church of workout
baby panda
I went to church today.  Services were held at the Gold's Gym on Grand Avenue in Oakland.  I've been attending every Sunday at 9am for the past seven years.  Excepting (some) speaking in tongues, there was healing, spiritual uplift and much sweat.  All in all a typical pentecostal service.

Some choose to worship in church, I prefer the gym, or outdoors when it's warmer.  A run around Lake Merritt or intervals at Kezar Stadium are, without fail, a good way to cure whatever ails me emotionally.

If you believe in things that cannot be proven (yet) by science then taking care of your body seems to make perfect sense.  And in taking care of your body, your spirit is refreshed and emotions are balanced.  This is old-time religion for me.  Hard physical labor and pushing one's self mentally.

I respect everyone's right to worship as they choose  as long as they don't try to impose their belief on me, especially through law by way of  politics.  When it comes to that kind of proselytizing, I think it's not only dishonest, I believe it's actively harmful.

Look to your own spiritual house before you have the arrogance to try to tell others what to do under the guise of helping.  Religious hypocrites deserve a special zone in their vision of hell.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to work out, play hard and sweat.  Amen.

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport & Society
baby panda
An excellent series in SI:

Steroids in America:  The Real Dope

In a recent discussion about the pervasive use of anything and everything to modify one's body for looks, strength, speed, muscle mass and notional ideals of beauty, My Beloved likened human culture to a vast organism, and various groups that have long been using PEDs; athletes, actors, transgendered people, performers, rappers, and now it seems Baby Boomers who do not want to grow old, the testing mechanisms for the validity of body modification's role or place in society.

Homeostasis is the norm for a system so change agents introduced to it will be controversial and fought against.  This is healthy so that new things can be tested and re-tested before being incorporated as the new default.

I totally support anything that shines a light on the topic of PEDs and allows for healthy discourse.  I think criminalizing substances before there is full medical knowledge about their effects is short-sighted, stifles research, spreads misinformation and harms society. 

Unfortunately, we have gone that route in the US and in doing so we have pushed these easily obtainable substances underground, crippling our ability to grapple with their pervasiveness in so many areas of our culture and sent the wrong message to young people. 

However, PEDs have no place in sport.  They do, however, have legitimacy as medical treatment and for rehab and we need more clarity to draw firm lines between injury treatment and performance enhancement.

I don't buy the argument that, since everyone does it, make it legal because the whole point of sport is that there are rules that govern play. In turn, each professional association has rules that govern participants' behavior and not one has decided PEDs are allowable.  Nor will they ever. No rules equals no sports.  You just end up with a pharmaceutical free-for-all arms race that will be unwatchable and unsustainable.

In the blog by Pete Bodo, he talked about a recent quote from a retiring player that accused the tennis establishment of hypocrisy because PEDs were known to be used in professional tennis.

I disagree with one statement in Pete's post and one statement that Kamakshi Tandon made in Steve Tignor's tennis blog, Concrete Elbow.

Pete said that players would tell on each other because it's like taking food off your plate (not to).  I think you need to go deeper into that and realize that if you blow the lid off you may first be harming the sport, thereby decreasing the advertising dollars and your own potential prize money.  I think the hypocrisy Rochus mentioned is that he believes there's been willful inaction on the part of the professional associations so as not to taint the sport and lose money.

They're caught in a trap of their own making without more transparency, as advocated by many in the forum.

Kamakshi mentioned the tennis loner culture, lack of sophistication and lack of access to be barriers to a systemic problem with PEDs in tennis.

Without consistent off-season blood testing for HGH, this statement is simply not credible.

On WADA's website, there is information about Canadian HGH testing of a university football team.  Of the 62 players tested, 9 came back positive for a banned substance, *but* they mostly tested for steroids with urine kits.  Of the 20 blood samples tested for HGH, 1 came back positive. The HGH test kits used can only detect it if injected in the last 24-36 hours.

There's a good chance that many of the players sampled *thought* they bought HGH through the internet, but ended up with something else. So I believe that the 1 of 20 positive for HGH would be much higher but with no controls, and limited test efficacy because of timing, there's no way to know.

This is a podunk university in Canada that has probably never sent anyone to the NFL, maybe Canadian league or Europe and the school had to suspend the entire football program for one year because it was so tainted.

The HGH kits used in Canada cost about $1,200 and can be used for 12 samples. The problem with tennis and all other off-season testing is mainly logistics which drive up cost.

Players associations in pro football in the US and pro baseball say they're open to HGH testing, but claim that collective bargaining by the players unions make it difficult to contractually agree and enforce the testing and its consequences.

