Sunday, August 30, 2009

Street Scene 09 Recap

So I wasn't supposed to go to Street Scene in San Diego this year. I had just planned to visit yesterday and catch up with some friends on Twitter - but Friday, I ended up buying my ticket and Saturday, there I was enjoying the best block party in Southern California.

First off, I was people watching and is it just me or is this return of 80's fashion gone too far. I saw dudes rockin tank tops, short shorts, big shades like we were in 1989 instead of 2009. Bad enough we got the skinny jeans back in vogue but that drove me nuts. Indie-rock fans I tell ya.

Anyways, the day started off with seeing Blue Scholars, a dope hip-hop group outta Seattle that my friend Irma put me on to last year. They put on a dope show as Geo was clear with his lyrics and Sabzi was dope with his DJing and hypeman. At one point, he mixed in the drums from The Cure's "Close to Me" over a song and then it turned into Geo flowing over the entire beat.

(sidenote, is it just me or are most non-Black MC's easier to understand live for the average hip-hop fan. Something in their tone or just great connection with the sound guys)

But Blue Scholars is dope - good, mellow hip-hop - and you need to get up on these guys. "Loyalty" has been my jam for the past year and it's one of the best songs I've heard come out in the last 2 years.

After them, it was time to see one of the best hip-hop groups ever and easily one of the best crowds while the sun was still out. That's right y'all, Public Enemy was in the house and seeing them up close was just as good as seeing them from afar at Rock The Bells two years ago.

Chuck D can still rock a stage with his booming voice and Flavor Flav showed why he's the best hypeman ever as the two rocked through "Shut Em Down" "911 is a Joke" "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" - they kept the energy with the band, Prof. Griff and the S1W's. Plus I saw the best shirt of the day up there....."I Survived the Bush Administration 2001-2009."

We jetted the set during the middle to catch arguably the best live show in hip-hop, Busta Rhymes. I had never seen Bussa Buss and even though we caught the set late, it was still worth it! He and Spliff Star (Top 5 hypeman) rocked the stage along with DJ Roc Raida from the X-Ecutioners and dude is the ultimate showman!

We came in during "Respect My Conglomerate" and he ran through the whole bunch of hits, even joints I forgot like "Break Yo Neck" "Light Your *** on Fire" and "What It is." Even though he didnt finish his classic verse from "Scenario" or "Pass the Courvoiser", dude had everybody dancing and working up a sweat.

I swear you forget how prolific this dude is. He and Spliff had dope chemistry and after Roc Raida did a solo set, I'm gonna just say this - Busta is one of the best live performers in music, beyond hip-hop.

(One quick tidbit, shoutout to KPRI-FM down in San Diego. They hooked my girls up with free tix to pass out fliers and I helped them out.)

Last show of the night was L.A.'s finest new band "Silversun Pickups" and I was so geeked to see them live. Thanks to the radio folks, I missed "There's No Secrets This Year" but caught the transition to "The Royal We". It was dope when Brian Aubert talked about enjoying P.E.'s set (they rocked on the same stage) and discovering the goodness of a California Burrito.

They rocked so seamlessly through their set and it's crazy thinking that outside of the bassist and drummer, all of the sounds are coming from 1 guitarist and a keyboardist. I was just marveling at how they were creating the noise. Then everybody rushed the area to hear "Panic Switch" and I went nuts. Peep my tweets from watching that.

Oh man, and then "Lazy Eye" was an incredible finale! Not just because Brian had a sick solo when the instruments faded but fireworks from Petco Park just happened to go off at the same time during the solo. If that wasn't a perfect finale, I don't know what was. It was one of the best spectacles I saw.

I ended up doing something next that I never did - leaving a concert early. I wanted to see the Dead Weather and of course M.I.A. but spending quality time with my Twitter peeps was important. And when the night ends with carne asada fries and them wanting to peep Silversun's albums - well I count it a major W.

For a last-minute plan, Street Scene 09 was a blast and surprisingly it was the first concert I saw since seeing Common and Luda out here. I need to see another show soon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Respect (Adam Goldstein - DJ AM: 1973-2009)

It was a year ago when DJ AM and Travis Barker survived that plane crash that killed four others. Goldstein was a hero who pulled Barker out just before that plane was engulfed in fire. It's sad when you realize both of them could've died that day and it's sadder now that DJ AM is no longer with us.

Who knows what demons he was trying to overcome? I won't speculate on those reports but I just remember him as a great DJ, somebody who knew the craft, had an ear for music and knew how to mash things up to be one of the biggest names out here in L.A. and around the country.

Be at peace Adam. Thank you for doing your part to expand one of hip-hop's pillars, the DJ.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

VSR: Waiting For A Football Buffet

Cue the Hank Williams theme song. Break out the jerseys cause it's time for the return of football and I'm finally in football mode. I resisted the urge while the Dodgers were busy running the majors but now that the Angels are SoCal's best and the Blue Crew's in a tight pennant race, I can get ready for some foosball (c) Mamma Boucher from "Waterboy"

And I even resurrected the Virgosis Sports Report for it.

Next weekend is big for me. Friday the 4th, I'll cover one of the biggest HS pre-league football games in the state (Lakewood at Crenshaw). Saturday the 5th we get ready for Year 2 of the Rick Neuheisel era at UCLA and USC's Pete Carroll handing the keys to a freshman. Then Sunday the 13th , I get ready to wear my L. Tomlinson jersey hat with my Cowboys hat with the return of the NFL.

(Yeah, in case y'all forgot, I rep two teams equally. My first love, Dallas, and the team I grew to love in college, San Diego. You got beef? Step up to the grill and kicked in the teeth)

And to show how football crazy I am, I'm in three fantasy leagues on CBS Sportsline, ESPN, and the league I started with last year on Yahoo. Peep my ESPN lineup where I actually was there instead of ghost-drafted, I really like this more than my Sportsline crew. I'll fill you in on that Yahoo team when our draft starts next week.

