I am Not Running

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Recently, a girl I go to school with asked me if I will be willing to volunteer at an event that benefitted veterans. The event was a BBQ competition. If you know me, BBQ is serious business and I am reasonably fond of veterans. This is something that I’m inclined to do. After I established that we were not, in fact, BBQing the veterans themselves, I started to make plans to at least attend.

Conversely, I get a lot of invitations and notices about walks or runs for one cause or another. I want to be clear on this.

I’m not running.

If there were a zombie apocalypse, and my life depended on me running, then I would die eaten by zombies. I’m not happy about it. My fight or flight response has been replaced by a fight response. Flight is not an option.

When people ask you to run they immediately stop speaking English. They saunter up to you and ask you to run ‘a 5K.’ Whoa. This is America. We use miles. Why did you suddenly switch to the metric system? Are all bets off once we start talking about running? Are we like, “Runner 26, is five hands high, and is moving along at 12 knots, which is a nice little clip?”

We use miles, you commies.

Plus, the concept is insulting. Most of the time, its a walk for lupus, or a run for cerebal palsy. Well, guess what? Those people can’t walk! Its like helping the blind,by teaching color theory classes, and then telling them about it.

“Guess what Timmy? Everybody walked for you today! Hundreds of people walking together, wearing pictures of you and your withered legs in your wheelchair. Isn’t that great?”

I am not walking either. Running is near impossible, but walking is death by a thousand cuts. There’s this point where I start getting warm, and then there’s this spot on the back of my neck that I can’t get dry and I keep thinking there’s a spider on me, but its just sweat. But its too late. Once your brain goes “Spider!” that is it. You just keep thinking there is a spider on you.

My underwear relocates to one side of my groin and rubs me raw, and by the time I quit mentally, I realize that my journey is only half over…because now I have to walk back.

My wife likes to walk, so the whole time we do it, she’s smiling and looking at stuff and chattering. Its like being in a concentration camp and having a cheerful guard.

Just so you know, when I ignore your Facebook invite, its not personal. I’m not running.

 

NFL Week Two: The Week In Rebuke

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So far, this has been an amazing year of football in terms of parity. Unless you’re the Raiders, you have the potential to win every game. The teams that are supposed to be good are absolutely terrifying.

Green Bay has looked very beatable, and the defense has been downright hospitable. They beat the Jets on a referee mistake, although, honestly, had Rodgers gotten the ball back with the score tied, it still may have been a Jets loss. Denver has let a lesser team compete with them for the second straight week. You only have so many goalline stands in you. San Francisco gave up late scores to Chicago, and the Seahawks lost on the road. New Orleans lost to the Browns, and the Bengals beat the Falcons who looked so impressive last week. I have no idea who is supposed to be elite anymore.

I do know that I feel great for the Texans, Cowboys, Ram, Cardinals and Browns to at least be competitive. You get tired of the same teams being bad all of the time.

I would just like to add that Rolando McClain led his team with 7 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. For some reason, this guy got roundly mocked for taking time off to deal with his issues, but more people need to do that in the NFL. (See Rice, Ray.) Also he was presented as a bust, but everyone forgot how formidable he was when he was playing for the Raiders. In a rough year for players in the media, it’s nice to see some redemption.

Yeah, this happened.

Yeah, this happened.

If you are the Raiders, it took you so long to clear the dead wood from the team that the GM and coach are going to get fired before Khalil Mack and Derek Carr pay off. Then again, Derek’s brother David was thrown onto a lousy Houston team and ruined for life, so maybe throwing him into the fire isn’t the best idea. Oakland lost promising lineman Jared Veldheer to Arizona, (Oh look, randomly Andre Ellington looks great and the Cardinals are winning with their backup QB!) and then the ghost of Al Davis appeared, the Raiders panicked and started spending money like Wes Welker at a racetrack.

They found 29 year old LaMarr Woodley, whose last great pass rushing year was 2011, and who was just cut by the lousy Steelers defense and they were like, “Hey, do you want $10 Million dollars for no reason, what-so-ever?” Ditto for Justin Tuck, who was part of a pass rushing unit that hasn’t been as effective since Michael Strahan retired, and for wide receiver James Jones, because signing Green Bay receivers whose worth has been inflated by Hall of Fame quarterbacks has worked out for everyone. They got Donald Penn who was too average for Tampa Bay, which is saying something and the utterly unimpressive Matt Schaub.

The Raiders are hopelessly bad, after a couple of years of trying to recover from being hopelessly bad. Somewhere Al Davis is smiling as he files a lawsuit. This week they played the Texans where J.J. Watt caught a TD pass, sang the national anthem, and stayed late to clear the field of debris, because there is literally nothing he can’t do.

In 2011, there were ten people picked before J.J. Watt. Normally, this is where you make fun of teams for blowing the pick, but only two teams did, the Titans picked Jake Locker and the Jaguars picked “Blame” Gabbert. The other players?

Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, and Tyron Smith. Robert Quinn and Ryan Kerrigan were off the board pretty soon after Watt. Muhammad Wilkerson came near the end of round one. Wow. What a draft. Do you know how badly you have to suck as an executive to come out of 2011 with nothing?

Speaking of the Jaguars, they can’t cover. For some reason, people think that there’s a quarterback controversy in Washington, because sticking pocket passers behind leaky offensive lines works out well. This Kirk Cousins thing is stupid.

Kirk Cousins started in 2013 and lost every game with a passer rating of 58.4. RG III posted an 82.2 on the same crappy team, playing on a bad plant leg. Cousins has a good day against a terrible Jags pass defense and everyone loses their minds. Fine. If your subtly racist Northern Virginia fan base wants RGIII to move on, he should pack his bags and move on from this train wreck of a team to a better situation, instead of getting the stuffing beat out of him for fans that are inclined to pick him apart for any perceived transgression. (For the record, Cam Newton is sulky and lacks composure, but Johnny Football is passionate. Gotcha.)

