Monday, February 28, 2011

comics for the week of 02/23/11.

All DC. Again. This is getting to be a thing.

Action Comics 898 - It was clear before the end of this issue who fakeLois was talking to, but I don't think that I had even really thought about it before this issue. I mean, I had thought about it, but not really thought about it, you know? So, of course, who it turns out to be isn't a surprise, but it is a delight. The build-up to issue 900 here has been one of the most enjoyable rides I've ever been on. It's been an epic story that hasn't felt overblown or overimportant. It's been a nice detour from Superman, with Lex Luthor riding shotgun. And, most importantly, it's felt like there will be some real consequences from this arc, regardless of what happens. Paul Cornell knows how to write. I'm glad I started picking this book up.

Detective Comics 874 - And this was an interesting way to go: the backup feature becomes the main storyline, with a nice change in the art team. Don't get me wrong; Francesco Francavilla is no Jock. There's no doubt about that. But his art has defined the backup feature and it was nice to see that carried over to the mainline story this month. Jack Jr. is a creepy ass character. Obviously, we were supposed to see the water and think the whole time that his joke was no joke, right? Cuz that's what I thought and I was more than a little worried for the whole issue.

The New York Five 2 - A solid issue coming after the impressive, under the radar (although I don't know if that's true anymore) debut. The girls continue in their idiosyncratic ways and we have a nice ending, for once. The reunion of the sisters might not be all rainbows and butterflies, but I have the feeling that it's going to work out, simply because there is enough drama elsewhere in the book. The stalker and the parents issue, there are big, real things. And they're not just going to be easily wrapped up. So, you know, give a little and take a little. Good stuff.

Book of the week goes to Action Comics. All three of the ones that I got were good, but the journey that Lex is on just stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

so. carmelo's finally gone.

The Carmelo Anthony trade has finally, officially, gone through. After holding his team hostage for more than 2/3 of the 2010-2011 NBA season, Carmelo has been rewarded by being traded to the place that he wanted to go in the first place. (And in the last place. And in every instance between.)

The official trade reads somewhere south of the insanity that was rumored approximately three months ago, but basically includes Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter, Ronaldo Balkman going to the New York Knicks. In exchange, New York sends Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to the Denver Nuggets. There will also be draft picks, straight cash and the Minnesota Timberwolves involved.

It's a complicated deal, but it boils down to the looming collective bargaining lockout, as well as the way owners treat teams and the people who play on them, as well as the players' increasing awareness of the way they can treat teams.

It's hard to know who to truly be mad at in this instance. I mean, on the one hand, Anthony lied to every reporter every chance he had. He let it be known that he had no interest in signing the extension the Nuggets offered him, but then tried to have his cake and eat it too. Maybe he would sign it. Maybe he wouldn't. On the other hand, as a free agent to be, Anthony had almost earned the right to choose where he plays, and it's hard to begrudge players who are treated like so many chess pieces.

On the other hand, the Nuggets should have made this move (or a similar one) sooner. They played with their season, keeping a discontented star on their roster despite the fact that the entire team, city, state and professional organization to which they belong knew that he didn't want to be there.

It's typical for sports fans to root for the players in this instance, especially in a world where a hard working role player can allegedly be pulled from practice and informed that he's been traded. It's not a nice world and those who watch the sports and love them would do well to remember that, to those who play on the team, or those who own the team, this is a business, first and foremost.

But there's no denying that this has a tinge of bitterness to it. The Nuggets have lost all momentum from the team that was challenging the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals two years ago. This is certainly not all Anthony's fault and it's hard to say that it's even mostly his fault. But he was going to be a free agent at the end of this season. He could have signed with the Knicks without a trade. The only reason this happened is because of the fear that there would be so much money left on the table. And, to be fair, it's been pointed out that it might be as much as 45% of his paycheck - that is a lot of money. No one wants to leave that money behind when they don't have to.

