Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Rise of the 84 Babies

This is something I've been thinking about writing for months but I just never got to it. I wanted to do it last year when I turned 25 but I just kept putting it off. Time to just get cracking on it.

I'm proud to be born in 1984 - one of the best years ever. Don't believe me? Consider it was the year of arguably the Best Summer Olympics ever (in my city), Eddie Murphy changing the face of comedy in Hollywood with Beverly Hills Cop, the greatest movie soundtrack since Superfly (Purple Rain) and the birth of the Cosby Show as one of the most important and greatest shows in television history. And of course, the subject of a classic book that is coming true right now.

26 years later, I feel like people born in my year are doing big things or are on the cusp of it. I've met a lot of people born in 84 who are moving along in their career, motivated to do great things or struggling at the same crossroads that I am. But just proof that 84 babies are doing it right, a sample

Best pitcher in baseball - Tim Lincecum. The Freak. 2-time defending Cy Young winner. Greatest young pitcher since Doc/Roger Clemens/Bret Saberhagen were running the mid-to-late 80's

Best player in basketball - LeBron James (apologies to my fellow Kobe fans). And among the best players in the game are Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Brandon Roy.

Fastest swimmer in America - Cullen Jones (at least in the 50m sprint)

Best skiers in the world: Golden girl Lindsay Vonn and World Champ Julie Mancuso. (not to mention hottie Tanith Belbin of ice dancing)

Best hope for the Republican Party: Meghan McCain (one of the few that I respect because she's civil in her views, open to dialogue and not namecalling, andfascinating on Twitter

Singer the ladies love most right now: Trey Songz

One of the best rising stars in baseball: Matt Kemp repping the Dodgers (and B.J. Upton/Prince Fielder

One of the best young actresses in Hollywood: Scarlett Johansson (smart and sexy FTW)

Throw in more of my favorite talented hotties Katy Perry, America Ferrera and Cheryl Burke (Dancing With the Stars) and slowly you're seeing how we're taking over. Not to mention a bunch of my peeps on Twitter who I see doing things and making moves.

Just watch us shine and represent the greatness of the year we were born into. And as a bonus, here's a big reason why 1984 rocks c/o of ESPN's Sports Guy Bill Simmons

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Could Woodward/Bernstein Happen Today? (The State of Media)

I rewatched one of my favorite films today, All The President's Men. Being a journalist, it helped inspire me to be in this field just seeing how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were diligent about doing the right thing and finding the truth. It's the essence of what being a reporter is about - telling stories and telling the truth.

The movie itself is faithful to the original story. It teaches a lot about how the newspaper biz works - the young, eager reporters working to get a story, the dogged editor-in-chief who slowly gives them support (Jason Robards owns this Oscar-winning role as the legendary Ben Bradlee - before this movie I only knew Robards as the grandfather on Heidi), and ultimately the power of the press to serve the people and check those in positions of authority.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman do a great job playing off each other as total opposites yet united in a common goal. The camera work is incredible with the heavy light inside the newsroom and nowhere else, the long shots when they are in the library and driving through the city. Washington D.C. is as much a character in that movie as anybody.

"Follow the money" - a classic quote that to me describes the best way to find the truth about something.

Just like Good Night and Good Luck, it's one of the best movies about the business that I've seen. And at times when I feel like journalism is short on inspiration, it reminded me why I do this.

But it made me wonder if the Watergate stories could happen in today's media climate. A major national story carried by one paper that put the pressure on the government. No.

(Bernstein and Woodward - real American heroes. Ironically, Bernstein left the Post before the 70's ended and is now a CNN contributor and Woodward went on to be one of most celebrated reporters of our age)

In the era of partisan criticism and bloggers, any major story would be under heavy scrutiny. The paper running the story would need a combo of strong reporting, solid editors to help guide them and protect them, publishers and owners who wouldn't succumb to financial pressure and support the editorial direction. They also would need a lot of luck.

Cable news would most likely be the source of a hard-hitting investigative piece but because there is so much news and so many distractions, it'll be hard to keep the focus of the American public on any issue. Just look at the debate on health care being pushed to the back burner.

What I know for sure is that there's no chance Deep Throat would stay a secret for 30+ years. To quote my favorite LA band of the moment, Silversun Pickups, "There's no secrets this year" - and in this era of TMZ and tabloids, its hard for anything to stay hidden. Consider how Tiger Woods' secret affairs stayed a secret for several years apparently but unraveled faster than Usain Bolt.

Not to mention the decline of newspapers around the country makes investing in hard-hitting stories a lot harder. You have people who own papers who are more concerned about the money and advertising than the product. I've seen it firsthand and it often means that newsrooms can't engage in the type of reporting needed for those kind of stories.

To me, the movie represents a watershed moment of journalism and the times (any surprise that Walter Cronkite is one of my role models?). Not to mention an era of filmmaking that took chances and was more about art and storytelling than public tastes. It's a shame neither happen again more often.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Ephraim Lewis "Drowning in Your Eyes"

Back when I was younger and my mom only played the local smooth jazz station (94.7 The Wave for my L.A. people), this song was always playing. It'd put me to sleep because it was so mellow and I had no idea who this was. It was until Saturday actually that I discovered who this was and his story.

Ephraim Lewis came from England around the same time that Seal broke through in America. He released his debut album Skin in 1992 and sadly died in 1994 here in L.A. under strange circumstances.

What is left is a beautiful, rich voice (what is it about English voices being so silky smooth? - Seal and Martina Topley-Bird are proof) and this song. Just the chorus "I'm drowning in your eyes, I'm floating out to sea. Helpless on the restless tide/That flows between you and me" - who writes like that anymore? R&B has gotten too direct and I'm thankful Maxwell brought some of that imagery/songwriting back into the mainstream.

