Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Revisiting Rage Against the Machine's Classic Debut

The other day, I found out that Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut was being reissued today for its 20th anniversary. I can't say how thrilled I was because it's one of the greatest and hardest debut albums ever. Even though I don't have $75 to spend on that full set, it had remember when I spent the summer of 2005 listening to it over and over and loving every bit of it.

(I guess November 1992 was a time for releasing volatile work. Ice Cube released his classic Predator album - the post-LA riot soundtrack until The Chronic came out in December. Spike Lee also released his biopic on Malcolm X in November.)

Anyways, being a huge Rage fan in 2005, I had never listened to a full album despite KROQ playing the singles nonstop. I remember my friend Adam loaned me a copy of the self-titled album to burn before we left for summer break. What happened next was a sonic fury that carried on the legacy of the MC5, Clash and Public Enemy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chris Brown, Jenny Johnson and Twitter (Find Peace, Not Hate)

Three years later, Chris Brown is still a pariah. Still a poster child for domestic abuse, entitlement and the “bad boy” rebel America loves to embrace/hate/associate with maturity. His youthful defiance and musical comebacks have earned him more detractors. Everything he’s done since Grammy Night 2009 has been amplified more.

I write here not to defend Brown, something I’ve done every year since I’ve been blogging. I’m writing to ask people one question. Why does he still concern you? Why does everything wrong he does matter to you?

I could make the argument that people aren’t giving him space to grow and change. Which is true. But Chris hasn’t done himself favors with some of his decision-making.  We already know some of them but here’s other things he hasn’t done either.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Skyfall and the Dark Knight's influence

The lady and I saw Skyfall over the weekend and despite the rain outside, we stayed warm and on edge watching a great film. Not a great Bond film, a great film period. I admit that I haven't seen my share of Bond movies (Die Another Day, Casino Royale, 1/2 of Quantum of Solace before I passed out) so I can't compare it to any other in the genre.

It made me more eager to see future Bond movies. And that's the mark of a great movie. A long-standing brand shouldn't just give you what you expect but make you think you're watching it grow. And Skyfall did that in a few ways. From seeing more of the great Dame Judi Dench as M to the beautiful, witty Money Penny played by Naomie Harris, the acting surrounded Bond was top notch.

Oh and Adele's theme. Beautiful. Majestic. Perfect for the intro. See you at the Oscars for your comeback.

Monday, November 19, 2012

UCLA/USC Reports (A Change Is Gonna Come Cause of the Takeover!!!)

Well, well, well. UCLA has done what I expected. They got that payback. They stomped USC for not just that 50-0 beating but for the last 6 years of embarrassment. So needless to say, I had a lot of fun shooting this UCLA video to the sweet sounds of Sam Cooke and the Solid Gold sound of the UCLA marching band.

At 9-2, UCLA are the Pac-12 South champs and still have to face Stanford on Saturday. Beat them, we might have a rematch with Oregon from last year (assuming the Ducky Boys don't lose this week in the Civil War game vs. Oregon State).

Kudos to big games from Joe Fauria, Johnathan Franklin, Shaq Evans, Brett Hundley and the coaching staff, led by Jim Mora. If Mora isn't in the conversation for Coach of the Year, I don't know who is.

Meanwhile, USC went from Top 10 to not mentioned at all. Had a spark when they started and now they're just garbage. No. 1 with a bullet and now have to recover as their captain, Matt Barkley, will miss their regular season finale against Notre Dame. Lane Kiffin's job might be safe but will his pops, Monte Kiffin, return next year?

As a devoted listener of The Morning Jones, I know exactly what Trojans fans need today and I give to them in the video. A shot of reality chased down with some cold truth and D'Angelo in the background. I hate to say this but when Notre Dame finishes them off next week, it's going to end this glorious reign. The future does look bleak, especially as those reduced scholarships start to take effect.