The San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles won. Both teams have the greatest asset a football can have…coaches that make adjustments. They don’t have the most talent in the world, but you can always compete if the coach can think on the fly.

And finally…Adrian Peterson.

adrian peterson

This is the subject of a great racial divide from what I’ve seen. If I were to use sweeping generalizations, I’ve seen white people condemn Adrian Peterson as an abuser, and I’ve seen black people offended by the breach of privacy for his family.

Spanking is not as offensive among minority communities, and if you’re over 30, you were probably spanked as a child. From what I’ve read about Peterson, he is fantastically strong, something he doesn’t quite seem to realize (apparently he’s crushed many a hand doing handshakes) and I don’t think he should be using a switch to beat his children. I don’t think anyone should be using a switch, frankly.

What alarms me is that he already figured that out. When the media covered this, they didn’t highlight his text conversations. Peterson’s private texts show a thoughtful, disciplined person (who can’t spell). After the spanking, he acknowledged that it hadn’t gone the way he intended, that the switch had wrapped around his son’s thigh which he hadn’t realized, even that a stroke had gone astray and hit the child in the testicle…which if you’ve ever endured corporal punishment sometimes accidentally happens. (Also, having been beat with a switch by my grandmom, the wound don’t immediately show up. You swell up afterward. You look terrible, but it doesn’t really hurt once the spanking stops.) He then said he had stopped spanking the child after that, and instead put him in ‘time out’ for the rest of the summer. He also said that he explained to child what he had done wrong and what he expected both before and after the spanking.

I’m sorry, but this doesn’t sound like an enraged abuser. We habitually see athletes neglecting their children, and not supporting them. Peterson sounds like an engaged dad that was trying to raise his children. Maybe he didn’t do it the best way by non-East-Texas standards, but he was trying and he’s getting treated like Ray Rice.

Well…

Speaking of Ray Rice…

When I saw him punch his fiancee I felt sick to my stomach. Ray Rice did a horrible thing, and I find it hard to believe that that was the first time he’s done something like that. Also, he spit on Janay, which I find worse in a way. You spit on people you just don’t care about, that you have no regard or respect for. But it think it’s a little to linear to simply call him a wife beater.

When I watched the video and saw them argue, what struck me is that Janay Parker was not afraid of Ray Rice. In cases where a man is physically abusive, usually the wife and children are afraid of him, but I did not see the least bit of fear in her. Afterwards, she has been his most vocal defender. Maybe it’s just bluster, but I really believe she doesn’t know why people are so upset.

It made me think that their dysfunction went somewhere beyond the typical model of domestic abuse that we think of. They sound like two people that are in love but probably bring out the worst in each other. They got drunk, went to casino, and things got ugly, and they get ugly a lot. They don’t need to be with each other and until they can work their issues out, they don’t need to be with anybody else either.

I also find it quite interesting that the media focused on this case but did not assign the same notoriety to Oscar Pistorius, who not only killed his girlfriend after an abusive relationship, but will do no jail time and is free to race again. For some reason there is just not the same intensity of outrage from anyone.

It’s hard to see Week Three topping this level of drama, but we’ll see. What happens next? Will we suddenly think about creepy Robert Kraft’s and Belichick’s girlfriends are? Will we wonder what else the NFL swept under the rug? Will the Bucs be even mildly interesting? Stay tuned.

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Desert Island Disc: My Rebuttal

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It pains me to discuss Tom’s list, because music is intensely personal and no one’s tastes match, nor should they. It feels kind of like a cheap shot to criticize someone’s choices.

Also, I was amused how much of a populist list this was from someone with Tom’s music industry background. I was expecting a rare song from an Aborigine group that only used instruments made of coral reef and shark bones.

Or this.

Or this.

He went with Sade, Marvin Gaye and Genesis. Thanks for making me look like a hipster. Then again, there are no black hipsters.

There are some high points on this list, you can’t go wrong with Marvin Gaye, I could listen to “Love Ballad” on a continuous loop and never get tired of it, the Sade song isn’t my favorite one by her, but it’s Sade. I loved the inclusion of David McCallum, because the whole crime jazz thing is pretty cool.

Lauren Hill is a heartbreaking talent, just seeing her on the list is hard, because she was so great. Kool and the Gang is an underrated band, so it’s good to see someone rep them too. I’m sort of intrigued with the idea of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph” as being the pinnacle of hip-hop. He used Sister Nancy as his reggae representative, my first list included Slim Smith. I don’t mind that.

Also he included James Brown. If there’s anything that pisses me off about black people its that we are disinterested in preserving our history or memories. James Brown is a musical giant, and people are forgetting about him and the idea that kids would grow up and not know who he is is intolerable.

Here’s my problem with his list.

Remember when Britney Spears did the Michael Jackson comeback concert, and she looked phenomenal? Just super hot?

And then remember when she fell apart, gained weight, went completely crazy, started walking around barefoot, and then moved on from her backup dancer to a guy she met in rehab?

Britney Spears wanders around a rehab facility in LA after checking in for an undisclosed treatment

Tom did the musical equivalent of picking crazy, bad weave Britney.

There were two Phil Collins, the uncanny power pop guy (In The Air Tonight, Just a Job to Do, Against All Odds, etc), and the guy that would ride a dull melody into the ground (Follow You Follow Me, Two Hearts). Tom picked bad Phil. I think I’m probably on a desert island just to get away from “That’s All.”

And one bad Phil Collins song wasn’t enough, the whole column ends on “Take me Home.” The last song we put is going to be the first thing anyone remembers. His list will be remembered for Phil Collins “Take me Home.”

I risk my man card here, but Coldplay has made some good songs.

Rats. I was afraid of that.

