Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 years.

Wilco said, "It's the end of the century/And I can't think of anything/except you."

My lists, like I said earlier, are going to be a little different. The songs that I've listed immediately below are the labeled the best songs of the decade. These are the songs that I enjoyed the most this decade, in approximately the order I enjoyed them. (There has been much internal debate.) Number one is unchangeable. If you want to argue over order after that, we can talk.

The albums, on the other hand, are labeled, as the top five of the decade. These five albums are, I think, some kind of combination of the following: the most important music made this decade, the music that meant the most (I don't really know if that's different) and the music that I enjoyed.

However, the top five list is not merely populated with the stuff that I liked, because that would be untrue. So I felt the need to include a third list of stuff that came out in the last ten years (and one more, see below) that I loved the hell out of, but wasn't anywhere near the best.

You should already have all of these songs and albums. If you don't, you need to remedy that immediately. If you have any questions, as usual, feel free to ask.

Best Songs of the Decade

1. "Float On" by Modest Mouse - Simply put, the single song on this list that I could see myself listening to 6o years down the road and still feeling as good about. "Float On" got a lot of press when it dropped, for changing the sound of the Mouse a bit, and I continue to see it on a few lists of the best of the decade, but it's too far down. TIME Magazine called this the "The Decade From Hell" and there were times when we needed a pickup - no song does that better, or will continue to do so, than "Float On" by Modest Mouse.

2. "New Slang (When You Notice the Stripes)" by The Shins - Barring its overexposure in Garden State, this song (and the band as a whole) really can change a person's life. A great piece of pop recorded by some guys who grew up in the 505 that had a dark, dark undercurrent to it. The Shins' first two albums stand as keynotes of this decade and the return of lo-fi pop to the mainstream. This song stands as the banner of those albums.

3. "Hey Ya!" by OutKast - Definitely not the best rap song of the decade, nor the most popular (thanks a ton, Soulja Boy, you jerk) but the one that did the most to continue to bridge the gap between so-called black music and the white majority. When the mass market consumes (good) hip-hop on such a level, it is a good thing. "Hey Ya!" did more to push OutKast through those barriers than the Grammys they'd been nominated for and even more than the one they'd won! This is a semi-sad statement, but only if you ignore the sweet sounds put forth by Andre 3000. A classic gem.

4. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" by Wilco - Here's the deal: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of the most important albums this decade. And when the album starts off, we hear the weirdest combination of sounds, followed by a drumbeat that sounds like a ticking clock. This whole song is (was?) the sound of the implosion of the record label industry; with its well-known voyage not needing repeating, let's simply acknowledge that Wilco was ahead of their time, the album rules and, while there were other singles that I might have chosen, no song did more with so little to acclimate people to the fact that things were changing.

5. "Lose Yourself" by Eminem - The most inescapable song of the decade. Changed Eminem's career more than his loathed (most of all by himself) breakthrough single. And, on top of all that, the best sports motivation song since "The Eye of the Tiger." Teams blasted it, teens loved it, parents tolerated it. This song would have been the perfect pop combination for hip-hop, had OutKast not come along with their weirdass throwback. The perfect pop star of the first half of the decade at the apex of his career.

6. "Daylight" by Matt & Kim - Those who know me well shouldn't be shocked by this placement. Undeniably my song of the year, it catapults into the list of the decade (I kept it out of the top 5, but only after many battles) by sheer virtue of its ability to make anyone who listens happy. The simple beat, the drums and keyboards, the lyrics full of hope and then the booming chorus...all of these aspects culminate in a song that I'm not sure I could ever get tired of hearing.

7. "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson - From the first moment I heard this song, I wondered if it was going to be the guiltiest of my pleasures. Then I remembered that I don't have to feel guilty about liking pop songs, because I don't have any pretensions about my music taste! Whew. Big sigh of relief. Seriously, though, this might be the best pure-pop song released in my lifetime. It's pure syrup, funneled through the horrid lens of American Idol. If we have to endure the show for ten more years, it will be worth it because we got Ms. Clarkson, who is so much more than a one-hit wonder, with the songs she continues to pump out being great, great examples of the wonders of pop music. None, however, can measure up to her first song and its belted out chorus. I dare you to try and not to sing along.

8. "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes - This song was the hardest for me to include on this list, because, for some reason, I'm not a huge fan of the White Stripes. I think Elephant looks amazingly pedestrian in hindsight, but this song, hated by me upon release, proved amazingly resistant to my feelings. It wiggle and squirmed into my head and it wouldn't get out. Combined with the people who were pre-disposed to love it, this song became a monster, a self-fulfilling prophecy where the band marched over any who would put up their token resistance. The pure driving rhythm of the bass and drums would not be denied.

9. "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce - A contender for the most inescapable song of the decade crown. Back before Jay and B were married (in secret, but for real, but don't let pictures out, and don't talk about, but OK, they are) they killed any other contenders to the duet category by putting out this notice. In 2003, Beyonce was just that girl from Destiny's Child and Jay-Z was a great rapper, especially after the success of the Blueprint, but this song prepped both of them for superstardom that, as we look back in 2009, appears as though it was inevitable. The beat is frantically catchy, without any of the annoying sound effects of some of her late songs (that's right "Single Ladies" I'm looking at you), the Jay verse fits in perfectly, and the result was sweet.

10. "Idioteque" by Radiohead - For the last song of the decade, I'm only cheating a little bit. "Idioteque" is my favorite Radiohead song ever, and Kid A probably deserves a spot on the top albums of the decade but got shoved out by stiff competition. So, yes, Radiohead has to have a spot on my list, and this is where they get in. Now, with all those disclaimers, let me continue to say this: "Idioteque" is probably the best song Radiohead has ever recorded, as well. While much fuss is made over "Everything in its Right Place" as the first track of such a game-changing album (just like I gave to Wilco) the simple fact is that "Idioteque" continues the sonic experimentation in a way that the first track doesn't come close to matching! Kid A, however, is a true album, with the tracks meshing, and needing that all-important ordering, so it's hard to truly say that we can just indiscriminately grab any one and say it's better than the others. When looked at carefully, though, "Idioteque" stands as the culmination of those efforts.


Top 5 Albums of the Decade

5. Arcade Fire's Funeral - For all the press that the "The" bands got early in the decade (you know: The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, etc.) it wasn't until 2004, when the Arcade Fire came out with this semi-concept album that indie rock really, truly returned to a prominent place. Important not only for the swelling music, the multi-instrumentation that has since become a standard, nor merely the way in which it shook the industry, Funeral sounded like somebody with skills and vision setting out to change the way we heard things. They did, we did, and everyone benefited.

4. Green Day's American Idiot - The other side of the zeitgeist of the first half of the decade. Interestingly enough, released only one week after Funeral. Proved that pop-punkers could grow up and do something musical, proved that Green Day's early success wasn't a fluke, and proved that people of my generation still loved the Who. Green Day hit upon something, somehow, that tapped into what so many young people were feeling at the time. It was the most unexpected thing, from the most unexpected place, but it resulted in something that was very unifying. American Idiot set up a level that Green Day will never be able to reach again, but for that brief period when people were discovering this record, it seemed like anything was possible, not just for them, but for us.

3. Bruce Springsteen's The Rising - When this album came out, I immediately called it the Album of the Decade. Obviously, 7 years has changed just a little bit, but it hasn't changed the fact that this is the single most important album (and best sounding!) made about the most important thing that happened this decade. The Rising set Bruce Springsteen on his own mini-revival this decade, but that's beside the point: with this album, Bruce recorded a cornucopia of authentic reactions to a defining moment. It's impossible to hear this and not recall details about the events of September 11, 2001. And he doesn't focus on one side of the story, either, with the penultimate song, "Paradise," being a brave choice at that time. A tremendously bold artistic decision by a man who'd been stuck in the middle ground, The Rising showed that out of great tragedy can come beautiful art, and it set the stage for more to come, from Bruce individually, as well as from those who chose to take bold choices.

2. Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker - I will not lie: I didn't get into this album until more than a year after it was released. When I was in college, I was pushed onto Whiskeytown. My order of purchase went Pneumonia, Ryan's Gold and then Heartbreaker. If it's not too much cheating, I'd like to nominate all three of those albums for the number two slot on this list. But, I figured that was too much cheating, so I had to boil it down, and there's no escaping the fact that Heartbreaker stands head and shoulders above the other two albums. (This, despite the fact that Pneumonia is on my list of all-time top five favorite records! I'm telling you, this was a bitch of a decision!) Ryan Adams changed the way I listen to music. While I'd been fond of claiming that I listened to, "Everything but country," for most of my life, the truth was I didn't give country music many chances. Most of what I heard was terrible, cliche and obnoxious. Ryan Adams changed that, and, in the process, became my favorite musician of all time. His work, whether solo, with Whiskeytown, with the Cardinals, or with anyone else, stands up against anything else by anyone else. His best work can stand with the classics of any genre. There is not a single person this decade who influenced the music that I listened to and enjoyed, what I thought of as good, more than Ryan Adams. There is, however, one album that did so...