Time will tell how this trade is looked back upon. If the Knicks get back to their early-season winning rate, it's easy to imagine Anthony jerseys being brisk sellers in not only New York, but around the rest of the nation. If he and Amar'e Stoudemire combine to form a ferocious front court that can defend well enough to scare some of the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference, New Yorkers will be beside themselves with joy at having a team worth talking about again. And what's good for the New York Knicks is usually good for the majority of the league. But, if their defense is as bad as numbers suggest it will be. And if Anthony can't produce in a system where he doesn't get to have the ball in his hands a majority of the time - or if he keeps the ball and everyone else's numbers drop - Carmelo Anthony will transform from the prize the Knicks thought they were getting, into just another deadweight around a franchise that's been treading water for too long.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the king of limbs.

Radiohead announced their album about a week ago and this weekend it became available digitally. This is the first new Radiohead album since In Rainbows and there's no way to be nice about it: it pales in comparison.

The album starts out with "Bloom" which runs off piano/keyboard sounds that sound exactly like blooming...until less than ten seconds in, the electronic blips start. I'm not a Kid A/Amnesiac hater - I thought they were great albums and a bold step forward for a band that was defying expectations. But this's not the right first step. The trend continues with "Morning Mr. Magpie," "Little by Little," and "Feral" until we get to instantly Internet-famous (for the video) first single "Lotus Flower". The single is a good song, harkening back to some of the best, minimalist stuff from Kid A/Amnesiac (if anyone's willing to buy that there was anything minimalist about those albums) but it's a sparse moment. There's not much more of this vibe to go around the album.

This could be a good thing, because of the sheer mediocrity of the album, or a bad thing, as the entire album runs just over 37 minutes. (37 minutes?!) The overwhelming feeling upon listening to the whole thing, in succession, a couple times in a row, as most of us did over the weekend, is that this is more like an EP, and less of a full-length record.

There are great moments. There's a part in "Bloom" where it sounds like it's going to become "The National Anthem". "Morning Mr. Magpie" starts off sounding interesting and has elements of "You and Whose Army" as well as "Electioneering" - one of my favorite Radiohead songs of all time. "Little by Little" features some of the musical experimentation that used to be a hallmark of Radiohead's creativity and bleeds right into "Feral" which is the first time this record gets interesting. Interesting, however, doesn't cut it, as the sole aim and execution. Radiohead can't afford to be going up onto rooftops just to shout, "Look how weird we are!" anymore.

Or, maybe I'm wrong. Scratch that. I'm definitely wrong. They can afford to do so and they've earned the right to do so. I guess it's just not my cup of tea anymore. Maybe it wasn't ever really, but I felt like it had to be.

Regardless, by the time we get to the song that everyone's been mocking the video of, my attention span's been wandering for about 12 minutes of the 17 some-odd minutes this record's been playing. When "Lotus Flower" starts, though, even if you haven't seen the video, I'd be willing to bet you're hooked. This is what Radiohead used to sound like to me. A creeping beat that was made up of some unusual sounds, and Thom Yorke's voice plunging in, with weird cadence and off-beat lyrics. "Codex" continues on this good level with some solid piano and the best Thom Yorke voice on the entire album, and if "Lotus Flower" had begun the album and this was track two, I'd know that we were in for another genuine Radiohead experience and I would be writing another raving review. Unfortunately, this is the peak of an entirely too-short album, filled with what seem to me like outtakes, instead of the A list material that I've come to expect from these geniuses.

"Give Up the Ghost" winds down the good part of the album in a nice enough way, but mainly it seems to accomplish the previously-unheard of ability of making me yearn for Vampire Weekend's "Giving Up the Gun" (or DJ Shadow's "Giving up the Ghost") and "Separator" has got to be the weakest album closer on a Radiohead record ever. Maybe including the American radio edit of "Creep" that closed Pablo Honey. The two-song (two and a half if you want to throw in "Give Up the Ghost") stretch is as beautiful as anything I heard on the new Cut Copy record, and it's certainly reminiscent of older Radiohead while pushing ahead along some interesting new paths. Unfortunately, two (or three) songs does not an album make.