Rats. I was afraid of that.

This is not one of them. “Trouble” combines boring, with sad, with kinda long. Also, Tom said my list was depressing. Pot, meet kettle.

Daft Punk just made an incredible album with Nile Rodgers and Pharell Williams. Really exciting stuff, it sounded retro and fresh at the same time. Tom ignored Random Access Memories and picked their old, unambitious house single “One More Time.” Yikes.

The Bee-gees are associated with disco, but they were uncanny songwriters beginning with their Beatle-esque single “New York Mining Disaster 1941” (which they wrote as teenagers!) or the touching “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” or “Emotion.” Tom picked “You Should Be Dancing,” from the most dated part of their musical catalog.

Ray Charles was a tremendous talent, but “Lonely Avenue” is only two minutes and thirty seven seconds long and it feels like ten, mostly it is built on one riff that is beaten into the ground every two seconds. You want great Ray Charles? Try “I’ve Got News for You.”

In short, I can’t argue with his artists, but I don’t understand some of his picks. But it is his island. Just stay off of mine.

Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Finale

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It’s been a long time since we drifted on to our tropical prison, but our prayers have finally been answered: http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lnbhlhiZR81qjcbiwo1_500.gif

We’ve made booze!

Be fermenting a combination of sugar cane, mango pulp and coconut water, we have managed to concoct a libation that, while tasting terrible, manages to get you drunk as shit in record time. With our ticket to moonshine blindness in hand, it’s time to listen to the final 5 cuts from the Desert Island Playlist. Since drunkenness and nostalgia go hand in hand, we begin with….

“They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth

Pete Rock is a god amongst aspiring beatsmiths, having pioneered the jazz and soul-infused production style that the late J-Dilla and Kanye West used to catapult themselves to super-producer status. He has produced for damn near everyone, from hip hop legends of the past and present, underground kings and aspiring MCs, and even pop sensations like the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.

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He also produced for Jim Jones, but I won’t hold that against him.

His 1992 album with his partner CL Smooth, Mecca and the Soul Brother, is a critical darling, and still stands as one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. And no song makes the reason why more plain than the group’s magnum opus, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”.

Recorded as a tribute to Trouble T-Roy, best known as one of Heavy D’s eponymous Boyz, the song encapsulates everything the group got right in their all-too-short pairing: CL Smooths’ rhythmic musings, while not the most intricate, worked beautifully with Pete Rock’s outstanding production – the urgency of the message was beautifully accentuated by stirring horn loops and soulful atmosphere, while the beat made bobble heads out of all that heard it.

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The idea of hip-hop as an art-form has taken a severe beating in today’s era of disposable music, but if you wanted to make the case, you couldn’t find a better exhibit A than this. “They Reminisce Over You” still stands as one of hip hop’s finest recordings, a shining example of the genre’s power to not just tell you a story, but to musically transport you there, and immerse you in the artist’s state of mind. It’s no wonder then that this is one of my favorite cuts, and one that I couldn’t take a sabbatical from society without.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5f/Mary_J_Blige_album_cover_My_Life.jpg“Be Happy” – Mary J Blige

Before Mary J Blige exploded onto the scene with 1992’s What’s the 411?, she purposely eschewed the refined, pop ready look and feel of R&B songstresses like En Vogue and Mariah Carey who dominated the charts at the time. Her music seamlessly entwined hip-hop with the raw, gospel-tinged, soul-bearing vocal energy pioneered by Aretha Franklin, creating the sound that propels modern urban Pop and R&B hits to this day.

I’m just gonna leave this right here:

Mary more than lived up to the expectations set by her initial success with My Life, the brilliant sophomore album that cemented her legacy and actually made her worthy of the title “Queen of Hip Hop Soul”. My Life finds Mary in a great deal of pain: At the time she was dealing with a great deal of personal tragedies, and many of the album’s best songs are steeped in sadness. It’s for this precise reason that the first single, “Be Happy”, is the album’s standout piece, and one of the songs I can’t do without.

From it’s windswept intro to it’s mantra-chanting fade out, “Be Happy” finds a woman bottoming out experiencing a moment of clarity. It’s the precise moment when Mary figures out that the way to rid herself of her demons is to begin to love herself – it’s an amazing moment of power on an album driven by vulnerability. It’s especially comforting to hear these days, since it showed us the woman that Mary J Blige would become.

She may have been crawling through a river of shit at the time, but Mary figured out how to come out clean on the other side.

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/413jGnsPA5L.jpg“Can’t Hide Love” – Earth, Wind & Fire

I was glad to see that Tom picked a record by Earth, Wind & Fire, because they are one of my all-time favorite bands. Many musicians, including some classic artists, have a tendency to throw up the reels – to use a familiar formula in order to achieve success from follow-up songs after having a hit record. Earth, Wind & Fire are one of very few groups from which no two records ever sound alike, yet all of their arrangements are still incredibly accessible – hardly any of their songs doing hard turns into experimental ditches.

 

“Can’t Hide Love” isn’t even the best song from Gratitude, but that’s just a testament to how good the album is. A powerful horn section, accompanied by an amazing bass arpeggio, draw you in to this incredible groove from the first few notes. The interplay between Maurice White’s verse and Philip Bailey’s hook, coupled with the band’s whip-perfect timing on the intricate arrangement, is a classic example of what made the group legendary.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/KDTXljIqxRE/hqdefault.jpg“Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” – William DeVaughn

Another in a long line of soul records that made the list, “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” is the best known song from William DeVaughn, but it boasts a simple message that continues to stand the test of time, minus the Cadillac part.

