Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I started taking notes on books that I read. I try and focus these notes on what I can take away from the book. Somebody convinced me to post these on the internet. So I have begun posting them on the internet.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thomas Kinkade is Dead

The claustrophobia I feel when confronted with any of his things will never die though. He didn't take his works with him, so I fixed what he left behind.

Evening Majesty with Jason:

Hipsters in Gardens Beyond Spring Gate:

Let Your Light Shine, Cthulu:

Lumbergh's Gazebo, Oh, Oh:

Olympic Mountain Troll:

Almost Heaven, then Reavers:

Peek-a-Boo, Endor:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Philosophy of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell Manga, Volume 1

(Spoilers abound. If you haven't read it and want to read it cold, do so. It's been out in the West since 1995. Get on that. Actually, this will probably make little sense without first reading the book. Or you could read this wikipedia page and it might begin to make sense. This one might help too. But just read the comic book – that's the easiest way, and the most fun.)

Ghost in the Shell is both a movie and a manga. Well, technically two movies, two mangas, two video games, and three TV shows, but I'm only interested in the original manga, Volume 1 (1989-1990), on which the first movie (1995) is based. It became an important touchstone for cyberpunk and the anime boom. I argue that it should become an important touchstone for our cultural, philosophical history. Existing right at the rise of personal computers, the internet, and electronic gaming, this manga catalogs the philosophical influences during this changing period.

Masamune Shirow allows me to say something I've never understood before: Major Mutako Kusanagi is an existential hero in a post-modern world. Let me explain. The world itself, the technology, questions the primacy of the individual and individual experience through incidents like hacking into another human's brain and shared sensory inputs. Taking the individual experience and distilling it to information which can be shared questions a basic tenant of existentialism: that one's self exists before being distilled to an essence. This questioning of this existentialist tenant characterizes post-modernism still today. Post-modernism postulates that a togetherness, a community, a societal contract or construct gives subjective perspectives and experiences meaning, rather than existentialism's emphasis on the individual. Chief Daisuke Aramaki gives this post-modern tendency a voice in the manga. At the end of chapter three, when Kusanagi changes from the fun-loving girl to the brooding woman, the catalyst is Aramaki explaining: “Whether it is a simulated experience or a dream, the information that exists is all real... and an illusion at the same time.” Kusanagi responds with a question: “You mean in the same way novels and films change people?” Aramaki replies, “Most people will never know.” In this exposition, the idea that truth and illusion are distinguishable solely by perspective reveals the post-modern tendencies of Kusanagi's context, her world. To follow this up and ensure that the reader understands, Shirow begins chapter four with robots debating the difference between simulations and “real-time events”, concluding “no matter how we interpret the situation, it's the same.” In other words, situations don't give meaning – if they did we would all experience everything the same. Perspective and interpretation bring meaning to the table. This post-modernism underscores Kusanagi's experience. From “Ape Face” Aramaki's comments to Kusanagi's job as a mind hacker, her entire world shoves post-modernism down her throat.

Kusanagi doesn't really accept it though. She retains a belief in the primacy of the individual. And when Aramaki points out the sameness of simulations and dreams at the end of chapter three, Kusanagi falls into a classic existential angst. Shirow exposes Kusanagi's textbook reaction most blatantly in chapter five through her musing, “Sometimes I wonder if I've really already died, and what I think of as 'me' isn't really just an artificial personality comprised of a prosthetic body and cyberbrain.” After two chapters of Kusanagi obviously depressed, this musing illuminates the cause for her unrest. She maintains that she cannot be distilled to an essence, but that belief doesn't mesh with her world – especially as she questions even her existence. This disparity between belief and experience launches her into the existential angst that she experiences throughout the rest of the book. But she confronts her angst actively and head-on – a tactic which makes her an existential hero. She actively questions her own experiences, existence, and everybody around her. Her state identifies a common theme in the history of philosophy during this time period: neither post-modernism nor existentialism explain human experience. It seems that some people retreat to a syncretic dose of both.

But then Shirow pulls a masterful move and introduces the Puppeteer – a hyper-rational being. When the Puppeteer first appears in chapter nine, it espouses a commonly known Descartes quote: “What you witness here is my will as a self-aware life-form.” This paraphrase of “cogito ergo sum” immediately explains the Puppeteer's position as the rationalist. Like Descartes, it turns within itself to find the basis of knowledge: its self-awareness proves its existence independent of any sensory experience. However, it uses the experience of its will acting on the world to attempt to communicate its own knowledge of its existence to the people around it. This syncretic blending of rationalism and empiricism paraphrases what I think of as Kant's ideas. To further drive the point home, a bystander accuses the Puppeteer of being “only a program designed for self-preservation.” It responds with, “I cannot prove it to you. Modern science, after all, still cannot define life.” This comment enforces the Puppeteer's philosophy: it knows that it exists but because the other people do not have its own self-awareness they can doubt its existence. In other words, a being can only know its own existence, not that of anybody around it. However, the scientific process it alludes to allows theories of knowledge based on rigorous examination of experiences. The Puppeteer's initial words appeal to Kusanagi, who clings to her individuality while attempting to understand the world around her.