This is the first Radiohead album in my life that I've been genuinely disappointed in. There are interesting stretches, it's an artistic project, but it doesn't appeal to me. I can't tell if this is a good thing, that my musical tastes are maturing beyond my likes as a kid, or if Radiohead settled with the music as much as they did with the price point. In Rainbows felt fresh in pretty much every conceivable way. The King of Limbs feels like an aftershock from something much, much stronger.

Monday, February 21, 2011

comics for the week of 02/16/11.

Now that I have a NookColor, I wonder if I'm going to start illegally downloading comics and reading them on there? The screen seems small, but, I mean, I'll be using it primarily for reading regardless. I'm just not sure that anything can compare to going to the shop, getting the comics and flipping through them. Not even free. Which is, definitely, a good thing.

Batman 707 - The conclusion of the Peacock arc. Dick Grayson as Batman just works. He's awesome, I love the relationship between he and Bruce, the way he relates stories about the circus, etc. He's a great Batman, and I'm so happy that they are letting this run its course. The way this arc played out is also a great sign for this book. Tony Daniel wrote a capable little story here, that is bleeding right into the next, with the last page tease of a female Two-Face and the resolution of the role of the Riddler. (Good nod to the critics!) The Beholder mask story might not have been the best that we've ever seen, but the compilation of old and new faces into a good enough story is a great sign of things to come from this book. I'm convinced.

Batman and Robin 20 - Tomasi jumps on the story and Gleason jumps on art. It wasn't bad,but there were several times it threw me off. Notably in the beginning of the story, the weird little prelude with the family watching Zorro. (Seriously, why was that in there? What did it have to do with anything?) Bruce, while seated in the bottom panel, looks like he's approximately 500 pounds. Damn, that's some crappy art. Then, we completely switch gears to Dick as the new Bruce, galavanting about town, when an angel crashes down. The best thing about this issue came next with the shifting relationship between Commissioner Gordon and Damian Wayne. Man, that's gonna be trouble. Dick had better crack down on that kid ASAP. And then, the end? Were those supposed to be White Lantern constructs? Or is this gonna be something else confusingly illuminated? Either way, a great start from a new team after that terribly useless prelude.

Fables 102 - A million times better than the last issue! Ozma on the cover is fantastic and Pinocchio's dedication to the super team inside the pages was an awesome touch. (The wheelchair! The pipe! The insistence on costumes! The deep-seated fear!) Mister Dark is seriously pissed at the Fables and he's found Haven. Flycatcher is doing his best to keep him out, and it's working, but it won't continue to. The Nurse has slimmed down and is fully devoted to Dark, without being subsumed. She still seems like her own person, kind of, but she's under his spell. This is a dangerous combination. The Army is being prepared by Ozma in the beginning of the book, and they're looking for fearless warriors. (GL crossover? No, not really.) The most intriguing part of this book was the quote read to the North Wind by his minion. To me, that's clearly setting up his own sacrifice for his grandchild's sake. That's going to be pretty damn touching.

Green Lantern 62 - The power of Krona is intimidating. Finally, a big bad that actually feels that way. And even though the cover portrayed the conflict at the end of the book, I didn't feel like it was much of a conflict. First of all, of course Hal's gonna roll with his new crew. Secondly, the JLA will be there to back him up if it gets to that point, even if he doesn't ask for their help. It's what they do! So, to me, that was a wasted part of the book. However, the rest of the book more than made up for it. Another shot of the pre-shrunk Guardians in their White Lantern uniforms (great ret-con!) and a battle of all the new Guardians versus Krona. And they get their asses kicked. Not only does he whup them, but he leaves with more than he had, which was inevitable, of course, but is also huge trouble. We get a typical Johns moment of brief glimpses into the future as Hal comes out of his beating, and the end devolves into Hal (and new Guardians) versus the JLA.

