Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Elegy for Jose Lima, Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper

I've been meaning to do a tribute blog to Jose Lima, who passed away a week ago after a sudden heart attack. Then we recently lost Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper. Since they always say death comes in 3's, there's no better tribute than combining reflections of all three in one post.

Jose Lima was one of my favorite characters growing up. He pitched with style and flair and he had a genuine joy for the game. I used to love hearing him come on Jim Rome's radio show because he'd always talk about Lima Time and get Jim excited. Most athletes were just ok interviews but outside of Rex Hudler, Lima was probably my favorite because of his personality.

In 1999, Lima won 21 games for Houston and I remember him telling Rome that he'd give him the 20-win ball. All summer long, I followed him as he went to the All-Star Game and racked up the win. When he got to 20, I knew it'd be a great show and sure enough, Lima did it. 11 years later, one of the coolest moments I've heard on the radio.

Even when he fell into a huge funk in 2000 and gave up 48 homers, he never lost his passion. It was always Lima Time even when he fell to Independent League ball. His last moment of glory will go down in Dodgers history - Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. A five-hit shutout that I remember running back to see the final outs for.

It was the first postseason win for the Dodgers since the 1988 World Series. We ended up losing the series but to see Lima point to the sky and celebrate the biggest win we had in 16 years - it was the culmination of him being a lifesaver that year. He went 13-5 and his last pitch was one we'll never forget.

So sad that he was at the stadium only two days before his died. The last photo of him symbolizes what he brought to the game - joy, passion, optimism. Always Lima Time forever - believe it!

Gary Coleman never seemed to have a sense of peace about him. Despite the fact that he was one of the biggest child stars ever, he could never escape the image of being Arnold Jackson, that overplayed catch phrase and being a short actor.

(To that matter, none of the three kids on Diff. Strokes could ever escape their characters. That entire show was perhaps the first troubled sitcom where the main players' drama was played out for all to see. Makes you appreciate Todd Bridges cleaning up a lot more. Something I might explore in another blog though.)

It seemed like whatever happiness he found, it was followed by a series of troubles. Suing his parents about his trust fund, punching a woman who aggravated him. He never found a great sense of closure after the show and I blame it partly on him not getting enough respect.

Child stardom is a double edged sword - they'll be insanely famous at an age when most kids can only dream of it but they'll spend the rest of their lives trying to escape it and possibly go mad in the process.

Diff'rent Strokes left the air by the time I was barely a year old but we all knew the catchphrase in elementary school. Gary Coleman went from a beloved star to a punchline. I don't think we knew his personal life as well because it seemed all we heard was the troubles - not the charity work or see him at his happiest.

I'll choose to remember him having a fun cameo in Kid Rock's video for "Cowboy" - ironically fighting Rock's late partner Joe C. I hope he's laughing with Dana Plato as they are both finally at peace.

Peace also finally came to Dennis Hopper, who had battled prostate cancer for a long while. If anyone defined cool and unpredictability, it was him. I didn't know that he directed and co-wrote "Easy Rider" until today which let me know of his talent.

That movie defined cool but for me - I'll remember him for being Shooter in "Hoosiers." Rare is the sports movie that gets Academy Award attention but to get an Oscar nomination for playing an assistant coach who battled alcohol to watch his son play? It's impressive. Try not to hold it in when he coaches the final play of one the games.

Knowing that he struggled with the bottle - that role was probably as emotionally helpful as Samuel Jackson being the crackhead Gator Purify in "Jungle Fever"

He also directed "Colors" - one of the first movies to describe the gang culture of Los Angeles. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall may have carried it well as actors but the movie, along with its Ice-T theme song, defined a new era and stands as one of the best films describing my city.

We'll remember him for those last commercials he did for the baby boomers of his era. Hip hop will remember him in "Victory" as a cameo in P. Diddy's apocalyptic epic. He was a rebel who did things his way and kept his cool. He was a villain who somehow endeared people to him. A talented actor with an independent streak who earned respect.

Three gone, but forever remembered in their own way. May they rest in peace

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Digging into De La Soul

I grew up barely being exposed to hip-hop but I still knew about "Me, Myself and I", a positive song from this Long Island trio of pseudo hippies (wait, no they weren't, that's pure Plug 4). The more I got into hip hop last decade, I kept hearing them mentioned among the greatest groups ever but it didn't make sense to me.

Knowing De La Soul's history - I thought they fell off after Buhloone Mindstate (Breakadawn is still among one of my favorite songs and I remember some classmates did a science rap to it in 5th grade). I remember hearing "Ooh" but I guess they were just that constant group that made solid albums but not make an impact since their debut.

The funny thing was that I never heard 3 Feet High or De La Soul is Dead all the way through. Then I read a blog from Phonte of Little Brother who said that in 1996 that "Stakes is High" along with "It Was Written" helped create the commercial vs. underground divide. Then I saw De La at Rock the Bells in 08 and they made me a bigger fan.

After having a few singles on my ipod (Roller Skating Jam still must be played every Saturday) I finally bought all three albums last month - part of my first major Amazon purchase by the way. All I have to say is what the heck took me so long???