The words are rich with water references. It's a love song that just caresses you in with the calming rhythms, something you can appreciate if you've ever been to the beach to find peace. It's dreamlike and the video I chose helps set that mood.

Everything about this song resonates with me personally as a man looking for peace, loving the water and longing to find that special lady. It's a beautiful reminder of a man gone far too soon and a reminder of childhood memories grown up.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

200 Posts and Running - Random Sports Musings + One

200 posts and since this week has been busy and interesting at work, I'll just hit you when some random thoughts.

NBC's Olympic coverage is lagging something fierce. There is absolutely no excuse why an Olympic event in the Pacific Time zone is on tape delay. There is no excuse why Olympic planners cannot plan events later in the evening to fit prime time except to accommodate East Coast media deadlines (which shouldnt matter in the Internet age). Instead what we have during prime time is a pre-packaged story where certain events and certain people are shown on NBC.

***i.e. We have post-event interviews that are some time after the event has ended (no excuse why Apolo Ohno, JR Celski and Shani Davis' interviews were delayed hours after they won.)

The execs will tell you that they have events on CNBC. But overall their coverage is a sham. The Olympic "ideal" is a myth that the network perpetuates by lagging on showing events. Now we pretty much watch trying to avoid who won or merely seeing how someone did it since NBC owns the rights to it.

It's a neat story but there's no suspense, no realness. The only thing genuine is the emotion of the competitors. But the experience showed on television is merely a packaged, sanitized version of the real thing.

I had to speak on the Lakers since I've been impressed with how they've played without Kobe. 4-1 with a one-point loss to Boston. More than anything, I like how Lamar Odom has continued to play aggressive, especially on the boards, and Shannon Brown is showing why he might be our 1-guard of the future (not point guard, key difference).

The loss to Boston showed the good and the bad without Kobe. The good is that this team can respond under pressure and has done so (see winning at Portland for the first time in 5 years). They went on a 13-0 run in the 4th that I thought would punch Boston back in the gut and let them know we could fight. The bad is that in crunch time, we lack someone to take big shots and make smart decisions (see Gasol's entry pass to Brown under the basket, calling timeout right away with 6 seconds instead of 2.2, Fisher taking an off-balance shot at the buzzer).

(That my friends was the last game of the Boston rivalry as we know it. The C's are getting old and won't make the NBA Finals, the Lakers' biggest rival is Cleveland and Denver as far as im concerned. It's always a rivalry but it won't have the punch of 2008-09)

But if anything it showed how good this team can be and it showed that Kobe's return will be one of leadership, not dictatorship trying to take over. He knows that despite being defending champions, Cleveland got stronger and has a bigger advantage than Orlando did last year. The best way to get another ring is to convince everyone how great they are and remind them how well they played without them.

It was a good sign to me. This is a good team without Kobe and now they need to show it again with him.

Ignorance reared its ugly head again down in my second favorite city. UC San Diego saw a Compton Cookout sponsored by a few students that was just another example of a racial-themed party that has been an issue since 2005 and possibly earlier.

You know the type. Show up at this party and participate in various stereotypes in order to have a taste of the ghetto. During Black History Month no less. I mean it is sad to think that people did not think twice about the reaction or the negative impact.

I wrote about this issue in an editorial in my school newspaper back in 05. To me, it was a big concern because students of color (esp. Black and Brown) are a minority on campuses, especially at mine. And it's something that has been a passion of mine because it shows me a big problem with my generation.

It's my annual reminder that ignorance is the greatest disease we face. It's why I said a year ago that Obama being president isn't going to change people's attitudes. It's only through education and awareness that we can change. So if you think that being upset is much ado about nothing, then you are truly a reminder that we still have far to go.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shani Davis Goes For Gold

(This Article ran in the LA Sentinel 2/11/10 - in lieu of Shani Davis skating tonight for repeat gold in the 1,000 meters, I'm sharing with my pre Olympic story on him. I'd link it but my paper's website unfortunately cut it short)

Going For Gold Alone
Shani Davis has been painted as a rebel but he's also poised for multiple gold at Vancouver

By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor

Imagine being one of the best in your sport and doing it without the support of your country or major sponsorship.
Now imagine representing that country at one of the premier events in the world knowing the feud will play out before a large audience.

If you're Shani Davis, this is what he faced when the Winter Olympics started last Friday.
The Chicago native cast as the reclusive rebel who just happens to be the best American speedskater heading to the Vancouver Olympics.

He's also a rare Black Winter Olympian, the first to win an individual event and the favorite to win the 1,000 and 1,500 meter sprints, the races he also holds the world record in.
It's a story more people should be talking about given the historic lack of Black representation at these games - anyone remember Bryant Gumbel's infamous remarks four years ago when he, among other things, compared the Winter Games to a GOP convention because of the lack of Blacks participating?

But unfortunately, all people will hear about Davis is how he distanced himself from USA Speedskating and him being painted as an outsider in a sport where his skin color already sets him apart.

It's not the first time they've been at odds. At the Olympic qualifiers in 2001, there were allegations that he won the 1,000m final as a result of an alleged fix by teammates Apolo Ohno and Rusty Smith, later disproven by an arbitrary panel.

He was named an alternate to the Olympic squad but ended up leaving early to compete in the Junior World Championships.

And four years ago at the Olympics in Turin, Italy, his historic win in the 1,000 was overshadowed by him not skating in the team pursuit event a few days later, a decision that branded him as a poor teammate and selfish despite Davis not being eligible for the pursuit.

He was publicly criticized by teammate and rival Chad Hedrick and USA Speedskating remained mum on clarifying his situation, despite them submitting his name as an alternate for the pursuit without his knowledge.

It robbed him of not just enjoying history but any goodwill coming from being the first Black to win an individual Gold medal at the Winter Games. Is it any surprise that Davis requested his biography be removed from the team media guide and website?