Shield 6 - The end of the first arc and it was totally satisfying. It's clear from the end of this that what they were going for was merely setting up the idea behind the organization and that now they're going to spin some other tales that'll bounce around the entire timespan of the Marvel universe. Great work. The reveal of the Forever Man was fitting, as most of this tale is in retrospect. It'll work even better in a TPB. This is a solid start for some of the other stories they can tell, but I wish the whole thing would've come with a big Prelude labeled over the cover so that we could have known that this was merely a set-up. I'm OK with that, because even the set-up was good, and the stories that follow are going to be great, know...truth in advertising. Good stuff, look forward to more. Don't change anyone from the team! If Dustin Weaver needs a break for the next issue (or next arc) that's fine, but you've got to dance with the one who brung ya.

Book of the week goes to Fables, for getting back on track. Leaving Bufkin behind and focusing on the immediate conflict (and making it a truly immediate? conflict) is the right move. This is billed as a five-part story on the cover and it's my hope that by the fifth issue, we have some forward momentum. Great stuff.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

college basketball enters the golden god period.

There is a time in March, sometimes lasting until early April, when college basketball takes over our nation. Football rules the roost for its entire season, and most people pay pretty close attention to baseball and professional basketball during their respective playoffs and/or finals, but college basketball is something of a different monster.

Starting about 2 weeks ago, college basketball entered the conference play stage of its season. This is known as the second season, mainly because winning the conference title means an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, so teams that had previously relaxed take things up a notch or three.

With the onset of conference play, things got off to a slamming start for recently crowned number 1 team, Kansas when they got rocked and rolled by inner-state rivals Kansas State. K-State has been nothing to sniff at all season, but when the Jayhawks were unveiled as number 1, on Valentine's Day, with a meeting at the Fred Bramlage Coliseum looming, there were some tremors in the Force. Those proved to be prescient, and Kansas took the big L.

Only a day later, the previous number 1, Ohio State got the best crack from Michigan State. MSU had started the preseason ranked number 2 in the country, but after a back and forth season, had finally tumbled out of the Top 25. However, a Tom Izzo team is a difficult one to truly count out, and they proved so last night. Despite 20 turnovers on the night, the unranked Spartans only lost to #3 Ohio State by ten points.

Meanwhile, in news from back home, the UNM Lobos had finally strung together an impressive win-streak of 4 before suffering an embarrassing and demoralizing loss at Colorado State on Saturday night. After scoring only 22 points in the first half, the Lobos were forced to battle back from a 14-point hole. They almost did so but, unfortunately, almost doesn't count in basketball, much less in the second season.

Everyone's bringing their A game at this point, and the Top 25 is not a safe place to be. For the Lobos, there's some gritty work to be done. The cherry and silver squad plays at San Diego State University tonight, at 8:30 PM MST. SDSU is currently ranked #6 in the country and the game promises to deliver plenty of emotion. With only 6 games left in their schedule, if the Lobos want to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to follow suit. Play with emotion, bring the A game, and join the national obsession in March. The option is still there.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

comics for the week of 02/09/11.

A redux, some standby old favorites fall, and I finished Earth X! (More on that later.)

Batgirl 18 - Another one-off with Klarion! While last issue was nothing but good, this one had a few spots where it lagged. That being said, it was another great example of the truth that the one-off issue is not only dead but continues to exemplify some of the best work in the business. The ways that Stephanie interacted with Damian versus how she interacts with Klarion serve as a template on how to write a character; she's not one-dimensional, there are different aspects to her. She also gets to play the straight role often in these sorts of team-ups, which I think is good for her, as her solo tone is way less serious. Their time in Limbo Town gave us a great Harry Potter shoutout, and the ending, with the two of them together Happily Ever After (for five more minutes...) was pitch perfect. Great stuff.

Flash 9 - The Road to Flashpoint and it sucked. The surprise at the end felt ridiculous, I don't care how they twist it. The whole book felt like a stop-gap measure, kind of just killing time while there was one point to the whole thing - the aforementioned end. The art was fantastic as always, with Manapul finally back on this book, but the story by Johns felt like less of a first chapter and more of a prelude. I know it's (kind of) in the title, but if this is "The Road to Flashpoint" then I'm even more convinced than ever that I want nothing to do with that event. Literally nothing happened in this issue until the last page and that page felt like a cheap soap opera.