The stage is then set for the finale. The lines drawn between the proponents of the three major philosophies of the late twentieth century. Aramaki is the poster boy of post-modernism, Kusanagi the poster girl of existentialism, and the Puppeteer is the poster being of rationalism. The Puppeteer attempts to find a human to “fuse” with – to create a syncretic being between the two. It is the only one of its kind and needs diversity to both continue existing and to create more of its kind. This desire hearkens back to Aristotle's basis of humanity: “Humans, having the gift of speech and the sense of right and wrong, are by nature a political animal.” (Politics I.2) The word “political” here means two things: we need to be a part of a society larger than ourselves, and we need to have discourse. As the only one of its kind, the Puppeteer has neither, and realizes that it needs both to continue existing. To the Puppeteer, fusing consciousness with another being is the easiest way to attain discourse and a part in a society larger than itself.

Kusanagi agrees to its plan at the end. But she asks the Puppeteer, among other similar questions, “Any guarantee I could continue to be me?” She clings to her individuality in the face of fusing. It is based in a fear of the unknown for her – evident through another of her questions, “So what happens if I die?” Her incessant questioning since chapter three finds its match in the Puppeteer though. To every question Kusanagi poses, it responds with either rational approximations of “I don't know”, or actual answers. In the end, though, Kusanagi agrees for one simple reason: her existential angst is predicated on losing her identity in chapter three, and the offer to fuse is an offer of a new identity. In other words, when she began to question even her own experience, her experience offered two answers: post-modernism's understanding of “reality” as possible of illusion, or creating another existence for herself. The Puppeteer offered the easiest path to another existence for her, and she took it.

This melding of rationalism and existentialism creates a new type of being. Kusanagi explains it by saying, “This is the cosmic species – the seed.” The evolutionary step that Kusanagi takes allows her new identity to gain permanence, but she is changed. She is neither Kusanagi, nor the Puppeteer. Her evolution is based in rationalism and existentialism, while being permanent.

This is an allegorical manga through and through. Yes, there are boobs and guns and computer geekery, but Ghost in the Shell Volume 1 is Masamune Shirow attempting to find a path between these three philosophical ideas so important in the late twentieth century. It entertains and illuminates the specifics of our philosophical situation. As such, it should remain a cultural touchstone for generations – not because of the anime boom or cyberpunk, but because of its nature as an allegory of the philosophical quandary that resulted from the twentieth century.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital Cigar Journal #1: California

I spent two and a half weeks in an area where cigars are plentiful – California. I used my time appropriately and tried many cigars that I had not before. I decided before I left to try only new cigars on the trip, to never buy a cigar I have had before, and to try only one of each cigar. I only failed four or five times. Of course, one cannot understand a cigar based on just one smoke, but here are the results of those single-cigar tasting sessions:


Mild Cigars:
Alec Bradley American Classic Blend:
This was a brilliant Connecticut cigar. It forgoes the recent fascination with spicy cigars wrapped in America's best wrappers and sticks to what Connecticuts do best: smooth, creamy, flavorful, satisfying. I will buy some more, both to let my wife – who loves creamy, smooth, mild cigars – try them, and to have some more myself. $3.50-$5 per cigar in a box.