3 Feet High is one of the great sampling masterpieces in hip-hop (along with It Takes a Nation of Millions and Paul's Boutique). But it's also a great piece of cohesion where the skits and songs put you in a great mood. It's an example of what music should be. Start to finish, it just makes me feel good.

Plus the sampling is ridiculous. "Eye Know" and "Potholes in My Lawn" are just examples of great songs combined with a mixture of songs that you don't think go well together.

*sidenote, shout out to my Amazon seller that gave me the 20th anniversary edition with some extra tracks!*

Then you have De La Soul is Dead - the title says it all, the end of the so-called hippie phase. It's not an about face musically, it keeps things going with a hint that its about to get real. Case in point: "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" - the rap version of "Janie's Got a Gun."

Both albums are long but don't feel like it. They take you through an experience and it makes you appreciate Prince Paul's genius as a producer. Musically they have little peer but there's still some great lines on here that show you why Pos, Trugoy and Maceo are underrated lyricists.

Nowhere is this clear than on Stakes is High. It almost sounds like the blueprint for how to do an underground album - criticize the mainstream, come correct on dope beats, talk about the old days, and stay true to yourself. It's a call to arms to get back to the essence.

The title track says it all and it's still relevant today. After coming hard in the song with Trugoy and a young J Dilla, Pos' last verse just hits you with some realness. There's great songs in "Supa Emcees", "Tha Bizness" with Common and "Big Brother Beat" with Mos Def.

Basically, if you haven't listened to 3 Feet or DLSID (and they're both hard to find at most major retailers), get on it.

Now back to my currently listening slate - Distant Relatives (Nas/Damian Marley), Revolutions Per Minute (Talib Kweli/Hi Tek's reunion) and LeftBack (Little Brother's swan song - which reminds me I'm missing their final show in LA tomorrow). And Janelle Monae on deck? I'm set for a while.

Somehow I'll get around to Janelle Monae. Anyways, here's "Eye Know" - smile everybody.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zoned Out and Going Back to Staples

I'm calm like a bomb although the people of the Sun are making rage against this college machine Phoenix is running.

The Lakers just looked awful against a college defense with an intense college-style crowd behind them. As a team, you should be insulted that the bench dominated Game 4 and ashamed that you can't show why the zone defense was illegal in the NBA until recently.

And yet, I'm calm. Calm because I know that the Lakers will win Game 5 on Thursday. Phoenix's shots won't fall as easily and the Lakers will hit a few more.

But it's time to know your enemy. Alvin Gentry has made the best coaching adjustment of the postseason and it's time for Phil Jackson to show his smarts by not sending his team back into battle with the same plan.

The 2-3 zone has exposed the Lakers' lack of a point guard who cant attack it (hence why you don't see teams running it) and when that happens, people rely on the jump shot. You don't beat a zone by passing around it and trying to shoot corner 3's, you attack it with screens and rotate to the openings.

The reason the NBA didn't allow it was because NBA players could easily pick it apart with great shooting, screen-and-rolls, exploiting the open spaces with mid-range jumpers or penetrating to draw a double team. Give a team a great point guard and it gets shredded like government cheese (see Kobe's back to back games with 10 assists).

Of course in today's NBA, the midrange J is a lost art but with all the great PG's we see now, there's no way a team should be getting beat by it.

It says something when Lamar Odom has a double/double, Andrew Bynum has a decent game, Kobe has 38 and 10 and the team still loses. Way too much outside shooting and an invisible bench - just the opposite of what Phoenix did.

I'll say this on record. I have NEVER seen a bench stay in a game that late in the fourth quarter except in a blowout. That was one of the best collective bench performances I've seen and Goran Dragic just might be the best backup PG in the game as far as how well he fills in for Nash with the same style.

The Suns can sleep now in the fire because when they wake up, they'll see why home cooking doesn't work on the road. This is on Phil Jackson to prepare his team better and find some way to adjust because even though it's not panic time, Phoenix doesn't have pressure on them.

And for the love of Purple and Gold, somebody please attack this zone and shred it. At least Boston will play like us men but the "girly defense" should have the Lakers just as pissed as Kobe looked in his press conference.

Revenge comes Thursday.

Rock The Bells 2010 - Classics Galore!

The best hip-hop festival in the country has revealed its lineup this year and contrary to rumor - Lauryn Hill is not headlining. However, she will be there in some capacity, let's hope that includes singing/rapping pleeeeeease.

Here's my rundown of the big ones.

- KRS-One doing Criminal Minded - never seen the Teacher live so this will be cool (Fresh for 2010, youuuuu suuuuckas!!!)
- Rakim doing Paid in Full: I saw Ra back at the 08 Rock the Bells. Not a great performer live but just hearing him rock classics like "I Aint No Joke" "I Know You Got Soul" and "My Melody" again will be dope.
- Slick Rick doing his debut: "Children's Story" was the first rap song I knew by heart and I've never seen the Ruler perform.
- Wu-Tang Clan performing 36 Chambers: Anyone who knows hip-hop knows this has one of the hardest intros in history. Bring the Ruckus!!!!!

