Friday, February 15, 2013

Class Notes 2/11

I think I'm done trying to watch award shows that don't have any regard for the art froms that I like.  I watched the Grammys last weekend and found myself wondering why so many of the hip-hop and R&B awards don't make the actual broadcast.  It's similar to when I watch the Oscars and the 5-7 movies that get nominated for Best Picture are flicks I've never even heard of.  Doesn't mean that the artists who do get nominated aren't talented.  I enjoyed Mumford & Sons performance as well as the Black Keys (infused with the Preservation Hall Band), but that's not making my playlist rotation when I'm in the car.  I'm sure I'll find something else to do with my three hours on a Sunday night when your favorite awards show is on.  Here are the rest of my Class Notes:

POLITICS:  Read the transcript of the State of the Union address.  Liked the President's emphasis on the pockets where jobs can be created (clean energy, infrastructure), and that there needs to be serious redress of the minimum wage.  I also liked his subtle tweak to the education program where schools will be rewarded for innovative partnerships that better prepare students to be competitive workers in an increasingly tech-oriented global economy.  It was also encouraging to hear him speak of aiding those who are trying to keep their homes.  My critique of the speech would be that while the President continues to extend his hand towards Republican peers in an effort to make bipartisanship more than an ideal, he needs to make it more clear that there is an expiration date on that collegial nature.  He noted taking executive action in the speech, and I would've liked to see him be more explicit about the items that he is willing to ram through should he not receive the support that he needs.  I am tired of simple opposition politics played out by privileged folk who are rarely held accountable by those whose lives they carelessly toy with while gridlocking policies meant to help those who most need it.

SPORTS:  It's NBA All-Star Weekend which means that H-Town is about to be besieged by those who hold roundball culture dear.  The NBA does a great job of complimenting their product on the floor with events that cater to it's most hardcore fans.  However, I've got a couple of ideas that would take the weekend to yet another level:

1.  Mix up the All-Stars - The all-star game is an exhibition at its core, so I propose jazzing it up even further by getting rid of the East/West designations and just letting legends pick up the squads like they have begun to do in the Rising Stars game.  You could then potentially have pairings of Kobe and LeBron versus Durant and Wade.  So now when the game gets serious in those last five minutes of the fourth quarter, you'd have even better matchups then just teammates playing against other teammates (ex: the Heat all-stars versus the Thunder all-stars).  If I was dubbed commissioner for the day here's what the 2013 All-Star squads might look like:

Ballers -
(starters) Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnett

Shot Callers -
(starters) Russell Westbrook, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard

2.  Tennis-style sets - To keep the game from getting too far out of hand, play best of three to twenty-one or even thirty.  That way each bucket counts a little more.

ENTERTAINMENT:  Looks like the Beyonce world takeover, which started with her Super Bowl halftime show and will continue in the States throughout the summer.  Nose bleed tickets for the show are hard to come by already, and they're far from cheap all the way around.  There's also the documentary she produced which will air on HBO this weekend.  Salute to Mrs. Carter.  Keep doing what you do.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Class Notes 2/4

What a Super Bowl!  Uncle Ray Ray got to ride off into the sunset and will now be the most watched father during University of Miami football games where his son will play in the fall.  Joe Flacco is about to be a 100millionaire, and Ed Reed can now shed his Django fro.  Everything else in the aftermath of the Super Bowl has just been noise.  Partially because of the stomach flu turned cold I've been battling, and partially because none of the notes I took in the last couple week have moved anywhere (not surprised).  That said here's what I got for this week:

POLITICS:  Major cities are starting to get fed up with the systemic shutdown and or reconfiguration of public schools in key neighborhoods predominanted by students of color.  Advocates for Crenshaw HS in Los Angeles are not happy with the proposed reconstitution of their high school into three magnet schools fearing that it would disenfranchise many current students and are calling on the US Dept of Education (USDOE) to examine the nature of this restructuring on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory act.  If successful, Los Angeles would join the list of major cities where the USDOE has already agreed to look into school shutdowns and reorganizations.  This list currently includes, Chicago, Detroit, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.  This is intriguing because if these cities start winning these cases and organizations like the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition are successfully able to defend their districts, then it may lead to a greater discussion about the President's Race to the Top education program, which is flawed in how it rewards schools for success as measured primarily by test scores, but cares little about the means by which the success is achieved.  Full article on Crenshaw Complaint

SPORTS:  There was a time when I could name at least three players on any of the Top 20 college basketball teams in the country.  It made college basketball especially exciting to watch because you were getting a good preview of the dudes who would soon dominate the NBA.  With the current "one-and-done" rule in place, the best players in college now leave after one season to take NBA money leaving college teams in a constant state of flux and the games less exciting.  What  kills me is that NBA teams feel forced to take players on potential, so their game is watered down because each roster only has so many players who actually know what their doing.  Teams also can't rely on the draft to improve.  The Charlotte Bobcats' roster is full of former 1st round picks, including last year's #2 pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (9ppg) and they aren't close to being a .500 ball club.  The NBA either needs to invest more money in the Developmental League (D-League) so that if players continue to leave school after one year they have a vehicle for improvement or work with the NCAA to come up with a new standard of when players can enter the league.  Of the three one-and-done players the University of Kentucky sent into the league last year, only Anthony Davis is averaging double-digits in scoring (13ppg).  It stands to reason that another year in college, particularly for Marquis Teague wouldn't have hurt.