(QB - Philip Rivers; RB - DeAngelo Williams, Brandon Jacobs; WR - Marques Colston, Anthony Gonzalez, Braylon Edwards; TE - Chris Cooley; K - Jason Elam, Vikings defense/Special Teams......and peep the bench. My sleeper Felix Jones, Kyle Orton (uh oh), Lance Moore, Miles Austin, Jamal Lewis, Lawrence Tynes and Philly TE Brent Celek (booooo Eagles) )

Man's team right there. Gonna crush my Twitter fam on the evil 4-letter and then get back to spreadin good cheer afterwards. But anyways on to college.

UCLA's horrible season last year is hoping to rebound with a better defense and a new QB in redshirt freshman Kevin Prince (who hasnt played a game in 2 years). But the stars on gonna be on defense with junior Brian Price anchoring that front line, senior linebackers Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth roaming around and secondary with Alterraun Verner and sophmore Rahim Moore.

Meanwhile USC announced today they're handing the keys to a Top 10 program to last year's Golden Boy, freshman Matt Barkley. Mainly because frontrunner Aaron Corp hasn't recovered fully from his broken leg, Barkley will be the first true frosh ever to start at USC. I like the kid, saw him play a couple times the last 2 years, but the hype around him needs to go. He's a good QB with a great arm but so was Jimmy Clausen in 2006. Ask Notre Dame about that.

Anyways, they still have a surefire pro in All-American safety Taylor Mays, a great stable of running backs (Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight and CJ Gable along with a lively Marc Tyler) but have to replace their linebacking corps. I think they are more of a Top-10 team instead of Top-5 but anything can happen.

Don't get me started on Florida and Tim Tebow (already said my peace about him here) but I will say that if Percy Harvin came back, they'd be a unanimous No. 1 instead of a near unanimous No. 1. I still think all SEC teams are kinda sketch for not playing tougher non-conference schedules compared to the Big 12 and Pac-10 but thats just me. On to the pros.

Remember the name - Felix Jones. He showed glimpses of what he could do last year for Dallas before he got hurt and I think he'll be just as valuable as Darren Sproles with the Chargers. A good change of pace guy that'll extend Barber's career. My hope is that Norv Turner does that with Sproles to keep LT fresh - he's not washed up yet IMO.

To me the Chargers are what the Cowboys should aspire to. A mature QB in Rivers (Romo - im watching you closelsy), a solid dual-threat running attack in LT and Sproles (a younger combo with Barber and Jones), a great defense anchored by a beast and a coach who overachieves despite a history of failure (Wade Phillips - use your magic on that stellar D or else)

I love the start of football because we usually do a great issue in our paper. My high school blowout is gonna be nice and for those of you in Cali reading this, look for Lakewood, Crenshaw, Taft, Narbonne, Servite and Oaks Christian to have great years. I really love Gardena Serra too so if you love high school sports, you have a friend here.

So it's gonna be "Friday Night Lights as the first wave, "Saturday College Fever" and then NFL Sundays. I love it and wouldnt have it any other way. I'm gonna bring back the Virgosis Sports Report on Mondays to recap the football weekend.
(EDIT: Just realized the NFL season starts on Sept. 13 - guess I need to read better)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Aaliyah and Respecting Sen. Kennedy

It's ironic that as we remembered an icon for my generation yesterday in Aaliyah, we are saying goodbye to an American icon that crossed generations in Sen. Ted Kennedy. In a year of sad deaths, this one is another unfortunate name to the list.

I can't believe it's been 8 years since I got the phone call from my friend John that Aaliyah died in a plane crash. I remember yelling at him that he was a liar and he shouldn't spread rumors like that without fact. Then my sister and I watched the news and they led off with the story. First time I could recall crying over a famous person's death and it came at a weird time in a career.

Her music career was established and she was branching out to film - all set to star in the Matrix sequels after "Romeo Must Die" and "Queen of the Damned." Her mentors, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, shook up hip-hop with "Get Ur Freak On" that spring. The sky was the limit and at 22, she was taken far too soon.

"Rock The Boat" always gives me chills when I see or hear it because it was her final video. The beat is spine-tingling enough and her voice is light and airy like an angel, but knowing that she died soon after, it feels like a voice from above.

I still remember that MTV Video Music Awards show in 2000 when she brought up her brother Rashad when she won for "Try Again". Then a year later, he was there to remember his sister with Missy. I thought Missy and Timbo's performance was extra inspired that night like Aaliyah's spirit was pushing them to their success.

I miss her down-home sexiness without being slutty. I miss her style, grace and her sultry voice beyond her years. I miss wondering how she'd sound over Timbaland's beats now and what direction she'd take her music (I heard she was going to work with Beck or Trent Reznor). We see bits of her in Ciara but nobody will ever take her place.

Contrast that with Ted Kennedy, who was an icon to the 60's generation and lived a full life of cheer. I remember somebody saying when he was first stricken with brain cancer that he was a Kennedy brother that America got to see grow up as opposed to John and Robert being cut down in their prime.

Sen. Kennedy overcame his brothers' shadows and the Chappaquiddick incident and made possibly a greater impact in American politics than either one of them. He was a strong figure in passing progressive legislature and he earned the respect of Democratic and Republican colleagues for being willing to compromise for the good of America. Many called him a friend and I just heard that Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Chris Dodd broke down when thinking about him.