To be fair, the Wu have been represented at Rock the Bells quite often since their last show with Ol Dirty Bastard in 04. I saw them in 07 and Meth, Ghost and Rae in 08. Still worth seeing full force but I'm disappointed there wasn't a surprise that made you say whoa like Lauryn Hill or a reunited Goodie Mob (who's worked with Guerilla Union before).

I'm hyped to see the Clipse and Yelawolf. Yelawolf's a dope MC from the South that got some good run on Late Night with Hot 97's Peter Rosenberg and of course the Clipse have classic joints to rock for days.

Best news is that they left the awful amphitheater in Devore and are taking this back to the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino. I've heard its a better arena so we'll see what happens. And for once, it doesn't coincide with my Pastor's annual banquet so I'm there.

They've scaled back RTB considerably - only four shows and none international - and even though that sucks a bit, it's the economy, stupid (c) James Carville. Let's hope the quality of the show and the fan turnout doesn't get affected.

*wishes for Ice Cube, Ms. Hill or Goodie Mob among the surprises to be named later.*

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tick, Tock....End Game (24 says Goodbye)

I'm still in a daze surrounding the last two Bauer Hours. I had my predictions but they didn't come true. It's crazy that the show my Mondays revolved around is finally done and this finale meant a lot to me because 24 is probably the first show that I watched from its entirety.

I remember in high school when the series premiere was postponed because of 9/11. The masses weren't ready for a show centered around a terrorist plot and it was pushed back to January. But when it came on, I was blown away.

The show felt like a mini-movie. Fast-paced, complex, dense, and a different feel than shows around at the time. It was a show for the post 9/11 era and it defined the changing times where terrorism was real and the global world became something we all needed to be aware of. If the attacks shook us up as Americans, 24 was the show to deal with what came out of the blender.

It was a gamble to make essentially a mini-series into 1-hr drama episodes. If it flopped, it would be a huge failure but because it didn't, we now see it's offspring in shows like "Lost" and and "Flash Forward." It may not have been Top 10 popular, but 24 was undeniably influential.

For me, each episode was critical. If I couldn't see it, I recorded it on tape - I remember having a double tape of "7th Heaven" and "24" back in high school. When I went to college, everything shut down on Mondays. No AIM, no Internet, no work, no phone calls, just Jack Bauer and CTU's latest plot to save the country.

Season 5 ranks as one of the best TV seasons in recent memory. Not only did Jack rise to the occasion after being left for dead, the introduction of Pres. Charles Logan and his wife finally gave the show some great characters to match with Bauer. Plus the storyline was so intricate and twisting (a plot involving Logan himself) that it felt like the show was at its peak.

The last season for 24 had one of the worst starts ever for a great show. It literally was gonna be the Jack Bauer Hour because when he wasn't around, the show suffered. But then it had one of the greatest rebounds for a TV season in recent memory, climaxing with something happening to Jack that I didn't expect.

It's the end of an era. A show that told us about terrorism and eventually about ourselves and our thirst for the truth no matter what. One of the best TV shows of the new millennium and a big part of me growing up (not to mention introducing me to Elisha Cuthbert!)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reflecting on Malcolm X

(This is a piece I co-wrote on Malcolm X is celebration of his birthday this past Wednesday - I've long believed him to be among the most misunderstood figures of the 20th century and I consider him a personal inspiration)
As published in the Los Angeles Sentinel, May 20, 2010
With his 85th birthday celebration this week, his message resonates as boldly as they did 50 years ago

By Evan Barnes, Sentinel Sports Editor
and Nicholas P. Quarles, Sentinel Intern

45 years after his death, Malcolm X remains one of the most captivating figures of the 20th century and his impact among Black people worldwide remains as vital as it did in the 1950's and 60's.

He also remains among one of the most misunderstood individuals of the 20th century. A man whose fiery, unapologetic persona overshadowed the eloquence he shared in articulating the Black struggle in America and then worldwide.

To Black people, Malcolm he remains the shining prince that the late actor Ossie Davis spoke of at his eulogy. To White people and others today, he epitomizes standing for what you believe and not letting the powers that be dictate how you should live.

May 19 would have been his 85th birthday and we'll take a look at reasons why his message remains as alive as ever.


Malcolm spent six years in prison for larceny and burglary. Unlike many activists and leaders, he was sentenced for criminal behavior and being a wayward youth.

While in jail, he was mentored by a fellow prisoner and it was there he began to change from Malcolm Little, the convict, to Malcolm X, the leader and future member of the Nation of Islam.

He read more, devoted himself to the teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and when he was released, he was ready to act on his conversion.

How many people have read his story and found inspiration to not let their past define them? For many, he represents the everyday man who realizes he could be greater than he was.

He remains an example of 'it's-not-how-you-start-your-life but how you change it.' We can see that in reformed criminals who distance themselves from their past and work to help others avoid it.


Not since the legendary figure Marcus Garvey had someone been so vocal without calling for accommodation. Malcolm X was a leader who stood tall (6 feet, 3 inches) and spoke with no fear.

For years since the Civil War, Black people protested how they were treated in America. Those who dared being abrasive faced being lynched or run out of the country like Marcus Garvey.