New Avengers 9 - Good stuff with Nick Fury in the past and a middling story in the present. Surprise last page didn't do anything for me. Maybe it's the death in FF last week (two weeks ago?) but I just can't handle any more of this fake shit. We all know that any time a major character dies they'll be back sooner rather than later. If just one time (ONE TIME!) they left a character dead long enough for us to believe it, this trend might feel different. But as it is, ironically, the only character who's stayed dead is Jean Gray - the Phoenix! The cover to this book was great, though, and the Nick Fury story in the past was a nick little touch. Hopefully we'll see the tho threads connecting in a way that emphasizes that side as opposed to continuing with the nonsense in the present.

The Unwritten 22 - The worst issue of the run so far. I hope I'm not coming across as too harsh, but this one just didn't have the same gravitas as the last couple issues. Frankenstein's Monster even acknowledges that, when Tom gets to talk to him again and thinks he's gonna get some grand answers. (Interestingly enough, these have been promised by the departing editor in her goodbye column for next issue. I believe it.) The section with the crazy puppet lady (does she have a name yet?) also felt a bit odd, especially after the way that Lizzie and Savoy got worked last issue. This issue, she doesn't get what she needs from them and so she just lets them go with that vivid vision of the future? Clearly, something more is going on there. The connection between Sinbad and Moby Dick is beyond interesting, but I get the feeling that we're only skimming the surface. In two years, though, if this is as bad as The Unwritten's been, it's still got more than enough positive stuff to make it.

Book of the week goes to Batgirl, simply as a reward for being great again on the week that Unwritten happened to falter. I was worried about this book after the first year, wondering if it would find a tone it could stick with. I think it did, and I think the change to Nguyen's art was and is an improvement.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the bowl was super.

On Sunday, the happiest moment of the sporting year for Americans occurred: the Super Bowl. And although the two teams were in the top three ranked defenses in the National Football League, the game still turned out to be relatively exciting.

Aaron Rodgers completed the transformation of the Green Bay Packers into his team. The days of Brett Favre are completely over with this victory, and it probably couldn't have come at a better time for the Packers or their fans. As Favre played out his (hopefully) last season in Minnesota, there were signs practically every day of burning out as opposed to fading away. Forget the off-field drama, just look at the production of Favre versus the young gun who used to back him up.

The Packers piled on the Steelers in the first half, capitalizing every chance they could. They went up 14-0 in the first quarter alone. At that point, it looked like it would be another boring Super Bowl. The second quarter didn't bode well, either, when the Steelers were stymied in their drive for a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, however, haven't gone to three Super Bowls in six years for no reason. After the third quarter ended, the Packers were up only 21-17 and the tide seemed to be turning. Mike Tomlin had done his job, had fired up his troops, and Ben Roethlisberger was ready to seal his legacy at the young age of 28.

The Cheeseheads grabbed the momentum, though, with an 8-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. Rodgers was in full command of the game, with a 111.5 passer rating, compared to Roethlisberger's 77.4. Roethlisberger has been in (and won) 2 Super Bowls already. He was supposed to bring the savvy, and the all-important Super Bowl experience. Instead, he was eclipsed by Rodgers, who's ready to shine his championship acumen for a few more years.

When the Steelers scored with 7:34 left in the 4th and commanded their defensive unit on the field to make a stand, things seemed headed for a Hollywood-comeback-ending. But the first word in the game (and this post) is defense, and the Packers dug in. With 2:07 left in the game, and only one timeout, Roethlisberger completed two passes, and then threw three incompletes in a row. The Steelers turned over the ball, Rodgers knelt on it, and the transformation of backup quarterback to new big man in Green Bay was complete.

Monday, February 7, 2011

the art of making a mix.

