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Month: February 2016

Celtics Trade Deadline Recap – Dan Stands Pat

Celtics Trade Deadline Recap – Dan Stands Pat

On January 2nd, I had the privilege of sitting courtside to watch Boston College get run out of their own gym by Duke.  I know, people – I’m important, so I sit courtside.  No biggie.  I was joined courtside by Danny Ainge too.  I run in exclusive circles.  I am guessing that Danny was there to check out Brandon Ingram shoot 9 for 18 for 25 points.  He was tremendous.  He actually reminds me of a Kevin Durant-type prospect (I will regret typing this).

It is insane to think that the GM of the third place team in the East could even think that he has a shot at a premier talent like Ingram, but with all these assets the Celtics have, it is possible.  And now that the trade deadline has come and gone, we still have them all.  And I could not be happier about it.

How does it sound to finish as the 3-seed in the East and still land a top 5 lottery pick in what should be considered a “rebuilding year”?  Sounds pretty damn good to me.

This Celtics roster is incredibly fun to watch, and the common topic of conversation all season has been that they are “just one player away” from going over the top and truly making a run at an 18th title.  This pressure typically leads to forcing a deal that locks down a top-level scorer who is probably over-the-hill, at the risk of giving up far too many assets.  Teams who need one guy tend to overpay for said guy.

But there was just no one available this time around, and the conservative play to sit on this roster that LOVES to play with each other will reap massive dividends down the road.  Even the players seem to be happy with standing pat during the deadline.

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Tobias Harris, Markieff Morris, and Channing Frye were some of the marquee names that moved this week.  In the grand scheme of things, they are not marquee talent, however, and with a roster that could not fit David Lee, there was no room for another role-playing power forward.

The big name guys that were rumored to move were even scarier to think about dealing for.  The short list that I heard thrown around included some players that I want NOTHING to do with.

First of all, Kevin Love.  Ugh.  I could write a whole different piece on my disdain for Love (maybe I will).  He is currently being completely under-utilized in Cleveland, which is probably why David Blatt lost his job, but that guy is just not a championship player.  He just is not.  I’m a crabby old man when it comes to my type of basketball player.  I want 12 Kawhi Leonards because there are two ends on a basketball court and I want someone that plays both of them for 82 games in a season.  This is Kevin Love’s wonderful defensive prowess.  Hey, maybe he can get 12 useless rebounds though!

The other name that I actually heard and could not believe was Dwight Howard.  What.  How.  That man would last two days in Boston and request a trade just because someone yelled at him in traffic on Storrow Drive.  That man belongs nowhere near this city or this team, and his career is all but over.  Not an impact player.

It was also rumored that for some reason Boston seems almost entitled to get Demarcus Cousins.  When he is at his best, Boogie is a top ten talent in the league.  There is no denying that.  But the man is a locker room cancer.  What Brad Stevens has built here is too special to destroy in its third year with a guy like Cousins.  I’m sorry – I am passing on this.  I may sound like a complete idiot with this opinion but the risk is not worth the reward.

With as happy as I am about the Celtics inaction during the deadline, one thing that does disappoint me is that the Brooklyn Nets decided to postpone their yard sale.  I was really pulling for a deal that shipped off Thad Young or Joe Johnson.  We need a bad Brooklyn Nets team!  Like, a really bad one!  I started the piece with Ingram’s stat line, but Ben Simmons is out there for the taking too, and that draft pick is in prime position for the top spot when the ping pong balls get to bouncing.

But the Nets get a free pass because, well, they did not have a GM to orchestrate a trade.  Like literally – there was no GM in the entire organization.  Sean Marks was hired the day of the deadline.  What a premier organization they got down there…

So here we are, headed towards the end of the season with a squad that can compete against any team in the league.  True, they do need that one game breaker to take over the 4th quarter.  Isaiah Thomas’s two missed game winners against Golden State earlier this year still give me night sweats.  But now is not the time.  And when that time comes, Ainge will be ready.  They have already waived David Lee to clear a roster spot, and here is what we are working with for picks:

2016: Brooklyn’s first rounder, Dallas’s first rounder, Minnesota’s first rounder, Cleveland’s second rounder, Dallas’s second rounder, Miami’s second rounder, Philadelphia’s second rounder

2017: Brooklyn’s first rounder, Cleveland’s second rounder, L.A. Clippers’s second rounder

2018: Brooklyn’s first rounder, Memphis first rounder

2019: Detroit’s second rounder

2020: Miami’s second rounder

You might be able to buy The Vatican with these assets.  So much to work with.  Kudos to you, Danny.  And next time you show up at Boston College to check some college hoops, maybe give me a call, yeah?

And to Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Demarcus Cousins, and every other premier player that carries your fantasy basketball team but has never won a single thing worth writing home about in their careers: stay away from me.

By Shaun @slough44

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The National Branding Association, What will become of the new NBA

The National Branding Association, What will become of the new NBA

Growing up I hated Kobe Bryant, Probably because I was too naive and drank the Boston kool-aid that makes us all “overly enthusiastic” for our teams. Today, I understand and appreciate all that he has done and given to basketball. The world needed someone after Michael, and there he was. Last week, after I was watching that circus of an All-Star game and Kobe Bryant stepped off the court one last time I realized how strange of a period the NBA is in.

The league hasn’t been in better shape, and I have no doubt that it’ll one day pass the NFL (I don’t know when! But c’mon almost a billion people play basketball). But this is something special; we’re in the early process of ushering out some of the greatest contributors to the game.

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We have sure-fired 1st ballot Hall of Fame players, looking to bolster their resumes and elevate themselves to that next tier of legends.