 

 

In recent years, is seems that artists have forgotten that music can be used to deliver a message in a non-preachy way: Either a song is too on-the-nose about an issue or cause to be popular, or too shallow to resonate with people. I also think that’s kind of a shame, because songs like this demonstrate that this is not the case. In today’s consumption-driven world, where material possessions are too often equated with self-worth, the idea that you don’t need a bunch of extravagant goods to have pride and happiness is lost on a lot of people. It’s one that I wish more artists would share with their audience.

I also think this one is right at home in our desert island setting. As you contemplate the desperation of the situation, it can be very hard to stay positive about getting out. I imagine that, at some point, you will have to make peace with the idea of staying there forever, and that means looking on the bright side: You have your life, you have your health, a beautiful view, and a large quantity of materials to make more booze from.

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I’ll drink to that!

It’s at this moment, when you have given in to the notion of staying on the island forever, and surrendered to the idea of pickling yourself with homemade hooch until the end of your days, when you suddenly see it: A boat on the edge of the horizon.

You quickly spring to your feet just to make sure this isn’t an alcohol-fueled hallucination, and, drawing on your movie-inspired survival education, quickly dash the bottle into your fire. The bottle shatters and ignites the moonshine, creating a mushroom cloud that does two things: First, it completely singes your eyebrows off. It also gets the attention of the boat.

At long last, the long nightmare is over. You may have been driven half mad by isolation, you maybe completely smashed, and you may have naught but charred skin where your eyebrows used to be, but at long last, you are going home.

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You’re pretty excited about this, but no one will be able to tell.

And for that glorious moment, I picked what I believe is the perfect song to get you there:

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“Take Me Home” – Phil Collins

After achieving worldwide success with Genesis, Phil Collins embarked on a journey as a solo artist, and “Take Me Home” is one of his best songs.

 

 

Inspired by One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the song tells the story of someone who’s been so beaten by circumstance he doesn’t even mind the situation anymore. He doesn’t even remember what home feels like, but he longs for someone to transport him there, because he doesn’t even know the way.

It’s one of the few Phil Collins solo songs that haven’t aged poorly over time, and it still conjures up that longing feeling in any road-weary soul who hasn’t seen their family, who has been so caught up in the rat race that they long for a simpler time, or even a simpler existence. I think we have all felt that longing at one time or other, and pop music is at its best when it is able to stir those type emotions up in you. This one does that in spades, making it the perfect closer to the list.

And with that, we set sail off of the desert island, with a few things in hand: A deeper appreciation of the need for human companionship, an appreciation for a few amazing tunes, and the recipe for an awful-tasting cocktail that will certainly be a hit with the binge-drinking crowd back home.

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You hear that, Four Loko?! We’re coming for YOU!

NFL Week One: The Week in Rebuke

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There is nothing more satisfying in football than seeing ‘bad’ teams win, and all of your predictions and forecasts going out of the window in one quarter. Unlike any other sport, the NFL has created an environment where every team is trying to compete; one of a handful of reasons the NFL is the dominant sport in America.

Of course the NFL is trying to ruin it.

The NFL is trying to clamp down on the physical contact between defensive backs and wide receivers, because once a year an owner or coach loses a game and throws such a tremendous tantrum that they get the rules changed. The NFL has ceded control of the game to attorneys, because there is a strong correlation between tort and gameplay.

Those rule changes are decided by the Competition Committee, who had a combined 2013 record of 63-80-1. I don’t know if I want these guys determining how the rest of the league plays, but at the very least they need to change their name.

The first game of the season was between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. The defensive rules were enacted because of the Seahawks last year, but there were few calls against them in the actual game. In fact, there were very few calls this week for defensive/offensive holding or pass interference…except for the Cowboys/49ers game which came to a halt every five seconds. It’s like it was called by a completely different referee crew. It’s another year where no one knows what the rules are and it completely depends on the crew you get.

green bay 1

For some reason Aaron Rodgers got criticism for the game he played, but I also have to blame a gameplan that concedes one side of the field to a single player. Green Bay didn’t even try to contest Richard’s Sherman’s side, which meant that Rodgers was immediately stuck throwing to really small windows on one side of the field, against the best defense in football. If you’re a receiver or tight end for the Packers, your coach just told you they don’t think much of you.

Romo

I’m also defending Tony Romo. 37 pass attempts doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when you realize he was down most of the time, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. Romo was rusty, he has a bad back, he was taking shots, and Dez Bryant went down. Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray was cutting through the depleted 49ers defense at 5.4 yards a clip, behind the best run-blocking line in the league. Controlling time of possession through running would have preserved Dallas’s shaky defense, so of course, in key situations (and from the 2 yard line in the red zone!) Dallas passed leading to turnovers and failed conversions.

San Fran

It’s also worth noting that Dallas was roundly mocked for starting linebacker Rolando McClain who had been out of football getting himself together as he recognized that he was going down the wrong path, because apparently that’s crazy. McClain had 8 tackles yesterday, 7 of them solo.

Miami

But that’s how the day went. The Dolphins always play the Patriots tough, but this time they finished strong, aided a great deal by Bill Belichick’s idiotic trade of Logan Mankins, which allowed the Dolphins pass rush to devastate their offense. Tom Brady accepted a team-friendly contract, hoping that the Patriots would build a great team around him. Instead they stored assets for the future and refused to spend money. I think I just described the first Wall street bailout.

Atlanta beat the Saints, with Matt Ryan having a jaw-dropping day. Fun fact, in my fantasy league Matt Ryan went in the second to last round of the draft, after kickers, defenses and backup Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. I thought they took Ryan too soon at the time.

Buffalo beat the Bears. You hope this is the year that Buffalo is at least dangerous, since their defense has been vicious for years. The Texans won, and J.J. Watt continued to demonstrate that we are watching all-time great. The Bengals beat the Ravens again in what’s starting to feel like it was a changing of the guard.