1. Kanye West's College Dropout - That's right, I said it. The College Dropout is the album of the decade. While Ryan Adams changed how I listened to music, Kanye changed how everyone listened to music. From his production to his over-the-top-in-real-life persona, Kanye ruled the decade. Late Registration has gotten better in hindsight, Graduation was great from the get-go, but College Dropout changed the game. The soul sound started to come back before this album dropped, because of the other hits that he produced, but this album pushed it through. Talib Kweli had been around before, but after this album, his name started getting dropped regularly. Common had been loved before this album, but after signing with Kanye and GOOD Music, his next two albums charted at #2 and #1. Jay-Z had been the man, but with Kanye producing his hits, he had a distinct sound.

But that's just measuring his effect on other people. His effect on the music itself cannot be overstated. Mixing backpack rap and materialism, swagger and insecurity, a blatant love for family and an aspiration to lonely superstardom, and the most agonizing sexual ambiguity (from fighting against homophobia to famously being portrayed as a gay fish) we've ever seen, Kanye West is a bag of contradictions. Those faults, however, did absolutely nothing to slow down College Dropout. In 2009, it's a different story, but when this album dropped (in 2004, good God! what a year for music) there was nothing out of place. Even tracks that could be seen as filler on a lesser album ("The New Workout Plan") seem like they mesh here. The overall message, coming from someone who seemed like a pretty smart guy, was such a vicious assault on the American education system I was shocked his mother still spoke to him.

Kanye's output since then, both musically and personally, has varied. That's neither here nor there. College Dropout is the five-star record of the decade, influencing everything that came after it, stylistically and musically. It's a front to back album that will stand the test of time.

Favorite Albums of the Decade

As I've said, I felt bad leaving these albums off my list. For the sake of my own failing memory, I'm writing them down here, so that I can always see what shaped me. These are the albums that I obsessed with, that I didn't think were in the realm of Best Album consideration - some of them are far off, but some were closer than you might think to busting into that range.

Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends - The album that made me do this list. There's no way that I can recap this decade without including this album. When I moved back to New Mexico, this was the soundtrack.

The Shins - Oh, Inverted World & Chutes Too Narrow - Local boys done good. Perfect pop masterpieces. Both these albums fit onto one CD. If you don't have these albums, email me and I'll send them to you, because you need them.

Jay-Z - The Blueprint & The Black Album - I've rocked Jigga hard (forgoing the pause) for almost fifteen years now. His output isn't nearly as consistent as he'd have you believe, but anyone who argues against the Blueprint as classic is a fool. The Black Album should just be re-released when he gets ready to really retire. People would buy it again, it's that good.

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot & A Ghost is Born & Sky Blue Sky - Wilco deserves more press for this three album stretch that changed them. YHF got all the words, but, for my money, Sky Blue Sky might be their best album of the decade, perhaps edging out Being There as their best ever? A consummately professional band (including the non-professional-ness that's needed by anyone in a band), it shocks the hell out of me that the people who were riding them hard in the YHF-era now think they're not worth talking about.

Beck - Sea Change & Modern Guilt - Again, mostly put here for the timespan and the change. To go from Sea Change to Modern Guilt, both great albums in their own right, but so completely different, shows that Beck's got skills way beyond Odelay which everyone loved and Mellow Gold, which remains the standard. Modern Guilt deserved more accolades than it got.

OutKast - This decade was hard for the boys from the South. After Aquemini (one of the best rap records of all time, but getting no placement on the list because it was released last decade) it seemed like the world was theirs. Stankonia was amazing, but not on the same level. Idlewild was better than the shit it took. And the double album was innovative, but suffered. The sum of OutKast is more than the whole of its parts. Big Boi's solo CD should have been out already. It's sad how they've kind of faded from the scene, but they remain one of the best groups in the short history of hip-hop. Undeniable.

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - Another album that changed how I listened to music. I really wanted to get into the Flaming Lips after loving this album, but nothing they've done since (or before) measures up. That's fine, because this is one hell of an album.

The Kleptones - A Night at the Hip-Hopera - Began my love for the Mash-Up genre and still stands as the best example thereof. A more important album than people realized, with its anti-record label message embedded in the music itself, it gives a new meaning to the phrase, "The message is the medium."

Q-Tip - The Renaissance - The album that we were waiting for him to make? Maybe not. But that doesn't change the fact that it's a damn good record. And it got slept on.

Radiohead - Kid A & Hail to the Thief & In Rainbows - I couldn't possibly put this list up without including Radiohead. Kid A got the top slot or top five on a lot of lists and I don't have anything against that. Hail to the Thief gets better and better in retrospect. And In Rainbows is a lot better than originally reported. The best band in the world got better this decade. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

And last, but not least:

Jimmy Eat World - Clarity - It broke my heart to look this album up and realize that it came out in 1999. This record is tied with Tell All Your Friends as the soundtrack to the happiest time in my life. College and the friends I had, the people I met, the moving from here to there and back again, everything, can be summed up by my friend Greg's favorite record of all time. I regret to report that I've actually seen Jimmy Eat World, when they were on tour for the album after this one, and that I talked smack. I was ignorant. This album gets one of the largest shout outs I can muster but it wasn't released this decade. If you don't have it, get it. It might not sonically fit with what's being pumped out right now, but as we all know, that's not always a bad thing.

So there you have it. The last ten years in musical form. Let the revisions begin.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

hitting the streets for a year.

I had a goal this year to run 1,000 miles. I did not make it. I don't know how many miles I realistically ran, but I think it was just over 900. Which is a lot. It's good, don't get me wrong. But it's right around 10% off my goal. I guess if this was school, I'd be in A- or B+ range, which is better than I did for most of my schooling, but I don't really like to measure things in terms of school, especially given my problems with that field.

Regardless. A few things stand out from my Nike Plus graph:

The least amount of times that I ran any given month was 10. (Except for December, when I've resumed my awful drinking habits and run a pitiful amount. I'm not going to tell you how few.) The month I ran the most frequently was, no surprise, June, with 21 runs. (More than double my slacker months.) This says a couple things to me: Firstly, in January and February, when it was stupid cold here, I was still fresh in my commitment. I went to the gym (thanks sister, for the membership!) and I put in the miles. Secondly, the time off, to myself, with nothing to do other than read, write and run actually paid off! I mean, I had a great time hanging out with Kat and it was awesome to see a new city, but... I mean, who knew? It actually worked! Thirdly, I slacked in October, with only 10 runs. However, one of those was my marathon, which I accomplished in less time than I wanted, crossing a life goal off my list. Sometimes, the individual tree is worth more than the forest?

I don't feel like a failure because I didn't hit 1,000. I'm not going to try for it again, and I know that may seem like giving up, but I took a shot. I don't think I took my best shot (because if I had done my best, I think I would have gotten it) but I think I gave it a good enough one. Around September, I started to get really fed up with the routine. I was complaining to anyone who would listen that I didn't want to run, that I'd be happy when it was over, etc. Around October, with the marathon creeping up, I started talking about maybe dropping out of the marathon and just running the half. But I knew that I'd trained all year for it and that it was highly unlikely that I'd train that diligently again. So I stuck to my guns even though I was dead afraid of the race.

During the actual marathon itself, I had two goals: finish under four hours and not to stop a single time. I checked the first one off the list, but was unable to keep going, especially in the last three miles or so. I think I stopped four or five times. It was disappointing, especially as it was happening, because all I could think was that I was going to miss my target time because of that stopping. When I finished under my target time, I almost couldn't believe it. I think I was in some kind of shock.

After the marathon, I signed up for a series of short races, so that I wouldn't just stop running completely, and try to finish my yearly goal. It only kind of worked. I went out for those races, but I just didn't keep up my end of the bargain as thoroughly as I had early in the year. However, now that I'm on break, I've been running again and enjoying it.

I think this, then, is the ultimate point: I went hard at a long-term goal, as well as some shorter-term ones. I didn't achieve the year-long goal, which seems like a big target, but I crossed a life-goal off my list. I think that's more important. And so, yeah, I'm disappointed that I didn't do what I set out to do, but I'm proud of myself.

Next year, I'll run when I want to. I plan on biking a lot more frequently, and trying to transition off the road and into the water.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

capping this year.

Once again, as it's December, I'm looking back over the last year. It's a different kind of list here on TRLS, though, mainly because I'm not a paid, professional critic, and I don't spend that much time reading quote-unquote real books, nor going to the cinema. My list, then, is of the best things that I read, saw, and listened to this year. In regards to the music, it's my opinion on the best of what came out this year. In regards to the books and movies, though, it's a sampling of the things that I experienced that were worthwhile. I'll be checking back in a few days from now with my end of the decade list of songs and albums, which will have very little similarity to some of the others I've seen. Without further ado.

