with the defenders of the film makers out there who claim the Polisario are manipulating people into covering up the slavery in Western Sahara and needlessly attacking the film makers of ‘Stolen’.

While I don’t hold Mr.Ramos-Horta to be a greater expert than anybody else – he’s only visited the camps twice and who knows what he was shown? – I do think if he says he’s not seen the slavery in the camps, then that’s another claim you’re either going to have to take on board as corroboration. Either that or say he too is being manipulated by the Polisario, which would strain credulity, given his political positioning against them.

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The (Culture) Vultures Are Dying

Book Wars

The possibility of parallel imports of books has got Australian publishers spooked. They’re campaigning hard to keep the status quo because bottom line, that’s where their margins reside. To this end, they’ve enlisted the likes of Tim Winton to pitch in on the lobbying. The weird thing is, I think Tim Winton might stand to gain something if these changes were to be brought in, not suffer.

I’ve been told by people that Tim Winton owes it to front for these publishers, which is why he’s lending his name to the lobbying effort. I can imagine that, well enough. I can remember when musicians of certain acclaim took to lobbying against parallel imports of CDs, and that didn’t really wash either.

The deal that exists at the moment is that parallel imports are not allowed, and Australian publishers have 30days to put out a book that has been published overseas. So let’s say Stephen King puts out a new book. The Australian publisher for Stephen King has 30days to print the Australian edition of the book and get it on the market, and in turn, the American edition does not make it on to our shores – unless somebody orders it through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

What has the publishers irked is that they claim they can’t put out the Australian version cheaper than the American or British versions thank to the economies of scale. Therefore they contend that it will be the end of them as publishers of Australian fiction as well.

I’ve been racking my brains about this a bit because books are interestingly resistant to piracy unlike movies and music. Not that it doesn’t exist but it certainly isn’t what is going to fell the publishing business as what Piracy has done to music.

The only advantage an Australian publisher would have over an overseas publisher is actually their proximity to Australian writers. You would think that the changes would force them to think of ways to make more money off Australian authors instead. Of course, it’s not looking quite that way, and if I can make a character charge against the larger Australian publishers, I’ll say this: they haven’t exactly been nurturing literature in this nation as well as they would have. In fact they’ve done a piss poor job for a long time, principally by being lazy and always looking for the safest bets.

Yep, I said. But hey, this is the way this blog is about.

Thus it comes with no surprise that the big publishers don’t want changes to the status quo; no, that would mean they’d actually have to go looking for serious talent and invest time in nurturing them and sharing in their risks. You get the feeling that all the big publishers in this country want to do is sell cook books and travelogues instead.

Literature? Forget it.

Just to be sure I asked a small publisher that specialises in poetry – yes, Puncher and Wattman – how all this might affect them and the answer was that it wouldn’t. Because they publish Australian poetry, it wasn’t as if there were big printing presses in America and UK out to flood the market with competing versions of Australian poetry. And in turn, it’s not as if they’re going to change their focus from Australian poetry which means the changes aren’t going to hit them at all. It sounded like they almost welcomed it.

Then the conversation turned to just how much they were selling and it came down to an interesting observation. Considering how Australians claim to care about Australian culture, it was remarkable how few people actually put their money where their mouths were.

“About 1.5%?” I asked in jest.

1.5% is the market penetration of Australian filmsin the Australian box office. It would surprise me none to find Australian authors have made about the same penetration as their cinematic cousins.

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40th Anniversary Of Lunar Landing

Distant Moon

When I was first starting up with this blogging thing, I started off talking about NASA in the wake of the Columbia shuttle disaster. You can go look it up. Partly because back then, it seemed NASA had failed on it s promises much more than they had fulfilled them. So as we sit here today and ponder the 40 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic about all this stuff.

“The touchstone for excellence in exploration and discovery is always going to be represented by the men of Apollo 11,” Obama said. He said their work sparked “innovation, the drive, the entrepreneurship, the creativity back here on Earth”.

The president said he recalled watching Apollo astronauts return to Hawaii after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. He said he’d sit on his grandfather’s shoulders and “we’d pretend like they could see us as we were waving at folks coming home”.