With the country's mood starting to change in the 1950's, Malcolm's voice carried on the messages of Garvey and W.E.B. Dubois, and it struck a chord with people tired of waiting for change.

A gifted orator, he attacked racism by confronting it more head on. He openly denounced America and its crimes against Black people. He also advocated that Blacks should be more self-sufficient in improving their communities.

His message was simple. The days of sitting back and waiting for change were over. It was time for Black people to not just demand better, but make themselves better as well.

"Education is our passport to the future," he said, "For tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

He demanded that Black people know their history, calling it as essential as any other educational ideal. His way with words and his message inspired many to join the Nation of Islam, and better themselves.

The idea of self-sufficiency was inspiring to Black people who had already lived this motto for nearly a century since freedom. His abrasive talk laid the seeds for the student and Black Power movements in the next decade.

By the early 1960's, his voice may have scared mainstream America and the more conservative civil rights leaders, but his influence was undeniable. The New York Times named Malcolm the second-most sought after speaker throughout the country.


After his break from the Nation of Islam and a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, the world became a bigger stage. No longer did he rail against the evils of White people but instead he sought to be a unifier for universal human rights.

Before he left for Mecca, he made his famous "Ballot or the Bullet" speech - advocating that Black people think before voting, and vote wisely. He reached out to the same moderate civil rights leaders whom he had criticized for years.

His voice was no longer just a rallying cry for Americans, but Africans and others who saw him as their champion. Like any great leader, he updated his message without diluting it or removing its edge.

Consider the phrase he entered into the public discussion: "We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary"

Today, we can see it was a smart decision. The United States had switched its focus from the race issue to global concerns of the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty.

Once again, Malcolm was ahead of the curve of most civil rights leaders - already adapting his message to the times without losing the boldness that defined his tenure with the Nation of Islam.

Had he not been assassinated, who knows how big his voice would have become? We can see glimpses in how his protégé, Muhammad Ali, defied the U.S. government by resisting being drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Imagine if Malcolm was right there supporting him and forcing people to question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. What would he have said in the 1970's and 1980's as Black communities suffered due to the influx of drugs and community organizations under siege?

Hip-hop has made his voice live again in a new generation, as groups like Public Enemy and X-Clan brought back a Black consciousness.

Malcolm X was a self-made leader. With direction, he learned while he was in prison and by the Nation of Islam, he spoke to many Black people who shared his upbringing and White people who were amazed at his eloquence even if they disagreed with his views. He was a voracious reader.

With all this being said and taken into account, there are those who might ask 'Why do Blacks insist on embracing a man, who some claim, was a fanatic and a rabble-rouser?' or 'How could the Black community revere someone who taught hate?'

The answer is because very rarely does a person who speaks their mind without any reservation make it to a radio station or to a television broadcast, or even a lectern for that matter. Their words usually stay within the confines of small social circles like dinner-table conversation, or small talk amongst friends at the grocery store.

Malcolm on the other hand, was one of the few Black men who managed to voice his message via radio, television, live and in person.

This is not the only reason why we honor his memory, but also because he protected us. He was our big brother who we unleashed upon White America to do our fighting for us. He was our guardian who watched over us and kept White America honest.

Last but not least, he was the faithful Night Watchman, who dutifully patrolled the impoverished Black communities of Harlem, New York and throughout Black America, with the street savvy and urban poise of an alley cat, tempered with the keen intellect of a learned scholar.

Indeed he was the genuine-article, the champion of Black self-improvement. With his birthday having passed us by, we can see how he still teaches and inspires many to be better and not accept less than satisfactory conditions within our own communities.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Deja Vu All over Again (Lakers/Celtics Dance Again?)

Somewhere Amar'e Stoudemire is on the plane heading back to Phoenix wondering why he even bothered opening his mouth on Lamar Odom. He's probably wondering even more how he got outplayed and became a nonfactor against a team that has owned him.

Somewhere the Orlando Magic are wondering where the season went. From an 8-0 start in the postseason to trailing 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals and forced to win on the road to stay alive. Vince Carter, meet Nick Anderson.

I predicted Cleveland and Orlando would get to the ECF again but never did I imagine Boston act like Shang Tsung in stealing the souls of the top two MVP finishers and their teams. It's like Boston's found the Fountain of Youth and its 2008 all over again minus the 7-game series.

Anybody who doubts Rajon Rondo's effectiveness needs to shut up. He can take over a game, set guys up with ease, run a team flawlessly - and oh yeah, he can rebound and defend as well as any guard in the game. Top 5 PG in the game with CP3, Deron Will, Steve Nash and Tony Parker.

Somebody pointed out that Dwight Howard played the best postseason game of his career and the Magic still lost. Blame brain farts, Vinsanity's two missed free throws and Rashard Lewis going invisible. Orlando's just not mentally tough to hang.

As for the Lakers, they showed why they own the Suns since 2007. A team with great play from their big men will own Phoenix all the time because Amar'e Stoudemire always goes belly-up against them. That's why it was stupid he said Lamar Odom got lucky because Tim Duncan used him as a turnstyle for years.

