Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Polanski vs. R. Kelly. What's the Difference?

Imagine if you will a fugitive rapist on the lam. He's finally been caught after raping a child. The reports indicate that he forced himself on her in several positions and the girl was scared not to resist. We would be relieved, we would be happy and even though wounds would be dug up, it's justice finally coming.

Now make that person Roman Polanski. 31 years after leaving California despite pleading guilty to those charges, he got arrested in Switzerland this week. And Hollywood has unloaded both barrels of support from Martin Scorsese, Debra Winger and Whoopi Goldberg.

(Sidenote: When I saw Woody Allen's support, all I could think of was Mos Def's "Mr Nigga" when he said Allen "molested and married his stepdaughter." A consenting adult but still, the irony)

But let's compare him to another sexual deviant. Another genius of his craft. Another polarizing figure. Come on down, Robert Kelly.

Unlike Polanski, Kelly had video evidence floating award for years. But just like the famed director, it took him years to go to trial even though he had an army of defenders. He still released music (just Polanski made films and cameos) and acted like he'd never see a courthouse. And he still won awards.

My question is this. How come Kelly still had to go to trial even though we thought he'd never get there and yet nobody wants Polanski to see court even though he pleaded guilty. What's the difference between what they did?
Both of them abused a minor. Both of them got away with it. Both had high-profile supporters in their corner. Yet Kelly still had to answer for his crime while Polanski has not.

So what if his accuser has forgiven him and has moved on. A felony is not about if the victim wants to press charges, it's the state against the accused. I'm not even saying dude should rot in jail, he should face the chance to pay the price for what he did.

Two successful men of their craft with dark pasts that need to be exorcised and held accountable. One already has and one needs to be.

Like Kelly, Polanski's skill should not be used to overshadow his faults. I liked his version of Oliver Twist in 2005 (more faithful to Dickens IMO) just like I enjoy Kelly's songs before I banned them from my I-pod. But that has nothing to do with their transgressions and I hate when people bring that that overshadows him fondling and having sex with a 13 (!!!!) year old girl.

Read LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez's great piece on this here - the court documents are tough to read. A crime is still a crime folks and no celebrity can tell me otherwise.

VSR: Prayers for Stafon and the Lakers "Circus"

I got the call while I was in the car wash that Stafon Johnson dropped a weight on his neck. Little did I know that it was actually his throat and that his career and life now sat in the balance. 7 hours of surgery, hearts around L.A. and the nation were relieved that he would be alright.

I'll post the story that I did on him tomorrow. I interviewed his father, Stan, and the thing people have to understand about Stafon. He's not just a USC tailback one semester from graduating. He's a community hero that has inspired a lot of people. It's not often that a kid from Compton who stayed out of trouble, stayed in the church, went to a local HS (Dorsey) and became a consensus All-American.

Two years ago, I interviewed him after his first game sophomore year. He had just come off a disappointing freshman season and now he played a big role in the Trojans victory (2 TD's). His grandfather and biggest hero had just passed and now he was inspired to play better and focus on being a leader. I saw the pride in his eyes when he said that he had to represent his city and let folks know he was still here.

That love was reciprocated for years and he's a role model for a lot of kids, including current UCLA stars and former Dorsey teammates Rahim Moore and Johnathan Franklin. Now all we can do is pray that he recovers. Tomorrow, I'll share more about what makes him so special.

Just know that it's bigger than football.

The Lakers held their Media Day yesterday and everyone is talking about the "distractions" surrounding them as they go for their quest to repeat. Once again, I can link up my story tomorrow but here's some quick hits.

It's funny that everyone is talking about distractions being a problem. Ron Artest's personality and Lamar Odom's marriage are big deals to those who make it one. They forget who's coaching this team and who's team this is. Do you really think Kobe and Phil Jax (and Derek Fisher) are gonna let that stand in the way of their chances?

You think that grown men can't focus on winning a game because of something superficial like that? You want distractions? Try Kobe dealing with his sexual assualt charges in 2003. That's a distraction. This is nothing. Winning is more contagious than being a star and when everyone around you has rings, you want one. And if you get one, you want another.

I'm more worried about Lamar Odom going back to playing lazy after his contract. I'm more concerned about Jordan Farmar not stepping up and showing why he can be the PG of the future.

To me, the media makes distractions and then asks athletes about them. Eventually it overwhelms them and they succumb or get annoyed with the question.

I'm more worried about how the Lakers will handle a tougher Boston squad, a seasoned Orlando squad, Shaq on the Cavs, Portland and San Antonio. After a crazy offseason, that's the bigger question (along with Andrew Bynum's knees).

Great athletes have to be focused and best believe raising another banner will do that to the Lakers. Oh by the way, Kobe is well-rested for the first time in 3 years and worked on post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon. Yeah, he's ready.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Memorable Fancy on Health Care (What I Know)

Like I said, i don't know much about the health care debate to argue it well. But here's what I know.

What I know is that in my old city of Inglewood last month, Remote Area Medical had free check-ups at the old Forum where the Lakers and Kings used to play. 6,344 people received over 14,5000 services and thousands more were turned away daily. People waited outside for hours/days to receive a ticket to get in there and if they didn't, they had to come back.

