Saturday, April 07, 2007

Friday's Off The Wall Blog: One Day Late Edition

I'll be the first to say that I'm a little slow, but that's not why Friday's blog is a day late. I was on or around campus 'til 6 or so, then it was a combination of nap time and the Cubs game. So that's why Friday's blog didn't come. Translation: I was lazy and sleepy! But as they say, better late than never.

  • This is a combo story. I'll preface it by noting that this has all come about because rapper Tony Yayo allegedly slapped some 14-year old kid whose father happens to manage The Game, a rival rapper of Yayo and his G-Unit crew. Now that we got the propers out of the way, enter stage left rapper 50 Cent, who referred to his team of lawyers as the "J-J-J-J-J-Jew Unit." Looks like members of the Jewish community have taken offense to it, can't blame 'em. Now this week has been full of idiots making dumb racial remarks. Like Billy Packer's "fag out" comment and Don Imus' 'apology' after making some disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team. Yeah, you can thank an over sensitive America for its reaction, but maybe you should think about what you say before you say it. Because if you think it might offend someone, then it probably will. Just a thought.
  • In more entertainment news Fergie, of Black Eyed Peas fame, admits to having lesbian experiences. That's hot! Seriously, Fergie's got this overly sexual musical thing going on. From My Humps to London Bridge, there are so many sexual references in her songs how can you not be attracted. Oh, did I mention that she's hot? She also talks about how she was raised as a "good Cathloic girl." That's what they all say. Personally I'm not surprised because you'll be surprised by how many girls over 18 "experiment" with their sexuality once they graduate high school and go to college.
  • In this week's story of irony, a pit bull dog owner bit a policeman after his encounter with the police. The cops stopped him for walking the dog without a leash. That would explain the pit bull running away during the confrontation. The dog owner is under house arrest, the dog is still missing.
  • In a story that's a bit disturbing in my eyes. Five fifth-grade students are facing criminal charges after four of the students had sex in front of a classroom full of students while the fifth student was on "look out" duties. I remember when I was in fifth grade, I still thought girls had cooties. Sex was the last thing on my mind. As the story goes, the class was 15 minutes without an instructor and then four kids just started having sex. What in the world was going though those kids minds? What possesses fifth graders to have sex during class? Who knows? Who cares? Makes for an interesting (yet disturbing) story.
FRIDAY'S FIVE. Five songs on my I-pod that got me through this week.
  1. Get Buck by Young Buck
  2. International Players Anthem by UGK featuring Outkast
  3. Rock Star by Da Shop Boyz
  4. Do Dat Heisman by Dem Heizman Boyz (not sure about the artist, but it comes with a dance)
  5. Makes Me Wonder by Maroon 5
FRIDAY'S FIVE OLD SCHOOL EDITION. I wonder when I'll run out of old school songs.
  1. Yesterday by The Beatles
  2. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
  3. Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics
  4. Superstition by Stevie Wonder
  5. What's Love Got To Do With It? by Tina Turner

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Timbaland Makes Good Music!

Okay, that's not breaking news for anyone that has an ear for good music. I usually do not promote entire albums, whether it be here on the blog or at all.

Over the last 5-10 years, the music industry has been on a decline. Not because of the internet, not because of people "stealing" music, but because a lot of the music that has been put out there has been bad. Artists are basically coming out with a few songs that are worthy of listening to.

In hip-hop, a lot of the "good" music is attributed to big beats from big-name producers. Or it's deemed as good because the artist has had a good record before. In the end this has nothing to do with what I'm writing, so I digress from the topic.

On to what I want to write about. Timbaland's new album, Timbaland Presents: Shock Value.

In a year where super producers Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Scott Storch are rumored to be putting out albums, Timbaland comes through first setting a high standard for those who will follow.

Shock Value brings a slew of guest appearances which really highlight the album. The lead single Give It To Me (which may or may not take a jab at Storch) features Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, whose albums were executive produced by Timbaland. Timberlake takes a jab at the general public with his line "Now if sexy never left, then why's everybody on my sh*t/ don't hate on me just because you didn't come up with it."

JT also stars on the track Release, while adding a third appearance by singing the hook on Bounce which also features verses from Dr. Dre and Missy Elliot. Missy steals the show on the track, opening with "Hold up hell naw/like Britney Spears I wear no draws."

Other guests include G-Unit members 50 Cent and Tony Yayo (Come & Get Me), She Wants Revenge (Time), Fall Out Boy (One & Only), and Elton John (2 Man Show). Yes, I said Elton John. Tim also reunites with Magoo on the track Boardmeeting.

Think of Shock Value as a modern day Chronic: 2001 with banging beats and guest spots that are absolutely on the money with their delivery. Yeah, I put Tim in the same category as Dr. Dre, and if you've heard the quality and quanitity of Tim's work, or as college hoops experts would call it 'the body of work,' then you'd probably agree with me.

Lyrically, you're not gonna get much more than classic Timbaland boasting about money, cash and girls. It's not original, but it's not like it's terrible. Tim's one of the best in the game, he's earned his bragging rights.

To be straight forward, what makes the album so great are Tim's beats. Tim has done an amazing job in changing with time, keeping his music relevant and keeping it good. I also love the variety of artists he works with. Where else can you (legally) find Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Elton John and Fall Out Boy all on the same album? Don't worry, I'll wait.