By the way, Lamar Odom's Game 2 stats (17 pts, 11 rebs). Amar'e's Game 2 stats (18 pts, 6 rebs). If you're counting, that's two double-doubles for Odom and none for one of the NBA's hottest free agents this summer. Real Laker fans are pleased that Odom played with consistency for once but Amar'e needs to shut up and do better.

Meanwhile the Lakers won in two ways: Kobe going off as a scorer in Game 1 (40 pts) and as a facilitator in Game 2, putting up the most assists (13) by a Laker since Magic in 1996. As if anyone needs further proof that the Mamba is finally healthy.

All of this means one thing: Get ready for Lakers/Celtics all over again. Lakers fans already want it, chanting "We Want Boston" after Game 2. And I'm sure Boston fans will be chanting "Beat LA" after they win either Game 3 or 4.

It's no conspiracy. Boston was dead in the water until Game 4 against Cleveland. They've morphed from the Big 3 to the Great 4 led by Rondo. The Lakers got toughened up by a young OKC Thunder squad and have steamrolled through Utah and Phoenix as they should. I'd like to thank OKC on behalf of Lakers Nation for waking this team up.

Something to point out. LeBron James and Dwight Howard deserve to be scrutinized for their early exits and how teams have played them. But what nobody is talking about how their lack of improvement parallels to how Kendrick Perkins has improved for Boston.

Perkins was drafted out of HS the same year as LeBron and a year ahead of Howard. He came in raw and was just a big body that seemed out of place in the league. Enter 2007-2008 when KG came around and slowly built him into a big man that was mean, tough and knew how to use the post.

He wasn't going to be a scorer, but a big strong enforcer that made centers work for their buckets, fight for rebounds and score when put in the right spot. It's a credit to great coaching and mentorship that he is where he is now.

Contrast with LeBron and Dwight - immensely gifted players, freakish athletes but something is missing. LeBron has a better (but not consistent) mid-range jumper but no post-up moves or anything besides his bull-rush to the basket and outside shooting. Dwight Howard is the best rebounder the league has seen since Rodman or KG in his prime but he's still very limited offensively and has no real feel or patience around the basket.

High school players need great coaching in the NBA to reach their full potential. I believe LBJ and D12 have suffered from this as well as their teams trying to build around them without realizing their gifts. LBJ is surrounded by solid to average players and instead of being Magic, he's has to be Michael. D12 is surrounded by a bunch of shooters (not slashers save for Vince Carter) but because he can't command a double team with his scoring, they're overly reliant on the jumper and him scoring on tip-ins .

This is the big reason why HS players or 1-and-done guys go bust or remain stagnant. They may or may not improve their game but they need great teaching instead of coaches who coddle or are in awe of them. Kendrick Perkins is an example of how this works and LBJ and D12 are now making us realize they are who we thought we were - gifted athletes, dominant players but not complete players.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Discovering Radiohead

For years, Radiohead was that band that seemed too artsy for me. I felt like trying to listen to an album was like trying to understand Michaelangelo's genius. A daunting task and besides I always felt they weren't accessible.

I remember the first time I heard "Creep" in 2001 when some kids played it at a conference I was attending at Pepperdine University. It was chill, catchy and then when I heard the official version, I loved it. Who doesn't love Creep? I ended up hearing "Optimstic" on the radio as well and I really liked the dreamlike vibe of it.

But an album? Nah, I felt like I wouldn't get why OK Computer and Kid A were hailed at two of the best albums in recent memory. Besides, didn't I hear once they were just a better version of Coldplay?

Things changed when I saw them at the 2009 Grammys for the first time. They had the USC marching band backing them and Thom Yorke looked like he was spazzing on stage. But his presence and the music kept me glued to the TV and I said alright, it's time to consider them differently.

I DL'ed that song (15 Step) and later had to get "Paranoid Android" - They were growing on me more and more and "Paranoid" has one of the smartest lines I've ever heard (Ambition makes you look pretty ugly). Thom wrote that after a crazy bar experience and it just sounds like confusion and clarity wrapped in a sonic blast from Jonny Greenwood.

On Twitter, I kept telling people at the end of the year that I'd finally buy some albums and get schooled on the 5 dudes from England. Lupe Fiasco used "National Anthem" in the "Enemy of the State" mixtape that was bonkers. Last month I dug in and bought OK Computer and Kid A - figure I'd start with the best, right?

Somebody said that Radiohead don't make singles, they make albums and I got that right way. I understood the themes of both albums. OK Computer - feeling lost in the world, Kid A - a visitor coming to a lost world and painting a bleak picture of its future.

OK Computer just hits you from the start. Alienation, feeling like the world's moving on with you, feeling like you don't belong or just trying to fit in. I really liked Karma Police and Climbing Up the Walls. It kinda just fit the mood I've been in for a while - seeing everything go around me and feeling like I'm stuck in netural. Just every bit of an amazing album as I've heard.

But I honestly prefer Kid A - sonically it's like nothing I ever heard before. It's almost like an instrumental album with words thrown in there. "National Anthem" is a call to arms of the disenfranchised, "Optimistic" makes more sense in the theme of the album and "Idioteque" feels like its named - a dance of the idiots who don't see what's coming.