Best Things I Read in 2009

White Teeth - Can't believe it's only been a year since I finished Zadie Smith's first work. Stunningly powerful, it influenced everything else I read this year.

An Abundance of Katherines - John Green's second book, better than Paper Towns, which I also read, but won't make this list, full of fun characters and an interesting quirk. I refuse to believe those who say they didn't see the twist at the end, though.

Too Cool to be Forgotten - Lots of press on this one, but it turned out to be just all right. An interesting idea that was certainly interesting in its execution, somehow the sum felt like less than the total of its parts. Frustrating, but worth reading.

The Loud Silence of Francine Green - After I read this book, I read a review on Amazon by someone who claimed to be a teacher, who said they didn't know much about McCarthyism, and who said they thought Francine was a dangerous role model. My head almost exploded at the irony. Read this book.

Harry Potter - While I was in Pittsburgh this summer, I read all of the Harry Potter books. They were magnificent. I know this has already been written, so I don't have much to add other than to say if you haven't read them, there's literally nothing worth waiting on.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Given to me by Kat while I was there, Chabon knocks another one out of the park. (Although, this was his first, right? So, I mean, I guess this was the first one he knocked out of the park.) I was so engrossed by his tale of semi-regular folk that I think I blazed through this one in a day. Get it.

Speak - In preparation for my class, I read this book, centering around the transformation a girl in high school undergoes after she's raped. It's incredibly powerful, incredibly well-written, and doesn't aim for anything grandiose; it tells the story in everyday language in a manner that any person of any age will be able to get. The best book I read all year, besides White Teeth.

Comic Books - This year was a weird year for me and my comic book tastes. I loved everything, but nothing stood out. While Blackest Night kicks ass, it's still ongoing. And Batman and Robin is great, but it misses Quitely's art when he's not there. The Flash: Rebirth mini has suffered from delays, as did seemingly every big book. The single best book that came out in 2009 was Adventure Comics, with Geoff Johns writing and Francis Manapul drawing, but my enthusiasm for this title has waned with the last two Gerry Ordway books and the knowledge that Geoff and Francis are departing imminently. What a drag.

Note - I also read the remainder of the Twilight books this year. They were terrible. However, I'm not going to ride the anti-Twilight bandwagon, because I firmly believe that any book that gets kids reading is a good book. I'm sure there were people who looked at me when I was growing up and saw my nose buried in comic books and thought I was wasting my time.

Best Movies

Watchmen - That's right, it's on my list. It's not a perfect film but it's a damn good one. In a year with no Iron Man, this stands out as the cream of the comic book movie crop.

The Class - Depressing in the best way. It really made me question whether I truly want to go teach in France or even if I want to continue doing it at all.

Away We Go - Man, what a great movie. Maybe my movie of the year? Just a super honest look at how people are doing things nowadays, with hardly a pretty, tied-up resolution in sight, and believable depth to all the characters.

Up - I know this is going to get many people's votes as movie of the year, and I'm not going to disagree with those people. A solid contender. Doing its best to make the claim that animation isn't just for kids anymore.

Star Trek - JJ Abrams is my Master now. 'Nuff said?

Moon - Not nearly as good as I wanted it to be, but deserving to be on this list mainly for its reinforcing of the idea that Sam Rockwell deserves more!

I also caught, for what its worth, from years past, Gran Torino (tops of the list), Fanboys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (not nearly as bas as some people tried to make it out to be), and The Namesake (beautiful).

Things I Heard in 2009

In no particular order: BlakRoc by BlakRoc was one of the best, simply put. It's Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seemed a little too disco at first for my tastes, but then I realized it was just killer rock. Dark Night of the Soul by Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse, and David Lynch. If you don't own this album, you missed out on 2009. Wilco (The Album) by Wilco the band - not nearly as good as Sky Blue Sky, but got more press - why? Jaydiohead: The Encore from Minty Fresh Beats was waaaay better than the first one, and Only Built for Cuban Linx II from Raekwon was as good as everyone billed.

The Ecstatic by Mos Def is the only album not on that list that might have a place, Phoenix's album was good but not great, Fall Out Boy will always have a place in my heart, but the album was uneven, and Jay-Z has no place on this list.

What'd I miss?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

i want to see a truly mad genius.

I've been thinking about basketball a lot lately.

Specifically, I've been thinking about shooting percentage and, thanks to the wonderful gents from Free Darko, the positional revolution that Don Nelson always gets so much credit for. I've been thinking about the smallball that D'Antoni is credited with reviving. And I've been thinking about some of the new crop of stars, starting with not so newbies like Dirk and Ray Allen, continuing through to Lamar, and finishing up with Kevin Durant and Chris Paul (Don't think he belongs here?).

(Sidenote: If Don Nelson were truly a mad genius, that guy that everyone wants him to be, this is what we'd see from him. I don't believe we will, and I don't believe that it's really as good an idea as I'm going to present, but, damn! Just talking about this makes me want to see it, just to see how marvelously magnificent it would turn out.)

So, conventional wisdom says that we pound inside, that the two ball rules supreme and that the three is a silly shot. Percentages are lower, defenses can chase you off the line, etc. Well, I've been thinking about percentages a lot lately, and I've been watching a lot of basketball, playing a lot of basketball, and coaching a lot of basketball, and what I really want to see is a team that shoots almost nothing but threes. The only time, really, that I'd be OK with a two (on this theoretical team) would be on a fast break with an advantage - 3 on 2, 2 on 1, or an open court dunk. Otherwise, I say, let it fly.

I know this sounds like madness.

But just for the sake of argument, let me try to talk my way out of this. According to Basketball Reference, the average for the last 10 years worth of 2 pointers is 59.3%. This obviously doesn't include this year, since the season's not over yet. The same time-period averaging of three pointers brings a 47.6% total.

If you make 59.3% of your two-pointers in a 100 possession game, you're going to score 118.6 points. However, if you score 47.6% of your three-pointers in a 100 possession game, you're going to score 142.8 points. That's a pretty big gap.

Now, granted, not everyone's shooting that hot from three. So we have to make an adjustment. (However, it's worth pointing out that some people aren't shooting near 60% for 2, either.) What if 3-point shooting dropped to 40%? Still gets you an average of 120 points, just over the two ball mark.

Let's look at some helpful samples: Kevin Durant, whom Hollinger loves, and Shoals loves, and everyone seems to love, but who, somehow, has a negative plus/minus, only shot the 3 ball well in his second season, averaging 29% both his rookie season and this season. However, even with that bad average, his three-ball average still produces 10 more points per 100 possessions than does the field goal percentage! Lamar Odom just about breaks even in the two categories even though no one thinks of him as a particularly feared three point shooter. Dirk Nowitzki, though, is the obvious one to mention here, averaging out to almost 20 points better from beyond the arc.

Before I hear in comments that it "Just wouldn't work," let me say this: I know it wouldn't work. I know that the threat of the three-pointer would become almost meaningless if they never drove inside, never got to the line, never pushed the defense back on their heels. I know that. BUT. It doesn't change the fact that I want to see it. I want to see some team just completely abandon the center position, grab some freakishly long wings who stroke the three at a decent percentage and a point guard who can do so himself, and see them run it for a year. How many points would it produce? How many people would they piss off? I'm not talking about the Fun 'N Gun Suns here, because I'm not looking for Nash alley-oops to Stoudemire (or the dearly departed Matrix). I'm not talking about the Warriors and Baron's dunk on AK-47, although that was hot.

What I'm talking about is seriously gunning a system on the pure three ball. They'd lose a lot of games when the shots weren't falling. The averages would drop because they'd be shooting more of those shots that just aren't as easy. I know these things. But it doesn't mean that I don't think about it all the time and dream of seeing it someday.

What do you think?

Monday, December 7, 2009

continuing a bad policy.

As per my normal position, I'm here to complain a bit about copyright law as currently enforced in the United States. I don't know, but it's always just seemed like a kind of bad idea to sue the people who are your normal, paying customers. (As a sidenote, I laughed a lot when I saw this video, which reminded me of the circumstances a bit - there are always cheating people, right?)

So the crux of the story seems to show that in an overlap between legal and illegal activity, the illegal one has precedence. While I agree with the legal concept of ignorance not leading to innocence, one really has to question an approach where this is the end result.

Also, a major GAAAAASSSSS FACE to CNN for their title of the article: "'New Moon' Taping May Put Woman in Prison." While it kind of describes the article, I'd love it if we could get a little bit of the reality of the situation in the description - how about adding the word inadvertent or accidental, or something else?

Last but not least, I'm shocked that there hasn't been a call to the police department yet: the lady spent two days in prison? Why?? Surely bail can be set a bit more quickly for a non-violent offense, not even thinking about the circumstances! The whole story just smacks of over-reactionism and the poor business model of the MPAA, the theory of zero tolerance (when it comes to anything) and a seemingly poorly run police department in the city of Rosemont.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the grammys?