Medium Cigars: There are a lot here

Alec Bradley Family Blend:
We'll start the mediums with the best cigar I had on the trip, the Alec Bradley Family Blend. A delicious and inviting scent on the nose was followed up by a lit flavor that tasted of tasty, excellent, and alluring flavors. This was Honduras at its finest. Complex, subtle, and delicious while remaining balanced and focused. The Criollo wrapper was perfect and luscious. I want a number of boxes of these. And I want that number to be large. It was so so so good. If I had to compare it to a cigar it would be a more balanced, subtle, nuanced, and smooth Man of War. It is also similar to Punch. That was my impression. I had 2, on a trip when I told myself I would never smoke the same cigar twice or smoke something I had tried before. $5-$6 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Tempus:
This was spicy. This wasn't spicy. This overwhelmed my palette with pepper and leather, then left an aftertaste of nuts and sweetness on the tongue. The mix was odd, like sweet and sour sauce, but like the Northwest weather, it works – sunny one minute, thunder the next, and sunny the one after. This was a fantastic journey, this cigar. This tasted like a spicy Medium cigar should, and like a smooth medium cigar should. This is a mix of Honduran smoothness and sweet with Nicaraguan spice and spirit. I heard Cigar Afficianado rated it a 94, and you know what? I would agree. At least a 94, if not more. I did not try the Tempus Maduro. $6-$9 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Maxx:
If you're looking for complexity, this fits the bill. I'll be honest, it confused me. There are tobaccos from four countries inside the cigar, a fifth country provides the binder, and it's all wrapped up by a Maduro leaf from Nicaragua. With that much going on in my mouth, I couldn't separate flavors very well. My overall impression was that the Maxx was great and I wanted more. Flavor wise, the Maduro wrapper was quite dominant in my experience, and that wasn't a bad thing at all. I will try this one again because there is more for me to explore there, and I think I'll be quite pleased. I did not try the Brazilian or Connecticut Maxx, just the Honduran. $5.55 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Black Market:
Half of this cigar's leaves are from the fabled Jamastran valley in Honduras – and it shows through in delicious smoothness and a quintessential Honduran flavor profile. But, this Honduran masterpiece is modified by the addition of Panamanian tobacco. Yes, Panamanian. I cannot remember ever smoking or even hearing about Panamanian tobacco before. But after smoking this, it is unfortunate that America had to give up Panama. This ties with the Tempus as my second favorite Alec Bradley cigar, but I'm more likely to buy another one of these because it was a flavor profile that I am less used to. There were notes of tea and peat to pair with the Alec Bradley preferences of leather and a touch of pepper. Delicious, intriguing, and smooth. Not as smooth as the Family Blend, but not as bipolar as the Tempus. The Black Market, to me, fit right in between the two perfectly. $6-$7 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Prensado:
I had two on this trip, and had one months before. The first one I had was good, but I was intoxicated and outside surrounded by ten other cigars, so I was looking forward to trying this one with a little less going on around me. I tried it and liked it less than the first time. Then I tried it a third time, being surprised that a cigar with such universal acclaim didn't interest me at all, and concluded that it was a good cigar, but not worth the money. Every other Alec Bradley blend that I tried was more interesting and pleasing to me than the Prensado. It is a good cigar, but it isn't for me. Especially not at that price point. I missed this bus. $7.50-$10 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley New York:
To me, this tasted like a Family Blend crossed with an American Blend. It was good, but amongst the Tempus, Family Blend, American Blend, and Black Market, this didn't seem to fit. It was smoky in the mouth and the room note was sweet, but without the Alec Bradley contrasting pepper, I wasn't able to catch the magic of this cigar. There was an oakiness that is also a Bradley characteristic, but like the Prensado, I came away scratching my head. This is certainly a good cigar, but I do not plan on buying another one. Only available in New York, supposedly. $5.50-$7 per cigar in a box online.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Habano:
The wrapper let this cigar down. It was thin and didn't quite converse with the filler and binder the way that I felt it should – leaving a lack of balance that wasn't as enjoyable as I had hoped. It was a tasty cigar, and I enjoyed my experience, but I felt that a higher quality wrapper could have really made this cigar amazing. And it detracts from the experience when I'm smoking it thinking, “This is so close, it could be so much better.” I do not plan on ever purchasing a box of these, but a five pack sounds about right. $4-$6 per cigar in a box.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Sumatra:
A friend gave me this, and it wasn't my favorite. I got an odd aftertaste throughout the whole cigar – something like pencil shavings with a bitter, oily taste. I think, honestly, that the cigar was just not smoked at the right time. There was potential here. I could sense some things happening around the edges that really wanted to resolve into interesting discourses, but they may not have been mature enough to have those discussions yet. Anyways, I might get a couple of these and age them a year to see how they turn out. They were sold out of these at Sequoia Cigar Company for the whole two weeks I was there – they must be popular with somebody. $4-$6 per cigar in a box.

Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary:
This was good. It is a Nicaraguan binder and filler wrapped in an Ecuadorian wrapper and it is good. I don't quite know how to explain it. Maybe it is like a full-bodied cigar on a diet. It looks and smells oily and dark, but smokes decidedly medium and smooth. Perhaps a touch more spice or flavor or body could've really made this cigar one of my favorites of the trip, but as it sits, I do not plan on another. It isn't exciting enough. Rocky Patel makes so many good cigars, and so many bad cigars. This, to me, might be his first cigar between the two extremes. It's good, and I'd like to try another, but I'll be unlikely to because there are so many other good cigars out there. $8 per cigar in a box.

Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon Sixty:
I had tried this cigar before, but not this size. It came out in 2011 and, up until this trip, was my top new cigar tried in 2012. However, this size, the 6” by 60 ring gauge "Sixty", was bad. It lacked what makes the sizes with smaller ring guages so good – the focus of the cigar on the pristine Cameroon wrapper. It says it right on the label – Cameroon. But in this size, the filler overpowered the perfect wrapper and made the smoke lackluster and bland. Not at all what I expected or wanted. I will certainly buy many more Vintage 2003 Cameroons, but never again the big Sixty: there is too much filler for this specific wrapper to keep up with. $9.75 per cigar in a box.


Full Bodied Cigars:

Oliva Series V:
Delightful. It was exactly what I expected it to be: a Nicuraguan Puro wrapped in a thick, Sun-Grown Habano wrapper that delivers spice in spades. It's not all one-sided though: notes of oil and earth blended into the first third before resolving into a slight coffee and chocolate in the second third. The third third also saw the introduction of a welcome leather undertone and a pine flavor that provided a needed freshness on the tongue after all that oil. In all, this is a perfectly balanced cigar and a true pleasure. I understand, when smoking it, why it costs so much – and as a consumer, I guess that's the most I can ask for. $6-$8.50 per cigar in a box.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Mexico:
This blew me away. My second favorite cigar from the trip. This was full and spicy and, with the Mexican wrapper, even a touch salty – but nothing compared to the usual Mexican tobacco experience of smoking a salt lick. I got some flavors out of it that were recognizable, but it was hard to notice over the chorus of rejoicing in my mouth. In my mind, Don Pepin Garcia has such consistency and quality in full-bodied cigars that he is the best full-bodied blender around. This cigar is another piece of evidence for my opinion. It is perfect. I want a lot more of these right now. $3-$4 per cigar in a box.