“An infected tooth can’t wait while Congress debates healthcare reform. We’re taking care of people who need help now.” - RAM founder Steve Brock.

What I know is that those who received the wide range of services were eternally grateful for them. Yes they were free handouts, but when you are desperate and need help, a helping hand is never going to be turned away.

What I know is this is the face of the health care debate. Not the town halls, not the halls of Congress. These are the people who will ultimately benefit from a health care bill.

What I know is that Sen. Ted Kennedy appealed for this for years. A man from one of the most well-to-do families in the country starting calling for better care for seniors when he was a rookie Senator in the 60's. The Lion of the Senate appealed for what was good for the people, not his own castle or pockets.

That's why it broke my heart and angered me when I saw a "Bury Obamacare With Kennedy" sign at the 9/12 rally. A man who had friends (not just supporters, FRIENDS) on both sides of the aisle and he's an insult for that? A man who fought for that very person holding the sign? Shameful.

What I know is that America is so rich and loaded with resources that we can do more to help not just the least of these but many folks who feel handcuffed by their care provider.

What I know is that we can't rush this without thinking it through. But while you debate it Congress, remember those who need it. Do what's best for them, not your friends in the back room. These people are counting on you and President Obama to do what's right. Don't make that sign come true and bury Sen. Kennedy's lifelong wish in his grave.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Memorable Fancy on Health-Care (Public School Analogy)

I don't know much in depth about health care off the top. But I know that this fuss about public option is a serious problem. For critics of it who think that it will make insurance companies bankrupt and put them out of business, here's an argument from public schools.

Public schools are there for anybody to go to. They are free and if you live in that school district, it's where your kids are going. Now many people don't like most public schools because of a lot of factors (quality of education, overcrowded, etc...) so they choose to pay for private schools since it's the best way to ensure your kid will get prepared for college. Parents have to option to either pay for private education or enjoy free public education - their choice.

Charter schools have come up as well as a counter to public schools. They're free and open via lottery selection. It's also taking some of the better students out of public schools but there are still kids who are succeeding at public schools around the country. I know its hard out here for the LA Unified School District to do that, but kids find a way to make it work.

It seems like people forget that six-letter word OPTION. It's a choice people. If you don't want it, don't take it. Take whatever choice works best for you (i.e. what we just did last year when you picked Obama or McCain) and just like the decision on whether to go with public or private education, you'll be better off for it because it is your call.

What's funny about this is that people who have great health care are arguing about what to do with people who have zero health care. They are more worried about the insurance companies going broke instead of the American citizens who have to ignore health concerns due to costs.

I don't think UCLA is worried about USC's enrollment numbers. San Diego State and UC San Diego's education is still top notch despite the fact my alma mater University of San Diego is a beautiful private school. The students who pick the schools do so because they feel its a great fit for them.

Me personally, I like the health care plan I have so this public option won't affect me. But for people around me who don't have a choice and need something that suits them, this will give them more chances instead of being given one public choice that can be manipulated for someone's advantage.

If there's one public school in the area and you can't afford the private schools, you have no choice but to go there. So what if the books are old and the teachers aren't adequate and the district isn't doing their job - you don't have a choice. Now when you have options, it makes everyone step their game up for your services.

I hope if the bill passes with public options, it makes insurance companies stop being comfortable and do more to convince people why they should sign with them. That's your job as a company - convince me why I should sign with you instead of taking me for granted.

Let the public decide what is best for them since this is about their health. A choice is better than not having the resources to make the choice.

That's my little take on this matter. I mean I dont know if that analogy makes sense and obviously I don't know the cost of it all but this idea of competition being bad all of a sudden after deregulation ran rampant during the Bush Administration is foolish.

It treats the public like children and instead of choosing between public school and private school...its private health care or nothing at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

VSR: Romo, Ray-Ray, and Roasting Trojans on an Open Fiiiiiiyah!

I've tried to keep defending Tony Romo. His first year at QB when he fumbled the FG snap, I blamed it on youth. After going 13-3 and getting a bye only to lose to the Giants in 07 on an endzone pick, I blamed it on never being there. Last year, I just stopped trying to say it after the Boys just quit and lost 44-6 to the Eagles.

Now after this loss to the Giants where he threw 3 INT's at home, I can't defend my quarterback (sniff sniff, that's my QB (c) T.O.). I'm afraid Romo can't win the big games.

Instant gratification has made football fans (and sports fans) forget that teams and players have to learn to win and they have to lose big in the process to learn. You have to mature as a player through hard knocks but Romo is starting to be awfully consistent.

You see how Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have grown over the last two years? They play smarter and for their faults, they win games more than do stuff to lose them. Romo hasn't done that and in this year where he has to be a better leader, he's sadly showing that not only can't he win big games, he plays bad in them.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, the Chargers were a 4th down play from having a chance at victory and them BOOOOM! No. 52 Ray-Ray Lewis shuts down Darren Sproles like a Mack Truck (not on that play, however). Game Over. No place like home, yeeeeeah right.

But my beef with this L.T.-less bunch is right at Norv Turner. End of the 1st half, 1st and G from the 1-inch line and here's what happens. False start, INC, INC, INC, FG to end it. I think I speak for all when I say WHAT THEE DEUCE!!

