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Monthly Archives: July 2013

July 16th kicked off SEC Media Days, a three day spectacle brimming with press conferences, Mike Slive’s “State of the League” address, player interviews and Chick-fil-a swag. This is the time when grievances are aired out by Steve Spurrier while Nick Saban fights off the frenzied Alabama media contingent who follow him like the White House press corps follows President Obama. It’s a production that’s taken on a tremendous amount of publicity due to the Southeastern Conference’s status as “king of the mountain top” for seven years straight. There will be other media days for other athletic confederacies, but this one is the premiere event that signifies the beginning of college football and the end to every fan’s rationality and sanity for the next 176 days.  Read More

Genres of music are being broken down into very specific, micro classifications due to the tags that taste makers, music bloggers, and critics fabricate to identify a certain styling that has yet to be labeled. At times, it can be difficult to keep up with but, at the same time, they are very fun to explore. Each week, I will explore a different sub-genre and try to explain the stains left on my shirt after climbing out of each tedious rabbit hole of musical stylings.

DJ Mustard, at the vanguard of ratchet

 The murmuring drone of a keyboard starts the track then the barely decipherable watermark drops quickly, “Mustard on the beat, hoe”. What followed was America’s introduction to ratchet music. This was the new sound of Los Angeles: stripped down, bare bones, minimalist, direct approach to rap that received national attention with Tyga’s ubiquitous “Rack City”. It also didn’t hurt that the song became ushered in the arrival of Chris Paul with the Clippers. Even though some in Shreveport claim that they fabricated the sub-genre long before Blake Griffin started time traveling, Los Angeles has successfully appropriated the name for it’s current obsession.

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Fall of the Rebel Angels Peter Paul Rubens

The weekend vacation thanks to July 4th provided a welcome respite to a young but already challenging season. We now know that this team is at least half-decent despite being complete strangers thrown together in an effort to create something. A win and a draw: that’s not a horrible way to start the summer, and we sat tied at the top of the league table going into the third game. Two weeks to think about the next fixture is an irritating period of time, and I spent a lot of it consuming the book Soccernomics, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. Much of it comes from the Moneyball mentality of applying statistical analysis to athletic competition. I searched for some hidden answers, some key to achieving soccer glory, at least at an amateur level. Alas, no such answer was to be found, but I did manage to slowly build excitement for the next game.

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When I think about Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail, there’s one lyric that won’t stop bouncing around my brain. It’s eight years old: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” I mean, how else could Jay sell a million records before anyone even knew the album existed?

MCHG was announced in conjunction with a $5 million deal with Samsung that allowed one million of its smartphone users to download the album for free five days before its official release. It’s a testament to Jay-Z The Musician’s immense popularity that Jay-Z The Businessman (or Business, Man) could even make such a deal, but it’s also the epitome of “selling out.” And therein lies the problem with Jay-Z: I love him as a musician. I’m impressed by the way he has progressed from the gangster braggadocio of Reasonable Doubt to the King of the Rap Game braggadocio of Watch the Throne, and everything he’s done in between. I love how he proves you don’t need an MBA to be a brilliant business man. But can he continue play both roles?

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BB KING

“Anytime you thinkin’ evil, you thinkin’ ’bout the blues.” – Chester Arthur Burnett, AKA Howlin’ Wolf

Slowly, timidly, the sun set over the Hudson River. Thousands of people had gathered in the World Financial Center, soon to be renamed Brookfield Place, to see an 87-year-old, diabetic black man play a six-stringed instrument he had named “Lucille.” When the backing band took the stage and played its way through a few instrumentals, stretching out seemingly in an effort to prove its worth to the audience, anticipation growing to a fever pitch. The band’s tight transitions and familiarity with the changes in direction one member would make in leading the others, all the while acknowledging the formidable vacancy at center stage.

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Genres of music are being broken down into very specific, micro classifications due to the tags that taste makers, music bloggers, and critics fabricate to identify a certain styling that has yet to be labeled. At times, it can be difficult to keep up with but, at the same time, they are very fun to explore. Each week, I will explore a different sub-genre and try to explain the stains left on my shirt after climbing out of each tedious rabbit hole of musical stylings.

I was reading a review on Deafheaven’s Sunbather which I had assumed was either a dance record or an indie rock act based on its vibrant cover. I was shocked to find that what I was reading about had the surface packaging of a Los Angeles electro outfit. Instead, the review pointed out that there were no popping synth lines or pulsing bass. What was offered on the album was black metal. I pulled up the record on Spotify and started listening. Yup. Black metal. Machine gun drums, shrieking vocals, plodding bass lines and assaulting guitar chords. But there was a sort of shimmering softness to it. A kind of lush instrumentation on the downbeats. Is this the norm for a branch of metal most closely associated with Satanism, paganism, nihilism, I thought. What I found was when you hold Deafheaven’s music in contrast with the other acts it stands out as the brightest, most beautiful sounding thing there is. Everything else indicates that there is darkness ahead. Oh boy.

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Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum

Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Harrick, “To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time”

For the better part of the last five years, at least since Euro 2008 signaled the dawn of a Spanish renaissance in the sport, the Spanish men’s national football team has ridden a possession-heavy, triangular passing-based game to great success and historic heights, and not only by Spanish standards. The style they have made their own, affectionately dubbed tiki-taka for its quick passing, had its roots in the Ajax/Netherlands “total football” system of the 1970s. When the greatest Dutch player ever, Johann Cruyff, became FC Barcelona’s manager in 1988, he brought the total football mentality with him and placed the greatest burden in the field on his most talented midfielder, Josep Guardiola. Guardiola ascended to the throne at Barcelona in June 2008 and left it four years later having put together perhaps the greatest list of accomplishments in any four-year span in the history of club soccer.

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A lot has changed for Jay-Z since 2011’s Watch the Throne, which serves as social commentary from the top wrapped in a luxury item inventory. His empire has grown tentacles, his influence growing almost on a daily basis. The Brooklyn Nets opened their home at the Barclays Center. Then, he sold his share of the team so he could represent athletes with Roc Nation. Even Magna Carta Holy Grail is a record that is more business than personal. The marketing scheme surrounding the album was based on an app which only Samsung Galaxy owners could download on Independence Day – all others had to wait until July 9th. This is Jay-Z cementing his brand while increasing his bottom line. But, all is not golden at the top of the world.

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The intermittent drum roll kicks in. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is hurrying Smalls out of his house as the sun sets over Smalltown, USA (or some neighborhood in Los Angeles County). Smalls runs out of the house; Benny follows. The crew is waiting for them in the cul-de-sac: Yeah Yeah, Hamilton Porter, Kenny, Bertram, Tommy and Timmy. They all rush past a block party (with the exception of Porter, who makes himself a hot dog) and head straight for their favorite haunt and the movie’s namesake, The Sandlot.

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