But what I will remember him is how he used his voice. He may have come from a powerful noble family, but he never forget those less fortunate or those whose voice was not heard. He worked hard for civil rights, immigration reform, education and other issues that affected the majority of the population. Healthcare was his pet project for years and my hope is that Congress finds a way to pass an effective bill that is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

He was the center of his powerful and large family - something that reminded me of my late Uncle Levi - and I can imagine the sadness they are feeling. Like my uncle, he was there when they needed someone to turn to, someone to draw strength from. For many of his generation, he was that voice of the 60's that roared loudly for four decades.

His speech at the 2008 DNC was powerful because I didn't know if he would be there, still suffering from brain cancer. But there he was, the Lion of the Senate making his appeal for Barack Obama, for health care and those issues he never wavered from. It was a moving speech that showed his resiliency, his strength - all traits he inherited through his circumstances.

Both Sen. Kennedy and Aaliyah lived their passions with great humility and they related to people in their own way. Two distinct legacies that cannot be compared, yet they demonstrate the power of being who you are and ability to relate to a wide range of people. God bless their families and their eternal memories.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Electric Relaxation Vol. 2 (Maxwell, Rise Against, Jimi Hendrix)

Week Three in the hotel ends and I'm getting ready for Week Four. I think I've eaten at nearly every major fast food spot at least once while getting better acquainted with Subway and El Pollo Loco. We still don't know when we're leaving but I can't let that slow down the life forever. I gots a birthday to plan next month after all.

Anyways, I'm continuing my music journey discovering a lot in the past 2 months. First up, BLACKsummers'night by the forgotten R&B genius.

Maxwell has been gone for a minute and when I saw/heard "Pretty Wings" at the BET Awards this year, I was blown away. Such grace, such was a beautiful song like U2's "One" where the beauty overshadows lyrics that mean something else. Then I bought the album and it was some of the best R&B I've heard in a while.

The-Dream was the leading candidate for R&B album of the year until this came out. Listen to "Cold" or "Bad Habits" and tell me that's not some royal goodness. This is supposed to be the first of a trilogy and I can't wait for Part 2. Go buy this album because the only problem with it is that it's too short. Short and sweet.

I've been a huge Rise Against fan since I heard "Ready to Fall." Just the raw energy gave me a feeling punk hadn't given me in a few years - most new bands were either too emo or inconsistent for me. I like music that's hard and has some edge to it and these dudes from Chicago had that. Soon as I found out that "Prayer of the Refugee" was their song, I was a fan.

Like Silversun Pickups, I had been dying to hear an album so when I heard "The Sufferer and The Witness," it was awesome. Just good, hard punk rock with an occasional message. I like it because they change tempos so fast - slow, then speed it up out of nowhere. Plus hearing a strong voice in rock like Tim McIlrath is a change of pace from some of these guys.

Their current album "Appeal to Reason" is just as good. I hate to say I first heard "Re-Education (Through Labor)" on Guitar Hero but it let me know that the fury was still there and they had an anthem on their hands. I love both of these albums and it's good to hear rock that still has an edge on the radio.

Alright this was a long time coming. I got schooled on Jimi in college - I just wanted to know why he was the man and some friends hooked me up with some singles. A roomate in 2004 gave me Jimi's greatest hits and I loved it but I knew at some point, I needed to hear the albums. I bought "Are You Experienced" and "Electric Ladyland"

WHOA! (c) Joey Lawrence on "Blossom"

I can't wait for a second listen of both. What can I say about Hendrix that we don't know - legend, icon, flash of white light, genius. Matter of fact, I think I'll relisten to "Are You Experienced" tomorrow.

By the way, favorite Hendrix songs. 1) All Along the Watchtower, 2) The Wind Cries Mary, 3) Machine Gun (Band of Gypsys I know but still), 4) Foxy Lady, 5) Purple Haze. Star-Spangled Banner is required play around my ears.

That's all for now. It's Music Monday on Twitter so I had to drop this for goodness' sake. And thanks to some tweeps, I realized tomorrow is the 8-year anniversary of Aaliyah's tragic death. Geeez. Has it been that long?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of My Year

Today is the start of the best time of year outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas - that's right kiddies, it's Virgo Season!!!! And I'm happy that I found out a good number of my Twitter peeps are in the club.

I'll leave you with the anthem for this glorious time of year courtesy of Nasty Nas, Luda and the legendary Doug E. Fresh - the song that made me embrace being a Virgo and help create the nickname.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poetry Corner (Dear Summer/The Last Dance)

I started writing this in New York during a summer conference I took with some friends from school. I realized that the summer before senior year would effectively be the last as I know it. No more summer breaks, no more lazy days - the only breaks I take would be ones I create. But it was also a chance to make it the best summer ever and go out in style.

I also listened a lot to Jay-Z's "Dear Summer" and it got me in that frame of mind, hence the title of Pt. 1

The first part is saying goodbye, the second part is a uplifting message to my peers to enjoy this moment. I liked how I used different rhyme schemes to distinguish both poems. I remember trying to write this in my hotel room and it started as one poem before I got the crazy idea to split it up. It was the first time I ever split a poem up to capture two different moods and it's perfect here.