No run plays, confusion at the line, and we have to settle for a FG???? AT home!!! To me, that lost the game right there. Rivers had 250 passing yards in the 1st half and we can't get 5??? Big time fail and while I felt their run D was subpar, playcalling was a big problem.

Good ole Norv Turner. Always count on for one dumb call every so often. By the way, give props to Ray Lewis for showing why he's a HOF player. That was a big time play hate it or not.

I roasted USC in my article this week for the paper. Pretty much said they aren't a Rose Bowl caliber team, not when Cal is playing extremely well and Oregon/Oregon State will be tough. Heck, I think the Irish are gonna pick em apart with Cali boy Jimmy Clausen.

My co-worker made a great observation. UCLA and USC are essentially the same team. Young QB play, great running game, great defense up front. I give UCLA the edge on secondary and on total defense though (more pros on their roster at this point).

And how ironic that both feature tailbacks from Dorsey HS playing well. USC has scoring machine Stafon Johnson and UCLA has Johnathan "Jet Ski" Franklin, who I did a story on back in 07. It's great for a program that has been one of the best in So. Cal.

But right now UCLA is looking like a better team even with a cameo (I hope) from Kevin Craft last week. In two weeks, both teams will be tested in the Bay Area (yeeeeeee!) and we'll see what happens.

Since you wanna know. I'm 2-0 in the ESPN League with my Twitter fam, U Mad League - thanks to the boy Marques Colston, Phil Rivers, and DeAngelo Williams. I'm 1-1 in Yahoo with Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez leading the charge. So far so good, but need we'll take shots.

(Oh yeah, Jahvid Best for Heisman ceremony. He good! But no Heisman/BCS predictions on E-TV...we don't believe in ranking teams and players 2-3 weeks in. You Good? You Good! But let's wait til mid October for a Heisman race ok?)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

9/20/07 - Jena 6 Two Years Later.

It was two years ago today that tens of thousands of people descended on Jena, Louisiana to ask for the release of six young Black teenagers who were once charged with attempted murder after a beating a White classmate. Mychal Bell was the only one of the six still in jail and we hoped that he would be freed.

A hot Southern day that felt less like Faulkner and more like just ugly heat.

That was the first time I ever traveled for an assignment and armed with my journal, James Baldwin and an open mind to find the story - I came back feeling like Jena was like any other small town. Of course, a very White small town. But a small town. Those stories are still among the best things I've ever written (newspaper, school paper, poem).

But 2 years later, what's happened since? Does it feel like we went down there in vain? I had thought this earlier this year when Bell tried to commit suicide, crumbling under the pressure to be a good kid. Here's a timeline of what's happened since Black Thursday.

- Mychal Bell gets released but then goes back to jail for violating parole (a trumped charge)
- Bell pleads guilty and spends the rest of time with a suspended sentence
- One of the boys poses with some of the alleged money raised for him
- Bryant Purvis and Carvin Jones go to the BET Hip-Hop Awards dressed like normal teenagers and walk the carpet and throw up the “6” like it’s a sign. They do however acknowledge their fellow brothers when they are brought on the stage (I blame BET as well as their poor judgment around these kids)
- A nasty controversy ensues over talk show host Michael Baisden accusing advocacy group of lying about their funds then forced to eat his words when they post all of their receipts and he has little evidence to support his claim.
- Purvis, after moving to Texas, gets into a fight at his school and is arrested. Sentenced to a year community service and is now attending a college on a bball scholarship
- Jones allegedly assaulted another man in a fight in response to him being harassed the next day.
- Robert Bailey is attending school in Georgia, Jesse Beard is in school in Connecticut and Theo Shaw graduated from high school – those three have had no incidents since then.

- Jesse Ray Beard, the youngest of the six, is now at a Connecticut prep school hoping to continue playing football

I dont know what to make of it now. In hindsight it was a success because all of them are free to live their lives. And combined with being inspired with Pres. Obama's campaign and election, the spirit of activism and involvement in young people is still there. It was such a powerful moment and I feel glad to be a part of it. I think many who were inspired to join Obama's movement were inspired by their role in the Jena 6 cause.

At times it felt like the moment was in vain because either the boys made bad decisions or others made bad decisions around them. But it reminded me that victims aren't saints and their cause isn't about them, but what unfairly happened to them.

If anything, I got better acquainted with James Baldwin down there. I wanted to play the role of witness down there (speaking truth to what I saw, not what I wanted to see) and I feel like I did.

But like I say. I don't do scenes, I get involved in arms races...I wanted the moment to be bigger than just coming down there. And two years later, it's a moment that I won't forget and still want to learn lessons from.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

25 Laps In A Stream of Consciousness

I’m sitting in my room listening to Incubus’ Morning View. I’m letting the sounds of one of my favorite albums surround me as I realize I’m finally here.

I’m finally turning 25 and it couldn’t come any sooner. In a year that was more up and down than any I expected being back home, it’s time to reach this silver number but all I could do was think about something I’ve thought for a few years.