Kid A is more electronic sounding but it works because its good music. Music came first, lyrics obviously came second. When you hear it, you wonder how it even debuted at No. 1 (i remember when it beat Green Day's tepid Warning album). But the buzz behind it was insane and now I see/hear why.

Now I understand Radiohead's genius. They make complete albums to take you into an experience and Thom Yorke's voice just gets that message across so well. Why is it that the best and most influential bands are from Britain. (i.e. Beatles/Stones/Zeppelin/Black Sabbath)

Next on my list: In Rainbows and The Bends.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Maxim Hot 100?? Let me fix that list a bit

The annual Maxim Hot 100 came out and if any real man read the list they would've been disappointed. Katy Perry's #1????

I did a MySpace blog on KP back in 08 and she's by far the hottest pop star to come out in the last two years - especially compared to Mr. Gaga and that dusty hag known as Ke$ha. That spread she did for Complex Magazine was FIRE as you can see above. But seriously, the hottest woman of the year?

She's got style, she's got sass, she's got charm - her live singing is suspect, dope cover of Electric Feel, terrible at the Grammys - but she's cute and you know how much I love my fellow 1984 babies. If a real man ranked her on their list she'd probably be in the 15-25 range. But let's peep the rest of this list.

Top 10: KP, Brooklyn Decker (YES), Zoe Saldana (okay), Blake Lively (the heck?), Megan Fox (YES), Rihanna (smh), Elisabetta Canalis (George Clooney stamp of approval), Olivia Munn (YES), Kim Kardashian (over her), Marisa Miller (SI Stamp of approval).

No Scarlett Johansson (14) or Olivia Wilde (20)? Really? Counselor, please present your evidence to expose this weak list.

Tony Stark said it best "I want one"

She can operate on me any day. And she's an 84 baby like me and Scarlett? WIN.

Any man that wouldn't take over them over Lively (Leighton Meester's hotter at 17) or Rihanna needs to check his manhood at the door. Oh but it gets better.

Peep the Top 20-30: Mila Kunis (22), Nicole from Pussycat Dolls (24), Eliza Dushku (26) Hilary Duff (27 and maturing VERY nicely), Kaley Cuoco (28 from Big Bang Theory). But Katy Perry's #1? Suuuure.

She likes to roll with guys named E. My gov't name starts with E. You do the math.

The good thing about Maxim's list is that the bottom 50 is usually packed with quality goodness. Emmanuelle Chriqui (above, Sloan from "Entourage"), Gabrielle Union, Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck"), and a WILDLY underrated Anna Paquin (watch True Blood and tell me she doesn't burn it up). For my fellow Flash Forward fans, Peyton List (our favorite babysitter turned nurse) is there at 66.

I'd take Kristen Bell at 52 over half the chicks above her. And what grown man is really checking for Taylor Swift as a hottie? Then again, I never would've expected Amanda Bynes to look like this

(I hope Miley Cyrus saw her spread in Maxim - THAT's how you mature, not trying to grind on some grown man at 17.)

Oh yeah, major omissions: Beyonce, Halle Berry, Rachel McAdams. But somehow Ke$ha made the list at 56 over Lindsey Vonn, Gabby Union and Erin Andrews (overrated but looks much better in person). *rolls eyes and swallows gasoline mouthwash*

Compare this to's 99 Most Desirable Women list - there's a lot more thought that goes into list than just looks. You may be hot but to be desirable, you have to have a lot more to offer. Their list is actually way more reputable lately if you ask me.

Here's the Maxim list. What say you? I'm insanely jealous of Russell Brand for wifing up Katy Perry by the way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All Eyes on 23

I don't know what shocked me more about Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semis. Paul Pierce showing up in a big way with a double-double or LeBron James suddenly going quiet in a must-win game. But all of a sudden, this series went from LeBron's coronation to his possible execution.

His loyal subjects booed him off the floor in possibly his last home game. His reputation as a superstar is under a red-hot glare while Boston is showing him how champions respond to pressure.

Game 3 had Cleveland feeling themselves after handing out the worst home loss in Boston playoff history. Then Rajon Rondo turned into Magic Johnson/Isiah Thomas in Game 4 (29-18 boards-13 dimes for his 4th career postseason triple-double) after his John Stockton/Bob Cousy impersonation in Game 2 (19 dimes).

Game 5 yesterday? My eyes just kept bugging out seeing the numbers. A 15-0 run for Boston in the 2nd quarter. LeBron struggling for numbers? (Perhaps hurting from that foolish 360 dunk he tried to pull in warmups) The Celtics pushing the lead to 15, 20 and then 30.

A 32-point knockout at home? In a must-win game? This was like Kano's fatality in Mortal Kombat and LeBron James and his bunch went out like some chumps.

Based on the postgame reports, I've seen that Cleveland is turning into Atlanta - a great team all of a sudden slowly imploding. This series has exposed several things: 1) LeBron is either hurt or just not a great leader, 2) Mike Brown is in over his head as a coach moreso than Doc Rivers, 3) The Cleveland bench forgot they've been in this position before.

That's a knock on LeBron that many have ignored because that's something you have to learn. Every great player had to learn to lead by example and demand his teammates step up to the plate. LBJ still has the point-forward mentality he showed in high school and even though he can take over games, at times he's not comfortable in that killer role.