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We have a bevy of Superstars hitting that are hitting the prime of their careers.

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And an emergence of young talent that will launch the National Basketball Association into the stratosphere.

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Today, when I say “that kids good” it really applies, and that blows. It’s hard to imagine a league without Kobe, one day Lebron will be gone, and KD will be a thing of the past. The NBA will remain, but how will it look?

Let’s take a jump that rabbit hole.

This year’s salary cap is set at $70 million. Next year, $89 million. The projected cap two years from now is a staggering $108 million. Next year is the beginning of the NBA’s new 9-year $26 BILLION dollar contract with ESPN and Turner sports. This can spearhead a lookout in next year’s NBA season though, due to an opt-out in the current collective bargaining agreement. The last CBA (2011) saw the players take a -7% hit on their revenues. Now they’re at an even 50/50 split with the league when sharing revenues. Franchises across the league claim to be losing money (they may or may not), a good reason why in the last CBA the player’s revenue took a hit. As they player contracts begin to grow, Adam Silver will need to restructure the labor agreement (Thank god it’s not Goodell). Nevertheless, money will be flying around the NBA for some time. Lock-out possibly to come.

Let’s shift the focus over to the young professionals now. Right off the bat their childhood wishes are granted, making seven or eight figures to play ball. D’Angelo Russell is making $5.1 million to START, Bill Russell had to rebound and defend his way to making $100,000. They are going to capitalize to the fullest, but how will the franchises combat that? Longer contract terms can be a viable option. I was having a conversation with my roommate and he said Hockey and Baseball have the right idea. They can throw massive contracts at these guys and it’ll almost be too big to pass up (Google Bryce Harper potential contract and not shit your pants).

How much is too much money? I believe there has to be a breaking point where it just doesn’t matter anymore, somewhere to the tune of 8-years $320 million sounds reasonable (I would live in Milwaukee too if that were the instance). Having longer terms can stabilize the league too; knowing your cornerstone is locked up for almost the next decade allows you to build through the draft. Under the assumption the league continues to grow then those max deals won’t be that much of a financial burden, as the cap rises year after year that expense will accost for less and less (the Jae Crowder deal is MAGIC, and a good example).

On the flip-side, more and more we hear that current pros across all sports haven’t touched their career earnings and have only spent endorsement money, the kids see that. What we don’t see are the kids walking into the league with PhDs in social media. They’re about to kill it, they are in a rare sport where you share the floor with nine other guys and your faces (brands) are plastered across my television screen. So what will happen moving forward? You’re going to see them EVERYWHERE! The basketball culture is exploding into fashion, music, acting, or whichever outlet their face can be seen. Their phones are personal branding tools, a bridge where the outside world can get to know them as individuals. These guys will be WORKING! Because Michael laid out the blueprint, we’ve just advanced so much in the world there are so many different avenues to take instead of just flat out being the world’s greatest basketball player.

The talent of the league won’t diminish, the players are great! But don’t be surprised when you see their face or logo at every corner. I’m already pissed that my future son will probably want some Thon Maker shoe or something. But the NBA is smart; they are letting these guys go wild because of the direct correlation of twitter/IG/future app followers to game viewers.
It really is amazing to live in a time to see sports blow up so quickly, no matter how strange it looks…

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Killian Slattery
@kslattery05

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White People and Kanye West: Our Shining Old America

White People and Kanye West: Our Shining Old America

Crying’s weird in the premium held over other human expressions defined in general verbiages. This is for sure the romantic idea of being wind-swept up into something unseen from the horizon, or tumblr or whatever. In the case of this average white male once mentally belittled to a melancholy rat after a bout with major surgery and an oxy scrip, it’s inching to tears over words about a dead writer while standing in line for lunch.

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The dead writer is David Foster Wallace, he hanged himself in September of 2008. This year is the twentieth since his sprawling, eight pound (books literally eight pounds) novel Infinite Jest was published which, incidentally, comes on the heels of this past summer’s not blockbuster The End of the Tour, a la Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. It’s an adaptation of a never published interview turned book by a then hacking-it Rolling Stone writer about the last few days of Wallace’s press tour for Infinite Jest. Yes, it’s fucking boring. However; there’s a trite, Midwestern twang of a quote rattled off by Wallace somewhere near the middle, he’s talking about his youth and brevity of a competitive sports career before honing in on school – “…although of course you end up becoming yourself.”

Wallace’s estate publicly dislikes the film for what are probably very legitimate reasons. The point is that Wallace was a goofy white dude and a big rap fan who happened to see (in concept) where our social attention as America was headed some two decades previous to today.

Wish I was an original Wallace fan, all in favor of the human condition, but that’d be a lie. Simple facts, as a college senior I stumbled over an essay of his and click baited my way to a purchase cart for Infinite Jest, only bought it after a Google search of the title revealed his suicide. His end was the first thing that excited me on a chest beating level.

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Peter Thiel (PayPal, Facebook) has a really cool book out called Zero to One. He covers loads of ground on the startup world and what winning businesses look like today, but he’s at his best when painting would be complex issues on current “that’s the way it is” -isms with easily digested pop culture topic points. (Justin Timberlake, Instagram, William Shatner cc. Priceline ads).

Specifically this, talking about hipsters and America’s presumed nostalgia obsession:

“Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.”

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Today’s media cycle, once one digs a little, is so the same as it’s always been in the realization that America’s social conscience is, at its core, still rather confused. We the people, like, love entertainers to points of worship and mass monetization. The hyper-speed add-in of handheld computers only reassures this. If enigma’s are new, fresh, inexplicable, then where does that leave us on topics older than America itself?

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“…although of course you end up becoming yourself.”