I’ve reached the age that most of favorite rappers wrote some of their best work. Five years ago, I realized I was the same age Nas was when he wrote Illmatic, his masterpiece and when I listened to his verse on “Life’s a B---h”, it spoke to me as a young man waking up on his birthday making the most of his life and environment.

"I woke up early on my born day, I'm twenty years of blessing. The essence of adolescent leaves my body now I'm fresh in. My physical frame is celebrated cause I made it. One quarter through life some God-ly like thing created" - Irony cause i was born at 6.a.m.

Now I’m the same age as Tupac when he was murdered 13 years ago and just passed the age of Notorious B.I.G. before he died. Just thinking about what they accomplished in their short lives is impressive and although there was far more they could have done, they still made a great impact we feel today.

I’m looking at my life lately and I realize that I feel very blessed to have experienced what I have so far. It’s funny how mature I thought I was at 18 and thanks to my time with Saint Diego, I realized I had a lot to learn and lot of growing to do with different personalities.

I feel like I’ve come a long way and there’s still so far to go. There’s still more to accomplish and there’s still challenges that await me (none greater than finding my own place and perhaps explore other job options).

The plan is still the same. Make a difference in this life, never stop challenging myself and don’t settle for the bare minimum or anything less than my best. But I am so excited to see what happens in the next year, the next decade.

"I want to see miracles, see the world change. Wrestled the angel, for more than a name. For more than a feeling. For more than a cause. I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You. And You're raising the dead in me." - Switchfoot

"Life is not what I thought it was 24 hours ago....and I'm not who I thought I was 24 hours ago."

I didn’t understand why Switchfoot called that song “24” after lead singer Jon Foreman was about to turn 25. I heard it and felt like it spoke to me turning 24 last year. But now I hear it and it speaks loudly to me about wondering on my place in this world.

I want to keep finding my voice. I want to discover new things. I want to keep inspiring people. I want to keep searching…and I won’t stop believing until I find it.

25. Wow. I know that sounded really deep and you probably wanted some wit and funny stuff about what I remember. Maybe later…right now I want to reflect and give this moment it’s due. Are these tears coming down? Why? I wish I could honestly say.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be celebrating this in a hotel, going to the DMV tomorrow to renew my license and hoping that nothing bad happens at my job. But if anything is the story of my life, it’s been getting used to the unexpected and embracing it instead of running from it.

So here I come - get ready for another year of progress, change and personal development.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

VSR: Welcome Back, Pedro

I'd be remiss if I didn't shoutout Pedro Martinez for doing what he's doing right now. Two years, we thought he was injured, done and only a press conference away from the 5-year waiting period to Cooperstown. Last year, the Mets cast him off like he was finished.

It was the first time Pedro had been unwanted since the Dodgers traded him for the immortal Delino Deshields in 1993. The pitcher who Tommy Lasorda and them thought was too frail to be a pitcher was becoming frail and injury prone, no longer the dominant pitcher he was from 1997-2004.

Then he pitched in the World Baseball Classic....6 innings, 6 strikeouts, 0 runs. Could it be that the old arm had something left in him? Nobody took a chance and the Mets let him go but the Phillies thought maybe he could be a No. 4-5 guy.

His first start was shaky but he still picked up the W in 5 innings. The next three were even more shaky - one win in 3 appearances and just maybe, Pedro just didnt have it. 2 innings in his last August start. Nah, man. This guy will be a flash but not a consistent star.

All of a sudden, September struck and something happened. The pitch counts increased. The strikeouts increased, the innings eaten up. The W's being earned instead of given by the offense. And then came the motivation, Sunday against the Mets, the team that cast him off.

Read the box score. 8 IP, 0 runs, 6 Hits, 7 strikeouts - 130 PITCHES! He almost stayed in too long but worked his way out of the jam with some great defense behind him. It was vintage Pedro and now he's 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA.

Suddenly, the Phillies got a LOT scarier and Pedro just reminded everyone why he's been the best pitcher we've seen of his cloth since Bob Gibson. Intimidation, power, precision and just the chance to dominate on any given night. That's why I respected him so much in his prime when he should've won the 1999 MVP. He takes the ball and despite being 5-11 and 170 lbs dripping wet, he pitches with his heart.

Welcome Back, Pedro. I fear what will happen if you pitch the Dodgers and just use that trade as motivation.

VSR: Chargers Escaped a Silver (and Black) Bullet

The title says it all. Last night, I was surprised that the Raiders were faster, hit harder and played more aggressive than the Chargers. Give credit to Richard Seymour's additionand the Raiders offensive line just shoving the Chargers front seven out of the way as they outplayed them for nearly the whole game.

NEARLY being the key word because they did that in spite of JaMarcus Russell looking like a college QB missing easy throws and making simple mistakes. And once again, Phillip Rivers showed why he's maturing into one of the league's best QB's with great 4th quarter play and a great final drive to win the game.

That Chargers run D however looked mad suspect and while I give props to McFadden and Michael Bush (been a fan of his since college), they have got to do better. And what's up with the secondary giving up a long TD pass on 4th and long?