Really, the Grammys are what inspires me to write again? Even I find that tiresome and old. But here I am, doing it anyway. (For what it's worth, I have an entry all but published on how a real basketball maverick/genius would just say, "Fuck the two-pointer. Shoot nothing but threes." But it needs some editing. How about if I promise it before the end of next week?) Anyway, the Grammy nods just dropped and Twitter is all ablaze about it - or, at least, my feed is, since mine is devoted to basketball and rap music. And my hometown.

Anyway, here's the official link, you can scroll down (almost halfway through!) to Category 31 to see the individual Rap nominations. Wow. It's a list.

Jay Smooth made a comment on Twitter saying that four of the five songs, in the clips shown on the Grammy selections, were sung as opposed to rapped. I think he called it correct when he said that it was a sign of the times, but I also think that, overall, these songs are pretty good. (Why am I even trying? I hated most of rap this year. Also, to be fair, he hit me back to clarify my misreading of his original tweet.)

Cudi's "Day 'N Nite" was the best thing about a disappointing album.

Drake's "Best I Ever Had" somehow convince everyone that So Far Gone was a Rap album when, in fact, it was a R&B album. It was a good one, at that, but...it's not a rap album. That's not to say he's not a good rapper, he's decent, but this is not a rap song, nor is the album rap at its core.

"Casa Bey" isn't even close to the best track on The Ecstatic! I don't get it because I don't listen to the radio; was it a single? I mean, we can't get "Life in Marvelous Times" or "History" or something else from a pretty good swing?

Em's "Beautiful" got a lot of press after the album it came from got soundly thrashed on the blogs, but I never got why there was the fixation. I mean, sure, it's good, the video was a nice tribute to his town, especially at a time when Detroit kind of needs that (although it could be said that it's more like too little, too late) but the song's just all right. It's certainly not the best Eminem song (verse?) that we got this year.

That leaves the Jigga man. I hope that I've made my feelings on Blueprint 3 known. If not, let's just say underwhelming is an understatement. However, I haven't hear a single argument all year against "DOA." The song is a banger, it spoke a truth that needed to be said, and it was as hard as Jay's gone in a long while.

Rap song of the year. Undoubtedly.

And then there's the Rap Album of the Year category. God, after expending all that energy defending music that truly didn't move me, let me just say that if Q-Tip doesn't win this category, I will honestly, truly never care enough to pay attention to the Grammys ever again. The only true competition is Mos Def's The Ecstatic but...it's not close. That's it. I'll be back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

giving thanks.

Today, I'll be getting persuasive essays from my students. They'll find a kindred spirit in this tweet from Scott Baio, since many of them will be writing about how abortion is the worst sin known to mankind and also using inappropriate quotation marks. Thanks to Rachel for pointing this out to me originally and then even sending me the new link when that silly Scott protected his tweets. The world wants to share in your wisdom Mr. Baio.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

technical problems - google vs. exchange.

I want to sync my iPhone's calendar with my Google Accounts calendar. In order to do this, this page tells me that I can set up an Exchange account. However, when I go to do so on my iPhone, it tells me that I already have one Exchange account set up (which I do, for my work account) and that's all I can have. So, I'm thinking that I could delete my work account from my phone, set up the calendar through Exchange and get all my work emails forwarded to my GMail account. Piece of cake, right? Well, Google has this deal where they put a stamp on my emails that are sent via GMail as under my work account. I don't want to be sending work emails from my personal account, especially when people are going to be able to see both accounts. There's a way to get around it, which is described here at Lifehacker but when I try to take those steps via GMail's Settings, I get a message that reads, "Your other email provider is responding too slowly. Please try again later, or contact the administrator of your other domain for further information." I've tried at all sorts of hours and I'm really not sure who's in charge of the APS domain. I could write an email to the Service Department, but I'm fairly sure they'd come back with something like, "We don't support those sorts of actions," or, "It should work with that information. Try it again." (I know, I know, I shouldn't just assume. All right, so I banged out an email right now. We'll see if they can solve my problem.) However, even with last parenthetical addition, I'm still turning to the wisdom of the masses to try to resolve this issue for me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

this is our concern, dude.

Health Care Reform Legislation passed the House of Representatives! Hooray! Buuuut... I can't help but feel like... something like this has happened before. (By the way, despite the fact that that post was written more than four months ago, literally nothing has happened with the bill since then. It's been place on the Senate Calendar. But, I mean, really? We can't get a little action?)

To return to the math of the last post, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (AKA 3962) passed 220-215. There are 258 Democrats in the House, which means we had a defection rate of 15%. On the other hand, there are 177 Republicans in the House, one of whom voted for 3962, which means they had a defection rate of 0.5%. Half a percent. ONE of their party members voted the other way. THIRTY-NINE of ours did. Now, obviously, there's more room for dissension in our party (I mean, obviously, in general; Democrats are, after all, the party of acceptance) and in this case, we have a sizable majority, so there's more wiggle room to be expected.

BUT.

This is ridiculous.

Republicans are able to coalesce over an issue in a way that we can't even fathom. No one in the Democratic Party was willing to filibuster an illegal, immoral war (except maybe Kucinich?) but the Republicans have threatened such a move over a measure designed to save lives. People should be ashamed.

And speaking of shame, what's up with newly-elected New Mexican official Harry Teague not only voting no on the bill, but yes on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment? (If you don't know what this is, use Google, or stay tuned. I'm not sure if I'm going to devote a whole post to it, but damn!)

I'm just saying...the hard work is not done. We've got a lot more ground to cover. Let's take a moment to celebrate the historic passing of a bill that's intended to help people and save lives as opposed to the normal garbage we get from Washington, but let's make sure that we not let up this fight.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the get busy committee.

Yes, yes, it's lazy blogging, but I'm just getting back into it.

First of all, if you don't read Ian of Topspin's personal blog you missed this great post on a new group he's managing:

The Get Busy Committee

Luckily for you, me, and everyone we know, Ian's a brilliant dude and he gets that people want to hear the music before they buy it. So you can listen to this good stuff right here with this streaming player.












If you like what you hear, go to the group's site and support them by purchasing a USB stick that's shaped like an Uzi! You can't go wrong with that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

the nba is back.

Here, some thoughts:

I'm not worried about the Lakers in any way, shape, or form just yet. To those who say that exchanging Ariza for Artest (essentially) was a bad move, I say: have you watched basketball over the last four years or so? Ron Artest in undoubtedly one of the better players in the Association. There's no question about that. He won Defensive Player of the Year a mere five years ago and I know that we're not looking for a declining player, but I'm not worried. This is still a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol (the love of many lives), and Lamar Odom, not to mention the old stalwart Derek Fisher and the promising youth of Andrew Bynum. With Shannon Brown on the bench looking to take over Farmar's place, pushing both of them to be better when it comes to overtaking Fisher, I don't see a lot to worry about. Those who forecast doom and gloom have put waaaaaay too much thought into it. It's just basketball; these guys are professionals - they'll be all right.

Boston, on the other hand, looks strong. Worryingly strong. I don't want to get into it too much other than to say that the last team that beat us when I thought we were stacked had Rasheed Wallace on it, too. (I mean, don't get me wrong: I thought we were going to win in 2008, but that Celtics team was beastly. Rasheed, on the other hand, has a way of sneaking up on you.) I don't even want to talk about them too much, out of fear.

The Cavs look almost exactly like I thought they would. Which is to say, they look fine. I know they started 0-2 and some of the pundits wanted us to freak out over that and start talking about LeBron and the summer of 2010 and his imminent leaving, but I just don't think that's the case. Yes, I'm now willing to admit that my scenario is less than guaranteed, but so what? Nothing is guaranteed. I still stick by my guns that the Cavs will not win the title this year, but that LeBron will not leave. The Cavs and Lakers are just way too stacked for the Cavs to win this year, but there's not any place that is going to give LeBron a better chance. It's ridiculous.

On the other hand, the Spurs have looked just all right. I really thought their grabbing of Richard Jefferson was going to be the move of the summer, and the acquisition of DeJuan Blair has been covered plenty enough already - the kid's a beast and teams were silly to pass him up. However, all this being said, the Spurs look just all right so far. They spanked the hell out of the Hornets, but Chris Paul and Co. looked crazy out of sync. Then they took an L against Chicago, which was weird. And then, of course, they beat the Kings as every team in the League should. But, I mean, in reality, they haven't looked crazy strong at any time.

Vince plus Orlando equals Magic. I really thought the Magic kind of lucked their way into the Finals last year, even though they could have easily won some of those games. However, I wasn't sure how they truly stacked up against the Celtics, especially with the wild ride the Bulls took them on last year, and Garnett being out. But... They took down a Philly team that might be worth something this year. They beat the Nets, as every team in the League should. And then they took down the schizophrenic Raptors, which I'm not sure how to really interpret.