This is where fame makes no sense in the American norms of mass celebrity interpretation. That, or powers inherent with such -all the time- face time deeming this highest oh high level of celebrities to be, at all costs, truth sayers and reasonable thinkers on hard lying social issues (or the opposite) even when mounting evidence to a contrary exists. It’s a kerfuffle, and the cracks are there.

Kanye West lays claim to possibly the most illustrious career of a male celebrity in American history. This possibly exists for the non simplicity of his being a black man in America. Black men in America have probably had a tougher go at it than you have and when a black man in America marries into the contemporary Kennedy’s morphed into matriarchy and impregnates their not subtle leader, the idea of a rap career or opinions on his person being at all relative to said rapping, or that which made him famous in the first place, are pushed out the window to splat on the pavement of justifiable reason. It would seem that Mr. West became himself at the chance to make an entire album with his biggest brother. Peaks or not, where does one go when they surpass artist and become spectacle?

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Donald Trump is your 8th grade bully ixnay ninety percent of the profanity.

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He’s impeccably good at this employment of asinine insults. When looking at this and other examples in his blubbering Twitter-sphere, 18 seasons of reality television, or Trump-a-mania campaign speeches, one views reason in a cresting wave. The recognition of something so, belched out, initially seems to be very stupid…and it settles, until a little voice back somewhere in the cranium pipes up to say “he’s a dickbag…but he’s sort of got a point.” Donald Trump probably isn’t a good dude, but I’m not sure how much that’s worth considering when taking into account how adept of an entertainer he’s become. American latency isn’t a new thing, despite what “Kardashians are the devil” -ers will tell you. No, we’ve always been fat and bored in the middle class, they have, just like the Donald, found the route to capitalize and stir on easy whims with social sales.

Oh yeah, Taylor.

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Daughter to an insurance professional who’s probably a great guy, the next-gen disney star, pasty white and privileged as the picture of suburbia itself. She’s managed, against literally all odds, to become bff’s with Compton’s human sacrifice. The knocks on her, admittedly, come mainly from the media. Calculated, entitled, trying too hard. It’s a humorous non coincidence that she’s dating her Swedish electric counterpart in both music and cultural interpretation. Talent, maybe more so her showmanship, is not up for debate. Love Bad Blood. Speaking of love, or lack of it, her fans. Here I find a technical trepidation in the sense that fans of hers and even show go-ers I know (ostensibly this would be different if I had a little sister or something) just really, really like her. It’s strange, borderline unintelligible to say this about an artist who transitioned from a very successful country career into the biggest pop star since Michael Jackson (pre face stuff, etc) in about a year and a half. But it comes back on a personal level to that extreme lack of love – the exact thing her tunes would be seeming to inspire. Also that I still don’t have the slightest of clues as to what she could be talking about. She’s making art, yes, and this is oft the point…no understanding, but she may well be saying nothing at all. Whatever her utilitarian goals are…they seem flanked by model buddies and lacquered in ice cream sweet adjectives. As enjoyable as her music is, it’s weightless in all the wrong places. Like fucking Wonder bread, not swirling in or out of love.

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Peaks or not, where does one go when they surpass artist and become spectacle?

The corollary could peek out from many a place, but I’m drawn, as ever, backward. NPR last week held a borderline meta discussion on the Yeezy Season 3 Rollout at MSG, and mostly it’s this bit from Ann Powers.

In this way, the Kanye projected within his music is more like a Picasso painting than Picasso himself: cubist, collapsing perspectives, the latest explosion of the new. I think that’s Kanye’s biggest commitment — to the new. It’s why he loves fashion, too. But he can’t escape into the future. He’s stuck with the past, with his mom’s memory, with us.”

I’m drawn here also by Taylor’s permed hair to the written words of a different black man in America; Rembert Browne, he’s a career writer (R.I.P. Grantland) and is currently at the height of his powers. A few weeks back he did a piece on Macklemore’s single White Privilege II, from a forthcoming sophomore album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. 

“But no one’s going to forget. Which means, at some point, white people will have to give up the delusion that the playing field has magically leveled, and actually go through the difficult process of really figuring out what it means to be white, and what you want it to mean for you in the future. In that, it means accepting the fact that white is a race.”

This is where Kanye and Trump in 2016 are more or less the same person operating on different poles of attraction. West, still the most talented producer, creative, of two generations, has degenerated fully into the South Park caricature. There’s nothing cute about public support for Bill Cosby’s innocence on your fucking Twitter account, plausibly worse is the so obvious album press plug in doing so.Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 5.31.08 PM

And Trump, riling up voiceless men and women from the flyover states that men like West have had and have all rights to despise, giving a vapid credence in tact for regaining a grip on the mantle of freedom so destroyed by uber liberal icons of Obamanation, rotting our once great nation from the outside in. Because that’s just it, everyone’s got something to be scared of, and no matter how offensive these anti-heroes become there’s still a necessary degree of begrudging respect. As long as Kanye West has the nuts to stand and scream in the face of crusty white middle Americans longing for days before sit ins, the Trump campaign gets to rock and roll on the pull back toward some great yesterday that might be just over the hill. donald_trump_youre_fired

 

 

Oh, and Taylor? It might be my favorite lyric on TLOP, but the actual thought process behind Kanye making her famous is fucking absurd. However, did it make her any less so? Her Grammy speech was about as cute as her gold chain shimmy in the Shake It Off video. Her god given right, to look in the eyes of a man who publicly insulted her sexuality and professional legitimacy, albeit a two sided coin for art that will inevitably be both loved and misunderstood. She still drips the privilege she can’t escape, have you ever seen her that rattled in a public appearance?