ENTERTAINMENT:  The Grammys are this weekend.  My picks in the categories that I'll pay attention to (by the way, who comes up with these categories?):

Record of the Year:  "We Are Young" - FUN
Album of the Year:  Frank Ocean
Song of the Year:  "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
Best New Artist:  FUN
Best R&B Song:  "Adorn" - Miguel
Best R&B Album:  "Robert Glasper Experiment" - Robert Glasper
Best Traditional R&B Performance:  "Lately" - Anita Baker
Best Rap Performance:  "Ninjas in Paris" - Kanye and Jay-Z
Best Rap Song:  "Lotus Flower Bomb" - Wale
Best Rap Collaboration:  "Tonight" - John Legend and Ludacris

Friday, February 1, 2013

Class Notes 1/28

If I'm Joe Biden, I don't like what I saw when I watched 60 Minutes last Sunday as I watched my boss, the President, yucking it up with departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  That can't be a good sign for any Presidential aspirations he may have.  SAG Awards were a snoozer.  The only awards season intrigue left for me is if Argo (Best Picture) and Daniel Day Lewis (Best Male Actor) complete the acting triple crown (Golden Globes, SAG, Oscars).

POLITICS:  Immigration Reform took center stage this week with a visible display of bi-partisanship.  While it was nice to hear members from both major parties come together and pledge that they believe comprehensive immigration reform can get done, I think partisan politics will eventually derail this legislation.  This would include items such as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the DREAM Act, which offers the chance of higher education for undocumented children born in the US.  I find it hard to believe that those who oppose immigration reform will all of a sudden be willing to bargain for a deal that would potentially widen the registration disparity between new Democrats and Republicans.  Monday's press conference which featured Senators Chuck Schumer (D), John McCain (R), Dick Durbin (D), Lindsey Graham (R), Robert Menendez (D), Marco Rubio (R), Michael Bennet (D), and Jeff Flake (R) was in effect symbolic for Dems in that they will continue to fight for citizenship and for Republicans it signaled that they are at least making the effort to be more inclusive as a party.  While Republicans were willing to smile and talk about optimism during the press conference, Rubio was quick to go on numerous talk shows with a much more tempered attitude.

Rubio is one of the "stars" of the Republican party who may have aspirations for 2016.  He will not be able to earn the favor of the more conservative, deep-pocketed parts of the party if he's known as one of the architects of reform that paved the way for millions to become citizens, the great majority of whom would register as members of the Democratic Party.  Ultimately, if this legislation does make it to the floor, it will die just like it did in 2005.  In 2014, Republicans will be able to say that they made the effort.  Only when locals in states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida mobilize to change the political climate will we start to see reform like this gain some traction.

SPORTS: The unofficial national holiday known as the Super Bowl is upon us, and it is a historic one in that the opposing coaches are brothers.  Jim and John Harbaugh prove the strength of genetics as both of them have taken the coaching DNA given to them by their father, and have risen to the top of their profession.  This Super Bowl also holds intrigue because we get to see if one of the all-time greats, Ray Lewis, gets to ride off into the football analyst chair with a win in the big game a la John Elway and Jerome Bettis.  I've been a fan of Ray Lewis since the U and continue to view him as one of the greatest leaders the gridiron has ever seen.  Speculation about his role in a double murder which occurred after he won his first Super Bowl in 2000 have resurfaced and that is fair given that two men died and there are key questions that remain unanswered.  I don't think we'll ever know the whole story about that night or the Dear Antler Spray Uncle Ray allegedly took to get back on the field this season.  None of that will matter, however after kickoff on Sunday, so here's how  I see it playing out so Ray Rice, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco and Co. will get to hold the Lombardi Trophy while the confetti drops: 

1.  Joe Flacco has to hit a big play early.  In any profession, think about what it does to your psyche to work hard,  and have success only to hear in evaluations that you haven't done well enough.  You're not elite though your record says otherwise.  This is what Joe Flacco has endured throughout his career, and through it all, he has not lost it, he continued to go out and win.  In this year's playoffs he has taken out the quarterbacks who will go down as the best of this generation, and now he's only one win away from joining the short list of active quarterbacks who have lead their team to a Championship.  If he hits a 30+ yard pass early in the game, then I think the confidence he has shown throughout the playoffs will continue.  He also has only been sacked once in the playoffs which has helped him be able to pick apart defenses.  Continued steady offensive line play will be critical.

2.  Ravens have to force the 49ers  to abandon the running game.  The reason that Colin Kaepernick is starting this Super Bowl over former starter Alex Smith is that between his arm strength and mobility, he makes the 49ers a more explosive, dynamic team.  He can run and breakdown defenses like he did against Green Bay or he can stay in the pocket and throw precisely as he did versus Atlanta.  All of what makes Kaepernick dangerous however, is set up by Frank Gore's running, and if the 49ers get down early and have to throw to catch up, then they lose the most consistent and stable part of their offense.  The 49ers offensive line excels at run blocking and their ball carriers averaged 5 yards per carry.

3.  Ravens have to win the Special Teams battle.  Jacoby Jones is an All-Pro special teams playeer who had one punt return for a touchdown and two kickoff returns to the house.  Conversely, the 49ers had no returns for touchdowns this year.  Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker has made 91% of his field goals this year while the 49ers kicker, David Akers, has only made 69% of his field goals.  Akers has been particularly sketchy on kicks over 40 yards.

ENTERTAINMENT:  After a shaky start, the Real Husband of Hollywood (RHOH) seems to have found its footing and BET appears to have a new hit show.  Entertainment Weekly dubbed the show a "must-see" and I won't be surprised to see more of Robin Thicke on the TV as he's had some of the funniest moments on the show.  Somebody please tell Nelly he doesn't have to try and act.  He's playing himself.