I think tennis should take the lead on the issue, clarify medical treatment use, and then for the next 2 years test the Top 100 in the ATP and WTA at least 2 times each for HGH in the off-season and enact a permanent ban for a positive test. 4 missed tests equal a positive test with permanent banning the consequence. Random testing after the first 2 years for all players in the top 250.

It sounds harsh, but that's the quickest way to chase away any clouds, clean up the sport (if it needs it) and send a strong message to anyone contemplating using PEDs on their way up.

The consequence has to off-set the reward to sufficiently deter use.  And the testing has to be robust and transparent.  This is not that hard to coordinate, especially since the player's have to provide 1 hour out of each 24 where they will be available, for a full year.

It *is* very intrusive, but there is so much at stake, that everyone who makes a living from the sport should put up with it for a couple of years so a baseline of knowledge can be taken.

Right now there are too many unknowns for anyone who follows the sport to say with confidence that PEDs are not a problem.  Human nature being what it is, there will always be people looking for an edge and no horror stories about long-term consequences will deter them.  There are many motives, too, and money is just one of them.  I think Ego is even a stronger motivation than money.

We can't control the pervasiveness of the very human desire to be stronger, faster, more ripped, have more energy, maximize performance, rid ourselves of aches, pains and injuries, but we can as a society say that taking PEDs in sports is cheating and will not be tolerated.

There should be no debate about finding out how widespread PEDs usage is in tennis and the only way to do that is to do blood testing in the off-season based on the tournament scheduling of each player.  There are known protocols for effective doping and the random testing can take that into account.

HGH is commonly used with just enough testosterone to stay under acceptable levels per WADA rules. There is open PED doping in our society which can be seen by anyone whose eyes are not squeezed shut.  Wayne Odesnik is comfortable buying HGH off the internet and carrying it through customs.  The ITF has to stop making excuses about the issues with the test.  The only acceptable excuse is if the test had an unacceptable level of false positives.  That is not the case.

ITF, what are you waiting for?

On rooting, baseball and sports fan(atic)s
baby panda
I posted this on a blog today.  The topic was Elena Dementiava's recently announced retirement from tennis and off-topic stuff like who's watching the World Series and Project Runway.

I'm in the middle generation of a multi-generational sports family on both sides. Both my parents were good athletes in their day, mom at tennis and baseball and dad at almost anything he tried. When it looked as if I might be good at track and field (at age 9), my dad would wake me at 5 in the morning to run and practice sprints. My siblings and I tried out various sports and competed in almost every team and individual sport except swimming.

We love to play, watch and endlessly discuss sports, competition and the qualities of champions, winners and losers.

When my family moved to Europe in the late 70s, mom used to listen to baseball games at 2 in the morning on a small transistor radio. In later years she could be found working in her yard in Hawai'i, wearing a goofy radio headset under a Giants cap, listening to whatever games were playing.

The last time she visited me in San Francisco, I bought cheap seats to a Giants game so she could see her beloved Barry Bonds (I know! - we had *many* faux arguments about Barry) almost hit a homer into McCovey Cove.

In late 2008, never having been sick her entire career as a social worker, she started having increasingly debilitating pain that her young-ish male doctor took several weeks to finally take seriously. Almost 2 months after she complained of pain, a PET-scan showed she had late-stage cancer throughout her body.

I and one of my sisters took turns caring for her over 4 months until she died. She never complained about her fate or her pain, and every day enjoyed her little house next to the Pacific with a view of the beautiful Ko'olau mountains.

There weren't many highlights during that time for us, but a couple of sports-related things did energize and excite her and helped us enjoy our time together.

The 1st bit of fun was a surprise visit in December by Misty May-Treanor and her husband Matt, yes, that Matt Treanor, currently playing with the Texas Rangers. My Uncle G is a long-time friend of Misty's dad. He and my aunt went to Beijing at Misty's invitation and watched her and Kerry Walsh win Gold in Beach Volleyball.

Uncle G decided to take the Treanors on a little detour to the windward side when they visited Hawai'i in 2008. Mom and my sister got their picture taken with a 2-time Gold Medal Olympian *but* all mom talked about later was how excited she was to talk with Matt Treanor about pro baseball and what his plans were (I think he had just been released by the Florida Marlins and was uncertain about his future). According to mom and my sister, Matt Treanor was a friendly, down-to-earth accessible guy. I think Misty was more of an enigma.