 

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The People Vs. OJ Simpson – Episodes 1-3

The People Vs. OJ Simpson – Episodes 1-3

Over 5 million people tuned into the premier of FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson a few weeks ago – a number that pales in comparison to the approximately 95 million people watched the infamous Bronco chase back when this all went down. It is a story that captivated America in the mid-90s, and now just over 20 years later, it is back in news cycles – a true testament to how important this story was to the country. People do not typically celebrate an anniversary of a murder trial.

As this new miniseries continues to pick up steam, it has generally received rave reviews. But some detractors, however, are blasting the show for being too outrageous, or for having exaggerated acting. But there is only one question that can follow that:

What the hell did you expect?

We are talking about, quite literally, the most popular crime in American history and the characters were larger than life. Everyone became a celebrity if they were not already, and many also became a caricature. O.J.’s lead attorney started LegalZoom.com, for crying out loud. The site brags about not being a law firm. Actually.

The one man in the entire case who ended up being convicted – a crooked cop – is a published author and TV personality. The lead prosecutor is also a published author. Everything about the grueling crime has so much glamour as a story. Made me kind of sick just writing that sentence.

But as for the show – it brings so much detail to the surface for a guy my age. I was just barely out of Pampers when it all went down. Additionally, as a white kid thousands of miles away from Los Angeles, there is so much more to this that I could not even fathom. The racial side of the story hasn’t been laid out just yet in the series, but I am very excited to see how that plays out (look at me talking as if this is fiction and we don’t know the end).

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The series will be three episodes in by the time this is posted and the first word that comes to find when trying to describe it is: campy. This show is so damn campy – like you cannot believe these events actually took place because it is so outrageous. It is a story about a double homicide that has a macabre humor behind it: the Kardashian kids chanting their last name at the television or John Travolta playing Robert Shaprio while his eyebrows are set in cement. I have had multiple audible laughs.

The dialogue follows the same theme too. “He’s the Juice, he ran for 2,000 yards!” The script basically squeezes in Simpson’s Wikipedia page into ten minutes of dialogue in the first episode. It is preposterous and over the top, but I cannot get enough of it. I even had to go back and watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the Bronco chase. Bill Simmons and Al Michaels spent nearly a half hour talking about it on Simmons’ podcast a couple weeks ago. It is a double murder that still controls headlines two decades later, and it has staying power to last for years beyond this. What a fascinating story.

 

From the Ashes of Tragedy

The first episode hits hard with the racial (over)tone I mentioned earlier, showing clips of the LA riots that took place just a few years before the murder. It sets the stage for a theme in the trial that we do not see for a while. Then we get a glimpse of Cuba Gooding Jr. as the Juice –

Jesus, dude. Think you could hit the gym maybe once before filming? At least when Cuba was a wide receiver in Jerry Maguire he could get away with the body type. This is O.J. Simpson, the 4-time NFL rushing champion (this is probably an actual line in the script). Cuba looks like a JV basketball player.

The way the story is laid out for us when people are not talking in corny sound bites, though, is very intriguing. It takes no dialogue to explain Mark Fuhrman wandering down the alley behind Simpson’s house during the initial investigation, where he happens to find a glove back there. Real convenient to have the other two detectives in the house calling O.J. at the time. The slant on the story from the get-go is certainly an “O.J. did it” angle. That’s probably deserving considering, well… O.J. did it. But no one is clean in this fiasco, and they show that right away with what will eventually be Fuhrman’s perjured testimony.

As the rest of the episode plays out, the characters come out of the woodworks and I would imagine a person much older than myself probably watched and said, “oh I remember him from TV!” This is still new to me, other than folklore on the Internet. I see David Schwimmer as Rob Kardashian and do not automatically connect to how the real Rob was in 1994. Instead my first thought was “I can’t believe Ross Geller fathered Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney.”

Schwimmer is my favorite character so far, though. Kardashian had a weird connection to Simpson because they were extremely close as friends before the trial and it plays out well on screen. O.J.’s kid even calls him “Uncle Robbie” at one point. He is emotionless the whole time, and when you do see him snap on camera, he does it in a car, by himself, with the windows up so that not a single peep is heard. Schwimmer plays a Kardashian role that just does not want to believe Simpson did it. No one did, I can imagine, but no role brings that sentiment out more than this one.

Sterling Brown playing Christopher Darden is going to be fun to watch as well. In the first episode we see the young black prosecutor get chewed out by the legendary Johnnie Corcoran (who somehow seems more rational than everyone else in this show). The racial side of the Simpson story has been presented through his eyes. As a miniseries, it is tough to develop a character – let alone a non-fiction miniseries. But nonetheless, I knew nothing about him coming into this, and now I’m fascinated to see how the lone black prosecutor gets treated for going after the superhero in O.J.

I’m off the rails talking about each character, but that is the main part of episode one – build the story. Then Rob walks into his office to find O.J. writing a few notes and AWAY WE GO. O.J. takes off with good friend Al Cowlings (Malcom Jamal Warner, I love you) in a copycat Bronco as soon as everyone learns that he will be the chief suspect in the Brown and Goldman murders.

None of us were there to know each detail, despite the fact that this crime probably had the largest ever magnifying glass placed over it. Still, even if just for dramatic purposes, I appreciate the attention to detail throughout the episode. Everything down to the 90s heartthrob posters in Kim Kardashian’s childhood bedroom is laid out in minute detail, and in episode two, explaining that Cowlings also owns a white Bronco was helpful to the audience (psycho move to buy your best friend’s car).

Episode two is really where we hit the stride with the story, given that the Bronco chase is one of the most infamous days in modern American history. Regardless, episode one does its job very well in setting us up for the fireworks.