Oh yeah, it was a great weekend for UCLA overall as Shabazz Muhammad was finally declared eligible by the NCAA. If you missed any of my stories on it, head over to Rant and check the profile. Or just click on them here. But I'm happy to see the NCAA do the right thing after they were shamed by their hypocrisy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Once Again, The NCAA is Decadent and Depraved (Let Shabazz Play!)
While you know my stance on saying "Free (insert name)", I support Flea getting on board with the unfair treatment of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad.
Full disclosure here. I don't like the NCAA. I don't like the charade they represent. I think they are an outdated model fueled by greed and the desire to swing their power around. They claim to be about student-athletes and yet bring the hammer down on common sense situations instead of use wise discretion.

Shabazz Muhammad is the latest person to see this. The NCAA has made him ineligible to play for UCLA this season so far for taking "benefits" that apparently they knew about two years ago and approved. According to his family, the NCAA approved Benjamin Lincoln providing for housing and a plane ticket for unofficial trips to North Carolina.

Mind you, Lincoln is not connected with Duke or North Carolina so there is no bias here. He's not a booster. He's a financial advisor who's known Muhammad since he was in 7th grade. Now unless you want to assume that we all knew Muhammad would be a superstar in 2007, I believe this friendship goes deeper than just fame.

Surely the NCAA would see this after investigating for a year, right? Then again, this is the same organization that suspended Baylor forward Perry Jones at the end of the 2010-11 season after finding out his mother asked his AAU coach for money so they could make ends meet. Money that she paid back, by the way.

But they don't care. They see money exchanging hands and assume that it's corruption. It's like that famous scene in Casablanca (which upon watching reminds me exactly of the NCAA)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My 10 Favorite Sportswriters Now

As a writer/journalist, sometimes I feel it's great to share folks who inspire you. I was raised to always pay respect to those who inspire you and I never stop giving props to those who make me want to pick up a pen and keep getting better at what they do.

I tend to favor folks who are reasonable yet passionate. They share information as well as come across as grounded. They aren’t caught up in themselves. They tell stories. I admit some of them are entertaining as well but from a strictly writing standpoint, these are the people I read to help me become a better writer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

UCLA/USC Report: The Battle of Los Angeles

For the first time, I'm actually excited about this game. Past years, I've always been hyped but just because it's what I do. But now, I actually believe UCLA will make this a competitive game against USC. 2006 was a great win but nobody saw it coming. This time, it'll be even sweeter I believe.

But as I say in this week's video, I can't pick UCLA any more cleanly than I can say USC will lose spectacularly. Both teams are evenly matched (with obvious differences at WR) and while UCLA has the younger quarterback, he's way more steady I believe than Barkley, who's as polished as anybody and still has the tendency to force his decisions.

Anyways, enjoy the video. Apologies for the music shorting out early but we made up for it at the end.

And as always, if you miss me writing more on the Gumbo, feel free to check me out over at Rant Sports, where I've been serving up some goodness on UCLA and the drama surrounding Shabazz Muhammad. You know how I feel about saying "Free (Insert Name)" so while I won't say that, I'll just say the NCAA once again shows how lack of common sense hurts the players they're supposed to protect.

Now pardon me while I try to figure out how I'm supposed to start liking Mike Antoni as the Lakers' next coach. As my man Keith said, the Lakers have become the Suns but much older (and somewhat better defensively).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Reviewing Good Kid, MAAD City

I've been excited for Kendrick Lamar's album since last year and hearing it 3 times hasn't changed my mind when I say that it's one of the best debuts I've heard since "Food + Liquor". I'm happy that he and Big K.R.I.T. give me hope for the future in rap that rappers will have as much substance as they do everything else.

Besides "Food + Liquor", it also reminded me of Ice Cube's classic "Death Certificate" just because it captured what a young man in L.A. is going through. While it lacks the political bite of DC, one of my favorite albums of all time, the window and perspective of GKMC reminds of what Cube was trying to capture.