Jesus, the Ravens are depressing. Ray Lewis retired, they resigned Joe Flacco, and things started to fall apart. He wasn’t worth that kind of money, and they lost Anquan Boldin. Every great offense needs that one guy you can go to when you need a first down, or in the red zone and that’s what Boldin and Todd Heap did for the Ravens. Well, they’re gone, and the offense has suffered, because Flacco just wants the deep ball.

And Ray Rice. Wow.

Ray Rice

Look, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. No one did. We didn’t know what happened in that elevator. You shouldn’t hit women, but Rice is a powerfully built man, and we didn’t know if maybe she struck  him and he pushed her and she hit her head or what. I know everyone is on their soapbox now, but I wasn’t sure what actually happened.

Well, the tape leaked, and it literally couldn’t have been worse. Rice hit her harder than the last five boxing matches I’ve seen. I don’t know what ‘investigation’ the league could have done without seeing this tape, but it calls into question any other research they’ve done recently, because this guy shouldn’t have sniffed a two game suspension and this tape had to be easy to get. How does TMZ have better resources than the NFL?

Cleveland and Jacksonville looked very competitive, which was a good sign for the rest of the year.

mcl

Also, a sprain is a tear. Just say it with me, a sprain is a tear. Evan Mathis went down with what was diagnosed as an MCL sprain and everyone went “whew, thank God it isn’t torn.” A sprain is a tear; it’s just not a complete tear. A lot of offensive lineman went down this week, and that’s going to play a big factor this year.

We have a tendency to compare quarterbacks to all-time greats. Honestly, Andrew Luck reminds me of John Elway, a mobile gamer with a cannon for an arm, and a flawed team around him. Watching him nearly beat the Broncos again, reminded me of how thrilling this guy really is. The problem with praising Luck is that people tend to view him as a winner and RGIII as a bust, even though Luck has a career passer rating of 81.6. But Kenneth Arthur of Rolling Stone Magazine puts it best:

…Per ProFootballFocus, [Luck] had a lower percentage of “air yards” than 25 other quarterbacks, with just 49.7 percent of his passing yards coming from his throws alone. This means that over 50 percent of his total passing yards came after the catch, implying that his receivers did much of the work…[Luck] had 60 throws to targets that were 20 or more yards down field and completed 17 of those attempts…a lot is made of his poor offensive line, but he was considered “under pressure” on 37.5-percent of his drop backs, good for 10th-highest percentage in the league. Luck had 327 dropbacks with at least 2.6 seconds in the pocket, fourth-most in the league. He’s had plenty of time to throw.

Conversely, Robert Griffin III has a career passer rating of 91.8 with a lousier team. But he’s a bust, right?

One last thing. I live in the Philadelphia area, so of course, the Eagles game was a big deal. Nick Foles threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns. That sounds great.

In actuality, this was the most terrifying game that could have possibly happened to the Philadelphia fans. Once DeSean Jackson left, Eagle coach Chip Kelly assured everyone that it wouldn’t matter that the only guy on the team that could stretch the field and demanded a double team had gone to a division rival for nothing.

The moment the game started, Nick Foles was in obvious panic mode, because no one was as wide open as he was used to. He looked terrified and unprepared. He missed easy throws, held the ball way too long, and looked utterly outmatched.

I rarely do this kind of thing, but if it weren’t for the fact that Jacksonville forgot to cover a wide receiver, giving up a big play to Jeremy Maclin for 68 yards, we’re talking about Nick Foles going for 254 yards with 1 TD, one pick, and two fumbles against one of the worst teams in the league.

Star running back LeSean McCoy was limited to 3.3 yards a carry (karma for being a bad tipper?) as the Jaguars dared the Eagles receivers to get open…and they were mostly right.

The Eagles are going to face stiffer competition outside of their division, and this was an alarming. Its rare to see a starting NFL quarterback look as terrified as Nick Foles did, and the backup is Matt Sanchez. Ye Gods.

Can’t wait for next week.  

Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Pt.3

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I was going over the playlist for this entry, and it occurred to me that a few of my picks for the Desert Island Disc would make me the object of ridicule. I got that revelation after Tom specifically told me he would be mercilessly ridiculing some of my selections from Part 2.

The official Tom and Tom symbol for disapproval.

I’m just gonna leave this right here.

Nevertheless, we soldier onward.

http://the305.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/sisternancy.jpg“Bam Bam” – Sister Nancy

There’s no way I’m spending time on a desert island without a bit of reggae, and this one has been a dancehall staple since the moment of it’s release. Some of you might recognize this one from the numerous times it’s been sampled, and perhaps two of you know it from the part in Belly where they ripped off Scarface.

 

While she only released one album in her heyday, Sister Nancy was a pioneer in the genre – one that is none too kind to its female members – and left a lasting legacy for the subsequent dancehall queens that came after her.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CeXj1E9kL._SL500_AA280_.jpg“I’ll Be Around” – The Spinners

The Spinners have been summer barbecue favorites since “I’ll Be Around” came out in 1971. Personally, if I don’t hear this song at an outdoor function, I think the police have arrived to shut the party down.

 

 

It also serves a dual function as a PSA for dating someone new: Behind every prospect who just got out of a relationship, there’s some dude out there, lurking in the bushes, waiting for you to mess up.

http://cdn3.whatculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Joey.jpg

“I thought I heard screaming! Is he hurting you?”

http://cdn.head-fi.org/6/64/6484bb88_todd_rundgren____4ebcb81fde52b.jpeg“Hello It’s Me” – Todd Rundgeren

Another song that might earn some ridicule, but is still a damn good tune, “Hello It’s Me” is a song that I hear pretty often, but I always stop to listen to. It’s not particularly well structured, but it has a warm, relaxed vibe that I feel would keep a person from going batshit insane from isolation.