So here he is in Vancouver, without the bevy of sponsors that his teammates have, the top-flight coaching and the media attention as he has mostly shunned them over the past four years. He's going it alone with the support of his mother, Cherie, who acts as his agent.

Maybe it's progress that his novelty has worn off, that his success over the past four years in the World Championships has overshadowed his race. Or it's just another example of a Black athlete being misunderstood and preferring to stay in his own lane.

It's not unique to American sports history. Black athletes in the 1960's and 70's were routinely cast as bitter and unaccommodating to a press corps that rarely took their side and sought to keep them in
their place.

They didn't trust the media to understand their situation and with America still divided by the civil rights movement and its backlash, they were forced to go it alone - only relying on their teammates and each other for support.

Times are obviously different now but Davis is painted in the same way. And just like those players, he has thrived in spite of it.

Entering the Games, he owns three world records and is the current winner of the Oscar Mathisen Award awarded to the world's best speedskater (he also won in 2005). He's earned the reputation as one of the most disciplined members of the team - all the more impressive considering his lack of sponsorship and coaching.

This year, his focus on solely on repeating in the 1,000 and winning in the 1,500 (he won silver in 2006). All of the negative energy from Turin is part of the past and he's hoping to embrace the Olympic
experience this time around.

And as arguably the most high profile Black Winter Olympian since Debi Thomas in 1988 when she won the bronze in figure skating, he'll be set to make more history - the first Black Olympian to medal at two separate Games.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Greatest (Favorite) Hip-Hop Producers AKA The Great 8

Let's be honest. I love lists and I hate them. They're always subjective and no one will ever agree with them. But for respected critics and fans, it's a good way to gauge what their tastes are. One way or the other, they spark conversation.

Back on Myspace a few years ago, I listed some of my favorite rappers/producers/rock groups and it was pretty fun but looking back at it, it definitely showed where I lacked in knowing more stuff. So don't kill me if I leave out some underground producers I'm not too up on. But to be the greatest, you have to have some level of success or influence.

My apologies if I incorrectly describe someone's style. I tried to research this as well as I could and ask people as well.

1. Dr. Dre

There is no argument about what Dre has done. Introduced NWA, Snoop Dogg, D.O.C., Eminem, 50 Cent and The Game. Produced a slew of classics. Created G-funk with The Chronic - a sound that has defined the West Coast to this day. Added a cleaner sound/live instruments to beats (I know Stetasonic did as well but Dre brought that to the masses). A master professional. An underrated sampler (especially in his early days).

From 1988 to 1994, he had one of the greatest runs as a producer in history (NWA's last two albums and 100 Miles EP, D.O.C.'s debut, The Chronic, Doggystyle, "Deep Cover", Eazy-E's debut, "Natural Born Killaz"). The Quincy Jones of hip-hop changed his sound radically from NWA and D.O.C. to the Chronic to the heavy synth/piano beats he has now.

Still relevant over 20 years after Straight Outta Compton and still makes amazing beats (Hell Breaks Loose on Eminem's Refill), his beats still are a Grade A symbol of respectability.

1B/2. DJ Premier

Just like Dre defined the West, Primo defined the East. An incredible ear for sampling like few others, a knowledge of music that makes him an wealth of info when scratching in hooks, the ability to repeat a two-bar loop and make it sound fresh the whole way.

A beat from Primo meant you were legit. Just the fact that Ludacris was so honored to have him on Theater of the Mind lets you know how respected he is. He's made samples from the obscure (Chinese water torture for Jeru's Come Clean, the weird sound for Gang Starr's "Just to Get A Rep").

He made Gang Starr one of the greatest groups ever. Made nearly every rapper he worked with sound better (Nas, Jay-Z, Fat Joe) and made some ok-to-wack rappers sound better (Group Home's album might be the best produced album ever with wack MC's). Put it this way. I would listen to his instrumentals all day over Dr. Dre. Hands down you can take Dre vs. Primo and have a great argument on who's the best ever.

(Best thing about Dre and Premier, both still made some relevant music in the 2000's. A beat from both of them is solid gold)

3. RZA

When you mention the Wu as arguably the greatest group ever, RZA is a big reason why. Combining soul samples with martial arts samples to create unique beats, Bobby Digital created a new dirty sound filled with 70's Black culture.

Like Dre, he had an epic 5-year run (Wu-Tang's debut, Tical, Liquid Swords, Cuban Linx, ODB's debut, Ironman and culminating with Wu-Tang Forever). Each album sounded dramatically different yet kept the same RZA imprint. He was an original, chopping up samples to fit the beat, something that Kanye and others would copy in their own styles.

Just the fact that the sample for "Ice Cream" was discovered this past month lets know that he was a cratedigger on par with Primo or anybody else who's ever done it. Not to mention he's translating his success to movie scores and expanding his resume.

4. Pete Rock

I'll be honest, I really didn't know much bout Pete besides "T.R.O.Y." for most of my life. But then I heard his remix of Public Enemy's "Shut Em Down", Run DMC's "Down With the King", the original beat of "Juicy," Nas "The World Is Yours". Then I realized that the horns he used in his beats was a huge trademark like Primo's scratched in hooks or Dre's piano.

(And I just realized as I type this that he produced AZ's "Gimme Yours" - that beat is amazing!!)

His remixes were well known before P. Diddy trademarked it. And he's staying even more relevant today, producing joints with Talib Kweli, Method Man + Redman, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. A lot of hip hop fans today may be underrating him - myself included - but his mark in hip-hop is solid.

5. J Dilla

Dart Adams made a great point on Twitter last year. Dilla fans can be just as bad as Tupac fans with their worship of the late producer who tragically left us too soon. He's been elevated as the greatest producer ever and while I see the argument, I can't put him above the four I just mentioned.