Drew Estates Liga Privada T52:
I hate flavored cigars. What I like about cigars is the tobacco flavor. If I wanted to taste grape or brandy I would eat a grape or drink some brandy. That said, Drew Estates are the most popular flavored cigars in the world. They have tried unsuccessfully to make unflavored cigars before and have failed every time. Until now. They released three cigars that people like me like, and on this trip I tried my first, and I loved every second of it. There was that tinge of regret when I put it out that means I will be back for more. It was complex, nuanced, and full of rich flavors. It was like a symphony in my mouth with many movements that I could almost catch. I adored my first experience with the Liga Privada/Undercrown line and can't wait for more. $9.75-$12.50 per cigar in a box.


So if I have to rate these, here are the eight I hope to purchase more of:
1. Alec Bradley Family Blend – Astoundingly smooth and flavorful
2. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Mexico – The perfect Mexican cigar
3. Alec Bradley Black Market – Interesting and delectable
3. Alec Bradley Tempus – Bipolar and alluringly rewarding
5. Oliva Series V – Delightfully balanced and nuanced
6. Alec Bradley American Classic Blend – Creamy and smooth nailed
7. Drew Estated Liga Privada T52 – Deliciously meaty
8. Alec Bradley Maxx – Perhaps over complex, but needs more exploration

These ones I probably will not buy again:
9. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Habano – Lacks flavor
9. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Sumatra – Probably not aged long enough
9. Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon Sixty – Overpowers an amazing wrapper
12. Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary – Can't decide whether it wants to be full or medium
13. Alec Bradley Prensado – I missed the bus
14. Alec Bradley New York – Doesn't fill a niche flavor profile or offer a strong enough case to create its own


Where I live, there are no cigar stores that sell Alec Bradley. The nearest I know of is too far away for me to have tried anything of his but for a single Prensado given to me by a friend. When I walked into Sequoia Cigar Company (above) and saw all of their Alec Bradleys, I decided to try all they had. And I did.

Alec Bradley makes amazing sticks. He is quickly starting to rival Punch in defining Honduran tobacco in my mind. His cigars are often contradictory – sweet and spicy simultaneously – and that makes them fascinating to me. His flavor preferences are pepper, leather, nuts, oak, and an odd sweetness that I can't pin down. Almost mango-ish, but also sort of like a pine needle tea or, or, um... I don't know. It's a sweetness. That's all I can say. Anyways, I was quite pleased with my Alec Bradley exploration and will return to the American Blend, Maxx, Tempus, Black Market, and Family Blend as many times as possible in the future. I did not get to try his Occidental Reserve, Tempus Maduro, Select Cabinet Reserve, Harvest, Maxx Brazilian, Vice Press, Spirit of Cuba, Special Blends, or Kensington Connecticut Reserve. Based on the strength of what I have tried though, I look forward to more Alec Bradley in my future.

Meanwhile, Rocky Patel still seems to be making hundreds of new blends a year. You think he would've noticed that the larger Vintage 2003 lacks what makes the blend so great. Or that he would've realized that a bit more spice or body would've made the 15th Anniversary exciting. However, his inconsistent path has brought us so many gems – the Edge Corojo, the Vintage 1999, the Vintage 2003, the Vintage 1992, the 2011 Winter Blend, and the Decade – that his many, many misses are more humorous than annoying today.

Don Jose Pepin Garcia is a full-bodied master. His foray into a medium cigar with the Habano and Sumatra wrapped La Relobas failed for me, but his Mexican wrapped La Reloba was stunning and the best Mexican cigar I have ever had. He continues to blend most of my favorite full-bodied and spicy cigars, and I'm glad to add another to the list.

Jonathan Drew Estates finally made a successful foray into the unflavored cigar world with the Liga Privada T9, T52, and Undercrown. It was an immensely pleasant experience to smoke the T52, and one I want to repeat soon. I will be actively looking for the T9 and Undercrown to try.

Oliva, of course, is still shooting par, like they seem to do with every cigar. So consistent and tasty. Will they ever make a misstep? The V may be their best, and if it isn't, it's close to it.