Dear Summer/The Last Dance
EJB 5/27/05

Dear Summer hows it goin
It’s really nice to see you
After 9 months of struggle
These next 3 belong to you
I think we know why I’m doing this
Cause we realize something’s near
This is our last time together
Before we separate my dear
After 20 plus years of commitment
20 plus years of happiness
This is last time we’ll be dating
At least on full-time status
Now I know your heart is heavy
Believe me, mine is too
And the next girl I’ll be dating
Won’t be as fun as you
I’ve already prepared for our transition
My first job showed me how
I got myself ready for the inevitable
The day which seemed so far from now
A time where work would be a constant task
No more seasons with breaks in between
The only breaks are holidays and weekends
A cycle that continues for as long as it seems
But I’ll always have the memories
Of days that were carefree
Of moments that were magical
A relationship as great as can be
Sunny days, I marveled at your beauty
Sunset glows, I stared at your gaze
I felt your presence with a cool breeze
On a warm night after a beautiful day
Now I sadly have to let you go
A full-time love to an occasional date
Let’s enjoy the last go-around
And live it up til the last call is made

The last dance, the last joy-ride
The final summer of our young lives
Days once spent living it up with friends
Will soon be filled with work to no end
We’re leaving summer for future careers
Where the only breaks come with holiday cheer
I can’t believe it’s really here
The last few months are now in gear
Work will soon become our passion
A full time replacement for summer madness
Think fondly of days spent with friends
Waking up late, then doing it again
Remember parties and amazing vacations
All of those wonderful relaxations
Enjoy them now cause the music stops soon
And we’ll be marching to a different tune
Summer dances to corporate sidelines
Casual strolls to stressful deadlines
Cherish those memories every one
Fondly look back on times that were fun
Summer now truly becomes a fling
An escape from making that corporate cream
Raise your glass for the final toast
Let this here be our final boast
The last summer of our young lives
Will not be spent on the sidelines

Poetry Corner (Def. of a Tease)

Definition of a Tease
EJB 12/06
A simple short story
It won’t be boring
It explains clearly
Definitions of a tease
Minding my own biz
Faced with a sign
Come in they said
Smooth words plus a smile
Tempted with fruit
Pleasing to the eye
Didn’t see a warning
So I leapt blindly
O me of great faith
Why didn’t I wait?
Now I’m trapped
Ensnared by fate
Toying with my mind
Like putty or play-doh
It sure ain’t silly,
Funny or playful
I speak in code
About no one person
Just stating my view
On people untrue
Lure you with lines
Soothe you with smiles
Stroking your ego
But playing your mind
Nothing but a tease
Just eager to please
Won’t let you drown
Won’t reel you in
Just got you hooked
Like bait from a snake
You want to leave
But love the taste
Appetizer satisfied
You crave the full plate
It tastes so sweet
But substance was lacking
Feeling was hollow and empty
Like words with no action
Or lost and stranded
Like a flight in the air
Waiting for a landing
Flying high with no place to go
Nothing’s definite
Nothing’s for sure
Just waiting
For something not there
Use you when needed
Then cast you aside
No cares for your pride
Just got what they needed
And showed what they are
Definitions of a tease

I hate teases with every inch of my being. People who lead you along with the promise of something good but leave you with emptiness. I had a friend who I thought I was close to but she ended up being a tease because everytime I tried to hang out, she'd offer up excuses. This poem was a long time coming so I kept it short and sweet.

The "O me of great faith" is a nice play off Scripture "O ye of little faith"...matter of fact I love all the little lines in here. I was mad (partialy at myself for being easy to tempt) so I wanted to take all my sarcastic intuition and use it full force here. Focused anger is far better than random anger.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poetry Corner (Pool of Regret/Gray Clouds)

Pool of Regret

Stuck with my decision
Relying on my intuition
I’m here lying in a pool in regret
Soaked with thoughts filling my head
Before I drown, I hear a faint sound
Small voices trying to reconnect my senses
I’m in too deep, too dazed to respond
My body is numb
One word, a fleeting question
Briefly brings me oxygen
Like a spark
More words are added
Why did I let this happen?
This pocket of air gives misleading hope
I toss and turn trying to breathe but things get worse
Random thoughts start to disorient
Why am I here?
I thought I was fine before
My frantic body resembles my frantic mind
Out of control
My mind’s playing tricks like a jester
Laughing at my pain while adding to it
Hindsight now creeps in
Always in 20/20 vision
Can’t ignore it while I’m here
In this pool of regret
Lying facedown
Waiting to recover
Or end up drowned

Gray Clouds
Gray clouds fill the sky
Rain falls down
Acid to my soul which pollutes my mood
The sun which once reigned supreme
Is now conquered by a foul villain
He cares not for how I was
His goal is to drown with showers
Kill any joy that gave me power
Destroy hope’s flowers that filled my field
I know not when they will leave
For I detest its effect on me
The sun feels so far away
Where has it gone?
When will it return?
Gray clouds have pierced my heart
Surrounding it with hollow bark
The tree of shade now covers my soul
I crave light but this shade feels comfortable
Either I’m lazy or resigned to my current state
Maybe I’m confused, can’t you tell?
Gray clouds have blurred my focus
Truth feels odd and like nonsense
Light is bad while dark feels good
A temporary feeling that changes so much
Mind gets warped and I let it happen
I contribute to the rain and the clouds of grey
Refusing to fight, I became an ally
Now I alone can turn the tide
Force the clouds to leave the sky
Return the sun to its proper place
But before that, I wallow in this filth
Not knowing where I go from here
The sky is still grey and still I hear a voice say
There’s no escape from these clouds today

I wrote both of these while studying for finals (5/17/06) after I broke up with my girlfriend at the time. Both of them dark, both of them sad - I had a lot of sadness and regret in my mind. Two different poems saying the same thing. The irony is that after I wrote these two, I wrote a third that's more optimistic and pretty much is the manifesto of a poet - it's the best therapy.

I don't like writing dark stuff but sometimes, you have to go with the flow. I love the metaphor of the first one and the second is all about creating the mood.