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The Run of His Life

Episode two, named after the novel by Jeffrey Toobin that this show is adapted from, is the big fiasco that we all know the O.J. saga for. The glove was big, the acquittal was huge, but it all started with the Bronco Chase. The attention to detail, as mentioned before, is tremendous throughout the episode. And once again I have to repeat – to those who find this show to be too ridiculous to be good television: this is a true story about a police chase that traveled on an intentionally-cleared highway, well below the speed limit. NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS NORMAL.

The big takeaway from this episode for me is Cuba’s acting, because I am not sure if it is good or not. I want to believe it is, and that is because I can only imagine the sedatives/painkillers/whatever-helps-you-cope-murdering-your-ex-wife that Simpson was entirely consumed by at that time. To be thinking about committing suicide while most likely being medicated will certainly cause a man to laugh, cry, call his mom, call the cops, and put a pistol in his mouth all in three minutes.

So while Gooding’s acting seems random and out of focus throughout, I think that is exactly what he was trying to channel at this point in time. The recent Complex article that claimed it took him “weeks” to get out of the darkness of Simpson’s role may be a tad dramatic – come on dude, you were Radio once. You’ll be okay.

If anyone needs to get crap for brutal acting it is every single prosecutor in the show. Garcetti actually said, to the camera, that Simpson escaping while the warrant was out for his arrest was “worse than the day I had cancer.” WHO SAYS THAT? Once again, we see overly inflated dialogue from the police, but I do not think it ruins the show. I just laugh at it.

While the chase unfolds, and we see the phone calls back and forth between the Cowlings and Simpson in the Bronco and the LAPD, an interesting dichotomy unfolds in Darden’s backyard that continues to build this unavoidable racial divide underlying the murder. This scene is not black versus white though – it is black versus black. It is an emotional argument. This was not a question of whether Simpson was guilty or not, but while Darden watches the chase from his TV on his back porch, the next door neighbors channel frustration about the LAPD sitting up yet another black man for prison.

I cannot imagine that sentiment, and I am not going to try and even dissect it. All I can say is that the disdain for the LAPD had to be so incredibly powerful in order to see a man essentially running from the police while a warrant is out and immediately think that he is the victim. Unreal.

Obviously, as the infamous story about that day unfolds, O.J. comes home, speaks to his mother, and willingly surrenders. It is depressing. Episode two exists in a vacuum – the story of the chase could be a television show by itself. But as we head to the third episode, O.J. is in custody and the defense effort is set to begin.

FILE - In this May 14, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson sits during a break on the second day of an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in prison for his 2008 conviction in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File)

The Dream Team

The gang is all here now. Shapiro and Kardashian begin to amass the all-star defense team that includes F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, and of course, Johnnie Cochran. But before getting there, we somehow get MORE screen time for those damn Kardashian kids.

Look, I understand why Rob Kardashian needs to be the voice of virtue here. He is the most complicated character in relation to O.J. He is the best friend and he has to stand by his side. But to convey that message is so unnecessary through his children. I don’t know how they could have developed this part of the plot, but to use the Kardashian kids just seems so transparent. This episode began with a major roll of the eyes.

What this episode really brought to light, though, is that the O.J. Simpson murder trial was the birth of reality television. The nation took a heinous action and plastered it over every television screen and front page. It was Casey Anthony, George Zimmerman, and Robert Blake all tied into one case. TIME Magazine made O.J.’s mugshot darker, which equaled “blacker.” Marcia Clark’s anger at every potential witness taking television interviews was well warranted too. This case was essentially tried on network television before it even reached the courtroom. And Simpson’s defense attorneys fed the stories. They needed that to happen.

Five minutes of the episode were spent pitting a New Yorker article about Mark Fuhrman against the 911 calls of past domestic disputes at the Simpson household. These are things that normally are not debated before the judge even puts his robe on. The reality of trying to build a case against a suspected killer is impossible when all your evidence is available from coast to coast. The frustration from the prosecutor’s office is shown throughout, to the very last second. We even get a solid F-bomb from Clark on FX!

The emotion that I mentioned in the backyard scenes between Darden and his neighbors in episode two comes back around, as well, when Darden explains to Clark that many black people are on O.J.’s side. This case was emotional from an African-American’s perspective. There was too much pain in their history to see through the haze that Simpson may have actually done it. The prosecution was fighting a battle much bigger than simply a collection of the biggest-named lawyers in America. They were fighting decades of intolerance and racial hostility by their city’s law enforcement. Here’s a hint: they lost that fight.

In the final ten minutes, once Cochran is finally on the defense team, it is clear why he is there. It is now black versus white. No longer is this about “did he do it or not?” And if there is anything I am dying to see in the next episode or two, it is the voir dire process before trial. Cochran tells O.J. (who is now ironically a minor character in the show) that all he needs is just one black juror to get a hung jury. He ended up with nine. The initial jury pool was 40% white and 28% black. Landing that many black jurors is nothing short of impressive, and it obviously played to their advantage. My question is: how the hell did this happen? We will learn soon enough, hopefully.

So there you have it. We are three episodes in and there is a LOT going on. I apologize if this is disorganized, but there is just so much to discuss. I have been trying to dig deeper than just the admittedly corny production and plot line, and look at the legal and racial implications of what went on in this case. This is the most important part to focus on, in my opinion. We know what happened already. It was a bizarre administration of justice, but it happened. Twenty years later, I want to know why, and this show is helping me figure that out.

I am going to be discussing the show weekly up to its culmination. Stick with me if you want. If you don’t want to, I don’t blame you. But just watch The People vs. O.J. Simpson. It is one of the most important criminal cases in American history.