I'll take the win but it was an ugly win of survival....and did anybody else notice that LT was on the sidelines for most of the 4th quarter? I already proposed the idea of LT and Sproles splitting carries but LT did not look like himself last night against a team he owns. I'd be worried Charger fans...Sproles showed he can handle the rock more often but we need LT to have that one good year before we start worrying about him on the decline. I fear it's here.

Quick Pro Hits
- Adrian Peterson (180 yds, 3 TDs) = Unstoppable. Like my co-worker said, Cleveland didn't want to tackle him and that long TD run might be the best I've seen on the pro level in a while
- Great start Cowboys! Tony Romo looked sharp (over 350 yds and 3 TD's), Crayton and Austin look ready to step up with Roy Williams
- Methinks Tom Brady is back, what say you? Buffalo straight choked against the wrong team and the wrong QB. I was laughing at Brady making Suzy Kolber chase him but hey, when you played well in your first game back in a year on the road, that swagger is high.
- Mark Sanchez = Joe Cool. I remember watching his first start at home last year against Ohio State and he was calm then like he was on Sunday. He doesn't get rattled one bit.
-Why was I thinking about that scene in Friday when Debo took dude's bike the moment Hines Ward fumbled that football. "He gonna cry in the car on the way home." Nobody was happier that night when they won.

College Hits

It's gonna be freshman weekend for USC and UCLA cause now the Bruins have to start a true freshman after the Fresh Prince got his jaw rocked against them Tennsesse Bwoys (c) Grits. Richard Brehaut I hear is a good QB, accurate as heck, but we'll see how he does against K-State this weekend.

I have to show some love to sophomore safety Rahim Moore. 2 Games, 5 INT's. We knew he'd be great in HS when he started as a sophomore and was named All-City, but he's breaking out in a big way.

Can people stop giving Matt Barkley a lot of credit? Yes he drove the team on that final drive but he's gotta share that game ball with Joe McKnight. McKnight had 54 yards on that drive and if not for his big plays on short passes, USC loses that game. I give Barkley his props for directing it and making the right plays.

USC isn't national title caliber yet and when they travel to Washington - they'll face the best QB they've seen all year. A real dual-threat in Jake Locker and an inspired Huskies led by two coaches trying to prove to Pete Carroll they can win without him.

- Terrelle Pryor. Meet Tate Forcier. He's doing what you should be doing right now - remind yourself why you committed to play for one of the most conservative coaches who's using you wrong.

- Florida's schedule is so easy, I could play QB and still win by 30 in their first two games.

- Your real darkhorse Heisman candidate is Jahvid Best (323 total yards, 4 TDs)

I'm gonna end it cause I should've done this Monday night instead of now. I had a lot on my mind and I was freestyling in my personal journal random thoughts on a wide range of issues.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeling Good and Passing It Along

There’s nothing like a sudden rush you get when you do something you put your heart in. For me, it comes when I play a great basketball game, play a song on the piano that I love, or say something that has a deep impact on someone else.

That happened on Sunday when I preached a sermon in my church. I’ve done it on occassion since I was 17 (even did an Easter sermon in 2002) but since I’ve come back from San Diego, the last three that I’ve preached have come from a different place. A place of realizing the power of my voice and the impact to change lives for the greater good. It’s a rush getting up and sharing words that I put my heart into knowing that I’m not doing it for my glory.

Sunday was a sudden rush not because I love public speaking about something (except about me). It was a rush because of the value of inspiring people. That’s what I feel my calling is and you can kinda see that through this blog. I started it because I felt like I had something to say and I knew that people would listen to real thoughts.

I love telling stories and while I feel like preaching is not in my immediate future – we’re all called to share our story about our truths. I feel passionate about my faith and yet I’m open to discuss our differences if only to educate each other not judge on how wrong we are. God has a purpose for all of us and even if you don't believe in Him, you're meant to do more than just get by and go through the motions.

The funny thing is that I felt like this sermon didn’t feel as well prepared as the other two. I felt like the end tied everything together but it felt like God had to find a way to make it connect. But in the end, it turned out to be one of the most emotional messages I’ve done. Tears were shed, people congratulated me even today and said how much it inspired them.

Shows how much I know about planning and how much God wanted me to see his goodness.
But I’m just in awe really. I’m still enjoying the rush and I can’t take credit for it. All God through me. I write and I speak to inspire others and remind myself of things I’ve experienced – that’s the manifesto of E-TV and also my life. What a great way to start this birthday week off.

*edit – my sermon was about the tricks of the Devil and knowing what they are, based on 1 Peter 5:6-9 and Ephesians 6-11. Pride, Comfortability and Manipulation. If you want a copy of my notes, hit me up and I’ll email them to you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Electric Relaxation Vol. 4 - Techno Treats/House Sweets

It's a well known that admitting you like techno is a cardinal sin to most people in America (apologies to all the rave fans out there). But every now and then - a techno or house or electronica jam or two or three comes over here and catches fire or a jam created here blows up and becomes a hit. If you're in a club, you wouldn't mind if it comes on cause its got a great melody and groove, not just boomin bass and mindless noise.

Nothing I hate more than a techno remake of a dance song. But a good techno song hits and overwhelms you. Plus it's great to work out too and get hyped for the club with.