Poetry Corner (Atmosphere)

EJB 4/2005

The beauty of being in your atmosphere
Is something that I hold very dear
Sharing your world as you share mine
A thought that can only be described as divine
I’m loving the way I feel your energy
Nothing but good vibes and positivity
You’re a beautiful day that blinds my sight
You’re mysterious and cool like a magical night
I wanna know what makes you who you are
Cause I can see you must be unique like a star
We can just hang and shoot the breeze
Whatever we do, let’s do it with ease
No need to rush, take your time my dear
And lets enjoy each other’s atmosphere

I was in a total zone when I wrote this. I got inspired by Mos Def's "The Panties" - before you trip, it's a mellow song about being with a girl that's not dirty but romantic. The music is so melodic and there's a line that says "Don't wanna be nowhere but here, nowhere in this atmosphere, stratosphere, ionsphere, ain't no sphere that's bright like here"

That spoke to me and I had to write this dream-like poem. It's shorter than I usually like to write stuff but it was so perfect. So beautiful. So celestial (and you can tell by the words that I tried to keep that theme going.).

Poetry Corner: (Its Hard) Waiting for a Dream

(It’s Hard) Waiting for a Dream
EJB 10/11/2004

I see her clearly in my mind
The girl of my many dreams
I know she’s somewhere out there
And waiting to be seen
She walks among the crowd of
Friends of strangers unknown
Her name is a mystery
But her personality is known
She’s sweet, fun, and open minded
A great friend to those around her
She shares my interests and beliefs
A peaceful aura surrounds her
But instead of finding my dream
I’m stuck with often shallow types
Girls who are concerned with the superficial
And tease me with stimulation by sight
No matter how hard I look
I only see what I can’t have
Girls who are inaccessible
Because I won’t meet their demands
If I ever see a mutual attraction
I might be afraid to pursue it further
The signs aren’t clear so the risk is great
And I fail to push myself further
She’s out there walking with the pack
The aforementioned vision in my mind
I want her to be real and I know she is
She’s waiting at the end of my climb
I’m tired of weeding through the 2nd best
I don’t like what I see among the rest
I truly want her to be mine
And I’m tired of waiting all the time

I wrote a lot about finding the right girl in college. This one happened after I had to break things off with someone who wasn't the right type and wanted something I wasn't going to give her.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poetry Corner

A Redemption Story
EJB 8/19/05

More creative than an Impressionist painting
More style than Hilfiger and Lauren
This is my intro to let you know that I’ve stepped into the belly of the beast and birthed something beautiful for you to perceive
It lay in the gutter, alone and cold
This idea wasn’t told to the ears of my peers
A sight to behold, it sure was ugly
It needed a makeover and I planned to take over
Add some sweetness to this rank odor
I gave it new life, a fresh start, rebirth
I showed it love and how much it was worth
After some time, the world saw its new look
That’s not correct, the world saw its true look
Style was bright, mind was right
The lost was found, made new and sound
It had a purpose, a drive, a goal
A will to succeed and wander no more
Now its aim was to please its savior
Who redeemed him from being undesirable and lost in its trouble
A simple story of redemption
Yet the world sees it foolish and full of suspicion
If I cant make it plainer when served through this strainer
I’ll let my actions reveal why I feel what I feel.

(This one literally was a "Kubla Khan" poem. I was waiting to leave to hang out with some friends and had my laptop nearby. I started screwing around - if you can't tell from the intro - and all of a sudden I just let it flow. Didn't think twice until I finished and I came with up this incredible metaphor of salvation. Now I know how Coleridge felt - incredible burst of creativity and thankfully I didn't get interrupted.)

Cruisin on the 105
EJB 10/2003

I got in my car to take a ride
Out for a cruise on the 105
1st thing I pass is the L.A. airport
Watch planes arrive or see them depart
As I drive on, I pass over a highway
Observing people pass going on with their day
That freeway leads to my new hometown
San Diego is where I kick it now
I continue my drive as I pass through the Wood
A place that people say is always up to no good
Pass by the Shaw on a beautiful day
Then on to Vermont and the 110 freeway
Cruising through Compton and the LBC
My music’s blaring as my speed reaches 70
The day is perfect, few clouds in the sky
The sun makes me warm like fresh apple pie
I pass the 710 without much thought
But I decrease my speed so I won’t get caught
The metro rails are on my side
Taking people on a quick train ride
Either for business or just for pleasure
The metro rail gives the highway texture
Lakewood’s up next and then the 605
I’ve almost reached the end of my drive
Pass a couple more exits then I reach the end
As I slow down, a weird feeling comes from within
This freeway is the one that my dad designed
Now because of this drive, he’s on my mind
Dad and this freeway were like school in June
There for a while, but gone too soon

(This was the first poem I tried to set to music. It's also a tribute to my Dad, who passed away the summer before. He was an engineer who helped design buildings and freeways in Los Angeles. One of them was the 105 Freeway so I wanted to paint a picture of what it looked like for those who never saw it. I was more conscious of rhyming here cause it was supposed to be a song.
I love this tribute though. Just like Tennyson's "AHH" or Ginsburg's "Kaddish", when someone passes, you never know what'll remind you of them so you look at their handiwork to find inspiration. The music I had was almost dreamlike so it felt like I was in another place)

My Greatest Thrill
EJB 1/14/06

In the crowd of faces, she stands apart
The one of my dreams, the girl of my heart
Everytime I see her, my stride gets happier
She brings me so much joy and laughter
A heavenly treasure with down-to-earth vibes
Who gives me the pleasure of sharing her time
Once this was only what I saw in my mind
Now it is real, this vision is alive
When I’m away from her, I wish I hadn’t left
She fills my soul with her slightest breath
Her eyes pierce me and captivate my senses
With her, I’m real with no false pretenses
No weak player lines, no cheap game
Just honest truth without the fame
I’m open and honest and I can’t help it
She’s so precious like she’s draped in velvet
How blessed I am to have someone like this
Amazing like grace with each single kiss
I could run-on and on like a bad sentence
To tell how much I love our friendship
She inspires me to persevere and be strong
She must be from heaven cause that’s God’s calling card
I’m the one she’s been waiting for
Something I’ve heard her say before
But she’s the one I’ve searched and longed for
Someone with God’s light upon her
Tears of joy stream down my face
My world has been a much better place
No one can lead me astray from her sight
There’s something special about her type
And I’m longing to figure out what I can gain
So I’m sticking with her, ignoring their game
She’ll never worry about me ditching or leaving
I’m an honest player, I win without cheating
What more can I say….she’s got me hooked
Like a fresh meal that my mom just cooked
More than her looks, she’s smart with the books
Her vibes are magnetic so my heart she took.
It isn’t love but we’re on that track
Taking our time so we don’t look back
And regret any move that was made too soon
This is definitely a poem that sprang full bloom
Birthed with ideas like a spring flower
Like a spring shower, she refreshes my power
So I look amidst the growing sea of faces
And she stands out, pretty like laces
The vision is real, so is how I feel
She has possibly given me my greatest thrill.