What I can say is that Dilla had one of the best ears for sampling. His musicianship is on par with RZA and Dre. Donuts will go down as one of the best instrumental CD's ever and the final testament of his legacy while alive. The way he chopped and sampled songs or combined several samples was a tribute to his genius.

What I can say is that Dilla may be an underground hero but he had hits with the Pharcyde, Common, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Slum Village and others. He was a part of the legendary Soulquarians that had a great production run from 1999-2002.

If you wonder why hip-hop has shouted him out constantly the last four years, look up his tracks for the above, his work with Slum Village and pay respect to a producer many of us overlooked

6. Timbaland

Forget what he's done the last 2 years or so. Just go back to 1997 when he and Missy dropped "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" and it changed the sound of hip-hop. Heck, go back to Ginuwine "Pony" in 1996 and Aaliyah "One In A Million" to see how R&B changed.

They took hip-hop from straight sampling to computerized, future-sounding beats. Granted, I learned later that Timbo has an underrated sampler but he not only changed the sound of hip-hop, he changed his style a few times. Futuristic from 1997-99, incorporating foreign influences in 2000-2003, then changing the sound of pop music with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake.

His resume with Missy, Jay and Aaliyah speak for itself. His work with Bubba Sparxxx is severely underrated. You can literally see where hip-hop was before and after him. A big reason for the Neptunes and Swizz Beatz' success and style is dependent on him.

7. Marley Marl

Overlooked by most hip hop fans after the rise of Bad Boy signified the new direction of hip-hop, Marley is arguably the first superproducer of the genre. He formed the Juice Crew and not only produced their classic cut "The Symphony" but albums by them, including Big Daddy Kane's and Kool G. Rap and DJ Polo's classic debut.

He was the go-to-guy for LL Cool J's comeback - producing Mama Said Knock You Out. He also produced Eric B. & Rakim's classic debut singles "Eric B. For President" and "My Melody."And just when his time was thought to be passed, he helped find Lords of the Underground which led to their classic "Chief Rocka"

I respect what he did and when I heard UGK update his classic "Symphony" with Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane, it was one of my favorite moments on that album.

8. The Neptunes

The run that Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams had (still have?) epitomized the new superproducer era in hiphop. Starting with Noreaga's Superthug, they brought a stripped down sound using minimal drums, the occasional synths, and experimental sounds.

I grew up in high school and college on the Neptunes sound. They had the game on lock and just when their sound was dominating the airwaves, they came out with "Grindin" - one of the most minimal beats ever and an introduction to the Clipse. That beat was one of the best of the decade and showed that they could be innovative in their pop success.

Of course, they took a detour and produced "Hell Hath No Fury" - every producer needs a masterpiece album and this is it. Dark, ominous and creative. They made great songs for too many to name but they make the list for their quality as well as their wealth of hits (even got Common to make a spaced out b-boy record in "Universal Mind Control" - too bad, the single didn't match the album)

I was going to do Rick Rubin but as far as hip-hop, his resume (not understating his importance to the culture) falls in comparison to others like DJ Quik, Erick Sermon, Q-Tip, Madlib, MF Doom, Kanye West, 9th Wonder, DJ Paul + Juicy J and Just Blaze. And then if you include all urban music, you throw in Jimmy Jam + Terry Lewis and Jermaine Dupri. So like my boy Marsz said, I'm cutting it off at 8.

The list can go on. Large Professor is severely underrated as a producer/MC. Prince Paul was the mastermind behind De La Soul and 3rd Bass' albums along with other solid albums.

(And how did I forget the Bomb Squad?? Three of the most important albums ever - P.E.'s Nation of Millions, Fear of a Black Planet and Ice Cube's classic debut)

All 8 to me define the wide range of this thing we call hip-hop. The Golden Era, West Coast, East Coast, Underground, the Mainstream. All of them brought their own style and in a few years, we can definitely add some more to the list.

Friday, February 12, 2010

E-TV On Ice: My First Hockey Game

So yesterday I finally went to my first ever hockey game. It's something I've wanted to do since high school and I got the chance when the paper asked me to go to the Kings' Black History Night since we were sponsoring it.

A little history. Growing up in L.A., of course I knew about Wayne Gretzky and I even had the LA Gear #99 shoes. Like most kids of my generation, I watched the Mighty Ducks movies and that was my exposure to the game. Everyone wanted to be Charlie Conway or the Bash Bros. Fullman and Porter. Russ with the knucklepuck and most guys either liked Connie or Julie the Cat.

I remember the night Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe with his 802nd goal. I watched the Miracle at Staples when the Kings overcame a 3-0 deficit against Detroit in the 3rd to tie and win in OT. And I watched the Ducks Stanley Cup Finals run in 2003 (the last night I spent with my Dad, I listened to Game 3 on the radio on the way to the hospital and when they won in OT, it briefly brightened my night)

Prior to the game, I had interviewed Kings right winger Wayne Simmonds for a story and I was pretty psyched to see a Black hockey player on the team. So imagine my excitement as I walked into Staples Center and enjoyed the beautiful lights outside the arena.

It was tough keeping track of the line shifts because they happened so fast. I'm so used to bball subbing coming at dead balls but hockey subs come in live so you have to just watch the puck and keep track of the players eventually. It's fast as heck and that's why I couldn't tweet as much.

Before the game, they honored a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Claude Rogers. And Tichina Arnold from "Martin" sang the national anthem - who knew she could sing? Better yet, she did a phenomenal job. And dropping the puck was the legend himself - Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first black player.

I kept an eye on Simmonds mainly because I wanted to see if what I was told was true. He was physical and seemed like he was in the middle of every scrum when he was on the ice. But the Kings reminded me of the Lakers because they were explosive (over 40+ shots on goal). They turned a 2-0 deficit in the 3rd into a 2-2 game in the blink of an eye.