 

The lyrics are pretty slight, but they are emblematic of a theme that started to emerge in popular music: The sexual revolution made it OK to just want to fool around with someone without a serious commitment, but you still couldn’t say that straight out in a song –  you had to finesse that shit.

http://marcusmeisler.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/morning-after-to-print.jpg?w=555&h=301

Nowadays, “I have a thing” works just as well.

Thus, the breezy “no pressure” style of songwriting was born, and few songs of that era did it better than this one.

“Feel It All Around” – Washed Out

In recent years, Chillwave managed to capture a great deal of my attention, and “Feel it All Around” is an example of the genre at its best. Washed Out never quite recaptured the magic he found on Life of Leisure, but this song has never made its way out of my playlist since the day I heard it.

 

Boasting a slowed down Gary Low loop as its base and Washed Out’s ethereal vocal at its center, the song creates a dreamlike atmosphere that’s completely immersive: You really can feel it all around you.

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It’s usually followed by the sting of a jellyfish in the worst place imaginable.

“Lonely Avenue” – Ray Charles

Ray Charles is a perfect example of an Impossible Choice artist, an artist who has so many classics to choose from, no matter which way you go the choice will be both right and wrong. “I Got A Woman” and “What I’d Say” seemed too obvious, and “Leave My Woman Alone” would drive you insane on a desert island, constantly wondering whether or not your girlfriend has slept with someone yet.

 

I ultimately chose “Lonely Avenue” because it fit the situation the best: It’s gonna get pretty lonely out there. Besides, I’d be wondering if my girlfriend slept with someone no matter which song I chose.

“Transatlanticism” – Death Cab For Cutie

Despite having three albums and two EPs of reasonably solid songs, Death Cab for Cutie did not hit their stride musically until Transatlanticism, a concept album centered around a long distance relationship. The album boasts an impressive collection of cuts, but the title track is one of my favorite songs.

 

I’m not going to say too much about this one, except: A)that I chose it because the concept seemed to fit perfectly with the desert island theme, and B) just listen to it:

Ben Gibbard does an amazing job allegorizing the impact of being away from the one he loves, and there’s no doubt that, on a desert island, you’d get to know that feel pretty quickly.

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For, you know, lots of reasons.

I already spoke about how you can slowly go insane just wondering whether your significant other has slept with anyone in your absence on the island, but after a while, you will have to accept the fact that she has. If you ever make it back, there’s no reason to think the world was encased in amber since you left. Life goes on, and people go on living it.

But when I get back….

That’s where the next song comes in to play…..

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/40/Jb-the-payback.jpg“The Payback” – James Brown

I chose this song because of it’s theme, belted out in the guttural timbre only James could pull off: Revenge. Emotion can be a powerful motivator for survival, and nothing can keep a person going quite like the thought of getting back at the people who left you to die on some godforsaken spit of land with only one disc worth of choices.

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02808/castaway_2808697b.jpg

“Why couldn’t they leave me with a phone!? Even a flip phone has a damn MP3 Player!”

Remember the Impossible Choice Artist I talked about? James Brown is another one of those artists. I anguished while trying to choose between the multitude of amazing cuts in James Brown’s repertoire. You really can’t go wrong no matter which one you pick, but you’ll always wonder if you made the right decision.

The Godfather of Soul likes to take you on an incredible ride with all his songs, but the destination is usually only one way. I like this one specifically because it has quite a few twists to it, while still taking you on a ride the corner of Pay and Back.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_rU308YJ3usM/TPQ39fsbydI/AAAAAAAADAA/a-GTxeqwHPU/s800/Worf.png

“Revenge is a dish best served cold…. And funky”.

 

Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Pt. 2

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http://www.shopradiocast.com/product_images/p/510/fugees__13823_zoom.jpg“Killing Me Softly” – Fugees

While the sophomore release from the Wu-Tang Clan over promised with “Triumph” and under-delivered with Wu-Tang Forever, The story of the Fugees follow up to Blunted on Reality, The Score, is one of unexpected greatness that slowly crept into the public consciousness. The album boasted some of the era’s most amazing cuts –  “Fu-gee-la”, “Ready or Not” and “How Many Mics” to name a few – but the song that propelled the album and the group into the stratosphere was the unbelievable Roberta Flack cover, sung by Lauryn Hill.

 

On the surface, the song is as simple as can be: a minimalist hip hop loop, coupled with a limited but brilliant live bass track from Jerry Wonder. But it’s Lauryn’s incredible vocal that brings you to your knees. Every note is flawless, but the slight rasp to her voice gives the song a raw feeling. It makes the anguish the song wants to showcase as apparent as an exposed nerve, and the whole world stopped to feel Lauryn’s pain.

It’s only right that this song makes the list: The song is supposed to be a bit of a tearjerker, but hearing it always makes me happy.

https://popmusicmagic.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/friendly-fires-pala1.jpg?w=198&h=198“Pala” – Freindly Fires

Prior to the release of Pala, Friendly Fires made a bit of noise by dressing up like skeletons in a video, but failed to make much impact outside of the UK. They came to my attention via a crazy remix by Aeroplane to “Paris”, and after digging into their catalog, I came across the title track to their second album, and have kept it in heavy rotation ever since.

The song is almost like a dream set to music: ethereal synths gracefully take you to a paradise, so beautiful and filled with life, that you wouldn’t care if you died there. It seems appropriate, considering the circumstances.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/marvin-gaye-whats-going-on.jpg“Inner City Blues” – Marvin Gaye

In another of many classic soul tracks that made the playlist, “Inner City Blues” isn’t  a pick-me up, but it is a masterpiece from one of the genre’s greatest. Taken from Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On, the song encapsulates the plight of ghetto life – existence, because as the stark lyrics remind us, “This ain’t living”. It hooks you from the opening piano chord to the “What’s going on” reprise at the end, painting a picture of the bleak inner city more clearly than any camera could ever hope to.