All in all, a few weeks like this, trying a bunch of new cigars, is an unmeasurable blessing to a smoker like me, who was getting bored of the boxes I had left in the humidor. I would like to sincerely thank both Sequoia Cigar Company and Santa Barbara Cigar and Tobacco (above) for their selection, smoking lounges, and patience with a curious smoker like myself. I hope also to see both establishments again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Revised Tour de France: Top 10 Clean Riders Since 1994

I love cycling. Well, watching it. Doing it is another story -- last time I cycled on the road I was hit by a car. That was a few years ago and I've stuck to Mountain Biking since. The problem with professional cycling is doping. All sports have a lot of doping going on, but cycling seems to get more press for some very high profile athletes who have doped. This means that cycling fans are cynical. Seeing Wiggins and Froome doing so well this year as opposed to Cadel and van Garderen, fans are accusing Wiggins of doping and not Cadel of being ill-prepared for this year's Tour, this year's course not favoring Cadel's riding strengths, or any other non-cheating reason -- there's a big mat that says "CHEATING" and fans jump to it. This is sad, but natural with the doping scandals that have come far too often over the past two decades of cycling. Simultaneously, Lance Armstrong appears to be losing his battle of convincing everybody that he didn't dope. So this leads me to one question: if Lance is forced to give back all of his wins, who gets them? The assumption being that most of his major competitors were doped too: Hamilton, Ulrich, Vinokurov, et cetera. I want so badly to believe that Armstrong didn't dope, but it is very difficult to keep that faith these days. I, personally, believe Armstrong doped. I have no proof, but based on that belief, here are the top ten likely non-cheaters since 1994, and their original standings (Sources after the list):

Last Revised 30 January 2012 thanks to Eri E-B. If there are any mistakes, please leave a comment or email me.

1994: Indurain's 4th consecutive victory.
1. Roberto Conti, 6th Place: he won the Alpe d'Huez -- video.
2. Vladimir Poulnikov, 10th Place, +12:59
3. Oscar Pelliccioli, 15th Place, +22:26
4. Nelson Rodriguez, 16th Place, +22:49
5. Jean-François Bernard, 17th Place, +24:15
6. Federico Muñoz, 23rd Place, +36:04
7. Jim Van De Laer, 24th Place, +48:35
8. Beat Zberg, 27th Place, +44:37
9. Gerd Audehm, 28th Place, +45:15
10. Erik Breukink, 29th Place, +47:26

1995: Indurain's 5th win consecutively. All but three of the top 20 doped -- 85% of the top 20 riders doped in their careers.
1. Melchor Mauri, 6th Place
2. Álvaro Mejía, 16th Place, +18:20
3. Erik Breukink, 20th Place, +32:07
4. Vicente Aparicio, 21st Place, +37:34
5. Jean-Cyril Robin, 22nd Place, +40:41
6. Arsenio Gonzalez, 23rd Place, +40:58
7. Federico Muñoz, 24th Place, +45:43
8. Vladimir Poulnikov, 25th Place, +46:11
9. Massimo Podenzana, 26th Place, +46:34
10. Laudelino Cubino, 27th Place, +47:07
11. Beat Zberg, 29th Place, +51:48
1996: Bjarne Riis won, confessed to doping and was stripped of his title in 2007, then written back into the books in 2008. What a battle for 8th this could've been!
1. Patrick Jonker, 12th Place, +11:51
2. Manuel Fernandez, 16th Place, +19:21
3. Stefano Cattai, 22nd Place, +40:56
4. Arsenio Gonzalez, 24th Place, +51:20
5. Giuseppe Guerini, 27th, +61:04: he who won the Alpe d'Huez in 1999 after getting sent off his bike by a collision with a fan.
6. Erik Breukink, 34th, +75:55
7. Aitor Garmendia, 35th, +76:34
8. Claudio Chiappucci, 37th, +83:15
9. Melchor Mauri, 38th, +83:18
10. Chris Boardman, 39th, +83:34

1997: What a great battle this would've been for first!
1. José María Jiménez, 8th Place: brother-in-law of Carlos Sastre
2. Roberto Conti, 10th Place, +1:09
3. Beat Zberg, 11th Place, +4:24
4. Jean-Cyril Robin, 15th Place, +27:18
5. Daniele Nardello, 18th Place, +30:13
6. Stéphane Heulot, 20th Place, +34:56
7. Hernán Buenahora, 22nd Place, +42:31
8. Massimo Podenzana, 24th Place, +49:39
9. Pascal Chanteur, 26th Place, +55:31
10. Santiago Blanco, 27th Place, +59:01

1. Christophe Rinero, 4th Place, +5:08
2. Jean-Cyril Robin, 6th Place, +10:49
3. Daniele Nardello, 8th Place, +11:59
4. Stéphane Heulot, 13th Place, +16:49
5. Kurt van de Wouwer, 16th Place, +23:62
6. Andrei Teteriouk, 20th Place, +32:55
7. Geert Verheyen, 23rd Place, +37:15
8. Thierry Bourguignon, 26th Place, +39:45