Though it's relatively early in the music year, Shock Value has taken an early lead in the race for my favorite album of the year. It's an album that I would encourage you to get (however you get your music.)

  • Give It To Me (featuring Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)
  • Bounce (featuring Dr. Dre, Justin Timberlake & Missy Elliot)
  • One & Only (featuring Fall Out Boy)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal: A Blog About Opening Day

As a child I always thought it was a bit ironic that baseball's Opening Day fell on (or around) April Fool's Day. It makes sense as a Cubs fan, who believes that every year is the year--and for the last 98 years we have been fooled that this year would be different. As we head into the 99th year of this being "the year," Cub fans find themselves in a familiar predicament--thinking that this year is the year.

But this year could be different. I know it's said every year, but Cub fans have reason to be optimistic. This off-season, they spend a boatload of money on free-agents, upwards of $300 million. They re-signed their own guys: 3B Aramis Ramirez, C Henry Blanco and P's Kerry Wood and Wade Miller to start the off-season. Next, they made the biggest splash of them all by signing the best offensive player on the market, Alfonso Soriano who is coming off of a 40 HR 40 SB year as a LF for the Washington Nationals. Soriano will play CF for the Cubs.

Along the way, the Cubs made several other moves to improve a team that finished with the worst record in the National League. They signed SP's Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis to improve depth in their starting rotation. They acquired White Sox lefty reliever Neal Cotts for David Aardsma, Cotts will most likely be a swingman (a guy who can start and pitch out of the bullpen.) They signed Mark DeRosa to be their everyday 2B. DeRosa brings versatility by being able to play several infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots. As the off-season came to an end, the Cubs added two left-handed bats in Daryle Ward and Cliff Floyd. Floyd, a Chicago native and favorite of Cubs GM Jim Hendry, will be battling starting LF Matt Murton for playing time.

They brought in manager Lou Piniella to replace Dusty Baker, who followed up two winning seasons with two sub-.500 seasons and failed to get the Cubs to the promised land. The job is now Piniella's, whose fiery attitude and track record with the Yankees, Reds and Mariners is something Cub fans have wanted out of their manager for years. Forget about his years with the Devil Rays, it'd take a miracle and a half to cure what ails them. Piniella also brings a changing of the guard on the coaching staff, full of new members except pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who served the same position in 1990 under Piniella when he managed the Reds.

So what's going to make this year different. It all starts at the top with new Cubs President John McDonough. The former marketing genius has set lofty goals for this ballclub and ok'd the budget increase that brought in the aforementioned newcomers. Piniella brings new blood and a clean slate, in addition to "Cubbie Swagger"....whatever that means.

New blood means turnover. Turnover can be good. Think about it, the only guys left from the 2003 NL Central Champion team are Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Wood is slated to start the year on the DL (again), while Prior starts the year in Triple-A Iowa attempting to find what he lost on October 14 2003. It's time for a new tradition at Wrigley.

As for the guys who are on the field, the Cubs have vastly improved one of the worst offenses in baseball last year. As much as Soriano will help at the top of the order, a healthy Derrek Lee is the stabilizing force in the middle of the Cubs line-up. Michael Barrett is one of the best hitting catchers in the game today, he's in a contract year---which usually means career years out of players looking for long term contacts. Barrett has stated that he wants to be a Cub for a long time.

The pitching staff is improved only because of the added depth. Big Z anchors the staff, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. Rich Hill is coming off of a monster second half where he posted a 2.93 ERA and piled on a whole bunch of strikeouts. Hill is a player that Cub fans and baseball pundits believe will have a big year.

The bullpen is relatively strong and if everything goes well they could be one of the best bullpens in the NL. The 'pen is anchored by set-up men Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre, who were two of the Cubs best relievers last year. Cotts and Angel Guzman will serve as long relievers, while Michael Wuertz and Will Ohman are middle relievers. Ohman is more of a left handed specialist who racks up more than a K/IP. Ryan Dempster returns as closer with a new slate under Piniella. If he struggles, Wuertz or Howry could be in line to take his job. Maybe even Wood if he ever finds his way off the DL.

In the end, the NL Central isn't that strong. 83-games won that division last year, and the team who did that eventually won the World Series. Some baseball people think that number could do the trick again. The Cubs will have some stiff competition from the Cardinals and Astros, not to mention the Brewers who are the sleeper team of countless baseball "experts." Unlike the others though, the Cubs have the money lying around to add on to the payroll when (or if) necessary.

I have faith in this team. Yes, I say it every year, but this year I mean it. I meant it in 2003 and look where they took me. I meant in in 2004--another winning record but it just wasn't good enough. The talent is there, the support is there. The faith of Cubdom is there.

This is the year that Cubdom strikes back.

Today's Starting Lineups
Cubs Reds
Soriano, cfFreel, cf
Murton, lfDunn, lf
Lee, 1bPhillips, 2b
Ramirez, 3bGriffey, rf
Jones, rfEncarnacion, 3b
Barrett, cHatteberg, 1b
DeRosa, 2bGonzalez, ss
Izturis, ssRoss, c
Zambrano, pHarang, p