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Bob Breaks Down Valentine’s Day

Bob Breaks Down Valentine’s Day

Ahh February, the season of love. (People call it that, right? No? Ok.) Ahh February, the… second month of the year. The arrival of Mid-February can only mean one thing: the imminent approach of a day girls love, guys dread, and the single and cynical will relentlessly use as a means to make kind-of-joking propositions about how they’ll be spending quality time with their two favorite fellas, “Ben and Jerry” while quietly crying inside and praying their crush will show up on their doorstep with a box of Ferrero Rocher and a dinner reservation… Yeah. Anyways. Valentine’s Day.

First things first, I do not have a problem with Valentine’s Day. There are several reasons for this. One, I love food, particularly at nice restaurants. Two, I appreciate a good box of chocolate, particularly when they’re heart-shaped because hearts are basically fucked-about triangles and triangles have great structural integrity, which is a trait any half-decent man should admire in a dessert. Three, everybody is so busy bitching about being single that they all forget I’m single, which removes an enormous personal burden from my shoulders.

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With that being said, it does have its flaws. I enjoy food and nice restaurants, but I’d enjoy it a hell of a lot more if the girl paid for everything and also sat at a different table from me so I could appreciate my meal in complete silence. Chocolate has no downfalls, but all it takes is a casual “I’ll just try one” from your date before the whole deal (cardboard box and everything) suddenly disappears. Three, my parents always manage to cut through the rabble and make backhanded comments about the fact that I am single, even though EVERY OTHER FUCKING PERSON IN THE WORLD IS TOO APPARENTLY. But I digress. That aside, all these reasons pale in comparison to the real problem I have with Cupid and what he’s doing to the citizens of our country. You see, there’s something much more significant, much more awesome, and infinitely more badass that gets overshadowed by Valentine’s Day.

Presidents Day.

Falling on the third Monday of every February, Presidents Day continually gets stuck with Cupid’s sloppy seconds. How does a sadistic floating angel-baby who shoots innocent men and women in the back with a medieval weapon steal the spotlight from the father of our country, a man who had wooden teeth and the libido of a bull shark in mating season? It’s beyond me. I mean, this guy makes Chuck Norris look feminine. His activities include famously chopping down a cherry tree when he was a kid, crossing the subzero Delaware River in the dead of night in a rickety rowboat, and basically founding our entire beloved country. I myself haven’t even gotten my axe privileges back at home after an ill-fated incident with a cherished family canoe and a tree that really had no business falling in that direction anyways, which by the way Dad, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about because I’m a 23 year old man, damnit, and if I want to go chop down a tree when I’m bored I should be allowed to. And if you’ve never tried standing in a moving rowboat, come talk to me when you recover from your concussion and skull injuries.

Not convinced Mr. Washington and his holiday deserve more respect? Think about this: most people get a nice headstone when they kick the bucket. The particularly self-centered might get a sweet marble statue or orb, but that’s gonna cut a hefty chunk out of their kid’s inheritance. With that in mind, take a minute to think when the last time you passed a cemetery and saw a 500-foot tall stone obelisk presiding over someone’s grave was. Probably never, right? Of course I’m right. Because there is only one 500-foot tall stone obelisk in the world, and it’s in Washington, D.C., and it was built for, you guessed it, Mr. Jerry “Big Daddy America” Washington. It’s the tallest stone structure in the world and we built it with 40 years of good old-fashioned American manual labor, not with the help of some alien technology (looking at you, ancient Egypt. Those pyramids are bullsh*t and we know it.) Not enough? Then just open up your wallet. Take out the single dollar you have and look at it very carefully. That’s not Cupid staring at you, that’s Washington himself, powdered wig and all. And if it is Cupid for some reason, it’s probably one of those fake strip club dollars that can only be redeemed for cheap beer or a sweaty lap dance. Maybe you should spend less time paying for dances and more time honoring the father of our country.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to show your significant other that you care. Or that you don’t. You’re probably getting invited up for post-dinner tea regardless. But just remember, while you were complimenting your date on their fantastic use of zit concealer, George was casually laying down the building blocks of a country that would one day give you the freedom and opportunity to enjoy your romantic night out at Chipotle. And for that, George, we thank you.

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I Feel Like Pablo When I’m Writing my First Blog: A Track-by-Track Breakdown of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo

I Feel Like Pablo When I’m Writing my First Blog: A Track-by-Track Breakdown of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo

Want to know how to make people hate you the moment they meet you? Just tell them “I like the New England Patriots and Kanye West.” I’m unashamed of that though – I surround myself with greatness. Don’t hate.

And Shaun has been EATING these last two Februarys. Super Bowl Championship and now The Life of Pablo. This seventh studio album from West is… interesting. Most of them are, but with what has been going on in Kanye’s life recently, this one just stands out with a little more lunacy than the rest.

No matter how much you like Kanye, there is no doubt that this dude is off the deep end. I am still in the camp of people that think most of it is marketing – my Facebook feed explodes every time he opens his mouth, and we are all playing right into his hand. No, he is not $53 million in debt; he does not expect Mark Zuckerberg to give him $1 billion; and as I type this, I’m sure he tweeted out something stupid that will be on Entertainment Tonight just to keep the rhetoric going. Taylor Swift roasted him at her Grammy’s speech, and he most certainly deserved it.

He has been Snapchat in the flesh lately – like a 10 second video of some loud, obnoxious scene from a bar that is out of focus and blurry. Then, 10 seconds later, a picture of your cat resting peacefully on the couch. The New York Times opted for a Tumblr comparison – six of one. The point is, he is in a million directions and seems to have no cohesive plan at this point in his long, illustrious career.