O'Ree - who is full of life and energy as anyone - came up to our box and I had to introduce myself to him. Knowing his story as well as I do, I just wanted to thank him for paving the way. He told me about the NHL's diversity program "Hockey Is For Everyone" as well as some of the racism he faced coming up. All he cared about was representing his teams to the best of his ability - a quote I heard so many Black baseball pioneers say back then. Living history.

When the Kings failed to score in OT, it went to a 10-round shootout (longest in team history). Tied at 1, I thought the roof would blow open when Simmonds came out. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and when he scored, everyone went nuts. The perfect ending for Black History Night right?

Wrong. The Kings goalie blew it on the next try and the team ended up losing 4-3 in the shootout. Go figure. But I was definitely psyched and ready for another game in the future. Who knows, maybe I'll follow the team more closely - they're young and could be talented for years. Even better, I love the experience of watching hockey live and for something I've wanted to see for years, it was worth it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who's A Racist? What's A Racist? (People Really Can't Tell These Days)

John Mayer made my day off a pretty thoughtful one. He had me read a Playboy interview for the first time in my life (via the BB) and went from a cocky, honest dude to an emotionally honest man in the span of sunrise to sunset. Give a man props for being so upset at the uproar he caused that he wasn't afraid to break down in front of fans.

For those who missed it, here's what he said.

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

People flipped over him using the N-word without reading the full context of what he said. Matter of fact. I wonder if people even read what he said afterwards.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

If that's not real talk, I don't know what is. This is why I respect this guy and so many others do. He gets it. If anything John Mayer was arrogant for using the word and his later comments on why he doesn't date Black women

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My d--k is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a f***n’ David Duke c--k. I’m going to start dating separately from my d--k.

Yea my dude was stupid and reckless (and if folks could comprehend better, he didnt say he wouldn't date Black women, he just never explored it) And he admitted as much later on when he cried on stage after apologizing. He was the same way in describing Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson. He wants to be accepted so much and he's still the hyper self-conscious dude I saw accept his first Grammy in 2002. I'm still down with him and anybody with a brain can see he wasn't malicious or racist but stupid.

It's funny the age we live in. Like Chris Rock said, this is the first time where White men have to actually be careful with what they say. And for the first time, White people are quick to call someone racist before minorities do (see Harry Reid).

I think the word "racist" is overblown and calling someone that 90% of the time shows how far behind we are in effectively discussing race. It's the new thing to do - brand someone as a racist to show how offended we are. But the problem is that we lack the ability to determine whether or not something is actually racist or merely just racial or ignorant.

Let's define a racist by what racism is courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary: The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

To be a racist means you have to show a lot of evidence believing that one race is better than the other or discriminate someone based on it. Obviously it's all about your actions not just your words. And I dare someone to prove Harry Reid or John Mayer or Jimmy The Greek or Howard Cossell were racist because if you look at their lives, there's far more evidence to the contrary.

Comments can be racial and offensive or they can be plain ignorant - which to me is worse. Ignorant comments mean that the person didn't think before they said it and what makes it worse is when people don't realize how bad those comments were.

But most of the time people make RACIAL comments that can be offensive and doesn't mean they are racist or the comments were racist. It means they are stupid and need to be called out for being stupid, but not racist. Funny how most well-reasoned people I follow on Twitter didn't overreact to what Mayer said once they read the full quote and the context.

Like I said with Reid, it's sad that we lack the ability to gauge how bad someone's comments are and give them an appropriate reaction when we look at it.

Calling someone racist is the new "playing the race card." So before you call someone a racist, think twice. Do you want to feel good about yourself? Then show people that you can be offended AND call it what it is without being overdramatic.

I'm down with John Mayer *plays Vultures*

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Straight Talk to These Tea Party Folks

I took a watch at the first ever Tea Party Convention just to see what to fuss is about after their rally last year. The rally to me felt reactionary and it almost felt like it lacked a purpose outside of people being mad at the government. But watching the convention it's clear this movement is defined by hatred and disgust with the Obama Administration and it's attracting all kinds of people.

Sarah Palin's speech to me showed exactly why she is not capable to lead on a big stage. All she did was take potshots at President Obama, shoot down the idea of bipartisanship, criticize the slow progress of Congress and express some of the frustrations of the members (not to mention suggesting starting a war with Iran). Notice I didn't say any counter proposals which says two things.

I didn't remember them because of what I just said and she didn't really offer any. She was right in saying she didn't want to lead the movement because frankly she can't. When asked afterwards if she had any plans to counter Obama's, she said her plan to is support those who are in the movement.

That's not leadership folks. That's cheerleading. That's rallying the troops but not telling them what to fight for outside of core conservative Republican values.

Here's some advice to members of this Tea Party Convention.

1) Dial down the extreme rhetoric. Nobody will take you serious if you keep having posters comparing Obama to Hitler, calling for voter literacy tests and talk about whether he's a natural citizen. It's extreme language that appeals to fanatics and no movement appeals to well-minded people without reason.

Understand that the media is going to highlight this. They want to show the crazies, they want the ignorant. And if you keep promoting this, you'll blow up in flames.

2) Stop saying Take My Country Back. You have to understand what this means to some people. Do you mean take it back to the 1950's and 1960's - a time when minorities/women were second class citizens? Do you mean the Reagan era - a President who was a polarizing figure but known as a Great Communicator? Do you mean a time before a Black man was elected President?

It has serious implications and again, it won't invite people into a meaningful dialogue. Again, you have to understand the connotations.

3) Are you an independent party or a branch of the Republican party? Most of the frustration is at both parties but it feels like they are leaning towards merging with the Republicans (Palin hinted at this). Either way, have a clear identity besides being upset with taxation.

4) Study some economic theory. The Great Depression started in 1929 and didn't magically end when FDR took over in 1932. Any plans that were initiated by President Obama in 2009 will not be seen until late this year or early 2011. So to criticize the unemployment rate falling in spite of their efforts is fair but premature.