1999: This was Armstrong's first winning year. If Armstrong cheated and all the dopers were dropped from the books, then rider 41 would've been in tenth: Steve de Wolf. Awesome name, Steve.
1. Daniele Nardello, 7th Place
2. Kurt van de Wouwer, 11th Place, +6:30
3. Stephane Heulot, 14th Place, +10:56
4. Benoit Salmon, 16th Place, +11:57
5. Carlos Alberto Contreras, 19th Place, +17:51
6. Giuseppe Guerini, 22nd Place, +22:27: beat Armstrong on the Alpe d'Huez after getting sent off his bike by a collision with a fan.
7. Francisco Tomas García, 26th Place, +28:29
8. Luis Pérez Rodríguez, 29th Place, +35:51
9. François Simon, 30th Place, +36:19
10. Steve de Wolf, 41st Place, +44:52

2000: Armstrong's second win.
1. Daniele Nardello, 10th Place
2. Felix Manuel Garcia, 14th Place, +13:39
3. Roberto Conti, 16th Place, +15:53
4. Kurt van de Wouwer, 17th Place, +16:04
5. Guido Trentin, 18th Place, +17:32
6. Jean-Cyril Robin, 19th Place, +24:47
7. Geert Verheyen, 20th Place, +27:59
8. José María Jiménez, 23rd Place, +33:20
9. Grischa Niermann, 24th Place, +33:41

2001: Armstrong's third win. Three clean riders finished within the top ten.
1. Andre Kivilev, 4th Place: Kivilev died in March 2003 after a wreck while leading the Paris-Nice. His death led to helmets being required by the rules.
2. François Simon, 6th Place, +7:29
3. Iñigo Chaurreau, 12th Place, +18:16
4. Alexandre Botcharov, 17th Place, +31:22
5. Carlos Sastre, 20th Place, +40:27
6. Tomasz Brożyna, 21st Place, +43:42
7. Roberto Laiseka, 28th Place, +52:22

2002: Armstrong's fourth. The Tour featured shorter stages, allegedly in an attempt to discourage doping by making the race less challenging.
1. José Azevedo, 6th Place: Armstrong's favorite domestique.
2. Carlos Sastre, 10th Place, +3:21
3. David Moncoutié, 13th Place, +5:24
4. Stéphane Goubert, 17th Place, +14:07
5. Nicolas Vogondy, 19th Place, +17:00
6. Nicki Sørensen, 20th Place, +17:12
7. Andre Kivilev, 21st Place, +17:57
8. José-Luis Rubiera, 22nd Place, +20:59
9. Beat Zberg, 27th Place, +28:45

2003: Armstrong says that out of his seven wins, this one, his fifth, was his weakest.
1. Haimar Zubeldia, 5th Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 9th Place, +11:58
3. Roberto Laiseka, 18th Place, +22:24
4. José-Luis Rubiera, 19th Place, +22:46
5. David Plaza, 22nd Place, +39:04
6. Felix Manuel Garcia, 23rd Place, +40:16
7. Alexandre Botcharov, 24th Place, +42:56
8. Danielle Nardello, 25th Place, +46:23
9. José Azevedo, 26th Place, +47:40

2004: Armstrong's sixth win would've featured a great battle for 8th place -- less than a minute at the end. As it was, they battled instead for 25th.
1. José Azevedo, 5th Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 8th Place, +5:21
3. Sandy Casar, 16th Place, +14:23
4. Thomas Voeckler, 18th Place, +16:42
5. José-Luis Rubiera, 19th Place, +18:20
6. Stéphane Goubert, 20th Place, +22:41
7. Michael Rogers, 22nd Place, +27:09
8. Giuseppe Guerini, 25th Place, +32:37
9. Iker Camaño, 26th Place, +32:44
10. Jérôme Pineau, 27th Place, +33:13

2005: Armstrong's final win.
1. Cadel Evans, 8th Place: in his rookie year of the Tour.
2. Haimar Zubeldia, 14th Place, +11:48
3. Giuseppe Guerini, 19th Place, +21:07
4. Carlos Sastre, 20th Place, +22:31
5. Xabier Zandio, 21st Place, +24:25
6. Sandy Casar, 28th Place, +44:52
7. José Azevedo, 29th Place, +47:53
8. Chris Horner, 32nd Place, +56:02
9. Stéphane Goubert, 33rd Place, +58:58
10. José-Luis Rubiera, 34th Place, +59:53

2006: Armstrong was gone, and Floyd Landis stepped in, won, and got stripped of his title for doping. The title was handed to Óscar Pereiro, who is another doper. The original places column in my list takes into account Landis' crooked victory: Sastre is listed as 3rd if Landis is off the books, but I'll leave Landis in because the ASO left all the other dopers with their places in the books. Evans would've been beat by less than two minutes. Wiggins' first Tour and he finished 124th originally.
1. Carlos Sastre, 4th Place
2. Cadel Evans, 5th Place, +1:55
3. Cyril Dessel, 7th Place, +5:28
4. Haimar Zubeldia, 9th Place, +8:52
5. Michael Rogers, 10th Place, +11:54
6. Markus Fothen, 15th Place, +16:44
7. José Azevedo, 19th Place, +34:55
8. David Arroyo, 21st Place, +40:47
9. Francisco Javier Vila, 22nd Place, +41:15
10. Christian Vande Velde, 24th Place, +47:06: who got second on Stage 15 of the 2012 Tour after a brilliant breakaway.