And that issue came out in The Life of Pablo. Don’t get me wrong, it is 18 tracks that prove West is still the premier collaborator in modern hip hop. People go out of their way to work on anything that Kanye touches, and no matter how psycho this guy becomes, you cannot take that away from him. He brings the best out of his musical peers. I will be excited to read the tales about the recording process for this album over the next couple of years, just like we read about the Honolulu session during the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy days.

I have now digested the album over the last 36 hours or so. After my sixth time listening from beginning to end, I finally said out loud “wow, this is good.” But I still have some qualms. Kanye’s music certainly has had some flaws over the last few years and they show here. The number one complaint is where I started with my awful social network metaphor above – it is not cohesive. It is sort of a hodge podge of tracks – albeit a damn-good hodge podge.

Let’s walk through the album (now is the time to open a new tab and check your Twitter feed). I’m a couple vodka drinks deep right now so why not?

One last point: I’m not buying Tidal. Not now, not never. Download this album somewhere else online for free. Can’t hold me back from listening to Kanye.


Ultralight Beam

This song belongs nowhere near the month of February. It is far too warm and lovely. It certainly belongs nowhere near 2013’s Yeezus. A near perfect opening to the album that features Chance the Rapper, who I think had the greatest guest appearance on the album. In track one. That’s it folks, pack up and head home.This was featured on SNL the night before the album dropped, Pitchfork named it Best New Music two days later, and it seems to be an early favorite for many people that have listened. It is well deserved. A light hearted, Donnie Trumpet-sounding (co-produced it – thanks Wikipedia) excellent track to kick things off.

Father Stretch My Hands, Part I

HEY, KID CUDI. WHERE THE HECK HAS THIS BEEN? If Chance has the best appearance, or at the least, best verse of the album, then this is the best chorus. When Cudi comes in with the “beautiful morning…” line, it feels like we are back in 2009 with Cleveland’s finest. Also, Metro Boomin is on a production run like no other in hip hop – a tremendous trap-influenced beat.

But it all comes crashing down with the first Kanye line. Look, here’s the thing – there are good cursers, and then there are bad cursers. Kanye West is BAD at cursing. Always has been. This line here, which I refuse to even type out, is some of the worst stuff he has ever put on wax in his career. My goodness, man, you ruin this song and it is your own album.

Father Stretch My Hands, Part II

            Once we get out of the Kanye “bleach” line fiasco, Part I leads us into more thumping Metro Boomin (little Rick Rubin credit on both tracks, too, but no idea what part of the song he touched). The Kanye verse here is redemption – it is so raw and I finally feel like I have a Kanye West rap verse I want to replay on the album by track three. Also, if this is Desiigner’s coming out party to the hip hop world, he did it well. Of all the lines on this album, “I get broads in Atlanta” probably has the number one spot stuck in my head.

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Famous

            Almost the best track on the album. Rihanna doing her thing perfectly. Kanye living up to his promise of making a “Mobb Deep album” by putting Havoc on the production team. The one thing this misses? More Kanye! He rode this beat so well, but the verses are too short. Need more bars and we got ourselves some heat here (it already is hear who am I kidding).

And as offended/disgusted as I was with the “bleach” line before, the infamous Taylor line to kick this song off was not worth the drama at all. It probably would have gone unmentioned, had Kanye not gone on another stupid Twitter rant about it. The line was a perfect example of the, albeit slightly misogynistic, grand bravado that rappers carry. She’s the biggest pop star on the planet but so what – someone like Kanye is going to go right at her. It is part of the genre and the culture. I’m not going to critique everything. And as for Taylor going at him on her Grammy acceptance speech – good for her. If I was her I would be pissed about the album too. What can I say?

Feedback

            This, along with Famous, is suffering from too little Kanye. This beat perked my ears up immediately. It is so unique. Kanye also seems to be channeling some Drake here. Every album Kanye releases always seems to have one or two tracks that play homage to the current sound in hip hop – I felt like the flow here was that homage. All-around really good song. If only the running time wasn’t 2:36.

Low Lights

 I’ll just let Kanye’s tweet speak for this interlude: “I put Lowlights on my album just thinking about all the moms driving they kids to school then going to work…”

Take from this soliloquy what you will, I thought it was pretty cool to listen to.

Highlights

  If this website had been up and running for a while, you guys would absolutely know about my disdain for Young Thug. My goodness, get him away from me. So when I saw the name, I got nervous. Luckily he is not on the track for too long, but nonetheless, I do not like this song. The autotune is overused in the chorus, and it just does not do it for me. Rapping about Ray J too… not a good look, man. I have no idea where the redeeming value is in bringing up that name.

Freestyle 4

Meh. Other than his classic performance on season one of Wild’n Out (did he really just drop that reference?), Kanye has never come across as a freestyler. Exhibit A. Extremely graphic language that again seems forced. The dude just sounds weird when he swears every other word. That is not Kanye. We do get another Desiigner appearance which was exciting, but then we fall into some awful dial tone sound at the end and I am just dying to get to the next song.

            We have hit that disjointed lull in the album and this is where I am complaining about the lack of cohesiveness. None of these songs have anything to do with the next or previous song.

I Love Kanye

For all of you that think this guy is delusional, out of touch, and lives in his own world, this one is for you. For all of you that consistently rely on “I like his music, but I hate him” or “I only like his old music when he sampled,” this one is for you.

He knows what everyone thinks of him, he is aware of his place in the industry right now, and he is far more self-aware than anyone realizes. I laugh each time I hear this.