There's some great dance/techno songs on the "Pulse" CD and there's where I found a lot of stuff that became hits in America. None of these songs made the list but you should check them out.I found out that most of those songs are under the Eurodance category and I guess I like that genre from the early 1990's. If I'm technical with calling stuff techno, sue me.

My favorite techno song has to be Stardust "Music Sounds Better With You" - it made my first burned CD back in college and I remember listening to this on Saturday nights on KIIS-FM in high school. I love the video and it's just a great jam altogether - not to mention made by 1/2 of Daft Punk....speaking of them.

Daft Punk - "One More Time": Yes it got played out to death in 2001 but it's still a great jam on replay value. "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" I discovered this thanks to Kanye and it's incredible on its own.

Darude - Sandstorm: This song is still awesome. It'll get a dance floor going and if you need something to work out to - this is perfect. Where's my glow sticks for this??

Darude - Feel The Beat: I gotta have more glow stick! Underrated jam and it just keeps you going.

DJ Jean - The Launch (Props to my boy Redix for reminding me about this on Twitter when we tried to start Techno Thursday hahaha)

Eric Prydz - Call On Me: This song reminds me of my first trip to Tijuana in 2004 where the club played it twice for a long time. Looooong night haha

Modjo - "Lady" and "Chillin": I like Chillin more than Lady even though "Lady" got more play in the the video below is so coool.

Iio - Rapture: My favorite techno song from 2002. An American house band did this hypnotic gem that still gets play in my I-pod.

Bob Sinclar - World, Hold On (That hook and that whistling part gets me)

There's probably a few others I dont know by name, but these I love and wouldn't mind hearing. Never get old and they're worth your listen too. Go check em out on youtube and feel free to request anymore good techno songs in the comments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Color Purple - 11 and Out

I hate admitting I've never seen the Color Purple. As a Black person, that's almost a cardinal sin to put that out there but since I've never read the book either - go figure. It's funny that I've read Alice Walker's daughter's book twice but not a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Anyways, one of the most egregious things I've ever read in my life is that the film was nominated for 11 Oscars and won zero. Zero?? If a film got 11 noms now, they'd be a shoo-in for Best Picture and multiple awards. But in 1986? That looks embarrassing.

The film actually should've gotten 12 nominations because Steven Spielberg got screwed. But I wonder why a film with a Jewish director, co-produced by a musical genius (Quincy Jones) and a predominantly Black cast that grossed $90 million at the box office couldn't win crap at the Oscars.Just look at the facts.

Whoopi Goldberg being nominated for Best Actress in her debut? - Yeah she wasn't gonna win. Wait another two decades for that to happen with Halle Berry and another Oscar-winning debut in Jennifer Hudson, enjoy that Golden Globe though.

Margaret Avery and some unknown named Oprah Winfrey split the Oscar nom for Supporting Actress? - split votes are normal right?

Quincy Jones did the score and got nothing? Lionel Richie (who co-wrote the song from Color Purple with Quincy) ended up winning for Best Song.

Roger Ebert said this was the Best Film of the Year, praised Whoopi as the best Actress of the year. Guess his advice wasn't heeded.

And again, Spielberg gets no love after winning the Director's Guild? After three nominations, this should have been his fourth. Heck, Harrison Ford got his lone Oscar nom that year.

This is the biggest screwjob in Oscar History. Out of Africa by Sydney Pollack was the big winner at those Oscars and I'll be honest, nobody talks about that movie now really. Everyone still talks about Color Purple - not just because it's a Black cinema classic or because Oprah, Danny Glover and Whoopi all made great moves since.

I'm still scratching my head and saying how did that happen? Was it racism against Spielberg and an All-Black cast - a plausible reality. The last movie with an All-Black cast to make a dent at the Oscars was Boyz N The Hood. Spielberg finally won his Oscars for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.

Maybe it was themes of the movie? Black women being uplifted while the men are cast in an unflattering light (female author - go figure. But as a writer, Alice is a genius for exploring this, though) But I dont know. I just know it's a shame and the Oscars should never ever live this down.

Monday, September 7, 2009

VSR: Welcome back College football

So the first week of college football is done and a lot has happened. It started with one of the best (worst?) punches I've ever seen in a game by Oregon's LeGarrette Blount and ended with Florida State losing another game to Miami they could've won a simple play. (Bobby Bowden's cursed).

I was at the Coliseum for USC v. San Jose State (i.e Day 1 of the Matt Barkley era) and while everybody focused on Barkley's solid game - and misleading stats 15/19, 230 yards - I was looking at their tailback by committee and seeing how confusing it could be. Started with Joe McKnight, then came Allen Bradford (the forgotten man?). Stafon Johnson came in for goal line scoring and then came Marc Tyler and CJ Gable.

Ah the problem of a blowout - musical chairs at certain positions.

For the Trojans to win at Columbus, they're gonna need their running game to stay on point and help Barkley out. He looked poised in the pocket but against an average defense, he had his statue-esque moments where he took bad sacks. He's smart and calm but he'll need more than that against Ohio State and their D.

I have a feeling dude could be Tebow'd by his junior year - his poise, leadership, strong faith, local hype make him a candidate but I like the guy. I just see him for who he is not what others say.