That's the upper tier.

After that, there's a lot of room to kitsch and complain and commiserate, but we'll leave that for another time. Suffice it to say that I wanted to end this brief re-intro to blogging for me by saying that I'm currently watching the Memphis Grizzlies. They might be my favorite team to watch this year. Yes, seriously. I'm not sure that I've ever been this interested in a collection of talent that seems so singularly minded, devoted, one might even say, to getting their own. Let's just look at some of the great names on the roster: Zach Randolph. OJ Mayo. Hasheem Thabeet. And, of course, making his debut tonight, Allen Iverson.

I am not being sarcastic or trying to talk trash when I say that I am truly fascinated by the Memphis Grizzlies team of 2009-2010.

There are many things to be grateful for, some of them mentioned above. But as I said to my students last Tuesday, the NBA is back. Life is worth living again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

link of the day.

Passed on to me on Twitter, I thought this project of inserting superheroes into classic photos was a good little experiment. I feel like there could be a lot more, though; maybe something for a Worth1000 Photoshop contest?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

skynet - again!

Oh man. I warned you people!

Now the future is trying to send us warnings!

SKYNET is here and it's going to kill us all. (And yes, I'm totally being authentic when I say these sorts of things. More than spiders, more than the dark, my biggest fear is the robots will come alive and kill us all. I know it paints me as a lunatic, but I take cold comfort in the knowledge that when it happens, I'll have one more vindicated, "Eff you all.")

While I agree with the summation of The Grandfather Paradox in the article, I don't think that I agree with some of the physicists' conclusions based on that idea. Yes, it's impossible to go back in time and kill your grandfather. However, that does not mean that it's possible to go back and save him. This is similar to classic fallacies such as affirming the consequent. Just because you can go back but can't kill him doesn't mean you can go back and not kill him - because that's not the way they're phrasing it! We're looking at saving someone who (perhaps) should not have been saved.

All of these vagaries, however, might be missing the point: we think of time as a line, something that's possible to jump back and forth in (or at least some of us do) but there's a lot of proof that it's not really constructed that way.

The question I think about most in my life centers around the fate versus free will and I think this weird juncture of technology, science fiction, and the promise of space-time have brought us (or at least me) to an extremely interesting point in time.

The future is here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

the 2010 free agent class: smaller than projected.

I am a crazy basketball fan. I think about basketball a lot more often than the average American and significantly less often than the bloggers whom I love to read on the subject. However, all this thinking oftentimes leaves me with conclusions that seem so obvious to me but which, for one reason or another, are left undiscussed by the afore-mentioned voices. Keeping in mind that I've been crazy wrong before, I'm going to go ahead and make some bold predictions about the start of next season, which I haven't seen made elsewhere but which seem rather obvious to me, even if they run counter to the accepted wisdom.

At the top of the list, the reason for this post, is my theory that Chris Bosh will be the biggest name free agent truly available. Chris Bosh is a monster. Casual observers of the game know his name, fans in Canada don't know what they have (and won't until he's gone, which he will be in less than a year) and SLAM just ranked him as the 13th best player in the game today. Bosh is KG-like in his utility but seems to have a better grasp on not letting his intensity make him act kind of crazy. (And that's not to knock on Garnett, by the way. That intensity is one of the biggest reasons we all fell in love with him.) Bosh has played well enough up in Canada and when I say the fans up there don't really know what they have, that's not to say that they haven't appreciated him. They're good fans, and if you tune into more than the one (two? three?) Raptors games that get national TV coverage, you can see there's a good little crowd there. However. The Raptors aren't winning. And we saw through KG's tears what losing can do to a beast. The Raptors aren't going to make that leap this year, despite some good off-season moves and Bosh seems like he's not going to be content playing much longer for a team that's not even making waves in the playoffs.

For true competitors, just making the playoffs in a league where more than half the teams do is simply not enough. You've got to make a deep run. We saw this problem with Dwyane Wade last year when he started talking about how he needed some more help in order to get back where he thinks the Heat belong. This brings us, of course, to the first wrinkle in the first proclamation...

Dwyane Wade is not really available. Wade has two options as far as I see them: he's either going to go deep in the playoffs this year, with a serviceable sidekick (and no, it's not going to be Jermaine. He'll either get someone else or a current teammate will step up) and will, therefore re-sign with the Heat or he's out of Miami. It's my opinion, though, that Wade loves Miami and would only leave for a real chance to win another ring, somewhere that he'd be comfortable and able to compete at an elite level. Let's be real: it's not gonna be LA. It's not gonna be Boston. It's not gonna be Orlando. Payroll and personality conspire to prevent those three, in what seems, to me, an obvious statement. However, that doesn't leave a lot of room if we're looking at the afore-mentioned qualifiers. Texas? All three of the teams seem like they're in win-now mode, which might look quite a bit different next summer. (I mean, only one team wins it all.) There's another possibility. Which brings me to the last point.

LeBron James ain't going nowhere. I've been calling it for more than a year, and with all this talk and thinking about it, I'm finally ready for the ridicule that this seemingly iron-clad statement will bring about my way if it turns out to be wrong. Let's just examine a few things: LeBron wants to win. He wants to be a billionaire. Those are really the only things that he's told us that we know for sure. Let's deal with first things first...the money. He's not going to make more money in New York than he does in Cleveland. That just doesn't make any sense. Not in the new, flat world we live in. He's touring China, he's selling jerseys worldwide (number three last year, number two this year?), he's got contracts with Nike and Vitamin Water, I mean, the list literally goes on and on! He doesn't need to be on the coast to have any more exposure and he doesn't need to be there to make any more money. Secondly, the winning. Simply put, there is no team in the Eastern Conference more designed to win than the Cavs right now. The Celtics will fight them. Hard. Who's the say who will win. It depends on health. But, the Cavs have been to the Finals an equal number of times in the last five years as have the Magic, the Celtics, the Heat, and the Pistons. I'm not ready to say that there's any place more well-equipped than Cleveland to win in the future as well as right now. So why would he leave? There's no more money to be had, there's no chance he'll be set up anywhere else to win more effectively.

Plus, here's where it all comes together: Shaq's contract comes off Cleveland's books next summer. They're gonna have some cash, they're gonna show LeBron a lot of it, and he's gonna be happy. But you know what? Wade's only going to be tempted to leave Miami for Cleveland. (It's not that crazy!) And Bosh is certainly going to be tempted. (And that's way less crazy.) Bosh is leaving Toronto. The only question is where he's going. If he heads to Cleveland, Wade stays put in Miami. But no matter what, LeBron James remains home.

Friday, October 2, 2009

does this mean that there are public restrooms?



Ah, ironic quotation marks...what do you actually mean? My best friend Brando was kind enough to snap this flick for me via his camera on his mobile and send it to me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the pic without accessing a computer thanks to AT&T. But once I did, I thanked him profusely. And now, we all get to witness the brilliance of people who are using quotation marks incorrectly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

brizzly.

I've never used a Twitter client before, so when I saw a notice about Brizzly, I went to sign up for an invitation right away. I was surprised, of course, to get one back so quickly, but now that I've been using the service for a few days, I can definitely see the appeal.

(I've heard tons about TweetDeck and, to be fair, I do use Twitterrific on the phone, just for the sake of full disclosure.)

Brizzly offers some great functions, such as automatically refreshing, which is something that Twitter really should have automated. Additionally, it explains the trending topics in a way that really makes sense, especially sometimes when I look at things and think, "That person is not a celebrity...why are they being talked about?" The ability to create groups is a really great function as well, though I think, to be honest, I'll use it more to filter people out as opposed to truly 'grouping' people. Honestly, I couldn't care less about saving my searches, but the last feature that really makes sense is organizing the direct messages in the threaded message style.

You can sign up for a Brizzly account at the home page, but if you don't feel like waiting at all, hit me up and I'll send you an invite. It's a good look at what Twitter could (and should) be, and most of these features will probably eventually be adapted, but why should we have to wait?

Friday, September 25, 2009

flash forward is going to ruin my life.

I'm proud of the fact that I watch very little TV. When basketball is on, I'm a junkie and I watch damn near as many of the games as I can. So when it's not on, I don't really watch anything. My addiction to LOST is well-chronicled, and it's not like I'm immune to TV on DVD (hello, The Wire, which I'm just starting and I can already tell will completely enthrall me) so I'm not trying to play the, I-Don't-Watch-TV-I'm-So-Cool card or anything like that. It's just that, well, I prefer the Internet, I prefer reading, I prefer TV on DVD, I prefer the outdoors, etc. There's a lot of other things that I'd rather do.

But last night I watched the premiere of Flash Forward, against all my better judgment. I knew it would suck me in. And suck me in it's done. The advertisement that was up for Oceanic Airlines was just the icing on the cake! A great premise, plenty of intriguing questions, some reliable actors...what more could we really ask for when it comes to addictive television?