Waves

This song picks us right back up like Ultralight Beam does. It attempts to be ‘happiness’ on a track. I hate Chris Brown so I hate to admit this. Once again though – where are the lyrics? No substance in this song. The verses seem empty – like they are just a vehicle to get to the next Brown chorus. This was apparently the one song that was holding the whole album release up… must have missed the point here.

FML

            Kendrick Lamar is the best raw rapper on the planet, but in this entire hip hop/R&B/pop crossover genre that Kanye lives in, I don’t think there is a better performer on the plant than The Weeknd. Since 2010, when I found a few tracks on YouTube, I have been all-in on Abel. Everything he touches turns to gold, and this does not disappoint.

A hazy, rambling Kanye complaining about God-knows-what leading into The Weeknd summing it up with “They wish I would go ahead and f*** my life up” is perfect West at the age of 38. That is what everyone is waiting for. I consider this the turning point in the album. We hit FML and we are in fifth gear from here to the end (except Facts, you’ll see).

Real Friends

“Hey, do you think that old school Kanye rapping about mature grown-up problems about friendship over a Boi-1da beat would sound good?” Only one answer to that.

I once went on an anti-Ty Dolla $ign rant on www.reddit.com/r/hiphopheads (shout out to HHH) and a reply comment said that his voice “sounds like honey.” I cannot even deny that – still cannot get into his solo stuff, but Ty brings it on this song. His voice really is as sweet as can be.

This is like the perfect song for Kanye to release a decade after Family Business. Issues with fame and friendship as he has become a jaded adult in the industry is something that is understandable, somewhat relatable, and it is tangible. The second this song came out a month or so ago I was all over it. One of the highlights of TLOP.

Wolves

15 seconds of Frank Ocean crooning is not going to bring back Sia and Vic Mensa. This was the beginning of the latest Yeezy Season. SNL’s 40th Anniversary celebration brought this gem to us, and the Internet’s favorite meme became “when we getting Wolves CDQ?” and now we have this.

YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR WIFE’S RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER MEN OVER THIS BEAUTIFUL SONG? Jesus. Bring Sia and Vic back, and you have what might be on the best song on the album. Until then, I am out on this (not really).

PS: Frank Ocean, release some new music please. We are going on year four since Channel Orange.

Silver Surfer Intermission

I never listened to Max B. I just know he is a murderer and he is in prison.

30 Hours

Here we go. Shaun’s favorite song on The Life of Pablo. This song claims to have an Andre 3000 feature, Kanye even says the man’s name on the track, we still do not get an Andre 3000 verse, and it is still my favorite. If this had Andre on it, it would be one of the best songs of the decade.

The beat is simple, the sample is smooth, and when Kanye kicks back into this laidback voice he is a different human. I do not need abrasive Kanye West all the time. It is overbearing. 30 Hours is Kanye right where I want him. Much like Real Friends – vulnerable and honest.

No More Parties in L.A.

 Not really fair to everyone else in hip hop to put Kendrick Lamar on a Madlib beat. That is a textbook definition of what hip hop should sound like. This is apparently a leftover from the Dark Twisted Fantasy days, and with recent Grammy-winner, Kendrick Lamar on the track, it is an assured hit in 2016.

Kanye goes in on this song – nearly 3 minutes of straight rapping. No bull surrounding the verse. He is going right at it and it sounds amazing. We also get the namesake of our album here – “I feel like Pablo!”

And one day, when this legend passes us by, I hope someone close to the West estate has enough power to place the most memorable line from this song on Kanye’s headstone, because at the end of the day, Kanye really is: “A 38-year-old 8-year old with rich (person) problems.”

Facts

Ugh. I ain’t trying to listen to a 3-minute Adidas commercial. Kanye, you got to get over this. I cannot even remember half of the lines here because we got Kanye mimicking Jumpman like a jealous ex-girlfriend to Drake because he getting that Nike money now. This one needed to stay off the album.

Fade

When you are cheap and refuse to subscribe to Tidal (I’m a Spotify man for life), you end up illegally downloading a leak to this album, which gives you TWO versions of Facts. Here is a hint – they both STINK. But if you are good at YouTube, you go find Fade.

Who would have thought Post Malone would be on a Kanye West album? White Iverson himself, in the flesh. This song is everything I would want to hear in a club banger. Every once in a while in his career, Kanye hits the high note and is actually on key. It is rare, but when it happens, it is beautiful – this is one of those songs.

The beat is one of the strongest on the album and it rounds out the album well. I am actually going to go find this right now and listen to it. Perfect track for gorgeous models to walk down a runway modeling Kanye’s ripped and torn, over-priced clothes.

YOUR LOVE IS FADIN’.

So there you have it. If you read this whole thing, then you need a life. I only wrote it because it means I can procrastinate and I don’t have to pay attention to real life responsibilities.

Look, The Life of Pablo was not going to be Kanye’s best album and we all knew that I think (unfortunately). And I stand by the fact that it sounds like 18 songs rather than one album, if that makes sense. But regardless, If we are on a scale of 1 – 10, this is somewhere around 8. Even Kanye’s worst will still be better than everyone else’s best.

The Life of Pablo is a welcoming follow-up to Yeezus, and it will likely top most album lists in 2016. Kanye West just does it. He thrives in chaos. Something beautiful always comes out of it. I’m going to go make another drink and listen to The Life of Pablo.

Best Song: 30 Hours

Best Guest Verse: Chance the Rapper, Ultralight Beam

Best Guest Chorus: Kid Cudi, Father Stretch My Hands, Part I

Best Kanye Verse: Verse two, No More Parties in L.A.

Worst Song: Facts

 

By Shaun @slough44

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