It says a lot that, for a lot of people, the message contained within the words is still as relevant today as it was in 1971. While some songs on the desert island playlist might make you long for a return to civilization, “Inner City Blues” might make you not want to come back.

“That’s All” – Genesis

Phil Collins is one of my favorite artists, and I’m pretty sure he has at least one song that’s a favorite of almost everyone in the world. If you can’t name a song by Phil Collins – either from his solo work or his time in legendary prog rock group Genesis – that doesn’t speak to you in some way, then you need to pay Mephistopheles a visit, and try to get your soul back.

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I advise against a fiddle contest challenge, but do what you gotta do.

I chose “That’s All” because it’s an elegantly simple pop record with funky intentions, thanks to a crazy electric piano riff. The song is every good relationship in a nutshell: You’re with someone that drives you so crazy, you wanna escape through the sewer system to freedom. There’s only one thing keeping you in the house with this person: You’re in love with them. Its the one thing that’s somehow everything, and great music can crystallize that feeling in all its forms.

http://www.stonesthrow.com/uploads/news/0afe508f718c0c91042a1a326f96fdf3.jpg“The Edge” – David McCallum

A lot of you might know this piece by David McCallum only as the sample bed for Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”, but there’s an amazingly cinematic piece of music hiding just beyond the incredible guitar loop. It brings to mind a hard-boiled detective, walking the mean streets and playing by his own rules.

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101206044116/theregularshow/images/0/07/The_Name%27s_Fist.jpg

This is about as tough as the scenario gets in my imagination.

A song that can take you to another place just seems like it would be good for a place where a scenery change won’t be happening soon.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0c/TheBeeGeesSaturdayNightFeveralbumcover.jpg

 

 

 

“You Should Be Dancing” – Bee Gees

 

 

 

That’s right. I picked a song from the Bee Gees.

Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s a disco record. It’s also one of the best from the era – You don’t score that many hits by accident, after all – and a bit of silly fun never hurt nobody. Besides that, it’s a desert island: I don’t have to care what anyone thinks.

http://blacklikeyou.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/ff7ba-fgcastawayjerk.gif?w=400&h=226

I left my shame on the mainland – right next to my fucks to give.

Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Pt. 1

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Without further ado, here’s my playlist, in it’s entirety:

You can enjoy it now, while I break down the list in no particular order, starting with the first selection:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d8/Wu-Tang_Forever.jpg

“Triumph” – Wu Tang Clan

What you may notice from the top is that there is surprisingly little hip-hop on this list. It surprised me too, but because the idea is that you only get one CD worth of songs, I didn’t want to fill it with just one type of music. (I failed, but we will get to that in a moment.) But, if I had to choose one song to place in the Pantheon, it would be Triumph, every time.

 

The name is completely appropriate for the record, as it announced the triumphant return of hip hop’s most elite rap group to the stage after their critically acclaimed debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and an amazing collection of solo albums. This song found the Wu in top form, striding the beat like roman generals returning to the fanfare of an adoring public.

Triumph is hip hop in its uncut, purest form. There were no weak links; every verse was as hard and precise as the next, and there was no room for a hook as every member of the clan got a turn. Old Dirty Bastard played the role of hype man here, and set the tone for one of the hardest records the genre had ever produced.

This song could easily be picked as the swan song of Hip Hop’s golden age. The album was pretty uneven, ranging the gamut from bangers like “It’s Yours” and “Reunited” to abysmal dreck like “Black Shampoo”. But at the time, that didn’t matter: I personally can’t remember a song that made me feel the level of anticipation for an album that I felt the first time I heard it.

And if I had to choose one Hip Hop song to bring me back to the genre’s finest hour, I doubt I could find a better replacement.

http://www.gq.com/images/style/2013/05/daft-punk/daft-punk-630.jpg“One More Time” – Daft Punk

These days, everyone knows who Daft Punk is: The Pharrell Williams-helmed “Get Lucky” has been played almost half to death. But at the time of Discovery’s release, the electronic duo were mostly relegated to club play, and “One More Time” was their first big hit. It was also the song that made me aware of the genius of these two perpetually helmeted Frenchmen, and from the moment I heard the song and saw the anime infused video, I was forever hooked.

The reasons for this selection are relatively simple: I like house. It’s an obscure genre, one that gets barely any recognition and even less airplay on mainstream radio, but it has soul. And I’m always on the lookout for any music that can make me feel something, if but for a fleeting moment. Also, on a desert island, you need a record that can lift your spirits and make you forget about your abysmal circumstances. One More Time fits the bill, and then some.

Baden and I will worry about constructing the vine elevator for the tree-house tomorrow. Tonight, we’re gonna celebrate.

http://daily-songs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ltd.jpg“Love Ballad” – L.T.D

This is but the first of many soul records that made the list. Earlier, I said that my favorite songs are the ones that make me feel something. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s no wonder to me that the warm inviting tones of soul would dominate.

70’s funk group L.T.D. was not exactly a ground-breaking band; in fact, most of their music would barely stand out from the dominant R&B sound of that era. But “Love Ballad”, beautifully arranged and featuring the glorious vocals of Jeffrey “The Wizard Of” Osbourne, is the group’s lighting in a bottle moment.

It’s one of those rare songs that simply and perfectly encapsulates what love, the thing we all long to obtain and hold on to, is all about. The final refrain sums of the intangible quality of love better than any song I’ve ever heard before:

What we have is much more than they can see…

There was a moment when I debated replacing this song with “I Love You” by Lenny Williams, but I like the tempo of this record a little bit better, so it won out.

https://lh5.ggpht.com/nn1DFnhLH9_Da1vwOtzX73Y2GaW-BuQu3ZRGDmBDvFSlqaws9f2ohWlGs0zu7var_e4ri2Vlsw“Paradise” – Sade

In keeping with the vein of enjoying your imposed vacation from the things of man comes the music of Sade. Music is an ever changing medium, and some older artists are stuck in a time capsule, either producing music that sounds dated, or failing miserably to keep up with current musical trends in order to stay relevant. Listen to just about any 90’s Michael Jackson record, then compare it to his newer stuff, and you’ll know what I mean.