Across town, UCLA handled San Diego State pretty easily. Their offensive line deserves props because they look way more solid than last year already. It showed as their tailbacks did damage - word to City boys Johnathan Franklin and Milton Knox getting their shine along with Derrick Coleman (above) - and Kevin Prince played well just like Barkley.

He threw two bad picks but for his first game in two years, he played well. That defense/special teams is going to be nasty - Alterraun Verner (blocked FG return for TD) and Rahim Moore (3 INTS) are an underrated duo. They got a test in Tennessee this weekend but I think they'll be ready to handle Lane Kiffin and Co.

My prediction: this UCLA team will win 6 games min and their running backs will have solid years to ease the Fresh Prince's transition. Some other quick hits

- Ohio State is clearly overrated and looked suspect against Navy in that fourth quarter. A blown 2-pt conversion call away from going to OT at home? A 15-pt lead nearly gone? Terrelle Pryor looking ok? Yeah, USC will win that game by 10 Saturday.

- Guess Sam Bradford won't be winning another Heisman Trophy.

- Brigham Young and Boise State will factor in the national title debate all year. Bradford's injury made BYU look a little better but the Cougars always play tough (see 59-0 vs. UCLA). Boise State may have the hardest road to climb but they better pray Oregon stays the No. 3-4 team in the Pac-10.

- Bobby Bowden must crap his pants when he sees Miami. No matter how well they play, it's the simple stuff that fails him. Tonight, dude drops a low pass in the end zone that should've been there. But I'm mad I missed this game until the final play - great game between the two.

Now you know I wasn't gonna leave without mentioning LGB's punch and the incredible reaction. First off, Byron Hout deserved something after agitating a player from a team that he just beat. That was classless. Blount's punch made him act like the end of "Back That Thang Up" - Wobbledy Wobbledy, Drop Drop Drop It Like It's Hot.

I know Blount had some previous issues but to suspend him the whole season was exceessive. Yes, he fought teammates, reacted to fans who acted like jerks and had to get cops to restrain him. But I said he should've gotten 3-6 games, be suspended until November.

Problem is fighting in football and basketball is still seen as negative. Woody Hayes and Kermit Washington had their careers ended by throwing a punch while Nolan Ryan lighting up Robin Ventura is seen as an ornery old man being tough in baseball - peep the video starting at 2:50 for Ryan's beatdown

Despite that, it was a mean punch on national TV and Blount's outburst factored heavily into it (I bet you his contrite apology probably didn't - props to him for calling Hout to apologize this week). He should've been suspended and I'm glad Hout has been disciplined as well. Like Mom said, maybe he'll think twice before agitating someone on the losing team.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Electric Relaxation Vol. 3: 2001-03 Edition

Looking back on it, most of the music that was released 2001-2003 still resonates with me in a real way. Maybe that's because I finally listened to more stuff and got exposed to a wider variety of things. Throw in that I transitioned from high school to college and you have music that fits a the mood I was in - reflective, optimistic, anxious for a new beginning.

Now when I listen to those songs or those albums - it gives me that good feeling that good music is supposed to do when you connect with it emotionally. Here's some of the albums/songs I still love.

Incubus - Morning View: More than anything, this album was bought for the sole purpose of me attending Pepperdine. The band made it in Malibu and I imagined listening to it on the shores of class. Alas, I ended up doing it in San Diego but it had the same effect.

It's probably the band's softest album but it's so peaceful that I would sit down and write some poetry to it. You can imagine the shores of Malibu in the background to "Just A Phase" and just zone out.

Switchfoot - Beautiful Letdown: I had heard of Switchfoot but this album felt like a challenge to me. A challenge to the world around me and the minute I heard "Meant To Live," I felt inspired. Lyrically, it touched on searching for something more than the simple thrills and living with a purpose and for teens, the message resonated.

They may be a Christian band, but they touch on universal themes that people can relate to. Plus they make great music and coming from San Diego, they connected with many at my school.

The Ataris - So Long, Astoria: The minute I heard "In This Diary" and heard that line "Being grown up, isnt half as fun as growing up" I was hooked on this album. When I heard "Boys of Summer" in my friend's room, I knew it'd be a hit once summer came around.

But this album was about being reflective (named after the town the "Goonies" lived in) and looking back on the younger days. It was the perfect summer album back in 2003 but now, it's an album that reminds me of being young and the fun I had back then.

Eminem - The Eminem Show: To this day, I'll tell anyone this is Shady's most personal album and maybe it's not better than Marshall Mathers LP, but its darker and realer.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - By The Way: I remember buying this the week before I left for college and I imagined listening to it in San Diego for the same reason I loved Morning View. It felt dreamlike and a good mood for being by the ocean.

It's a shame that I found out the band kinda feels ambivalent about it because it was mostly John Frusciante's input. But I love this album. I did drive down to San Diego once listening to this - PERFECT background music for the coast.

Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea - Billy Corgan's side band disintegrated soon afterwards but I really enjoy the album because lyrically Corgan was influenced by his faith.

Jurassic 5 - Power In Numbers : I really hoped J5 would've blown up from this album. Radio hits and quality music haven't sounded this good from the L.A. underground.

The Roots - Phrenology : Hard to follow up a classic but they did. The first album I bought from the crew and I loved every listen of it.