(No words necessary, just the feeling you get when you're with the right person. This is a common theme I wrote about a lot - relationships. I've experienced it before and I can't wait to experience it again. A lot of my best poems happened on winter break from school and this is one of them.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poetry Corner (Introduction)

The summer before senior year, I started writing a lot of poetry. It mushroomed into a full blown affair that I carried on in college - that was my way of expressing myself. Me and my pen serving as the extension of my thoughts.

I still do it on occasion but I'm nowhere as prolific as I used to be. To me, poetry is simple - talking to other men like William Wordsworth said. I didnt realize it til 2004 but I'm influenced by the Romantic movement of keeping poetry simple, talk about common themes and shed your own insight. Ralph Emerson said the Poet has to be unique so that's what I tried to do.

I didnt know it then either but being a Poet is like what James Baldwin called a Witness. Be a witness to the truth, testify of yourself and the world around you honestly. So without further adieu, here's the first poem I wrote at college (with some commentary I added later)

1st Day Emotions

At last, it’s finally here
The day we’ve all been waiting for
We’ve anticipated this moment for so long
Now we are beginning to experience it
The emotions that are running inside our minds
Are becoming difficult to contain in the brain
Anxiety, nervousness, relief, and elation
Are running a race through our heads
It’s hard to describe exactly how we’re feeling
Cause all of us are affected in different ways
Some hide their emotions with a positive vibe
Others let it out when no one is looking
Despite all this, there is one common thread
We feel the same things one time or another
We may come from different places with different plans
But we are all starting the same journey.

I wrote this my first night of college in my room. I was listening to Ice Cube on my radio and started thinking about what this day meant. It’s the beginning of a new stage and I figured that everyone, no matter how calm they looked on the surface, everyone felt as excited/nervous as me. Starting something new brings about a whole set of emotions and people deal in diff. ways so I tried to capture that as well as describe my thoughts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Electric Relaxation Vol. 1 (Stevie Ray, Silversun Pickups, The-Dream)

Before I went to Orlando, I DL'd (legally) a bunch of albums. Imesh is cool like that, much better than Limewire. So I just wanted to give my thoughts on them cause as much as I love sports and life, I love music.

I knew Stevie Ray Vaughan as a guitar god but it wasn't until I played Guitar Hero 3 where I finally heard some of his stuff, "Pride and Joy". Then I went ahead and DL'd "Texas Flood" because a Guitar World poll ranked it as his best solo. I heard "Love Struck Baby" on the radio out here and when I saw all three were on the Texas Flood album, I had to get it.

Maaan that album is some of the best blues I ever heard. "Testify" is on repeat right now, "Rude Mood" is some sick playing, "Mary Had A Little Lamb" is dope. Hands down, this is a must-have album and hearing "Testify" Live makes me wish I could see him.

Stevie Ray was a bad MF on the guitar and he played with so much soul that when he didn't sing, he said a lot. To me, that's music at its finest. Just for the heck of it, I DL'd the Essential Stevie Ray and Double Trouble album and I love it - great covers of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Jimi Hendrix "Voodoo Chile" along with his own jams.

We don't get hear too much of the blues nowadays and I'm glad Stevie Ray helped keep it alive in the 80's before his death.

Earlier this year, I said I wanted to hear Silversun Pickups' albums because I'm a huge fan of "Lazy Eye" and "Panic Switch." I DL'd "Carnavas" and I admit I was disappointed because it was so mellow. Songwriting may have been there but I expected some more. But then I listened to "Swoon" and was blown away - it starts off with a bang in "There's No Secrets This Year" and keeps it up. It's a much harder album and is definitely a step forward lyrically too.

I know they get compared to Smashing Pumpkins a lot, vocally and sonically, but that's why I like them. They have their own sound and who better to mimic than one of the best bands of the 90's Swoon is definitely one of the best albums this year and Carnavas is growing on me. "Panic Switch" was a late addition to the album and I'm glad it made it.

L.A. needs a band to rally around and I have no problem rallying behind SSP. Although the LA Times rides hard for them, it's refreshing a bit to see us have a local act succeed.

And now we come to The-Dream. I said earlier that "Rockin That Thing" is one of the best singles this year and I felt like getting Love vs. Money. Not a big fan of his voice, but I respect good music when I hear it. Well I got it and I was definitely impressed - he stepped up his singing to match his production.

The first half is strong - esp. "Walking on the Moon" with a solid Kanye verse. The second half was hit or miss but production wise, this album is fire. He's got a great sound but my problem has been his singing. This album, he settles into his voice a bit and it's still a great album. Few people are making Top 40 music as inventive as him and Tricky Stewart and R&B benefits from it.