 

I like Sade’s sound particularly because it never changes, yet never sounds out of date. It’s that timeless quality that I believe makes this a perfect addition to the desert island playlist.

Trouble – “Coldplay”

Before Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin became a of favorite of rap moguls and tabloid fodder for his “conscious uncoupling” from Gwyneth Paltrow, he and his band were blowing up with their debut album Parachutes, and “Yellow” was getting played all over the place. Their more subdued follow up single, “Trouble”, is my favorite song from the band, and, like Daft Punk before it, hooked me to them.

A simple song about a guy attempting to apologize for messing something up horribly, it just struck a chord with me, as it reminds me of the many situations I’ve personally FUBARed over the years.

And, if you’re stuck on a desert island, the chances are pretty good you messed up somewhere along the way.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/GaioIutcHKI/hqdefault.jpg“Requiem for a Tower (Lux Aeterna)” – Simone Benyacar, Daniel Nielsen, and Veigar Margeirsson

At some point on a deserted island, the longing for human physical and emotional contact will win out, and your mind will either break, or focus on one thing: escape. It’s at this moment you will need a selection to inspire you, and get you prepared for the daunting task.

Check.

 

“Requiem for a Tower” is an orchestral remix of Clint Mansel’s “Lux Aeterna” from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, that was made for the trailer of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The original is hauntingly beautiful, and perfectly underscores the hopelessness that permeated that film. The remix, with its full orchestra and chorus, adds power to the equation, transforming the piece from one of heartbreaking struggle to one of epic glory. It cuts out abruptly, leaving the outcome of the struggle ambiguous, which makes it perfect for sailing a raft made of two sea turtles roped together with back hair into the great unknown.

Will you make it? Will you die? There’s no way to tell, but this song will hype you up just enough to try, dammit.

“Summer Madness” – Kool and The Gang

A desert island is a great place for peaceful reflection, and I imagine that, on nights when you can get past your circumstances, would be pretty beautiful.

 

 

“Summer Madness”, one of only a handful of pure instrumentals by Kool and the Gang, is a perfectly tranquil track for enjoying a crisp sunset, contemplating life and its meaning, and just general relaxation – something you will have plenty time for when the sea turtles break free from their flimsily constructed hair restraints, and leave the waves to wash you back to your tropical prison.

You’re probably gonna be here for a long time; you might as well enjoy it.

Listen to Me on Black Tribbles Tommorow!

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I have been invited to join the Black Tribbles tomorrow for a discussion on top 10 MCs of all time.

For those not aware, the Black Tribbles (http://www.gtownradio.com/content/blogsection/59/134/) are a Philadelphia based group that covers sci-fi, comics, television, movies and a variety of other subjects. They recently collected some hardware at the Philly Geek Awards, but over the last couple of years they’ve really gotten a lot of momentum in the Philadelphia media, and they’re going to ruin their sterling reputation by having me come on.

For a little perspective, this is the article that started it all, our humble attempt to rank the top MCs in hip-hop (http://blacklikeyou.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/the-10-greatest-mcs-of-all-time-intro/).

I knew it was unrealistic. There are omissions, there are things that I didn’t feel great about after I did. I was pretty hard on Jay-z. But I get to talk about it again. It may be a complete disaster, but it will be a funny one. Check in Thursday at 8:45 pm and see what happens.

 

Power Man and Iron Fist: Getting Ugly

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Sometimes even an average comic can hit on greatness. Marvel never really allocated their resources to Power Man and Iron Fist, even though writer Jim Owsley (who became Christopher Priest) and artist M.D. Bright went on to long, productive careers. And it took decades for Marvel to get the hang of writing Danny Rand and Luke Cage.

(Sidebar, Luke Cage should have appeared in a film by now, and Marvel was going to make an Iron Fist kung fu movie with Ray Park. Talk about missed opportunities.)

But ‘Getting Ugly’ is special.

Power man Cover

‘Getting Ugly’ focuses exclusively on Luke Cage aka Power Man, one of the Heroes for Hire, who works for a commission most of the time. The story starts with a killer that is targeting black people pretty much randomly. (And that killer is called…high blood pressure! No, wait.)

Power Man 1

Power Man 3

Luke is getting pressure from all sides, although I wouldn’t take guff from a Billy Dee Williams ripoff. If only there was another hero to help him with this immensely powerful villain-

Power Man 4

Great. The Falcon.

Oh God, the Falcon is so lame. It like they have a box of powers and once all the good ones are gone they split the leftovers between the black heroes. At some point, they were down to stupid costume and flight, and good hair and impeccable parallel parking, and that’s how the Falcon came to be.

If you were in a fight and needed backup you are literally better off with Squirrel Girl than with the Falcon. They capture the bad guy, but it takes a turn.

Power Man 5

And Cage loses it. He’s been taking shots from everybody and they’re adding up. The military handles this indelicately, which is kind of a problem.

Power Man 6

Power Man 7

The headband and the yellow shirt were wack, and later comics made him much stronger, but there’s a reason he’s called Power Man. He bursts into the stockade and proceeds to stomp a mudhole into this guy and walk it dry.

Power Man 9

So Cage knocks him out and then-

Power Man 10

William Blake is black. He’s a self-hating black man, which means after the military gets done with him he got a job at Fox News.

Power Man 11

As it turns out, punching a computer to make it work isn’t always the best thing to do. But Priest ends this story on a gorgeous last page.

Power Man End

I think Priest was around 21 when he wrote this. He was ahead the curve, I’d say.

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