I'm a fan of shows that seem to have specific plot points in mind, and, obviously, this date they planted (already) in the premier coincides pretty well with the end of the TV season. However, I'm curious what they're going to do after that point. Obviously, this is not a one-season affair. The point that I'm driving at, though, is that a lot of folks are talking about this show as the next LOST. If I've seen a show in recent memory that literally begged for the LOST treatment, it's this one. But perhaps not in the way that some others are suggesting.

This show obviously needs an expiration date. From what I understand, this has kind of been a normal thing over in the UK. Here in the US, though, we apparently need our TV to work like the Big Two run their comic companies: an endless, constant storyline, stretched to the limit, not only in believability but in testing our patience. Superman will never truly win, because it'll always be profitable to publish his books, even if they're terrible. The same goes with sitcoms and the new wave of Lawyer/Doctor/Cop shows. They're all the same and they stretch on interminably. However, the best Superman (or Batman, if we're gonna get specific) stories are those limited series, such as All-Star Superman (lately) or the Dark Knight Returns. They get to do things that the regular books will never get to. LOST works as a show because we, as viewers, are promised that there will (eventually) be a payoff. (BTW, this would have put X Files as one of the best shows, too, if Chris Carter had been allowed to say, "Look, this is the story we're going to tell. And after that, if we want to do some movies, we can and we will, but we're not going to stretch things just to keep making money, because it's going to dilute the product." But that's over and done with and now X Files is just a shoulda-beena contender.)

So now, there's a new show on before LOST is even gone. Please, let's do the right thing with it: support it for now, so that they can get the ratings to justify going to the network and saying, "It has to end." It'll be better for all of us if that's what we get. Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy the ride, cursing and screaming all the way, because now there's more TV that I'm addicted to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

zombieland is a good movie.

Thanks to my wicked friends, I snagged some sneak peek passes to go see Zombieland last night and let me say this about that: that is one damn good movie. The movie was nothing like what I was expecting, but mainly because I had no idea what to expect. I knew with Woody, there was going to be some comedy, and I knew that with the new kid, Jesse Eisenberg (BTW, oh my God, he was in the Squid and the Whale?!) it would be pretty decent. But I didn't expect it to be nearly as good as it was. After a killer (haha) intro that sets a hell of a tone, but maybe not the same one as the rest of the movie takes, the flick gets pretty quickly to its comedic roots. There's this great recurring gag where the rules that Jesse's character, Columbus, has for himself interact with the screen and the things that are on it in a great way. These rules include simple and obvious things for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse such as "Cardio" and "Always Check the Back Seat" and go on to get more and more in depth, like "Enjoy the Little Things." The way these words play off the visuals of the movie is one of the best touches.

A second great touch is how no one in the movie has a real name. People are referred to by the places they're either going or where they're from. (There's a great sequence between Columbus and his next door neighbor, wherein we learn a different name for the main character.) This has value insofar as it reaffirms one of the central tenets of the movie: despite the humor and the over-the-top violence, these people really are supposed to be alone. They're not going to stumble across some hidden reservoir of humanity in a colony somewhere.

Rather, this is a funny, super gory movie where four people travel along in a jacked up version of the world. They get to know one another, they all grow, and we learn a bit about why they were the way they were when we met them. The last thing that I'll just allude to is that the cameo (if that's even the right word for it) is one of the funnier examples of this new trend that I've seen. Congrats to the movie for snagging this actor and big ups to him for doing such a cool job with what must have been a fun gig.

Zombieland is a great movie, and I'd definitely recommend it. Seeing as how movies are so expensive, though, and how Sony thinks that iPods are used to bootleg copies in theaters, I'd also urge you to explore other options than going to the theater and plunking down cash. If you do choose to do that, however, I don't think you'll regret it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

things i've heard related to work.

I want to stress that these are rumors. I'm not a guy who knows guys. These are things that I've heard that I want to keep track of, that I'm unsure where else to do so, ergo they're here.

I've heard that next year, all middle schools in Albuquerque will have the same schedule.

I've heard that schedule will be a block one, which will mean less time for my subject, but more time for most of the others.

I've heard that this block schedule increases the likelihood that electives will be a thing of the past in Albuquerque public schools.

I've heard that APS is running out of money faster that anticipated, and will use money that was earmarked for next year to cover the shortfalls from this year.

I've heard that if they do this, the budget for next year will be catastrophically off.

I've heard (for more than ten years) that APS is too big of a school district and that we'll be split in (at least) two.

I've heard that the political battles (mainly coming from the Mayor's office) being waged over control over APS are reaching new highs.

*

I'm working on assimilating all these thoughts into an opinion on something having to do with my work and the political climate in the city. But for now...they're just things that I've heard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

coming october 6: a mayoral election.

Albuquerque has an election coming up. First of all, I'd urge anyone who reads this blog to exercise their right. Secondly, read that Alibi piece in order to find out where and when you can vote early, which is always a good idea.

I'm going to hold off from my endorsement (for all the weight that it carries) for now, until you all have a chance to watch the debate from last night. But do some research, make a choice, and go do the right thing.

That's it for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the trials of wanting (and eventually buying) a new phone.

My hate of the iPhone is semi-well documented. At long, long last, my horrid contract with AT&T is almost up. (It's actually not up until February, so this might seem like counting my chickens before they hatch, but every day is another day closer. And I've been waiting for this for just about 2 years [yes, the whole time] at this point.) Based on my terrible experience with AT&T, I'm leaning toward either Verizon or T-Mobile after this dark period of my life ends, and I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has. I've excluded Sprint from this list because I don't know anyone who has Sprint service, so I've heard neither positive nor negative. I previously used T-Mobile to rock out with a Sidekick II, which I was in love with. Verizon, on the other hand, seems to be used by nearly everyone I know and 99% of those people love their service.

The phones I'm leaning toward are as follows:

The G1. Problem: it might not be sold in March of next year, which is the earliest I'll be shopping. Also, my good friend Greg has one and reports that, even now, it's still la bit buggy, as it was the first Android phone to be offered. Advantages: It seems like (and has been billed as) the grown-up Sidekick. It's been reported as having one of the best keyboards.

The Sidekick LX 2009. Problems: everyone talks smack on it, and I'm honestly not sure I'll be as enthralled with it as I was earlier in my life, after being under the spell of the iPhone. Advantages: I've had the Sidekick II in the past, as I said, and I loved it. It was the best phone I've ever had.

The Motorola CLIQ. Problems: as the newest phone on this list, I have little information on the CLIQ. Advantages: I'm ecstatic over this latest development, perhaps to a bad degree. My enthusiasm might blind me to some bad spots.

The HTC Hero. Problems: it's going to be on Sprint when it comes out. Plus, it doesn't have a physical keyboard, which, I think, is an issue for me. Advantages: the geek squads are saying that this is the single best Android phone that's dropped yet.

The Palm Pre. Problems: again, with the Sprint network. I don't know anything about their network and the last time I took a gamble on that (screw you, AT&T!) I didn't get service at either my home or my work. I know that I can check online, but that's hardly ever a reliable indicator in my hometown, seeing as we're not one of the coastal metropolises. Advantages: I'd love to support something that bills itself as the iPhone-killer. Plus, I love the fact that it runs multiple applications in the background, much like my Sidekick II did.

An unlocked iPhone 3GS. Yeah, I know, this makes very little sense. But here's the thing. I don't really hate the iPhone itself. I think it's an overhyped device, and I hate the cult of personality revolving around it (and all things Apple) at this time, but it works well enough. Problems with this idea, though, include the fact that if I wanted to unlock the iPhone 3GS, I'd have to buy it outright, which would up the price considerably, plus it still lacks a physical keyboard. Advantages: I've been using the iPhone for almost 2 years. I know how it works.

Some of the issues not mentioned above: I'm pretty sure that I need a physical keyboard. The virtual keyboard on the iPhone, while functioning pretty well for what it was, really dissuaded me from writing serious emails on the device. I'd like to be able to bang out responses to any email I get on my phone, not just ones that I convince myself will be short enough that the keyboard won't bother me.

I'd love to support an Android device, because I'm a fan of Google and (even more so) open source platforms. I think this is the way to go for someone like me, but it's not a must. If a phone turns out to be the best option, except it's not an Android device, this won't stop me from taking the plunge.

It's got to have an option for push email. I had no idea what a big thing this was while I had my Sidekick, but when I got the iPhone and it didn't support Exchange, I was shocked. Now, as I understand it, I don't need Exchange support. If the phone I end up with has it, that's great, but I don't care about the proprietary technology, I just care about the fact that when someone emails me, I get it on my phone in a timely manner.

One of the biggest things that I'd like to explore further is the interaction between phone calendar and online calendar. This is a large reason why I'm leaning Android, because I use my GCal pretty frequently and I'd love if there was some kind of consistency between that and my phone. I'd like to think, though, that that could be arranged even on a non-Android device.