(That said, Mr. Obama needs to actively describe how jobs will be created. His plan needs to be clear and great stump speeches are not enough. People want results and despite what I said, this is something you must do in 2010).

I respect the "power" of this movement - and by that I mean they are a movement - but I cannot take them seriously when they'd cause rabble instead of promote dialogue. They won't appeal to independents or youth voters unless they appeal to reason. Meghan McCain rightly said that no successful movement started with 60-year-olds, but the youth.

And when you're supported by the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world - men who directly appeal to emotion and outlandish ideas - it's hard to be embraced. It feels too extreme for my liking and I fear that their anger will cause some nutjob to do something horrible.

Straight talk from one man to another. This movement may have some legitimate issues but its being overshadowed by extremism and miseducation. They want to be populist and don't want to have a leader but they need some more solid direction or else this high-powered SUV will crash.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Congrats Saints

New Orleans is probably going to party all week after the Super Bowl. Mardi Gras is tomorrow and you bet it'll be the most epic one that city has ever seen. And even though I rooted for the Colts, I'm happy for the city, my Fatherland. Talking with Mom and from what I know about him, Dad wouldn't be going crazy but he'd be pretty pleased.

I wasn't surprised at how the game went - my buddy Tyler predicted on Twitter that whoever played defense first would win. And in the 4th Q Tracy Porter turned what was going to be a game-tying drive by the Colts into Game Over and Party on Bourbon St (ironically the only turnover of the game)

So much for Drew Brees being too short to play in the NFL (MVP with 32-38 passing). So much for the Saints defense not being legit. I'm happy for the President aka Reggie Bush but I'm glad we didn't get many shots of Kim K and her family during the game.

Sean Payton made one of the ballsiest calls I've seen in a SB. The onside kick to start the 2nd half changed the game and as far as I'm concerned, he's a Top 5 mistake under Jerry Jones' watch after he let him go to the Saints.

As far as Peyton Manning's legacy, it's a blow but if not for a bad read on a play, he ties that game because both teams were marching up and down the field with ease. But the Saints were going to probably win because as soon as the Colts potentially scored with maybe 3 minutes left, they would've marched down the field and Hartley kicks his 4th FG to win it.

I really enjoyed the Doritos commercials (far and away the best was the lil kid). I didn't get to hear the Google commercial but it looked simple and effective. Like I said, the Tim Tebow ad was much ado about nothing and I chuckled at its silliness. Bud Light had fails all around - the auto-tune ad showed exactly why it needs to die in music, it was annoying overkill. Did in 30 seconds what Jay-Z couldn't do in 4 minutes.

Oh yeah, the most shocking ad was seeing Dave Letterman and Jay Leno in the same spot. That was a huge shock!! Made Oprah Winfrey take a back seat because people know how much the two of them don't like each other. That was like watching Jay-Z and Nas together 5 years ago except I doubt Leno and Letterman will be on each other's show any more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Bowl Sundae...topped with plenty of goodies

I'm ready for this game to start. The only good thing about the Pro Bowl being the week before is that we don't have to worry about 2 weeks of hype. The game is a bit of a conflict for me as far as who I'm rooting for so let me lay this out on why I could root for both teams.

Reasons why I like the Colts in this game

1. I respect the organization. The class of men like Bill Polian, former coach Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. It's a well run team and unlike the Patriots and Steelers, they don't have that bad-guy vibe.

2. Manning's had his best season this year making no-name guys like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie shine as much as Dallas Clark. In every game they tried to win, they've won with methodical precision and don't sleep on Shonn Greene as a solid RB. I root for Manning because I like watching him play and multiple rings dont hurt his resume.

3. Jim Caldwell proving that the Rooney Rule (despite my issues with it) is working and could make Black coaches 3-1 in the Super Bowl.

Reasons why I like the Saints.

1. Recovering from Katrina and what a win means for the city. Not more needs to be said.

2. Big fan of Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. San Diego connections aside, Brees runs that offense to perfection and it's fun to watch/hard to stop. And of course, I've been a fan of Bush since he was running wild at USC. I'm rooting for him to have a great career and lately he's showing how he effective he can be when used right. Hard to believe Brees was a 2nd round pick because of size.

3. Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem helped me out big time in fantasy the last two years. All of them are 25 and younger - and Colston was a 7th rd pick who may the biggest draft steal in recent memory

4. My dad's family is from New Orleans. I know he'd probably be happy right now to watch this.

So as you can see it's hard for me to settle on a pick. There's a lot at stake but I'm rolling with Indy because I think the Saints won't get to Manning like they did Brett Favre and he can pick them apart just like he did the Jets - who had a better front seven in my opinion. That said, the Saints do have a better secondary and with Dwight Freeney not at 100%, they could easily pull off the win (It wont be a major upset to me).

But I'm pulling for the Colts. If Tony Romo could pick that 2ndary apart, Peyton can do it. Don't bother asking me for a point spread, I'm gonna sit at my church's annual party and enjoy a great game. My "lil bro" is a Colts fan and with a recent passing in his family (and my church family), I hope the game brings him some joy.

Sidenote: I'll always remember the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego. The night before the game, me and a bunch of roomates went downtown and it was overwhelmed with Raider fans. They outnumbered Tampa fans at least 10 to 1 and thankfully I didn't see any Raider fan hooliganism. It was the first time I ever rooted for the Raiders and they let me down - but at least watching the fireworks from halftime and during the game from our party in my freshman dorm was pretty sick.

As for the commercials, there's two on my mind. I'm curious to see the Super Bowl Shuffle remake with the 85 Bears 25 years older. And a bold E-TV prediction, Tim Tebow's much debated commercial will be much ado about nothing. Abortion, like race and gay marriage, is one of those issues that people will go crazy over without thinking it clearly and I'm pretty sure the commercial will be nothing - no matter who sponsors it.