Musiq - Juslisen: This was the last thing I listened to when I had my final moments when my Dad. And aside from that, it's a dope R&B album from one of my favorite singers.

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head : One of the best albums of the decade. I remember DLing it before I left for the summer and I listened to it right before I left. Phenomenal album from start to finish. I love Amsterdam, Politik, and of course "The Scientist."

Justin Timberlake - Justified: Don't Laugh - this album is probably one of the better R&B joints of the decade. He reminded me of Michael, George Michael that is. I heard the album the same night I heard Coldplay and loved it right away.

Sugar Ray - Sugar Ray: Don't Laugh Pt. 2 - this was their last hurrah and the boys of summer made a great album I enjoyed in 2001. "Satellites" still takes me to a special place, this album is great driving music.

The Starting Line - Say It Like You Mean It/Home Grown - Kings of Pop: I gotta put these two together because I saw them both in concert at my school and hearing both albums remind me of that show. My first punk show, my first mosh pit, raw energy that I still draw back to.

Nappy Roots - Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz: This is an album you don't hear too often on a mainstream level period, regardless of region. A song about being poor being a hit? Ballin on a Budget? This was some feel good hip-hop made the summer of 02 easy, breezy and manageable.

These down-home brothas made one of the last great Southern albums before the shift of crunk/trappin/club music that the South is more known for now.

Maybe I'll do a post on some of the singles from that era that stuck with me but you can probably imagine the singles from these albums had a big effect on me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Remember Me? (My Name Is Mitch and I Used to Be a Big Deal)

Imagine being Mitch Mustain. Back in 2005, you were the No. 1 recruit in the country, winner of every national player of the year award, Parade All-American, headed to Arkansas where your HS coach is gonna be the offensive coordinator. Gift-wrapped success for one of the most celebrated Golden Boys in recent memory.

Heck, your accolades make Matt Barkley look like an amateur. His senior year saw him earn no awards and no division title (cynics, however, fail to see he had a new crop of WR's but I digress)

Oh and to make it better, you go 8-0 as a true freshman handing off to two of the best tailbacks in the country. You still the man to fans who dubbed you the Great hope of Arkansas - biggest celebrity since President Clinton.

So how did you end up a third-stringer at USC as a 4th-year junior? The forgotten man behind California Golden Boys Barkley and Aaron Corp and subject of a great piece by Fox Sports' Mark Kreigel

I feel bad for this guy to be honest. I remember watching that freshman year and thinking he'd be a star down there. It should've been him and Tim Tebow running the SEC. Now he needs his face on the milk carton.

In Kreigel's piece, he talks about trying to make the NFL like Matt Cassel - no starts at USC and now $66 million richer. But it's definitely not the ideal plan for the draft we all thought 4 years ago - he'd be challenging Tebow for SEC Player of the Year right now or maybe starting his rookie year in the league.

You gotta feel bad for this guy - from everybody knowing you to everybody wondering how he got lost in the shuffle. But sadly, that's part of the risk you take going to a major program surrounded by All-Americans. You're one of a bunch, not one in a million.

It's the downside of USC - they run a fantastic program out here and have a great track record for NFL paydirt. But if recruit every All-American to come to you, where are you gonna find enough playing time to satisfy all of them. Look at tailback where there should be a 2-headed monster (Stafon Johnson/Joe McKnight), you got CJ Gable, Allen Bradford and RS sophomore Marc Tyler.

I predicted before the year that some major c/o 2010 recruit in CA would spurn USC because of the overload of talent and I still may be right. But I guarantee the story of Mitch Mustain and others are tales that need to be considered.

Time Is.....(Thinking Out The Box)

On Monday, I found out my editor is leaving the paper to take another job. I've heard him talk about leaving for the past year and a half - he even left abruptly in January 2008 for a few weeks - but this time is legit. A good job working with a U.S. Congresswoman with great pay.

It almost made no sense to me because I figured he would have worked for something sports-related given his basketball/football background. He has great connects around the city and around the sports world. Never would I have imagined that he'd go into politics - albeit as a press deputy. But at his age, it's not a bad deal.

The last 10 days have made me realize that my time at the LA Sentinel may be running short. It seems like I've been getting more stressed out and I'm starting to lose the creativity needed to come up with stories or write them out. Before last week, I realized that I've only written about 2-3 stories over the last month. It's way below my output and it's a sign that I may have left the paper behind.

Of course, those who've talked to me personally know where my head really is mentally there.

But more than discussing where i'm at there, the bigger question is where I'm going to head. And with journalism an unpredictable field for the moment - I'm back to square one figuring where my next opportunity is.

Mom and I talked about my future last week and we talked about thinking outside the box and taking jobs that I may not have even given thought to. It's funny because that has to be the plan now since I have no clue where to go.

I did get a few leads last night but after seeing my editor get his deal in an unconventional field, maybe I should do the same. I won't do anything crazy like working for the Army but maybe a shot in the dark will light something up that may be better than what I have.

Thinking outside the box may be the hardest thing for me to do, but its the only key to finding the next road towards paydirt. My boss did it and seeing all the internal and external signs - I will have to do it too.