I hate comparing anybody to Prince but you can see his influence over Dream's music. It's a unique listening experience and i think he's doing better when he uses his voice to fix the beat - he won't be the singer Ne-Yo is but he's creative in his own way. When he strikes gold, it's great. I was shocked and from someone who's not a fan and nitpicks over profanity in my R&B at times, this album is great but my R&B album of the year leader will be in Vol. 2

Coming This Week: Poetry Corner!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We Love Tim Tebow (but he darn sure ain't the GOAT)

I wrote this in January after Florida won the national title in my personal journal but with college football practice heating up and everybody on the SEC's nuts (what's that? the Big 12 has 3 Top-10 teams and two Heisman favorites? Sorry, we dont see you) - I had to bring some sanity to this by tweaking/updating my piece.

One of my favorite bloggers/sportswriters Dan Shanoff is an admitted Florida fan and his love for Tim Tebow is starting to bug me. I mean he's seriously trying to convince himself that Urban Meyer and Tebow will be on the Patriots in his own fantasy. GTHOH!! Steve Spurrier didn't vote Tebow on the All SEC First Team and everybody was like "How dare you not vote for St. Tebow." Pssssh, please (c) Ozzie Guillen.

I can’t blame the media and people who ball-wash No. 15. I like Tebow’s heart. I like how he can pass and run and is dangerous cause he’s a lefty. I admire that he’s a man of faith who isn’t ashamed to talk it and walk it. The dude has a great work ethic and his now legendary speech was powerful and inspiring (maybe not deserving a plaque yet, but eh).

But I am kinda mad that people credit him with leading Florida to two titles. Funny, I recall Chris Leak being the QB during the first title and Tebow was the specialist backup as a freshman. Thom Brennaman sucked him up so bad during that national title game last year, I almost wished Pat Summerall was calling the game in his droll tone. Seems to me the media needs to listen to "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden.

So where does Tim Tebow rank all-time? Before we jinx him like we did USC in 2006 by anointing them the greatest team ever (Real football fans know the 2004-05 USC team was much better and the 2001 Hurricanes were the best of the decade), let's remind people who the best of the decade are. As if punks forgot who was running this decade over here near Exposition Park.

1, Reggie Bush – the most electrifying player I’ve seen in my 10 years (6 watching it closely) of watching college football. Dangerous in three ways (running, receiving, and return specialist) although he’s only glimpses of two in the NFL. Candidate for Top 50 college player ever.

2. Vince Young – Two of the best Rose Bowl performances I’ve ever seen and simply put a taller, better passing version of Michael Vick. USC is still shaking over trying to bring him down.

3. Matt Leinart – Arguably the best pure passer this decade. A three-time All-American who just dissected Oklahoma in the 2005 title game. The king of L.A. but a great football player despite getting caught up in his fame and playing behind Kurt Warner. 1 Rose Bowl win, 2 national titles (Orange Bowl), 34 game-winning streak. Tebow ain't seeing him

4 (tie) Adrian Peterson/Tim Tebow – In his first year, A.P. was already being compared to Herschel Walker and for good measure. The first true freshman to finish runner-up in the Heisman voting, he was a bruising runner that was a beast for teams to tackle and set many records on his way to an All-American year. His last two years were hampered by injuries which is why he’s not the clear No. 4 and could arguably be behind Mr. Tebow.

5. Darren McFadden - Almost forgot about D-Mac. Special, special running back . Two-time All-American, Two-time runner up for the Heisman. Speed and power just like A.P. except he excelled as a sophomore/junior. Tebow could arguably be behind him too but the rings move him up.

Here’s Tebow's resume: 2 national titles, the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, a good arm, mobile, a Top 3 Heisman finalist ranking this year. He’s an electrifying player to watch and he defines leadership. As a dual-threat QB, he may not be as fast as Steve Young but he’s a winner and that’s how we judge QB’s.

A lotta folks bring up the Christian Laettner comparison with him - White Boy everybody loves to hate cause they win. Let's review. Laettner was a starter on a Final Four team as a freshman, got recognition as a sophomore in the NCAA Tournament, a two-time All-American/national champion his final two years. Yeah, sounds familiar? How bout the fact that he's clutch and cocky.

Laettner is regarded as one of the best college players ever although he flopped in the league. So by that logic, Tebow should be one of the best right? Not by this man's logic. A better comparison with Tebow is Tyler Hansborough - a great, hard-working college basketball player who is arguably one of the best of the decade, but not all-time.

Of course, the pink elephant in the room is that Tebow is being uplifted because of race. The quarterback has long been the most glamorous position in football and it's mostly been White guys who have been seen and praised by many. And let's throw in the commonly held belief that when White players show emotion it's heart but when Black players do it, it's something negative by some.

It's not only possible, I believe it's true to an extent but for the sake of this convo, let's stick to resumes and facts. That's a whole nother can of worms I can open later and the media isn't praising him because he's White - they typically overpraise hard-working players who happen to be White because they've been doing that since sports journalism started. It's a habit that irks people because it underrates athleticism and slights other players with similar tendencies.

Anyways, Tebow is one of the most decorated players in college football and by far one of the most decorated QB’s. But just because he is among the best of the decade doesn’t mean we can rank among the best ever just yet. Don’t get hooked by the media, Tebow is an amazing person and a great quarterback and one of the best players this decade, but not one of the 10 greatest college QB’s ever.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On The Move (Virgo On The Run)

It's weird right now being me. I'm sitting in a hotel watching the Dodgers game with my unsweetened Iced Tea and you'd believe I'm still in Orlando right now. Nope, I'm in L.A. in-between houses, waiting to move into our new place.

I've moved out of Inglewood and heading with Moms to a beautiful house a few minutes south in Torrance. After 14 years its time for a change and I couldnt be happier, especially since I know that I hope to be living on my own this year. So while they sort out that paperwork, I'll be getting used to another hotel room.

I almost feel like a stranger in my backyard. Life continues to go on but it feels like I'm kinda stuck in neutral - going through the motions until I finally get back on the right road. You know that feeling you get when you move somewhere new and it doesnt feel like home? That's how I feel to another degree.