When I was in college, I used to make mixtapes all the time. It was something to track what I was listening to at the time, or to impress my friends, or to impress girls, or anything, just something to pass the time in the frigid snow of the Northwest. Of course, it was near the Golden Age of free music, too, with Napster just having exploded, but with T1 connections in all the dorms and all the Napster alternatives rushing to fill the void.

Some of the mixes were great. Some of them were subpar to say the least. This isn't just me talking myself up, either. Plenty of people (both those who liked me and those who were indifferent) gave me varied reactions. When I was at GU, I worked at the radio station, and I've always been pretty obsessed with music (like many in my generation and younger) so it's not like I had no idea what I was doing.

I still make mixes, but the pace has slowed exponentially. (In 2002, I made 23, which was the high. Last year, 2010, I made 2.) There are lots of reasons for this, the most obvious being a lack of time to just sit around and obsessively listen to music and catalog it into good transitions. I'm also insanely proud of the fact that I don't hear a lot of things that I can personally relate to (or pretend that I can) in pop songs anymore, so that takes away a lot of the source material. (In compiling my list of things that I was most proud of from my 20's, the end of putting myself though the semi-tragic circumstances of pop songs ranks near the top.) However, I'm still a human, still have feelings, and still listen to music pretty obsessively, even though it's crazily dominated by hip-hop now, as opposed to pop and the so-called indie or underground alternative artists that I used to wear on my sleeve.

So last year, around August, I began making another mix. (I had put a finish to my previous one in May, so I'd been building material for this one since then, but I probably officially began compiling songs in August.) Another school year was beginning, a year when I honestly thought that I wouldn't be in the country. As I began another term of teaching, I was feeling a bit down, with changes in my work life (a new boss, a change in grade level, etc.). Also, I'd moved from the house that I'd lived in since moving back to Albuquerque, which had taken a toll on my relationship with some family members. When I started this mix, therefore, it was called Can't & Won't.

As the year progressed, though, things picked up, as they always seem to do so. I'd found a good place to live, my work was getting better, and my family was made better, in that sporting analogy of addition by subtraction. Around Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) the title of the mix had changed to Giving Thanks.

I thought that I'd finish the mix around that time, but it still needed some tweaking. It wasn't long enough, and there were songs on it that I knew wouldn't make the final cut. Around this time, I grabbed some of the back catalogue of Midtown, including their album Living Well is the Best Revenge. Midtown's a great band, and it bums me out that the main way that people know Gabe Saporta right now is through Cobra Starship. But, their song, "Find Comfort in Yourself" found a place on the mix and led to the led name Revenge.

I don't think this is really a revenge-type of mix, though, honestly. I just thought it was important not to abandon all those names and all that progress. I don't know what type of mix it is, but I do know that there's a lot that went into it. If Midtown is right, and they've named their CD accurately, then living well as revenge doesn't have to mean some kind of ill intent. What it means to me now, what I'm trying to do, is simply being content. I've been working on becoming a better person pretty consciously over the last three years and I think that I've done well. I think one of the most important lessons that I've learned over the last year or so is that revenge doesn't have to be malicious, but rather a simple acknowledgement of karma balancing things out.

The mix can be found here. I named the tracks with prefixes in the order they're supposed to go in, but the ID3 tags are still accurate for their own album. My favorite song on the album (and one of my favorite songs in general right now) is Modest Mouse's "Missed the Boat". The turning point of the album is Atmosphere's "Yesterday" and Kanye's "Street Lights" is what started me on the path of thinking that 808s and Heartbreaks wasn't that bad of an album. "Kiss Me Again" by Jessica Lea Mayfield is one of the saddest songs I've heard. Jenny Lewis was supposed to end the mix with the line, "Trying my best to love you/They make it so hard on us baby/It's so hard on us baby," but Broken Bells' "October" was just too perfect of a sonic closing. I hope you like it.

"Remember what they said/There’s no shortcut to a dream/It’s all blood and sweat/And life is what you manage in between...Yeah you got me wrong."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

comics for the week of 02/02/11.