Is it a classic? How can you call something a classic 2 weeks after it comes out? It's an incredible piece of work that'll be remembered for a while. It's a great album. It'll be one of the best albums of the year. But let's wait and give it time because just because it looks like a classic, we still gotta let it play out.

That said, go cop it. Buy some extra copies for folks. Be a good friend like I was with my lady and let them have a copy however you can arrange it. Good music must be supported with your dollars and based on the last 2 weeks on Billboard, people are supporting Kendrick incredibly. 304,000 sold in 2 weeks for a debut artist? Who barely has a Top 40 single? Incredible!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Jitters (2012 Edition)

Today is Election Day and I’m realizing that this is the first time I’m going to be in a relatively calm environment for a presidential election since 2000.  Yet I can’t shake the feeling of being nervous like I always am.

If you’ve noticed my blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts or anything in the past year, you know who I’m voting for tomorrow. I should be fairly confident that things work in his favor tomorrow but despite my warnings on avoiding all distractions, I can’t shake a feeling that not everybody is that intelligent to parse through the crap to make a smart vote on their conscious. But Election Day nerves aren't new to me

1992: 8 years old. My school had a mock vote for President George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot after each grade had to “support” a candidate in a presentation at school (I remember my 3rd grade class had to support Perot). After we took the vote, Bill Clinton won by an overwhelming margin and we all cheered throughout the school. I remember coming home to see Clinton won and feeling pretty happy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

UCLA Rising and USC Falling.

Maybe I was wrong about UCLA all this time. All the apprehension I had this year is gone as they put the most points since I was in junior high watching them put up 66 on Texas and Houston. For the first time in 14 years, I'm confident saying that they will not only compete with USC, they're going to beat them in 2 weeks.

They dismantled a good Arizona team like they wanted payback for Arizona dominating them last year. I said they'd go 2-3 over the next 5 games and now 4-1 seems the safest bet. I might be crazy suggesting even 5-0 but I won't go there yet. I did fun trying to hide my glee in that video.

I'd also like to extend a personal congratulations to RB Johnathan Franklin, who became the school's all-time leading rusher during the game. As somebody who's been impressed with his leadership and skill since he was in high school, I salute him for being a model of hard work, faith and dedication.

Meanwhile, USC's practice should be live this week since they need to practice tackling and all the basics. I took some aim at defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin being the problem the last two weeks but I also praised Oregon (esp. Kenjon Barner) for putting the Trojans through the ringer.

Marqise Lee is on his way to perhaps winning the Biletnikoff Award as the best WR in the country and he can't save this team. They've abandoned going to Robert Woods more consistently and perhaps have hurt his draft stock in the process. The Trojans should be lucky that Nelson Agholor gives them hope for this season and the next 2 because after this year, the fall could continue even more.

And in case you've been missing the work I've been doing for the good folks at Rant Sports, here's the link to my page. The most recent story is a homecoming for former All-State/McDonald's All-American Larry Drew II, the best high school PG I've covered so far in my career. I'll be doing stories later this week on the Pac-12's top players and freshmen to watch.

I'd also like to send thoughts and prayers to the 4 victims of the Halloween shooting at USC's campus. One of them was former City Section Player of the Year/All-State 1st Teamer Geno Hall, formerly of Crenshaw HS. Hall was shot 7 times according to reports and remains in critical but stable condition. I got to know Hall and his Crenshaw teammates very closely in 2009 when the Cougars went to the state bowl game so it saddens me more than usual that he was not only shot at, but may have been the target.

Fortunately Hall will survive, but it reminds me of athletes who aren't as lucky. Dannie Farber was killed 3 years ago and seeing his old high school Narbonne 2 weeks ago reminded me of being at his funeral. Jamiel Shaw was killed 4 years ago and his killer just received the death penalty over the weekend. I pray Hall and the other 3 victims will recover and grow to be grateful of that second chance instead of bent on revenge.