He's not consistently aggressive and sometimes you gotta just say forget the triple double and start making plays yourself. Once you get going, everyone else will feed off that. It's the opposite of Kobe Bryant right now, who's better off letting Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum do the heavy lifting while he picks his spots to attack.

And where were his teammates? Antawn Jamison? Mo Williams? Delonte West? They froze up big time while the Big 3 of Boston had a dip in the fountain of youth (Jesus Shuttlesworth had 22 points?)

Game 6 is arguably the most important game for the legacy of LeBron James, the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland sports in general. Like I told someone on Twitter, if they don't win this year, forget about Cleveland ending a 46-year sports curse for another decade.

1964 was the last time they won a pro title and that was the Cleveland Browns winning before the Super Bowl was in existence. Willie Mays, MJ, John Elway, Craig Counsell and the 95 Braves laugh at this futility.

I still don't think LeBron is going to leave but he's a king without a crown right now. It's time to show everyone who the MVP is and add one more twist to this entertaining series. I predict either a triple-double or 40 points minimum.

Sidenote from Game 5 - that may have been the last solid game we see from Shaquille O'Neal (21 points and 4 blocks). Between him and Ken Griffey Jr.** last week, it's weird for me seeing my 90's icons go out like that.

**that situation is full of horse crap. 1) Anonymous teammates ratting someone out is still bush league in a sport known for handling internal conflict. 2) if Mariners' manager Ken Wakamatsu really wanted Junior to pinch-hit, he would've waken him up. The sadder story is that he has no home runs and only 5 runs batted in.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poetry Corner "Move"

(Sorry for the delay in posts peeps. Between a busy and emotional weekend, I haven't had much time to put some thoughts down. Especially when it comes to work.

This poem - the second I wrote in my first poetry binge in over a year - not just captures some of my personal conflict there, but also just with life in general. The last few months, I've talked a lot about my issues with being complacent and unsatisfied with my life's direction. This is my response to my blog about being complacent)

EJB 4/21/10

Neutral is lonely
Sitting on the bench
Eyes dart back and forth
Watching everyone go around you
Waiting for that sign to make your move
But stuck
What am I waiting for?
Why am I here instead of there?
Go on, don’t be scared you eager fool
The world is waiting to see your move
A scared pawn
In a big world of change
Tell my feet, my legs, my mind
It’s time to Go, Go, Go Forth and Do
Don’t waste more time for your move
Let’s go, Let’s fly
Jump off comfort’s bridge
Leave that soft and easy feeling
Scared? So am I but remember this too
Faith is about proving and daring to move
And so I must
I must stop dreaming
I must start living, believing
Destiny’s waiting and so is your cool
Whatever I do, I must make my move

I love when I can write poems that have a unique form, theme and variation, rhyme scheme. This one means a lot to me just because of how long it's been since I've written one and it just speaks to my state right now.

Like Elvis once said, "A little less conversation, a little more action." Just need to take a leap off this mountain and trust that I'll land on my feet.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

6 Down, 10 To Go

I'm willing to bet the Lakers said this before Game 2 "Alright, so the bench let us down in Game 1 but you know what, we still ran this team out of here. Let's do it again and THIS time, don't blow the lead!"

Message delivered because after a slow start, the Lakers were running and gunning like it was Showtime. Their size allowed them to dominate the rebounding edge and created way more fastbreaks than I've seen in a long time from this team. Kobe (30 pts, 8 dimes) was in full facilitator mode as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum found easy buckets and made their presence felt.

They resembled Oklahoma City with how they ran the floor and blocked shots. Bynum showed Lakers executives why they shouldn't have mentioned him in a trade with Chris Bosh (who watched front and center). Even Lamar Odom got in the mix with solid rebounding.

I was saying during the game that it was like Showtime III (true Lakers fans remember that the first year of the Shaq era was dubbed Showtime II briefly). Yes, they had a lot of turnovers but that happens when you run. If the Lakers can get into this groove and exploit Utah's lack of size, they'll start looking like a title team again.

The only problem is Ron Artest still forcing his offensive woes on Lakers fans. When you can barely make lay-ups, why do you keep shooting 3's? I said on Twitter that we should have a drinking game for whenever Artest misses an ill-advised 3 or an easy lay-up. It didn't take long for people to reply that we'd be in an ambulance by halftime.

Now the Lakers have to go that always ear-comforting arena in Salt Lake City. They still have to win Game 3 with that same urgency and Game 6 vs. the Thunder notwithstanding - I'm not convinced they're a great road team just yet.

But I am convinced that they are playing their best ball in the last month and a half. I give the Thunder credit like I gave Houston and Denver credit last year for toughening us up for Orlando.

Speaking of Orlando - great win against the "Hawks" last night. I'm glad Atlanta bothered to show up for a quarter because I didn't have the heart to watch a team get their heart ripped open, stomped on and dunked through the 36 Chambers of Death.