Other than that, honestly, I don't give a shit about applications. I use plenty on my phone, but none so often or so thoroughly that I'd miss them. It's nice to have music on my phone, but it's not a must. The camera should be better than decent because, despite my love for my semi-recently purchased digi cam, I do find myself snapping flicks on the phone with regularity.

So, those are my general issues, and the phones that I'm thinking about. I know it's kind of a mishmash list, and there are some unbelievables up there, but I'm just trying, at this point, to keep an open mind. Please, let me know any opinions you have.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

sexism in comics? i can hardly believe it!

It's known as Women in Refrigerators Syndrome: there is a subtle (well, some people think it's pretty damn blatant) undercurrent in mainstream comics wherein they're seen as geek out lit for boys, by boys and about boys. Girls (women, really, but there's a lot of derivatives flying around when it comes to this subject) have no place in the genre and should know their place.

I don't agree with the whole thing. I think there's a vibrant subculture of women in comics, not only creators (such as Gail Simone) and characters (such as my one-time favorite series ever, Strangers in Paradise) but with many of the men who are in charge of things who have plenty, and have shown plenty of, respect for women and their work, ideas, etc. But in saying this, don't get it twisted: I believe that women are shat upon in general by the genre, and I certainly don't think they should be. (I hope that goes without saying, but when we're dealing with comics, sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry.) Women kick ass. Their ideas should be welcomed, embraced, not just accepted, but adopted readily. Female characters offer plenty of fertile ground for multiple storylines, as leads, sidekicks, secondary characters, everything. There's no reason for things to be the way they are.

But it's hard to disagree that there is a lot of truth to the accusation.

Which is why, today, when I read this week's DC Nation, by Dan Didio, I was shocked at the pretty upfront sexist tone to it. As I texted with one of my friends just a bit ago, it's a marketing ploy at best. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt for just a moment. Maybe he just wants to get 6,000 postcards. Maybe he wants to be able to brag about how many people love Wonder Woman. (I certainly don't. I think the book's weak, and I honestly just don't care for her as a character.) But if that's the best case scenario, we have to acknowledge that the worst case one is truly bad: the Editor in Chief of one of the Big Two comic companies have dismissed, in a sexist manner, a serious claim that fans of a character (that he's tried to push on us for years now!) have been making.

That's a dangerous thing to do, as evidenced by some of the comments here in this DC Message Board thread.

I certainly don't want to jump overboard and label someone a sexist, but I do think this is something worth thinking about and, as careful as Didio has been in the past, I would have thought he would choose his words a bit more carefully. For what it's worth, I think anyone who took the time to read this whole entry should send a damn postcard. The info is available at the DC Nation link or here, as well. I'm gonna send one and, like I said, I don't even like Wonder Woman. It's all about principles, people.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

disney buys marvel?

As can be see here at Penny Arcade and here at Worth 1000, the semi-takes on Disney buying Marvel have already been registered. However, what I can't figure out, and they don't seem any closer to over at the comic boards that I read is what exactly this means.

First, let's go over the facts: four billion dollars is a lot of money. We're not in the best financial times, so if Disney's willing to throw down this coin, they must think they're going to get their money's worth. DC Comics has been owned by Warner Brothers for a long time (since 1969, according to Wikipedia) and I've rarely heard anyone say terrible things about that. And, last but not least, this isn't going to change Marvel Comics in a tremendous way anytime in the near future, since most people's interaction with the company comes in the way of movies, and most of the deals that people are really amped on are already in the pipe.

So, if we don't have facts, what do we have? Hearsay and rumors. Let's dig in!

Now, keep in mind, I have no basis for any of these statements other than a lifetime of comic book fandom and a weird relationship with the Walt Disney Company. That being said, DC's deal with WB never seemed like a bad thing. I've always heard from comic books guys that a lot of the time, DC comics are given more rope, they don't have to prove themselves as quick, because WB doesn't care if they lose a little money on the product in the short term. Do I have any evidence to back this up? No, but look at how truly shitty the Batman movies had to get before they stopped, and moved to a reboot. I mean, damn.

Also, I think it's rad that DC has had this outlet for movies for a long time. That WB sign meant something when the first Superman and Batman movies dropped and it meant that, even if they weren't going to be great, they weren't going to suck. (So what happened?) Course, this doesn't really apply now, since Marvel had worked out distribution deals and finally just circumvented the middle man, and we have rad graphics in the 21st century that they couldn't even dream of back in the day. So this one's a wash.

Last but not least, though, the worries: is this going to mean, like was rumored with (and, in reality, I'm kind of sad that I know this) the ICP release The Great Milenko, that we're going to have to worry about Disney caving to pressure in regards to censorship when it comes to particular books? I hate having to make the comparison between comic books, which I love and think have great artistic value, and Insane Clown Posse, whom I think of as worthless. However, this was a big thing when I was in high school, and I still remember thinking how weird it was that the Walt Disney Company could have anything to do with this weird-ass band and their CD's release. It's not like I care about ICP, but it doesn't necessarily end there.

So...do we have things to worry about?

I have no idea. I think as long as the company's making a profit - and here's the first time (and maybe only) you'll hear me praise Joe Quesada: he brought this company back from the brink! - I think they'll leave well enough alone. Here's to hoping that'll be the case and that this will mean nothing, if not good things. But with Disney, I think, the past has taught us that we should be vigilant, if nothing else.

Friday, September 4, 2009

it's a recession.

This comes from Rachel who was so kind to snap a pic of this bag and send it to me. If they were really concerned with paying less, maybe they should have learned the correct usage of quotation marks and saved themselves a little bit of money by not including two unnecessary punctuation marks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

blueprint 3, on the way.

I wrote with Sharpie on a blank CD almost a year ago: Jay-Z The Blueprint 3. It was supposed to drop. I had a list of things I was excited for. It was near the top. Almost a year later, it's leaked, almost two weeks ahead of time. Part of me has always wondered how involved artists actually are in the leaks of their albums. I mean, they have to know it's going to happen. It's going to happen. Period. So wouldn't the smart ones just do it themselves in a tricky way, something that would benefit them somehow?

So now, with the leak of Blueprint 3, my thinking got taken even further. I mean, Jay-Z held a press conference yesterday for his 9/11 concert! What better press could there be for the concert than an advance on some of the music that'll be played there? Part of me hopes that he's smart enough to control this on his own. Part of me knows that he might be, but he'd never take that risk. Regardless, the product is now out. Before we take a look, a brief aside: I hate how long it takes for me to absorb an album, because even while I was just listening, Joey from Straight Bangin' tweeted what was my first thought upon finishing the album: meh. It's got some great stuff. But that greatness is seriously limited to less than half.

With that general introduction out of the way, we'll get into a brief breakdown of the individual tracks.

The album starts pretty strong. I'm a fan of the first track, wherein Jay goes briefly and tangentially at some of the folks in hip-hop that've been going at him lately. (This made me think: Jay's been pretty good at avoiding beef. I know that sounds paradoxical with the big time Nas feud not in the distant past, but think about how many people take shots at him and how rarely he responds. I'm crazily reminded of the first track off the first Blueprint: "All you other cats taking shots at Jigga, you only get half a bar/fuck y'all n***as." [Hm. That was weird to censor myself on a direct quote. But it felt right.]) I like the verse that he'd been starting shows with, where he gets to talk about how he's not talking about Dame, Jimmy, et. al.

Track 2 is called "Thank You" and I didn't care for it on first listen, but by the second, I could see that it was just Jay doing his Sinatra thing. He's really pushed this comparison harder in the past, but there's some obvious allusions on this one. I love how the Clipse line "Keys open doors" has become a frequently-referenced refrain in hip-hop. "Do me a favor, don't do me no favors" might become my new motto.

"DOA" we all already heard, but it sounds even better here in the context of the album, and the same is true for track four, "Run This Town," which we've also already heard. Interesting to hear two of the leaked singles back to back, but they work well.

"Empire State of Mind" is a stand out track. Alicia Keys does her thing, not just with the chorus but with her (tiny) guest bit as well. One of the best on the first listen-through, this has a chance to become one of my faves.

"Real As it Gets" presents me with a dilemma - I don't like Jeezy very much, but this song is good and his work here is pretty damn great. I'm pretty sure that I love it when Jeezy gets the intro verse to a song, because, despite my overall dislike of him, his voice has a place for me right now. It fits perfectly here (esp. with a reference to Uday Hussein!) and this is a great song.

"On to the Next One" kind of starts the problems. It sounds like Swizz heard "Paper Planes" and thought, "I can do that!" Jay's verses are all right, mainly talking about how much better he is than everyone else, although, sure, he's got a few clever lines, including re-upping his semi-feud with Cristal.