Short stacks are the new norm around here, eh?

Invincible 77 - The penultimate book in the Viltrumite War? Honestly, I don't know, but it seems like it is, and it was daaaaamn good. All issue long, Invincible is thinking about the destruction the Viltrumites are wreaking on Earth and when he arrives home, he's faced with an unthinkable choice. I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't read it, but damn.

Allen the Alien also gets some good character development. It's my hope that we'll get to see him in his new role. And, while I haven't cared for the Tech Jacket backup features, he seems to be coming along in the main book at a reasonable clip. The big thing that was left hanging in this book was the fate of Oliver. Next issue, we'll get to see the various reunions.

Superboy 4 - So, it was clear to everyone that the Science-Hunters were freaked out by Simon, right? I mean, he's got to be the one? The Psi-Lad cover story was convincing, but I wasn't really taken in by it. Therefore, the cliffhanger ending fell a bit flat for me, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book. The bit with Lori was the only thing that seemed bad to me, since I don't care about her teenage angst over being related to Luthor and I dislike the plot thread in general. Superboy's coming along on his own, though, which is a great thing. The only question that this issue raised for me, then, was whether Psi Lad knew more about those creepy old guys than he said. Nice direction, keep going.

Book of the week goes to Invincible. Pacing of the Viltrumite War might have ran a bit long (the issue Nolan and Invincible were completely out of it, the excessive double page spreads) but it feels like its hitting its climaxes in all the right ways.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

unm's killer weekend.

While the nation and its pundits were oozing over Jimmer Fredette and his ability to score in bunches, the University of New Mexico Lobos were suffering through a slog. Since winning the Mountain West Conference in back to back years, the Lobos began this basketball season with universally-acknowledged too-high expectations. We were picked third and that was probably generous. As the season got into its second part, conference play began to show the Lobos as the young team we truly are; we began at Wyoming with a loss, picked up a win against Colorado State University, and then went on a three game losing streak, including San Diego State University (number six in the nation at that time!), Utah and a heartbreaker at UNLV.

The tide is turning, though. After smashing TCU at the Pit, UNM readied for Jimmermania, as the BYU Cougars descended upon Albuquerque, fresh off a conference victory over SDSU - up to number four in the nation, at the time of their defeat. Jimmer gave interviews warning that it was difficult to come into the Pit, but the press refused to listen: Fredette was (and is) already being crowned player of the year. (He still might nab the honor, and in no way do I think a loss in the Pit should disqualify him from the award.) UNM beat BYU in both of the conference games last year, though, and Fredette knows about the tenacity of the Lobos.

So on Saturday, as the Lobos made a game of it in the first half and stretched their lead little by little in the second, there weren't many truly shocked faces in Albuquerque. Even SLAM Magazine ranked it as the least surprising upset of the weekend. But that doesn't change the fact that it was an upset, or the fact that UNM is starting to come alive.

After defeating Air Force last night, UNM now sits at exactly .500 in conference play. We can still make a run at the conference championship because we've got Wyoming, Utah, UNLV and Air Force (again) at home. None of those games are gimmes, given the way the Lobos have played at times this season, but they should be favored to win all four, no matter the circumstances, especially at home.

The real trouble comes when we look at the road schedule, especially with the visit to San Diego (back at number six in the nation, at this time) ad BYU (number nine at the time, thirsting for revenge regardless of ranking). The game at CSU shouldn't be overlooked, seeing as the Rams are two games ahead of the Lobos. Lastly, UNM visits the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs the game before going to see BYU - this smacks of looking ahead in the schedule, so coach Steve Alford will be doing his best to keep the young Lobos tuned in to the task at hand.

Beating a BYU team that had only suffered one loss on the season previously is a great place to start, though. Despite the slow start, despite the youth of the team (or maybe because of it, as the play of Tony Snell and Kendall Williams might attest) , and despite two teams in the conference bouncing around the top ten rankings in the nation practically all season, the UNM Lobos might have reached a turning point last weekend.