Since my freshman year of college - I always have to play the Peanut Butter Wolf remix of "Super Bowl Sundae" by Ozomatli. So I share with you all. You'll definitely see my thoughts on Twitter - last year's game I made the mistake of connecting my Twitter with Facebook so it was constantly updated.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

End of an Era (Thank you L.T.)

It was the saddest I've felt since Emmitt Smith started a decline with the Cowboys. LaDainian Tomlinson telling the San Diego Union Tribune today that his career with the Chargers is over. Even though we saw it coming, it's still sad it has to end this way.

I'll get to the numbers in a minute but I'll share some personal testimonies. Coming to San Diego for college in 2002, I never saw a city rally around a team like they did the Chargers and I had just left a city fresh off a Lakers three-peat. I had never been around a football environment before in person so I was dazzled by the love the city had for its team. At the center of it all was Tomlinson - who I saw demolish the WAC at TCU in high school and only happened to be there because the team traded away the No. 1 pick for Michael Vick.

(I always wonder what if that trade never went down....Vick becomes a freak in San Diego? Does LT have the career he does in Atlanta? And what about Drew Brees, who was drafted in the 2nd round? - that trade affected three teams if you count New Orleans)

The city loved LT like they loved any of their past icons. Tony Gwynn is Mr. Padre and you almost forget that he earned his stripes in Long Beach, he's a San Diego icon. Same with Kellen Winslow, Trevor Hoffman, Pastor Miles McPherson of the Rock Church down there - if you played sports and made an impact, you are beloved. And LT earned it with his charity work and friendly persona.

In 2007 and 2008, after I started working for the paper I had the chance to meet LT at this local radio award show for ESPN. I almost didn't want to be in a picture with him but I'm glad I did. He greeted everyone warmly and in 08 when I asked him about his injury, he was gracious to share how his recovery was going. It's still one of the highlights of my career (and yes, this is the first pic of myself I've posted on the blog)

On the field, his work speaks for itself. 8th all time in rushing yards, 3rd in total TD's, holds several NFL records (including most TD's (rushing and overall) in a season). One of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen and one of the greatest seasons in league history - his MVP season of 2006 that was absolutely special to behold.

I remember when he set the season TD record, he said he wanted his linemen there to share it. He wasn't showy but always businesslike and he earned the respect of his peers and NFL legends for it.

I saw the decline in 2008 when he couldn't go in the AFC Title game. The season after was a tough grind where Darren Sproles became the bigger go-to-guy showing off speed that Tomlinson started losing. Then came the playoff win against Indy where Sproles dominated and LT was on the sidelines. I said before the year that if he wanted to save his career, the team needed to split carries. But the speed wasn't there, the burst was gone and he was reduced to a power back most of the year.

The end was near and no matter how much Chargers fans wanted him to stay, we knew that LT was no longer what he was. The running game was a liability, no longer a strength, And at least he was classy enough to make his decision so the team can draft a solid tailback in the upcoming draft.

For a city that has seen too many of its players leave early (Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, the aforementioned Hoffman), LT joins the list of players who left their mark in the 619 but won't close the final chapter of their book there. He was easily my favorite player of the decade and it's fitting he reminded me of Emmitt Smith (my all-time favorite) because he idolized him growing up in Texas.

Stay classy, LT. Good luck with the rest of your career and Chargers fans everywhere - especially in San Diego - thank you for the memories.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lil Wayne is no Ice-T - A Brief History of Rappers Who Rock

So Lil Wayne's Rebirth is finally out in stores and sadly it has that dreadful "Prom Queen" single on it. It's been a year since i heard it and i still can't that ugly yell out of my head. The LA Times' hip-hop guru Jeff Weiss pretty much obliterated the album as being as bad as I thought it would be.

I heard a quote from Wayne that said this wasn't a typical rock album but what he thought rock should be. Great, so an occasionally talented rapper (when he's focused, he's solid) is going to change the sound of another genre? Riiiiiight.

Put it this way, if Weezy was a white rocker who said he wanted to rap, we'd call him a poseur. We'd laugh at him for trying to be something he's obviously not. So i'm flipping on Black dudes who are trying to be rockers but don't know jack about rock music. I've done this since the Shop Boyz (aka Party Like A Rock Star) said they had no idea who Kurt Cobain was.

About 20 years ago, another well-known rapper made the cross into rock. But unlike Wayne, he knew his history all the way to its Black origins. He knew he couldn't just do it for kicks because rock back then was starting to get harder. Groove metal was taking over and with Metallica and Guns' N Roses leading the way away from hair metal, he had to bring that same edge from rap into rock.

Enter Ice-T's heavy metal band Body Count. Unlike Wayne, Ice got credible Black musicians he went to high school with and they wrote fiery songs describing their surroundings as well as being Black artists in a predominantly White art form. It was pure Black rage and Ice was actually singing, not rapping (check this cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe")

It was hard, it was aggressive and it was a statement. Most people know about the uproar over "Cop Killer" but if you listen to "Born Dead" or "There Goes the Neighborhood", you can tell Ice wasn't playing. This was real - he went on Lollapalooza and got support. He did a song with Slayer on the Judgment Night soundtrack.

Wayne sounds like he's playing around with guitars, Ice was trying to have a true metal band and he got respect from rock heads just because he was doing it right. Not posing.

Here's some more tracks and artists who truly went "wild like rock stars who smash guitars" (c) Inspectah Deck

Public Enemy - When they linked up with Anthrax for "Bring The Noise" in 1991, it was historic. Chuck D and Flav already shouted them out in the original so it was a perfect blend. But the group already showed their rock chops with "She Watch Channel Zero" from Nation of Millions - they came with it over a classic Slayer track. They tour today with a full on band and still rock as hard as they did 20 years ago.