The only thing sadder was watching Cleveland on Monday roll over and let Rajon Rondo (who finally got All-D team love) ruin LeBron James getting his second MVP. I'm watching that series extra closely because I think Cleveland has to show they can take a punch in the playoffs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Art of a Boycott (Arizona)

I had to do some thinking about boycotting Arizona. Initially, I was mixed on it because while I felt it's necessary to send a message that will be heard, I didn't want to punish good businesses that didn't support the law.

Then I started thinking about why boycotts work. The most effective ones serve a clear purpose to demand better treatment - there's a target and there's a clear message sent us against them. You send a message to the target that you will not support them as long as they practice something that irks you personally.

(And Ye Olde Webster Says): To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion

Back in the 1930's, my paper had a campaign called "Don't Shop Where You Can't Work" - encouraging Black citizens of Los Angeles to not shop at stores where they couldn't be hired or faced discrimination. And we all know about the Montgomery Bus Boycott where Blacks protested being forced to sit in the back of the buses.

I like boycotts that send a direct message against something. You want to see where someone's true value lies, follow the money (to quote All the President's Men) or the passion. That's what you target. You don't boycott abstract ideas, you stick to your principles against something that threatens it.

Arizona knows boycotts well. I had thought that the state was only boycotted in 1992 for their stance on the Martin Luther King holiday but it turns out the state had been under boycott off and on since 1987. The parallels are striking in that link and if you read it, there's a lot of similarities in public perception of the state.

Why support a state who's government AND citizens that wouldn't respect the holiday in honor of a man who wanted to teach people to love their fellow man? Even the NFL said no and moved the Super Bowl to Cali. AZ lost $300 million and the government did the right thing by reversing their decision.

Here we are in 2010. Should we boycott Arizona again for SB1070? Critics say why support a government that has passed a bill that will unfairly targets innocent people and hearkens back to Nazi/apartheid tactics.

Those against say it won't accomplish anything - it unfairly targets businesses that might support their cause and punishes all citizens who don't deserve it.

Here's a hypothetical situation. Let's say that we don't boycott Arizona. We continue to support the state with our dollars. What do we say by that? What do we tell the American citizens or Mexicans on vacation who will be illegally harassed? With our funding of the government, what message are we sending?

Ask yourself if the U.S. did financial business with a country that has some red button issues. Ask yourself if we consumers supported a company that has human rights issues or treated their employees wrong. Is it just about the end result (the benefit of our support) or do we care about the means to that end?

Now what if Arizona was boycotted again? If people used their biggest sign of power, their $$$, to make a statement, what does it say? As we are climbing out of a recession, is it fair to punish Americans who want to make an honest living in addition to the government?

Ultimately, it comes down to this. What's the best way to voice our opposition - are words merely enough or should we do even more. Send a message with our wallets and people will listen.

Boycotts that impact critical funds are powerful because money makes the world go round. They prove a point because it goes from words to action. So Arizona, it's time to watch the money dry up and maybe it'll make you rethink of a better solution to this problem instea

Monday, May 3, 2010

Inspiration: Joshua 1:9

It's an understatement to say that last week was a rough one. Work was heavier than usual and it makes me think about how difficult my Sunday night was a week ago. You know when you get off to a bad start and it sets the tone? That's how it felt.

At the office Tuesday, I read this book of Bible verses that my Mom got me for Christmas. I found this passage to give me a bit of hope in my decision of how to handle these difficult situations.

"Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

For those who don't know, Joshua was the right hand man of Moses. He had a passion for serving God and the people of Israel. When Moses died, Joshua had to take over as leader and he was confident but still nervous about his next move. This was God's way of reminding him who was in control and that whatever he decided to, He was with him.

I stay in my comfort zone a lot. But in my life, I've left it and seen good things happen. Going places I never would've imagined, meeting people I never thought I'd meet. It's the reason I found this job and it's the reason I can take a chance at this phase of my life again.

I had to remind myself of that as I've gotten some great advice on what I should do lately. It's time to act now. It's time to trust my skills and most importantly trust God to guide me because I'm walking by faith soon.

Maybe someone reading this needs some encouragement. I'm with you. Let's encourage each other and hopefully we both make the decisions we need to make with confidence.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Poetry Corner "This Night Was Ours"

This Night Was Ours
EJB 4/21/10
(This is the first poem I've written in over a year. It's hard writing poetry when it used to come easily to me but this was written like I how I used to be - off the top, freestyle, no worries about form.)
This night was ours.
We owned every inch from start to finish.
Now we walk as strangers in foreign land,
Wondering when it passed us by
Are we vampires or lost souls?
Either way, we cant wake up and realize its moving time.
Time to fly away
But we're slaves to the thrill
An empty thrill
Thirst no longer satisfied.
But we return every night like drones because we hope
One day, a night will be different
One day, our glory will return
Those new faces will greet us like heroes
But those are far and few
And we return home. Dazed, confused
The night was ours.
These streets were our haven
The escape from worries, the pathway to joy
Every bar was our crowded refuge.
What happened to these familiar sights?
The welcomed hugs turned into cold stares
Go through the motions cause we’re led by hope
Fools marching to the same old drum beat
Remember that night, we walked with pride
Now we walk with insecurity
Yes the night was once ours
But now it’s a lonely reminder of the past.