"Off That" has Drake on it and, therefore, was leaked (intentionally? to build hype?) but got a piss poor reaction when that happened and the official release isn't going to change that. With Drake, Jigga, and a song centering all around the idea that whatever you're repping, they've already done, it would have been great to catch a beat that didn't sound like yesterday's recycled trash. When this album was supposed to come out a year ago, there were some reports that Kanye was going to produce the whole thing. This might be the single biggest disappointment in that department. If Kanye had been the guy pushing a different sound onto this song, it would have killed. As is, it's the beginning of the end for the Blueprint 3.

"A Star is Born" is really weird. First time, I hated it. Just another Jay track where he's semi-shouting out the rappers that everyone can agree on. But...the second time it wasn't so bad. And, honestly, I'm sure that I'll like this track after a few more listens.

"Venus Vs. Mars" however, as has already been covered other places is wack. I've never been into the idea of slow, sexy jams from Mr. Carter. I think he must have gotten some of these ideas from R. Kelly when they were working together, but he should have known better to just let him keep all of those. (Seriously, all of his slow jams are terrible. Is there a single one worth the time it takes to listen to it? And, no, "Song Cry" doesn't count. Of course it doesn't.)

"Already Home" has a great beat and some of those signature Cudi echoes, but Cudi's relegated to a bit spot if that even covers what's happening here. Jay's lines seem lazy at best, and the whole thing doesn't take on the weight that it should, considering Jay's status and Cudi's hype. This track is semi-wack, but it doesn't kill my enthusiasm for Man on the Moon. Here's to hoping.

"Hate" is the first half of the only truly good pair of songs from the second half of the album. Kanye and Jay team up and the results are as one would expect: stellar. "Reminder" is, again, Jay at the point that I like him - going after people in that way that he does: putting out vague, generalized statements about how hard he'll kill you. Because he already has.

The last 2 tracks are terrible. I'm not even sure how much more I want to say about that, except to make these couple remarks: what the hell happened to Pharrell?! I used to rep him hard, but this shit just doesn't fly. And lastly, ending your album with a sample of "Forever Young" by Alphaville better be the best damn song you've ever done, otherwise it comes off corny as hell and you'll be ridiculed for the rest of your career for that shit. And believe me, it's shit.

Overall, Blueprint 3 almost couldn't help but disappoint. Still, though...we've come to expect a certain MC to defy the expectations. And this time, he doesn't. Jay-Z has always been kind of a meta-type of guy (he used to literally talk back to his samples in the 90s) and I'm almost positive that there's a reference to him having "the blueprint for every rapper to follow" on every single one of these tracks. But with so many of them coming out of the final product as weak versions of stuff we've already heard, it really makes me wonder: where's "Jockin' Jay-Z"? Where's "Brooklyn (We Go Hard)"? Where's "History"? There was some seriously good material dropped over the last year that was rumored to be on Blueprint 3. And this is the final version that we get? It got enough that Joey tweeted, wondering if this commercial was the best thing about the album finally dropping. We never would have expected a question like that to arise about Jay-Z. At this point, it's a question worth asking.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

quotes.

In case you're wondering, I don't feel bad at all about being a stereotypically lazy blogger, seeing as I posted my hiatus notice. Here, have some inappropriately used quotation marks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

um, hiatus?

Now that my job's started again and I have to act like a grown-up every once in a while, I'm having trouble blogging at a regular pace. (As though this place ever had anything approaching a normal schedule.) So, I'm officially declaring a break here, because I don't want to waste your time reading short entries or my time duplicating my attempts at clever one-liners from Twitter. Of course, the last time I said this here, it was right before the dam burst on a swell of blogging, so we'll see. Just an FYI, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

obama versus guns.

There's been a lot of news lately about gun activists showing up to see Obama with their guns in tow. This, to me, is not alarming in and of itself, simply because, well, the Secret Service does a really good job most of the time, in our modern era. They'd probably kill someone with a gun who was near enough the POTUS first and ask questions later. Like, much later. Like, years later. If ever. So I'm not really concerned about that possibility.

However, the fact that it seems to be happening semi-regularly kind of set something off in me this morning as I read the news. I understand people want to keep their rights. I also understand that every time a Democrat gets elected to the White House, there is a run on bullets because for some reason, those people think the Dems want to take away their guns. (I do want to make it clear that I don't think they're in any real danger. No politician would ever really think about taking on the Second Amendment. It'd be political suicide, first of all, and secondly, it would never even take. So it's a fruitless battle to think about taking on, much less going forward with.)

Now, me, personally, I don't really care for guns. It's a personal preference, but I'm not about forcing those preferences on anyone. I make fun of people who feel the need to go hunting with rifles that could kill a small target from 500 yards away, but as long as they're not hunting me, I don't have a real problem with it.

So keep in mind that, yes, I'm not really pro-gun, but I'm not trying to be vehemently anti-gun, super-liberal about this. And I really hesitate to say this is definitely the case, because it's a card that I'm really against playing, but I think it's a question worth asking.

I started wondering: did this happen to other Presidents in the past? And by other Presidents, obviously, I mean Democratic Presidents. I don't remember this happening with Bill Clinton, and I wasn't even around for Jimmy Carter. Those could be faults of memory and research, and I'm perfectly willing to cop to that, and so, again, I phrase this as a question, not as an accusation, nor as a declarative statement.

Is there a possibility, however, that the people carting these guns to go see Obama are harboring subconscious racist tendencies? I mean, it has to be considered, given the enormous history of racism in this country. Think about the traditional images of white people surrounding African-Americans with nooses. Then think about those same people, and their level of discomfort with the fact that one of quote-unquote those people is now our President. Think about the ways in which they'd be ostracized from our modern society if they did show up with nooses. And so, in the back of their minds, with these subconscious yearnings, maybe they look for loopholes, ways in which they can still exhibit this behavior, but it could also be masked.

Has this happened in the past? Is every Democratic President subtly threatened in this way? Or is this something new that Obama is having to deal with?

I think it's a question worth asking.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

probably the best superhero comic book in the universe!

Wow. So there I was, just mourning the last day of my summer vacation, relaxing by watching some Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, when I got a text message from one of my friends: "Kirkman is at Astro Zombies!" (Warning, if you're already geeked out, and think less of me because I write about basketball a lot of the time and now are like, OMFG, what is he doing??, I can only warn you that it gets worse. From your point of view. Infinitely better from mine.)

Robert Kirkman is the writer of a comic book series called Invincible, which has, as its tag line, the title of this entry. It's kind of an upstart title, although it's hard to truly say so at this point. It's published by Image, which, if you know anything about comic books, you'll know might have garnered some indie credit, like, fifteen years ago. Now, however, they're pretty entrenched as the third in the Big Three label. Regardless, though, the label's pretty accurate. (For my money, the only book that's coming out on a regular basis [or any basis, for that matter] that's better than Invincible is Green Lantern - largely because of Geoff Johns and the Blackest Night storyline.)

So with just that little bit of info under your belt, I hope you're excited. Me, I was ecstatic! Especially because the friend who sent me the text couldn't make it, nor could my other friend, who is probably one of the biggest Kirkman fans on the planet. I jumped up immediately, grabbed my hardcover collections and went to the store, trying to think up how to go about asking for an autograph if he was just there passing through, as I'd heard. (This isn't Hollywood. We don't run into celebs every single day, and I'm not really that guy who wants to be hassling someone who's just trying to enjoy the local comic book shop experience.) When I got there, I glanced around, but didn't see him.

I perused the shelves, picking up a trade that will be given as a gift to the wonderful lady who gave me a ride to the store. When I turned around, bam! There he was. It was a complicated thing. Like I said, I don't wanna be that guy. The wonderful owner of the store, however, had no problem interceding on my behalf. He looked down at my hardcovers and remarked, "Huh. So you just so happened to be driving around with those, eh?" I grinned at him, and said, "Yep. In case of emergency, man."

He then turned to Kirkman and asked him, "Hey, uh, some of our loyal customers here just happened to have some of your books in their car, would you mind signing them?" Kirkman gave me the same look and questioned why I'd been driving around with them. He was a sport enough, though, that I figured he didn't mind, so I asked if I could snap some pics. He said sure and introduced me to Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker as well. They all signed my books and graciously posed for the pic.



I try not to geek out too hard core too often, nor do I believe in posting super personal stuff all the time. But I thought this story was worth telling for several reasons. First of all, it was awesome that Robert Kirkman was just passing through Albuquerque. Secondly, he was down enough to hop up on the ladder of Astro Zombies and sign the ceiling, even though he said that he wasn't exactly the world's most comfortable dude with heights. Thirdly, Astro Zombies is, without a doubt, at this point, my favorite comic book store in ABQ. Great owner, great atmosphere, great employees, and great attitude regarding comic book shops not having to be dank, scary-looking dens. Here's to wishing them a bunch more success and here's a thanks to Kirkman and crew for being so down to let a fan geek out.