Obama praised Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins for their “calm under pressure, the grace with which these three gentlemen operated”.

Obama did not talk about future NASA missions. Aldrin, Collins and six other Apollo astronauts used the anniversary to make a pitch for a mission to Mars.

Here is an interesting profile about Neil Armstrong and how uninteresting he’s tried to be in the wake of his historic fame.

Apollo 11 CrewIn his limited public utterances, Armstrong has always turned the subject away from himself. He usually deflects credit to the 400,000 people who built and maintained the vehicles and managed the bureaucracy that enabled him and Aldrin to reach the moon.

In his own book, Men From Earth, Aldrin wrote that he thought the man who preceded him onto the lunar surface had worked his way through his career “carefully watching everything he did and said”.

Talkative and opinionated, Aldrin may be the antithesis of Armstrong. In his post-Apollo career, Aldrin has done what Armstrong would find inconceivable. He once did a guest voice on The Simpsons, sat for a hilarious interview with Ali G, made a rap video with Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones, and lent his name to a computer game, Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space. Just in time for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, there’s Aldrin in a US ad for – what? – Louis Vuitton luggage. Aldrin once punched a guy who accused him of “lying” about the moon landing.

Someone once described Aldrin and Armstrong as “amiable strangers”, but Hansen says that’s inaccurate. “I’m not even sure ‘amiable’ is the right word. Neil did not appreciate how [Aldrin] went off in such strong, aggressive ways with his ideas. They worked well together, but I’m not sure there was much personal rapport. Buzz never figured Neil out.” From time to time, Hansen says, Aldrin would contact him and ask for help to persuade Armstrong to attend some event – a reflection, Hansen says, of the astronauts’ uneasy relationship.

Hansen says Armstrong’s reticence may have been reinforced by the example of Charles Lindbergh, another 20th century pioneer who knew much about the soul-twisting powers of fame. The two men met in 1968, and Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were Armstrong’s guests for the Apollo 11 launch. They corresponded until Lindbergh’s death in 1974.

And that was the fascination with the man. Perhaps our own perception that he was like Columbus or Lindbergh or Amundsen – when in reality, he was the very last chain in a finely calculated system project – was such a mismatch that he knew he could not live up to it. It’s not as if he created a rocket in the backyard and flew to the moon himself. And yet here we are, we still remember their names – Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.

It’s really unclear what promises NASA can fulfill. The forecast is a return to the moon and perhaps a Mars mission. It seemed like we would be there by no had we not been diverted by the Space Shuttle project which has busily (and haphazardly) gone into low Earth Orbit over and over and over again. Thus it becomes important to look at the achievements as they are.

I hope to see a Mars project in my lifetime, yet we may not even get to the starting line.

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Obama’s Melting Cool?

I Guess Icebergs Have Melting Moments Too

Heres’ an interesting article summing up Obama’s challenges ahead this year. This is the bit I like:

White House officials and allies brush off any notion that this new sense of unease is meaningful. The only true test, they say, will be results. Obama still might win major health care reform legislation this year that could be the most important new government program in decades. He has a fighting chance to pass regulations on greenhouse gases, in the form of a “cap and trade” mechanism, through the Senate. And Obama continues to press hard, if with no clear progress, for a breakthrough in the Middle East.

“It’s the third quarter, he’s down by a point, and he’s got his best player on the bench – what really is going to be important is the fall,” said James Carville, the veteran Democratic observer.

“If he gets what’s perceived to be some kind of a major health care thing, gets the climate bill through, if the economy recovers, then we’ll all say he had a hell of a summer. Conversely, if the thing falls apart, we’ll say that by July the 19th we could tell the thing was going bad.”

White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer dismissed the suggestion that Obama should be expected to succeed effortlessly – or that he’s on a path toward failure on any of these varied fronts.

“Obama and his team have been down this road dozens of times and been declared dead many times and always succeeded,” he said. “No one gets rich betting against Barack Obama.”

No one gets rich betting against Barack Obama indeed. I guess I’m yet to be unimpressed by his Presidency so count me amongst those betting with Obama, not against.

Just thought I’d quickly share that gem remark with you all.

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