Run DMC - the fathers of this genre. DMC said that they weren't trying to be the best in hip-hop, they want to be the kings of rock so that's why they had songs were heavy on guitars. "Rock Box", "King of Rock", and of course "Walk This Way". The list goes on - you should already know their credentials.

The D.O.C. - "Beautiful But Deadly": I only heard this track when I finally got my hands on No One Can Do It Better, a gem of an album that lets you know how sad it was his voice was forever altered. Anyways, he goes hard over a riff from Funkadelic and does his own take on "Poison" before Bell Biv Devoe even thought of it.

Jay-Z "99 Problems" - yeah he borrowed the title and hook from Ice-T and he took the opening of the last verse from Bun-B. This was one of his finest songs and if you can't bang your head to this, stop reading and go enjoy some good music. Hard guitars, hard drums (c/o of "The Big Beat" - one of hip-hop's great samples).

Lil Jon "Stop F***in With Me" - another Rick Rubin production and another dope Slayer sample. Jon said he wanted to create a hip-hop version of Suicidal Tendencies "Institutionalized" and he did. To me, this is crunk as anything he's ever done. Listen while driving and it'll be hard to stay focused.

That's just a sample of how genres have crossed over well. Of course Rage Against the Machine is a perfect example too and they're one of my favorite bands but I wanted to keep this solely hip-hop to show you that these "hard rock" songs rappers do now lack the bite and the edge.

So a word of advice to Lil Wayne. Stick to your day job. You already released a great mixtape last year in No Ceilings. Get focused on make your next album better and stop trying to be a poseur. This could be one of the biggest flops in recent memory and if the label doesnt want it to fail, release Drop The World so they can hear Eminem murder the track and this album.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Taylor Swift and the Grammys

I warned that my post about the 2010 Grammys would be loaded with hate if Taylor Swift won. Let's get down to business.

Despite the nominations, I was surprised she won Album of the Year just because Beyonce had won Song of the Year and Taylor had only won awards in her genre. The fact that B had six awards pretty much set her up to win AOTY. But alas, Swift became the youngest ever to win the big trophy.

So what Grammy has said is that a 19 year old wrote the best album of the year????? Let me scratch my head over that. It's bogus. It's a sham. It's buying the hype. But it's more interesting than anything. And if you know me, I'm a man of reason.

Some of the previous young AOTY winners - Alanis Morrisette (20), Stevie Wonder (24). And Alanis is a great place to start because like Taylor, she had a colossal album with hits and dominated the charts for over a year. Of course, the difference is that Alanis had more edge to her.

Like Taylor, Alanis was hailed as a songwriter matured beyond her years and let's face it - You Oughta Know is one of the best kiss-offs in recent memory. Her songwriting struck a nerve with not just women but dudes as well.

Alanis won 4 Grammys that night - just like Taylor, 3 in her genre (rock) and the big one. Am I trying to indirectly compare both of them? Well yeah and no.

Alanis as a songwriter 20 >>>>> Taylor at 19. Taylor couldn't write a song like "Ironic" but then again, she didn't have the wide range of personal experiences Alanis had either.

So don't tell me Taylor is more than anything than just a voice for girls - as a writer, she may speak for her age group very well but Alanis spoke to young women, older women and had men feeling her too. And I wont even bother throwing in better writers at 19-20 - I'll just say that Taylor is probably no different than Avril Lavigne songwriting wise at that age and I really like Avril (and again, dudes liked her too - most of my friends freshman year had crushes on her)

Plus the Grammys typically reward veterans because they know that an artist's best work lies ahead. I just don't see how Taylor has deserved it artistically yet.

This is not knocking her skill. Taylor has musical chops and sounds decent on record (live - she comes off a bit timid). Plus, she's a sweetheart and seems down to earth. But AOTY??? Nah, son.

(Yeah, I'm still mad Maxwell didn't get nominated in this category. But I'll happy when D'Angelo sees his comeback and starts working on his too. Moving along.....)

Quick hits
- I really like Beyonce's performance and speaking of Alanis, she did a solid cover. For all my dislike of her, she is still a phenomenal live performer. Raw energy, creativity and a show stopper
- The Michael Jackson tribute. Didn't really need the 3D glasses to appreciate it - Carrie Underwood blew me away, Usher showed the emotion that song carried. Smokey's beautiful voice wasn't the best fit but knowing how much he loved MJ, I was happy to see him. The performance was moving, powerful and made me really miss the man who made all that happen. That said, I would've loved to see some dancing - maybe it was a chance to show MJ's heart and message?
- Prince and Paris Jackson did their father proud. Simple, elegant and a reminder of the man MJ was.
- Pink's performance was a thing of beauty. Felt like a symbolic baptism?? I love how Pink has evolved the last 10 years from R&B to alt-rock to pop with an edge. Truly an artist.
- I loved the Kings of Leon winning for Record of the Year. All the hard work they've put in getting respect here in America has finally paid off.
- Jamie Foxx....*facepalm*, that performance was one big mess. I swear that dude is so talented and he's wasting it because of his ego. Tell me why he had Slash up there basically recycling the ending riff from "November Rain"? It was fitting he had Robert Downey Jr. introduce him because both have big egos - difference is, Downey comes off as aloof, Foxx as a fool.
- Lady Gaga actually looked and appeared normal, except for that Slinky she wore on the red carpet. For one night, I'd actually consider she looked....nah I wont say that, just nice. And good touch playing the keys with Elton John
- Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige's performance was a gift from the heavens.

I won't speak much on the awards but Eminem and Jay sweeping the rap category, Black Eyed Peas winning two pop awards says it all (and I liked Relapse more than Blueprint 3). Congrats to the winners. Now we'll see what happens down the road.