2007: Including the cheaters, this was a close race. Cadel Evans almost beat the cheater Contador -- finishing 23 second back with cheater-Leipheimer 8 seconds back on Evans. Wiggins was on the Cofidis team that was disqualified from the Tour due to doping and he spoke out in disgust against doping immediately and he is still speaking against it today.
1. Cadel Evans, 2nd Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 4th Place, +6:45
3. Haimar Zubeldia, 5th Place, +7:54
4. Kim Kirchen, 7th Place, +11:55
5. Mauricio Soler, 11th Place, +16:28
6. David Arroyo, 13th Place, +21:26
7. Chris Horner, 15th Place, +24:56
8. Juan José Cobo, 20th Place, +36:51
9. Juan Manuel Garate, 21st Place, +37:53

2008: A non-doper won the Tour! And another got second! And third place went to Bernhard Kohl, who was caught doping and stripped of the Polka Dot jersey and his third place. Second in line for the Polka Dot was Sastre, but for third place was another doper. Sigh. Again, the original standings column assumes Kohl's third didn't get stripped. Wiggins didn't race in this Tour.
1. Carlos Sastre, 1st Place
2. Cadel Evans, 2nd Place, +0:58
3. Christian Vande Velde, 5th Place, +3:05
4. Samuel Sánchez, 6th Place, +6:25
5. Kim Kirchen, 8th Place, +6:55
6. Vladimir Efimkin, 11th Place, +9:55
7. Andy Schleck, 12th Place, +11:32
8. Sandy Casar, 14th Place, +19:23
9. Amaël Moinard, 15th Place, +23:31
10. Kanstantsin Sivtsov, 17th Place, +24:55

2009: Armstrong was back, and he ended up third originally. Contador won. Evans had massive mechanical issues and a poor team performance, finishing 30th originally.
1. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place: he broke his pelvis before the 2012 Tour
2. Bradley Wiggins, 4th Place, +1:50
3. Vincenzo Nibali, 7th Place, +3:24
4. Christian Vande Velde, 8th Place, +7:53
5. Roman Kreuziger, 9th Place, +10:05
6. Christophe Le Mével, 10th Place, +10:14
7. Sandy Casar, 12th Place, +13:08
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 15th Place, +16:39
9. Stéphane Goubert, 16th Place, +18:18
10. Carlos Sastre, 17th Place, +22:10

2010: Contador won again, but this time he was disqualified and Schleck was officially given the win. Evans broke his elbow in stage 8 and finished 25th. Sastre finished 19th. Wiggins finished 23rd after a bad start -- which is what Evans got in 2012: a bad start. This was the first year Wiggins' Sky team was a team. This list will use the original results with Contador still in there.
1. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place
2. Samuel Sánchez, 4th Place, +3:40
3. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 5th Place, +6:54
4. Robert Gesink, 6th Place, +9:31
5. Ryder Hesjedal, 7th Place, +10:15
6. Joaquim Rodríguez, 8th Place, +11:37
7. Roman Kreuziger, 9th Place, +11:54
8. Chris Horner, 10th Place, +12:02
9. Luis Leon Sánchez, 11th Place, +14:21
10. Nicolas Roche, 15th Place, +16:59

2011: The Voeckler, Schleck, Evans battle to the end was wonderful -- what this sport should be about: that close of a battle after three weeks of racing. Wiggins broke his collar bone on Stage 7 and did not finish.
1. Cadel Evans, 1st Place
2. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place, +1:34
3. Thomas Voeckler, 4th Place, +3:20
4. Samuel Sánchez, 5th Place, +4:55
5. Tom Danielson, 8th Place, +8:15
6. Jean-Christophe Péraud, 9th Place, +10:11
7. Pierre Rolland, 10th Place, +10:43
8. Rein Taaramae, 11th Place, +11:29
9. Kevin De Weert, 12th Place, +16:29
10. Jérôme Coppel, 13th Place, +18:36

2012:What a great race. Perhaps after so many years being hard on dopers, the race is cleaning up? All ten top ten riders make it into my list here. We'll see what the future holds, but for now, rejoicing!
1. Bradley Wiggins, 1st Place
2. Chris Froome, 2nd Place, +3:21
3. Vincenzo Nibali, 3rd Place, +6:19
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 4th Place, +10:15
5. Tejay van Garderen, 5th Place, +11:04
6. Haimar Zubeldia, 6th Place, +15:41
7. Cadel Evans, 7th Place, +15:49
8. Pierre Rolland, 8th Place, +16:26
9. Janez Brajkovič, 9th Place, +16:33
10. Thibaut Pinot, 10th Place, +17:17


Of course, this type of list is obviously fundamentally flawed for at least six reasons, and probably more than six:
1. it's the past and these races can never be recreated and run clean;
2. so many specific circumstances happen over a three-week race that there's no way this list is perfectly accurate: flat tyres, sicknesses, mistakes, et cetera;
3. detecting doping isn't a perfect science;
4. the cyclists left off this list may not have always been doping;
5. the teams would've had different captains and domestiques if the dopers weren't around;
6. and cycling is such a psychological pursuit. For instance, if Nardello had been leading in 1999 and 2000, he would probably have utilized different tactics that could've affected his results for the worse. Cycling is psychological above all, and different positions and developments would've affected the contenders differently.