Matt Treanor bounced around teams quite a bit between that sickroom visit he made to my very ill mother who was "only" a friend-of-a-friend. He was traded to the Rangers in March this year, and now he's playing for the 1st time in a World Series against my mom's favorite-of-all-time baseball team, the San Francisco Giants.

My mom, being a true fan, would be cheering on her Giants, but she would be just as happy for Matt Treanor to win a Championship after slogging it out under the radar for so many years.

It's a win-win for me as I'll always be appreciative of how much my sports nut mother enjoyed Matt and Misty's visit 2 years ago.

The 2nd bit of fun with mom is tennis-related. She and I got up at weird hours and watched the 2009 Australian Open. While she appreciated Roger's tennis, she loved watching Rafa. Yes, she was an unorthodox, self-taught lefty who beat a bunch of club players for a local championship that her peers still talk about decades later. We had so much fun watching him win that tournament and that time period was the best she would feel, physically, throughout her chemo treatments.

This is what I posted on the blog I kept, Not Maudlin Mom:

Monday, February 2, 2009
tennis, anyone?
Mom and I stayed up into the wee hours Sunday to watch the Australian Open men's final. Mom's version of watching was to sit in her fold-out sports chair, bent over with her eyes closed. I would periodically rouse her and tell her to watch a replay of an amazing exchange or ask her if she wanted to get onto the bed and she would say, "No, because then I'll really go to sleep."

By the 5th set we were both wide awake to watch Rafa Nadal win his 1st hard court major. That last set was a lesson in focus of intent to the exclusion of physical discomfort, environment, and the other guy across the net, who may just be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. My take-away was that a great competitor beat a great artist and comparisons don't apply, but sports fans reap the benefit of one of the great rivalries of the current generation. Wow.

Long-time friends and family know which player mom most closely resembles. Hint: not the artist.

Losing My Tempo - Pat Metheny's "The Orchestrion Tour"
baby panda

Hate to start LJ-ing with a rant, but that's what a live performance will do for you; love it or hate it,you won't be indifferent because you just spent time and money on another person (or persons) with no ulterior motive, i.e. sex, f'rinstance, other than to see them do their thing.

I jotted down some notes in the brief and dim illumination between numbers - fixating on P's bushy hair helmet during first two acoustic guitar numbers...jazzy with some bossa nova and joni mitchell overtones...what is that strange guitar he's using for No. 3?...looks like guitar version of siamese twins...he's a 1-man band....masturbatory...backdrop going up...oh no!...stacks of people....he's playing the the whole concert by looking set...small blue lights on each instrument so you know when it's plonking, plinking, shaking or banging...a crystal ball?....narcissistic arrogant....ugh...sounds like a Vegas casino when everyones winning.

I should have been tweeting, but the light from from phone would have had the people around me doing that hissing thing that seems particular to the Bay Area.  Given my antipathy toward old Pat tonight, perhaps getting myself thrown out of Zellerbach Hall would have been appropriate.

Here's Himself on his latest CD, Orchestrion, recently released on Nonesuch:

Basically, this is a solo recording because Pat, well, plays with himself.  And sadly, that was my visceral reaction to tonight's live performance.  All the instruments are stacked in 4 tiers behind him, some in crate-like frames.  The set could be in a garage and designed by an 11-yr. old boy.  Bracketed by 2 hutches with bottles that light up, the whole stage is bad 70s retro.  I think on purpose, but I could be giving too little credit.  And since I've already gone there, he's wearing a shapeless black tshirt and, when shredding his various guitars and guitar-like thingies, his neck is often at a 90-degree angle and all you can see is a large tribble bobbing over the guitar.  Yeah, we sat in the balcony, bt his hair is *really* overcompensating.

Oh Pat, where art thou?  Emphasis on the where art because there ain't nothing new here.  Fanboys abound at Metheny concerts, but this was a geek introvert's wet dream - play with yourself and your toys.  Yes, yes, he has an elaborate explanation which we probably "won't get" but the immediate impression which lingered throughout the hour-and-a-half was just surreal and self indulgent.  Look, the dude played to the player piano (actually a player baby grand piano) most of the concert.

What is original about instruments that are programmed, or simply keep up a certain tempo?  Or play along with Pat?  It's not electronica, it's not AI, it's not innovative.  Maybe it hasn't been done before, but so what?  It's boring, musically and visually.

Sorry, Pat, I think you're going through a mid-life crisis.  This is not a charm to ward off the grim reaper.  Buy a red convertible or get a hot young girlfriend.  Put the Orchestrion back in mothballs.  And get a hair cut.


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