But life is still good - I'm bummed I won't be going to Rock The Bells this year, especially after finally hearing back from RTB's people on my credential. Now I'm getting interview requests, the set times, and having to tell friends I can't go. I had looked forward to seeing Slaughterhouse and Ice Cube among the others.

However, I'm supporting my pastor's 10th anniversary. I've been torn on both events since the dates were announced and I have no problem supporting a man who feels more like an adult I've grown up than a pastor on high. He was there for me when my uncle passed and I had no one to talk to in person. So yeah I'm sad about missing Rock the Bells but supporting him and my church fam is something I'm looking forward to 100%.

Other than that, I'm starting my High School football practice tour to get ready for another season of coverage. Prep sports is my bread and butter and I'm hungry. California has a great senior class of Division I kids and I'm fortunate to get the chance to get to know them and their coaches and families before they go pro.

It's gonna be cool - even though right now I feel like on the run like Paul McCartney used to do back in the day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grinds My Gears: Bromance Edition.

I hate the term "bromance". You wanna know why this really grinds my gears? Well I'll tell you.

The word is used to describe a close friendship between two straight guys. It's pretty much a friendship that goes beyond the superficial where dudes discuss what's on their minds and pretty much be real with each other. And lately it's popping up in all these buddy comedies where every close friendship is described that way.

But here's where I have a big problem with that. The word "romance" is in that term - directly implying that two men cannot be close without being sexual. It seems like recent history is making true male friendship a thing of the past and men pretty much get together for superficial reasons, unlike women - and if you have feelings, you must be gay or soft.

In my life, I've seen examples of what being a man is all about. A man is supposed to protect and provide for his family, be someone you can look up to and know when to express/control your feelings. Too often we teach our young boys not to express themselves so they grow up being macho without that balance.

The problem with "bromance" is that assumes one of the biggest lies/stereotypes about male friendship - men don't bond over real talk so when they do, it's pseudo-romantic (i.e. FEMININE). That's a big problem because not everything has to be read through a romantic lens these days.

Plus, everything today is somehow to reduced to sexual terms. If a man and a woman are close friends, apparently they have to be intimate. If men are close with each other, they have to be gay. Is this fair? No and it's just another sign of how we're acting like high school and trying to come up with clever yet immature names for everything.

"Yeah me and my boys discuss real life issues. We discuss our futures, our concerns, and whatever over dinner at Dennys. That ain't a bromance, that's what real friendship is - keepin it real"

Real friendship goes beyond just hanging out at general times, it's knowing the entire person on a deeper level. That's not romantic - that's essential for any real friendship. So why can't guys just be close friends. Why do we need this term to describe it - something sexual to describe something non-sexual?

I know guys around me don't use this term and I'd be hard pressed to find many guys - men comfortable in their sexuality - who like using it. It's like that term metrosexual a few years back - that was a label placed on men who appreciated things women enjoy. Most non-Hollywood dudes didn't appreciate it because again, it sounded like something borderline suspect.

"So what, I know how to dress, how to take care of myself, how to enjoy myself - that doesn't make me metrosexual. That makes me a grown adult who knows how to carry myself as one when the time is right."

"Bromance" is just another lame term that's borderline suspect to describe something that's already been established for centuries - close heterosexual male companionship. Don't try to read anymore into it or place a pseudo-homesexual label on it. It's another sign that you need to grow up and stop trying to place "high-school" type labels on things.

Thank you (steps off soapbox and awaits response).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why the Race convo didn't end last week.

Now that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have met with Sergeant Crowley and Prof. Gates to air out their concerns, CNN blasted a headline that said would it make the nation chill on race? So just because the President held this meeting, the conversation on race will be done with?


The conversation will move out of the mainstream and back into college classrooms, private encounters or wherever it has been limited to now. It had one of its brief cameos where it was discussed mostly on the surface but now goes back underground from our sights.

Attorney General Eric Holder made one of the most honest statements I’ve heard in a while when he said that we are a nation of cowards when discussing race. That goes for all races because we lack the language, patience and thick skin necessary to talk AND hear each other’s perspectives. It was a bold statement that I agree 100% with, having seen this firsthand during my college years.

Issues of race and identity were discusses at length in class but if something happened on campus outside the class, people were woefully ignorant of its implications. For example, an editorial in the sports page back in 2005 said the NBA had an image problem then promptly only had pictures of Black players, including a prominent (and old) mugshot of a scowling Allen Iverson.

Nevermind that it plays into fears of threatening African-American men scaring folks. It prompted me and a few other students to start a campaign against the newspaper and its policy of allowing stories to run without checking it for sensitivity. People were mixed on it –of course the obvious cry of he’s a good person, not a racist – but the point is that it happened without much thought put into it of the consequences.

That’s one example on why the race convo won’t happen – people get offended when you question their beliefs or comments, immediately saying they aren’t racist. The key problem here is – you aren’t racist, but your comments/beliefs/way of thinking are ignorant and it’s our job to enlighten you for YOUR benefit. It’s key to separate the person from their words so you can show them the real problem together, not attack them both.

The issue of race will not go away because it has been replaced by a more dangerous cover of ignorance – people who stay in the dark about how things offend people and prefer to just be colorblind. But the best way to fight it is what we just saw from these four men – sit down, talk about it openly, learn from each other and figure out how to impact the world around us after we evaluate ourselves.

I was talking with a friend of mine last week who was discussing how he talked to someone struggling with alcohol and he said that the dude was impressed when my friend talked about how we all have to fight our demons instead of judging him on his. The same analogy comes to discussing race.

We are imperfect people who need to stop making people perfect. We need to be imperfect people who aren’t afraid to discuss the error of our ways, not be dictated to about them, and work on fixing them individually and together.