But if you simply drop all the riders who have probably doped from the list of Tour finishers you get the above list. The average non-dope winner from 1996-2011 placed 5th, and from 1996 through 2006, the average winner placed 6th.

It's an interesting problem to look at, though putting this list together was rather depressing for a cycling fan like myself. For 1999 I had to search 41 riders names on Dopeology (See sources below) to find ten unequivocally clean. This creates a very different picture of cycling's best in the last sixteen years. I now want to read interviews of Nardello and Julich, Guerini and Boogerd -- to name a few.

We'll never know the full truth about this era, which is really a dark era in all sports. Marion Jones and 61% of Track and Field stars at the 1984 Olympics, Manny Ramirez and Mark McGwire, 1 in 10 ex-NFL players as of 1990 which includes 67% of Offensive Linemen, Diego Maradona -- no sport is free from dope. Kayakers, Water Polo players, Greco-Roman wrestlers, Fencers, Judo, Rugby, Basketball, Field Hockey -- every sport has a doping problem. Cycling, Track, and Baseball get a lot more press about it. Maybe that is because those regulatory bodies go after doping much more rabidly than association football does. After all, Operación Puerto implicated only 50 cyclists out of 200 athletes. Some of the names not given suspensions were supposedly big association football names. Real Madrid was certainly mentioned, as was the 2010 World Cup winning Spanish National team.

Anyways, this whole post got off topic of Tour doping because doping is so widespread, but this Armstrong case does leave me with one major question: If Armstrong was doped and he beat a bunch of other doped riders, why take his trophies away? If his trophies are taken, then shouldn't the rest of the doping field also be disqualified and written from the books? Not disqualified, erased, and then written back into the registry a year later like Bjarne Riis. If doping is to stop, I think there needs to be real repercussions to dopers' actions, not slap-on-the-wrist temporary suspensions and monetary fines. The monetary reward for doping and getting away with it is just too big for the fines to work. But real repercussions could lead to less confessions, which is also a negative in my view. Cycling should be commended for pursuing dopers more than any other sport, no matter their status within the sport and irregardless of the publicity repercussions for the sport as a whole. "All clean at all costs", seems to be their mantra, most of the time (Except with Riis and some other cases like his). But in order for the fans to not have the nagging question in their heads, a balance needs to be struck between deterring new cyclists from doping, encouraging past and current cyclists to confess, and providing repercussions significant enough to satisfy fans' desire for clean racing. After all, no fans, no races.


This list is merely my best guess. If I made a mistake, which is likely, feel free to correct me. For instance, Levi Leipheimer took some Claratin in 1996 and got busted for the ephedrine in it. I still think he's a clean racer, but a doping conviction is a doping conviction, so I didn't include him on the lists above because of it. Sorry, Levi. I'm still cheering for you. Was Escartin clean or not? I certainly don't know. Nobody does. But he seems to be implicated in the Giardini Margherita raid in Bologna. Many of the riders still on this list may have doped, sure. But at some point, to stay a fan, I need to trust the UCI's testing methods, or assume they're all doping.

There is one thing I do know though: if any team makes any of these guys who are probably clean their team captain and GC contender for the Tour, I will root for them. Go BMC! Go Sky! I also wish I knew these riders' stories better. For instance, why did Giuseppe Guerini have those dry spells between his good finishes? Mechanical failures? Illnesses? Fitness? Sick of losing to cheaters, but pulled back to the Tour for the romance of it?


This list is also fun for making up statistics. For instance, take the original finishing position of the 10th placed clean rider and subtract ten from it to get x. Then divide x by the original finishing position of the 10th placed clean rider to get a rough, unscientific approximation of how many riders cheated that year:

1995: 66%
1996: 73%
1997: 55%
1998: 62%
1999: 76%
2000: 58%
2001: 64%
2002: 63%
2003: 62%
2004: 63%
2005: 69%
2006: 55%
2007: 52%
2008: 41%
2009: 41%
2010: 33%
2011: 23%

Is this cycling getting cleaner or will another Operation Puerto-esque raid expose a bunch of these riders as dopers too?


1. Fans want a clean, fair, challenging race.
2. Cyclists want to win.
3. Cycling teams need to win in order to get monetary support in order to race.

Questions Concerning Discouraging Doping:
1. Should the Tour be easier? Would that discourage doping?
2. Should the punishments be stricter? Would that discourage doping?
3. Should the regulatory body purchase as much of the rare banned substances as possible to drive demand and prices up while simultaneously denying access?
4. Should sponsors monetarily reward cyclists for staying clean? Should sponsors insist on blood and urine testing more often? It's their money that is at stake here, after all.
5. Does "any news is good news" apply to cycling? Are fans leaving it or coming to it more because of doping?


I used the following sources:
My main source: (Wikipedia Source)


What did I miss?